The Week In Books, No. 28

The kids and I are on vacation with my family for two weeks: we visited my parents’ house in DC and saw my aunt Catherine and uncle Stan and some friends at our old church, now we’re at my parents’ condo in Williamsburg soaking up some history, and then we’re on to see my aunt Fran, my brother, my grandparents, and so on. We’ll be home eventually. The kids are proving to be good travelers, thanks in large part to the Sawyers generously lending us a DVD player so Hannah can watch “Leetle bahrs” (little bears, that is, Pooh and friends) as we drive. Jack is smiling a lot more and making more interactive faces at us, and is wearing size 3-6 month clothes now. Hannah has been surprising us with lots of sentences like “I can pick up!” and “Lookit ‘a leetle birds!” (Look at the little birds).

Anyway, since I’m on vacation, or as close to vacation as one can get with two babies in tow, I have elected not to put pictures of the books I read into this review. Wow, see how I’m saving time and relaxing and stuff???? Ha ha.

The Final Solution
” by Michael Chabon

I sang the praises of Michael Chabon in a previous review, so I will direct you to that if you need a refresher on why he’s a fabulous writer and why you should run out and read his books now. The Final Solution is a shorter book than The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and not as awesome, but still excellent. Chabon crafts a mystery set in post-World War II England and starring none other than an elderly retired Sherlock Holmes. The result is a humorous and smart tale without a real solution. The book is short and not terribly emotionally demanding, so you could take it to the beach, but it’s intelligent enough to take along anywhere you might need to appear casually erudite and urbane as well. A winner in every situation, what’s not to like?

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
” by Mohsin Hamid

I heard about this book via an article and excerpt printed in the Princeton Alumni Weekly a few months ago (the author is an alum and the main character of the book is a fictional member of the class of 2001, my class). The story is couched as an evening’s conversation in Lahore, Pakistan between the main character, Changez, and a mysterious American who is apparently a spy or soldier or both. Although telling the story that way is a little distracting at times, ultimately it works. I thought the strength of the book was in showing the perspective of a nominal Muslim who liked America and was trying to fit in, but whose struggle with to solidify his identity and reconcile his future with his past and find meaning in his life ultimately took him away from the American dream and back to Pakistan. As I read, I found myself understanding that perspective better than I had before, although I have not concluded my contemplations on whether I think Changez made the right choices along the way. If you read this book, let me know because I’d be interested to see what other people think of it.

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