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.


May 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 “The Essex Serpent” by Sarah Perry – discussion lead by Kris.

Marla – The Agitator by Peter Duffy, 4.0:   Written by the father of a friend of hers, in 1935 he was part of a group of communist union sailors – he cut down the nazi flag and threw it into the river.

Pam – Greek to Me, by Mary Norris – 4.8:  The Comma Queen, Mary Norris, returns with her love affair with all things Greek.  Much about the Greek language and alphabet, and how they helped form English; mythology, Greek tragedy, The Iliad and The Odyssey and her many solo travels to the magical islands. Stories about embarrassing moments of accenting the wrong part of a Greek word and maneuvering Greek men.  She’s a hilarious and lively raconteur who’s a delight to read.

The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, Michiko Kakutani, 5.0:  A must-read in these times. “How did truth become an endangered species in contemporary America? This decline began long ago.….Kakutani takes a penetrating look at the cultural forces that contributed to this gathering storm.  In social media and literature, television, academia, and political campaigns, Kakutani identifies the trends.” She cites the “great critics of authoritarianism,” including Orwell and Hannah Arendt. Her sections on Lenin and Hitler, in particular, are bone-chillingly relevant today.  (Quoted text above is from the front bookflap.) Kakutani is a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic and former chief book critic for The New York Times.

Tim – Alice Payne Arrives by Kate Heartfield, 3.0:  When the news get really bad – read fantasy and mysteries. Time travel, not a great book but better than the news.

Jon – The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov, 3.0:  The title of the book comes from a quote in a play by Schiller: “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”  Very character driven but to the extent there is a plot it is about a scientist discovering parallel universes – communication between universes – how universe can affect other universes.

Mary Jane – Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gotley, 4.8:  The author is a therapist, talks about the lives revealed, when she goes to her own therapist – so fascinating and very funny, great stories.

Mary Beth – Victoria the Queen by Julia Baird, 3.75:   She read it because of the PBS series – the book is fascinating, very well written, but so long that it did flag a bit.  Learned how powerful Prince Albert was.  He had the power of a king which Victoria ceded to him.  She let him rule a large percentage of the time and after his death, took up with a Scottish guy. The personalities part was great.

Billie – Cherokee America by Margaret Verble, 4.0: An epic novel that follows a web of complex family alliances and culture clashes in the Cherokee Nation during the aftermath of the Civil War, and the woman at its center.  The matriarch, Check, is mixed race – but follows the Cherokee traditions as best she can in an increasingly white society that encroaches on their home.

Sonya – A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction by Terry Pratchett, 4.5:  Many musings by the author. As always, I find him very wise to the ways of humans. Also quite interesting that he considers, The Nation, his very best book which I liked, but not my favorite.

Dave – Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett, 5.0:  Another disc world book by Terry – about vampires.

Mimi:  Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Keefe, 5.0:  The troubles in Belfast in the 70s – she is a mother of 10 kids. Depressed and a chain smoker – she is taken away and killed because she cradled a British soldier’s head as he was dying. There is much violence – an incredible book about how people who get so swept up in a cause that they forget others are human.

Paul – The Wall by John Lanchester, 2.5:  There was nothing subtle – there is a wall and on the other side of the wall are “the others”. It’s a saving grace is that none of the main characters are heroic – ended up being plot driven – ended “so-what”.

Kris – The Library Book by Susan Orleans, 5.0:  Non-fiction about the LA central library in 1986 when a devastating fire destroyed much of the structure and collection.  It didn’t receive much press because it happened the same day Chernobyl blew.  Wonderful job of tying together or using this one event to explore all of the events whether tangential or not.  Kris even recognized a character in the book – “General Hershey Bar – dressed in khaki.”

March & April “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!”

April 17 2019 Book Discussion:  Discussed “The Age of the Vikings” by Anders Winroth – discussion lead by Marla.  It was great to have several newcomers who know quite a bit about the Viking culture.  Much discussion and most people liked the book though some of us found it a bit dry, but agreed it was well researched and had many interesting ideas.

Note:  Even if you haven’t read the book completely or at all, you are more than welcome to come.  When I haven’t read the book (yes, it has been known to happen), it is always fascinating to hear what others have to say about the book, and I have always come away with a new appreciation for the book.

March 20 “Read & Tell”

Here is the list of books people talked about for the March meeting. I was not here and forgot to post the list.

MaryBeth – The Town House by Norah Lofts   4.5
Billie – Being John Lennon by Ray Connolly 4.25
Mimi – The Library by Susan Orlean   5
Marla – Anil’s Ghost  by Micheal Ondaatje  5
Kris – My Life in Middlemarch  Rebecca Mead  4.7
Jon – Half A Yellow Sun Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 4.5
Paul – Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski 5
April 17 “Read & Tell”
Marla – Joe Hill by Wallace Stegner, 4.0:  It is a novelized biography of the Wobbly labor movement.
Mimi – Save me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl, 4.0:  She is a food writer and a very good writer. She wrote about her time as an editor at Gourmet – it was a fun read – nice and relaxing.
Sonya – Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller, 4.25:  It is a combination of steampunk, sci-fi and magical realism.  About a society of philosophers – mostly women who can command magic and use it to fight wars – set in the wild west.  Very fun to read.

Dave – Lavoisier in the Year One: The Birth of a New Science in an Age of Revolution by Madison Smartt Bell, 5.0:  The burning of Notre Dame inspired him to reread this book. His influence on science was that he changed it from a qualitative to quantitative discipline. He was beheaded during the French Revolution.

Paul – If We Can Keep It by Michael Tomasky, 4.75:  There are good reasons why the U.S.  struggles so much.  One reason is the electoral college.  Another is that there used to be overlaps on parties, but now there is none.  And he offers some interesting ideas on what we might do to fix things.

Barry – War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell, Vol 11, 2.0:  Starts with Alfred the Great.  The rest of the series is pretty good – almost feels like the author was just trying to squeeze in another book.

Adam – The Scandinavians by Judith Jesch, 4.0:  Rather like a text book, very detailed, about rural economies in the Viking age, forestry, agriculture, the things they ate.  Likes it but definitely not as entertaining as The Vikings.

Jennifer – The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, 4.5: Novel set in Darfur of a 12 year old in a refugee camp.  Written with a spirit of hope – children could take it at different levels.  The girl wants to learn to read and write – she gets the last pencil.

Jon:  Besides the discussion book, he has been reading the handbook for Little League Baseball.  Rather surprising how many arcane rules there are.  Very dry, but useful – 3.5

MJ – The Believers by Rebecca Makkai, 3.75:  Shortlisted for the Pulitzer – set during the 80s at the beginning of the AIDS crisis – takes you through the dark days of the crisis – follows some young men and their families – took awhile to get into it – the last 3rd was very enjoyable. It reminded her of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara which she truly loved.

Tim – The Island at the Center of the World by Russel Shorto, 4.5:  The story of Dutch Manhattan and the forgotten colony that shaped America.  This is a history based on 12000 pages of centuries-old corresespondence, court cases, legal contracts and reports from a forgotten society.  Russell Shorto has made use of this material to construct a sweeping narrative of Manhattan’s founding that gives a startling, fresh perspective on how America began.

Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny, 4.0:  Finished the first four books in the series.  All are very enjoyable and I look forward to the next one.

Fall of Angels and The Chaos Balance by L.E. Modesitt, Jr, 4.0:  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.

Pam – Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak, 4.5: His first novel since The Book Thief, Bridge of Clay took Markus Zusak 13 years to write. The novel opens with five brothers ages 19 to 12, living in an Australian suburb – alone and in constant turmoil, with five unruly pets, including a mule named Achilles, who dominates the kitchen. The burden of the family’s sorrow lies on the second-to-youngest brother, Clay, who is also the source of its rebuilding. The book is written with lyrical beauty and understatement and is both poignantly sad and hilarious. The US publisher categorized it as Young Adult, but in other parts of the world, it was released for adult readers, which I would agree with. It’s along read and could have used some editing the back half o the book, but overall, I loved it.

February 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!”

Book Pick’s Night:  See list of selected books to the right side of this page.

Mimi – The Overstory by Richard Powers, 5+:  Astonishing!  Trees, people, trees and people, people and trees.

Kris – Middlemarch by George Eliot:  Requires a commitment but it is worth it.

Dave – The Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, 4.0:   The father was so annoying that either there will have to be character development in the next two books of the trilogy or they will have to kill him.  Found many similarities with our experiences in India.

Sonya – Virgil Wander by Leif Enger, 4.5:  Very much enjoyed this book.  If you enjoy reading books about small towns, the various characters, and human nature, then you might like it also.  I found that I thought of Richard Russos novels, but perhaps nicer.

Billie – On the Move by Oliver Sacks, 4.0:  Enjoyed reading about his life.

Tom – Lost Children Archive by Valeria Ruselli, 4.5 to 5: She is Mexican American novelist, really good so far – haven’t quite finished.  Super readable.

Marla – A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton, 4.5:  She is going through her bookshelves, finding the groups of authors and reading the remaining unread book.  After an accident on their farm where friend’s child dies, Alice the school nurse is accused of sexual abuse – about the destruction of family.

Pam – The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, 4.5: Once again, Barker writes of war.  This time, it’s the Trojan War, as seen through the eyes of Briseis, a queen of a kingdom near Troy, taken captive by Achilles and now his slave/concubine.  She’s a keen observer of the Greek’s war camp as the battle continues: the men, their battles for ego, honor and revenge and, particularly, of the conditions and struggles of the women in that culture, their silence, subservience, endurance and bonds.  Vividly written.

Books nominated but not chosen for next 7 months: 

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani – Mimi

Love at Goon Park by Deborah Blum – Dave

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick – Billie

Landmarks by Robert McFarlane – Sonya

The Three-body Problem by Cixin Liu – Sonya

War and Turpentine by Stephen Hertmans – Marla

The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth – Pam


January 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!”

February 20:  Book Pick’s night.  Check the notes under About to learn how we select our books for the next 6 months.

January’s Book Discussion:  Code Girls by Liza Mundy and discussion lead by Pam.  As always, a good discussion was had by all – all agreed that it was a great subject which we liked learning about.  Some felt that the book was too cursory – didn’t get enough into the stories, whereas others felt it was good as it was – more of a journalistic approach. A good point was made that having all of these women’s’ names listed in this book is a good memorial – otherwise, we would never have known about them.

Dave – The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum, 5.0:  A good writer.  It is the best book he has read all year.  It is the history of forensic toxology during the Tamany era. Short nice concise chapters.

Tim – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, 4.5:  This book is a beautiful, pastoral fairy tale set in a fantasy version of medieval Russia. The author weaves a compelling tale with slow, gradulal development. Like all the best fairy tales, the author draws on the setting – a village in the northern woods of Russia – to create an atmosphere that promises magic and suggests many horrors. This is book one of three and the third was just published in January 2019.

The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected by Marcelo Gleiser, 4.0:  I loved Gleiser’s humble approach and thorough reasoning. As a credentialed physicist, Gleiser can speak with authority on science and he views the world as a place full of wonder and beauty. He has had a passion for science and fishing since he was a boy growing up on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. In this book he combines both.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, 4.5: This unforgettable novel about three lives entangled during WWII is filled with wit and compassion. It is a powerful portrait of war’s effects on those who fight and those left behind.

Pam – Transcription by Kate Atkinson, 4.75:  Focused around the time of World War II London, the story flips between 1940 and 1950, with a dab of 1981, in the world of M.I.5.  A young woman, Juliet, is hired by the agency to transcribe recordings of German sympathizers, then is upgraded to more interesting work.  Like the code girls of that time, she works in a world of men with its sexist perceptions of women’s work. Her wit, spunk and ongoing internal commentary about those around her keeps the story light and amusing, but there are also darker moments and interesting twists.  Fun read!

Asymmetry, by Lisa Halliday, Rating: 4.5:  Two separate stories run in this novel. The first (“Folly”) is a coming-of-age romance between a young woman in her 20s and a prolific writer in his later years, whom some suggest is modeled on Philip Roth. The second (“Madness”) is about an Iraqi-American PhD economist, detained at Heathrow Airport, traveling to rescue his brother. The seemingly disparate stories are actually related via omissions and inferences, breaking away from the conventions of realist fiction. It’s a fascinating book, with a coda at the end with clues to the connections between the two stories, each of which also hold clues for the reader to piece together. When I finished, I was so intrigued that I wanted to reread the book to find the puzzle pieces that link them all.

Marla – Women Talking by Miriam Toews, 4.0:  Not her favorite but Miriam is very good at being subtle. She is a Mennonite. This book is based on an event in a Mennonite community in Brazil – women would wake up sore, bruised and raped. She tells the story in an indirect way.  Really loves her books.

Kris – 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die, by James Mulisch, 5.0:  This is a book to read at.  There are short articles about each book, followed by summary information about the book and author, e,.g,. other books the author wrote and other books of a similar ilk that he thinks you would enjoy.  And there are pictures!  There are also other articles and lists, such as other books about books. A short version of the list of 1000 books is at https://www.1000bookstoread.com.  But you should get the whole book.

Tom – Lake City by Thomas Kohnstamm, 4.0:  The author grew up in Lake city…..  Check out Tom’s review in his newsletter.

Sonya – Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott, 4.5:  Essays – they are about getting older, how life is hard and beautiful at the same time. I like the way she is so very honest – she doesn’t hold back – when she says she is fine, she means “F—ed up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional.” 

Paul – An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything, Rauser and Schieber, 4.0:  a debate in which each author represents a view – Rauser is Christian and Schieber is an atheist. They do not talk past each other. The arguments were not one-sided, cogent arguments that made sense, and consistent in their own world-view.  It gave him groundwork in understanding. Some parts were a bit of a slog, but still worthwhile.

Michelle – Hatchett by Gary Paulsen, 5.0:  Her kids loved it.  It is about a 12 year old boy whose parents are divorcing.  He is on a bush plane to visit his dad in Canada and it crashes – very thoughtful and respectful of nature – he not only survives…..

Jon – Pops by Michael Chabon, 3.5:  A few essays he had written and then compiled – reflections on being a father – it was interesting – not profound – amusing and charming.

Evie – Becoming by Michelle Obama, 5.0:  Before reading it, didn’t know anything about her really – very well written – really focused on her parents – her parents was so deliberate in creating kids who could survive and prosper – difference between supporting and coddling. She talked about the things she made peace with and things she didn’t – and how she dealt with the father being absent from the family – not overtly political.

Mimi – Top 10 list of Books read in 2018:

  • Abrams, All the Pieces Matter: Inside Story of The Wire (NF) – if you’re a Wire fan, you can’t beat it.
  • Atkinson, Transcription (FIC) – I thought it wasn’t as stellar as some of her earlier novels, but it’s still pretty stellar
  • Lakewood, Priestdaddy (MEM) – one of the several excellent memoirs I read this year
  • Obama, Becoming (MEM) – not surprisingly it is well written and absorbing. I wish she wanted to run for president, but I don’t blame her for not wanting to.
  • Olson, Last Hope Island (NF) – excellent account of England during WWII
  • Tomalin, A Life of My Own (MEM) – one of the premier biographers in the English language takes on her own past
  • Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow (FIC) – a delightful novel
  • Westover, Educated (MEM) – amazing account of this young woman who somehow escaped her creepily religious family to become, you guessed it, educated
  • Woodward, Fear (NF) – aptly named, for obvious reasons
  • Wulf, Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World (NF) – you may remember reading this for the group: it was one of the most absorbing books I read this year

November 28, 2018 – “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!”

Sonya – Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, 5.0: A non-fiction book with all of the data behind why we sleep, and more importantly, why we should get 8 hours sleep.  I always knew that sleep was important, but this book laid it out in an understandable way on exactly why. It is hopefully changing the way I sleep!

Dave, The Good Soldier Svejk, Jaroslav Hasek, 3.75:  We saw this image everywhere while walking around Prague, including museums and restaurants.  He considers this the Czech Republic’s version of The Confederacy of Dunces.

Mimi, A Life of My Own: A Memoir by Claire Tomalin, 4.75: She is a British biographer and the biography she did of Samuel Pepys was absolutely brilliant.  She also did one of Austen.  This is her own memoir.

Kjerste, Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel Book 4) by Robert Galbraith, 4.5:  She can say no more than she did give it a 4.5 – nothing more without giving anything away.

Maribeth:  Nothing to recommend this month.

Catherine, Mrs.: Novel by Caitlin Macy, 4.0:   It is an entertaining book for vacation reading – wealthy people in Manhattan connected through a preschool.

  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, 5.0

Shealgh, Washington Black: A Novel by Esi Edugyan, 5.0:  This made the Giller short list and the Booker short list. The writing is beautiful, never really know where it is going, the story and adventure is fabulous. Do stay away from reviews which tell too much of the plot.

Paul, Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, 4.5: It is pretty much straight Lovecraft – good people, bad people and worse people – strange protagonist, written from an African American viewpoint.  If you like Lovecraft, you will like this book.

Kathleen, Of Love and War It’s What I do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War – both books are by Lynsey Addario, 4.5.  Both books specialize in the effects of love and war. She worked her way up to be one of the best known photojournalists of all time.  She is a photojournalist of war and effects of war, especially on women and children.  And how this life affects personal relationships. She was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and fired upon. The photos are devastating and beautiful.

Karen, River of Darkness by Buddy Levy, 5.0:  Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish Conquistador, along with his 3 brothers, conquered the Inca Empire. This is the true story of Gonzalo Pizarro and his expedition from Quito, Ecuador to search for El Dorado. It quickly disintegrated and his lieutenant, Orellana, went for help, but ended up traveling via the Amazon to the Atlantic, the first European to do so. The story is riveting – Gonzalo’s incompetence, his savagery towards the enslaved natives and Orellana’s discoveries of civilizations, some friendly, some hostile, along the Amazon.

Eric, Murder at the Lanterne Rouge (An Aimee Leduc Investigation Book 12) by Cara Black, 4.0: A series of books set in Paris in the 1990s. Protagonist is a young woman who is the private investigator and a computer expert – set in different neighborhoods of Paris, entertaining in the descriptions of the city.

Kris, A Chill in the Air: An Italian War Diary, 1939-1940 by Iris Origo, 4.9:  Origo is probably best known for War in Val d’Orcia about life in WWII on her family’s estate in Tuscany and all that this privileged family did for others at the risk of their own lives. A Chill in the Air is comprised of diary entries in the year or so leading up to Italy’s entry into WWII. There are events and descriptions (e.g. of Mussolini) that will remind you of our times. It is short, succinct, perceptive and well-written.

Pam, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, by Stephen Greenblatt, 5.0:  Greenblatt has provided a fascinating look into several of Shakespeare’s tyrants. He notes that in Shakespeare’s time it was dangerous to directly criticize the current ruler or state, so he did it at an “oblique angle” by creating in his plays tyrants from much earlier ages–Richard III, King Lear, MacBeth, Coriolanus and others. He explores the narcissism, misogyny, bullying, corruption and ambition that drove them and eventually brought them to their own destruction, and sometimes, the state’s as well. He also looks at the nobility and the common people who put the tyrants in power, or who supported them, and were also complicit in the erosion of the state. As did Shakespeare, Greenblatt uses the oblique angle in this interesting book, written for such times as these that we find ourselves in.

Tim, Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics, by Stephen Greenblatt, 5.0:  Fascinating read and outstanding.  World-renowned Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt explores the playwright’s insight into bad (and often mad) rulers. In exploring the psyche (and psychoses) of the likes of Richard III, Macbeth, Lear, Coriolanus, and the societies they rule over, Stephen Greenblatt illuminates the ways in which William Shakespeare delved into the lust for absolute power and the catastrophic consequences of its execution.

  • Foundation’s Fear by Gregory Benford 3/5
  • Foundation and Chaos by GregoryBear 3.8/5
  • Foundation’s Triumph by David Brin 4/5
    • The three books comprise the second foundation trilogy that is based on and a prelude to the first book of the original Foundation trilogy. The Authors have taken Asimov’s blending of his robot series and foundation series as a starting point. By and large I loved the original Foundation Trilogy and thought that the attempt to make one unifed series by Asimov was a mistake. The second trilogy is in my opinion convoluted and I started reading the first book in 1997 and finished it this year in order to get to the book by David Brin. I finished the last two books in under three weeks. They were better that the first but not great.
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker 5.0:  A 2018 novel that recounts the events of the Iliad, chiefly from the point of view of Briseis. Well written and a quick read.
  • A Tear at the Edge of Creation by Marcelo Gleiser 4.0:  Gleiser walks us through the basic and cutting-edge science that fueled his own transformation from a believer that under Nature’s apparent complexity there is a simpler underlying reality ( This Theory of Everything would unite the physical laws governing very large bodies (Einstein’s theory of relativity) and those governing tiny ones (quantum mechanics) into a single framework) into a doubter. This scientific quest led him to a new understanding of what it is to be human.

Marla, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, 5.0: About time travel.

Jon, The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco:  He is finishing it up from last month’s book club.

Billie, Natural Causes by Barbara Ehrenreich, 5.0: She writes about the unecessary testing and medical procedures, a lot of which is B.S., really well-written book. A life changing book.