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Celebrating Authors on Labor Day

September 1, 2011

Celebrate All the Hardworking Authors This Labor Day

How many hardworking authors does it take to make my Labor Day weekend a great one?  Just one usually, but this weekend I want to celebrate some of the great authors whose books I enjoyed so much this year but haven’t had a chance to mention.

The Burning House by Paul Lisicky – You know that person who when you first met them they seemed like an average kind of guy but as you got to know them they morphed into the most remarkable person and you wanted them to be your new best friend?  The Burning House was that average person but only until I started reading it.  It’s a small book with an unassuming cover.  Inside is a lyrical story about people caught in the challenges of life.  It’s filled with hope, desire, love, illness, job loss and much more.  The topics may be familiar but the prose with which Lisicky writes is a thing of beauty.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano – Can a million people be wrong?  No, is the short answer. This book, written by the Italian author, won the Premio Strega, Italy’s premier literary award, and has sold over a million copies in Italy alone. It’s the story of Alice and Mattia who are psychologically damaged as children and turn into lonely and socially alienated people.  They meet as teenagers and are joined in their hearts forever. There are no cliches and no happy endings – just a beautiful and haunting story.

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman – Tom Violet has lost his way.  All he ever wanted was fame, fortune, a beautiful wife and a dog to greet him at the end of the day.  He’s got the wife but things are not going very well. Fame and fortune have been elusive and the dog is anxious.  Violet has a brain-numbing job but what he really wants is to be a famous author like his Pulitzer Prize winning father.  Norman captures Violet’s angst and plasters it to the page in this funny account of a regular guy who chases some dreams and surprisingly finds them in the end.

My American Unhappiness by Dean Bakopoulos – Zeke Pappas is a strange and wacky guy.  His post-academic life is falling apart and his mother and two nieces have moved in with him. Not only does he not have a wife, he is barely dating.  Honestly, Zeke has some traits that make him a little hard to love and he’s starting to repel the people he’s trying to attract.  For instance, his pet project is getting to the root of American unhappiness, so he asks everyone he meets why they’re so unhappy.  There’s a crazy back story about a dead wife that explains how his life went off track.  Along the way, there is plenty of good banter mixed in with a heavy dose of irony.  Baopoulos delivers the goods.

Fire Monks by Colleen Morton Busch – In 2008, over two thousand wildfires burned in California and threatened the retreat of Tassajara, the oldest Zen Buddhist monastery in the United States.  This non-fiction story tracks the efforts of five monks who risked their lives to save the monastery.  It’s a fascinating read that will appeal to anyone interested Zen Buddhism, the mechanics of fighting a fire or who, like me, wants to witness courage up close.

My New American Life by Francine Prose – Twenty-six-year-old Albanian Lula lands in NYC looking for the American Dream.  She works as a nanny, of sorts, to Zach, the son of Mister Stanley, a college professor turned Wall Street executive.  That’s when her life starts taking some weird twists and turns.  For one thing, her boss thinks she is a refugee of the Balkan wars and hires an attorney to get her papers so she can stay.  She’s not a refugee, but that doesn’t stop her from becoming one for the purpose of getting her way.  Then, there’s the problem with her new Albanian thug friends who are dangerous but also a little attractive to Lula.  Prose has a satirical bent and a twisted sense of humor that goes a long way in making this a very amusing read.

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