I have read a couple of awesome books lately and one not so awesome.
Let's start with mind blowingly awesome. I just finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It was beautiful. I love bittersweet books and this qualified. I also love quirky characters, especially if they are children. The main character, Oskar, seems to have Asperger's, although it isn't directly stated. I work with students on the high end of the autistic spectrum, so I could completely identify with him. This books reminded me of The Book Thief in the fact that it was so beautiful and yet so sad. It also reminds me of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (for obvious reasons). I passed it onto Caroline and gave it to my mom. It was so good that I didn't want it to end (why does this paragraph remind me of a middle school book report?).
Next up, the not so good. I also gave my mom Swamplandia. I had read awesome reviews of the books and she had heard a glowing report on NPR. Those are usually the hallmarks of a book that we will love. We wanted to love it. It had everything that we usually do, quirky characters, beautifully haunting descriptions of scary places, elements of the supernatural, and characters with impressive vocabularies. Neither of us could get into it. I didn't connect with any of the characters and the ending left me pretty upset (probably has to do with having my own teen daughter). HBO is going to make a half hour comedy based on the novel. I am glad that I am too cheap to pay for HBO.
And finally, the book that was so good, Buffy ate part of the cover and I had to pay the library $28, but I don't mind because now my mom and step-father can read it: 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. First of all, this is not the book to read when trapped in the house with two squabbling kids, nor at the pool, nor at the beach. This book should be read in a quiet place with a good cup of tea (hot or iced, you choose). In other words, this book makes you think. If I wasn't so lazy, there were times when I should have cracked open the dictionary or hit Google. It is fiction, but has an index that is non-fiction (is philosophy non-fiction?). The premise is that a college professor has written a book which states the 36 most common arguments for the existence of God and then refutes them all. The book is is journey toward living a moral life and toward learning about and respecting organized religion. There is quiet a bit about Jewish Mysticism, which has fascinated me since I read The Cookbook Collector. There is also a lot to make you think about what constitutes genius and how to handle it. It took awhile to get into it, but I don't regret the time committed. It makes perfect sense for a girl who is friends with liberals, conservatives, pagans, Christians, ministers of all faiths, and the product of hippies to be completely in love with this book. It doesn't help that I am a big old nerd, either.