August 16, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Next meeting, 9/20, will be book pick night.  Please click on “About” for more information.

The evening’s book discussion was Nutshell by Ian McEwan lead by Dave:  The first item of discussion was whether or not the book is part of the series of modern authors’ takes on Shakespeare’s plays (i.e. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood on The Tempest) and Tom settled it by looking it up and found that it is not part of that series.  It was an enthusiastic discussion, and it was generally agreed that though there were some similarities to Hamlet, it was not a plot-driven similarity.

Pam, Salvage the Bones: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward, 5.0:  An novel about a dad and his 4 kids who live in poverty – each is trying to survive the loss of the mom, the elder daughter’s way of coping is sex – each had their own way of coping.  Set over just 12 days.  Hurricane Katrina is brooding.  The book is worth reading just for the writing itself – powerful, poetic, good description of Katrina.

Mimi, Pictures at a Revolution: 5 Movies & the Birth of the New Hollywood, by Harris, 4.75:  It is the story of the 5 movies nominated for best picture in 1967, Dr. Doolittle, Bonnie and Clyde, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, The Graduate.  It is about how the movies were conceived, cast, politics, funded, stories about the cast.  She read about the book in Nick Hornby’s book, 10 Years in the Tub.  Tom also highly recommends it – fun and gossipy yet a lot of meat to it.

Miller & Shales: Live from New York (NF):  I must be on a show business kick.  The story of how SNL came to be.  Interesting.  I guess if you’re a fanatic, then it would be a must-read.  3.5
Perry, The Old Man (FIC) – Thomas Perry just isn’t the same since he married off Jane Whitefield.  Clever, but I wasn’t blown away.  3
Russo, Trajectory (FIC) – latest short story collection from Richard Russo.  As usual, his stories are funny & well-written, but there wasn’t one that totally grabbed me.  4.

Helen, Lolita by Nabokov:  Confusing and hard book to read but definitely a 5.0

Tim:  Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, 5.0:  equal parts history, romance, suspense.   Page-turner – as good as The Rook by Daniel O’Malley.  Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense.  Diana is a bold heroine witch who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, 5.0:  America’s most approachable astrophysicist distills the past, present, and (theoretical) future of the cosmos into a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read for a general audience. It does help to know some science.

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain, 4.0: In this sequel to a Murder in Time, we meet an irritated Kendra Donovan, whose attempt to get back to her own time has failed. When Duke of Aldridge’s nephew is accused of murder, Kendra quickly shifts into FBI agent mode to clear his name. What follows is a fast-paced murder investigation throughout London.  It was a fun read but not as good as the first book.

Leah, 1Q84  by Haruki Murakami, 5.0:  Set in Japan, Japanese author, magical realism, set in the real world in 1984 and in an alternate 1984.  Switches between the two main characters, certain little details they notice.  Raises interesting questions – the two main characters don’t know who the other is – interesting dynamic figuring it out.  Recommends starting with Wind up Bird Chronicle if you have never read anything by Murakami.

Sonya, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson, 4.76:  At least 4 others in the book group have already read this one, and they all seem to agree – well worth reading.  About a “older” man in his late 60’s who is a widower and retired, lives in a small village in England and how hidden prejudices run us all to some extent whether we acknowledge them or not.  Love the characters (except for his shallow son who I wanted to slap!).  Very fun.

Dave, Watch on the Rhine by Lillian Hellman, 5.0: A play in 3 acts.  She lived from 1905 – 1984, very popular author, until she got caught in the McCarthy era.  The play is a genre work, set in WWII – somewhat propagandish, set in the drawing room of a rich heiress, stock characters – black butler, French maid, refugee resistance family, totally evil eastern European.  It is a drawing room comedy which starts out slowly and ends up very powerful.  Dashiel Hammet was her partner/lover.

Shelagh, Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, 4.7:  Reminds her of Diane Ackerman – lovely way of combing facts and figures, observing, personal observations, describes their whole consciousness – Sy drops her filter as a human, and observes how they absorb info.  Loves her infectious enthusiasm.  Great read.

Tom, Henry David Thoreau, A Life by Laura Walls, 5.0:  Read Tom’s full review in his newsletter.  This bio had a lot of advance press – calling it the the definitive biography, it is not a challenging format – wonderfully done straight up biography, doesn’t dump everything she has learned into the book – feels very judicious – how deeply and constantly connected he was to his friends, community and other people and how that built his identity – almost a page-turner.

Kjerste, Erotic Stories by Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, 4.0:  Very fun read, and totally admit picking it up because of the title.  Set in London, woman’s parents are from India –  interesting how widows are treated, and how they take their identity back.

Kathleen, The House Among the Trees by Julia Glass, 5.0:  This book is about a children’s author, as the book starts, he has died – how his money is going elsewhere and about all of the various characters.  After finishing the book, started another book but didn’t like it after reading this one – uggghhh.

Marla, Return to Oak Pine by Ron Carlson:  Takes place in a small town in Wyoming, an ill man returns to his town, 30 years previous, he was part of a rock band, goes through how these people have changed.  This books wasn’t quite as good as his others.

Kitty, Hamlet by Shakespeare, 5.0:  That guy can really write….!


July 19, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Book Discussion was Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin lead by Pam:  The main takeaway most of the readers agreed upon is that how relevant his thoughts are and how little has seemed to change in terms of racism.  There was much spirited discussion about racism and xenophobia.

Marla, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, 5.0:  He also wrote Reluctant Fundamentatlist.  This book is an intriguing and imaginative way of dealing with refugees – how one becomes a refugee and the process – there are doors to choose from and you have no idea what is the other end.  Really good and fascinating read.

Pam, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie, 4.75:  They saw him at Town Hall – he was amazing – book is a memoir about his life with his mother.  Many hilarious stories – at one point, people were laughing so hard that they were sobbing.  He is an amazing performance artist – talks a lot about his mother who lived on the Spokane reservation and is one of the last speakers of the language.  Loved the book.  He is actually cancelling the remainder of his book tour because the grief was too much to live through each day.

Tim, The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis, 5.0:  This book is about two Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their story is extremely interesting as is the work that they did on decision making and the ways in which the human mind systematically erred when forced to make judgments about uncertain situations.  Kahneman received the Nobel price in Economics for his work with Tversky.  They spent years looking at how people make decisions – for example in Israel – they came up with a way of deciding which people fit in best in the military – America even asked for them to consult.

Wolf on a String by Benjamin Black, 3.5:  Benjamin Black turns his eye to 16th century Prague and a story of murder, magic and the dark art of wielding extraordinary power.  It is a mystery but one that did not hold my interest although I did read to the conclusion.  I like his other mysteries much better.

Wayfarers in the Cosmos – The Human Quest for Meaning by George V. Coyne, S.J. and Alessandro Omizzolo, 3.5:  The authors present the history of human understandings of the heavens to arrive at a deep understanding of the cosmos.  I heard George Coyne many years ago on PBS and found his style of speaking very clear.  He has a point of view that is certainly God-centered but his telling of most of the history was very well presented.

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain, 4.5:  About a brilliant FBI profiler, Kendra Donovan, who stumbles back in time and finds herself in a 19th century English castle under threat from a vicious serial killer.  She scrambles to solve the case before it takes her life – 200 years before she was even born.

Mimi, Swell: A Novel by Jill Eisenstadt, 4.0:   Set in Rockaway Queens New York, it is about a very old lady in a crumbling beach side house – a bunch of immigrants – one ends up in her kitchen – she shoots her grown son and even though she admits that she shot him, everyone thinks the immigrant did it – there are many cranky eccentric people.

John, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Stewart, 2.0:  John’s son strongly encouraged him to read it.  It seems to be a bit of a rip-off of Harry Potter and is inferior – the writing is not nearly as good as in Harry Potter

Paul, Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, 4.75:  Series of short stories – common theme is “what do things mean” – a lot of what ifs.  One was about memory – if you could see in the future – memory of what is going to happen and what has happened – what does that do for a sense of loss – memory of future – what does that do for free will.  There is another about heaven and hell and god – more transactional – if you do certain things, you will go to heaven – the protagonist follows them all, but still gets sent to hell.

Kjerste, Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple, 4.0:  A sweet novel – a mystery –  set in Seattle – about her life with her husband and child – Seattle idiosyncrasies – nice summer read

Dave, Wycliffe’s translation of Genesis:  He is studying how does it actually jive with King James – two translations – one follows the Latin grammar – he is perhaps one-quarter of the way into the book.  Wycliffe was excommunicated after he died.

Sonya, The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer, 4.5:  I am only 50% finished, but so far, it is definitely a 4.5.  It is not only about Timbuktu and how one man in particular, Abdel Haidaira, has saved so many of the historical books, scrolls, documents from that region, but about the history of Al Queada.  I will let you know next month whether it should keep its 4.5 rating or whether it should be less or more!

Shelagh, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, 5.0:  Loved it! A young adult novel about moving into a new town – negotiating a horrible home life – makes friend with another kid – bonds over mixed tapes and psychedelic fur.  The writing was really strong – had both points of view – creative strong beautiful language – sheer joy of reading it!

Julie, The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan, 3.0:  Julie’s dad used to work at long acres – found it to be soap operaish.  It was amusing but overly melodramatic.

Kitty, What Should I do with my Life? The True Story of People who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson, 5.0:   Non fiction – collection of essays – lots of people stories and how they figured out what to do with their lives – every story is framed with a point – they all hang together – his writing really grabbed her – no matter what he writes – kept wanting to read the next story.

Tom, Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York by Francis Spufford, 4.75:   See his full review in his Newsletter.  He likes to research books that gets lots of buzz in the UK – this one won lots of awards – he wrote many other fiction books.  This one is set in 1743 in New York – a young man shows up on the shores of NYC and he has lots of money – the story of a mysterious stranger – super fun and inventive language – weird – thought it was a hoot – tore through it.

Kathleen, Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders, 4.25:  Based on a true incident – Lincoln’s beloved son died at the beginning of the war – Lincoln visited the tomb.  The Bardo is the world between the 2 worlds – some people don’t know that they are dead and some do know that they are dead – but you are not supposed to hang out there for long – weird and hilarious  (Note from Tom – audio book is great – many different voices – highly recommended).

June 21, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Book Discussion was Lab Girl by Hope Jahren lead by Kitty:  I believe it was unanimous that this books is excellently written and an interesting memoir of her life as a scientist.  Probably most of us would give it between a 4 and 5 rating.   I thought of another story of a woman scientist – an astrophysicist, that I recently read which some of you may find interesting – Sara Seager.

Dave, Hag Seed by Margaret Atwood, 5.0:  It is really good.  It is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series  – “The Hogarth Shakespeare project sees Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today.”  It is based on  “The Tempest” and  sticks very close to the ideas.  Enjoyable read that made him laugh a lot.

Kjerste, Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling, 5.0:  Read it for the library book bingo.  Set at the headwaters of the Mississippi about a snapping turtle.  Young adult story based on science, written in a uncondescending way, made her laugh.

Paul, The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates, 5.5:  An incredibly well written book – could write the telephone book and make you cry.  It is about growing up in Baltimore, his father was a black panther, grew up among gangs (terrifying), only way you survive is to join another gang.

Rebecca, Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, 3.75:  Hard sci-fi book.  It was good but not as good as his others.  If you want to read one of his better ones, start with Red Mars.

Shelagh, A Country Road, A Tree: A Novel by Jo Baker, 4.5:  Fictionalized account of Sam Beckett’s experience in Paris during the resistance.  He narrowly escaped the gestapo.  This was a pivotal turn in his writing style, great tale of that time.

John, Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, 4.0:  He had recommended it during the last pick’s night, but when he reported that his wife said it was horrifyingly sad, it wasn’t chosen (note to John – perhaps that isn’t the best description if you want people to read it!).  It takes place in contemporary eastern Washington – told in flashbacks.  A woman in her 70’s is flashing back to the seizure of Leningrad.  Very well written, interesting, sad, harrowing.  At the end is a little twist which didn’t quite work – made it a bit of a less good book.

Ruth – reading a story about pioneer midwives and will report it on more during the next meeting.

Ann, Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, The Surreal Heart of the New Russia by Peter Pomerantsev, 4.5:  About how the Russian government uses propaganda. The author lives in London and is Russian.  Hired to work on tv propaganda in Russia where everyone bribes.  Even the cover is wonderful.  There are Russian models which are popular here and in Russia and everyone takes advantage of them

Marla, Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood that Helped Turn the Tide of War by Lynne Olson, 5.0:   They write about WWII – European governments which fled into London and ran their governments in exile.  A lot about the Poles and Czechs – who were screwed in the beginning and at the end of the war – they fought hard and got nothing from the Allies.

Mimi, Three Stations: An Arkady Renko Novel by Martin Cruz Smith, 3.7:  The protagonist smokes all of the time, is always getting into trouble and is anti-soviet.  Not one of his best, but good

Tom, Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road by Finn Murphy, 5.0:  Read his newsletter #142 for a full review of the book.  One of his favorite books of the year.  The author’s dad drew Prince Valiant for 20 years and his brother was an editor at the Atlantic.  He dropped out of Colby and drove truck ever since – does mostly executive moves now – an insight into class – both upper and other – funny, great story teller, learned as much about class as from many other books.

May 17, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

NOTE the switch in book for the next meeting.  We are reading Lab Girl on June 21st.

Marla, Evicted by Matthew Desmond, 5.0:  It is about poverty and housing, and it is phenomenally fabulous and fabulously phenomenal!

Paul, The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? by Jared Diamond, 3.75:  It is about alternative norms with child rearing, marriage, etc. It was a bit wordy.

Ruth, The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelly Estes, 5.0:  A true story of two women separated by a century – set between the San Juan islands and Seattle.

Mimi, The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan, 4.0:  The style was overly elaborate and some of the scenes were hard to stomach about breaking horses.

Kjerste, Untangling my Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn by Victoria Abbott Ricardio, 2.0:  Travelogue into Japan – about their tea ceremonies.  Fun read but disappointing ending.

Rebecca, Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, 3.0:  Super dense – not all the way through it yet – maybe 40% – not always grasping it.

Kitty, Dance of the Dissident Daughter:  A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd, 4.5:  Excellent memoir about her journey from a conservative patriarchy.

Shelagh, What Language Do I Dream In?: A Memoir by Elena Lappin, 5.0:  A memoir about a polyglot, Russian Jew – their culture, affection for books and language.  Will definitely read again – it is so rich.

John, The Brothers K by David James Duncan, 5.0:  It is a long book but very engaging and funny – couldn’t put it down.  Really loved it!   It would be good to have some appreciation of baseball.  Told in the first person and appreciates how he changes the voices so well.

Dave, Anthem by Ayn Rand:  Only short work she ever wrote – dystopian world – unusual format.

Sonya, Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen, 4.0:  Great fun summer read!  If you like this type of book – low-life characters, environmental issues, Florida, similar to Elmore Leonard – you will like this book for sure!

Judy, The Photograph by Penelope Lively, 4.0:  Good book!  Story about a photograph – his wife dies, and he opens an envelope marked “Don’t Open – Destroy” – and his journey of discovery about it.

Julie, Wild Heart by Suzanne Rodrigues, 3.0:  A privileged American woman who came out as a lesbian in the 1880’s – lived in Paris and knew Oscar Wilde.

Pam, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America by George Packer, 5.0:  Non-fiction though reads like fiction – follows 4 characters though the last 30 years – intersperses it with famous characters like Newt Gingrich and Jay-Z.

Tim, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution by Ganesh Sitaraman, 5.0:  In this book, the author argues that a strong and sizable middle class is a prerequisite for America’s constitutional system.  He makes a compelling case that inequality is more than just a moral or economic problem; it threatens the very core of our constitutional system.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, 5.0: The truly first novel of the Chronicles of Narnia that explains where the Witch and Narnia came from.

The Artful Egg by James McClure, 4.0:  The setting is South Africa in the 1980’s. A woman writer has been murdered. Lt. Tromp Kramer, a white man, and his partner, Zulu officer Zonidi must fight their way through a cast of incompetent characters to find the killer. The egregious treatment of non-whites is as much a part of this tale as is the crime. The author manages to present a picture of the dismal social atmosphere with a remarkable sense of humor and irony..

Kathleen, The Moon and the Other by John Kessel, 3.5:  A sci-fi book about matriarchal societies on the moon.

Leah, After Alice by Gregory Maguire, 3.5: Spin on Alice in Wonderland – follows a neighbor of Alice – author seems to be trying a bit too hard.

Tom, Love & Trouble by Claire Dederer:  Local author – see his review in the Phinney Newsletter.

April 19th, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Mimi, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver, 4.5:  Fiction, dystopian novel. U.S. money is worth nothing, the Mexican GNP is bigger than ours.  Set in New York City – very gripping.

Paul, Fima by Amos Oz, 4.5:  A novel written by an Israeli author.  Takes place in Israel, and is written mostly about dysfunctional people.  Everyone takes care of him.  He is full of opinions.  Talks with politicians, explains solutions to all kinds of problems, solves Israel’s problems, and more.

Dave, Microscope Teachings, by Mary Ward.  Written in the 1800s by a Irish/British woman, you have the feeling you can see the author’s mind.  She was an intellectual, born into a family of mean.  Wrote a book on theory, care of microscope.  She was  killed in 1869 – first person to ever be killed in an auto accident.

Sonya, Graphic Novels recommended by her 14 yr. old nephew:  Crater XV, Cardboard, and others.  It has been interesting reading, and I will probably read others every now and again, though I can’t say it will be my first choice in reading material on a regular basis.

Rebecca, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, by Rebecca Solnit, 4.0:  Very good, written after Bush was reelected, very soothing, she was feeling upset about the world, world change happens slowly

Kathleen, God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison, 3.5:  Really likes her work and style of writing, but not quite as fond of this book.  The language wasn’t as lush, all about horrible things that happen to kids, though very interesting characters

Tom, Compass by Mathias Enard, 4.5:   Read his review in his newsletter from 4/17/17. It is a very dense book, but eventually came through in the end.

Kitty, The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway, 3.5:  It was good to read when in school, but not sure how she feels about it now

Marla, Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance, 4.5:  Unique and personal look at a culture we don’t know anything about  – found it fascinating.

Judy, The Little Queens, 4.0:  This is a book written in French which hasn’t been translated into English.  It is a very charming book about 3 high school girls who get taunted by boys who create a website about them calling them the 3 sausages.  They are, of course, crestfallen, but then get angry and then get even.

  • The Sense of ending, by Julian Barnes, 4.75: The movie was very faithful to the book


March 15, 2017: “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Before the main discussion, each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Marla, The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson, 3.5:  It is the third book she has read about technology which she couldn’t understand.  It is about the consequences of the machine age – likened it to the industrial revolution – interesting and recommend it.

Kathleen, Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff, 4.0:  It is a book in two parts.  Fates is about a charismatic man who is a failed actor and is written from his point of view.  The second part of the book is The Furies and is from the wife’s point of view.  The 2nd half was much better.

John read classic children’s literature: Dr. Seuss!

Sonya, The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt, 4.5A nonfiction account of a medieval monk, Poggio, in the 14th century who discovered an ancient poem by Lucretius.  An excellent account of life in the service of popes, medieval politics, monasteries and more. The author believes the discovery of the poem changed the course of civilization as we know it.  Whether or not you agree with that premise, it is well written and worth reading.

Dave, Poggio’s Facetiae – Poggio, the monk from “The Swerve” wrote a book series of anecdotes, very juvenile, scatological, sexual, and worse. Per Wikipedia:  The Facetiae is an anthology of jokes by Poggio Bracciolini (1380–1459), first published in 1470. The collection, “the most famous jokebook of the Renaissance”, is notable for its inclusion of scatological jokes and tales, six of the tales involving farting and six involving defecation.

Shelagh, TheLlonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill, 5.0:  The author is from Montreal and is fast becoming her favorite author.  Two orphans meet in an orphanage in Montreal, negotiating where they end up, and their lives together.  What is so amazing about her is how she writes.  Her writing is like Cooper Eden’s writing (If You are Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow).

Paul, Zoli: A Novel by Colum McCann, 5.0: The story of two people who are transitioning to other worlds – a gypsy who is trying to be a non-gypsy – a communist who is not enjoying communism as much as he thought – transition of eastern Europe.

Deborah, Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, 4.0It is set in WWII – about the story of his grandparents who got married, didn’t see each other for 3 years – the intersection of 3 lives – loss and longing.  The writing is a little uneven, though she got sucked in.  Good deal of research had been done to ensure that descriptions of buildings, clothing, etc. are correct.

Pam:   Attended the Search for Meaning Festival at Seattle U.  Heard Mathew Desmond speak – he wrote Evicted – talked about his methodology and how he lived with these people – he is a professor at Harvard – amazing speaker – as he talked about his relationship with these people, he became quite emotional – very powerful speaker and talks about what needs to happen to get people housing – gave his book a 5.0 last month.  Also heard Anthony Doer speak – quite a wild man, highly entertaining – just fascinating to listen to.

Tim, Dark Town: A Novel by Thomas Mullen:  A novel based on the first black people to work as policemen in the 1940/50 in Atlanta – couldn’t drive in cars, couldn’t go to the white police house – relationships between two black officers, two white officers – compelling because of the underlying tensions.

February 15, 2017 “Read & Tell”

Phinney Books, 7:30pm – Before the main discussion, each person can talk about a book they have read during the past month and rate it from 0 to 5. Zero – “I really disliked it.” Five – “Best book I have recently read!”

Sonya, The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick, 4.5I have been reading many of Matthew Quick’s books, including The Silver Lining’s Playbook and Love Fails.  I am enjoying his voice in his writing.  In this particular book, it is about a middle-aged man who is on the spectrum and the story of how he is able to create relationships with others – both romantic and as friends.  He is funny, sweet, realistic, and has some very insightful comments about life in general. I would give most of his books at least a 4.5.

Act One by Moss Hart – 4.5: Thoroughly enjoyable memoir about Moss Hart starting off in his play-writing career in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – 4.5:   As has been said by others, well worth reading this memoir of growing up very poor in Kentucky.

Kitty, The Power of Kindness: The unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life by Piero Ferrucci and Dalai Lama, 4.0:  Lovely and nourishing.

Ann, A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel, by Amar Tolls, 4.5:  Takes place starting in 1922. The count has been brought before the new regime in Moscow.  He is forced to go back to the hotel and never leave it.  It is quite posh and he has a nice room, but he is then moved into the attic.  It is about who he meets, how he becomes part of the hotel, and is a picture of the effects of the regime on Russia.

Julie, The Princes of Ireland: the Dublin Saga by Edward Rutherfurd:  The author takes a city or country and elaborately describes it.  With Ireland, he starts in 500 and goes to 1500.  It is a fascinating historical account of Ireland. In progress, so no rating yet.

Jennifer, Wonder by RJ Palacio, 5.0:  It is a young adult book.  The author was inspired to write when she and her family encountered another family with a child who had a disability – her own young child was scared by the disabled child.  She really enjoyed the book – it is realistic – about a mix of kids trying to deal with growing up and maturing.

Tom, Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li, 4.75:  Picked it up because of James L McPherson who died last year.  Yiun writes an amazing essay about their friendship.  The whole book is a kind of memoir, kind of about writing, about changing cultures and language.  It goes all over the place.  Every page has wonderful passages (so many dog-eared pages!).  Everything is life or death for her – so much is at stake – amazing.  See Tom’s review in the Phinney Books Newsletter.

Kathleen, A Man in the High Castle by Phillip K Dick:  White people feel inferior, narrated by them.  Don’t think it was that well written, but a great story.

Marla, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, 5.0:  Interesting how he weaves historical events and an actual railroad.

Pam, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond, 5.0:  Really heavily researched.  The author goes into a poor area in Milwaukee.  He follows 8 families (some are tenants, and some are landlords).  It reads like fiction but it isn’t.  Very compassionate, beautifully written, very sad.

Avid Reader: A Life by Robert Gottlieb, 5.0Fascinating life in publishing, editor of The New Yorker for a few years.

Tim, The Chemist by Stephanie Myer, 4.5:  Picked it up because of the title.  The title refers to the title of the protagonist who is actually a molecular biologist.  She works for the government using chemicals to inflict pain without it showing.  She is then is on the run because the government is trying to kill her.  It is a fascinating read with a romance.  Not great literature but is a fun read.

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, 5.0

Here is New York by E.B. White, 5.0

Rebecca, Homegoing: A Novel byYaa Gyasi, 4.25:  Really good and enjoying it a lot.  Each chapter is about the next generation – starts in Africa, slavery, jumps forward in time in every chapter a bit or a lot.  It is beautifully written but not very happy and is quite sobering.

Here’s the article I mentioned, about how people of color understand white people far better than white people understand themselves: The author is a friend of mine and, while the article initially made me uncomfortable and may make others in the group feel similarly, I sat with it awhile and it really impacted me, so perhaps others will also benefit.

Leah, A moveable Feast by Hemingway: This is a reread.  It was published posthumously as a  memoir, somewhat fictionalized.  Set in Paris in a community of writers.  It is quite entertaining.  Each chapter is episodic, not a through line, but gives you a sense of that time and place in the 1920s.

Mimi, Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo, 4.0:  Really liked it, if you liked Nobody’s Fool, then you will probably like this one.  It is set 20 years after the first book.

Kjerste, The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu:  And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts, by Joshua Hammer, 5.0:  An excellent history of Timbuktu, the people in power, how they changed the city culturally.  It is a good background and history – particularly from 2003-2013 – during that time librarians found a lot of texts, restored and preserved them.

Jon, Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai, 4.0:  Young adult story about a 12 year old Vietnamese girl who goes with her family to Vietnam to try and find out what happened to her grandfather.  It does a good job of describing the voice of the 12 year old girl who lives in California and hates being off the beach to go to Vietnam – it shows her evolving mind quite well.

Shelagh, Homegoing: A Novel byYaa Gyasi, 4.8:  Historical saga in 300 pages – sisters who were separated (one in slavery) – hand story-telling to the next generation – spans the time to the present day – beautifully written – liked the linked stories – was impressed with what she accomplished in 300 pages as opposed to longer histories.

Dave, The Bad Popes by E.R. Chamberlin, 5.0: It has been sitting on his shelf for over 10 years.  Glad he waited until now to read it.  It is really good.  The timeframe is medieval Italy, and is about the various popes and their children and schisms.  He writes with a Shakespearian color, lots of fun to read.