The Five Books for this month are all light reading, but only in actual weight. Put together, as in this photo, they barely equal the size of a larger book in the Novel Conversations collection. Yet they offer substantial, if short, reading experiences.
THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW – The tale of Ichabod Crane, a schoolmaster pursued by the Headless Horseman, established the popularity of author Washington Irving. It was published as one of a set of short pieces that also included the story of Rip Van Winkle. Nineteenth-century readers enjoyed this ghost story set in old New York State, and it soon became an American classic. (120 pages, first published in 1820)
THE GREAT GATSBY – What made Jay Gatsby “great”? Was it his wealth and success? Perhaps it was the mystery and romanticism of his life or his misplaced aspirations. In any case, he embodied the Jazz Age, the decade in which F. Scott Fitzgerald created this masterpiece of American literature. (189 pages, 1925)
OF MICE AND MEN – It is a very long way from Gatsby’s fabulous mansion to the dusty ranch in California’s Salinas Valley where George and Lennie find work. Like Fitzgerald, though, John Steinbeck captured the atmosphere of his era, the Great Depression, with an extra twist of angst and tragedy. (107 pages, 1937)
84, CHARING CROSS ROAD – As with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this is a story told through correspondence. The letters exchanged by author Helene Hanff and a London book dealer, however, are real, not fictional. They begin in 1949 and end twenty years later. First published in the 1970s, the book reads a bit like a blog, due to Hanff’s outspoken way of expressing her thoughts. (97 pages, 1970)
CHRISTMAS IN HARMONY – This book really is light reading, with Philip Gulley’s patented brand of small town Hoosier humor. One of our Novel Conversations book club coordinators reported: “A lady in our group attends the author’s church and said some of the members ‘could be’ the characters.” Putting Phil Gulley together with Christmas is a formula for pure enjoyment! (84 pages, 2002)
This post was written by Nancy Conner, director of grants at Indiana Humanities and coordinator of Novel Conversations.