For the last six months, the literary stars have been aligned for me. My reading list has brought a lot of joy and insight: Jesse Jumpshot, Noodles & Co, Debt Financing. I have also had the incredible luck of reading good book after great book, a rare and wonderful treat. I guess this is not that remarkable considering I have picked a lot of Booker Prize winners, Pulitzer awardees and internationally recognized authors. But still, with summer approaching (and hopefully with it more pleasure reading time for us all), I thought I would share a few of my recent favorites.
Jonathan Franzen, “The Corrections”
I felt that this book captured so much of what we see changing in the world around us. It depicts the dizziness of life in the late 1990’s very well, and puts it in interesting perspective. From Internet stock scams to trendy restaurants to self-help psychiatry, this story is about the struggle between 1950’s American Midwest mentality and the society at the turn of the 21st century. Impossible to put down, The Corrections is complete comedy but also forces the reader to think about the changing role of relationships and family in the fabric of America. This is a book that speaks directly to us as business school students.
Yanni Mattel, “Life of Pi”
A devout Christian, Hindu, Muslim son of a zookeeper travels across the Pacific Ocean for 227 days in a life raft with only an adult Bengali tiger. Need I say more about the 2002 Booker Prize winner? This beautifully written story keeps you enthralled even when you realize that nothing is happening. It is the story of a personal journey as a boy’s religious devotion grows, is tested and in the end delivers him to safety. You need not be religious or zoologically inclined at all to love this book. (I am personally not the biggest churchgoer around).
Chuck Palahniuk, “Lullaby”
This book is about death and really, really funny. The author of Fight Club and Choke holds nothing back in a fantastic reflection on personal strife and the state of our hyper-commercialized and litigious nation. The story revolves around a ‘culling song’ discovered by a few people who struggle with the morality of wielding the poem’s power to lull people to death through words. Lullaby is about anger, confusion and personal will in a vastly confusing American society. In our world of mass media and lawsuits, where we have been so sorrowfully dulled to the concept of death, Palahniuk’s humor reveals the foolishness that surrounds us and (if we’re not careful) can infect us as easily as a song carried by the breeze.
Jhumpa Lahini, “Interpreter of Maladies”
This Pulitzer-Prize winning book is beautifully written, and may fall into the category of a “chick book”. But I was drawn deeply into it. This collection of short stories focuses primarily on lost love and loneliness in Indian society. The stories take place in India and in Cambridge as the author portrays the pressures inherent in marriages and relationships. Lahini also speaks eloquently about tensions within an evolving Indian societal structure. The last story begins as a lonely tale of an Indian immigrant arriving in the US, but it ends as a beautiful story of discovered love and triumph.
Jim Crace, “Being Dead”
This is one of the strangest love stories I have ever read. It is impossible to describe the series of events in this book, but the way in which Jim Crace has melted, stopped, and even reversed time to tell this sad but also touching story of a couple’s death makes this book an impressive accomplishment. He reveals the emotions and actions that bring a simple, quirky aging couple to a final act of lovemaking before a brutal death. As unsavory as it might sound, it really is a great read.
C. S. Lewis, “The Narnia Chronicles”
I have to admit that this series sits on my bookshelf always, and over Christmas I re-read these classic “children’s” stories. Most of you know and many have read the most famous of the stories, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.” I was surprised again by the richness of this collection and the themes underlying the adventures of Peter, Susan, Edmond, Lucy, and Aslan, the lion king. Narnia is a great place to get away from daily stresses and to free your mind to float in fantasy and contemplation. They are very quick reads for us “non-children” so take a quick walk through the back of the wardrobe or set sail on the Dawntreader. You will love feeling young again.
Now that we all have a little free time before our summer jobs or the next big move in our lives, I hope you enjoy this list and will have a moment to dig into a great book. Enjoy the summer and the freedom from cases and classes. And hopefully in the fall you can share a few favorites of your own.