Sunday 8 May 2011

Sunday's reading thoughts...

I finished Left Neglected by Lisa Genova on Friday night.  It was well-written and interesting, exploring a type of neurological condition I've never heard of before.  But, in my opinion, it was no Still Alice.  Now I haven't read Still Alice for a few years, but this is how I remember it.  Still Alice chronicles the experiences of the main character as she suffers early-onset Alzheimer's.  Left Neglected tells the story of a woman recovering from a neurological condition called Left Neglect after sustaining a head injury from a car accident.  While Alice was fresh and unpredictable, Neglected was more than predictable, it was clichéd.  Where Alice was sometimes sombre but always realistic, Neglected was excessively upbeat, at times almost comical.  It just didn't compare to Still Alice.  Having made all these seemingly negative comments, I want to assure you that I enjoyed Left Neglected.  I just think Still Alice was a better book. 

This is the problem with personal reading history.  If I had never read Still Alice, I would probably think that Left Neglected was amazing.  But I have read the first, and so naturally I make a comparison between them, and find the second book wanting in some ways.  This leads me to consider the book reviewer.  When I read, I compare the book I'm reading with other books I've read, or I compare characters in one book to those in another.  If I were a book reviewer, however, I expect that I would have to acquire the skill of compartmentalizing books and seeing each book as an entity unto itself.  There is no guarantee, say, that the author of a novel about a particular subject that I may have read has also read another novel about that particular subject that I have also read.  So while I may compare the two novels, this comparison is unfair to the second novel, since it may be an original idea for that author, even though it's been done before by someone else.  Does that makes sense?  (I guess it’s fair to compare books by the same author, though, since the author being “reviewed” is obviously aware of his or her own earlier works.)

I also want to talk about the things that appear on the covers of books or inside the book jackets.  When I pick up a book for the first time, if I am unfamiliar with the story, I usually want to read a summary of the plot before I start.  Paperbacks have this summary on the back cover, while hardcovers usually have this written on the inside front flap.  On the back flap of hardcovers, there is usually information about the author, and the outside back cover usually has reviews of that book or previous books by the author.  These reviews are often from different newspapers or magazines, such as the New York Times or the Toronto Star.  The back cover for Left Neglected had reviews by various authors such as Jodi Picoult, Brunonia Barry and Ann Hood.  Although I don’t usually intentionally read these reviews, I can't help but notice them there on the back cover.  I found these ones particularly interesting, since I had just listened to an audio version of a Brunonia Barry novel, and I had a novel by Ann Hood sitting on my desk at work waiting to be read.  I suspect these “reviews” are meant to also serve as recommendations, sort of like when you go to Amazon or Chapters online and look up a title, and at the bottom of the page, a list of other books comes up letting you know that others who bought the book you’re interested in have also purchased these other titles.  So if you like Lisa Genova, you may also want to read Jodi Picoult, Ann Hood and Brunonia Barry.  Hmmm... interesting.  I think I prefer reviews by newspaper reviewers, as I believe them to be more unbiased than reviews by fellow authors.  (By the way, I didn't finish listening to the audiobook by Brunonia Barry, as I didn't really like the narration, and the story was getting too weird and hard to follow...more on audio books another time!  I am, however, currently reading The Red Thread by Ann Hood, and find it interesting so far.)

That's all for today.

Bye for now!

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