Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Summer Reading

I'm straying from my usual format for this post because I recently read the Summer Books section of the Chicago Tribune, and it inspired me to make a summer reading list for myself. So I've decided to post my summer reading list as a way of keeping me accountable to it. (If I post it for all the world wide web to see, I may be more inclined to stick to it.) Plus, I always like to hear about what other people are reading or plan to read, so I thought I might return the favor and share a little.

Here goes:
1. A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter, by William Deresiewicz
2. The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, by Alice Azma
3. The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School, by Alexandra Robbins
4. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas
5. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, by Erik Larson
6. Dreams of Joy, by Lisa See
7. You Shall Know Our Velocity, by Dave Eggers

8. Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I don't know if I will read them in that particular order. I might mix the fiction in with the non to break things up a little. I actually surprised myself when I was finished with this list because there is an awful lot of nonfiction on it. I've never been much of a nonfiction reader. I usually tend to stick with novels, but it seems as though this year has produced a lot of nonfiction books on topics I'm very interested in. It should be an interesting and educational summer and I can't wait to get started!

(If you have the time, let me know what you plan to read this summer!)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Any Human Heart

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am a huge fan of Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. I'm especially impressed with the work they've been turning out in the last 5-10 years. I recently had the opportunity to watch the Masterpiece adaptation of Any Human Heart, by William Boyd.

Any Human Heart is the story of the 20th Century told through the eyes of Logan Mountstuart. The story begins with Logan as a young man at Oxford in the 1930s. You discover early on that the character of Logan Mountstuart has more than his share of flaws, but you find yourself on his side despite his shortcomings.

Logan is a novelist struggling to find his next great book, but finds himself living a rather full life instead working on his novel. It isn't until the end of his life when he sorts through his many journals that he discovers he'd been recording his masterpiece all along.

Any Human Heart turns out to be a beautiful story about growing up, growing old, and the adventures and heartaches we face along the way.

The cast of this mini-series is phenomenal. I truly believe the British have cornered the market on bringing books to life. And it all begins with their actors. Sam Claflin, Matthew MacFadyen and Jim Broadbent did such an excellent job portraying young, middle aged and elderly Logan Mountstuart that the transition between actors was so smooth it was hardly noticable.

And being a huge fan of Matthew MacFadyen's, I always have to give a little extra praise for his performances. I haven't seen him in any role that wasn't wonderfully performed. He is indeed one of the greatest actors of his generation. I have and will continue to follow his career as long as he continues to act.

I also love that Masterpiece Theatre is moving forward in film technology. This was not only well acted and eloquently adapted to a screenplay, it was also very beautifully filmed and visually interesting. I loved everything about this film adaptation - the acting, the costumes, and the excellent cinematography.

But I will warn you - there are some pretty scandelous sex scenes for a Masterpiece Drama, so don't watch it with the kiddies. They are, however, an important part of the unveiling of Logan's character. He is a man with an addictive personality, and one of his addictions just so happens to be sex. It's an important flaw that shapes his life and teaches him a lot, in the end.

We all learn the greatest lessons in life from our mistakes and weaknesses, and I think that's what makes this particular story so relatable. So that's why this is my next recommendation: Any Human Heart, the Masterpiece adaptation of William Boyd's novel of the same title.