I've been doing pretty good lately on the reading front (taking a week long vacation without internet access or TV helped a lot with that). I gave up on Anna Karenina a while ago, but all the books I've picked up since then have been really good. Here are brief reviews of the two fiction novels I've just finished. I recommend them both!
1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
I read this for my book club, and really enjoyed it. In one sentence: it's a well written coming of age story about a baseball prodigy and the people connected to him during his time at a small liberal arts college on the shore of Lake Michigan. The character development is good and there are multiple protagonists, although it's one of those books where it's kind of hard to really like any of the characters in particular. There is only one main female character and I don't think that Harbach wrote her in a completely convincing manner...it's like he was really trying to get inside the female psyche but ended up creating just an object to be used by the male characters. My only other criticisms are that the names of the characters are borderline cheesy and unbelievable, and that although the book is not really a happy book at all, it still comes off with a brightly colored/saccharine/bubble feel. Other than that it really pulled me in and taught me about baseball. It kind of reminds me of a masculine version of The Flamenco Academy.
2. Nightwoods by Charles Frazier
I checked this book out from the library to bring on our trip to Arizona. Charles Frazier also wrote Cold Mountain (the Civil War book which was turned into a movie with Nicole Kidman) and I've been wanting to read that for a long time but I chose Nightwoods instead because it was shorter and lighter to take in my carry on. The jacket says that it's set in the 1960's (although I don't think the book actually discloses a date) in a very small mountain town in North Carolina. I finished this book in one day, and it's one of those novels that's described as "taut" and "fast paced" because the plot doesn't cover much chronological time. It's about a young woman named Luce who has run away from her childhood town due to some heavy traumadrama and is living hermit like in an old Victorian-era vacation lodge. She finds out that her sister has been murdered and Luce becomes the guardian to her young and psychologically damaged niece and nephew. The book follows them as all three work through their deep rooted issues while at the same time good and evil characters break into their peaceful seclusion of the lodge. It's a fast and exciting book.
Have you read anything recently that you would recommend?