BBAW: Unexpected and Forgotten Treasures

Book Blogger Appreciation Week, founded by Amy of My Friend Amy, has been running all this week.  Every day has a themed topic and today’s theme is:

Today’s Topic: Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction. This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!

The book that immediately came to mind for this topic is Stewart O’Nan’s A Prayer for the Dying.  Clocking in at only 195 pages, it’s not a long read, but it’s an intense one – and not for the faint of heart.  This is what I wrote about the book for goodreads.com:

“Written in the disconcerting second-person voice, the book finds its spiritually-conflicted preacher/sheriff/mortician facing the apocalypse of his world. Weaving together scraps of the protagonist’s Civil War memories with his current situation of disease and raging fire, the book grabs the reader for a terrifying ride and does not let go, not even after the story has ended.”

The first time I read A Prayer for the Dying was when I was a senior in high school.   It was fall of 1999 – it was displayed in the new additions section of the public library.  My reading tastes have altered in the decade since, but I still hold this book as high regard just as I did the first time I read it.  I’ve now read this book at least three times total and the atmosphere of the book envelops me every time.

I’ve read several other books by Stewart O’Nan, like Snow Angels, which was adapted into a relatively recent film with Kate Beckinsdale, and The Circus Fire, a non-fiction book about the deadly 1944 Hartford circus fire.  (Did you know that they waterproofed circus tents with paraffin(!!) in those days?)  I have also read his short story collection, In the Walled City: Stories.  These were all decent books, but paled in comparison to A Prayer for the Dying.

From the first page:

You like it like this, the bright, languid days.  It could stand to rain, everyone says, the sawdust piles at the mill dry as powder, the great heaps of slash in the woods dangerous, baked to tinder, but there’s something to the heat, the way it draws waves from tarpaper, stifles sound, closes town in.

Yesterday, the themed topic for BBAW was: Book bloggers can be some of the most influential people around!  Today we invite you to share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger.  What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?

Reading book blogs has made my to-read list expand exponentially!  I keep track of recommendations with my goodreads account and write a note when it was a recommendation of a specific book blogger or non-blogger friend.   That way, when I review the book, I can credit that blogger/friend.

So there are just so many books that I wouldn’t have heard of or tried without these recommendations.  I do want to give a shout-out to the bloggers who administrate Spotlight Series, which every few months spotlights an independent publishing press.  Those bloggers are: A Novel Source, BookLust, book-a-rama, and My Friend Amy.   Before participating in the Spotlight Series, I had never checked out a book specifically because of who publishes it.  I read Tove Jansson’s fantastic The Summer Book as a result of one of the Spotlight Series tours.

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4 responses to “BBAW: Unexpected and Forgotten Treasures

  1. I should really keep track of who gives me my recommendations, but my reading list is busy enough as it is! I’ll probably change it soon.

    I have this irrational hatred for second person perspective, so I’m glad it actually works in the book you’re recommending.

  2. I love the Spotlight Series too. It’s fun to explore different publishers and see what new books I can find.

  3. SFP

    I’m thrilled that you have A Prayer for the Dying as your forgotten treasure. I LOVE this book. This is the one I always recommend when someone says they don’t like second person because O’Nan does such amazing things with it.

    I’ve not read The Circus Fire yet, although I have it. I’ve read Last Night at the Lobster, The Good Wife, and Snow Angels, but as you say, everything pales in comparison to A Prayer for the Dying.

  4. Lit Omnivore – Basically, when I’m reading blogs, I have goodreads open in another tab. If I add a book to the ‘to-read’ category, I add whose blog it came from in the notes.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any book I’ve read other than A Prayer for the Dying that has used second person throughout. I think O’Nan definitely pulls it off without it seeming like a stunt. I got used to it quite quickly.

    Kim – Indeed, and I hope that a new Spotlight Series tour will be starting soon!

    SFP – I was really hoping that this post would bring out another fan of A Prayer for the Dying! I’m so glad you stopped by to chime in about your love for it. 😀

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