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4 Great Books That You May or May Not Have Heard Of

March 3rd, 2009 10:27am EST
Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseWant to read something that isn't about sparkly vampires? Here are four books that will exercise your mind, make you laugh, make your stomach wrench, and enlighten you.

1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer

Synopsis: Nine-year-old Oskar Schell journeys through New York to find a matching lock to the key he found in a vase in his father's room. His father was killed in the September 11th attacks and Oskar believes the key is part of a puzzle. His travels lead him to unique encounters and powerful discoveries.

Why You Should Read It: It's a mystery, comedy and drama all in one, complete with accompanying photos.

Most of the story is told through Oskar's point of view in which Foer successfully blends the naivety and honesty of a child with the knowledge and beliefs of an adult. His straightforward, tells-it-like-it-is kid logic is paired with the emotional capacity and thought processes of someone older. Oskar has a vibrant imagination, influenced by Stephen Hawking, Shakespeare, tambourine playing, and his longing to keep the world safe. His ideas will sometimes make you laugh and his outlook will leave you pondering after you put the book down. Foer succeeds in realistically portraying a child and an extremely and incredibly relatable character.

There and Back Again2. There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale by Sean Astin

Synopsis: Sean Astin made it from child actor to playing one of the most important characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In this autobiographical book, he discusses the film industry, his aspirations for his career as an actor, writer, and director, and his experiences while shooting the Lord of the Rings.

Why You Should Read It: Astin allows the reader to see the film industry from an insider's perspective. He talks about how the industry works and also about some of the great (and not-so-great) people in it such as Steven Spielberg, Pauly Shore, and, of course, Peter Jackson. The contracts, deals, opportunities, tricks, and trade of Hollywood are all highlighted throughout the book.

Astin brings the reader into the backend of Middle Earth. He gives details from auditioning all the way to the Oscar wins for Return of the King. He discusses certain scenes, the grueling schedules, the make-up process, and reflects on his relationships with his cast-mates. He also includes pictures from various experiences on- and off-set. Furthermore, Astin goes into detail about other movies in his career such as Encino Man and Rudy.

Astin gives a modest, knowledgeable, and honest account of what it's like to work in Hollywood. It's a great read for film buffs and Lord of the Rings lovers alike!

Possible Side Effects3. Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs

Synopsis: Possible Side Effects is a collection of true, short stories about everyday occurrences in the life of Augusten Burroughs.

Why You Should Read It: It's hysterical! Burroughs is such an eccentric personality and his style is one that can turn the most mundane event into an interesting story. Topics include training a weak-bladdered puppy, creepy porcelain dolls, bloody noses, fear of the Tooth Fairy and blind-dating. His stories will spark insight and laughter about the peculiarities of life and the quirky ways of people.

Haunted4. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

Synopsis: Seventeen strangers answer to an ad that calls for a three month long "writer's retreat". They are taken to an abandoned theater by a Mr. Whittier and Mrs. Clark and held captive. While the plot moves along and the characters slowly lose their minds, each individual's story is added in and spread out through the novel. There are twenty-three stories all together.

Why You Should Read It: If you are familiar with Chuck Palahniuk's work (he wrote Fight Club and Choke), then you have an idea of what kinds of twisted ideas and dark humor you are in for. All of the respondents to the ad are referred to by nicknames based on the content of their stories. The stories are bizarre. One features a man who claims he is a sasquatch and explains the reasons behind why no one can ever prove they exist. Another is about a woman who murders the owner of an antique shop because he wouldn't let her use her psychic powers on the unborn child of Marilyn Monroe that he claims is in a jar behind the counter.

Palahniuk has a delightfully perverse imagination. He always creates pieces of work that will shock and entertain the reader with ghastly details and appalling situations

Sara Martone
Story by Sara Martone

Starpulse contributing writer