Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Don't let all the hype stop you

Typically I am not one to run out and pick up the latest NY Times Bestseller. I don’t know why, maybe it’s literary snobbery, but I often suspect these bestsellers as being mediocre popular fiction that is a fast page turner, but isn’t necessarily prose genius. Granted, I read many bestsellers, I just don’t base my reading list around them, and I tend to pick them up with caution. I’ve had a few experiences when I hate the books that won acclaim. For example, The Black Book by Orham Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, and I could not get through it. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger was just upsetting, not enjoyable. There’s something about reading what everyone else is reading that makes me suspicious. I guess I just don’t trust the taste of the general populace to match my own.

So, I was more than a little wary when my book club wanted to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larson, with #1 National Bestseller emblazoned across it’s neon yellow cover. And for the fact that I have seen no less than 1 person reading it on every vehicle of public transit I have taken in the past month.

I picked it up, and the first 3 chapters were difficult to get through at best. I was worried. Then, by Chapter 4, I was so totally hooked that I could not put the book down for the next week until I finished it. I stopped watching tv after work, and just went home to read more. I fought people for seats in the subway, and had an extremely difficult time putting it down once I reached my stop. It was, quite frankly, the best murder mystery I’ve read in a long time, and I was sucked in by suspense. Now, a week later I am halfway through the second book, in what I discovered is a trilogy (YAY!), but the second of only three books that author wrote before his death (NOOOO!!!). I suppose I couldn’t sustain this high pace of reading for too long, but with summer coming up, I am rather devastated that after book 3 I will no longer have an exciting beach read lain out before me.

The story is centered around Lisbeth Salander, a social outcast who has a photographic memory, an uncanny ability to trace the most minute aspects of other people’s lives, and an unpredicatable temper that makes her fascinating. The other main protagonist is Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist/ladies man who is seemingly irresistible to all women. It’s not too often that you get a male-female main character pair, and the two work together perfectly. I won’t betray too many of the details to ruin the plot---half the fun is figuring out what it’s all about—but the first book revolves around two industrial giants: The Vanger clan and Mr. Wennerstrom. The Vanger family is expansive and full of evil secrets. Wennerstrom is an evil genius who seeks to undo Blomkvist’s journalistic success. All four players become inextricably intertwined and climax into a battle of the powerful that will surprise you even after the mystery is mostly solved.

All I can say is pick it up. ASAP.

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