Book Recs

Gacked from Robert, and I’ll get you for it later, making me work and all:

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. I’m cheating a bit, it’s a play, but I think Joan would know what to do in those circumstances.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Numerous. Sherlock Holmes was my first love, and I’ve never really gotten over him. Passionate, dedicated to right, singular and loyal in his friendships. Swoon.

The last book you bought is:

Mary Doria Russell’s Thread of Grace.

The last book you read:

The same. I only recently finished.

What are you currently reading?

Back to trying to finish David Maraniss’s They Marched Into Sunlight. Got halfway through on a business trip but set it down when I got back and haven’t picked it up since. I went to Wisconsin and read RADS, and I’m very interested in the topic, but it’s a book that takes brain cells and I haven’t had many to spare lately.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

Trinity, Leon Uris. He’s a terrible writer in many ways and his later books were unbearably clunky (I can’t get through more than a page or so of O’Hara’s Choice without wanting to scream) but this, the dialogue, the characters. Conor Larkin in chains before the British magistrate, arguing the illegality of an English court on Irish soil … My father handed me this when I was 14; I re-read it every six months or so and am stunned anew at how rich a masterpiece it is.

Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin. Helprin’s nonfiction makes me want to tear my hair out. His right-wing editorials for the Wall Street Journal are incredible demonstrations of the power of self-deception but this … this is a sweeping declaration of love for a city and a business (newspapering) close to my own heart, it’s about what you can do when you stop limiting yourself to what you’re actually capable of. It’s about writing, and power, and love, and every so often you can just see, you can feel through the pages, what it must be like to completely lose yourself in a work, to be on the edge of madness and also divine joy. As Uris said of an ironworker once, it’s man reaching up to God and saying how glorious man is. It’s my favorite book.

Possession, A.S. Byatt. Literary criticism is like newspapering and anthropology and detection in that you’re trying to reconstruct past events from evidence left behind, and Byatt writes the tale of two critics researching the lives of two Victorian poets. Then she writes the poets’ letters to one another, and the poets’ poems, and footnotes to fake critical texts of the poems, and so on. It’s just a virtuoso piece of writing, and a ripping good story to boot.

The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell. I’ve gone on about this before, but this book … it’s about the Roman Catholic Church, about Jews and Texans, about friendship, and the premise is genius: Given the history of Jesuit exploration of unknown lands, why wouldn’t they be at the forefront of the exploration of space? Sci fi with a head, a heart, and a conscience. It kept me a Catholic a lot longer than I would have been otherwise.

The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje. This is, as TJ over at the crack den said the other day, one of the most beautiful books ever written. War and lovers and the damage they both do, and like all the other books on this list, it’s one I see something new in each time I read it.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why?

I’m going to ask commenters to post their own answers to any and all of the questions. Because our First Drafters are brilliant.

A.