Reading with Wright: By Christopher Wright
My job as a librarian is to connect people with the information they seek. One of the duties is reading advisory, or recommending books to people based on their tastes. That’s what I do, day in and day out. But it’s always great when the same folks come back to me and recommend “new” books for me to read, or in some cases, not to read. That’s a beautiful thing. I call it the reciprocity of reading. The books I’m about to recommend are the fruit of this reciprocity. All too often when you mention Scandinavian books everybody immediately starts thinking dark and noirish. These books are the exact opposite and will make you laugh or touch your heart.
The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson: Who knew nuclear proliferation could be so funny? Allan Karlsson runs away from his 100th birthday party and steals a thug’s luggage at the bus station. The story is off on two tracks. We have the present narrative and then Allan’s life unfolds incrementally. And what a life! He’s met some of the most famous leaders of the 20th Century and he hates politics. The present narrative evolves from a hunt for a missing person to a kidnapping to Allan being pursued as a triple murder suspect. I don’t know which narrative I enjoyed the most.
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson: This too is about nuclear proliferation and will leave you laughing. Jonas Jonasson is the Carl Hiaasen of Sweden. It was wildly humorous on serious subjects like nuclear proliferation, apartheid and China. We have Mossad agents being manipulated by a self- taught African girl who never ceases to amaze the reader with her feats and responses to crises. The first 300 pages were a hoot but the last 100; I wanted it to wrap up.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: This is an absolutely charming and wonderful book that will give you many chuckles and a few tears too. Backman takes a perceived judgmental, grouchy, curmudgeon and transforms him into a decent human being, or perhaps even a saint. He alternates every chapter between the present and the past life of Ove. Ove is the guy in your neighborhood who lives to argue and bargain about every issue. The present narrative is funny. The past or flashbacks are serious and you see how life has shaped Ove. Backman has a new book out that sounds just as interesting, charming, and perhaps heart-breaking—My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry. This new book had its United States release in June.
The Year of the Hare by Arto Passilinna: Unlike the previous books which originated in Sweden and are recent, this book is from Finland and several decades old—1975. It’s a weird, beautiful, funny story that only gets a little dark toward the end. Basically, a guy quits his job and pals around with a hare while touring Finland. It’s a road trip book. It’s an epiphany book. It’s a funny story with very deep meanings.
Back in June the library started its Tea Time Book Club. We meet every fourth Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and it’s led by Branch Manager Susan Pina. This is an informal group and tea is served so bring your own cup and join us on Sept. 28. Right now we’re reading A Man Called Ove.
Chris Wright is not sure if he lives to read or if he reads to live. He has been a public librarian with the OC Public Libraries since 2006 and currently works at the Dana Point branch.