5 Unaccustomed Earth
If you’ve never read any of Jumpha Lahiri’s stories, it’s about time you did. Lahiri is an Indian-American author who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for her first collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies. Since then she’s published one novel called The Namesake before finally revealing this year’s short story collection Unaccustomed Earth. Like her earlier stories, these tend to follow the people that that Lahiri knows best: Bengali immigrants and upper-crust suburban intellectuals. The narrowness of the scope may be her greatest weakness. She describes an old-fashioned American society that few of us will recognize and we don’t mean the Bengali side of it. However, she more than compensates for it. In combining these two worlds she tones each one down. Her stories are neither only an exploration of immigration or of only stories of unrelated individuals. They are a well meshed combination that lets us feel for the immigrant characters as individuals, not just as a category within society.
4 Fearless Fourteen
In yet another episode of Janet Evanovich’s series of Stephanie Plum novels, Stephanie is stuck guarding a famous singer while babysitting the child of a cousin of her sometimes-love-interest Morelli. The fourteenth book is a welcome change from number thirteen which was relatively dark and involved more kidnappings and explosions than usual. Not that those are bad things in a novel about a bounty hunter, but hanging out with a mischievous kid gives more scope for Stephanie’s every-woman clumsiness which, we have to admit, is a huge part of her appeal. It also gets us some insight into Morelli’s extended family, which nonetheless doesn’t get us any closer to the question of which guy Stephanie will choose in the end.
3 The Appeal
John Grisham is back with one of his usual legal thrillers. Although this wasn’t one of his best, it’s the first one that he released since 2005 and since his usual rate is one per year, this was a long wait for Grisham devotees. The Appeal lacked a central character who you could sympathize with but nonetheless it provided something that only Grisham offers. Unlike other thrillers that rely heavily on violence and gore, Grisham explores the corruption of the legal system like nobody else does. He always has a moral and nonetheless has popular appeal year after year.
2 The Tales of Beedle the Bard
If you’re a Harry Potter fan then you won’t want to miss this. The five stories in it are dark and reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm (Ok, not quite that dark). They have lessons similar to classic fairy tales and the books are beautifully designed and well illustrated. But if it wasn’t for their connection to Harry Potter they probably wouldn’t have made up a bestseller. It is that connection that makes them fun. There’s something delightful about thinking that you can read the same books as Hermione Granger does, especially for kids. If you’ve read the final installment of Harry Potter then you even know the “historical” background for at least one of the stories which lets you wonder what the back story might have been for each of them and in fact, for all the fairytales that we already have.
1 The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Nobody claimed that The Story of Edgar Sawtelle was a light read. Edgar Sawtelle is a child who is born mute. In that sense, he’s very different from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who rants and raves with the best of them. Otherwise however, the stories are parallel. Edgar lives on a farm in rural Wisconsin in the 50s and his family is known for the dogs they breed. But the dog breeding dynasty is disrupting with the sudden death of Edgar’s father and Edgar is convinced that his uncle is not entirely free of blame. If you’re looking for a fast paced adventure, move on. This book reads more like poetry. The farm, the dogs, the forest and yes, a ghost are all well described characters and their interactions with Edgar, despite their inanimateness or nonexistence, become entirely believable.