How Do You Choose a Great Book to Read?
It’s hard. Do you listen to what friends or bloggers say about books?
For most people walking around a bookstore, physical or virtual, staring at thousands of books is not enough to make them buy a book. What about you? Have you ever you read the back cover or the first page of a random book on the shelf and bought the book? Did the cover grab your attention?
Airport bookstores group their books by New York Times ratings. I’ve thumbed through books based on these ratings. Maybe you know the author or the genre so you buy the book. Possibly a friend recommended a book. Many of the books I’ve bought over the years came about because I attended a training or meeting.
Renown authors speak around the country. If you get a chance to hear an author, take the opportunity to attend. Thousands of us sat in a Towne Hall lecture in Fresno, CA spellbound listening to this former indie author, Lisa Genova, as she told us her story of being a single mom. Genova wondered how she was going to hold her life together after she went through a divorce. Many listeners identified with that problem. She decided she wanted to follow her dream to write fiction books. Who doesn’t want to follow their life-long ambitions? Without any training in writing, she set out on her journey of making her dream a reality.
When she finished, she sent query letters to 100 agents. In two paragraphs or less, they all turned her down except two. Those two said it was highly improbable as a topic because people were afraid to talk about it.
For a year and a half, she researched and wrote. She took acting lessons because she had never written before, but the book begged to be written. She wrote about a misunderstood group of people. Literary agents did not dare to venture into their world.
The book skyrocketed to the top of the New York Best Sellers list. Then it went viral globally and was translated into many languages. Eventually, it reached the big screens, an equally fabulous tale that left the audience standing with their mouths ajar!
Synopsis of Still Alice
What makes this book unique is that Genova tells the story of early onset Alzheimer’s from the vantage point of the patient, Alice. Like many who are struck with Alzheimer’s, Alice had a great mind at the onset. By her fifties, Alice had accomplished far beyond what most people hope to achieve academically in their life. Being menopausal she experienced symptoms that most women her age begin to experience, but was troubled when she got lost in a familiar place. Rather than brushing off her symptoms, she sought medical help.
Instead of dwelling on the issues that the caregivers faced, such as cleaning up the mess after Alice destroyed the kitchen or emptied every drawer in her bedroom, Cordova shared what Alice thought she created the mess. Readers watch while incapacitated Alice struggles to decipher and follow the notes that saner Alice left for her to do when she got to an unacceptable level of mental capacity. We see the frustration and compassion of family through Alice’s increasingly blurry understanding of what is going on.
Though the diagnosis is devastating, Alice faces it and opens up the world of the patient. Readers experience vicariously what it must be like to lose one’s awareness and identity. Like many readers, I read the book because I have had experience with loved ones who suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Learning about Genova’s accomplishments and understanding in the field of neurology and her extensive research makes the book believable. Knowing that her grandmother had Alzheimer’s and that she took acting lessons to help her learn how to write fiction, personalized the book. It is one of the greatest books I have ever read.
Amazon writes, “Lisa Genova graduated valedictorian, summa cum laude from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. Acclaimed as the Oliver Sacks of fiction and the Michael Crichton of brain science, she is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Still Alice, Left Neglected, Love Anthony, and Inside the O’Briens.
Still Alice has spent 59 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It won the 2008 Bronte Prize and the 2011 Bexley Book of the Year, and it was nominated for the 2010 Indies Choice Debut Book of the Year by the American Booksellers Association. It was the #6 Top Book Group Favorite of 2009 by Reading Group Choices, a 2009 Barnes & Noble”