Wednesday, April 29, 2009

May Possibilities

I'm currently reading a book from the Extraordinary Canadians series from Penguin, Mordecai Richler by M.G. Vassanji. The series involves contemporary authors writing about Canadian historical figures. So, Nino Ricci writes about Pierre Trudeau, Adrienne Clarkson about Norman Bethune, and so on. Vassanji's book is far from comprehensive, but it is interesting, and quick. It also provides some insight on the man and writer that was Mordecai Richler. Check out the website for more. I'm excited about Glenn Gould, which comes out in September. Anyway, I'm a little interested in biography of late. As such, for the next book selection, I've compiled a list of cool biographies:

1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - for a harrowing tale of growing up rough, it certainly has staying power. It is a perennial book club pick, it was on the bestseller list for something like two years and it continues to sell well. From the blurb: "What is so astonishing about Jeannette Walls is not just that she had the guts and tenacity and intelligence to get out, but that she describes her parents with such deep affection and generosity. Hers is a story of triumph against all odds, but also a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family that despite its profound flaws gave her the fiery determination to carve out a successful life on her own terms."
2. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers - the editor of McSweeney's writes about raising his brother after his parents succumb to cancer. Eggers is funny and poignant, and a sharp critic of our times. From the website: "If you're looking here for a story of tears, inspiration and empowerment, try one of Oprah's lachrymal literary offerings. This is unlike any memoir I have ever read. Eggers' story is funny, absurd, clever, self-indulgent and unexpectedly moving. It's not perfect by any means, but it comes close to fulfilling the audacious promise of its title."

3. Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard - Ballard was another staunch critic of our times, mainly through his semi-fantastical stories that pushed the boundaries of fiction and art. He writes about environmental issues in The Drowned World and Rushing to Paradise, and in Crash, about car-crash fetishists. Empire of the Sun recounts his childhood in a Shanghai prison camp after Japanese forces captured the city in WW2. Ballard recently passed away, so it is timely as well. The other two are still alive, I believe.

There you have it. Three worthy contenders for the May book club selection. Voting closes by Friday midnight, so please get those voting fingers primed.

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