Saturday, April 13, 2013

Kathy Serley recommends books

Kathy Serley is the retired English instructor from North Central Technical College who taught me about the novels of Julia Spencer-Fleming.  Lynn and I read them all and I have urged the author to write more about the Episcopal pastor and her married lover, the sheriff.

Bill, your blog entry of April 8 on reading good books, reminded me that it has been a long time since we talked about the good books we have read.  Although I read mostly fiction, I thought I'd mention a few titles that I have read recently that I thought were great reads.  At the top of the list is Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron.  It is set in Rwanda during the 1990's, the story of a young man who wants to be an Olympic runner and his coach.  It is a tragic story, but not sad, if that makes sense.  A beautifully written book.  It won Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether award for a book about social justice.  I am teaching a class in bestsellers this summer and I wanted to use it, but unfortunately, it has not made the New York Times bestseller list.  Where is the justice in that...

Another very interesting book is The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro.  It is listed as a thriller, but I really didn't think it was a thriller.  It is the story of an artist who is copying a painting for an art dealer and realizes that the painting which the dealer thinks is a Degas original is a forgery.  How she tells it is a forgery is very interesting, and the book is a good character study.

Then I read a great historical mystery by Joseph Heywood, titled Red Jacket.  It is set in the UP in 1913 at the time of the miner's strike and uses a real incident (when 70 children were killed in a stampede when someone yelled fire).  I think Joseph Heywood is a really good writer.  I have read most of his books.  I guess he has quite a following in northern Wisconsin and the UP.  Sometimes those genre writers are overlooked, but for writing ability he can hold his own with traditional novelists... or out write them.

Last, I recommend a new book by Ann Leary called The Good House.  It is a compelling read with a first person narrator that just draws  you in.  The voice is so consistent and so well done.  I always tell my students that  you can't trust a first person narrator and they are always surprised.  This author just does this so well.  It is skillful.

And here's another book... Seeds From a Birch Tree by Clark Strand.  Clark Strand was a Buddhist monk.  Now he edits their magazine.  I picked this book up when I was looking for books on Haiku, but it is listed as a book on Buddhist meditation.  However it is listed, it is a lovely little book.  It is out of print now, but I ordered my copy from the used book store and they sold two more copies of it while they waited for me to pick up my copy.

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