My Summer of Stieg

September 13, 2011

Nearly every year in my adult life, I’ve picked a book or series of books to read during the summer. Marketers and booksellers may refer to these books as a “beach” read…though porches, patios and park benches are great places to read these books, as well. I would say that just about any book is a perfect summertime read, but I typically think of something that’s a quick read and fiction…like a mass market paperback on the New York Times bestseller list.

I have fond memories of reading numerous Stephen King books while laying at the beach and listening to sounds of crashing waves in the background. I also remember reading these books in my room, where I was able to provide a hard rock/heavy metal soundtrack (the perfect background for reading these horror fiction books).

This summer, I stumbled upon an unexpected series of books that captured my attention and quenched my thirst for a good story. I’m referring to Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

What’s interesting about this, is that 30 pages into The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I almost put the book down and gave up on it. I was getting impatient as Stieg Larsson spent those pages setting up the story. Truthfully, I was a little bored…and because the story took place in Sweden, I was beginning to fear that the use of various Swedish words was going to be a distraction for me. I was wrong. By page 40, I was hooked and there was no looking back.

Highlighting these books is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever encountered in the world of fiction, Lisbeth Salander. She’s the “girl” in these book titles. She has piercings and a dragon tattoo on her back, she’s “inter-personally challenged” and she’s mysterious and unpredictable.

The stories are part-mystery, part-intrigue and all drama. The books tackle the themes of political extremism and of violence toward women, which was influenced by a rape that Stieg Larsson witnessed when he was 15.

While I do enjoy reading both fiction and nonfiction books…and I’ve read a good number of books in my time…few books have had me riveted like the books in this series. Larsson does a masterful job of telling the stories and revealing information at just the right moments. He makes you really care about the characters so that you don’t just want to find out what happens to them, you need to find out what happens.

I’m purposefully leaving out a lot of details about the stories because, if you’re like me, you sometimes like to know as little about certain books before reading them. I know I often feel this way when I watch movie trailers of movies I know I want to see. If you’re interested, here’s a description of the first novel.

Sadly, Stieg Larsson passed away of a heart attack at the age of 50 before these books were released. Like one of the main characters, he was a journalist for a magazine in Sweden. Parts of a fourth novel were left behind, but it’s unclear whether another story in this series will be published.

What is clear is that these books by Stieg Larsson are well-crafted stories. I know Swedish versions of the movies have been released and an American version will be on its way. I’m sure those movies are fine, but do yourself a favor and read these books. You won’t be disappointed.

How about you…have you read any of the books in this series? If so, what did you think? What’s your favorite summertime reading memory?

1 Linda September 27, 2011 at 9:51 am

I read the Stieg Larsson books before they were all available in the U.S. Really made my day when I found out I could borrow a friend’s … Hornet’s Nest that her sister had sent from England. Let’s hope we see more women in contemporary fiction who have the gumption of Lisbeth. She gets my vote for being a powerful force for change that needed to take place. No vegging out in front of the t.v. for our Lisbeth!

2 Tim September 29, 2011 at 9:55 am

Hi Linda: Yeah, I agree what you said about Lisbeth…she was one tough woman! I could probably ramble on about what we can learn from a character like her’s: resiliency, handling adversity, having a strong network of friends (including virtual ones), and tolerance of people that might look different than everyone else, etc. It’s been a few weeks since I finished that series and I really miss reading a book that captured my attention like those did. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

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