I just finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It was fabulous. Rebecca Skloot is who I want to be this week. After reading it, I learned that it had been listed as the Best Book of 2010 in over sixty publications. Wowza. I had no idea I was keeping such good company. I am shamefully unaware of what books are on the critics’ Best Lists; such lists overwhelm me with how many good books I should be, but am not, reading. However, I am not surprised that this one is topping them all. If you haven’t read it, you should. You’ll feel smarter and look smarter for having done so (i.e., you’ll be glued to the book and will forget about showering and make-up.) Enough said.
But after last week’s reading apex, I am now facing a thorny problem. While perusing Best Lists in regards to Henrietta Lacks, I learned that the New York Times named Beloved, by Toni Morrison, the best piece of fiction written in the last twenty-five years. This means that after a decade of resisting, I will, after all, have to read this book. I’m sure it’s beautiful and important and life-changing, but it looks absolutely bone-chilling…and then some. I like a little sadness, a little drama, when I read. But I don’t like books that take me to the darkest part of humanity…and then a little further. Beloved’s reviews alone make me bristle, and the fact that Miss Thang made a movie of it only reduced the book’s readability as far as I was concerned. Responsible viewers do not mix gruesome dead slave stories with Harpo Productions. You did nothing in your former life to deserve that, my friend.
And yet I want to read Beloved. Although I generally rely on the recommendations of sharp friends rather than those of dull critics, I must concede: a lot of good books are out there, and if this one’s been heralded by multiple readers and writers as the best, I think it deserves at least a flip-through.
And so, my sharp friends: Have any of you read Beloved? Would you recommend it? Would you read it with me? I will not see the movie, but I may just have to read the book. And turn on my nightlight. And call in my anticipatory Zoloft prescription. But only if my three faithfuls tell me it’s okay. And that I will be okay. Will I be okay?