Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Final Two Books of Summer

Labor Day is over, the weather is suddenly cooler, fall clothes are calling my name...summer is over and I've read the last two books that can I officially consider to be Summer Reading.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr had been on my list of books to read for years and years. I finally got around to it and it was worth the wait. The mystery is good, but the descriptions of New York in 1896 is even better. They're so vivid that, as someone who knows the city now, it's easy to imagine exactly where everything happened and how everything looked back then.

I followed that up with Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead. Fiction that reads like a memoir, it unfurls a string of anecdotes that ultimately reveal the life and family of the main character, a black teenage boy in the 1980s who lives in Manhattan and spends him summers at an African-American community on Long Island.

Both of these books, along with some others I've read recently, have made me think about the pacing of a book, and how much control authors have over that. I couldn't put down The Alienist, but it wasn't a quick read at all, and not because the book was at all difficult or dense. I wonder if the author intentionally paced his writing in a certain way that makes readers anxious to get to the end, but forced to take the story little by little in a way that mimics the way that his characters want to race to catch their killer even as they slowly piece together clues bit by bit. Sag Harbor was similar- it was a somewhat slow read for me, but was this because I wasn't enjoying it that much on the heels of finishing The Alienist, or did the author purposely try to create the slow, meandering, and sometimes stuck feeling of a teenage summer?

But that's enough theorizing for now...it's on to Fall Reading for me, and my first book is a good one...


  1. what else did Caleb Carr write? I'm positive I've read something by him. Would you recommend his book for me? I just finished "a lesson before dying"... it was just okay...

  2. I think you would like it for the historical elements. He's written a few other books, including Angel of Darkness, the sequel to this one. That's on my To Read list now, so I'll let you know how that one is.



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