Summer’s here and, for some of us, this means more time to read. Yeay! Here are my top three wicked cool picks for Summer 2006.
1. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth.
Best book I’ve read in the past 12 months, hands down. This book showcases Roth’s compelling writing style and draws upon his own childhood experiences to tell the story of a Jewish family growing up in Newark, New Jersey on the eve of World War II. It’s a work of alternate (alternative?) historical fiction – written as if popular aviator and vocal anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh became President instead of FDR.
Unlike Roth’s other works, there is little profanity and no sex. For those interested in Roth’s credentials, the NY Times just voted the book (and a few of his other novels) one of the most important works of fiction in the last 25 years.
2. Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri.
I’m just finishing this book right now. Wow. It’s a collection of short stories about all kinds of people and places (with a charming Indian flavor). From a couple struggling through the aftermath of a stillborn child, to an interpreter/tour guide working in a doctor’s office (the interpreter of maladies), the stories are incredibly evocative and wonderfully well written. A must read for those with short attention spans. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Review here.
3. The Battle for God, by Karen Armstrong.
A fairly dense but smooth read, chronicling and comparing fundamentalist movements in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The main message of this book is that fundamentalist movements are reactions to the painfully jarring integration of religious traditions into a secular, modern society. One failing of the book is that Armstrong doesn’t present many ideas how groups can effectively maintain the integrity of religious belief and practice given the onslaught of secular humanism, but she does present a convincing argument that we must learn to develop a dialogue between the two camps, or face violent eruptions from those groups displaced and scorned by modern society.
This book is chillingly prescient, written two years before the 2001 terrorist attacks. Although the subject matter is dense, I found the book easy to read and very thought provoking. Armstrong even mentions Mormons once or twice, and fairly positively. NY Times review and first chapter here.
I’m almost finished with my current book and would love to hear suggestions from you. Happy reading!