2019 “TOP 10” Lists


  • Rock, Paper, Scissors by Osipov
  • Peace Like a River by Enger
  • Virgil Wander by Enger
  • The Heart by deKerangal
  • Neverhome  by Hunt
  • The Sympathizer by Nguyen
  • Netherland by O’Neill
  • Lunch Poems by O’Hara
  • The Bluest Eye by Morrison
  • Turtle Diary by Hoban



  • Powers, The Overstory – don’t have to describe, since you’ve all read it, or are reading it
  • Forna, Happiness – I didn’t originally have this on the list, but I realized that images from the book had stuck with me throughout the year.  Basically, a Ghanian psychiatrist & a naturalist cross paths in modern London
  • Toew, Women Talking – awful story, but awfully well written.
  • Coates, The Water Dancer – very absorbing; finished it off in 24 hours
  • Kadish, The Weight of Ink – you probably remember this from earlier in the year
  • Ondaatje, Warlight – ditto


  • Orlean, The Library Book – a must-read for anyone who regards his or her local library as a 2nd living room
  • Keefe, Say Nothing – brilliantly written account of the Troubles in Belfast (also on the NY Times top 10 list)
  • Bates, Shakespeare saved my Life – this woman teaches Shakespeare to death row inmates. Fascinating book.  We’ll be reading it in a few months.
  • Kantor & Twohey, She Said – a primer on good journalism


  • Baker, A Country Road, A Tree  (FIC)
  • Patchett, The Dutch House (FIC)
  • Atwood, The Testaments (FIC)
  • Strout, Olive, Again (FIC)
  • A Map of the World ……by Jane Hamilton
  • The Moor’s Account ….. by Laila  Lalami
  • The Women in Black … by Madeleine St. John
  • A Chelsea Concerto ….. by Frances Faviell
  • The Czar of Love and Techno ….. by Anthony Marra
  • Warlight …… by Micheal Ondaatje
  • The Marrow of Tradition ….. by Charles W. Chesnutt
  • Fugitive Days ….. By Bill Ayers
  • The Weight of Ink ….. by Rachel Kadish
  • Joe Hill ….. by Wallace Stegner

ANN’s TOP 10:

  • Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo
  • News of the World – Paulette Giles
  • Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead – Olga Tokarczuk
  • Our Homesick Songs – Emma Hooper
  • Women Talking – Miriam Toews
  • The End of Eddy – Edouard Louis
  • Meet Me at the Museum – Anne Youngson
  • Harbor Me – Jacqueline Woodson
  • The Slaves of Solitude – Patrick Hamilton
  • The Biggest Game in Town – A. Alvarez


  • END OF EDDY-Louis
  • TO THE END OF THE LAND -Grossman
  • DEEP RIVER-Marlantis


  • Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
  • The Devil in the While City by Erik Larson
  • Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury
  • The Inventor and the Tycoon by Edward Ball
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  • The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
  • Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
  • The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • The Truths we Hold by Kamella Harris.


  • Rock, Paper, Scissors by Osipov
  • Peace Like a River by Enger
  • Virgil Wander by Enger
  • The Heart by deKerangal
  • Neverhome  by Hunt
  • The Sympathizer by Nguyen
  • Netherland by O’Neill
  • Lunch Poems by O’Hara
  • The Bluest Eye by Morrison
  • Turtle Diary by Hoban


  • The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  • A Bend in the stars  by Rachel Barenbaum
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
  • Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox
  • Beloved  by Toni Morrison
  • The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell
  • Middlemarch   by George Eliot
  • The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto


  1. Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, Robert A. Caro. Author of the LBJ biographies, Caro describes his research and writing process—a fascinating read, including his research on his Robert Moses bio and page-turning stories about the Johnson research.
  2. The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish. We read it in book group. Interwoven story of two remarkable women: 1600’s Jewish scribe and 2000’s scholar. Riveting.
  3. Warlight, Michael Ondaatje. We read it in book group—Post WW II England, two children abandoned to the care of two “criminal” types. Parents’ life a mystery.
  4. Ducks Newburyport, Lucy Ellman. Two narratives. The dominant one (most of the 988 pages), a one sentence stream of consciousness commentary on American life. A housewife who watches classic movies on TV while making pies.
  5. Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour, Lynne Olson. Brilliant and fascinating.  Should be required reading for all Americans.
  6. The Library Book, Susan Orlean. Exquisite writing. Devastating fire of the Los Angeles Public Library, the volunteer force to save books, possible arsonist, and history of this amazing building.
  7. Bridge of Clay, Markus Zusak. (Author of The Book Thief.) A Murderer, a Mule, a Boy and his four brothers. Four pets named from the Iliad. Love, family, tragedy, redemption.  Hilarious, sad and heart-warming.
  8. Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison. Rich with myth from African-American culture. Musically poetic language, ghosts, and a dead man’s bones kept in a living room. (Have read it multiple times. Fabulous.)
  9. Exiles in the Garden, Ward Just (recently died). DC in the ‘60s—politics, Vietnam and E. European exiles. Thought-filled novel—integrity, identity, how one lives one’s life, reverie. Engaging writer/narrative. (Sad he’s gone.)
  10. Conan Doyle for the Defense: A Sensational Murder, the Quest for Justice and the World’s Greatest Detective Writer, Margalit Fox. Fascinating. True crimes CD solved. Victorian England: science, mores, anti-semitism.

November 20, 2019 “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: We tried something new – some gave a few descriptor words for their book – bolded at the end of each.)

Pam – Ducks Newburyport, by Lucy Ellman, 4.85. I finished and really liked this book (see October share).  I think it could have been edited down a bit, but thought Ellman’s narration creatively captured the anonymous housewife’s stream of consciousness, free association of words, and probably the way some? many? most of us? typically jump from thought to thought.  Ellman captures the texture and torn fabric of our country today in endless tidbits of news facts, as well as family life. It’s quite funny at times. I liked the double narratives—the housewife/mom and the cougar mom.  At times, the cougar’s view point reminded me of Huck and Jim’s observations of “civilized” America as they rafted down the Mississippi.  Mind –  housewife –  cougar – very funny

Sonya – Miss Friman’s War, 5.0:  Instead of a book, I am reviewing a Swedish TV series about a woman in Sweden around 1900 to 1910 who fought for women’s rights, unions, prostitutes, and more. There are 4 seasons with 3 episodes each (1 hour each).  Both Dave and I love this series. It has suspense, drama, romance, and more – some of the scenes could have been somewhat treacly but because the actors are so very good, the scenes were just darned sweet.  We highly recommend it.  Romantic, tense, history, Swedish

Sonya – Gentleman Jack, 5.0:  And since I already went off track about a tv series, I will also recommend another series we watched. This one is BBC about a woman in England in 1850s or so who was a landowner and lesbian.  Very well done – also highly recommended by both Dave and me.

Marla – Gentleman Captain by J. D. Davies:  It is historical nautical fiction taking place in 1662 – Cromwell is dead, Charles II is wet – sends young captain to Scotland to investigate possible treason.  Sea adventure, political intrigue – good fun read with history thrown in.

Tom – In Hoffa’s Shadow by – 4.25:  Drawn in partly because of the cover – his favorite cover of the year.  See his review in his newsletter about this crazy great story.   

Billie – The Overstory by Richard Powers – 4.0:  She read two-thirds of it and doesn’t plan to finish it.  Won’t say more until we have our discussion in January.

Marybeth – Becoming by Michelle Obama, 4.0:  Like her even better after reading it.  She grew up in a modest family, big family values, Jesse Jackson’s daughter was a friend.  She really enjoyed the story but because it was ghost-written, she gave it a 4.0.

Dave – Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon 5.0:  It is a really really good book -it sat on the shelf for some years before reading it – overview of biochem and plants – he really knows how to write – a bit of 19th century moralism –  wonderfully illustrated

Mimi – A Country Road, A Tree by Joe Baker – 4.5: A fictionalized account of Samuel Beckett’s work in France during the resistance – became involved in the resistance – very well done, SPARE.

Mimi – The Gifted School by Holsinger, 4.0:  Fiction – suburban families competing to get their kids into a gifted school.

Mimi – The Dutch House by Patchett, 4.25:  Classic Ann Patchett

Mimi – Olive, Again by Strout, 4.5: If you liked Olive Kitteridge, you’ll like this.

Paul – Leila by Prayaag Akbar- 4.0: A dystopian novel set in India – centers around caste system – everyone should stay with their own caste – what drives it is a disrupted family – the mother spends the whole novel trying to find her daughter – reason for writing it was searching for family.

Jon – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, 4.5: Usually skeptical of books which are bestsellers – nonetheless – thought it was fantastic – very well written – a good story – starts in 1969/70 – much of it is told in flashbacks from about 1960 – about a young woman who lived on her own from age 10 – about her life – a bit of a mystery but mostly about living in the swamp – Vivid, heartbreaking, gut-punch.

Ruth – Virgil Wander by Leif Enger, 4.0: Took him 10 years after writing his previous book. He is a gentle writer, quirky characters, plot is interesting.

Tim – The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer 4.5/5
While Europe was still groping its way through the dark ages, Timbuktu was a beacon of intellectual enlightenment, and probably the most bibliophilic city on earth. Scientists, engineers, poets and philosophers flocked there to exchange and debate ideas and commit these to paper in hundreds of thousands of manuscripts written in Arabic and various African languages. This book is about those manuscripts and the efforts made to preserve this knowledge even in the face of war and the threat they faces from radical Islam.

Tim – The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan 4/5:  This is the fourth in the wheel of time books by Robert Jordan. Enjoyable fantasy.

Tim – The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman 4.8/5:  The Book of Dust is a trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman, which expands Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The books further chronicle the adventures of Lyra Belacqua and her battle against the theocratic organisation known as the Magisterium, and shed more light on the mysterious substance called Dust. The first book tells how Lyra ends up at Jordan college. Great fast read.

Tim – Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy:  Tess of the d’Urbervilles is not a feel-good book, which sharply sets it apart from the other 19th century novels about young women. It’s sad and depressing. Poor Tess, prone to making choice that are invariably the worst for her, just cannot catch a break. Great read in spite of the ending.

Tim – A Great Recknowing by Louise Penny and Glass Houses by Louise Penny 4.5/5 for both:  Anything I would say would be a spoiler so all I can say is that these are the 12th and 13th books in the Insepector Gamache series all are very enjoyable and I look forward to number 14. They must be read in order.

October 16, 2019 “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: We tried something new – everyone gave a few descriptor words for their book – bolded at the end of each.)

Picks Night – Books for next 7 months

  • 11/20 – Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban – Marla
  • 1/15 – The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers – Paul
  • 2/19 – Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks – Tim
  • 3/18 – House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest by Craig Childs – Dave
  • 4/15 – Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates – Mimi
  • 5/20 – Blood Iron & Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World by Christian Wolmar – Marla
  • 6/17 – The Master: A Novel by Colm Toibin – Sonya

Pam – Ducks Newburyport by Lucy Ellman, Rating is ending, finishing the book (on p. 600):  This 988-page novel (1020 pages with glossary and appendix) is primarily a stream of conscious in the mind of a housewife who bakes pies to help supplement her family’s income.  She has four kids and a husband. This main narrative is a free association of random thoughts and words–without any periods. It includes riffs on everything about her domestic life, including pie making, movies (old black-and-white classics she watches as she bakes), books, authors, family and America—its historical barbarity, shootings and, yes, the current Trumpian twist, including regular jabs at him.  (She’s not a fan.)  Her thoughts and word associations can be quite funny. A short secondary narrative, featuring a female cougar, appears at times and is in standard narrative form with sentences and punctuation. Both heavily focus on motherhood and family.  Riffing, Stream of consciousness, American commentary.

  • Revised her review for Atwood’s new book, The Testaments, from a 5 to a 4.5 or 4.75.  Still thinks she is a good writer, but disappointed that she won the Booker.

Sonya – Advice for Future Corpses (and Those Who Love Them): A Practical Perspective on Death and Dying by Sallie Tisdale, 4.75:  I wish I would have had this book when my mother was dying, though it is a guarantee that I will have other opportunities to put her suggestions into practice.  The title of the book says it all.  Real, Compassionate

Tom – The Rider by Tim Krabbe, 4.5:  See his review in his #249 Newsletter.  Lean, propulsive.

Paul – Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, 4.8:  Where is humankind going? Why are we special?  We aren’t special. He lists the things people say about why humans are special, but he goes through very clear reasoning on why they are not true. Soul, creativity, speech, play, …  So what comes after us?  AI?  What can we do that AI can never do?  Nothing.  Incredibly persuasive and well written.

Marla – Out of the Dark by Patrick Modiano, 4.0:  It is about someone looking back at their own past.  Likes his writing – it is reflective but hard to describe. Fun to read.  Ephemeral, back and forth in time.

Mimi:  She Said by Cantor Twohey, 5.0: Two reports from the NYT writing about Weinstein though it is really a primer on how to be a good journalist.  Intelligence, resourcefulness, double and triple-check everything.  They focus on Weinstein’s enablers. Would highly recommend it.  Intelligent trenchant ethical

Dave:  Extinct Humans by Tattersol and Schwartz, 5.0:  Very well written – provides a chronology from beginning to now – exquisite pics of skulls – full page full color – chapter by chapter from 6 mil years ago to now.  Talks about when humans became bipedal (physically modern) and when they became behaviorally modern. Love it because it is so organized – wonderful text – exciting book.  Exquisite pictures,  text to match

Tim: The Plateau  by Maggie Paxson, 4.0:     During World War II, French
villagers offered safe harbor to countless strangers – mostly children – as
they fled for their lives. The same place offers refuge to migrants today. The
Author, Anthropologist Maggie Paxson asks Why?  And what are the traits that
make a group choose selflessness?  Sad, uplifting

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan  4/5 This is the third in the wheel of
time books by Robert Jordan.  Enjoyable fantasy.

Beloved  by Toni Morrison     5/5 It is the mid-1800s and as slavery looks
to be coming to an end, a mother is haunted by the violent trauma it wrought
on her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Told with heart-stopping
clarity, melding horror and beauty, Beloved is Toni Morrison’s enduring

The Mill on the Floss  by George Eliot    The Mill on the Floss is a novel
by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). It is considered George Eliot’s most
autobiographical novel; it is also one of her most powerful and moving.
Brought up at Dorlcote Mill, Maggie Tulliver worships her brother Tom and is
desperate to win the approval of her parents, but her passionate, wayward
nature and her fierce intelligence bring her into constant conflict with her
family.   Warning it is very sad.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny  4.5/5  Anything I would say would
be a spoiler so all I can say is that this is the eleventh  book in the
Insepector Gamache series all are very enjoyable and I look forward to number
12.  They must be read in order.

September 18, 2019 – “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 of the evening:  Warlight by Michael Ondatje, lead by Pam.

Mimi – Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates, 4.75:  By a scholar who taught Shakespeare to prisoners. Very taken with the book.

Jon – Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil by Peter Maass, 4.0: Nonfiction – 2009 or 2010 – searing journalism, good job of reporting – reporting on the topic for decades – interesting read.

Adam – Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson, 2.9:  Sci Fi book – one of the books in a series.  Need to read the whole series, to really get anything out of it.  Like the stories, but not the writing style – many philosophical meanderings.

Maria – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, 5.0:  Fantastic book – written by a teachers aide for autism (asperger). A neighbor’s dog is killed – really gets into the life of someone with autism and seems to get it. Favorite book of all time!

Susanna – A Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russel, 4.0:  moves to Denmark – niche book which is fun – research is excellent.

Janice – Roseanna: A Martin Beck Police Mystery (1) by Maj Sjowall, 4.0:  A detective series set in Scandinavia – written in 1963, one of the possible picks for Seattle Times online book club in September.

Pam – The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, 5.0:  Just picked it up and it took her right into the book – amazing writing skill – knows how to end each section so that you are hanging – really a good book – 3 female narrators – 1 outside of Gilead and 2 inside Gilead.

Marla – Green Hill by Dorothy Whipple, 4.0:  Family saga – written in 1934 – really enjoyed it, and the more she read, the more she enjoyed it.

Paul – Bringing up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckman, 4.5:  – An American journalist raising children in France.  In many ways, an illuminating book.  Americans do not come out well in this telling.  Children in France are people.  A hopeful book.  There seems to be a way of raising children that is good for both the kids and the parents.

Maribeth – A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the Amerian Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell, 5.0:   – WW2 nonfiction – American woman who was turned down by the CIA – went to France, she took the nascent french resistance and built it up.  Her difficulties, and how the Brits took her on.  Read in 2 sittings – couldn’t put it down.

Kris – Last Boat Out of Shanghai by Helen Zia, 5.0:  Nonfiction – tells the story 4 people who fled Shanghai when the communists took over in 1947 – the author is the child of one of the 4 people.  Very compelling read about what these people went through.  Well researched, written, and compelling.

Tom – Deep River  by Karl Marlantes, 4.75: Author is in his 70s.  His second novel is set near Astoria among Finnish immigrants around 1880.  See Tom’s review in his newsletter on July 29, 2019.

Dave – Tribute to Freud by Hilda Doolittle, 2.0:  She is a poet from the first part of the 20th century – contemporary of Freud and Ezra Pound, Americans see Freud as stiff and formal, HD became a friend of Freud while she was a patient, didn’t read it thoroughly.

Sonya – Come On Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All by Christina Thompson, 4.25:  After reading her latest book, Sea People, I also read her previous book.  It is about the colonization of New Zealand – she tells it interspersed with her story about her marriage to a Maori.

Kathryn – On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How it Drives America Insane by Emily Guendelsberger, 5.0:  She is a journalist who went to work in an Amazon call center and McDonalds.

Tim – laid up with a bad knee had time to read many books!

The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell 5/5:  This novel is an authentic and moving historical portrait of the lives of the men and women of the early 20th century labor movement, and of a turbulent, violent political landscape that feels startlingly relevant to today.

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan 4/5:  This is the second in the wheel of time books by Robert Jordan.  Enjoyable fantasy.

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman     5 /5:  In this second instalment in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, we join Lyra as her terrifying journey continues.  On this perilous journey from world to world, Lyra and Will uncover a deadly secret: an object of extraordinary and devastating power and with every step, they move closer to an even greater threat – and the shattering truth of their own destiny.

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman     5/5:  In this the final instalment of His Dark Materials trilogy, Pullman has Will and Lyra involved in a war between The two great powers of the many worlds.  Together they are on their way to battle, an inevitable journey that will even take them to the world of the dead.  Having finished the trilogy I can not wait for the new BBC HBO series.  Also need to read Philip Pullman’s latest trilogy The Book of DUST.

Adam Bede by George Eliot:  The story’s plot follows four characters’ rural lives in the fictional community of Hayslope—a rural, pastoral and close-knit community in 1799. The novel revolves around a love triangle between Hetty Sorrel, Captain Arthur Donnithorne, Adam Bede, and Dinah Morris, a fervent, virtuous and beautiful Methodist lay preacher.

Silas Marner by George Eliot: George Eliot’s tale of a solitary miser gradually redeemed by the joy of fatherhood.  Great story and characters.

Middlemarch  by George Eliot:  Taking place in the years leading up to the First Reform Bill of 1832, Middlemarch explores nearly every subject of concern to modern life: art, religion, science, politics, self, society, human relationships.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny 5/5:  Anything I would say would be a spoiler so all I can say is that this is the tenth  book in the Insepector Gamache series all are very enjoyable and I look forward to number 11.  They must be read in order.

A Column of Fire by Ken Follet     4/5:   In this book the year is 1558, and England is torn apart by religious conflict. Power shifts precariously between Catholics and Protestants; royalty and commoners clash, and this tests friendships, loyalty, and love.  Elizabeth sets up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions, and invasion plans. Over a turbulent half-century, the love between the main characters seems doomed as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. Elizabeth clings to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents.

August 21, 2019 – “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:  Discussed We are Family by Fabio Bartolome – discussion lead by Kris.

Dave – Cuentos, 5.0:  A collection of Indian – Latin American short stories. Jesus is the main character – there is also Death, Mother Mary, Devil, dogs, cats.   Not great literature, but gave him joy.

Billie – Retablos: Stories From a Life Lived Along the Border by Octavio Solis, 5.0:  Very touching, he was born in the States, but his family is from Mexico.  Small and large moments which take place on the US border – set in the present.

Paul – On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, 6.0!:  The author he is Vietnamese, came over as a child, is a poet, and it shows in his writing.  One of the most lyrical books he has read in a long time.  It is about his relationship with his mother an relationship with truth. Plot didn’t matter that much – the writing was so good.

Kris – I Will Have Vengeance:  The Winter of Commissario Ricciardi by Maurizio de Giovanni, 4.5:   The first of a series of mysteries featuring Commissario Ricciardi; set in 1930’s Naples.  Ricciardi is a sad and serious character.  He sees (or imagines) the last moments of someone who dies, and uses what he “sees” in solving murders. I look forward to reading the next in the series.  Published by Europa Editions.

Marla – The Street of the Fishing Cat by Yolan Foldes, 3.5:  One of the books from her bookshelf – been meaning to read it for some time. The winner of the all nations prize competition in 1935.  It is about exiles – post WW1 –  from all different countries – Hungarian family, Russian count, Italian, communist, socialist, – they form an alternative  family – a bit klunky translation.

Pam – Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, 5.0:  My favorite of Toni Morrison’s books, rich with myth, the music of her poetic language and the magic of the characters’ names—“Milkman” Dead, Pilate, First Corinthians, Guitar.  The book moves over 30-plus years of Milkman’s life as he moves from his culturally and spiritually empty life in the black community of a city in the North to the rural Virginia South, where he reconnects to his family’s almost mythic past, a story kept alive in a children’s song.  As John Leonard stated in The New York Times (9/6/77):  “It builds, out of history and language and myth, to music.”

Mimi – Judas by Astrid Holleeder, 4.0:   One of the sons was a complete socio path who became a big crime figure in Amsterdam, everyone was terribly afraid of him and catered to him, the sister risked her life by wearing a wire.  The writing wasn’t great, but the story was interesting.

Jon – Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris, 3.5:  He writes essays, he is entertaining to read and even more interesting to listen to.

Sonya – The Pickwick Papers by Dickens, read by David Timson:  I have never read this Dickens book before, and I loved listening to it.  I highly recommend the reader – he transported me back in time to the 1800s.  Several wealthy gentleman takes trips around the countryside – somewhat reminded me of the Drones Club in Bertie & Jeeves by Wodehouse. It is about their adventures, misadventures, and anecdotes collected from the locals.  Some of the anecdotes are quite serious but in general, a very lighthearted book.

July 17 2019 – “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:  Discussed “Tyrant” by Stephen Greenblat – discussion lead by Tim.  Tyrant Explored Through Film, Presented by Curiosity Stream –  http://stephengreenblatt.com/news/tyrant-explored-through-film

Dave – Good Omens by Gaiman & Pratchett:  Just started listening to it.

Mimi – City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, 3.0:  Mildly diverting, quick read

Jon – My Losing Season by Pat Conroy, 4.0:   A memoir which covers many aspects of his life – his senior college year, basketball, the father (who is even worse in real life than in the Great Santini).  He writes very well, held his attention, and it helps if you know basketball.

Marla – The New York Detective by William Marshall, 3.5:  It doesn’t fill any book bingo square and she doesn’t care! It was fun but not fabulous.

Kris – A Voyage Long and Strange: On the Trail of Vikings, Conquistadors, Lost Colonists and Other Adventurers in Early America by Tony Horwitz, 5.0:  This is a combination of travel writing and history that is both entertaining and edifying.  Really.  Horwitz, who died in May 2019, was a historian by education.  He visited Plymouth Rock, and in addition to being underwhelmed, he realized how little he knew about the first Europeans in North America. He set about to learn about the various groups of Europeans who visited America (named after a scoundrel) before the landing at Plymouth Rock. He starts with the Vikings and ends with the British in Jamestown, before he revisits Plymouth. He writes about the various explorations; his conversations with contemporary residents of the region; and his own foibles (like wearing a heavy suit of armor to be a conquistador re-enactor in Florida.)

Maribeth – Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles Shields, 5.0: She was in Alabama while reading it.  A biography of Harper Lee – the relationship between her and Truman Capote – grew up next to each other – both misfits who formed an incredible bond. She cowrote a book with him, and he didn’t even mention her. Painted a very good picture of how she created Mockingbird – rewrote, rewrote and rewrote.

Sonya – Circle of Ceridwen, Book 1 by Octavia Randolph, 3.5:  I hadn’t quite finished listening to the book in July, and then I gave it a 4.0 at least. It is a good story, and pretty well researched, but for a book that is set in the 9th century England, I thought she gave them too much of a modern twist – didn’t seem quite realistic enough. Ever since Kristin Lavransdatter, I have been searching for another good book – Longships was pretty good, but still haven’t found anything as good yet.

Tim – Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox 4.5/5 for each:  Holmes’s creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, was to put himself in the same position as his celebrated detective in the real world, harrying the police, examining data and giving a specialist’s opinion to correct what he saw as travesties of justice. The true story about the Murder case and its aftermath are very well presented by this author.

Celtic Empire by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler 3.5/5:  The murders of a team of United Nations scientists in El Salvador. . . A deadly collision in the waterways off the city of Detroit. . . An attack by tomb raiders on an archaeological site along the banks of the Nile. . . Is there a link between these violent events? The answer may lie in the tale of an Egyptian princess forced to flee the armies of her father three thousand years ago. This is an enjoyable quick read but not a great mystery,

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman 4.5 /5:  The book takes place on a world that is part of a multiverse. In The Golden Compass (first book in a trilogy) story takes place in a world with some similarities to our own; dress-style resembles that of the UK's Victorian era, and technology has not evolved to include automobiles or fixed-wing aircraft, while zeppelins feature as a notable mode of transport. The Magisterium is trying to control knowledge of something called “Dust” which is somehow connected to the animal daemons that partner with humans and exist only until death takes the human. A much better story than the film version. I look forward to reading the next in the series; The Subtle Knife.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 3.7/5:  The Eye of the World is a fantasy novel by American writer Robert Jordan, the first book of The Wheel of Time series. A long book which is similar to other Lord of the Rings type fantasy works.

The Magic Engineer and Natural Ordermage byL.E. Modesitt, Jr 4/5:  These 2 books are part of the Saga of Recluse series. Very enjoyable and hard to put down. All take place in an alternative universe where magic is real and of two kinds Order magic and Chaos magic.

June 19, 2019 – “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:  Discussed “The Immortalists” by Chloe Benjamin – discussion lead by Mimi.

Mimi – Women Talking by Miriam Toews, 5.0:   Based on a real life event – a group of Mennonite women who were attacked and spent time figuring out how to deal with the men when they were going to be let out of jail.

Sonya – The Mortdecai Trilogy by Kyril Bonfiglioli, 4.25:  Picked up the book at a B&B in St. Louis.  Blurb on the front cover by Stephen Fry  – “You couldn’t snuggle under the duvet with anything more disreputable and delightful.” And a quote from another reviewer – “It’s great if you enjoy a storyteller who’s witty, erudite, urbane, amoral and who makes fun of everything including his own experience of torture.”  I learned words I had never heard of, and there were many very funny scenes, but it was much too dark for my taste – lots of skimming.

Jennifer – The Red Umbrella by Cristina Gonzalez, 4.5:  In 1961, a family in Cuba in the upper middle class  sent their 14 year old girl and 7 year old boy to Florida – 14,000 were sent out of Cuba via this program – end up in Nebraska – a gentle book, they muddled through – parents eventually made it.

MJ – Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide by Tony Horwitz, 5.0:   Follows Frederick Olmstead who traveled through the South as an undercover correspondent for the NYT in the 1850s.  Horwitz writes about experiences from two different points of view – started in 2014, and ends at 2016 – great sense of humor, participatory journalism, connects with locals, goes to the bars, mule rides, relates to the country when Olmstead was traveling.

Dave – The Norah Notebooks, Book 1 – The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills and Katie Kath, 5.0:  He found it in a Little Library – it goes well on the book shelf with his EO Wilson book about ants.  It describes so well how 4th graders work.

Mary Beth – Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves by Frans de Waal, 5.0: Primate researcher who writes about animals and their feelings, science has talked around animals and their feelings for a long time, not just monkeys, but rats, dogs – came away with the concrete realization that power, sex, social norms, are part of animal lives as well as human lives.

Kathryn – Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company which Addicted America  by Beth Macy, 5.0: By a journalist based in Virginia – amazingly reported and researched – all about the heroin epidemic in Virginia – traces the path of many addicts – doctors, students, law enforcement, mothers.

Billie – Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl, 4.0:  About the demise of Gourmet magazine.  Very interesting.

Paul – Blankets:  A Graphic Novel by Craig Thompson, 5.0:  A coming of age story, wonderfully written.  It doesn’t tell you how you should feel about the various experiences – very straight forward and describes his experience, not judgmental or preachy  – very funny

Marla – The Czar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, 5.0:  A series of connected stories in Russia and Chechnya

Tim – A Bend in the Stars by Rachel Baranbaum, 4.5:  This  is a novel that is at once a love story and also a heart-pounding journey across WWI-era Russia. It is about an ambitious young doctor and her scientist brother in a race against Einstein to solve one of the greatest mysteries of the universe.

Bury Your Dead and A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny – both a 4.5:  These are the 6th and 7th books in the Inspectort Gamache series.  All are very enjoyable and looking forward to the next one.

Arms-Commander; Cyador’s Heirs; The Towers of Sunset; The White Order and the Colors of Chaos by LE Modesitt, Jr, 4.0:  These 5 books are part of the Saga of Recluse series. Very enjoyable and hard to put down. All take place in a alternative universe where magic is real and of two kinds – Order magic and Chaos magic.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – read previously and just listened to it again as an audio book in preparation for a STARZ series that will be broadcast starting on June 30th.

Pam – Working: Researching, Interviewing and Writing, by Robert A. Caro, 5.0:  I read Working earlier this spring and couldn’t put it down.  It’s Caro’s memoir about writing his biographies of two men of brutal power: Robert Moses, the “master builder” of mid-2oth century New York City, and LBJ, focusing on the first four of the LBJ books, with some discussion of the fifth, now in process. Fascinating book about Caro’s research process and why it takes so long to write his books.  Compelling writing style.

Malia – Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, 4.5:   About a young girl in a dysfunctional family who leave her to live by herself in the marshes.  She doesn’t know how to read, befriends someone who does, learns about the marshes.  It is a love story, a mystery.