January 28, 2013

A Canuck in Kantuck: A bookworm’s picks

By Tara Kaprowy

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Well, dear readers, it’s that time of year again, a time when the perfect afternoon consists of simply curling up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book. When I haven’t been playing nursemaid to my coughing husband, I’ve been engaging in that a lot this week. There is nothing, after all, like a great book to make you feel engaged and rejuvenated. So, in case you feel the same way, allow me to share a few titles that might interest you too.

• THE SECRET RACE, Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle

I was up until 2 in the morning yesterday and it’s all thanks to this sucker, which focuses on the world of doping in professional cycling. It is the story of world-renowned cyclist Tyler Hamilton, who rode for several years with Lance Armstrong during the time he was winning the Tour de France. I am an avid fan of the Tour (at least I used to be; not sure how I feel about it anymore) and for three weeks in July we pull out the TV trays and joyfully listen to Phil Liggett give us the play-by-play of each stage while we gobble up our unusually healthy dinners.

Especially with Armstrong’s recent confession (which devastated me), it’s a timely read and extremely eye opening. Daniel Coyle does a great job substantiating Hamilton’s claims whenever possible, and has a solid reputation as a writer, so, though the book is addictive, it doesn’t feel sensational.

• THE GREAT GATSBY, F. Scott Fitzgerald

I decided to reread this classic a few months ago after my stepdaughter Gabrielle decided to tackle it in her advanced reading class. Honestly, I loved it just as much this time as when I read it as a graduate student — and for completely different reasons. Back then, it was about discovering it for the first time and falling in love with the era right along with the characters, Fitzgerald and Zelda. This time, since I no longer had five books to read frantically before the exam, I got to take my time and truly appreciate Fitzgerald’s mastery. Any time of year and however many times you’ve read it, The Great Gatsby is a favorite.

• SERENA, Ron Rash

This year, I made a concerted effort to read Appalachia-based novels and this was one I discovered after a trip to Joseph-Beth in Lexington. The fact that it won the Pen/Faulkner award for fiction impressed me at first (I, actually, regularly rely on book awards to help me make my picks), but it was of course the story that drew me in. It’s not often that the protagonists are villains, but Serena and George Pemberton certainly are. The story is set in 1929 in the North Carolina mountains where George brings his new bride Serena to help run his timber company. As their greed to expand their company into an empire grows, they’re willing to do anything to succeed.

• THE GLASS CASTLE, Jeannette Walls

Another fast, addictive read, this book tells the story of the Walls children and their unreliable parents — their free spirit mother and alcoholic father. The story is told in the first person by Jeannette, one of the Walls children who is forced to be along for the unpredictable ride. The first-person narrative lends an intimacy to the story of Jeannette’s childhood, which is at once heartbreaking and magical.


I’ve heard a lot of people raving about this book and can hardly wait to get my hands on a copy. The story is set in McWhorter and, according to the Tate Publishing website, involves mystery, intrigue and romance. First off, the title of this book is fantastic, and the story sounds intriguing too.

So, that’s my list for now. I’m headed back to the couch to turn some more pages and drink some more tea. I hope your afternoon will be just as lovely.