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Silly v Serious: Books read so far in 2010

I’m seeing a pattern.

I started the year off with the last of the Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Yes, I am aware that I’m almost 30.

Maybe out of embarrassment for having started the year with a children’s book or a sense that I had to get serious if I was going to pass the Foreign Service Oral Assessment, I then read The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. This was a fascinating book and almost read like fiction, but sadly it was not.  The author had clearly done an immense amount of research and interviews to put together the events and even some of the thoughts and feelings of actors on all sides leading up to 9/11.  The book largely faults the lack of communication between the FBI and CIA for some of the intelligence failures, placing most of the blame with the CIA. But some of the most interesting sections are the interactions and evolution among Bin Laden and his crew, which eventually formed Al Qaeda.

After passing the Oral Assessment, I was ready for some lighter fare. I had to prepare for a Spanish assessment, so I read Isabel Allende’s Zorro, in Spanish.  Allende has written some great things, so I mean no offence, but this was totally chick lit – masked heroes, pirates, gypsies, and of course, unrequited love. The book was a fun read, and it helped me brush up on Spanish (I passed), but on the silly vs. serious spectrum, this was definitely on the silly side.

To redeem myself a second time, I read In Other Rooms Other Wonders, a collection of short stories by Pakistani author Daniyal Mueenuddin.  I just finished this weekend, so the characters are still alive in my head.  The eight stories in the book are interlaced with one another, all related to a wealthy landowner in Pakistan. One from the perspective of the head servant, one from a nephew returning from Yale, and so on.  The writing is artful and unpredictable. If you love words and turns of phrase, and can put up with less than happy endings, this will be a real treat.

Next, I hope to tackle the Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño (in English). I made it about half way through the first time I picked it up, but that was a while ago, and I was in grad school. So a second attempt is overdue and I’m excited to pick it back up.  The book is pretty intense – no magical realism here. Just a lot of “visceral realism” in the Mexican Sonora desert.

Hmm, maybe I need to read one of the Twilight books first…(kidding, comments about Twilight will be promptly deleted.)

So what kind of book are you going for this summer? Silly or Serious?

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. The Looming Tower is an awesome book – pair it with Ghost Wars or Taliban (A Rashid) for the two-for-one play.

    My summer reading – the few English language books I can find before my HHE arrives! I just read Devil in the White City (came in UAB) and The Book Thief (available in Turkey). Both were great. I guess they’re seriousish…

    July 14, 2010
  2. Anon #

    You can also read HP en espanol!

    July 17, 2010
    • stmemory #

      How do you say ‘muggle’ in spanish?

      July 17, 2010
  3. Just finished “Long for this World” by Sonia Chung about several generations of Korean Americans. You’re in the Foreign Service and you read Design Sponge and Harry Potter? We should be friends!

    July 18, 2010

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