Last week I posted about non-fiction books I’ve read in recent weeks, and this week it’s time to talk about fiction and memoirs. Lest anyone think I’m lumping memoirs in with fiction for reasons of memoirs’ veracity, let me clarify that I’m categorizing them together because of similarity in writing form. The non-fiction books I listed last week are prescriptive. Both fiction and memoirs are descriptive and contain narrative rather than topical chapters. So there you have it.
Let’s start with fiction. In preparation for the movie release, I read for the first time The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Not only was it my first time to read The Hobbit, it was my first time to read anything by Tolkien. As an English major, I’m a little ashamed to admit that, and I’m also sad that it took me so long to realize how wonderful Tolkien’s writing is. I’ve seen all of the Lord of the Rings trilogy twice, but I still can’t keep large chunks of the story straight with all of the various characters and their unusual names. After reading The Hobbit, watching the movie, and never once feeling confused by the story, I can’t wait to read the trilogy and experience the story as it was originally intended — in book form.
Not long after reading The Hobbit, I picked up where I left off in the Harry Potter series, the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and I made the opposite decision with that series — at this point I don’t think I will continue reading the rest of the series. Not because I haven’t enjoyed it greatly. Not because I don’t think it’s a remarkable story. But because I have such a limited time to read. My fiance, his 12-year-old son, and I recently watched all eight movies in the series (not all at once, over eight weeks — settle down!), and I don’t struggle to keep up with the story in that series like I do with LOTR. Now that I know how it all ends (probably the last person in America to know), I don’t think I need to read the rest of the books. If I’d been reading them when they came out, I would feel differently. But there’s only so many hours in the day and too many books on my to-read shelf. Please forgive me, HP fans.
Moving on to memoirs, a friend loaned me a well-loved (read: tattered) copy of Who Gets the Drumstick?: The Story of the Beardsley Familywith Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda on the cover. After losing her Navy pilot husband in an accident, Helen North (mother of eight children) meets and marries widower Frank Beardsley (father of ten children). Yep, that’s eighteen kids. Plus two more kids together. Twenty kids. I had expected a book from this time period to be overly sentimental and melodramatic, but the writing was both straightforward and clever. It’s a quick read and an enjoyable story, and the parts where Helen Beardsley shares her heart about losing her husband and falling in love again are well done and moving. Plus, Beardsley’s descriptions of the logistics and planning involved in smoothly running a household of twenty-two are fascinating.
Next I read After Action: The True Story of a Cobra Pilot’s Journey by Dan Sheehan. The majority of the book is a fast-paced account of Sheehan’s involvement as a Marine Corps helicopter pilot in the beginning of the Iraq war — I could hardly put it down, it is so well written and well paced. The last fifty pages or so, describing Sheehan’s decision to put pen to paper and the process of completing his book, were equally as gripping as the battle scenes, in my opinion, as Sheehan works through and identifies some of the emotions and memories he carried home from war. I highly recommend the book, with the caveat that it uses rough language throughout (I find that the language gives authenticity to Sheehan’s descriptions, but just wanted to offer the advance notice for anyone who might want to know).
What I hope to read next: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger; Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson; Matt Archer: Blade’s Edge by Kendra C. Highley; Falling For Your Madness by Katharine Grubb.
I see that I don’t have any memoirs on my to-read list — any suggestions? Or suggestions in fiction?