Best 5 Books I Read in 2003
Once again, my reading during 2003 came in fits & starts. Leaving my library jobs left me even less time for reading & my waning motivation was spent more on writing than reading. I'm realizing again the truth I knew in 2001, namely that only through reading a great deal can good writing be achieved. Hopefully this knowledge & momentum will lead to great results in this new year. Three of the five that make this year's lists were "second helpings"... the second book I read from authors whose first famous works I had enjoyed. Only the #2 offering eclipsed the "first book" for the given author, as The Joy Luck Club pales when compared to Tan's offering below. Here are the 5 best offerings from the year just ended:
One More for the Road (Ray Bradbury) ~ most people believe that Ray Bradbury, who turned 83 in 2003, is close to the end. It breaks my heart to recognize that this is probably true. My favorite author of all-time has turned out another gem, titled as though he too admits that his fine writing career is concluding. While not his best work by any stretch, this piece offers some beautifully insightful stories, & seems to capture the essence of a man who is clinging to the last bit of a sad world, showing us the beauty that's been there all along.
The Hundred Secret Senses (Amy Tan) ~ a lightning-fast read and worthy of every second. A classic of the unending debate between skeptics & believers, this work flits about between different worlds & demonstrates the underlying truth of each. Reminiscent of A Prayer for Owen Meany in many ways, one cannot help but shiver through the powerful passages of much of this book. A ghost story, a love story, & an adventure story, all told through the imminently changing voice of one who knows that half of what she says has a long way to go.
"Master Harold"... and the Boys (Athol Fugard) ~ is extremely simple in its delivery, but powerful in its result. Emily's favorite book of all-time left less of an impression on me than it has on her, but still tells a very important story very well. It may have lost some of its vigor in a world after apartheid, but the book still carries powerful themes. It's hard to admit to those wiser than oneself that one owes a great deal to that wisdom, perhaps harder still to admit that one is very, very wrong.
Tender is the Night (F. Scott Fitzgerald) ~ while not comparable to Gatsby, there is a good deal of insight in this one. The work is a bit dated, but it's very difficult to tell where Fitzgerald is reflecting the flaws of his times & poking fun or anger at them, & where he is merely succumbing to the flaws of the times. Given what I know of Fitzgerald & his contempt for his contemporaries, I am inclined to lean towards the former, which of course makes me like this book more. All in all, I see the piece as a critique of people's perceptions of both mental health & extramarital affairs. But mayhap that's just how I want to see it.
The Ides of March (Thornton Wilder) ~ the historical foil to Julius Caesar's poetic examination, this tells the story of the final days of said man. As always, the man & the myth are intertwined & this is, after all, a work of fiction in documentary clothing. This is a far cry from Our Town & falls well short of said play in quality. Nevertheless, it is very interesting in giving an equally historical & entertaining view on one of the most storied events in human history.
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