The Road by Cormac McCarthy (9/10)
Yes, this is an Oprah pick, but I read that it had a science-fiction element to it, and it was cheap (at Costco). It’s a depressing novel about a father and son wandering America after civilization has been destroyed. It’s violent, touching, and memorable. The author doesn’t follow the rules of grammar for the most part, helping to set the somber tone and chaos that the characters live in. I recommend it as a horror story – not something to read to the kids at bedtime, although there’s some tenderness there, too.
Lullabies For Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill (7/10)
This won the 2007 CBC Radio Canada Reads contest, which means little since the books are selected from five Canadian celebrities; however, the books they pick from ARE often good, including this one. It’s about a 13 year old girl growing up in a city with a dad who’s a drug addict. The story isn’t as depressing as The Road (above), but it’s close. The girl is smart, having quirks and observations that make her see happiness in awful situations. It’s an interesting portrayal of poverty and street life in a big city, with some hope in the end that things can work out well. Nicely written with lots of well-phrased passages. I would recommend it if you don’t mind reading about the gritty life of prostitution, poverty, and addicts.
The Kings of New York: A Year Among the Geeks, Oddballs, and Genuises Who Make Up America’s Top High School Chess Team by Micheal Weinreb (7/10)
I think this non-fiction has a selective audience: those who participated in chess tournaments and were in a school chess club, which is why it piqued my interest (my Dad gave it to me). This is a well-written account of people who live chess and who just play the game as a hobby in school. You get to know the players. It chronicles a year of a famous high school chess club based in New York city; how the school recruits top players; who the players are outside of chess and why they play; and the unique world of chess tournaments. Recommended only if you were in a school chess club.