Book Exchange

It seems like it’s about time to make myself useful, that I should impart some great knowledge or research findings. There’s just one problem. This book. I’m trapped and I can’t get out. Not only is David Sedaris on CD occupying my limited free brain space in the car, but at home it’s all about the book. I dream of the end of the day when I can go to bed and read it. That’s all I want.

I love a good epic, multi-generational tale, one that starts with the narrator’s grandparents immigrating to foreign lands usually, but not always, in times of war or disaster, on cargo ships surviving illnesses like tuberculosis and scurvy. I love almost any story that involves scurvy, except those that involve Ernest Shackleton and the eating of pets. I love present narrators – narrators as characters – who talk to me and tell me their stories. I love stories that end lifetimes later with the realization and loss of love, not always the romantic kind. This book fills all of these requirements. It might just make the list of my top 3 favorite books of all time.

The list:

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

And now: Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese

What are your top 3? Don’t cheat. Only 3. They don’t have to be literary or lofty; they only have to make you happy. Tell me.

11 thoughts on “Book Exchange

  1. Alyssa

    Hard to pick favorites, but here are two I have re-read and always enjoyed:
    Anna Karenina, Tolstoy (adds an extra thrill and darkness to train stations)
    The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, Mowat (tears from laughing and crying)
    and then I just finished a book of short stories by Alice Munro and found myself fending off people so I could finish it, so Runaway, by Ms. Munro is my third.

  2. marilyn

    Only three? I can’t even limit categories to three. But this is what I have recently read more than once, and happily, i.e., the books were as good or better the next reading.

    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Any romance/mystery by Mary Stewart
    Matterhorn
    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    Two books to read soon, based on friends’ accolades:

    Cutting for Stone
    Lonesome Dove

    Susan Hill, a British author (great mysteries), has a book coming out in November called “Howard’s End Is on the Landing.” She decided to take a year-long voyage through her books in order to get to know her own collection again. Oh, that I had the time to do that! I have so many books I haven’t read yet. I need to start making a distinction between my collection (books I’ve read and kept*) and my library (books I haven’t “checked out” yet but intend to read.

    * this includes books I’ve liked but have kept solely for the covers or titles. One of my favorites in a Dean Martin bio called “Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams.” Isn’t that fabulous?

  3. Polly Yakovich

    I am giddy – more titles to add to my must read list! I just looked at my amazon.com wishlist to see how many titles are there and there are over 800. Gulp. That’s a lot of reading. Only 3 books? I need some time to ponder . . .

  4. Barb

    I can’t do just 3. But here’s the list I have up on my blog:

    Disgrace, J.M. Coetze
    Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
    The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
    Wanting Only to Be Heard, Jack Driskoll
    Waltzing the Cat, Pam Houston
    Paradise, Toni Morrison
    The Turning, Tim Winton
    The Tortilla Curtain, T.C. Boyle
    Hotel Eden, Ron Carlson
    The Dewbreaker, Edwidge Danticat
    Natasha, David Bezmozgis
    Dog Years, Mark Doty
    Sighthound, Pam Houston

    Thanks for the strong recommendations for the Junot Diaz novel. I’ve been wanting to read it, and you’ve finally pushed me to find the time!

  5. Ann

    oohh – the infamous foundation of most mini-series….. i love those!!!
    John Jakes – North and South is exactly what you are looking for – one character actually jumps on a ship to escape to the New World
    James Clavell – the asia series… it starts with Shogun, but leads to the stories about Hong Kong, Taipan and Noble House. A wonderful guilty pleasure for the beach

  6. Karen

    Just three is not possible but a few that come to mind are:

    Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey
    A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
    Going After Cacciato, Tim O’Brien
    Dakota, Kathleen Norris
    This House of Sky, Ivan Doig
    The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
    The Color Purple, Alice Walker

    Thanks Marilyn for mentioning Lonesome Dove. I read it a couple decades ago and remember how much I loved it then.

  7. Karen

    Oh, and I also must mention I’m currently reading The Old Gringo by Carlos Fuentes, which is wonderful. I’m reading it very slowly to delay the day that I finish it.

  8. Patricia

    I can’t think of 3 favorites, but I’ll add a few recent ones I loved (besides Cutting For Stone, which I am also presently reading! Wooo-wooo…)
    Gate at The Stairs, Lorrie Moore
    The Road, Cormac McCarthy
    Olive Kitteredge, Elizabeth Strout
    The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (had to read that twice.)
    Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro

  9. Tami

    Ooh, here are three of my faves…

    Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins
    Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
    Wicked, Gregory Maguire
    oh, and The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
    and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, C.W. Lewis

  10. Sarah Beckon

    It ended. I was shocked. Just shocked! I was lost in it, not watching the little progression slide at the bottom of my Kindle. And it ended. I was so shocked that I read the Acknowledgments, the Note abut the Author and the publishers credentials. Cutting for Stone! It may be hard to not pick back up and re-read, immediately. What a wonderful story, well written, a mind and emotion satisfier. I am ruined for another book for awhile. Even the drivel that I usually read between big stories.
    Middlesex was so wonderful that it deserves #1. Oscar? Well maybe lower. I agree with Tami on the Red Tent sort, and the James Clavell sort mentioned by Ann. But my current favorite has to be Cutting for Stone. Now I’m about to take on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Medical people collected her cells, and from them developed the polio vaccine, the secrets of cancer etc. They are still using her cells today, and her family knew nothing about this until recently. Keep the titles coming. I’m loving the list. SB

  11. marilyn

    I can’t believe I forgot This House of Sky. And I have to add Five Skies by Ron Carlson. And An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.

    See what you started???

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