Best of the Best
Can a book be both entertaining and profound? Many popular books are entertaining...mysteries, suspense thrillers, books featuring serial killers or vampires or clues to lost treasure. But they are momentary, here and gone. Hardly original, and hardly worth re-reading, much less thinking about after we've had our fun. Other books may be profound, yet not particularly visceral. More cerebral. But a story with a "message" or truth beyond the sensational is appealing to me. Many dismissed Avatar for its message--that we are abusing the natural world, "killing our mother." That we think we can bring peace and prosperity by leveling anyone who opposes us or our value system. Better, these critics imply, if the movie had been like a Marvel comic book: good versus evil, trite and full of zingers. Yet, had it been such, the movie would not have worked on so many levels. It would have been less memorable. The fact that it paralleled two of the great tragedies of our time--the modern militarization of a nationalistic ego, and the disconnect we have with our environment--made the movie resonate with meaning, and deepened the conflict. The words "I see you" hold meaning, too. It's not merely a one-liner created for a touchy-feely moment. Because if we can actually see what we're doing to ourselves, and to the world around us, where we're living, we can also see each other. The alternative to this is, as Quaritch said in burning out the natives, "that's how you scatter the roaches." It's easy to step on bugs, not so easy once you recognize yourself in someone's eyes...and that everyone goes down together.  
  Another story both entertaining and profound is Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke. Not your ordinary mystery at all. No cliches here. What elevates it is the recognition of the human condition, and the fatal flaws that live in us all. Poetic and original, it points from the specific to the universal, as all great literature does. You are left with a deeper understanding--not just of the characters in the story--but of yourself. Of course most agents and publishers out there don't care about this. They are in business solely to make money. So it is up to the critic to point out stories like this. To say, "this moved me." Or "this is worth your time." And I am doing that here, and now. This is one of the Best of the Best.
                More TOWER STAR PICKS

Vertical Run by Joseph Garber
(as read by Stephen Lang)

The Janson Directive by Robert Ludlum
(as read by Paul Michael)

The Devil Went Down to Austin by Rick Riordan
(as read by Tom Stechschulte)

Sleeping Beauty by Ross MacDonald
(a mystery; full cast)

Derailed by James Siegel
(as read by Gregory Harrison)

Independence Day by Richard Ford
(as read by Richard Poe)

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
(as read by George Hearn)

The Breaker by Kitt Denton
(as read by Terence Donovan)

Consider This, Senora by Harriet Doerr
(as read by Barbara Rosenblat)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 
(version read by Grover Gardner)

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
(as read by Jonathan Davis)

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
(version read by William Roberts)

Dune by Frank Herbert
(as read by Scott Brick and others)

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
(as read by the author)

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
(as read by Campbell Scott)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(as read by Jim Dale)

The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
(as read by Frank Muller)

24 Hours by Greg Iles
(as read by Dick Hill)

The Breathtaker by Alice Blanchard
(as read by Peter Coyote)

Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke
(as read by Will Patton)


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