Books 71 - 75

71. No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy - Amazing story, amazing characters, amazing writing. In a book only slightly less minimalist than the more recent The Road, McCarthy holds your attention by knowing just when to cut from the violence to the good that keeps most of us from jumping off a bridge. The monster at the center of the story is as completely believable as the sheriff who reluctantly hunts him.

72. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert - If you're a fan of the show, you'll like the book. If you've never seen the show, you'll find out if it's something you might enjoy. If you've seen the show and not been impressed, the book will bore you. If you don't like the show, why would you pick this book up? All of this is to say, the book is the show, for all its successes and failures. Everything in the book could have been done on the show, verbatim. There's even little sidebar comments, just like during the "The Word" segments on the show. My opinion - I expected more from a book by someone as literate as the real Stephen Colbert is, something beyond the exact same material he does four nights a week. He could have published old scripts and it would have been just as funny.

73. Fire In The Blood by Irene Nemirovsky - Another book discovered by the researchers working on the Nemirovsky biography, this is the story of a middle aged French man and the family and community that keep him from being a total hermit. I suspect that this was only the first draft of the book, and yet, it's still quite readable. Short and with more than a few places where a paragraph or two takes the place of what should have been a whole chapter, the sense of place and characters are what make this a very good book, even when the plot weakens.

74. Dream Angus, The Celtic God of Dreams by Alexander McCall Smith - This book is one of the Myth series from Canonsgate, where well published authors write new stories for old myths, as well as using them for inspiration for contemporary short stories. (That sounds more complicated than it is, really. The publisher's website explains only a little better.) McCall Smith tells the story of Angus, a god of love, dreams, beauty and youth in Celtic culture. This author recognizes that all those things don't guarantee a perfect life for the young god or the humans that aspire to them. The myth stories are classically mythic and the contemporary stories show McCall Smith's ability to see love as painful and beautiful at the same time.

75. The Gathering by Anne Enright - When any group of adult siblings reunite, for any reason, wounds are reopened. When it's a very large family (in this book, eleven brothers and sisters gather for the funeral of a middle child brother), you can simply multiply the internal drama. Anne Enright has done an amazing job of tapping into the pain and love that we try to leave behind when we leave the family home to start our own lives, only to find that we've carried it everywhere and it colors everything we do. The novel is non-linear (and as a fan of non-linear, I'd say it's a little weak in this book) and almost stream of conscious first person from the sister who was closest to the brother who has passed away, both in age and emotion. The jacket blurb teases with a secret that isn't all that surprising and possibly not even that important in the lives of any of the members of the family. It's the entanglement of histories and personalities that make this book (and all families) so rich.

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