Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's on Your Summer Reading List?

The Good Earth is on the Globe & Mail summer reading list. 
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Toronto's Globe and Mail has published a selection of its "Reader's picks for sizzling summer reads" and Pearl Buck's The Good Earth is one of the recommendations, in this the 80th anniversary of its receipt of the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.  Arguably the most prestigious prize in American letters, did you know that the Pulitzer Prize in a category can even be withheld in any given year if no work is deemed worthy of the prize?  Globe and Mail reader Mary N wrote:
The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck. Although it is more than 80 years old, the story is wonderful. I can read this over and over again. The characters are strong and the life lessons still apply today. 
Clearly the book still resonates and sells.  Oprah's Book Club published a new edition in 2004, and a new "Enriched Classic Edition was released by Simon & Schuster just a year later.  This type of reading list appears often at the beginning of summer.  Some contain only recently published books, but it is also common to publish lists generated by readers, authors, or other famous people.  Have you seen other lists with books by or about Pearl Buck on them?

What's on your summer reading list?  Are you planning to read anything by Pearl Buck this summer?  The Good Earth remains her best selling book by far, but it is only the first volume of the trilogy that includes Sonsand A House Divided.Have you read all three?  I hope to this summer.  The Good Earth is so sweeping in scope, I am very curious to see how many decades the rest of the trilogy spans.

Pearl Buck wrote somewhere close to 100 books.  Which would you recommend people put on their reading lists?  I recently finished Peony: A Novel of China,and was rather amazed by how well she deals with the story of a small Jewish community in one particular Chinese city at the moment of its assimilation into mainstream culture.  It is based on a real community, and the story is compelling.  The plot is a page turner, but not overly sentimental or dramatic.  It's also narrated with a detachment that treats each characters views with equal dignity.

This allows the author to directly tackle some really challenging topics relating to identity, faith, nationalism and race without having to make impossible pronouncements.  Because the fact is the characters in the novel have to take a position and take a course of action based on that position, but that position may or may not be one that Pearl Buck, the author endorses.  I sense a great deal of affection and sympathy for nearly all the characters, or at least those that are more fully fleshed out, from the author.

Anchee Min's Pearl of China tells us the story of Pearl Buck in China from a Chinese perspective.  Are you interested in reading that?  I am.  What else is on your reading list that you'd like to tell us about?  Other Appalachian authors?  Asian literature?  We're eager to hear your suggestions. 

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