I chose this book because I have been keeping track of which years I have read books from and there was a long drought in between the recently finished Now in November, which I still have words for in my chest, and the next one I read which I count as having read before we started this project, Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. A slight caveat about that, Drew and I both had read five or six I can remember pulitzer books before we started this project. I think we had the idea because we had read a few of them and they were all fantastic reads, so there was the genesis probably. But anyways, we had read the same number of them going into this project and that led us on to want to read more. We decided because we had read the same amount of books on the list that we wouldn’t have to go back and reread them. A few of mine were Chabon’s Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Lahiri’s Interpret of Maladies, Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, Agee’s A Death in the Family, and a few others, but Drew had read a few others, so we decided to skip them and go onto the rest, so all that being said, I found a large gap in between 1935 and 1953, and so I chose to shorten that gap by reading something in the middle to cut the drought in half. I chose John Hersey’s A Bell for Adano. Drew has read it recently, and really enjoyed it so it made it a little easier to pick it up.
That is a part of the struggle of this project is that, for me, reading a book I have no interest in is very difficult. I read incredibly slowly, at about 20 pages a minute. I don’t know why this is, I may be slightly dyslexic, I am not sure, but anyways, I read very slowly, which led me in some way to want to take up a project like this. I love reading. And I feel like I am most using my time wisely when I am reading just about anything. When I first started reading, I found out that not all books are created equal. Some books are an enormous waste of time. So I decided when I was younger that in order for me not to waste my time because I am such a slow reader, that I would only read books that lots of other people found to be very vaulable. The easiest thing for me to do was to start with the classics. So literally what I did was I looked up on the internet classic book lists, lists of 100 greatest novels, and other such silly things. So as I did that I found a lot of similarities between these lists and read those books. Somewhere along the way, I think I crippled my reading speed because I try to take every word from a Dostoyevski approach and apply that to a John Hersey novel which might not be as important to scrutinize every word or paragraph, I don’t know, but anyways, that is where I come from in my reading life. So this book is a list of books that a lot of other people say are good and therefore I should read them. Along the way, Drew and I have found some rotten apples in the apple basket, but nevertheless, we press on. The reason I get into this whole long tirade is because it is difficult to pick a book from the list and wonder through the first 100 pages or so, and figure out you’re not that into this author. So I have sort of instituted a way to make myself read certain titles. This way of finding which eras I haven’t read a lot and choosing one from there is a good way to get myself to read something.
A Bell for Adano is one such book. I finished it in a couple of days. It was a brief little edition, only 240 pages, and I zipped right through it even being sick as a dog lately. I loved reading this book because it was fun. I am not totally sold on Hersey as a writer, but he was hell of a story teller. He told some of the most interesting and engrossing stories I have ever read, and that isn’t a lie. There are 37 chapters in this book, and each chapter is a story that is sort of related to all the other stories in the book, but they could be short stories in their own right. If you just like a good story, there are plenty in here that I feel like I will remember them as if I were told them by someone I really respect, like they will fuse with my memories some day and I will tell updated versions of them as if I were there, and they actually happened. I loved this book by itself, with no consideration given to any sort of style, artful purpose, or literary merit. So I will chose to turn off my literary brain for this one brief moment, and turn away the hot gaze of my ever scrutinizing eye and richly endorse this book to all book-lovers both near and far. Dig in.