Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Book Beat: Authors You Might Like To Meet

It's been forever since my last book beat post, and I have been reading and listening up a storm, as per usual. A few of my recent reads fall into the category of "authors I've known and enjoyed for a while now" and "good summer reading." [Please note that I did not use the term "beach book" because I find it kind of rude and dismissive. I understand the concept of a "beach book," but I am uncomfortable with the way people think they need to defend or excuse their reading choices by saying things like "It's just a beach book" or "I just needed some mindless reading." Just read what you please!]

1. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner
Some years ago, I read Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner. I had avoided the book for some time because of its title (kind of yucky), but I loved it. The novel features a plus-size heroine and has more meat to it than other books that get categorized, as Weiner's do (deservedly or not), as "chick lit." I reread the novel a couple of months ago in anticipation of its sequel and loved it all over again, this time really noticing how well Weiner negotiates humor and humanity (though I'm not trying to suggest humor and humanity are opposing forces). Certain Girls, though a bit heavier than its predecessor, was also quite satisfying. I think I've read all of Weiner's offerings thus far and would most heartily recommend Good in Bed, Certain Girls, Little Earthquakes, and her short story collection The Guy Not Taken. I enjoyed In Her Shoes and Goodnight Nobody, but I don't think either of those titles would be the best introduction to Jennifer Weiner. She also has a blog you might be interested in http://www.myspace.com/uncanniegirl

2. Plan B: A Novel by Jonathan Tropper
My friend (and NTB reader/comment-leaver) MSH introduced me to Jonathan Tropper, and I will be forever grateful. The first book I read (and probably my favorite) was The Book of Joe. I also enjoyed How to Talk to a Widower, Everything Changes, and most recently (but actually his first novel), Plan B. Tropper's novels all feature men in the twenties or thirties who are struggling with their careers, their pasts, their friends, and/or their love lives. Like Weiner's novels, Tropper's offer a nice blend of humor and real issues. His pop culture references are right on and very helpful in terms of characterization; he offers the kind of details where you might nod your head and say to yourself, "Yes, this guy is the kind who would watch Baywatch reruns." Plan B was probably my least favorite, but I don't think most readers would be disappointed with any of Tropper's titles.

3. Such A Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
EFagel, NTB reader and friend of PITA, introduced me to Jen Lancaster. Lancaster is a Chicago author who has now published three memoirs. In the first, Bitter is the New Black : Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass,Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office, Lancaster takes her readers through the journey of losing her high-paying job and being forced to change her consumer habits and move out of her trendy neighborhood. In her second, Bright Lights, Big Ass: A Self-Indulgent, Surly, Ex-Sorority Girl's Guide to Why it Often Sucks in the City, or Who are These Idiots and Why Do They All Live Next Door to Me?, Lancaster tries to de-romanticize city living. You know, it's not all cosmos and brunch with Carrie Bradshaw. Her latest offering, Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest To Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass LookBig, Or Why Pie is Not The Answer, probably my favorite, traces Lancaster's quest to become more physically fit after being confident in her plus-size appearance for years. Her experiences with Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and a personal trainer named Barbie (for real) make for entertaining reading and her story is both humorous and inspiring. It sounds like a cliche to say it, but her goal is health and fitness more than weight loss, and I really liked the ending. I will warn you that Lancaster's style is "in-your-face," and it can be uncomfortable at moments, but I find myself respecting her willingness to call it as she sees it, even if I wouldn't always do it in quite the same way. Also, Jen Lancaster has a blog: http://www.jennsylvania.com

So, there you have it. Some other books I have read (or re-read) and enjoyed of late
you can look up for yourself: The Great Indoors by Sabine Durrant; Pride and Prejudice (for the fifteenth time maybe?)and Sense and Sensibility (damn that Willoughby) by Jane Austen; The Observations by Jane Harris; and The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer (damn, this one really deserves its own post I'll have to get back to you).

I'm currently reading I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley and next in line is Of Men and Their Mothers by Mameve Medwed (an author you should meet for sure). I'll keep you posted.

Okay, what are you reading? Any authors you'd like to introduce?

8 comments:

Mom o'Bean said...

I just finished Bright Lights, Big Ass and really enjoyed it. I love Jennifer Weiner, but I haven't read Certain Girls yet. I've recently rediscovered the library since my husband put me on a book buying moratorium as they were taking over our little office/library and he was threatening a purge. I'll have to add all three to my to-do list.

PITA said...

I love Jennifer Weiner and Jonathan Tropper and find Jen Lancaster books hilarious. I am looking forward to reading her next one. I just reread Good in Bed in anticipation of reading Certain Girls. Book of Joe is a really great book and was introduced to me by EmFagel, I have also read Everything Changes -but I would recommend Book of Joe as a first choice for sure.

Actchy said...

Very glad to get some recommendations. I've been reading "The Dante Club" for way too long (our next book club book) and while I was told it was going to read "just as quickly as 'The Da Vinci Code'", it's been a slow, tedious read for me, i.e., nothing like "The Da Vinci Code."

I hesitate over J. Weiner, even though I did really enjoy "Good in Bed" and generally like to read books written by Philadelphia authors. I think my hesitation stems from how much I disliked "In Her Shoes", the movie. This certainly isn't fair to the author, and I should really know better. I mean, when is the book *ever* the same as the movie? (Well, except for Harry Potter.)

Anonymous said...

I think I will just check out books at the MEP library, they all sounded entertaining but of course I haven't read any of them. m

emfagel said...

Already read 2 of your 3 on the list! I read "Such a Pretty Fat" and "Certain Girls." I loved both of them and will have to buy the Jonathan Tropper book...I totally forgot that I recommended that book to begin with to Pita. "Such a Pretty Fat" was my favorite to date although I laughed out loud to all of them. I also enjoy any books by the author Emily Giffin. Happy Reading!

Steph said...

Perfect timing! I'm on my way to the library tonight!

msh said...

i am currently reading jodi picoult's "nineteen minutes." i read "my sister's keeper" a long time ago, but for some reason, steered clear of her other books until this one. so far, i am a fan.

next on my list is tom perotta's "little children" because he is my new jonathan tropper, who was my new nick hornby, who was my new wally lamb. not sure why i always obsess with male authors, but there it is! maybe i'll try jennifer weiner and see what happens.

Anonymous said...

I'm not well-read, unless you count this blog site and a few books this year. Hoping to change my ways, I joined a book club and read the first book on the list, "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls. I loved this memoir, telling the tale of an extremely dysfunctional and poverty-stricken family. It communicates both the hardship and the love in this family. I just loved it and finished it nearly in one night....unheard of for me. I highly recommend it for those who haven't read it. Next on the list is "Nineteen Minutes" so I'll look forward to that. Thanks for the other suggestions!!! Rita

 
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