Believe it or not, I’ve read another two books already.
First, I read The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck, for my book club. This one will stay with me for a long time. It’s not a great book, but the characters and setting were so vivid and unusual that they were memorable. The book is naturalistic, with events mostly just happening to the main character, Wang Lung. He is a peasant farmer in rural China in the early part of the 20th century. He struggles to survive in harsh conditions, and ends up weathly due to hard work, some luck, and reliance on the land as the only source of security. You might think this sounds like a great premise, but the author’s point is not to show how Wang Lung created wealth for himself, but to show a slice of life – the way real Chinese farmers lived and thought. She did a good job by presenting a very likeable man whose character was flawed mostly by the cultural norms of the time: the treatment of women as less-than-human, family duty, and no ambition beyond the scope of one’s immediate surroundings. This book is worth reading and has many interesting issues to analyze such as whether Wang Lung has any independent values, what is the cause of his unhappiness, and to what degree he can be excused for bad behavior rooted in the norms of his culture. But mostly it is just interesting to observe the world that Buck presents.
Next, for a breather after the intense Good Calories, Bad Calories, I read Night Fall, by Nelson DeMille. It’s a novel based loosely on the crash of TWA Flight 800 back in 1996. There were some good aspects to it but overall I thought it suffered from too much testosterone and a very disappointing ending. I’ve read this author before and I don’t like him much, even though I like the bad-ass-detective genre. Vince Flynn and especially Lee Child are much better.