Quick reviews of books I haven't read.
18 August 2010
Now that's the kind of expertise you visit Citizen Reader for, isn't it?
Through no fault of my own, I'm coming up against all sorts of library due dates for books that I really wanted to read, but which I have to return before I get the chance. The first such book is Angela Miller's Hay Fever: How Chasing a Dream on a Vermont Farm Changed My Life. I did read the first few chapters of this one, which seems to be a completely typical "driven city person tackles life on farm" narrative. Miller is a literary agent who still works several days a week in New York City, but who has also been moonlighting as a farmer and goat cheese maker on her Vermont farm for the last several years. The writing was okay but nothing special (it's actually co-written with another author, Ralph Gardner Jr., which isn't often a very good sign) and I must admit that I'm getting a little weary of the "back to the land" genre. I was particularly annoyed by this title because I don't understand how a woman past the age of sixty could have the energy to commute four hours back and forth to NYC once a week, be a high-powered literary agent, and also farm on the side. Where do these people get all the drive?
I was also annoyed by this, on the jacket's front flap copy: "Angela Miller and her husband set their sites on a charming nineteenth-century farm in Vermont." I know that's not the author's fault, but still...hacky. I will not be getting this one back.
The second book in question is Stephen Prothero's God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter. I only read the Introduction of this one, but I totally want to get it back and read it someday. I think Prothero's a good writer about religion; knowledgeable and open and not necessarily connected to any one dogma; I particularly enjoyed his earlier title Religious Literacy. And I like no-nonsense paragraphs like this one:
"Yet we know in our bones that the world's religions are different from one another. As my colleague Adam Seligman has argued, the notion of religious tolerance assumes differences, since there is no need to tolerate a religion that is essentially the same as your own. We pretend these differences are trivial because it makes us feel safer, or more moral. But pretending that the world's religions are the same does not make our world safer. Like all forms of ignorance, it makes our world more dangerous." (p. 4.) Awesome.
The last book that has to go back is a novel, David Nicholls's One Day, a new novel by the British author of the novel A Question of Attraction (which I really enjoyed, and which was made into an equally enjoyable movie, titled Starter for Ten, starring James McAvoy). I really wanted to read this one, and now I'm just not in the mood for its love story, told over the course of twenty years. Perhaps some other time.