Christmas book list

I’ve been catching up on my reading the past couple of weeks … I’ll post a few reviews here and send them along to the Rutland Free Library’s readers’ blog for their use — or ridicule — as they fit.

As a side note … I finally got through Moby Dick. It’s a phenomenal novel, although the interleaved whaling treatise hasn’t aged as well as the fiction. I have no idea how or why I hadn’t read it before, but I can knock it off the list at last.

One less well-known read I highly recommend (particularly for anybody with an interest in history or theology) is Umberto Eco’s Baudolino. It’s a far more approachable novel than Foucault’s Pendulum — still Eco’s high-water mark, IMO — but that’s not to say it’s easy to absorb. The title character is one of those larger-than-life literary concoctions who you have to love despite their many flaws. He reminds me a little of Yossarian or Ignatius J. Reilly, although I would have a hard time explaining just why.

Baudolino is a peasant lad with a gift for tongues (and a talent for telling epic lies) that plucks him out of the swamp, literally and figuratively, and sets him on a Grail quest like no other. Where Melville weaves in a textbook on whaling, Eco works in a fairly staggering treatise on medieval religion and scholarship, natural history as told by Pliny the Elder and a chunk of the siege of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.

Baudolino leads a motley crew (not Motley Crue) of historical and fictional characters in search of the kingdom of Prester John. It’s a beautiful story, funny, touching and imaginative.


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