Several weeks ago I challenged myself to read ten books for the month of May. As a writer, I am intrigued by the challenge of reading books from various genres. More importantly, writing a concise "book report" is also a helpful exercise. For the next fifteen days I will discuss eight books that I rescued from the used book section at my local library. After inserting dryer sheets between the pages (nothing like a good smelling used book), I read the them one my one; paying special attention to the author's voice and the genre.
The first book I reported on this month was a self help book that describes the key to happiness and how self fulfillment prior to a relationship is important. The second book that I read was Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer. As a Yale Alumna and graduate of the University of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, ZZ Packer does a phenomenal job at describing various truths in each of her short stories.
Not only was I attracted to the title (I LOVE coffee), but I also loved the vintage purposefully worn paperback cover. I first encountered the book back in 2006 while searching through the discount section at a Brookline bookstore outside in Massachusetts. As I do with all my potential book purchases, in order to assure that the book is "just right" for me, I read the first page. Next, I flipped it over and read the blurb on the back. After reading the reviews on the back, I was sold. Before I knew it, I'd devoured the text in under 48hrs.
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere is remarkable for lots of reasons, mostly because ZZ Packer writes with the honesty of a southern grandmother combined with the eloquence of a seasoned writer. In her potent stories, she leaves the reader with valuable life lessons, while begging for inclusion for the marginalized members of society. Some of her short stories also serve as a "testimony" for the forgotten.
The benefit of reading short stories versus a full length narrative is the automatic commitment that takes place; the brevity compels you to finish each story. A well crafted short story includes all of the elements of a full length narrative without the time commitment. I definitely recommend reading Drinking Coffee Elsewhere.
Stay tuned for my next book report: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The economic devastation discussed in the book, though written in the late 1930s, mirrors that of today's economic climate. A good book is like good wine; it gets better with age.
Filed under: Uncategorized