Book choice for February

Catcher In The Rye by J.D.Salinger [suggested by Mair Morgan]

front cover

The Catcher in the Rye was first published in the United States in 1951, and the novel remains controversial to this day for its liberal profanity and portrayal of sexuality and teenage angst; it was the 13th most frequently challenged book of the 1990s according to the American Library Association.  Despite this censorship, or perhaps due to it, the novel has become one of the most famous literary works of the 20th century, and a common part of high-school curricula in many English-speaking countries, such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia.  Around 250,000 copies are sold each year, with total sales over 10 million.

The novel's protagonist, Holden Caulfield, has become an icon for teenage alienation and fear.  Written in the first person, The Catcher in the Rye relates Holden's experiences in New York City in the days following his expulsion from Pencey Prep, a university-preparatory school.

The novel covers a few important days in the life of Caulfield, a tall, lanky, highly-critical and depressed sixteen-year-old who decides one night to run away from Pencey Prep, just before Christmas vacation.  Because he is so critical of others, and points out their faults only to exhibit them himself later, Holden is widely considered to be an unreliable narrator, and the details and events of his story are apt to be distorted by his point of view.  Nonetheless, it is his story to tell.

(Synopsis from Wikipedia)

Jerome David Salinger (born January 1, 1919) is an American author best known for The Catcher in the Rye, a classic novel that has enjoyed enduring popularity since its publication in 1951.  A major theme in Salinger's work is the strong yet delicate mind of "disturbed" adolescents, and the redemptive capacity of children in the lives of such young men.  Salinger is also known for his reclusive nature; he has not given an interview since 1974, and has not made a public appearance, nor published any new work (at least under his own name), since 1965.  In the mid 1990s, there was a flurry of excitement when a small publisher announced a deal with Salinger to bring out the first book version of his final published story, "Hapworth 16, 1924", but amid the ensuing publicity, Salinger quickly withdrew from the arrangement.

For more information visit Salinger's entry on Wikipedia or his fan-created minipedia.


Shortlisted for this month

One Big Damn Puzzler [suggested by Myra Bordon]

One Big Damn Puzzler

Is be or is be not, is be one big damn puzzler...  On the day the plane brought the white man to the island, Managua was, as usual, preoccupled with his translation of Hamlet.  As the only islander who could read, let alone write, he felt the burden of his culture rested plenty damn heavy upon his shoulders.  The plane's arrival meant he'd have to put aside his work, strap on his leg and make his way to the landing beach to greet the newcomer.  The island had welcomed visitors before, of course.  The British had been there, rather noncommittally, but they had bequeathed their language, half a hotel, the small pigs that now ran wild in the jungle, and Shakespeare.  Then the Americans with their military base, its soldiers and guns.  That had not been a happy time - as the many landmine casualties testified - apart from the Coca Cola.  And there was Miss Lucy, who had embraced island life and its traditions, even if she did over-indulge those silly She-Boys.  But what to make of this new arrival, this young lawyer from America with his strange nervous gestures and his fervent belief in doing the right thing and winning reparation for the Islanders?  Managua sensed that William Hardt's coming to And he would be proved plenty damn right...  This achingly funny, rich and supremely moving novel confirms John Harding as one of contemporary fiction's most entertaining and observant chroniclers of the human condition.

About the Author

John Harding was born in a small Fenland village in the Isle of Ely in 1951.  After local village and grammar schools, he read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford, where he once sat next to Martin Amis during a lecture.  He worked first as a newspaper reporter, then as a writer and editor in magazines, before becoming a freelance writer.  His first novel was the acclaimed and bestselling What We Did On Our Holiday.  He lives in Richmond upon Thames with his wife and two sons.

Amazingly, John Harding has neither a website nor a page on Wikipedia, but there is some material here.


My Sister's Keeper [suggested by Wendy Williams]

My Sister's Keeper

The difficult choices a family must make when a child is diagnosed with a serious disease are explored with pathos and understanding in this 11th novel by Picoult (Second Glance, etc.). The author, who has taken on such controversial subjects as euthanasia (Mercy), teen suicide (The Pact) and sterilization laws (Second Glance), turns her gaze on genetic planning, the prospect of creating babies for health purposes and the ethical and moral fallout that results. Kate Fitzgerald has a rare form of leukemia. Her sister, Anna, was conceived to provide a donor match for procedures that become increasingly invasive. At 13, Anna hires a lawyer so that she can sue her parents for the right to make her own decisions about how her body is used when a kidney transplant is planned. Meanwhile, Jesse, the neglected oldest child of the family, is out setting fires, which his firefighter father, Brian, inevitably puts out. Picoult uses multiple viewpoints to reveal each character's intentions and observations, but she doesn't manage her transitions as gracefully as usual; a series of flashbacks are abrupt. Nor is Sara, the children's mother, as well developed and three-dimensional as previous Picoult protagonists. Her devotion to Kate is understandable, but her complete lack of sympathy for Anna's predicament until the trial does not ring true, nor can we buy that Sara would dust off her law degree and represent herself in such a complicated case. Nevertheless, Picoult ably explores a complex subject with bravado and clarity, and comes up with a heart-wrenching, unexpected plot twist at the book's conclusion. Copyright � Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Jodi Picoult, 39, is the bestselling author of thirteen novels.  She was born and raised on Long Island and studied creative writing with Mary Morris at Princeton, having two short stories published in Seventeen magazine while still a student.  She held down a series of different jobs following her graduation: technical writer for a Wall Street brokerage firm, copywriter at an ad agency, editor at a textbook publisher, and as an 8th grade English teacher - before entering Harvard to pursue a master's in education.  She married Tim Van Leer, and it was while she was pregnant with her first child that she wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale.  She and Tim and their three children live in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Read more smug self-satisfied drivel on her website.  Have a bucket handy.


Previous Months' Book Choices

January 2007
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006