Monday, July 27, 2009

2 Great Adult Novels

I have given myself permission these last few weeks to read adult fiction. I love children's books and my stack continues to grow. But working through the stack started to feel like a chore a few weeks ago. I was hearing from so many friends about great adult books they had read and I felt like I couldn't have the luxury of reading one myself until I "caught up" on my children's book reading. Just as Mary Lee was feeling overwhelmed with Twitter, I was feeling overwhelmed with my never ending stack of children's books. Being a K-5 school librarian, it is always a never-ending stack. I find that I have no trouble keeping up with middle grade realistic fiction but other genres take more of my time and energy. And if I want to be able to put the right book in a child's hand, reading widely is key.

I have always been amazed at the amount of reading that Mary Lee does and every month, my mouth drops when I read the list of books that Jen Robinson is able to finish. Her monthly post of books read is one of my favorites but I so wish I could fit more reading time into my life. And some months I can--but not so much lately. And when I do have time to read lots, I tend to read from the stack of children's books that were recently published.

So I have given myself permission to take a few weeks off and do some reading for me. Not that the children's books aren't for me. I love them. But I realized that I had not read an adult novel for almost a year. And there are so many that I have been dying to read. Somehow, with this job, I have to figure out how to balance out the reading of children's books and the reading of adult novels. How do I find the time to do both?

I must say, I am sooooo happy I gave myself the time to read some adult novels. This month, I read 2 great books. Since I don't give myself time to read many adult novels, I have to be VERY picky. And I was thrilled with both of these choices. Neither was a very happy or upbeat book. But I love great characters and these were filled with complex characters. I highly recommend both of them if you are looking for a few good adult novels.

The first book I read was was LITTLE BEE: A NOVEL by Chris Cleave. I love books in which characters come together in unexpected ways and this is one of those stories. In this story, a 16 year old orphan who has seen much tragedy in her home of Nigeria connects with a husband and wife who are vacationing there. Tragedy brings them together and their lives are forever changed. This author has been compared to Ian McEwan and I can see why. I have read 2 of McEwan's novels and there is a similar feeling--a similar tension. I will definitely read more books by Chris Cleave.

The other was THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz. (I read the Kindle edition---more on that later!) I decided to read this for a few reasons. First of all, it was recommended by several people I trust as readers. But, I mostly wanted to read it because the author will be the opening speaker at this year's NCTE Annual Convention in Philadelphia. After reading the book, I am really looking forward to hearing him talk.

THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE is the story of Oscar--an overweight social outcast who spends his time reading, writing and looking for love. He is a great character. But this is more than the story of Oscar. It is the story of his family --the people who love him. The characters and their relationships were the thing that hooked me to this book. Characters you could believe. We come to know Oscar and his family over years and lifetimes. Through the stories we come to understand them and the decisions they make.

Since there are only a few more weeks left until school stars, I may just read a few more great adult books. I know that I'll be a bit behind on my children's books but it is okay. I guess I have to get used to the fact that I might always be behind. On my stack of possibilities for the other adult novels I might read this summer are THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, OLIVE KITTERIDGE and THE HELP.


  1. Frankie-
    If you like complex characters I would recommend Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. It is a collection of stories, so if you don't have a lot of time you can choose to read just a few, but I guarantee you will want to read them all. Lahiri's writing is superb - she pulls you right in.
    Rose C.

  2. Good for you, Franki! I find that reading the occasional adult books helps me to recharge, and lets me appreciate the kids' books more (and review them with more attention).

    The funny thing is, almost every month I look at what I've read, and wish I had had time to read more. Guess it's an epidemic problem, among people who love books (wanting more time to read them). Anyway, glad you enjoyed your brief break for adult novels.

  3. Anonymous2:49 PM

    Jen really is so impressive! I'm always in awe of what comes in her weekly newsletters.


  4. I beg you to move Olive Kittridge to the tippy-top of your pile. I LOOOOOVED that book so much...


Comment moderation is turned on.