Dock Reading: Book Recommendations

Every year, late in the summer, my family gathers at Nelson North, situated on the shores of Mullett Lake, Michigan. We partake in quality time, chase the young ones (and the dog) around, enjoy boat rides, eat well (for us, anyway), throw back a few beverages, and more. It's also a great time to catch up on summer reading or dust off some of the books that we've been neglecting, and this year was no exception. With prime real estate on the dock, and no *real* responsibilities, I blitzed through several. These were the highlights:

Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan: If you're a fan of Jim Gaffigan's standup, as I am, you'll love this book. Gaffigan focuses his observations mostly on his kids and the challenges that come from raising a family of his size in a small apartment in New York City. There's a particularly hilarious section (complete with diagrams) detailing the nightly ritual of putting kids of all ages to bed in the two-bedroom Gaffigan apartment. By no means do you need to read this all in one sitting; however, I found myself coming back to it again and again and finishing it as if I had.  

Gone Girl, by Gilian Flynn: Flynn's writing earns a lot of rave reviews, and I was curious to see what all the fuss is about. Gone Girl lived up to the hype and kept me engaged from start to finish. The characters were well developed, the mystery grew darker and more complex, and the stakes seemed to climb with every passing chapter. I won't ruin the plot by going into detail, but I would definitely recommend this one if you're looking for a thriller... and good luck putting it down! I'm looking forward to the movie, which will be directed by David Fincher, a long-time favorite. He's assembling an amazing cast, so I'll be expecting great things (and a long run time)!

The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts, by Tom Farley, Jr and Tanner Colby: After Gone Girl, I sought out something, uh, lighter. While The Chris Farley Show wasn't all laughs, there were enough humorous moments and fond memories to provide a nice change of pace. I was initially skeptical as to whether the book would provide an objective account of Chris's life (after all, one of his brothers is a co-author). The format, similar to Vanity Fair's oral histories, among others (see example: The Sopranos), ensured that Farley's life story would be told from a variety of perspectives. What results is a collection of hilarious, touching, sad, and completely human tidbits describing a guy who left us too soon. There are some contradictions in personal recollections throughout and some disagreements (for instance, some believed his Chippendales sketch was a triumph, whereas others, like Chris Rock, hated it). These only mirror what happens in real life, though, and further prove that the task of compiling an accurate biography is, indeed, quite the challenge.

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter: Preferring non-fiction works, I'm not a huge reader of novels, but I picked up Beautiful Ruins after passing it up one too many times at Hudson News locations across the country. I thought on first glance was chick lit, but was (delightfully) proven wrong. The story jumps backwards and forwards in time, from the Amalfi coast in Italy to present day Hollywood and follows a group of characters (some of whom were famous, but fictionalized) to tell a love story that spans decades. It took a couple of chapters for me to get into it and invested in the characters, but the story developed in unexpected ways and wrapped up beautifully. Of course, this one will be adapted into a film as well, but it is in very capable hands, and I'll look forward to seeing the finished product (for the scenery, at the very least!) – LN, September 2013