Reader's Exchange

Who's your WFF?

So, you've managed to avoid starring in a Youtube video or some other digital gaffe showcase that's "gone viral"?  Don't congratulate yourself yet.  As I was reminded this past weekend, low-tech and even no-tech modes of embarrassment lurk in the most innocuous places.

As actual viruses do, these menaces reside, silent and dormant, in dark venues.  They await a host who will enable them to replicate and reveal their insidious nature.

I'm referring, of course, to school yearbooks that we inscribe for our friends, who then (oh, the horror) keep them and bring them out years and years later.

Big Chief tabletThe occasion was a rare get-together with three friends from elementary school through high school.  All of them look wonderful and chose professions that enable them to enhance peoples' lives--which they do.  Appreciating my luck in having hung out with precisely the right crowd, I wasn't feeling entirely confident of having measured up.   Naturally, that's when the 7th grade yearbook surfaced.

As the pages ruffled to divulge what we'd written, I could envision the dreadful possibilities of my authorship.  But miraculously, that particular inscription had been inked in a fleeting instance when nerdiness and pre-adolescence had given way to sincerity and appropriateness. 

Communication still poses challenges, however.  My friends are too polite to bestow "Worst Facebook Friend" honors on me, but we all know.  Due to Google privacy concerns, I removed most photos and don't post new ones.  I'll go weeks without reading news feeds and seldom comment.  Overwhelmed by Facebook's chattiness, I figure that time saved scanning posts (many of them significant, I know) could be devoted to reading another book or two every week.  I think they understand. 

At least my Facebook-neglecting time was wisely invested.  Setting up the August book tower upstairs, I discovered many personal favorites in critics' lists.

For the display, I needed a can't-miss handout for patrons who say that their reading time is scarce (sound familiar?); thus, they want to spend it on "something really good".

Surveying opinions of editors and reviewers from The New York Times, Salon.com, The Onion AV Club, The Village Voice, and The Modern Library, I compiled fifty fiction titles published from the 1980s and onward, all deemed to be outstanding.  You can pick up a copy at the library; but some of my picks are below.  I hope that Becky, Lou Ann, and Peggy will enjoy these--and you will, too. 

  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • Then We Came to the End by Jonathan Ferris
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  • The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • The Master by Colm Toibin

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