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Yes! I Have Read the One Book One Lincoln Finalists

A good time was had by all on the dock of The Mill in the Haymarket Monday morning when the three finalists for One Book One Lincoln 2011 were announced. Yes, I’ve read them all.

And thanks to the fine people at the Mill who hosted this event as a benefit for the Foundation for Lincoln City Libraries, one of my favorite organizations, after all.

I’d written about “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers earlier. It’s nonfiction, about a Syrian immigrant to New Orleans, a man who decides to stay in the city through Katrina. I confess–I really liked this book when I read it, and I’ve recommended it to a variety of people who also enjoyed it. And regular readers of this blog know that I am on a campaign for America to Read More Nonfiction. So “Zeitoun” was a natural for me.

I finished “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese on Sunday May 29, sitting in the car during a rainy spell while we were camping at Victoria Springs up by Anselmo, Nebraska. And…I liked this one, too. A novel, not that we’ll hold that against it. Told by a man named Marion, who looks back on a life in Ethiopia, one of twins born to an Indian nun who dies during childbirth, fathered by a white doctor of British Indian background who abandons them. Marion and his brother, Shiva, are raised by loving adoptive parents and become medical men themselves. Swirling about this story are the dangerous politics of Africa, the impact of grinding poverty, betrayal by a woman he loves, success in medicine, and always, being a twin. I’m afraid that many general readers will be put off by some fairly graphic medical procedures, but I also think that the novel holds rewards that overcome those difficult scenes.

And two weeks ago, I enjoyed a Passionate Reader Jackpot–starting and finishing “The History of Love” by Nicole Krauss all in one weekend. A little like “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks which was a One Book One Lincoln selection in recent years, this novel is about a book. The story’s a little complicated, on the one hand about a Jewish man who escaped from Europe during the World War II era, ending up in New York. On the other hand, there’s a girl whose father has died, whose mother has found meaning in a book called “The History of Love.” That girl, Alma, goes in search of the book’s author. Eventually the stories intertwine. There are some absolutely lovely aspects to this book, in the ways that Krauss uses small gestures to show big things, and in her constant return to the power of hope.

So…read them! And tell me what you think. And be sure to vote for your favorite before voting ends on July 31.

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