Friday Book Whimsy: Book Challenge, Part II

Today’s post will continue the Book Challenge I found recently on Pinterest. Read last Friday’s post for Part I.

A book that made you laugh: I often find author Bill Bryson to be smug and mean-spirited. But he’s often enormously funny. A Walk in the Woods is a book that caused me not only guffaws, but often laughing until I had tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s a book that makes me forgive him for his smugness.

A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving: I purchased the Kindle version of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple when it was first released without knowing much about the book. When I took a look and saw the format, I was immediately uninterested in reading it. The book is mostly a series of text messages, memos, school documents and so forth. There is very little narrative. So it sat in my library for months before I dove in. I loved the book, as I indicated in my review.

The first novel you remember reading: What else? Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Oh, I read Nancy Drew and other kids’ mystery books, but Little Women was my first real novel. I loved it the first time I read it, and the many times I’ve read it since. And I always cry when Beth dies. Oh, spoiler alert.

A book that you wish more people would read: I have no way of knowing how many people read any given book, but I have a general sense that author Julia Keller is hugely underappreciated for her dark and richly textured Bell Elkins series. The stories take place in West Virginia and feature a county-prosecutor-turned-private-detective in partnership with the former sheriff and former deputy. The novels are not cheerful, but the characters are interesting and likeable, and Keller’s descriptions and stories ring true.

Favorite title of a book: I’m a sucker for a good title. I’ve also been known to pick a book from its cover. One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow has both. The book, written by Olivia Hawker, will be one of my favorites of 2020. Read my review here.

A book you love but hate at the same time: There has only been one time that I can recall that upon reading the ending, I literally threw the book across the room. Thank heavens I wasn’t yet reading on Kindle, because I’m not sure I would have been able to resist the impulse even then. That book is Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. The story was so compelling that I couldn’t put the book down. But that ending. Oh. My. Goodness. And that’s all I’ll say in case you’re one of the 10 people in the world who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie.

That’s all for this week. To be continued.

By the way, I would love to get your answers to these same questions. Last week’s too.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

Author Bill Bryson is one of the funniest writers I’ve ever read, if not the funniest. There have been times when I have been reading one of his books and have laughed so hard that I cried. A Walk in the Woods comes to mind.

I’m pretty sure I read The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America when it was first published in the late 1980s, because I’ve read most of his books. And since I kept the book all these years, I’m pretty sure I liked it. Perhaps my skin was thicker in those days.

Bryson was born and spent his formative years in Des Moines, Iowa. He attended Drake University – a private college in Des Moines – for a couple of years before he dropped out and began traveling abroad. He met his wife in England, and lived there until 2013 or so, when he returned to the United States.

While still living in England, he returned to Iowa for his father’s funeral, and decided to travel around the country visiting mostly small towns and writing about his observations. The idea has so much merit, but the result, unfortunately, is a mean-spirited, smug account about mostly rural America.

I don’t think I know a writer who can turn a cleverer phrase. Some of his thoughts are so ingenious and funny that it makes me sad that I didn’t write them. But mostly, he seemed bored with small towns, tired and complaining about corn and wheat fields, and positively mean about the people who make up the bread basket of this country. He sounded like a snotty European who thinks America consists of nothing but fools.

I seriously thought that if I had to read one more word about fat women and stupid men I would throw the book across the room. I understand that America excels at commercialism, but some of the souvenir shops about which he endlessly complained are the bread and butter of many families.

Despite how funny the book was in places, I had to stop reading because I just felt mean laughing at his jokes.

I have to give this book a thumbs down, I’m afraid.

Here is a link to the book.