Sunday, October 11, 2015

2015 #12: A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid SunsA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Devastating" and "beautiful" often sound cliché when they are paired together, but in the case of A Thousand Splendid Suns, these words are more than apt. Part of the power of the book is to that there are many Mariams and Lailas all over the world for whom this story is not a fiction. Hosseini manages to passionately advocate for them without hyperbole or an excess of drama, spinning a tale that is tragic, but so human. The horrors in the book are at times almost unreadable, but Hosseini compels you to read further because you feel you owe it to the characters who persevere. Ultimately, you realize you owe it to the many people in the world for whom bombs are a daily reality, and the frightening relativism of terrorism inside a house vs. outside a house is perhaps the sharpest edge of the knife.

In a book with so little that is redemptive, I was startled by the ending. It is perfect--not happy, nor sad, but the perfect way to let us know that the story goes on well beyond the last page of any book.

2015 #11 On Writing Well

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing NonfictionOn Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My copy of this is dog-eared, and with good reason. If Zinsser's words came in pill form, I'd take it daily, because this text has changed the way I write--not just essays and articles, but EVERYTHING. Charged with humor and a no-nonsense attitude, On Writing Well is probably one of the most enjoyable reads in this genre, especially as Zinsser practices what he preaches. I've shared multiple chapters with friends and students, and I'd love to see this book become standard reading in any writing course. Writing, as Zinsser tells us, is hard. But hard doesn't mean impossible. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who writes ANYTHING for a living--emails, website copy, blogposts, grant proposals, magazine articles--anything!

And for those who found sexism in the original edition, I highly suggest reading the most recent edition. Sadly, there will be no further revisions from Zinsser who died in May of this year (2015), but I think his guidance is relevant as long as humans continue to communicate via the written word.