I finished reading "The Help" the other day. It was hard to put down. I got to thinking about all the books I've had a hard time putting down and so, here are the first five that come to mind.
1. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. As I said, this was a "stay up later than I should" and "avoid other tasks at all costs" kind of book. I do think the author had one fairly major "missed connection" in the book, though. The character Aibileen has been said to "cure" people of their ills and troubles by praying for them. Early in the book there's quite a bit of emphasis on this. Late in the book another character (I won't be specific in case you haven't read it) is near death from cancer when, out of the blue and after all hope is lost, she goes into remission (oh, look, I really did give something major away... sorry!). As a reader, I immediately thought, "Well, of course Aibileen made her better" and I kept waiting for the author to reveal it, either in a small way or flat-out. She never did. I guess that's okay because now I feel smart for making a connection that wasn't there. I also failed to see any real reason why the character Johnny Foote wants to be with his "trashy" wife. He's physically attracted to her, obviously, but his loyalty beyond that is never explained: she really is pretty pitiful in all other areas. I really enjoyed the strained/strange friendship between between the main character, Skeeter, and her friends. Almost everything they think and do runs contrary to her moral compass, and yet she is almost paralyzed into remaining friends with them. I think it is a very realistic portrayal of how some people get frozen into relationships that aren't good for them. Plus, it was 1960-ish and young, single women didn't exactly join the Peace Corps... not for a few years, anyway.
P.S. It sounds like the movie is true-to-the-book. I'm going to see it Saturday (cross fingers) with my friend, Megan. Very excited.
2. "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. This book helped bring my back to running. Well, I was already back to running, but this book sealed the deal. It's non-fiction and covers a lot of topics. The author is a big guy who wants to run and can't figure out how to do it without getting injured over and over again. He learns of a native group in Mexico (the Tarahumara) who are happy and healthy and run. A lot. Barefoot. He gathers a group of ragtag ultra distance runners (lots of mind blowing back stories here) and goes to the Copper Canyons of Mexico for a friendly race. It also goes into the science of barefoot running, the benefits of eating chia (helps you run, keeps you hydrated AND aids in digestion!), the growing popularity of ultra running.... I read the book over 2 years ago now, so you'll have to forgive me for not having specifics on the book. You don't have to be a runner to enjoy this book. It's a non-fiction book that reads like a great novel... and about a year ago there were rumors that a movie was in the works with Jake Gyllenhaal as the star. Oh, that would be amaaaaayzing! Anyway: Read it!
3. "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. This book is technically for young teens but everyone (I mean EVERYONE) should read it. It takes place in a "utopic" society where everyone is treated equally and life is fair. People are assessed for their strengths and offered opportunities to serve the community in that way. There is no poverty. There is no racism. Every child is wanted and safe and educated. Or so it seems. The main character, Jonas, is a 12-year-old boy who discovers along the way that everything (and everyone) is very, very wrong. It has been years since I read this. I taught it to 6th graders for a couple of years but I honestly think unless the kid is fairly sophisticated or an adult is really going to process it with them, this is more of an 8th grade book. (It was far more effective as a read aloud for 6th graders). There are two strong companion novels that take place in other universes ("Gathering Blue" and "Messenger") much different than The Giver but with similarly unsettling premises. They aren't as good as The Giver - maybe in the same way that a sequel has a difficult time keeping up with the original - but still very strong reads. Anyway, if you have not read "The Giver," read it.
4. "To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. My all time favorite book. Just "duh"I guess if you don't know what it's about. And if you haven't read it, please don't tell me because I'm not sure I could ever stop feeling sad for you! Also... Gregory Peck? Love me some Atticus Finch on the big screen! READ IT!
5. "The Dot" by Peter Reynolds. There are a jillion picture books I love but when I pondered the one to include here, "The Dot" came to mind first. It's about a little girl who doesn't think she can draw and is terrified in art class. Her teacher takes the dot she has made on the paper and puts it in a beautiful frame. She realizes, of course, "I can do better than that!" and is off on her way. Check out the website for a little more info and to get a feel for this great author/illustrator's style. Even if you don't have little kids, read it!
Please, please share some of your favorite reads with me! And happy "final" weekend of summer!