Books I have read . . .

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders
~Main & NHC Libraries PS3569.A7897L56“Bardo” is the Tibetan Buddhist name for a transition period between death and rebirth. Abraham Lincoln visits the graveyard where his boy Willie, who died of typhoid fever at age 11, is buried yet lives on in the bardo. Willie’s neighbors all have something to say. A little tedious. But the assortment of characters reminds me of the characters in Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. The best dialogue and thoughts are Lincoln’s. His mourning for his son and the devastation of the Civil War become inseparable. Saunders gives insight into the depression the President could not escape. While I liked this book, I much more enjoyed Saunders short stories, some of which are found in Tenth of December. Read an excerpt of Lincoln in the Bardo here.

The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead

I struggled through this… several times thinking of giving up. But because it won the Pulitzer Prize, I felt I would eventually be drawn into Whitehead’s writing. But I never really got engaged, by the characters or the plot.  The twist of the railroad being a physical train line with stations was under developed. Jay Norlinger states, “Whitehead’s book is most successful when it tells its story. It is least successful, I think, when it teaches and preaches … [like a] social-studies teacher, with one didactic paragraph after another… As a rule, teaching in a novel should be accidental, I think, not bluntly striven for.” (National Review). But you decide. Read an excerpt here.

Half Empty by David Rackoff ~NHC Library PN6165.R35

Funny, dry, dead-on, and keenly observant, Rackoff managed to write about things that were ordinary but made seem uncommon. Rackoff was known for his life’s philosophy: always assume the worst; you’ll never be disappointed. When an author can spin that with laugh-out-loud honest descriptions and wit, I’m so there for the read. This collection of essays contains not only the warning “No Inspirational Life Lessons Will Be Found in These Pages,” but the guarantee that the author will have you “positively reveling in the power of negativity” (NYT Book Review). Read an excerpt here.

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