13. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. This fits into the category of reading a book that was published between 1900 and 1950. Really glad I could squeeze this in because it's been on my to-read list ever since I read the sequel, Sweet Thursday. Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors. Some of my favorite books of all time include The Pearl, The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck has a gritty, spare realism, and his themes remain topical even decades later. What I loved about Cannery Row (and Sweet Thursday), though, is the gentle humor. There were times and scenarios where I was laughing out loud. Much of the story is character-driven; the reader is introduced to the canning district in Monterey, California, and its motley collection of residents. There isn't much of a plot, and the story elements don't kick in until a good third of the way through the book. But the characters are so charming and so eclectic, it's still a fascinating (and fun) read. The biggest story is the efforts of Mack, a n'er do well with a good heart and (usually) good intentions and his other assorted friends attempting to do something nice for the gentle and altruistic Doc. The reader knows disaster is coming, but what happens and the events leading to the ill-fated event are still hilarious. The book is not a comic one - there are some more serious moments (including a couple that made me wince, particularly the implied fate of Frankie). But all in all, this was an enjoyable and quick read. Steinbeck turns these characters - most of them types who would be portrayed in a negative way in other stories- and shows their warmth and humanity, and I couldn't help liking them.
Currently reading: A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout.