Last summer I decided to read all of the Pulitzers. Because it sounded like fun. I’ve read about 25 so far and it’s been a mixed bag. A lot of the earliest Pulitzers aren’t particularly great. But some of the newer ones are fantastic. So it all evens out. I had planned to go through the list in strict chronological order, but I had to start alternating an old one and a new one or I wasn’t going to make it. “Why not just give up?” you might ask. Because I don’t give up. Not on reading list challenges, anyways.
I was doing a book review for every book, but I fell a bit behind. So allow me to catch up with a short summary of each book I’ve recently read and a recommendation on whether you should read it, too.
The Good Earth, Pearl Buck (1932)
This is the story of one man’s life in pre-revolutionary China. It’s a fascinating look at a culture that is incredibly foreign. The story is told chronologically with effective use of foreshadowing and suspense. But it fades a bit at the end. If you’re interested in learning more about rural life in China before the revolution, give it a go. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your time.
Beautiful. Heart-breaking, eye-opening beauty. Every page in this book reveals some new insight into the human condition, or at least offers a turn of phrase that will make you smile or cry or both. The book is written as a letter from a dying father to his young son, but it slowly becomes the father’s journal and the place where he reflects on his life. The father is a pastor and the book contains much religious discussion, but it is all beautiful and thought-provoking, not dogmatic or in-your-face (as so much of religion seems to be these days.) Read this book. You won’t regret it.
March, Geraldine Brooks (2006)
This, to me, is a very typical “book club book.” It’s not bad, but it’s not great, either. The book tells the story of the father from Little Women. We follow him through the Civil War and we learn what he was going through as his little women toiled away back home. Through the story we see an interesting perspective on race in the South and why freeing the slaves didn’t solve all the problems. It’s interesting but not earth-shattering. I didn’t particularly like her other work, The People of the Book, so maybe I’m just not a Geraldine Brooks fan. It often feels too plotted and like it’s missing something deeper and more meaningful. But if you’re looking for a book for your next book club, this is probably a good pick.
Laughing Boy, Oliver La Farge (1930)
This novel takes us into the heart of Native-American culture in the west during the early 1900′s. It tells the tale of the Indians’ encounters with and influence by white people through the lens of a love story. But it’s not your typical love story. It’s a short read, and interesting, but not amazing. Like The Good Earth, I would recommend it if the topic is something that interests you. Otherwise, pass on this one.
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