Short book reviews

11 Feb

Juliet, Naked, by Nick Hornby

I won’t give away any plot details of Juliet, Naked, since that would ruin most of the fun, but I will say that it’s vintage Hornby through and through. A simple, quirky love story made great due to the author’s understated wit and observational skills. The book reads like a well-crafted romantic comedy, and I’m counting down the days until it hits the multiplex. A humorous, affecting read. Grade: B+

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo / The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson

These are so not my type of books. A crime mystery series, action-oriented, little concern with character development, slave to the story, forever pushing forward. I’m a fan of character-driven books, this is a plot-heavy trilogy (the finale will be released in May).

That said, I have to admit both books were nearly impossible to put down. The plots are so thick, so multi-dimensional and gripping, that I was near-obsessed with getting to the end. Even a hipster snob like myself can admit this is a thoroughly entertaining series. Can’t wait for May. Grade: B+

The Unnamed, by Joshua Ferris

I’ll admit my bias straight away: Joshua Ferris’s debut novel “Then We Came to the End” has been my favorite book of the last three years. Safe to say I was pumped to read Ferris’s sophomore effort.

It’s also safe to say I was surprised to realize “The Unnamed” was a complete departure — in mood, in style, in themes — from the author’s first book.

Ferris’s latest is about a man stricken with a mysterious illness that requires him to walk until he is no longer able, eventually collapsing from exhaustion to fall asleep wherever he lands. The book opens with him in remission, but soon enough he relapses.

It’s a quirky story, but told with the utmost grace and respect. There are no jokes, no poking fun, no attempt to demonstrate any larger meaning to the protagonist’s unique struggle. It’s a simple, tragic story of one man’s affliction and his family’s attempt to help him.

“The Unnamed” absolutely floored me. The story was both precise (I read every last word) and detailed, but what affected me the most was the ambitious idea and themes of love and survival. It’s the book version of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” a Charlie Kaufmann idea with an Eggers-like execution. It’s unspeakably tragic, yet at times uplifting.

With this novel, Ferris has unseated his own book to climb to the top of my recent favorite books. Could not recommend it more. Grade: A (And yes, I realize I just ruined it for you by inflating your expectations to an unreachable degree. My bad.)

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