Sometimes, the journey towards finding a good book is simple. A friend, whose opinion you trust, says, “Here. Read this, it’s really quite good.” Other times you get lucky and find a good one at the bookstore by picking something you’ve never heard of but which looks interesting. Yet other times you find a great one by ignoring the old adage and judging the book by its cover. Some cover art is really fantastic, after all. And still other times, the journey is somewhat convoluted. I had never heard of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao until about a month ago, despite it having been published in ’07 and having subsequently won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. So, note to future self, here’s how I found it.
I was reading the Fall issue of Weird Tales and it had an interview with young author Lauren Groff in it about her first and new book The Monsters of Templeton. That book sounded interesting so I picked it up from the library and read it on vacation. Loved it. Sometime in January, I reviewed it for my church’s newsletter. Sometime later I was asked to make a few recommendations to a colleague group of mine for an avocational book study we could do – basically since we’re serious all the time (some more than others) we wanted to talk about something fun like a novel, but that still might inform our daily lives, work, and vocation. Yes, the avocational can inform the vocational. So, the first book I put on my list of three recommendeds was Groff’s Monsters. When I looked it up on Amazon to get some info on it, I noted, as I usually do the “If you like this, then try this” section. And guess what, Barnes’ Somnambulist was there. So I looked at the Amazon entry for it as well. On its recommended section it had The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. But I didn’t look at it. I was more interested in the other listing, Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind. On its page, it also recommended Brief Wondrous Life. But, I decided for my three books to recommend to the colleague group, I’d go with Monsters, Somnambulist, and Shadow. But I couldn’t escape Brief Wondrous Life.
When I went to the bookstore to browse it popped out off the shelf at me. I looked at it, noted it won some awards, and put it down. When I was at the library, I saw that it was the topic of their book study group. I tried to check it out. All taken. All on hold. So, I ignored it for a while once again. Then I read about it on a blog I like. So I finally went out and bought the damn thing. And now I’m glad I did, because all that finding and ignoring has kinda hyped it up for me. Then I discovered the story is about a Tolkien, D&D nerd who’s under a curse called a fukú (which looks like “fuck you” in txt language.) For crying out loud in the first pages he refers to Trujillo as Sauron! Yes, I think I’ll like this story, even if it portends to be tragic.
I’m glad I found my way to it, somehow.