Thursday, August 30, 2007

in my own little world of books

This week's Booking through Thursday...

There was a widely bruited-about statistic reported last week, stating that 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. Clearly, we don’t fall into that category, but . . . how many of our friends do? Do you have friends/family who read as much as you do? Or are you the only person you know who has a serious reading habit?

I was one of the people who found this statistic surprising. Almost everyone I know is a fairly avid reader. (Of course, I should probably admit that I don't actually know that many people!)


I'm a wee bit behind in my reviews...well, because I hate writing them so much. Because, well, I'm simply not good at it. But I guess I've procrastinated long enough, as tomorrow is the last day to get up this month's Non-Fiction Five.

I finished up And The Band Played On, by Randy Shilts, last week. I'm having a hard time putting into words how I felt about this book. It's not the kind of book that you feel you can say you "enjoyed"...if you know what I mean. But it was a wonderful, powerful story, and I'm definitely glad that I read it.

The subtitle, "Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic," gives one a feel for what the book is about. Randy Shilts tells the story of the early years of the AIDS epidemic in fascinating detail. In fact, as Rich said to me as I was just starting the book, "He probably could have adequately told the story in half the pages." And I would have to agree with that...the story might have adequately been told in less than the 600+ pages of this book. But I don't believe "adequate" was Shilts' goal. He told the complete, uncut version of this real-life drama.

It was a heart-breaking book. At times, I was brought to tears by the overwhelming sadness of it all, and at times, I found myself feeling so angry that I was brought to tears of another form. Somehow AIDS managed to bring out the worst of humankind's failings...indifference, greed, callousness, bigotry, egomania. And sometimes even more damage was done "with good intentions". That's not to say that there were no heroes in the fight to identify and battle this new disease. This book also told their stories.

I can't say that I would recommend this book to everyone. Don't get me wrong...I think it's a wonderful book. For one thing, as I mentioned earlier, it is a long, exhaustive telling of the story. And for another, there are parts that are probably a bit too graphic for some people. (It is not graphic for purposes of sensationalism, but simply for truth's sake.) I would, however, definitely recommend the movie to everyone. The movie obviously leaves much out, but it is very well-done.

One last note, it goes without saying, that I wish Randy Shilts was still alive today. But, on a selfish note, I have to say that I wish he were here to write the sequel to And The Band Played On. The book ends in 1988, but we all know the story of AIDS does not.

I also finished Lethal Practice, by Peter Clement last week. Another one down for the Medical Mystery Madness Reading Challenge. This is the best one I've read for this challenge so far. Still not among the best of this genre that I've read in my lifetime, but really not a bad book at all.

The general story follows the chief of emergency medicine in a Buffalo, NY hospital. He has a true sociopath working for him...he just doesn't know it. But said sociopath fears disclosure, and all kinds of nastiness follow.

A fairly quick read. Was a nice change a pace from the heaviness of my non-fiction choice.

On a final note for the day, I guess it's time for me to concede defeat in Southern Reading Challenge. Tomorrow night it will come to its official end. And I am only half-way through my final selection, A Time to Kill, by John Grisham. (A book I am enjoying immensely, by the way.) I feel bad that I won't finish "in time"...but I will finish. And I have to say a big "Thank You" to Maggie for hosting this challenge. It not only gave me an "excuse" to read To Kill A Mockingbird again, it introduced me to The Secret Life of Bees, which touched my heart (and I doubt I ever would have read if not for this challenge).


gail@more than a song said...

I missed the story about reading but it sorta surprised me too, I figured most people would read at least one book
Glad you enjoyed Bees, I thought it was good.

Jean said...

The 1 in 4 was a sad statement, but when I thought about it, it didn't surprise me. I have heard from several teachers and principals how many times they've visited kids' homes and not seen a book anywhere. I think that when one is raised with books, one keeps reading, but many kids aren't so lucky. For them, books are always associated with school, and let's face it, schools don't always choose the best books in terms of hooking kids on reading.

Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane said...

I wish everyone I knew was an "avid" reader, as you put it. I'm an aberration. Most people I know, family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances barely read at all. There's a few exceptions, but I'd say most people I come into contact with are not avid readers, but probably in this 1 in 4 statistic.

Great book reviews! I haven't read "Time to Kill" since it first came out, but I remember being riveted. I am several behind on Grisham books, I probably have 4, 5 or maybe even 6 to be current on him. And I saw online this morning that he has a new one coming out this fall (about football!), so I will have to add that one to our collection :)

I LOVED "The Secret Life of Bees". So much so that I'm almost "afraid" to read any more books by Sue Monk Kidd, because I'm convinced they can't live up to this one in my head.

Happy Reading!!!

kreed said...

It is amazing to me how many people don't read. I have always marveled at those who don't b/c I can't imagine my life without books. I have often wondered how unusual it is for a child of a reader to not read - I have seen this happen, albeit not often. It seems much more common for a love of reading to be passed on. I would also be interested to know how the reading statistic translates into success in life (although since I am not actually sure I can define life success, that probably is not a good research project!).

It is intersting that you posted about "And the Band Played on" as I was just thinking the other day about how little you hear about AIDS these days. The last I really heard, the quality of life and life expectancy for those with HIV had improved so dramatically it seemed amazing. But I haven't heard anything since. I do know from a friend that there is quite a lot of promiscuity and unprotected sex in certain homosexual circles and little concern about HIV. Not that it is the case with everyone, but he says there seems to be something of a more lax attitude than there used to be. Probably more info than you wanted...

Melody said...

I wish my family members and friends are avid readers, however I'm not complaining since I'm happy to know several blogger friends who share my love of reading, just like you! :D

You've written some great reviews, Debi! I have "A Time To Kill" in my pile, just haven't got the chance to read it yet. And I find "The Secret Life of Bees" is a wonderful read, it's definitely a keeper.

Happy reading!

twiga92 said...

I think I've read Lethal Practice by Peter Clement but don't remember much about it. I'm currently reading Pandemic by Daniel Kalla which is pretty good, but I'm barely into it.
That is pretty surprising about 1 in 4. But I have friends that don't read much. I'm probably the 1 in the 4. LOL!

kreed said...

Ooooh..thank you for the subscription - I don't get it and that will be awesome! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

BTW, please tell Rich Happy Late Birthday form us as I have been a total slacker and still have not gotten a card...I hope he had a super day and that y'all got to do something fun.

Nymeth said...

"And The Band Played On" sounds like one of those books that should be widely read. You said it was graphic, but sometimes it takes some shock to make people realize what is going on. Everyone knows about AIDs, but knowing on an intellectual level doesn't always equal knowing on an emotional level.

Don't feel bad about the Southern Reading Challenge! What matters is that you got to read two books (and a half), one of which a wonderful book you wouldn't have picked up otherwise. That's what challenges are all about, I think.