Monday, July 21, 2008

Book Plug: The Yiddish Policeman's Union & Summer Reading

Recently I just finished reading Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union.

[For The New York Times book review, click here]

The basic plot of the book takes place in an indistinct present (it's not clear what year it is, but we know it's sometime in the 1980s or 19990s). Chabon has set up an alternative universe in which Sitka, Alaska is home to a settlement of Jewish people post-Holocaust/World War II--basically, the premise is that instead of going to Israel, much of the Jewish diaspora ended up in Alaska thanks to Harold Ickes. The protagonist and anti-hero is Meyer Landsman, a Sitka cop and titular member of the Yiddish Policeman's union (at some point in the novel he does actually whip out a union card). There is a murder. There are conspiracies. And interestingly enough, there are Filipinos in this landscape (and one of them makes the best Chinese donuts in the whole territory), which from my Asian American lit crit pov, made this also an interesting ethnic nugget in an already interesting story.

I really liked this book, and I like Chabon's style overall (I've read Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys although I haven't read the magnum opus, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay). I don't want to say too much because unlike last week's movie reviews, I really don't want to give away any spoilers--I think that if you are looking for an engaging book and some good summertime reading, this is one I'd definitely recommend.

Which brings me to the second part of this post (and this requires some feedback from you, dear readers). What would YOU recommend for some summer reading fun? I'm sort've in-between novels right now. I have two Ian McEwan novels on my "to read" shelf--Atonement and Chesil Beach, but I can't seem to get into them right now (perhaps it's also because I saw the film version of Atonement so its less enticing for me to read a story that I sort've know, although I'm sure the novel will give me a different world than the film). I already read my two big Asian American fun summer reading, the latest works by Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth and Susan Choi, Person of Interest--both of which I recommend, although some of the short stories in Lahiri's collection are stronger than others and both The Foreign Student and American Woman I liked better than Choi's latest novel.

But I'm always looking for good book recommendations--especially anything in the fiction category of either novels or short story collections. So PLEASE--if you are reading this and you just finished the latest novel by Author X and loved her/his novel Y, then share with me and the readers of this blog. I'm sure we'd all be grateful for good literary recommendations.


Bhoomika said...

have you read any octavia butler? one of the most interesting commentators on race/mixing race I have ever met

Jennifer said...

I think I've read a short story by Butler, but to be honest, I'm not very well read on sci-fi/fantasy (although I did go through a sci-fi phase in middle-school and worked my way through a lot of LeGuin, Bradbury, Asimov, and a really terrific "best of" edition that featured some great people like Philip K. Dick, Butler, and a few others whose names escape me now but you'd recognize as being canonical sci fi writers).

I've been told that Butler is someone I should read--do you have a suggestion of where to start?