#TopTenTuesday: Popular Books that Lived up to the Hype

Early this week because I will be unavailable Tuesday…

Helen Fielding, Nick Hornby, Myla Goldberg, Jhumpa Lahiri!

 

 

Bridget Jones Diary & Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

You’ve probably heard of the movie versions starring American Renee Zellweger as the hapless English “Singleton,” but the original books by Helen Fielding are so much funnier and more clever.

It is proved by surveys that happiness does not come from love, wealth, or power but the pursuit of attainable goals…One must not live one’s life through men but must be complete on oneself as a woman of substance.

That was Bridget giving herself a pep talk. She really is all of us– in the way she talks to herself, in the way she writes in her diary, the way she wants to lose 1 pound by tomorrow. If you are single, as I was when I discovered these books (thankfully before I saw the films!) you will laugh till you cry.

But if you are single the last thing you want is your best friend forming a functional relationship with somebody else.

Her logic is insurmountable! Bridget’s no-nonsense voice will ring in your ears for weeks and become your own inner monologue.

 

high fidelity

 High Fidelity

Another fantastic novel that was turned into a compulsively watchable film, due to its popularity. I can’t remember if I saw the movie or read the book first– probably saw the movie. But I remember devouring this book in one night. Nick Hornby is one of my favorite writers. He is so friendly and approachable, so contemporary and hip, so into music, and culturally savvy. I felt like I was reading about the love lives of people I knew in some sort of socially-aware confessional. This book is set at a record store all the way in England (in the 80s I think.) It’s a breakup story– a hilarious a moving one.

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

 

 

bee season

Bee Season

I couldn’t have loved this story more- It was masterful. It is the kind of story I wish I had written myself. With multiple, crisscrossing storylines, it tells the tale of one middle-class Jewish family going through a super funny semi-crisis.

Eliza wonders if death is not a sleep you can’t wake up from but life reduced to one inescapable moment.

The mother has secretly become a kleptomaniac; the son is joining an ashram; and, the daughter is obsessively studying Hebrew mythology with her psychologist father in an attempt at winning the state spelling bee.

Rushing toward her are all the letters of the alphabet. Each one moves in its own way, X cartwheeling over and over, C hopping forward, M and N marching stiff-legged and resolute.

This is Bee Season. With creative force, stories are interwoven– then skillfully untangled–stylishly, thoughtfully, and with grace.

 

the namesake

The Namesake

If you haven’t read this book yet, I think you should do so immediately. It is so readable. It is really fantastic. It is the story of Gogol- really Nikil- son of immigrants from India. His father was a fan of the Russian author Nikolai Gogol and credits an incident in which he was reading one of his books with saving his life– so he gives his son the nickname Gogol.

Pet names are a persistant remnant of childhood, a reminder that life is not always so serious, so formal, so complicated. They are a reminder, too, that one is not all things to all people.

As a first-generation American myself, I felt this story beautifully captured someone’s first-born experience. It wasn’t the same as mine, not even the same as any of my friends, but still, I recognized it as true. It was kind of universal. And beautifully told. Highly recommended reading.

Though no longer pregnant, she continues, at times, to mix Rice Krispies and peanuts and onions in a bowl. For being a foreigner Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy — a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been an ordinary life, only to discover that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.

*Read more about #TopTenTuesday at www.thatartsyreadergirl.com.

 

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