Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Books Off the Beaten Path

My taste in books varies widely. I can read most any genre without preconceived prejudices. If a book is good, it will speak to me, perhaps not in the same language it speaks to you, but a connection is established. Here then is a list of books that I have compiled which you may not have heard of, but which might speak to you as well:

Funniest Book: LAMB: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore

Far and away the funniest book I have read thus far. It tells the story of Jesus Christ as a child from the perspective of Biff, his best friend. As the religious undertones are set askew, you must first be able to laugh at faith in a good-natured way. The way your best friend will tease you about the important things in your life. That’s what best friends do. And Biff delivers the goods. Besides, you will find out the true meaning of the Easter Bunny and those visions of Mother Mary. And Finally you will find out what the ‘H’ stands for in ‘Jesus H. Christ! Nobody's perfect. Well there was this one guy but we killed him.

Scariest Book: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

I was thirteen or fourteen when I read this demonic ‘true’ story. I remember reading the last hundred or so pages late one night, the house was dark and silent, I sat on the couch with a single lamp shining on the pages. I wanted to stop…I couldn’t stop. The thought of going to bed before reading the final, horrific conclusion did not sound appealing. So, with my heart racing, and my mind assigning too much weight to every little sound in the house, I pushed on. As I turned the final page, the hall door whipped open and my father stepped out. Scared the bejeezus out of me and I jumped about two feet straight up from my seated position on the couch. True or not, the book is intense.

Hopeful Book: Once Upon A Town by Bob Greene

If you are in need of a reminder that people are mostly good, that in this world of selfishness and greed, people can be compassionate and caring…or at least used to be…pick up a copy of this book. The story of the people from the North Platte Canteen will restore your faith in humanity. This is a book about the best of America.

Unique Book: Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin

Somebody is bumping off the biggest iconic Fairy Tale characters of our
time. When Humpty Dumpty winds up dead…cracked open at the base
of a wall, the police assume he has fallen again and this time all the king’s men could NOT put him together again. But when Little Bo Peep is found impaled on her own staff, Detective Eddie Bear, (a talking teddy bear with a drinking problem) assumes they’ve got a serial murderer on their hands. The prime suspects are an organization known as the Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse. And yes…they are actual chocolate bunnies…the kind you get at Easter.

Romantic Book: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Before it was a brilliantly made film by Rob Reiner, it was a
brilliantly written book by William Goldman. No greater love story has ever been told. Giants, Swordsmen, Cliffs of Insanity, King Bats, ROUS’s, Fire Swamp, not even The Pit Of Despair can stand against True Love. Read it, watch it, love it! Rhett and Scarlett ain’t got nothing on Wesley and Buttercup!

As an aside, the play Love Letters by A.R.Gurney is also one of the greatest love stories ever. Though it is available in book form, it is a play and therefore not eligible for this list. But now that it is here, go read it!

Twisted Book: Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

This is a book that your grandparents would have tossed on the fire at
a good old-fashioned book burning. Never before have I read something so deeply twisted and disturbing. This was a difficult book to get through. It made me squirm. Beware, for once you read it you can never un-read it, much like seeing Two Girls and a Cup.

When the characters in this book turn to cannibalism to survive, and cut strips of flesh from the ample buttocks and back of the thighs from another character who they believe dead it is bad enough. When that character, unaware that she has
been sliced into filets, walks in on the group as they are microwaving her flesh it gets even worse. But when she grabs a strip of her own flesh from the steaming, microwaved pile and begins eating it…game over. I’m done! But I wasn’t…I read until the end, knowing that this man is a master at the written word. I am a jaded reader, and he got intense reactions out of me. Kudos.

Biggest Disappointment: Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

In his annual list of the year’s best books, Stephen King said about this book that it was far and away the best book of the year. It was, he said, a stylized mystery with several storylines that all melded together with grace and subtlety. He claimed to have read it four times just to figure out how she did it. Well, I read it once and once was enough. The language was elegantly crafted and the writing was beautiful and I didn’t care in the slightest.

Biggest Surprise: Bless the Beasts and Children by Glendon Swarthout

Assigned to us in high school, I read the book only because it was forced upon me. I had no interest in reading about a group of troubled kids at summer camp, and the moment when the took a stand. They were losers all their lives, never fitting in with society. All of that changes the day they witness a huge injustice and set about to make things right. What could have been laughable and trite in the hands of a lesser author, the story of these boys on this adventure is touching and sad. In the end their triumphs remain bittersweet. It is still one of my favorite books.

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