What’s on my Bedside Reading Table?


First post in May and luckily I’ve been reading up a storm! These three books are quite different but all of them have something to offer the avid reader and aspiring writer.

My Education by Susan Choi

This is my first book by this author. Though it’s not always the type of novel I’m drawn to, I couldn’t put it down. It wasn’t even the plot (though the ending was extremely satisfying, something I’ve really come to appreciate after a few bad ones), it was Choi’s descriptions of her characters that really impressed me, especially since that’s my goal for the month of May-to become more descriptive. I felt like I would instantly recognize Regina, Dutra, Martha, and Nicholas if I saw them on the street this morning (which I might since I have the sneaking suspicion that My Education may have been set in our fair city!) I also thought she wrote the sex scenes very well which is not the easiest thing to do either. Plus, Choi has a keen eye and a wicked sense of humor. This is one; I’ll probably read at least once again purely for the stylistic elements and I highly recommend it to all of you.

Run by Ann Patchett.

I haven’t read as much of this author as I’d like to so when a friend recommended this book when I ran into her in the library, I snapped it up. It was a quick read and I did like it overall. However, the book reminded me that it’s really important for writers to make sure that their writing allows readers to also see what may be so clear to them in their own heads as they are writing. Without giving the plot away, there is some sort of dream sequence while one character is in the hospital that I found both puzzling and distracting and, though I liked the characters and felt they were well-drawn, near the end of the book they all arrive in a hospital room together and I found myself feeling like it was a little too overwhelming and confusing to have them all there. I would have liked it better if Patchett had just had a few of them there and gone more deeply into what they were thinking and feeling.

What I liked most about this book was its observations (through the characters thoughts and feelings) about choices we make and the long-range, sometimes unexpected, repercussions they can have.

The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute

I have been planning to read this book ever since I read an interview of the author several years ago so I was happy to finally get to it. Let me start out by saying that it is completely different from the two other novels in this post. Set in small town Maine, the Bean clan is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever come to know the rural poor. The Beans do not live in a pastoral or bucolic Norman Rockwell painting, they live in trailers or houses that are falling down around them. They have more children than they can take care of and suffer from all the things that frequently accompany generational poverty; poor health, alcoholism and other addictions, mental illness, and learning disabilities. The Beans are not lovable but there is something about their tenacity and ability to turn a situation to their advantage, along with their desperate desire to be loved, that, while not exactly endearing them to readers, still forms enough of an emotional connection that you find yourself hoping that, against all odd, things might somehow get better for them.

In terms of technique, I was captivated by the way Chute shifts the narrative to different characters voices as it adds both depth and understanding to the story. Plus, I think it’s much harder to do this effectively than it is to write from a single point-of-view. The details she uses, as well as the regional dialect, effortlessly engage all of the reader’s senses so this is a book I may well read a second time to try to see just how she does it. The Bean’s and their neighbors are a perfect example of the old adage “show don’t tell”.

 Enjoy these books and please  forward on your own reading recommendations!

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