Thursday, April 08, 2010

The family book blog

by Jessica

Earlier this week the NYT ran a piece about a family of four who created a book review blog. Seemed like a swell idea, so in that spirit, here is my family book blog, as recorded by me.

My husband is a publishing apostate turned academic, so he generally has his nose buried in an Arabic or Farsi text, which means I have more or less no idea what he’s reading: esoteric treatises by medieval Sufi mystics? Recipes for chicken fesenjoon? Post-modern literary criticism (in its own way as impenetrable as Farsi)? As far as fiction is concerned, he just finished Amos Oz’s The Hill of Evil Counsel, three linked novellas by the eminent Israeli novelist who was Ladbrokes heavily favored pick for last year’s Nobel. He didn’t win, but according to my husband, he should. Oz is a singularly humane writer, one who captures the relationship between fathers and children with particular sensitivity.
My son, who is just turning four, is on a fairy tale jag—and we just returned from the library with an armload of gorgeously illustrated pictures books. My love for libraries is a capacious enough to fill several dozen blog entries (so much available, all for free!) but that they stand between me and another reading of Green Eggs and Ham is enough to earn my gratitude. I love Sam-I-am as much as the next person, but man does not live by green eggs alone. So we’ve just read Jan Brett’s exquisite Goldilocks and the Three Bears, a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk by John Cech and Robert Mackenzie in which the otherwise terrifying giant is too afraid of heights to pursue Jack back down the beanstalk. The clever Jack escapes not only with the goose that laid the golden egg and the enchanted harp, but the giant’s beleaguered wife. Apparently, the giant’s bossiness, boorishness, and predilection for dining on dinner guests proves too much for the weary woman, and she leaves him to become a great friend to Jack’s mother. Peter Pan (this version adapted by Michael Johnstone and illustrated by Chris Mallone) however, is my son’s current hands-down favorite. I realize that children are, according to experts, supposed to be able to handle the scary bits of fairy tales, but my son descends, at least on his mother’s side, from a long line of lily livered scaredy cats, so any version in which people/animals are not hacked to bits, cooked in a pot, burnt in an oven, or otherwise imaginatively offed is fine by me. My son often speculates that Hook and Peter Pan go on to become great friends. As you might imagine, in my reading, Hook escapes the jaws of the ticking crocodile.

As for me, I am perforce also reading fairy tales, which, wimpiness notwithstanding, I also loved as a child. I was, however, older than four when I read the Andrew Lang’s Red, Green, Brown, etc. Fairy Books. I also read (to myself) a galley for One Day by David Nicholls, a UK import that Vintage will publish in June. The obvious comparison is Nick Hornby, whose enthusiastic blurb is prominently featured on the cover. It is a bittersweet, sprawling and beautifully drawn portrait of a friendship. That this friendship is between erstwhile lovers (on the night before graduating from university, the two main characters have a farewell fling) will likely invite parallels with When Harry Met Sally, but the novel is smarter and more subtle and blessedly free of Meg Ryan. I’m also reading Life is More Beautiful Than Paradise by Khaled al Berry, a candid, wry look at the path that a young Egyptian man from a moderate family took toward radical Islam. His gradual involvement in an extremist organization is eye-opening and oddly familiar. Yesterday I happened to catch an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with a “Recovering Skin Head” and the parallels between two young, wayward teens are interesting.
Here’s a great interview with al Berry on the BBC.

What’s your family reading?


  1. I too am a fan of all things fairytale that don't involve characters being offed. Yet somehow 'The Little Match Girl' is my favourite story. *ponders in confusion*

    At the moment, my husband is rereading Orson Scott Card's 'Ender's Game', I'm rereading a collection of Hans Christian Andersen (yes, apparently in spite of my above statement, I'm absorbed in a writer who loves tragedy), and my toddlers have just begun to read, but love to hear me read Calvin and Hobbes comics to them.

    A strange, eclectic mix, but I guess that's what families are!

  2. My husband, who doesn't read fiction, is reading Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin. He says the author sounds like a teacher and makes the story fascinating and knows how to anticipate questions.

    My daughter is reading HP Goblet of Fire. My son is reading Grossology and the Adventure of Tom Sawyer, a simplified version.

    I am reading Christopher Moore's Lamb and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, recommended by Jim (to another blog reader) in his recent post.

  3. We are not merely a family. We are a herd of bibliovores, grazing across the savannah. My wife, who reads the most pages per year, is ploughing through Elizabeth Eslami's Bone Worship. My 13-year-old son is alternating Something Wicked This Way Comes with Uncle John's Monumental Bathroom Reader. (Go figure!)The to-be-seven-tomorrow son just finished Matilda and is starting on the Wizard of Oz.

    Like the blogwriter, I too just returned from the library with enough text to sate the three-year-old. Tonight we read: Anita Lobel's Nini Here and There;Debi Gliori's Stormy Weather; Claire Hawcock's Mine, All Mine; Mo Willem's Let's Say Hi to Friends Who Fly; Darren Farrell's Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib; and we topped it off with a couple of bed-time Thomas books.

    And what is it with Ender's Game? I'm reading it along with Anonymous' husband and I've seen it mentioned a couple of times this week on other blogs. An Ender zeitgeist?

    Still trying to figure out who wrote the above blogpost. Miriam? Whoever it was, it was hugely enjoyable--and now I have to figure out how to make chicken fesenjoon...

  4. "Still trying to figure out who wrote the above blogpost. Miriam?"

    Jessica, I think.

  5. You're right anonymous, this is Jessica's (my) post, and I didn't actually mean to be anonymous (though you can generally pick me out for my long-windedness). I love, love, love hearing what people are reading, so keep the booklists coming!

  6. I have recently read Life is more beautiful.. and must say it is a wonderful book. Kudos to good writing and reading....

  7. Banned complain !! Complaining only causes life and mind become more severe. Enjoy the rhythm of the problems faced. No matter ga life, not a problem not learn, so enjoy it :)

    Obat Pilek Menahun
    Obat Alami Batu Empedu
    Obat Lupus
    Obat Ginjal Bocor
    Obat Infeksi Lambung