Wednesday, August 24, 2005

BOOK REVIEW: Summer reads

If you need some light reading, something relaxing and funny, I can recommend the following books I've recently read:

1. One Man's Meat, by E. B. White, 1942.

White's wit is dry and ironic, and his content ranges from the mundane to the profound, but he makes it all interesting. This book is a collection of short essays, published originally in periodicals, just before and after the beginning of World War II.

White and his family have left city life in Manhattan, and moved to a farm on the coast of Maine. It does not matter whether he is discussing the fine points of keeping the correct heat in a chicken brooder or the broad ideals of democracy; White takes life philosophically but with just the right degree of crankyness to keep the reader wondering what he'll think of next.

2. Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe, by Bill Bryson, 1992.

In early middle age, Bryson takes off on his own to retrace his first trip in Europe, taken when he was a naive college student. The descriptions of the cities he visited will be familier to anyone who has also visited them; unlike the standard guidebooks, he is not uniformly entranced. But even when he finds himself in situations that would distress many travelers, he finds humor --- somtimes raunchy, sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Bryson is my kind of traveler, one who likes to be by himself and relates more to the place --- the geography, scenery, architecture, culture --- than he does to the people.

3. Marrying Off Mother and Other Stories, by Gerald Durrell, 1992

The settings and characters in a few of these short stories will be familier to those who have read Durrell's My Family and Other Animals. Durrell claims that all the stories are based on real events. He spins a tale, full of humorous exaggeration, piling one impossibility on top another. But he does it so skillfully, the reader is left with a tiny suspicion that it might really have happened.


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