Monday, August 11, 2008

My top 4 books that you will LOVE but you had no idea about (probably)

Over the weekend it SNOWED at my house! Crazy! Sunday was definitely a day of staying indoors, eating freshly baked banana bread (new receipe, not bad) and watching DVDs (season 4 of Lost to be precise). I have photos from the weekend still sitting on a camera, which I should post soon - including the Cuckoo lunch extravaganza.

I also spent a bit of time on the weekend flicking through some of my favourite books over the weekend and I wanted to note some that are my absolute favourites. These are the books that I find overwhelmingly beautiful, but also often incredibly melancholic. And perhaps a little odd. Sharing is caring my friends, so in the words of many dodgy Australians "Do yourself a favour and check these out!" (Bec, you are not dodgy!)

1. Geek Love - Katherine Dunn
A friend recommended this book to me quite a few years ago and by it's title, I was anticipating a story involving a C64, Pong and Role-Playing Wizards. However, the term Geek refers to it's original meaning of the word, which is a specific circus side show act.

It's one of the most original things I have ever read. I am being lazy now and copying a brief description from Amazon:
A wild, often horrifying, novel about freaks, geeks and other aberrancies of the human condition who travel together (a whole family of them) as a circus. It's a solipsistic funhouse world that makes "normal" people seem bland and pitiful. Arturo the Aqua-Boy, who has flippers and an enormous need to be loved. A museum of sacred monsters that didn't make it. An endearing "little beetle" of a heroine. Sort of like Tod Browning's Freaks crossed with David Lynch and John Irving and perhaps George Eliot -- the latter for the power of the emotions evoked.

Oh, that was easy and eloquent on behalf of Amazon. I am feeling a little lacklustre and unshiny today, so maybe this is the way to proceed. Shortcuts!

2. American Gods - Neil Gaiman
I have read this book many, many, many times and own more than 1 copy of it. Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite writers, ever since I discovered the Sandman series in high school, say 16 years ago. Lordy. I even have a phrase from one of the Sandman graphic novels tattooed across my back.
Amazon says (stop being so cheaty), and:
American Gods is Neil Gaiman's best and most ambitious novel yet, a scary, strange, and hallucinogenic road-trip story wrapped around a deep examination of the American spirit. Gaiman tackles everything from the onslaught of the information age to the meaning of death, but he doesn't sacrifice the razor-sharp plotting and narrative style he's been delivering since his Sandman days.

3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer
This book made me cry and soar all at once. In all honesty, I think it's a far superior book to his other more popular book Everything is Illuminated. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to lend it to everyone I could so I could talk about it. As soon as they had finished it, much discussion, sighing and "what about that.."Yes!"I know" *sigh*.

Amazon would like to tell you the following about the plot:
School-Oskar Schell is not your average nine-year-old. A budding inventor, he spends his time imagining wonderful creations. He also collects random photographs for his scrapbook and sends letters to scientists. When his father dies in the World Trade Center collapse, Oskar shifts his boundless energy to a quest for answers. He finds a key hidden in his father's things that doesn't fit any lock in their New York City apartment; its container is labeled "Black." Using flawless kid logic, Oskar sets out to speak to everyone in New York City with the last name of Black. A retired journalist who keeps a card catalog with entries for everyone he's ever met is just one of the colorful characters the boy meets. As in Everything Is Illuminated (Houghton, 2002), Foer takes a dark subject and works in offbeat humor with puns and wordplay. But Extremely Loud pushes further with the inclusion of photographs, illustrations, and mild experiments in typography reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions (Dell, 1973). The humor works as a deceptive, glitzy cover for a fairly serious tale about loss and recovery.

4. Blankets - Craig Thompson
Ok, I have admitted on more than one occasion that I AM a geek girl who likes computers and comics and all that sort of thing. But see, some comics/graphic novels are AMAZING and Blankets is one of them - it's autobiographical, it's an incredibly awkward and sad story about first love and if I lent it to you, I can guarantee that you would love it too. You don't know what you are missing out on.

wanted to tell you:
This sensitive memoir recreates the confusion, emotional pain and isolation of the author's rigidly fundamentalist Christian upbringing, along with the trepidation of growing into maturity. Skinny, naive and spiritually vulnerable, Thompson and his younger brother manage to survive their parents' overbearing discipline (the brothers are sometimes forced to sleep in "the cubby-hole," a forbidding and claustrophobic storage chamber) through flights of childhood fancy and a mutual love of drawing. But escapist reveries can't protect them from the cruel schoolmates who make their lives miserable. Thompson's grimly pious parents and religious community dismiss his budding talent for drawing; they view his creative efforts as sinful and relentlessly hector the boys about scripture. By high school, Thompson's a lost, socially battered and confused soul-until he meets Raina and her clique of amiable misfits at a religious camp. Beautiful, open, flexibly spiritual and even popular (something incomprehensible to young Thompson), Raina introduces him to her own less-than-perfect family; to a new teen community and to a broader sense of himself and his future. The two eventually fall in love and the experience ushers Thompson into the beginnings of an adult, independent life. Thompson manages to explore adolescent social yearnings, the power of young love and the complexities of sexual attraction with a rare combination of sincerity, pictorial lyricism and taste. His exceptional b&w drawings balance representational precision with a bold and wonderfully expressive line for pages of ingenious, inventively composed and poignant imagery.

I thought I would have a top 5, but I am going to leave it at 4. My Amazon mouse clicking arm is tired. Laziness has it's down points.

I am a complete book-nerd and I love to read (on the couch or in bed) and haven't read anything that really turned my head in ages. What are your favourite books? Any stand outs?


cheeky monkey said...

have you read Dr Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke?

BigCat said...

I've got a couple of suggestions for you to try.

'In The City of Shy Hunters' by Tom Spanbauer is one of my all time favourites. I loved it so much when I read it on a camping trip years ago that I sat around the fire in the evenings with everyone and read by the light of my mini book light. I don't think I won the good company award that year!!!

I also loved 'The God of Small Things'(don't know the author) and 'The Glass Palace' by Amitav Gosh.