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Monday, June 30, 2008

What I'm Reading: June 2008

As a Readers' Advisor I try to read at least one book from each major genre each year. To aid me in my quest for well-roundedness, we have a reading standards form for our department at the BPL which gives me handy spaces into which I can type the titles and mark my progress. Why tell you all of this? Because this month I read my Western as well as a cozy Mystery, and a Literary Fiction.

I found Ryder of the Hills by Robert J. Horton while reading reviews in Booklist. Turns out that Horton was quite prolific back in the early years of the twentieth century, earning 5 cents a word for his works (just like Max Brand). This specific story was originally serialized in a western magazine back in 1927, and was just re-released by Five Star this year. This novel begins as the story of Jess Sneed, a rancher, gunslinger, and just generally feared, but principled outlaw. While visiting town, Sneed is present when a miner dies in an accidental fall. Sneed takes the rancher's teenage son, Ted Ryder, into his home. Sneed and his ranch partner, Lucy Ware, raise Ryder as a rancher, not letting him know of Sneed's bad side. The plot ultimately shifts to become Ryder's story. It is a story about Ted's coming-of-age, as well as a story of the taming of the West. It is a Western in the mode of the popular HBO series, Deadwood.

Readers who like traditional westerns should definitely give Horton a try. Five Star will be re-issuing a few more of his books in the coming months. Those new to Westerns should also try Max Brand, Zane Grey and especially the all time best Western (IMO) Louis L'Amour's Hondo. Elmer Kelton is also another good bet for those who are looking for an author who is still writing.

After many years of having Pete Hamil on my to-read list, I finally listened to North River. Hamil tends to write literary fiction, with a historical nod, that capture the people and character of New York City. North River follows Dr. Delaney, the local doctor in Greenwhich Village during the Depression. He is an injured WWII vet, serving the poor and dealing with the disappearance of his wife. Delaney has been limping through life, not fully living, until his only child, Grace, abandons her almost 3 year old son Carlito on his doorstep. Delaney also saves the life of his WWII buddy, turned Italian mobster friend and gets himself mixed up in a mob war. Into this chaos enters Rose, an illegal, Sicilian immigrant, who is hired to care for Carlito and keep house. Her solidity and love of life, help to change the Delaney home forever.

This is a slice of life story about the growth of Delaney. As a Jersey girl myself, I loved the 1930s, NYC setting, and found the happy (but let me say, very open) ending refreshing in a work of literary fiction. Don't get me wrong, there are some dark issues like mafia, suicide, prostitution, poverty, and domestic abuse, which are all explored in this novel. However, overall, Delaney's story is positive and refreshing.

Those who liked North River and its local politics may want to try William Kennedy's novels of Albany politics. Ironweed is the best of the lot and takes place in a similar time frame. Richard Russo also writes about the evolution of mature men very well. Try Straight Man which follows a middle aged college professor who is humorously stumbling through absurd situations. Although is has more blatant humor than North River, at its heart, Straight Man is about its main character's growth. Finally, the "Five Points" history of NYC plays a big role in creating the mood and setting for this novel. Those who want to know more about the history of that era should either check out the book The Gangs of New York : an Informal History of the Underworld by Herbert Ashbury or view the Martin Scorsese film The Gangs of New York (2002).

I also read the funny and cozy British mystery, The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom. This is the first in Sansom's Mobile Library Mysteries. The reader is introduced to British Librarian, Israel Armstrong who is chubby, clumsy, Jewish (remember we are in Ireland) and a vegetarian. Israel accepts a job in Tumdrum, Northern Ireland to be the head Librarian. When he arrives, the library building is closed and he has been reassigned to drive a bookmobile. Next problem...there are no books. They are all missing and no one seems to want to help him locate them.

The Case of the Missing Books is more a novel in the Garrison Keillor style of Lake Wobegon Days than a mystery. Israel is a lovable character and a champion of the public library system. He is an outsider in a tight knit community, who by the novel's conclusion finds the books and, more importantly, earns the locals' respect.

Besides Keillor, Sansom's novel reminded me of some of Roddy Doyle's less serious works, such as The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van. Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader (discussed on this blog) and The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton are also good bets for fans of Israel.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Student Annotations: Mystery

You can never have enough lists of readalikes for popular mystery authors. The longer I am a librarian, the more I think just about everyone enjoys mysteries. With the wide range of subject specific mysteries available these days, it is possible to match a mystery to just about any reader's interests.

Here are two student annotations of popular mysteries:

Crewel World by Monica Ferris is a "Needlecraft Mystery," part of the very popular subgenre of crafting mysteries

Little Scarlet by Walter Mosley, is another fine work by this prolific and interesting bestseller.

Another tip for mystery readers interested in a specific type of mystery is to use the site Stop You're Killing Me. Here you can find many indexes, breaking out mystery novels into categories like Historical Period, Location, and my favorite, Job, to name a few. Try it out for yourself.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Student Annotations: Horror

Anytime of year, is a great time for a horror read. In a few weeks, I will be posting a summer reading list to tie in with our Metamorphosis theme. It is a list of Werewolf, Zombie, and Vampire books. Get it? They go through a metamorphosis. Kathy came up with the idea and I am making the list.

I have advocated in lectures and in print (Chapter 16), that you should not ghettoize your horror displays to October only. This is a great example of working horror lists into another month.

To get ready here are 2 horror annotations from last semester. One is a well known classic and the other a lesser known work.

I am Legend by Richard Matheson
Fever in the Blood by Robert Fleming

Thursday, June 26, 2008

EW 100 Best Books of the Last 25 Years

In the current, double, print issue of Entertainment Weekly (June 27 and July 4, 2008), beginning on page 95, there is an article listing the "New Classics," or their version of the Best 100 Books of the Last 25 Years.

Their number 1 is The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which I personally loved. It is a great mix of dystopian SF, apocalyptic fiction, and a moving father-son drama, all with an un-McCarthy ray of hope ending. You should check out the list, which is compiled with annotations, and considers a book's importance, not just its quality of writing (see Bridget Jones' Diary at number 20).

There is also a list of new monster books by Neil Gaiman and an article by EW contributor Stephen King about his favorite year for books in the last 25 years (It was 1999).

Writing about this list also reminds me to mention what a great resource Entertainment Weekly is in both print and online. As a Readers' Advisor, you not only have to read the professional reviews, you also must read what your patrons are reading. Popular publications with book reviews and/or book news on their websites (like EW) are an excellent resource. I go through EW every week and make sure we have the B+ and higher reviewed works. We generally do, but once in awhile I catch something we may have missed. For example, a book that was dismissed in Publishers Weekly 4 months ago, but now that it is out, is catching fire with the public and gets a big write up in EW.

Also, remember, as you help patrons with their leisure reading needs, you also need to know about the entire media landscape. Reading EW allows me to keep up to date with the hottest TV shows and movies without having to actually watch them. For example, I know all about CSI, but have never watched it, and I get many requests for books like CSI, so I am prepared. Ditto for all the superhero movies based on graphic novels.

Do have a look at this current list in EW though; you might find the next great read for your patrons or yourself.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Student Annotations: Historical Fiction

I almost forgot that I have a handful more of my Spring 2008 student annotations to share. Today it is Historical Fiction and they are both bestsellers.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan is also my BPL Book Discussion Group's selection for July. Although it is basically a love story about the relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress, it does hold appeal for men who are interested in Wright and anyone who lives near Oak Park, Illinois (as I do).

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is another perennial book club favorite. See's novel is an intimate story of life as a young girl in China in the time of foot binding. Again, men who are interested in the history of China and are willing to see it from a woman's perspective, could also try this one.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Book Discussion: The Inheritance of Loss

This month my group tackled the 2006 Booker Prize winning novel The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. The novel is really more a character study and a mediation on Himalayan life, colonialization, globalization, peace and the elusiveness of justice. I know that sounds deep, but this novel also includes humor. The story moves around through time, but its present is during an uprising in a small Himalayan town during the late 1980s. The main players are a teenage girl orphan, Sai, her grandfather, the Judge, their cook (all living in a crumbling estate) and the cook's son, Biju, an illegal immigrant in NYC. The reader is invited into the intimacies of their lives, some of which these characters cannot even admit to themselves.

The first issue that came up with our group was whether or not they enjoyed reading the book. This I have to say, I was prepared for. Whenever we read a more challenging book, I try to begin by asking who liked it and who did not. Here we were about 60-40 for not liking it. To help begin the discussion, I started with those who did enjoy it. Those who liked reading this novel cited the introspective writing. Although it was some times hard to connect the pieces of the story, the writing captured the setting. Another reader who liked the book noted how it got to the issue and problems of immigrants in foreign countries better than anything she had read before.

Those in the group who did not enjoy reading the novel noted the way it was written as their main problem. It "flitted" around too much was a common complaint. Another participant felt that it reminded her of something she would have to read for school. Finally, another mentioned that it was depressing, but that she was glad to be made aware of the darker issues.

Although not everyone enjoyed reading the novel, all enjoyed the rest of the discussion that followed. And, all agreed that this novel did a great job highlighting injustice everywhere. One participant mentioned that this book wanted her to go join a march for something. Whether we like it or not, we need to know what is going on in the world, and this novel was a great introduction to what was for our group a new and complex culture.

I also want to include some of the group's comments on a few of the characters.

The Judge: It was noted that he is full of rage and anger; he was a perfect example of internalized racism.

Sai: As the outsider, Sai has the panoramic view in this novel, and many people mentioned wanting to hear more of her story. Another participant pointed out how similar her name is to the author's (Desai). We also ended our discussion talking about Sai's future. Some felt she would move on, but others were concerned she would be stuck in the Himalayas, over educated and bitter.

Biju: The group felt Biju was realistic. He was from a small town and was naive and innocent. One thing we all agreed on was that inclusion of his story helped us the draw connections between the immigrant struggle in India with the immigrant struggles in America.

Finally, the Cook: No matter how the group felt about the book, they all loved the cook. He is poor, but hopeful; he loves his son and Sai; the cook also helps to end the book on a hopeful note as he is reunited with his son.

There are many direction one can take in identifying readalikes for Desai's book. Reviews have mentioned Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie which also looks at the insurgency in the Himalayas. Writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, who explores the Indian and Bengali immigrant experience or Zadie Smith who looks at the outsider in the Western world are also good bets. Try Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize winner, The Interpreter of Maladies and Zadie Smith's award winning White Teeth. If you enjoyed the Indian perspective, try this link from Barnes and Nobel to similar works of Indian and South Asian Fiction. Works by Desai's famous mother, Anita Desai might also be of interest. Kathy suggested Fasting, Feasting. Finally, for a similar themed work, but which takes place in a different culture, try Half of a Yellow Sun by the Nigerian author Cimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

For nonfiction, of course you can find many books about immigration, the Himalayas, and India by turning to your local public library catalog. But at Berwyn, Kathy (whose group discussed this work a few months ago) suggests In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India by Edward Luce and Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bookmarks Magazine Review Search

Bookmarks Magazine is a publication I would whole-hearted recommend. They bill themselves as a magazine "For Everyone Who Hasn't Read Everything." They have reviews of new books and articles about classic authors. They have many articles about genres and lots of lists of books.

The print version of Bookmarks stands out for how it handles reviews. The staff of the publication provide a summary of the author's works, summary of the plot of the specific book, and then list excerpts from any published reviews, assigning stars to each review. The staff then writes a summary of the reviews pointing out the key points made about the book. I love that they have "reinvented the wheel" in a sense. Everyone has reviews, but by providing reviews of the reviews, you get a different perspective on the included titles.

The online feature I would like to highlight here is their new, searchable review database which can be accessed directly with this link. You can search for a book (fiction or nonfiction) by any or all of the following criteria: number of stars, genre, subgenre, subject/theme. So if you or your patron wants a four-star, literary fiction, about the American Dream, you could locate a list.

This database is by no means as comprehensive as the numerous subscription based services out there, but it is a nice addition by a publication trying to carve a niche out for itself. Personally, I find they are getting better all the time.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Picture of BPL Display


I am very proud of the work Briana and Kathy did on the summer reading displays. Take a look at this visual representation of Metamorphosis.

The post immediately below this one has the lists of books to go with summer reading.

BPL Displays: June 2008

The summer reading program is here at is is Metamorphosis @ Your Library. At the Berwyn Public Library we have 2 displays going all summer. One will not change and it is a coming-of-age theme with two annotated lists. My server was not accepting the word documents so I will post the text here.

List 1:
Aciman, André. Call Me By Your Name
Beautiful Italian countryside is the setting for Aciman’s psychological study of a first crush and young gay love. Seventeen year old Elio is used to his parent’s summer guests, but this year’s graduate student Oliver is a true charmer. Elio’s intense feelings and the boys’ eventual romance is detailed in Aciman’s lush prose.

Bechdel, Alison. Fun Home
Bechdel, author of the popular Dykes to Watch Out For comic strip, presents her autobiography in a graphic format. The story mostly revolves around her relationship with her closeted, philandering father and how she reconciles his homosexuality with her own coming out issues.

Díaz, Junot. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
The Wao family saga has been influenced by the fuku curse as well as by the history of the Dominican Republic’s brutal dictator, Trujillo. The curse is blamed for much of the tragedy that befalls the family, but Oscar, an overweight “ghetto-nerd” is convinced he can still find true love and happiness. Told in a distinctive voice, this impressive novel won this year’s Pulitzer Prize.

Hedges, Peter. An Ocean in Iowa
Seven year old Scotty Ocean is devastated when his mother abandons the family. He is sure it is his fault and his only remedy is to stay seven forever. Hedges’ follow-up to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? is perfectly realized through the eyes of Scotty, reminding the reader of how the world is perceived at seven years old.

Iweala, Uzodinma. Beasts of No Nation
Civil war breaks out in an unnamed West African country. After a young boy’s family is killed, he is taken by a guerilla leader as part of his army of children. As a soldier, the boy commits unspeakable acts in order to save his own life. Told in the boy’s broken West African English, this slim novel is intense and affecting.

Langer, Adam. Crossing California
The California of the title is California Avenue in Rogers Park; it is also the dividing line between East and West, poor and rich, Jewish and not. With this setting and the backdrop of the Iran Hostage Crisis, Langer tells the funny, sweet and pop-culture laden coming-of-age story of Jill and Michelle Wasserstrom.

Lowenthal, Michael. Charity Girl
Frieda Mintz is a naïve young woman working in a department store during World War I. During an impulsive evening with a soldier, she contracts an STD and is sent to live in a detention center for so-called “charity girls.” There she is subjected to ridicule, poor conditions and invasive medical exams; learning the hard way that life isn’t always simple.

Mosley, Walter. Fortunate Son
African-American Thomas and white Eric are raised as brothers for the first several years of their lives but after Thomas’ mother dies and he goes to live with his alcoholic father, they end up following very different paths. A touching parable about race, culture, privilege and unconditional love.

Sittenfeld, Curtis. Prep
Escaping her middle class, small town Indiana upbringing, Lee Fiora heads to an elite private high school on the East Coast. She’s not the prom queen, she’s not the loser, she’s not the jock, she’s plain and a perfect, insecure adolescent observer and ultimate partaker of the politics of private school.

List 2:
Brown, Rita Mae. The Rubyfruit Jungle
The book tells the story of Molly Bolt, a lower-class girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania, learning about sex and dealing with her own homosexuality, leaving home and starting a life of her own, college, city life, dating, etc. When a college romance erupts into scandal, she decides to follow her dream of being a film director and makes her way to New York--where she finds that her gender, even more than her sexuality, has stacked the deck against her.

Fischer, Jackie. An Egg on Three Sticks
Abby Goodman lives in a comfortable suburban San Jose, California, home in the early 1970s with her staid, predictable father, her precociously bright younger sister and her mother, Shirley. It is Shirley's descent into suicidal mental illness that sets Abby's internal compass spinning out of control. The pain of adolescent years is compounded by the challenge of a family torn apart by the ravages of mental illness.

Johnson, Diane. Le Divorce
When California girl Isabel Walker comes to visit her stepsister Roxy in Paris, she discovers that Roxy’s husband has left her for another woman. Roxy is distraught, alone, pregnant and left to face her in-laws at Sunday dinner. It is up to Isabel to help Roxy pick up the pieces and decide if this is the time for Le Divorce.

Lamb, Bette Golden. Bone Dry
Cancer patient Carl Adams has been blasted and wasted with chemotherapy until he is barely alive. Tomorrow, he will be given his last chance for survival and infused with his own bone marrow, frozen and stored in the lab of one of California’s most prestigious hospitals. Then he receives the note: “We have your marrow…pay or die.”

Letts, Billie. Where the Heart Is
Novalee Nation is 17, pregnant and on the road with her boyfriend who leaves her stranded when she goes in an Okalahoma Wal-Mart to buy a pair of house slippers for her swollen feet. She doesn't dissolve, but adapts well to her unfortunate situation and camps out in the local Walmart, where she winds up having her baby. The book explores her growing relationships with various inhabitants of the town, as we watch her and her baby grow and mature.

Margolis, Sue. Gucci Gucci Coo
Ruby Silverman is thirty two and still single, running Les Sprogs, an exclusive baby boutique, when her mom (at the age of 50) announces her pregnancy. Though Ruby enjoys her line of work, she can't help but to feel a little pressure to find the right man and maybe start a family of her own. Then she meets Dr. Sam Epstein, an American doctor working in London. All goes along beautifully until Ruby uncovers some possible shady goings on at the maternity hospital that may involve Sam.

Mitchard, Jacquelyn. A Theory of Relativity
Georgia and Ray die in a tragic car accident, leaving behind their one-year-old daughter Keefer. Georgia's adopted brother Gordon McKenna wants to adopt Keefer, believing it would fulfill his sister's dying wishes. Unfortunately, his wealthy in-laws also wish to adopt Keefer. The issue of what constitutes a "blood relative" arises when Gordon's adoption request is initially dismissed because he is an adopted relative rather than a blood relative.

Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye
Holden Caulfield, a seventeen year old prep school adolescent, relates his lonely, life-changing twenty-four hour stay in New York City as he experiences the phoniness of the adult world while attempting to deal with the death of his younger brother. Reluctance to leave the wonderful, innocent, carefree world of youth is understandable and almost universal – the quintessential coming of age story.

The other display case has a more whimsical feel. For now it is books with insects, but coming in July it will change again. Here is the text...

The insects in these stories may be
found in the title or they may be
found in the plot.

Anderson-Dargatz, Gail. A Recipe for Bees
Augusta Olsen has been given the gift of clairvoyance from her mother. Unfortunately it has not kept her out of a loveless marriage or a lackluster life. It isn’t until she starts using her mother’s other gift, the craft of beekeeping, that she is able to transform her life.

Blunt, Giles. Black Fly Season
It’s spring in Canada’s remote Algonquin Bay and that means the arrival of swarms of black flies. When a young woman walks into a bar covered in fly bites not knowing who or where she is, the locals are as confused as she is. It is up to two local detectives to solve the mystery of who she is.

Estrin, Marc. Insect Dreams: the half-life of Gregor Samsa
Gregor Samsa, the main character from Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, has been sold to a Viennese circus after turning into a cockroach. After the circus loses interest he heads to America, becoming a half man, half insect superhero, revisiting major events of the 20th century such as Prohibition, the feminist movement and the Scopes trial.

Herbert, Frank. Hellstrom’s Hive
In Herbert’s future police state America, Dr. Hellstrom has been working in his underground laboratory creating something so horrifying that not even the Agency could have imagined it. He is breeding a human hive where individual will is suppressed and all work is done for the good of the collective.

Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis
Waking to find himself turned into a giant beetle-like insect, Gregor Samsa becomes a disgrace to his family and an outsider in his own home. Is this the most famous story of metamorphosis? Perhaps, but it is definitely an absurdly comic parable about alienation.

Kingsolver, Barbara. Prodigal Summer
In a detailed Appalachian setting, Kingsolver presents three intertwined stories during the course of a humid summer. Wildlife biologist Deanna Wolfe, “bug scientist” Lusa Landowski, and feuding neighbors Garnett Walker and Nannie Rawley are revealed through their relationships with nature and the land they share.

Pearl, Matthew. The Dante Club
Members of the Dante Club, including Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are busy translating Dante’s The Inferno. Halting their work is a series of grisly murders based on those found in the pages of The Inferno. Knowing that their knowledge of the author is not common, the Dante Club decides to conduct their own investigation.

Saul, John. The Homing
A crazed entomologist turned serial killer has chosen insects as his method of murder. Fifteen year old Julie Spellman has been infected with a buzzing concoction of mutant mind controlling insects that also gives her the ability to infect others. A fast paced thriller not for the weak of stomach.

Swainston, Steph. The Year of Our War
Three humanoid species live peacefully together until they are threatened by the Insects. It is up to Jant Comet, who is the only one among the humanoids that can fly and has access to an alternate universe, to save his world from an imminent civil war.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What I'm Reading: May 2008

This month I read many award winners and a YA title suggested by one of my students.

I began the month by finishing the audio of Geraldine Brooks' latest People of the Book. This title goes well with April's book discussion offering The Lemon Tree. This novel is a mixture of historical fiction and more contemporary events (the 1990s conflict in Sarajevo). The plot begins with the story of Hanna Heath, a rare Hebrew manuscripts restorer and her encounter with a one of a kind Haggadah. As she is restoring the work, Hanna finds clues to the book's past. A past which she never can fully uncover, but which Brooks treats the reader to with her imagination. What follows is a novel which explores European Jewish history back to 1480, with an emphasis on Jewish-Muslim relations.

I felt the book was at its best when the reader was brought into the past. Hanna's story got a bit old to me, and the suspense elements introduced in the last third were a bit contrived. However, I loved being lost in the story of the actual book and its journey backward through time. Also, the overall message about how historically Muslims and Jews have worked together was uplifting. I also happened to be listening to this novel near Passover, and since a Haggadah is used during the Passover Seder, it added to my enjoyment of the work.

In terms of readalike, those listed here on my post about The Lemon Tree would all be a good place to start. Another book I have written about, Gentlemen of the Road, would be good for readers who liked the historical aspects of Jewish-Muslim relations. My People's Passover Haggadah by Lawrence Hoffman, a 2 volume set, has both the text of the Haggadah and well respected commentary on its history and the holiday of Passover; it should satisfy those who want more information on this aspect of the book.

There may also be readers of this book who are interested in book preservation or any of the specific historical time periods discussed in this novel. You could go on forever finding readalikes for this novel. With all of the different periods, peoples, and issues in this book, it is a great example for practicing Whole Collection RA.

Recently, I mentioned John Banville's alter ego, Benjamin Black, in this post, which led me to finally reading his award winning suspense novel Christine Falls . It is the 1950s in Ireland. Our "hero" is Quirke, the pathologist at the local hospital. Without giving too much away, this a a classic noir tale, told at the time of the all powerful Catholic Church. Quirke, a depressed borderline alcoholic, finds his brother, an obstetrician, trying to change an autopsy report, which leads Quirke into a tangled mystery which ultimately puts him in danger. Obviously, he survives since the sequel, Silver Swan just came out.

This was better than average noir in my estimation. For readalikes, I would suggest anything by P.D. James and the new Elizabeth George Careless in Red (which is not only has a darker tone, but also deals with a main character who has lost his wife, like Quirke). For an American twist try the Michael Connelly Harry Bosch mysteries.

I tackled another award winner this month, the Pulitzer Prize winner, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I was worried this book would be too consciously constructed and over rated. Happily I was wrong. Diaz has written a compelling story of an overweight, speculative genres loving, nerd. But is also the story of his mother and sister, their Dominican Republican roots and the horrors and legacy of Trujillo's regime. The story is told mostly by Oscar's college roommate and is written in a monologue style with frequent flashbacks. There is also strong language. It is not a traditional novel, but it was still entertaining to read.

Again, there are many ways to identify readalikes here. First, even though the novel makes fun of it, In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, would be a great read for those wanting to know more about the reign of Trujillo. But really the book most like Diaz's novel is Jonathan Lethem's Fortress of Solitude. It has the same coming-of-age themes, a New York area setting, multicultural issues, and artists. The writing is also similarly non-traditional, yet accessible. Of course, I would also be remiss if I did not mention the numerous references to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy throughout Oscar Wao.

Finally, a book Oscar might have liked, Hero by Perry Moore. This book is easy to describe. It is a YA, gay coming out story, where the protagonist is also a superhero. It is YA, so it has a happy ending. In fact, the hero saves the world and gets the boy. It is fun and thought provoking.

Since Hero is a YA book, most of the readalikes are also YA novels. I would like to suggest some adult options. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon shares the superhero and gay issues appeals, while many of the novels by David Leavitt deal with artists and coming out themes.

RA for All is back from Vacation Hiatus

I did not forget I had a blog, I just went in a vacation, sans kids, and ignored it. However, I did read some great books and will report later today on my May reading.