Controversial Books

My sincere apologies for not writing much lately. Life has been far too busy and is starting to seriously impair my ability to write an engaging blog. Blogs are meant to be fun and not a source of stress, however, so I continue on and blog when I can, in the hopes that you all understand and don’t hold the infrequency of my posting against me.

Now that it’s well into September and school is in full swing, I wanted to do a post on controversial books. I’ve just begun reading The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, and I still recall the uproar it caused when it was first published in 1988.
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Last year I read Native Son by Richard Wright, which has been ‘challenged’ repeatedly since it was published. The challengers are right – it does have very explicit sexual scenes and violence, but it is an incredible book. I still can’t believe it was written in 1940, with a searing social commentary on race relations in the United States that is still relevant today.
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I’m looking forward to the epic read that Satanic Verses promises to be, and I wonder what controversial books all of you have read. Did you enjoy it (or them)? Did you wish you hadn’t read it, or agree with those who challenged it – that it should not have been published? Or did you like it so much you wish it were required reading for everyone?

The Cat Who . . . warms your heart

Has anyone out there read The Cat Who . . . series by Lilian Jackson Braun? I have to admit that these books are my guilty pleasure. They first came to my attention in 2010, although the first one was written in 1966. And that is partly why I was drawn to them – they are glimpses into the past. The series’ main character, Qwilleran, is a newspaper man in the first few books, and I loved reading about the typewriters and pencils that filled the room where the journalists churned out all their stories. Such a place is so far removed from the computers and digital layouts of today, that that alone is interesting enough to keep me reading. But then came the cats, hence the guilty pleasure. Qwilleran ends up adopting two cats, one each in the first two books of the series. And that first cat has a sixth sense… Or does he?
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There is a gap of 18 years between the third book (1968) and the fourth (1986), and from then on they came out very regularly until 2007. Reading through the developments of electronic library catalogues and cell phones, cats who help solve murder mysteries, and a little town “400 miles north of everywhere,” is what makes these books such a joy to read. They warm the heart and they don’t require too much from the reader. I highly recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a quirky read, or who needs something to calm the soul and bring a smile.
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Harper Lee

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If you are at all acquainted with the book scene, you already know that a new book by Harper Lee is set for release this summer. ‘New’ may not be the most accurate word, since she reportedly wrote it before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, but it is just now being released. However, the joy that first came with the announcement has been tempered by some doubts about this sequel. Yes, it is a sequel, featuring an adult Scout. And, below are links to a few articles that might help to chronicle the evolution of reactions to the news about Harper Lee’s new novel:

NYTimes.com: Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ is to Publish a Second Novel from Feb. 3, 2015

BBC.com: Harper Lee: ‘Trade Frenzy’ and ‘concern’ over new book from Feb. 4, 2015

NPR.org: Harper Lee’s Friend Says Author Is Hard Of Hearing, Sound Of Mind from Feb. 4, 2015

BBC.com: Harper Lee dismisses concerns she was ‘pressured’ into book release from Feb. 5, 2015

And so, with baited breath, we wait for Summer 2015 when this book will be available for us to decide whether it’s a good thing or not. I do think that HarperCollins would hesitate to publish it if it weren’t very good, though..

WWW Wednesdays

Should Be Reading hosts a weekly event called WWW Wednesdays (or at least it was hosted through 2014. I hope it’s still a thing..) where you share (1) What you’re currently reading, (2) What you recently finished reading, and (3) What you think you’ll read next. This is the first time I’ve contributed to a WWW Wednesday, but since there are a few minutes of Wednesday left, I thought I’d try it out and see how it feels.

(1) I’m currently reading Native Son by Richard Wright, first published in 1940.

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(2) I just finished reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (2013);

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(3) and next I plan to read The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014).

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(3)(i) Or maybe The English Girl by Daniel Silva (2013). I’m not sure yet.

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So there you have it: my first WWW Wednesday installment. Feel free to comment with your own WWW Wednesday titles, or put a link to your WWW post in the comments, or go straight to the source and comment at Should be Reading.

Great Detective Fiction

As winter approaches, time spent indoors with a good book and a cup of something hot becomes more and more appealing. Something to aim for at the end of the day, even. But maybe you don’t know what to read. Perhaps you’ve read all the books from your Amazon wish list and those hours on the couch under a blanket are making you anxious because you don’t have any books waiting (unlikely for a book lover, I know).

Well, be anxious no more! I have just the thing for a chilly winter’s eve: great detective novels from the early 20th century. Do you enjoy Agatha Christie? Then you will surely like the works by these award-winning mystery writers.

John Dickson Carr – Master of the “locked room mystery” where the detective solves an impossible-seeming crime, his books are easy and delightful to read. Dr. Fell is the main detective in the books he wrote under this name, although there are a few other titles with a different detective figure. Carr is perhaps best known for The Hollow Man, published in 1935 (US title- The Three Coffins).  Carter Dickson was a pseudonym, and books under this name have Sir Henry Merrivale as the detective. Carr was prolific, and his work The Crooked Hinge (1938) is often cited as a classic of great detective fiction.

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Ngaio Marsh – More murder, mystery and detection from the 1930s make these books a fun way to spend an evening. Marsh’s first novel was published in 1934, and Death in a White Tie (1938) is one of my favorites. She wrote eight books in the 1930s, but went on writing until the early 1980s. The main detective figure in Marsh’s mysteries is British CID detective Roderick Alleyn.

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Dorothy L. Sayers – As with the others listed in this post, books by Dorothy Sayers are pure entertainment, with interesting historical aspects for the history-lover as well. Whose Body? was one of her most popular, released in 1923, although the bulk of her mysteries were written in the ’30s.  (Five Red Herrings- 1931, Have His Carcase- 1932, The Nine Tailors- 1934 and several others). Lord Peter Wimsey is her main detective figure; she and Ngaio Marsh were both “Queens of Crime” along with Agatha Christie.

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