I stayed up late to finish The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao last night. Man. It was really good - at first I thought it was pretty funny, but as I made progress through the book it seemed more and more serious. I still have a couple questions about how some things actually happened, but overall I felt satisfied at the ending (if sad).
I had never heard of Rafael Trujillo before, the Dominican dictator from 1930 to 1961 (when he was assassinated). What a monster - a tyrannical, megalomaniacal murderer. There's so much I didn't know: his army slaughtered over 20,000 Haitians in a massacre, he had secret police, he had his opponents tortured and killed, he took young women from their families for himself... Ugh. The whole book didn't focus on him (at least half took place in the 1980s in New Jersey), but enough history was in there to horrify and educate me.
I start The Good German by Joseph Kanon next. I already read his book Stardust last year - a good thriller woven in with the beginnings of McCarthyism. I look forward to this next one. It was made into a movie in 2006, and it got good reviews, so I take it as a good sign. Aren't books always better than movies based on them?
On a related note: as a ten-year-old I read the novelization of "Batman Returns" and thought it was a book about Batman that the movie was based on. It was one of my favorite books.