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The Sunday Salon: Palate Cleansers

The Sunday Salon.com This week has been a week of palate cleansing reading.

Early in the week I finished reading Mary Doria Russel’s The Sparrow, which was totally and completely awesome. So totally and completely awesome, that I don’t even know what to say about it yet. The ending, which you sort of know is coming based on the structure of the story and the clues that are being dropped along the way, was a total surprise. Finishing the book also felt like an emotional punch to the stomach, which I know makes no sense but is the only thing I can think to describe what I felt when I put it down.

After I finished The Sparrow, I had one of those moments where I felt like that book had ruined all other books for me. I couldn’t imagine picking up another book… it would just pale in comparison. But I also wanted to READ ALL THE THINGS because The Sparrow reminded me how supremely great literature can be. It was a conundrum.

I decided to read a couple of books that were as far from being like The Sparrow that I could find — The Long Shot by Ellen Hartman (romance) and All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam (nonfiction on the economics of happiness).

I impulsively bought The Long Shot after it was chosen for this month’s Sizzling Book Club Pick at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. The description — a retired pro basketball player with family issues returns to his high school to help his sexy former guidance counselor coach the girls’ basketball team — was cheesy and fun and goofy, and I’m nothing if not an easily convinced ebook buyer. It turned out to be the perfect palate cleanser after The Sparrow — simple plot, engaging characters, some fun sexytimes for distraction. It was good enough and I had a good time reading it.

My other palate cleanser — All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending — is probably less of a surprise read for me. In the book, author Laura Vanderkam (who also wrote 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think) looks at what science says about how money can make us happy and the ways our behaviors don’t mesh with those results. The book felt like a nice mix of effective research, personal anecdotes, and self-helpish worksheets. I’m planning a full review of this one at some point, so I’ll just say for now Vanderkam challenged a lot of assumptions I had about money (and what it’s good for) in a good way. I liked this one a lot.

The best part about both books is that I feel reinvigorated to get reading again. Which is good, because in addition to packing for Book Expo America (I leave home on Friday and fly to New York City on Saturday, eek!) I’m hoping to get a couple more books read and be caught up on reviews before I leave. We’ll see how that goes!

Do you ever need palate cleansing books? What are you genres or authors of choice when you need a palate cleanse?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) May 27, 2012, 9:38 am

    I definitely need palate cleansers – chick lit works perfectly for me.

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:23 pm

      Yes, good choice! I don’t read a ton of chick lit, but it can be nice once in awhile.

  • susan May 27, 2012, 9:42 am

    Thx for word on The Sparrow; sounds very good. Yes palate cleansing is often needed; for instance if I read a couple nonfiction, I’ll need a good escape fiction tale afterwards to cleanse the density of a lot of facts. I usually try to read an opposite book for “palate cleansing.” Cheers!

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:23 pm

      I feel the same way too after too much nonfiction. I usually follow up a few nonfiction reads with some great fiction or a graphic novel if I feel burned out.

  • Savvy Working Gal May 27, 2012, 10:10 am

    I too needed a palate cleansing after reading the Sparrow. I read it a couple of years ago, when Florinda had a read along. The Sparrow is the #1 book Florinda recommends to readers. I was so awestruck after reading I couldn’t even bring myself to write about it. This year when Florinda held an, “Ask me anything contest.” for her Blogiversary, I asked what is the second book she always recommends to readers. I was looking for a book as good recommendation as good as the Sparrow. Her answer was Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Unfortunately, “East of Eden “is a book I’ve already read.
    As to my own palate cleansing, I recently read quite a few books for women, mostly career books. After several in a row I needed a good palate cleansing. I like a good historical fiction book or YA novel. I choose Holes by Louis Sachar. It ended up being the perfect selection.

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:22 pm

      Yes, I read this one because of Florinda! I asked her what book she wanted everyone to read, and she said this one, so I read it! I haven’t read East of Eden in a long time, but I’d like to reread that one. Holes is a great book — I loved it!

  • Lisa May 27, 2012, 10:34 am

    Oh I really want to read The Sparrow. I recently found a copy at the thrift store but haven’t geared up to read it yet.

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:21 pm

      Read it! But be prepared to feel like you’ve been hit with something. It’s devastating and awesome and just… so good.

  • Aarti May 27, 2012, 10:56 am

    I LOVE The Sparrow! So, so good- can’t wait to hear your thoughts. Completely understand what you felt after reading it, too- that nothing would be as good but that you wanted to find all the other books that were as amazing, as well.

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:20 pm

      I’m still formulating thoughts. I have a lot of them, they’re just hard to articulate. But I’m trying 🙂

  • Athira May 27, 2012, 3:17 pm

    I find I need one whenever I read a truly awesome book or a deep book. It’s usually because I don’t want to think too much but I also want to keep thinking about the previous awesome book’s awesomeness, if that makes sense. 🙂

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:20 pm

      That totally makes sense 🙂

  • Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm May 27, 2012, 4:35 pm

    Your description of post – Sparrow feeling is so great! That’s pretty much how I felt too.

    My typical palate cleansers are chick lit or YA. Or a re-read of one of my favorite Georgette Heyers.

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:19 pm

      I’m glad other people were so knocked over by that book. It is SO GOOD!

  • Jenny May 27, 2012, 8:03 pm

    >>>After I finished The Sparrow, I had one of those moments where I felt like that book had ruined all other books for me. I couldn’t imagine picking up another book… it would just pale in comparison. But I also wanted to READ ALL THE THINGS because The Sparrow reminded me how supremely great literature can be. It was a conundrum.

    Ah, man, I am familiar with this phenomenon! I feel like this every time I read Jane Eyre, among other things, and a bit the same when I read The Secret History. I’ve discovered that it’s a good strategy — but of course this only works when you do multiple rereadings — of lining up books to follow. Like now whenever I read Jane Eyre I follow it up with I Capture the Castle and Rebecca, and while those are both awesome, they aren’t as insanely ruin-other-books awesome as Jane Eyre. So then I can come down from the Jane Eyre high and get back to regular reading.

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:19 pm

      A book I just read was favorably compared to The Secret History, so now I want to read that one too. I love the idea of following up one book with a specific and perfectly picked next book. I don’t reread enough to have figured that out, but it sounds awesome. I’m reading Rebecca on the plane to NYC!

  • Sheila (Book Journey) May 28, 2012, 7:20 am

    I occasionally have to cleanse my palate of a genre…. I will go full steam ahead on historical fiction for example, and then burn out on it and need to go a different direction, like the opposite…. dystopia, apocalypse…. lol

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:18 pm

      I’ve done that before with nonfiction. I’ll read so many serious books in a row that I have to binge on something frothy and fun.

  • Florinda May 28, 2012, 11:02 pm

    I’m glad you felt like that after you read THE SPARROW–so did I, both times. It’s draining, but SO worth it, even if it does ruin you for other books for a little while.

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:17 pm

      I hope it’s that awesome the next time I read it! I am going to get the sequel soon.

  • Buried In Print May 29, 2012, 12:45 pm

    Hunh: I don’t consciously think of it that way, but I think I do practise this habit. I’m not sure it’s so much a question of specific genres/authors for me, but just a definite contrast. And as you’ve found with The Sparrow, I don’t like the lines between really good books to be blurred; I know that any book, coming on the heels of a book that I’ve loved inside and out, is likely to come up short — and even if it doesn’t, two bright and shiny reads in close proximity would kind of cancel each other out — so best choose something completely different.

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:17 pm

      It’s really hard to read two stellar books right in a row — inevitably, one seems to be better than the other and so what should be amazing just seems really, really good. Reading is hard, isn’t it 🙂

  • Belle Wong May 29, 2012, 3:06 pm

    THE SPARROW sounds very intriguing. I’m adding it to my TBR. I like the term palate-cleansing books. I think for me such a book would be either a well-loved reread, or a cozy mystery.

    • Kim May 29, 2012, 8:16 pm

      It was awesome! The premise sounds a bit odd, I admit, but it comes together much more effectively than you might think 🙂

  • Kailana June 1, 2012, 12:09 am

    I think I need to reread The Sparrow. I read it ages ago and people love it… I don’t really even remember it! I am starting to feel like I missed something…

    • Kim June 10, 2012, 3:53 pm

      It’s so good! I finally have the sequel, which I really want to read soon too.

  • Nikki Steele July 5, 2012, 1:59 pm

    The Sparrow was just too good for words. If your disappointment in other books after reading it was any indication, check out my disappoint in movies after pairing it with Prometheus: http://bookpairing.com/because-the-book-is-always-better-than-the-movie/