This is the third annual World Book Night, and the second time it’s been celebrated in the US. This is one of those things that I would love to be a part of if I weren’t so introverted. The idea of getting people (who maybe haven’t picked up a book since they were in school) interested in reading thrills me. The idea of actually going out and interacting with random strangers who may or may not be receptive terrifies me. So… possibly something I’ll consider participating in in the future, but for now I just get excited from the sidelines.
There are a few books on this year’s list that I’d already read and enjoyed — The Language of Flowers and Still Alice in particular — but I realized when I was looking it over that I hadn’t read any of the mystery and thriller titles on the list. I decided to rectify that (as if I needed a reason to add more to my TBR). So, in recent weeks, I made a point of reading the following three books:
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith
This wasn’t the first time I’d heard of this series, so I figured it was time to give it a try. It wasn’t at all what I expected. The book was much more about the main character and her life and culture than any of the mysteries, which were all fairly simple and solved quickly. It had a very easy-going style, and was an enjoyable enough read once I realized that it was a completely different book from the one I was expecting. But I probably won’t continue the series.
Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley
This book was completely unfamiliar to me before seeing it on this year’s World Book Night list. It seems like what I think of as classic noir (without really knowing anything about classic noir) except that our PI-type character isn’t actually a PI. And he’s a black man in the ’40s, so there are race issues examined in almost every scene. Unfortunately, the story just didn’t grab me. If I wasn’t reading it with a specific purpose I would have set it down far earlier than I did. As it was, I got almost halfway through before finally calling it a DNF.
Look Again, by Lisa Scottoline
Scottoline is an author I’d come across several times before but never actually read, and of the three, this one sounded most like something I’d pick up on my own. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a let down. It read more like a Picoult-esque drama than a thriller. Maybe it’s just because I was already familiar with the premise (it’s a similar idea to The Face on the Milk Carton, a YA novel from my childhood), but there were few if any surprises. And, without giving away any details, I’ll just say that “the big scene” felt out of place. It isn’t really a climax, because a good chunk of the story is still to come, but it’s the most intense scene of the book, and nothing afterward seemed to match its energy. It’s not a bad book, by any means, but it didn’t live up to my expectations.
The idea of World Book Night is to get non-readers to read a book… and maybe enjoy it enough to want to read another. Personal taste is always going to be a factor, and clearly these books weren’t really to my taste. Still, they were all quick and easy reads, if not particularly thrilling. Not everyone needs thrilling, though I think most people could use a little escape now and then.
So here’s to World Book Night! Thanks and good luck to all the volunteers heading out there to spread the joy of reading.
Are any of these dots you? If you’re a book giver (or have been one in the past), please share your experiences!