Category Archives: Book Column

Book Review: “The Unit” by Ninni Holmqvist

I just finished The Unit by Ninni Homqvist and published by Other Press. It’s a great read that shines a light on what can happen when society starts looking at the population as numbers and statistics and quits seeing the people behind the numbers.

I picked up this book because I really liked the thought-provoking premise: society’s older members, who have no family or crucial job are taken to a utopian campus where every whim, wish and need are catered too. They get to live out their final years as comfortable as possible. The only catch: they are expected to participate in medical experiments and donate their body parts, for as long as they can… until their “final donation”. This society sees it as humane as it takes their poorest members, gives them the best in art and creature comforts, while maximizing their contributions to society.

It’s absurd. Sure. Crazy. But still, a great premise for this story. It’s an idea I was hoping the book would dive deep into, but it doesn’t. Instead it swirls around on the lives of the “dispensables” that are inside “The Unit” and focuses on the main character, Dorritt. All of the people in the Unit completely understand what is going on and they don’t put up a fight when they have to participate in a psychological exam, drug test, donate a kidney or even donate their lungs and heart. They see it as finally being of value to their community, on the outside.

It doesn’t take you long to accept the rules of this community and start living alongside Dorritt in the dome. The writing in this book is fantastic. It just flows in and out of conversations and offering insights into love, loss, society, ethics, etc. I was truly impressed with the author. The book flies through every emotion you can think of and every type of relationship as these people lean on each other and help each other deal with loosing body parts, going crazy, love, politics, pregnancy…

Towards the end, I knew the clock is ticking and I just wanted to know, does Dorritt escape? Does she die? But also towards the end, I didn’t wasn’t quite ready for it to be over. I enjoyed the many conversations and personalities in The Unit.

This one gets three out five stars and will be recommended often.

Book Collecting 101

I encourage you to check out this post on book collecting over on Exile Bibliophile. I recently discovered that blog while clicking around the discussions over on LibraryThing. Here’s one of my favorite snippets:

“Not everyone who owns a lot of books is a book collector.  Granted.  I wear pants most days, and own many pairs, yet don’t think of myself as a pants connoisseur.  Book collectors are the same way.  A book collection has a purpose beyond accumulating, beyond, even, reading.  A book collection has a purpose.  What should the focus be?  That’s the beauty of it.”

I like people who group their books in some logical or at least interesting fashion. I REALLY like people who dive deep into a category or genre or author. Those are always great conversationalists. And indeed. That is the beauty of it.

Harper Lee Letters up for Auction

There are 11 of Harper Lee’s letters set to be sold by November 8th. You can get the full details and keep up with the results over on the auction site. I was surprised how unique many of the letters are. There seems to be a personal tone to each of them. Most correspondence we see from author’s these days is a little more formal, a little more template-driven and even a little less polite.

These letters run from the 1960s-1990s. Harper Lee seems to be one of the most curious and sweetest of famous Southern authors. But then I know a lot of our senior ladies down South would probably fit this bill as well. They should all just put pen to paper.

Even if you never get the chance to bid on one of Lee’s letters, it’s worth a couple of clicks and some time to read through the text of each.

My Fiction Fast is Over

I’m reading fiction again. And it feels good. Last year my non-fiction TBR pile was massive. I was so behind on reading stuff for work and other topics, that I imposed a self-inflicted fiction fast for 12 months. It ended earlier this week. It was certainly worth it. I read 32 non-fiction books over the 12 months. All of which add up to make me better at my job and to be generally better informed. I mean, we read not only to escape, but to improve ourselves. Right?

But there’s nothing like burning through some mind candy. I started out with two. I am about 50 pages into Ninni Holmqvist’s The Unit. I’m going to give it to 150 pages, before deciding if it’s recommendable. And I finished reading Brad Meltzer’s The Book of Lies yesterday. It was so-so. But it was easy and fast. Just what I was looking for.

I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the time to think about the benefits of reading fiction, but they are there. It’s something I had never thought about until my fast and it’s something I am going to have to research some more.