Thursday, October 22, 2015

Knopf 100--Day 4

Yesterday Gianna talked about books she binge read that were published by Knopf. I second her binge-reading of the Ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith. If you liked the movie version of The Talented Mr. Ripley, you'll LOVE the Ripley stories as a whole.

Back to our list of 100 Knopf books for the 100th anniversary of the esteemed publisher:

9. Me: Stories of my Life by Katharine Hepburn, originally published in 1991. I don't think I'd ever seen a single Katharine Hepburn movie when I read this book. It was one I found in the stack beside my mother's bed when I was in high school and was desperate for any books of any kind. I knew Hepburn was an actress but that was it.Me turned out to be the best kind of celebrity memoir--thoughtful, juicy, and about a life and career worthy of a full book. In the years since I've seen some of Hepburn's movies and I'm really good at Hepburn questions playing Trivial Pursuit even if I still haven't seen Adam's Rib. 

10. Dispatches by Michael Herr, originally published in 1977. Dispatches is the war reportage book to which all subsequent ones are compared. Michael Herr's reports about the Vietnam War brought to life the conflict and the humanity (and inhumanity) of what was then America's most controversial war. I originally read Dispatches for a college class, but twenty years later I still refer to it when I'm asked for a recommendation about the war.

11. The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, originally published in 2006. You want gripping nonfiction that's also impeccably researched? Read The Looming Tower. This is the history of Al-Qaeda from its inception and leading up to the 9-11 attacks, and it's chilling. Who was Osama bin Laden? Where did Al-Qaeda come from? Want a better understanding of extremism and the current state of the Middle East? Read The Looming Tower. Lawrence Wright is a really great writer and there are multiple "holy shit!" moments in this book. It's no wonder it won the Pulitzer Prize.

12. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, originally published in 1992. The movie was fine, but this is definitely an instance when the book offers so much more. The characters are richer and a few scenes are different (such as that romantic scene in the movie where Kip hoists Hana via pulleys into the rafters of the church to view the frescos; in the book it's a wonderful scene about art and the destruction caused by war and, well, not so romantic. Hana isn't even present). Ondaatje's prose brings to life the four characters staying over in the Italian villa, from the broken Hana the nurse to the dangerous American spy David Caravaggio to the sapper Kip to the mysterious "English" patient Almasy. I love these characters and this book. It's one I should reread more often and when my friendship with Gianna ultimately leads to my institutionalization, this is one of the novels I'll bring with me to the asylum (or prison).

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