I have ONE New Years Resolution this year that I can still remember and it is to "Read Less Crap". Or in other words, "Read More Classic Literature".
I've just started my first classic: "Howards End" by EM Forster. (So far, so good.) But that's not to say I've been reading crap. In fact, since January I've read quite a few excellent books:
First off: "Chesapeake" by James A. Michener
Around the time I moved here, (to the East Coast) my good friend and former Relief Society President, Linda Martin, recommended I read "Chesapeake". Since she has excellent taste and I always love her recommendations, I checked it out. Unfortunately, I was intimitated by it's sheer bulk and never started it. (I read on Wikipedia that Mr. Michener is said to "write by the pound.")
Finally, in December of last year, I decided to just do it. (I was probably inspired by a Nike commercial.) I got it from the library, and dug in. It took me a few chapters to get hooked, but soon I was engrossed. This is a novel that can be described by any and all of the following words or phrases: Epic, weighty tome, historical fiction, long, sweeping saga, really long, meticulously researched, super long, and/or bloody heavy to cart around.
Here is a blub from Wikipedia:
"The story deals with several families living in the Chesapeake Bay area, from 1583 to 1978. The storyline, like much of Michener's work, depicts a number of characters over a long time period. Each chapter begins with a voyage which provides the foundation for the chapter plot. It starts in 1583 with American Indian tribes warring, moves through English settlers throughout the 17th century, slavery and tobacco growing, pirate attacks, the American Revolution and the Civil War, Emancipation and attempted assimilation, to the final major event being the Watergate scandal. The last voyage, a funeral, is in 1978.
The novel has a number of central themes, such as religion, slavery, poverty, and industry, each personified by a particular family that settles on the bay, and in some cases, by several families."
See what I mean? Long. And Heavy.
BUT I found it very interesting, and I was fascinated by the historical context.
Conclusion: It was a great book. You should especially check it out if you're an East-Coaster. But don't think you'll finish it in a weekend.
Next we have "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson
This was a birthday gift from my fabulous friend Wahine (known to some as Kristen R.). This book is comprised of a dying Pastors letters or "begats" to his young son. He knows he is dying and is trying to leave something of himself behind; Some of his experience, personal history, and wisdom. The book deals with some pretty heavy issues like theology, mortality, and forgiveness. Its themes gave me a few minor anxiety attacks (because I don't like thinking about death) but it was still a great and inspiring book and I can recommend it without reservation.
Third: "Blessings" by Anna Quindlen
Ms. Quindlen is a writer who I'm very familiar with in a different format. She writes "The Last Word" for Newsweek about twice a month. Considering I vehemently disagree with pretty much every word she writes in that area, (and can often be heard yelling at the magazine while reading her articles,) I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed her writing as a novelist. This was a quick read with a great premise. Although I didn't much care for the ending, I still enjoyed it and thinks it's worth the read. There were a few swear words but not a ton, and no R-rated scenes that I can recall.
Last, we have two books by Barbara Kingsolver: "The Bean Trees" and "Pigs in Heaven" borrowed from my friend Diane. (As was "Blessings")
I really liked these books. They were really quick and easy to read, with a great premise, local color, and a well constructed plot. One aspect of the books involves the Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Nation Reservation in Oklahoma. Since I grew up with a Navajo Indian Foster Brother, I found this aspect of the books (especially in "Pigs in Heaven") extremely fascinating.
The only downside are a few s.e.x scenes (which, sadly, seem to pervade all popular adult fiction these days.) I don't know if I'd necessarily give these an R-rating. There are some adult themes and there is some s.e.x. But the s.e.x wasn't prevalent and was therefore easy to skip over. But I'd probably rate them PG-16 because frankly I don't think 13-year-olds are mature enough for these books!
Probably what I liked the most was how these books came together at the end with what I consider happy endings. I LOVE happy endings. I'm just cheesy that way. (But really, if I want un-happy endings, I'll watch the news.)
That's all for now. I'd love to hear what you think about these books if you've read them. If not, let me know what you HAVE read lately and what you recommend!