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"The Story of Arthur Truluv" by Elizabeth Berg

I have a confession to make: You know that book Wonder by R.J. Palacio about the boy with facial deformities who attends public school for the first time and it's difficult for everyone involved, but in the end everyone's heart grows at least four sizes and we all feel good?
I didn't love it. It's OK. And the movie was probably OK too. But as far as plot, character development, the style of the writing... I thought it was just OK.
That's how I feel about The Story of Arthur Truluv, which is really all the things the various blurbs about the book says it is -- heartwarming, moving and sweet. You may even cry a little. But, unfortunately, it's like a much-watered-down version of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Which is a far better book. Arthur is too good. And Maddy's story is somewhat unbelievable (Why is she bullied? How does she get into the situation she gets into?) and too cliche (goth teen going to art school?). Lucille's story se…
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"Beartown" by Fredrik Backman

I’m about to be overly effusive: I loved Beartown by Fredrik Backman and I think it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. (See Tangent 1.)

Backman lured us into his Swedish world of curmudgeons and the neighbors who love them with A Man Called Ove and his other novellas. But this isn’t A Man Called Ove. This book has a much larger scope. This feels like the book Backman has always wanted to write but had to wait to give to us until he developed an audience. You got it, bro. I will read whatever else you write in the future. This book more deeply develops his ideas about communities. It is also about parenthood and all the responsibilities that go along with it. It’s about family and best friends who are like family. It’s about belonging. It’s about sorrow and happiness. And there’s some hockey. (Tangent 2.)
You will hate some of the parents (Kevin’s, William’s). You will love some of the teens (Amat, Maya, Ana, Benji, Bobo, Leo...). Be prepared to feel emotions. The characters – a…

Some Writer! and Other Non-Fiction

I've read more non-fiction during the first few months of this year than I usually do. I'm not sure how that happened. Usually I "get acquainted" with some non-fiction titles so I can recommend them, do a little speed reading of a chapter or two, and leave it at that. But I dove deeper earlier this year and feel smarter for it (kidding). Here, in the order of preference (most liked to least), are the books I read cover to cover:

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet
I loved this book. It's a children's biography of noted writer and style guide producer E.B. White, and it's so well done. Interspersed with the narration are examples from White's writings, personal papers, anecdotes and much more. The layout is gorgeous. Every bit of text is interesting. And White's life is worth reading about.

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper
After reading Stamper's book, I now know that I am not careful enough to beco…

Suicide Is Painful

Suicide Is Painless is the title of the theme song to both the movie and television series M*A*S*H (and one of the first songs I learned to play on the piano). I've just read three books that involve suicides in one way or another (some spoilers ahead) and they show how suicide painfully affects the ones left behind. Imagine Me Gone by Adam Hasslett delves into bi-polar disorder before it was called that. Married couple Margaret and John are seemingly able to cope for a long time with John's bi-polar disorder, but fail to realize how it tough it is on their children and how the oldest, Michael, seems to have inherited the disease. John's suicide changes each family member in a different way. I was bothered more than a bit with how Margaret was portrayed. She seemed so together and strong and powerful at the beginning of the novel and then so lost later. It just seemed to me that her personality changed too much. When  a second suicide happens late in the nove…