My highest personal [reading] achievement came earlier this month when I (finally) finished reading Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. I have been reading this book intermittently since the day it was published back in January. The lack of proper, manageable chapters was really frustrating, especially since I never had long chunks of time to devote to the long sections that formed the only natural break in the narrative. Ten years ago, I was a champion for The Corrections (I proudly own a pre-Oprah book club 1st edition). When a follow-up was announced, I could hardly wait for the pub date. When I bought Freedom, I was stoked to learn that it was set in St. Paul, involving a somewhat stereotypical couple that was a gigantic composite of nearly every St. Paul couple I know. Ultimately, the main characters were colossally ugly and while they each find their redemption at the novel’s conclusion, by that point, I so didn’t care what happened to them. Franzen’s dripping hostility was uncomfortably present in every sentence. Seriously, dude, if that’s your “voice,” then I am so over you.
Midnight Riot provided a wonderful antidote to the bad taste that Freedom left. The author, Ben Aaronovitch (who was a writer for classic Dr. Who), has written a mystery replete with well-developed characters, impeccable pacing, and an excellent setting (London). Peter Grant is a Probationary Constable (police officer) who dreams of being a detective. While investigating a crime scene, Grant encounters an unusual witness to the crime—a ghost. Quickly, Grant is taken under the tutelage of Chief Inspector Nightingale for wizard training. If you find yourself above reading the Twilight series or any of the myriad vampire/werewolf/whatever books, you might find Aaronovitch’s series smart and funny.
Over the course of two long car trips, I read Born to Run aloud to John and the boys. My book group had chosen it to discuss last September (2010), but I was unable to attend that meeting and, as often happens, I didn’t read the book. But, I hung onto it with every intention of diving in at some point because I love this type of nonfiction, which, in this book is a pleasing combination of sport, culture, and travel. Also, I knew John, a former cross-country runner, would be interested. I wasn’t wrong. Author Christopher explores the Tarahumara tribe, which dwells in Mexico’s Copper Canyons. The Tarahumara run barefoot over long distances. Born to Run culminates with an epic long-distance run involving the Tarahumara and some of the U.S.’s best extreme athletes.
City of Spies: This charming graphic novel features a young girl who is abandoned by her father to live with her Bohemian but rich aunt in NYC city for the summer. To cope, Evelyn draws a superhero comic and casts herself as the sidekick. On the side, she hunts for spies with her real-life sidekick, Tony, the super’s son. I loved the illustrations for their bright, vintage feel, as well as Evelyn’s sense of adventure, which makes this graphic novel perfect for fans of Tintin and Nancy Drew.