Sunday, August 10, 2008

Finished another excellent book

Today, I finished listening to the audio version of The book thief by Markus Zusak. I just wrote this in my "50 Book Challenge" list on LibraryThing:

30. The book thief - finished listening to it this afternoon, crying near the end, but not quite sobbing, as the boys had a couple of friends over, and the last thing any of the kids needed was to see me looking like a wreck with red splotches and tears in place of my regular face. (My sons are too familiar with the sight to be surprised, but could have been VERY embarrassed had either of the friends seen me.) I wasn't doing housecleaning as I listened to the last sections, I was eager to just HEAR it, to find out what happened.

It's not really a sad book, but there's a good deal of black comedy in it. It takes place in Nazi Germany and is narrated by Death, but is also populated by rich and interesting characters. It's both a tribute and a cautionary tale about the power of words, reading, and books. It is magnificent, and I love it. In a way, it reminds me of To kill a mockingbird, in that it seems like a story set free into the world, whole and complete, each sentence just as it should be, all parts perfect and necessary.

Next audio - I don't know. It's a bit like when I finished Middlemarch in the spring (though it's not even half so long!) - I don't want to let go of the book thief and her friends.

There are so many wonderful books in the world, and a good number of marvelous books in my own collection that I haven't read yet. I wanted The book thief for several months before I bought it (maybe last December), and the same with The glass castle. When my book group chose to read Middlemarch earlier this year, my one-dollar copy from the Smith College book store still had the receipt inside...from 1994. I've fallen in love with these three books this year, three books that I had already bought with no immediate plan to read them (an understatement in the case of the George Eliot novel!), that brought me great pleasure when I made time to read them, whether months or years after they came into my bookcases.

To read an excellent book is sometimes to live within it, to even breathe it, to hold it to your heart at the same time that you offer it to others: "This book is great, you just have to read it, it's amazing!" But for me, there's also a kind of tension that comes with a wonderful book: to want to go back to Middlemarch (for example), while my real life requires me here in Topeka. In spite of that, I know I'm so lucky - my real life is pretty good, and so many people have never been to Middlemarch at all! For those who love to read, the world is so much larger, no matter the miles they travel (or not) in "real life," and my shelves are full of places I haven't seen yet, that I'll be honored to visit, and glad to keep in my mind ever after.

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