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52 Books, 52 Weeks, Week 10: Searching for a Silver Lining

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This might be odd for a writer to say, but I am not a visual reader. By that I mean, I rarely have a clear image of the characters in the books I read (or sometimes, even write). I don't create a "movie in my head" while reading a book; I focus on the story. So, for me, watching a movie made of a book I love has never been issue (if the movie is good, of course) from a visual perspective.

And the opposite is true as well. I'm happy to watch a movie based on a book before I've read it and read the book afterwards. I generally find the book a more rewarding experience, a richer one, since it's nearly impossible to perfectly translate a book onto the screen. (An example of a perfect translation, in my eyes -- High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.)

All this by way of introduction to say that I saw the movie of The Silver Linings Playbook before I read the book, this week's read for 52 books in 52 weeks.

For those of you who haven't read the movie or seen the book, The Silver Linings Playbook is about a man who suffers from a severe case of manic depression. The story opens as he's finally released from a mental institution into the care of his parents (who have their own, undiagnosed, mental health issues). His stated means to achieve recovery is to "practice being good rather than being right" and to find the silver lining (i.e. happy ending) in the movie that is his life. His happy ending lies in getting back his estranged wife, Nikki. Needless to say, there are many obstacles in his path.

I enjoyed both the book and the movie immensely. The movie is full of great, touching moments and excellent performances. The book is full of humor -- it is funnier than the movie -- and the ending is just different enough from the movie that I didn't feel like I was wasting my time in reading it. I was getting the richer, fuller version of the story.

I have one issue with the book, however, and it's a similar issue to the one I had for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The narrator of the book often comes off as sounding childish and not that intelligent. There's a Flowers for Algernon quality about him that doesn't jibe either with the manic depressive diagnosis or the fact that he used to be the chair of the history department at the local high school and is university educated. It's a moment of discord, but one that repeats throughout the book. That being said, I still highly recommend it.

So, now what? Well, Jodi Picoult has a new book out -- The Storyteller -- and no surprise it's sitting at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. Since I've never really read any Picoult -- twice I've been on holiday where I've started reading one of her books that belonged to someone else, but didn't have a chance to finish it -- I thought it time to give her the attention her amazing success calls out for.

Onwards!