Recent Reading

Since I get to blather on about writing here, I feel like blathering about good writing every so often. Today, I’m going to run down some of my recent reading and whether it’s worth running out to the library, etc. for a copy. So, get in, sit down and hold on.

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson (275 pages)

This is Jackson’s grand debut (her second, Between, Georgia came out last year and a third, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, is due out next spring) and is absolutely classic book club material. I’m not saying that it’s not a decent book, but there are lots of little questions of perception and meaning that are ripe for discussion. To that end, there are even a couple of pages of discussion questions at the end. Brilliant decision, in my mind. If you have a book you can market to reading groups, hurray! You’re guaranteed bulk sales.

The topic is grade A book club material as well, and one of my favorites: the classic Southern revelation of family secrets. Jackson handles it well, swinging between perfect humor and unreasoning violence. There are a few “this has to be her first book” moments, but over all, it’s a pretty decent read.

The Dark is Rising (The Dark is Rising, Book 2) by Susan Cooper (244 pages)

This is the second (and main) book in a series of five. When I was growing up, it was also one of my favorites: today, kids want to live in Harry Potter’s world, but I wanted to live in Will Stanton’s. A few weeks ago, I saw the trailer for David L. Cunningham’s adaptation of the book, and was utterly horrified. I felt the need to re-read the book to affirm that it wasn’t total crap when I was a kid (unlike my expectations for the upcoming movie).

Accolades to Cooper as a businesswoman and all that. But I have to question her decision to lend her name to a project so obviously different from her novel. I’m all for making money, but a lot of fans of her books are going to be very disappointed.

The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries (P.S.) by Marilyn Johnson (244 pages)

This is one of the best books about the written word I’ve read this year. Johnson’s review of the obituary writing trade turns up some real beautiful techniques, and showcases brilliant examples. I’ve always considered obituary writing to be a sort of way for a newspaper to test out a new writer (and I’m sure you have, too), but it’s obvious that obits can truly be works of art. For any freelancer working on profile writing, get a copy of this book. It’s a fabulous instruction manual.