May 12, 2010

Crack Books (Re-released)

I'm terribly busy today.

I went  the gym, rushed home, updated my mom on my life for thirty minutes. And now I have to finished sewing up Valerio's birthday present, clean my room, finish putting away my laundry, and get enough sleep tonight to last me the entire weekend.

See, tomorrow Valerio (my boyfriend) and Paolo (my cousin - the same one who hosted me when I arrived in Spain) are both coming into Madrid and spending the weekend. Valerio, because Saturday is our two-year anniversary, and Paolo because he has a basketball tournament. Needless to say, between working all day tomorrow and entertaining the pair of them all weekend (they're both staying with me), I'm going to be totally swamped for the next four days. And probably totally exhausted by the end of the weekend.

So since I have so much to still do today, I'm cheating and re-posting something I wrote about six months ago. But that was back when my blog was still a newbie, and I didn't have that many followers, so for most of you it'll just be another new post, rather than a re-post. As for the few of you who have already read it, mosey on down to the comments and leave me some suggestions!


I need a new crack book.

No, that isn't the technological lovechild of a "crackberry" and and macbook (although that would be kind of cool). It's actually a witty new term I just invented, which describes a book that is so riveting, so addictive, so thrilling, a book that sucks you so deeply into its world and doesn't let you back into yours until you've devoured every last page, that it's comparable to crack. Not that I know anything about what crack is like. But word gets around.

I've read a lot of books. I've read some bad books, a few boring books, and a lot of good books. But I've only read a few crack books. Now before we start, let me get one thing straight: crack books aren't necessarily good literature. They might be emotionally gripping, but stand no chance when it comes to literary standards of style and form (like anything by Dan Brown). But they can also be completely riveting, and still be works of literary genius (like anything by Paul Auster). The same principle applies to movies. Lots of movies are gripping, but they usually aren't regarded as classic cinematographic works. And classics are usually anything but thrilling - take Citizen Kane (snore), or  Roman Holiday, for example. "Classic" and "thriller" tend to be mutually exclusive, but, like with books, there are some exceptions -  Hitchcock, like Auster, definitely managed to pull off some classy thrillers. 

That being said, three crack books I've read in the last few years come to mind right away, in no particular order (or rather, in the order that I read them):

The Historian
by Elizabeth Kostova

Oracle Night
by Paul Auster (whom I very strongly recommend)

Special Topics in Calamity Physics
by Marisha Pessel

Now I'm not here to duke it out with you about whether these books are "good" or not. The literary styles and talent of the authors vary as much as the content of the novels, and I had my praise for and bones to pick with all three. But all three books did have one thing in common. I couldn't put them down. When I read Oracle Night, I sat outside in a cafe and read the whole book, cover to cover, in one afternoon. And when I was finished, and I had to get back on my scooter and drive home, I felt as if I'd had four drinks. It took me a good half hour to comfortably re-enter my own world. It was like getting the wind knocked out of my head. With The Historian, lying in my bed at four in the morning, I actually had a few moments where I was afraid Dracula was going to come find me. Seriously. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, for a split second, actually had me believing the Night Watchmen were a real terrorist group.

Now I'm a logical, sane, well-adjusted person. I know I can't get drunk off of a book. I know Dracula isn't real and coming back from medieval Romania to suck my blood. I know there isn't some crazy anarchist-communist terrorist group secretly responsible for all the prominent assassinations in the last half century. I know all those things. But a crack book -  a good crack book - can make you forget what you know. At least for a little while. And that is what I call entertainment.

Sure, these books probably won't make it into the next generation of freshman English curricula (although I would gladly take a university course on Paul Auster). They aren't Chaucer or Shakespeare or Salinger. But does that make them any less good? I'd watch Angels and Demons over Citizen Kane any day. And while I love reading the classics (I've read Pride and Prejudice and Little Women and Gone With the Wind multiple times each), I love me a good crack book. And speaking of crack books, I'm all out.

Anyone know of a good one I can score?


leigh ashley said...

bah! the historian is one of my FAVORITE books!! have you read any of dan brown's books? (angels & demons, the davinci code, digital fortress, etc.) AWESOME!!

Neely said...

hmmm Atlas Shrugged

No One Reads The Copy said...

LOVED the historian and special topics in calamity physics. Right now I'm in the middle of The Glass Castle and I love it.

Definitely going to check out Oracle Night!

Nicole Z said...

Elizabeth Gilbert's new book "Committed" is pretty good. It's no "Eat, Pray, Love" but it's still good. And a quick read :)

We have almost identical literary taste - and that makes me super excited! I've never read any Auster, but I'm definitely going to check him out!