Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's on my bedside table?

No matter how fast I read, the stack on my bedside table always gets out of control. Right now I'm reading an interesting mix of books. I just finished the Pulitzer-Prize winning play "Dinner With Friends," "The Girl Who Played With Fire" and "Great Expectations" (reviews below). I'm in the middle of "The Color Purple" and am finishing up "The Portable Dorothy Parker." It looks like this is going to be a great year for reading.

Dinner With Friends ★★★★

The story follows two married couples in their 40s. Gabe and Karen, happily married with kids, and Tom and Beth, who are in the midst of getting a divorce. The play paints an intimate portrait of marriage and friendship. The play is really well done, giving glimpses of each of the characters' true feelings, which aren't always pretty.

It was interesting to read the play as a newlywed. It almost felt like a cautionary tale. But the portrayal of the two couples also reminded me that marriage is work, a lot of work and you need to treat your partner with the respect they deserve if you want your marriage to last.

Great Expectations ★★★★★

I've had a interesting relationship with Dickens over the years. I've really enjoyed some of his books (A Tale of Two Cities) and didn't like others (Oliver Twist), but Great Expectations is the first that I've truly loved.

The plot follows Pip from his time as a young orphan through his maturing into a young gentleman. All of the main characters are deeply flawed: the violent criminal Magwitch, selfish Miss Havisham, haughty Estella. But each of them has redeeming qualities or aspects of their lives the reader can identify or sympathize with.

In addition to that, the plot is so richly developed that, though at its core it's a coming of age story, it feels so much more complicated than that. It was a book I could dive deeply into. Its lessons were diverse as well: the danger of refusing to open your heart to anyone, the importance of valuing the people who care for you, the unimportance of wealth in the large scheme of things. It's a book that resonates with readers for so many reasons. Great Expectations reminded me, once again, that sometimes books become classics for a reason.

The Girl Who Played With Fire ★★★★☆

The book sucked me in immediately. At the end of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," the one thing I wanted to know more about is the character Lisbeth Salander. This book explores her world in much more details. The story is well-written, the characters are rich in detail, I was hooked. This is the second book in the Millennium trilogy and I would definitely recommend reading the first book before diving into this one. It was a great read!

The White Tiger ★★★

The story is told through letters from a formerly poor Indian man named Balram. He has made his fortune and is now an entrepreneur, but to reach that level he killed his boss. He tells his story, starting with that piece of info. The telling was fresh and original. It was an interesting look at the caste system and corruption in India, but it never quite got me to feel deeply for the characters. It's a interesting was to tell the story, but in the end it fell flat to me.

My Rating System (I rate on my personal reaction to the book):

★ = one star

☆ = 1/2 star

★★★★★ - a must-read

★★★★ - liked it a lot

★★★ - nothing special, but OK

★★ - not my cup of tea

★ - a waste of time

Photo by moi


  1. I see you have Dorothy Parker on there ... I love her stuff!!!

    And I'm going to start the Steig Larsson series this year ... I'm very excited because everyone seems to just love them.

  2. I love her too. a short story or poem from her always makes my day. I loved the one you posted today!

    You'll have to let me know what you think of the Larsson series. I'd wait until May to start them if you can. That's when the 3rd one is released and the wait it torture.

  3. I loved great Expectations, it was my first Dickens. A Tale of Two cities is a close second. I enjoyed The White Tiger more than you it seems. I hope you like The Color Purple, I thought it was terrific. You read a nice variety of things I see. I haven't read Parker though I have read some Gide. I look forward to your thoughts on Isherwood's book. I've always mean to read that.
    Thank you for visiting Fresh Ink Books. I review and recommend adult literary fiction. Monday's post is my thoughts on reading Moby Dick if it interests you. I'' be back to take a look around your blog.