Book Club of One

For years I've been talking about starting a book club. Basically, the vision is to get a group of somewhat intelligent and inquisitive people together in a coffee shop or apartment and discuss a book, share some thoughts, nosh a bit, etc. I'm a big fan of reading and literature, and believe it is one of the most overlooked and underrated activities of our generation. Anyway, so far I’ve been all talk and not sure if I will ever get the book club off the ground but in a perfect world...

I did do a decent amount of reading on this trip. Reading is great when you are traveling. Your mind is wide open to accept anything, you have the down time and it is easy to get lost in a book. I, who will never be mistaken for a chit-chatter, ran out of things to talk about with Jen by around Day 20 and therefore got deeper and deeper into books. In some cities it was hard to find English books, so I basically read whatever i could get my hands on. Below is a quick review in chronological order.

The Source by James Michner
This was on an Birthright recommended reading list. I started it a few weeks before i went on Birthright and was glad that I did. The book goes through the history of the land of Israel from the beginning of time till the book was published (mid 60's). There are about 15 different stories that take place in different eras and it gave me a sense of history of the holy land. The climax of the book is when a few of the main characters are part of the battle to win Tzvat, a mystical city that we had visited earlier in the week and saw where the decisive victory took place (the police station at the top of the hill). Historical fiction is great because you get to learn a great deal with all the excitement and drama of a fictional tale.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
I thought this was horribly dumb. I liked Da Vinchi code, but this was the boogie league version. Bad story, the cryptic symbolism stuff was kind of lame as well. Only positive was that I read it right before Rome and therefore had a little more understanding of some of the landmarks and monuments that we visited.

The Zahir by Paulo Cuelho
Cuelho, the author of the Alchemist, isn't at his best, but the book is still pretty good. The story of a withdrawn husband who is abandoned by a wife that has grown apart from him and his obsessive quest to regain her love. The story isn't all that good, but every so often there are passages, or ideas that really resonate with the reader and make the book worthwhile to read.

The Covenant by Naomi Reagen
A pretty good thriller (although somewhat of a girls book) and plays well for the Israel motif that I was on. Jamie gave it to read in Milan. It is the story of a Jewish family living in a settlement in the West Bank. The Dad and daughter get kidnapped by Palestinian terrorist and it takes the power of a grandma and her holocaust survivor friends to pull some strings to try and rescue the kidnapped. Naturally, all these women invoke a long-standing covenant to always protect and fight to keep their lineage strong.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Borrowed from Marni when she joined us. Marni had doubles of this book and why you need doubles of a bad book when your traveling I am still trying to figure out. In the form of Angela's Ashes and all the "I was so poor and now I am a proud author" memoirs, the book is a decent story but I wasn't feeling it much. Basically, Jeannette and her siblings lived a trying childhood, moving from place to place in extreme poverty. Her tight-knit family and loving parents just didn't have what it takes to fit into society and therefore always marched to their own drummers.

The Partner by John Grishmam
Borrowed from Greenblatt in Switzerland. I usually stay away from Grisham books because I consider them glorified movies and not really "reading". Like all his books this one was pretty suspenseful and interesting. It's about a southern lawyer that swindles his firm for 90 million and dissapears to Brazil. After plotting his own capture and extradition to America, he is able to get off all the charges with 15 million in his pocket only to be swindled by the women he loves (who has all his money). Typical bitch.

A Plot Against American by Phillip Roth
Bought in a London airport on the way back to Israel. The plot here is that the Nazi aviator Lindbergh runs against FDR for the presidency and wins. From there it is an all out shitstorm for the Jews of America. I'm not the biggest fan of Roth's style of writing (don't get the humor in the humorous parts and overall not that enthralled in his writing). My favorite part of the book was the creative plot.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Picked this up at Beyda's. I had heard so much about this book that I figured it had to be overrated. Plus, it has come out that this guy Frey is as legit as your local dope dealer. I actually really enjoyed the story though. First, whether it is all true or partly true doesn't really matter. The book really gets into what it is to have an addiction and how it feels to go through rehab. It does this in a way that is easy and enjoyable to read.
Sidenote: If any of the book is true, and with all the criticism that it has inflicted over the last few months, I think this guy Frey definitely has had to have had a relapse by now. Life sucks.


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