Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review: Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Wow! This is one of my favorite books of the year! I am so excited to report back on this one! I read that this book was the story of a skeptic's road trip with some sort of monk and the things that they talked about. I was expecting this to be a pithy little novel that espoused the Eastern viewpoint in a banal way, but I still wanted to read it.

Oh, wrong, wrong. This book is really profound. If you are skeptical of the Eastern viewpoint and you don't know much about it, this book will explain it perfectly -- all while you are being entertained! What could be better? There are some profound truths in this book, and your skeptical responses are welcomed - indeed, they are the responses of the main character.

If you already understand the Eastern viewpoint, and especially if you do yoga, you will love this book as well. There is an absolutely hilarious scene where the monk takes the skeptical character to a yoga class. It's hysterical, and does the best job I have ever seen of explaining why someone would put themselves through a vigorous yoga class. This book gets 5 stars in my book.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Book Review: The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer

This book defies review. Almost anything at all I would say about it would be a spoiler. The story unfolds so subtly, but so shockingly, that I'm still thinking about the implications after a night's sleep.

Marriage is my business (I'm a marriage counselor) so of course this book's title grabbed me. Oh yes, I want to hear another marriage story! This is the story of Pearlie and Holland Cook, living in San Francisco in the 1950's. Awesome writing, lyrical prose, you will get pulled in and won't want to stop. I read it in one sitting.

I'm sorry I can't say too much more, because of the spoilers. This story so typifies the marriages of the 50's though. So much unsaid. We're doing a little better now - at least we're saying more. Now we just need to figure out how to say more without destroying everything!! But I digress. Read this. It's great!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Book Review: The English Major by Jim Harrison

This was an ok book. The writing is well done, told in first person (which I love) and the adventure is entertaining. I didn't have any trouble getting through it or anything. But, having said all that, I would say it's a passable read. I've read several books in this genre - an older man, looking back on his life and going through some kind of reflection about what he sees there. If you like that sort of thing, there are better ones -- I would recommend "Be Near Me' by Andrew O'Hagan, "The Sea" by John Banville or "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson above this one.

This character's wife has left him and taken everything and he's off on a road trip across the country to regroup. It's a good premise. I find all the sex and sex talk to be unlikely of an elderly farmer type though. And he has this hare-brained idea to rename all the states and the state birds and so forth. It seems a strange preoccupation. I guess maybe my main complaint was that I didn't like him all that much. His wife left him because he was a bit boring and predictable -- and, well, I guess I thought so too.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Review: The Beach by Alex Garland

This book is a trip into another world. Wow. I was so caught up in it and absolutely hated to see it end! Some of the blurbs on the flap compared it to The Lord of the Flies, but I've never read that one, so can't say if it's accurate.

This story is about a young guy named Richard, off backpacking around Asia. You know the type, right? Well, while in Thailand, he hears about this beach, supposedly some kind of Eden, where a group of people is living in paradise. Curious, he sets out for it and finds it.

What follows is a compelling story that you'll be caught up in - but also a philosophical discourse about creating a society from scratch. We feel like if we could create something from scratch, with all we've learned through history, we could make an ideal society, heaven, nirvana. But as the book unfolds, you realize that maybe we're not as smart as we think we are. Suspenseful and entertaining - and not just your run of the mill mystery. Kind of reminded me of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which many of you know is one of my favorite books. You can take this book as a "beach read", or you can ponder it's deeper implications. Either way, it's a great read.