Sunflowers: Thru Ellen’s Lens


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For lots of people, including our friend Robyn Garnett, a street photographer and mixed media artist, summer equals sunflowers. (For Ellen Miller, summer equals photography in a warm place.) Last week Robyn planned a trip for Ellen and their photography mentor, Bobby Ross, to see the now blooming sunflowers fields at Burnside Farms in Nokesville, Va. – 40 miles from DC.

Ellen and crew started early to avoid the heat and were delighted with what they found. In Ellen’s words, “There were seventy acres of two kinds of sunflowers, most of which were in bloom. Some of the fields swayed in the light breeze, presenting themselves as a wave of color and smiling ‘faces.’ In the early morning sun, everything glowed with color. As the sun moved across the sky, we could see the phototropic plants move with it, just in the few hours we were there.”

Ellen reports there’s about another week of sunflowers in peak bloom. If you are a ‘local’ MillersTime reader and want to check this out, tickets can be purchased via the farm’s website.

The wonderful photo above is Robyn’s capturing of Ellen at ‘work’ in her missed (second) career. Below are a few of the sunflowers Ellen saw through her lens. You can see more in her slide show.

To see Ellen’s slide show of 20 photos, use this link. (For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the the link to start the slide show.)

As always, see all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). They are much sharper, and the larger format presents them in much more detail than the ones above or if you only look at the opening page of the slide show.

The Pantanal?


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Another example of “who knew?”

The Pantanal is world’s largest fresh water wetland covering 68,000 – 81,000 square miles (take your pick) in south-central Brazil, northeast Paraguay, southeast Bolivia, and south of the Amazon. This tropical wetlands area contain a wide assortment of wildlife, including the endangered jaguar, the giant anteater, and the blue hyacinth macaw (all of which we saw). It is home to more than 600 species of birds, howler and capuchin monkeys, tapirs, capybaras (largest rodent in the world), anacondas, and caimans (alligators). It is also Brazil’s biggest source of beef with many thousands of acres of ranch land.

The National Geographic calls the Pantanal “Brazil’s best kept secret” for its biodiversity and highest concentration of wildlife on the continent. Only a very small portion of the region, 1.3%, is actually designated as a conservation area, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Ellen Miller, the photographer you know from other posts on this blog, claims she is not an animal photographer. Nevertheless, she signed us up for a Natural Habitat Adventure** trip to see and to photograph the jaguars.

In mid June we spent three days in Rio before joining eight others for a 10-day exploration of both the northern and southern regions of the Pantanal — everyone except me had impressive cameras and camera equipment. While our interest was largely the jaguars, many in the group were particularly interested and ‘focused’ on the birds. All of us were thrilled by what we saw, and Ellen may be reassessing whether or not she we will continue to claim she is not an animal photographer. (Those of you who have seen her Brown Bears of Katmai, Alaska may have already decided on how well she photographs animals.)

We rose most mornings around 5:30 AM. In the Northern Pantanal (Cuiaba area), we climbed into speed boats and set off to explore rivers and small streams in search of birds and animals. We returned for a late lunch (and naps!) and then left for another 3-4 hours of exploring in the afternoon, returning each evening after the sun set. In the Southern Pantanal (Campo Grande area), we did some easy walks early in the morning and then climbed into an open safari truck in the afternoon and evenings in search of more birds and animals. We saw more jaguars in the north, and only found the giant anteaters in the south. Fantastic looking birds were everywhere.

Below are 10 of Ellen’s photos from our exploration of the Pantanal, and if you want to see more, you can check out her 48 slides at the link under these ten photos.

**We’ve traveled with NatHab on three prior trips and join their expeditions to explore areas we cannot easily see by ourselves — the Monarch butterflies in Mexico, the stunning beauty of Greenland, and the majestic bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska.

To see Ellen’s slide show of 49 photos, use this link: Brazil: The Pantanal . We are indebted to and thank fellow traveler Ruth for helping us identify the birds you’ll see in these photos. (For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show.)

As always, see all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). They are much sharper, and the larger format presents them in much more detail than the ones above or if you only look at the opening page of the slide show.

The Lofoten Islands?


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We’re glad you asked.

Above the Arctic Circle, just off the coast of northern Norway, there is an archipelago of seven islands with narrow straits, numerous fjords, a few towns, and mostly small fishing villages. It is a place of blowing winds, a good deal of rain, and stark beauty. The entire scene is stunning and unique.

These are the Lofoten Islands.

In our recent two-week trip to Scandinavia (which also included a few days into Copenhagen, Bergen (Norway), and Stockholm, we spent five days exploring and photographing (maybe 1,000 photographs) these landscapes.

The harbors and inlets are filled with boats of varying sizes, and you both see and smell drying racks of fish (cod) everywhere. Mostly red and some white houses dot the landscapes throughout the 475 square miles. (Red paint is cheaper than any other color. Wealthier families paint their homes white.)

At this time of year, the sun sets at close to midnight each day and rises again at 2 AM. Thus, there was no ‘dark sky’ or Northern Lights’ photography opportunities while we were there. (So why did we take a tripod?) The surrounding mountains get snow in the winter and there was plenty of snow still in the mountains. At the lower elevations the temperature can apparently vary anywhere from 30 to 70 degrees throughout the year, though the temperatures hovered in the low 40’s when we were there. We recently learned the Lofoten Islands are in the 8th percentile out of 100 for pleasant weather. (A surprise to us!)

The fishing industry, and now tourism, account for most of the activity. The people we met were friendly, and we stayed in a lovely red cabin just on the edge of a fjord. Our days were spent wandering through the small towns and villages as well as driving (being driven) throughout the full length and breadth of the islands.

Photography was challenging, but that didn’t stop Ellen from capturing a sense of the place as you can see from the pictures below and in the linked slide show. Ellen decided to leave the raindrops that accumulated on her camera lens “to lend a little atmosphere to some of the photos.”

We will add photos from the other parts of our trip to the album below on Flickr in few weeks, but take a look at these 10 photos and the 32 slides she’s posted.

To see all 32 of Ellen’s photos go to: The Lofoten Islands: Thru Ellen’s Lens

As always, we recommend you view all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer). They are sharper and show more details than the ones above.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show.

Readers’ 2023 Mid-Year Favorite Books


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“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read” – A. Lincoln

In this mid-year post of approximately 80 books, equally split between Fiction (F) and Non-Fiction (NF), I’m sure you’ll find two or three you’ll add to your ‘to read’ list (and at least one could likely to be on your end of the year favorites).

As usual, the value in what is below comes from what the 38 contributors (evenly divided between female and male) have written about the favorites they’ve cited.

And as always, I’m deeply appreciative and thankful for the contributors who have taken the time to participate and send in their current favorite reads. These posts only work because various friends take the time to respond to my call for books most enjoyed by MillersTime readers.

Alphabetical by first name:

Barbara Friedman:

Three Ordinary Girls by Tim Brady (NF) recounts the harrowing works of three teenage girls in Nazi-occupied Netherlands. They sheltered Jews and political dissidents, sabotaged bridges and railroads, transported weapons – and this is only a bit of what they did in defiance of the occupation. This is a different look at WWII heroism and worth a read.

Nancy Pelosi by Molly Bal (NF) is a very readable and enjoyable biography of a formidable lady, elected to Congress when she was 47 after she had raised 5 children but never held any elected or government position. The book highlights her hard work to realize many, many legislative accomplishments (and they may not be over yet). I wish we had more like her in government today!

 In the Nation’s Service: The Life and Times of George P Shultz by Philip Taubman (NF) relates a remarkable life importantly covering four stints in government as head of major cabinets. You also learn early on that he has a tiger tattoo on his rear! Well worth a read.

Ben Senturia:

My wife and I have begun reading (historical) novels by Kate Quinn, a NYT best selling author. We have read Rose Code (NF) and The Alice Network (F), both of which are based on women from WW I and WW II. The Rose Code focuses on three British female code breakers at Bletchley Park during WW II who are struggling in their private lives while trying to maintain strict secrecy around their jobs. The Alice Network is centered on a real-life female French spy network. Quinn’s character development and plot both drew us in and captivated us. I’m looking forward to the next one. 

I continue to read read a variety of Harlan Coben mysteries including the Myron Bolitar (F) and the Mickey Bolitar (F) and numerous free standing books. Coben is a good writer with a wonderful story telling ability.

Bill Plitt:

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (F) upon the recommendation by a longtime friend who has known me very well for many years and thought I might resonate with this book of adventure. I did!

The story surrounds four characters: Odie, Albert, and Emmy who find themselves in a boarding school for Native American children, but includes Mose, who is mute and only speaks in sign language. The four of them flee the scene in an existential struggle to find freedom from their past through various trials brilliantly set by Kruegger. These moments are  accompanied by Odie’s playing of his harmonica along the river to their destination of St Louis in their bold escape from the boarding school and its past. 

The story reminds me of Huck Finn, but grabs me more deeply because I have found that this simple instrument has been a vehicle for expressing God’s presence at certain moments of my life, and also as a link with humanity surrounding me at that time.

But what really made the novel by Krueger most meaningful to me, was that “just by a chance”, I  had read Barbara Kingsolver’s latest book Demon Copperhead (F) previously. Her novel is about life for a young boy who struggles through his life of brokenness in the Appalachian world of SW Virginia, on a similar journey as Odie, but reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield.    Reading both by following the other is a dynamic experience worth three novels.

Brandt Tilis:

Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright (NF). An eye-opening book about cultural ideals and ways to identify where your workplace culture is and how to get it where you want it to be. The book puts organizations into five different buckets and has easy-to-understand but hard-to-accomplish methods to advance your organization into the coveted “Stage 5 Culture.” A useful book for leaders and people who want to lead.

Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin (F). A Sci-Fi book that has its roots in Cultural Revolution era China. I had a hard time starting it, but once I understood who the characters were, I was hooked.  The Sci-Fi part gets a little technical, but it’s a fun adventure to figure out what’s going on. It has some shades of the show Lost.

Empire of Pain by Patrick Raden Keefe (NF). The combination of the excellent writing and the story itself makes this book read like fiction (you’re hopefully reading this before my Elizabeth’s review of the same book where she almost assuredly said the same thing). This is a book about the opioid epidemic, and it made me take a hard look at a lot of things in today’s world: community, religion, corporate culture, justice, and who I choose to support. It left me feeling both empty and motivated.

Brian Steinbach:

Chronicles by Bob Dylan (NF). This came out in 2004, but I picked up a used copy. Rather than a complete memoir, it is more a series of ruminations on five parts of his life – perhaps most interesting is the first part, which covers the time before he had a recording contract, adventures in the early 60’s NYC folk scene.

The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson with Casey Sherman & Dave Wedges (NF). Somewhat of a miss-title, as it actually covers most of his life, but the focus is on paralleling his last days with the Mark Chapman’s stalking and murder of him. This part is drawn from an article one of the co-authors first wrote, I believe. Well documented and interesting.

Renegades: Born in the USA by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen (NF). Drawn from podcasts they did in 2020, with many photographs, copies of edited speeches and songs. The conversations have a wide range, from the personal to the future of the country. Almost worth it just for the picture of Obama driving Bruce’s ‘Vette.

Chuck Tilis:

Man In the White Sharkskin Suit–A Jewish Family”s Exodus From Old Cairo To The New World by Lucette Lagrnado (NF). An emotional story, told through a young girl’s eyes (the author-Lucette Lagnado)) of enjoying the comforts of life in a cosmopolitan Cairo, only to have Nasser rise to power and force this Jewish family to emigrate to Paris and then New York. “The Man” is her father who is a bon-vivant around Cairo, whom Lucette adores even through his many foibles which result in significant hardship for the entire family as they attempt to assimilate in New York as Egyptian Jews. Yet, Lucette perseveres through what one reviewer called an “inversion of the American Dream” as her father never finds financial footing upon leaving Egypt. This story is beautifully written and delves deeper into the complexities of family, religion and human resolve.

The Arrogant Years–One Girl’s Search For Her Lost Youth From Cairo to Brooklyn by Lucette Lagnado (NF). This is the sequel to the aforementioned Man in the White Sharkskin Suit. I was so moved by the author’s affinity towards her father, I wanted to learn more about her story. The untold hero is actually her mother, who is treated at best indifferent and at worst cruelly by her father throughout what was an arranged marriage of sorts–by him and his mother-in-law.  Again, Lagnado’s writing style captures the essence of the family’s history and shows her mother’s resolve to provide for her family.

Elusive Links: A Story of Connection, Compassion and Competition by Dan Rosenberg (HF). How about a book that combines aspects of the Spanish Inquisition, history of golf, modern day relationships, and Maimonides that keeps you thinking the whole way through? Dan Rosenberg, a first time novelist, who came out of the business world put the pieces together in an incredibly well researched historical fiction story. Part of the fun in reading this book is thinking about how the author handled the research, writing, editing, story development, and all the other components for a successful novel.   

Chris Rothenberger:

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor (F). This book was our book club read that has truly stayed with me since reading it in early March. It is the story of the realities of life of seven Black women living in a bleak inner city housing project. It reads as seven separate stories, but truly their lives and survival are intertwined as they struggle to survive and come together at the end. Hopes, dreams, tragedy, disappointment and loving events punctuate their struggles as each woman faces often insurmountable challenges to forge ahead. It is very well written and the author creates very memorable characters in each woman easily pictured by the reader. It was Gloria Naylor’s debut novel. Hopes and dreams, challenges, strengths and weaknesses punctuate the stories that are simultaneously loving and painful. In 1989 there was a miniseries starring Oprah Winfrey and it is available on streaming services and served to powerfully  galvanize the stories of each woman in the book.

Cindy Olmstead:

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (F): tale of two brothers raised in the suburb of Calcutta, one brother shy and obedient, the other impulsive. Though inseparable as children their young adult and adult lives cause them to take different paths, one breaking rules or contradicting authority, joining a radical group of Maoists. The other goes to United States to get a PhD in Environmental Science. Compelling novel that deals with brotherly love, sacrifice, cultural norms and conflict, political violence, familial duty and personal commitments. An excellent novel.

The Huntress by Kristen Quinn (HF): set during and just after WWII, it features an English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot hunting for a Nazi war criminal who has killed children as well as adults. Interwoven is the young photographer who suspects her widowed father’s new fiancée, a German widow. A heart-wrenching story that will keep you reading to the very last page. Filled with unexpected twists that make Kristen Quinn a memorable author.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel (F): this is a riveting story about a family with five boys, a pediatrician mother and a writer father. The youngest boy is Claude who, at the age of five, wants to be a girl when he grows up. His parents want him to be whoever he wants to be, yet are not sure how to share this with the world. Secrets are kept within the family so no one knows until…  This novel caused me to address my own role as a parent and how I would manage such transformative situations in this ever changing world. Found it a soul-searching read.

David Meyers:

Bibi: My Story by Benjamin Netanyahu (NF). Just finished reading BIBI. Great read, & I believe he was the Winston Churchill of Israel.

David Stang:

As a way of procrastination in order to avoid tedious administrative undertakings I have been escaping by reading a copy of the original addition of James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson (F), the creator of the first extensive dictionary of the English language which was published approximately 300 years ago, or, to be more specific, in 1747.

Boswell’s opus is published in redacted form, the length of which is only 440 pages. On a year by year basis Boswell delightfully reports about multitudes of Samuel Johnson’s activities and commentaries. His method each annual assessment is to record both the year itself as well as Johnson’s age.

It is a delight to behold his intriguing discussion of how Johnson went about publishing his dictionary, which was expanded from one volume to two volumes in its second edition. Boswell also covers nearly every spoken encounter as well as most written encounters which to his knowledge and research did in fact come to pass.

Boswell comments that some of the definitions included in Johnson’s dictionary are intended to be witty and are filled with hyperbole. Boswell also mentions and lists some of Johnson’s definitions that are just dead wrong. Also reported by Boswell is the manner in which Samuel Johnson researched and compiled his dictionary, which took Johnson only three years to complete.

Donna Pollet:

In Memoriam by Alice Winn (F). A beautifully written love and coming of age story of two English boarding school boys and the horrid experience of trench warfare during The Great War.

Trust by Hernan Diaz (F). Immersive storytelling about capitalism and the art/skill of making ungodly amounts of money, odd and curious personalities, and the varied versions of truth we tell ourselves, we tell the world, and those that remain hidden. It reminded me of the classic film, Rashomon.

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (F). Life through the eyes of an internet influencer and life as felt and experienced as a sister, daughter, family are contrasted in witty, sharp tongued, and moving language. Leaves you with more questions.

Ed Scholl:

Crazy ’08: How a Cast of Cranks, Rogues, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History by Cait Murphy (NF). Baseball fans will especially enjoy this book about baseball in the “Deadball Era”, which was a lot more exciting than it sounds. It has more than baseball trivia…the author gives great contextual accounts of daily life in the cities where the big pennant races were taking place that year: New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Detroit. And there are also fascinating accounts of the greedy owners, corrupt officials, and gambling magnates that controlled the game. You come away with pity for the poor players of that era.

Elizabeth Fleming Frost:

1421: The Year China Discovered America by Gavin Menzies (NF) was a book I picked up from the neighborhood free library box. I like history but was unable to put this book down. What a treasure trove of new information about the history of map making, the navigation principles, and the importance of libraries.

Elizabeth Lewis:

This Other Eden by Paul Harding (HF). The story – based absolutely on historical events – concerns an island off the coast of Maine settled in 1780 by black Africans and their ultimate and tragic displacement. Written in dazzling prose, the book forces the reader to wrestle with the monstrous effects of eugenics and racism. Not a “happy” read.

Elizabeth Tilis:

Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe (NF): Best non-fiction read of the year so far for me. Got it from the Millerstime list from last year! Loved it. Want to watch “Dopesick” on Netflix next. 

The Winners by Fredrik Backman (F): The final in the Beartown series trilogy. Loved it!

The Measure by Nikki Erlick (F): Loved this one too!

Ellen Miller:

A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them by Timothy Egan (NF). This is an extraordinary book. It tells of a time in the 1920s when the Ku Klux Klan was reconstituted in Indiana by a slick salesman and soon spread throughout the country, hoodwinking some, finding willing participants in many places, and paying off others to join with them to create a white supremacist movement.

I was glued to this book. This is history I didn’t (and probably you didn’t either) learn in school. It includes a horrific story of one woman who revealed the leaders’ moral hypocrisy. Soon their political and financial corruption was revealed, and leadership began to decline. Egan’s writing is engaging and vivid. It’s hard to put this book down. It is a frightening reminder of the dangers we face today.

Life Sentence: The Brief and Tragic Career of Baltimore’s Deadliest Gang Leader by MarkBowden (NF). This book was another compelling read (although I listened to it). It is a gripping and harrowing true-crime story that chronicles the life of a young man and his gang in Baltimore during the 1990s which started off by selling drugs and ended up as a kill for hire operation. It is the story of what it’s like to live on the streets of Baltimore and why the young men and women crave this despite the danger, jail terms, and potential retaliations. It is also the story of the failure of the myriad programs that were put into the place over the years designed to change their lives and the nature of their community. Bowden’s writing is compelling and detailed, and he provides a powerful insight into the social and economic conditions that contribute to the rise of gang violence in the city. This is a history you may know, but not in this detail or with this insight. By the end, you will find yourself stunned by the totality of it all.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano (F). My reading often runs in my favorite themes – racial inequality, Irish, Indian, African literature, historical fiction, the Holocaust, World War I and II. I rarely read what today is described as “literary fiction:” well told and written stories on other topics. This book — Hello Beautiful— proves to me that I should read more in this category more often. It is a story about love, commitment, and strong women. The writing is terrific – conveying tenderness and relationships so clearly. The unusual story drives this book, and the characters bring it home. You’ll be looking for more from the author when you finish it. It will be a great summer read, actually it was a great winter one. 

Ellen Shapira:

West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge (HF): I found this to be a very enjoyable read, an extremely well written combination Water for Elephants and Lincoln Highway, two of my all time favorites. The story is based on a true event, the arrival from Africa of two giraffes in 1938 New York City during a severe hurricane and their subsequent cross-country drive to their eventual new home at the San Diego Zoo. There are three main characters, the zoo keeper in charge of the transport, the unlikely eighteen year old Okie who becomes the main driver, and a beautiful young women who is following along the way. The plot is simple but dynamic, with lots of drama and surprises. The characters are interesting and likable though all have mysterious pasts which become revealed along the way. 

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (F). This is the latest in the Lucy series books and picks up with heroine Lucy later in life, spending  the pandemic in isolation with her ex-husband William.  Like her other books, Lucy by the Sea is beautifully written, hitting on all the right notes of love, loss, despair, and the unknowing anxiety of that first year of COVID. I have read several other books set during the pandemic, but none seemed to ring as true as this one does in capturing the emotional toil it took on everyone as we lived through it.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (F). This is a real classic which I had read many years ago but re-read as a Book Club selection. The story is set in 1975 India during a tumultuous period of Indian history. Caste system violence is prevalent throughout the book and has various effects on the four main characters – a poor lower caste tailor and his nephew trying to escape their horrific past in their rural village, a middle class woman trying to make it on her own without a husband, and a young naive student who is uprooted from his idyllic town. These four characters end up sharing living arrangements, starting out with little trust or respect for each other and somehow develop bonds that go beyond a loving family. The four characters are joined by many colorful and intriguing characters who add much richness to the plot. The sweeping plot captures both the horrors and corruption of life in India during this period and also the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

Emily Nichols Grossi:

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan (F), although based on a real story about a woman whose child was removed by CPS, this novel, Chan’s debut, felt both dystopian and possible. Frida, the main character, leaves her 18-month-old daughter at home unattended for two hours, the daughter is taken, Frida is heavily surveilled and ultimately sent to an experimental rehab facility for “bad mothers.” This is chilling in an Atwoodian sense, and I couldn’t put it down.

The Winter Guest by WC Ryan (F). This is a somewhat slow/quiet–but in the best way–mystery that takes place in 1921. Just years after the Easter Rising, Ireland is in a civil war. The daughter of a prominent landed family is murdered. She did participate in the Rising, but the IRA is suspected of killing her. Whodunnit?

Fruzsina Harsanyi:

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann (NF). I don’t use the words “page-turner” often, but I couldn’t put this book down. I read it on kindle and listened on audible, sometimes replaying a scene because the descriptions of life on a British man-of-war in 1740, on deserted islands off Patagonia, battles at sea and ship wrecks were riveting. This latest work by the superb author of Killers of the Flower Moon was so meticulously researched that even the 35 pages of notes were an interesting read. On another level, it’s also a moral tale of what it’s like to build an empire and who pays the cost.

The Daughters of Yalta, The Churchills, Roosevelts and Harrimans in Love and War by Catherine Grace Katz (NF). It’s February 1945. Sarah Churchill,  Anna Roosevelt, and Kathleen Harriman are invited to accompany their fathers to Yalta.  Each woman is an accomplished, trusted confidant of her famous father. Through their experience we get a glimpse of the public and private interactions — meetings, dinner parties, personal relationships — behind the decisions that shaped the post WWII world. What they witnessed at Yalta would be interesting enough, but we also see them through correspondence with their mothers and the other women in their fathers’ lives. The book ends with how they live out their lives after Yalta.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (F). I’m a latecomer to this book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and was reviewed by several Millerstime readers last year. Set in Appalachia, where Kingsolver lives, it’s a story of a boy, his family, and friends, and the people and institutions who use and abuse him. The writing is so pitch perfect that I felt like I was entering a world that no news report of this life so poor and hopeless could ever make real. It’s some of the same characters and scenes we found in J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, except in Kingsolver’s work there is also humanity and joy and people to love.


The Master Game: Unmasking the Secret Rulers of the World by Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval (NF).

Garland Standrod:

The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Raner Maria Rilke (F). This was Rilke’s only novel, but it is available  now in a new translation. Amazon says it best: “A groundbreaking masterpiece of early European modernism originally published in 1910. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge unspools the vivid reflections of the titular young Danish nobleman and poet. From his Paris garret, Brigge records his encounters with the city and its outcasts, muses on his family history, and lays bare his earliest experiences of fear, tenderness, and desolation.”

All About H Hatterr by G.V. Desani (F). First published in 1948, this comic novel chronicles the adventures of an Anglo-Malay man seeking enlightenment and wisdom. His final glimpse of wisdom is this: “avoid charlatans and frauds as you would a venomous snake”, which is good advice indeed. Desani’s prose style is rather extravagant.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (F). Again Amazon says it best: “Arundhati Roy’s modern classic is equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevocably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.

Haven Kennedy:

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (F). This is one of the most interesting series I’ve ever read. It gets quite a bit of flak for ‘genre jumping’, and it’s undeserved. The book deftly weaves a variety of stories together, with imagery and stories borrowed from a variety of different cultures and mythologies. It’s excellent.

Two authors:

Naomi Novik: Everyone is aware of historical fiction, but how many are aware of historical fantasy? Novik started her writing career with a series of novels set during the Napoloenic Wars. The books are well-researched and have the added benefit of dragons. It’s absolutely as bizarre as it sounds, brilliantly so. Novik has also written two books based on fairy tales, both of which are written from a female perspective and allow the heroine to do the rescuing. Finally Novik wrote the Scholomance series (F), a far more realistic version of Harry Potter. She brilliantly wove in a variety of different cultures, her through research being seen in the character’s names, history, and demeanor. 

Robert Jackson Bennett: Bennentt is a brilliant and interesting  author. He writes about a world where the once-conquered rose up and became the domineering force. He’s also written several other books. The most interesting thing about Bennett is his large assortment of LGBTQ+ characters. His stories are excellent.

Hugh Riddleberger:

I have just read Rinker Buck’s book Life on the Mississippi (NF) and am part way through one of his earlier book The Oregon Trail (NF). Rinker is not a reenact-or, but he lived these two incredible journeys as a modern day explorer of history, fauna, and the challenges of outfitting a covered wagon or building a flat boat and traveling great distances…SLOWLY… (who would think one could write an entire but enjoyable chapter on MULES!!) In my opinion he is a true renaissance man, as what he does not know he learns through books, listening to people who know more than he does, and possesses an innate curiosity coupled with courage, perseverance and “gumption”.  Both non-fiction and very readable.

Jane Bradley:

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (F). An unlikely story, set in the state of Kerala, India — full of surprises that will pull you in and keep your attention, maybe all summer long.

Finding Me by Viola Davis (NF)A very moving memoir, especially engaging as an audiobook read by the author.

Jeff Friedman:

G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage (NF). The book resembles biographies by Robert Caro with respect to its themes and its moral ambiguity (and its length!), but it’s somehow even more rigorous. Since Hoover was in power for so long, the biography engages an amazing breadth of U.S. political and social history. 

High: A Journey Across the Himalaya through Pakistan, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and China by Erika Fatland (NF). Highly absorbing travel journalism that focuses on the region’s unusual cultures. I enjoyed reading this while googling images of the places the author visited.

Jesse Leigh Maniff:

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder by David Grann (NF).

Joe Higdon:

The Island of Extraordinary Captives by Simon Parkin (NF) is the story of German refugees that Churchill interned on the Isle of Man during WWII and how they organized themselves into a livable community.

American Midnight by Adam Hochchild (NF) is the chilling story of how Americans treated desenters during WWI  and used the war as an excuse to try to destroy the labor movement.

The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff (NF) about the most overlooked founding father. Some say there would never been a revolution had it not been for Samuel Adams. It colors the pre-revolutionary period in vivid detail.

Judy & Mike White:

Judy and Mike – Rough Sleepers by Tracy Kidder (NF). We’ve enjoyed everything we’ve read by Tracy Kidder, our favorite being Mountains Beyond Mountains  in which Kidder learns of a person, Dr. Paul Farmer, whose work/mission in Haiti interests him, and shadows Farmer for years to understand the Haitian situation and understand  Farmer.  This new book, out this year, follows the same pattern with another doctor, Dr. Jim O’Connor, who took a “temporary” position just out of medical school to work with street people in Boston and makes it his lifetime work.  O’Conner, the others (especially the nurses) working with him, and the street people (those who sleep outside, not in shelters) are all fascinating.  We now have a better sense of why street people often stay in this lifestyle for most of their lives, even when other options might be possible. We were surprised by the number of women living on the streets, the size of the problem, and the difficulty of providing services; and re-learned the powers of just listening and accepting people to help them heal… as well as the lasting effects of childhood trauma.

Mike – Operation Pineapple Express by Scott Mann (former U.S. Special Forces) (NF). Amazing true story of an incredibly difficult effort to rescue Afghan allies and their families during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.  

Judy – His Very Best: Jimmy Carter, A Life, by Jonathan Alter (NF).  Encyclopedic biography of Jimmy Carter from birth to this past year. The author learned so much about Carter and his family and those in his administration that reading it all can be overwhelming, but throughout it seems fair and thoughtful and very, very well researched.  It’s possible to pick and choose chapters that interest you.

Kathy Camicia:

Apeirogon by Colum McCann (HF). A beautiful writer wrestling with another culture and twisting and turning to be as objective as possible.

The Years by Annie Ernaux (NF). If you want the French version of the life of a boomer, she does it very well.

100 Poems to Break Your Heart—ed. Edward Hirsch (F). If you have any interest whatsoever in poetry this book is a gift—short poems, two to three page explanations and the lovely resonance of a good poem.

Kathleen Kroos:

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugo (F). Sam Hill’s mother promised he’d live an extraordinary life, and in time he finds out for himself.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee (NF). A true story about her escaped from North Korea.

The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman (F). Her debut novel about love, loyalty, and long buried secrets.

Land Wayland:

Life Between the Tides by Adam Nicolson (NF). I start this submission trumpeting this as one of the finest pieces of writing I have EVER read. Concise. Knowledgeable. Thoroughly Human. Intelligently spanning the scope of inquiry both scientific and philosophical from specific to everyday relevant. (Heraclitus is an (un)acknowledged co-author).  A detailed journal of the years of work invested by the author as he created three tidal pools at Rubbha an t-Sasunnaich on the Scottish coast on the Sound of Mull and then carefully followed the waves of life that followed until stability was reached years later. Who knew the storied Greeks and their acolytes knew so much about the way life populates large shallow pools of sea water that is refreshed twice daily and otherwise left to its own dramas. 

This is a book that I will reread once a year and it will always be fresh and inspiring. (It is so well written that I promptly ordered five other books he has written—he is like my favorite professor in college…it mattered not what course he said he was teaching; I enrolled to study with the teacher).

Probable Impossibilities: Musings on Beginnings and Endings by Alan Lightman (NF). Professor at Harvard and MIT in Science and the Humanities, speculates at a very sophisticated level about the myriad of stories that connect the smallest in nature with the largest.  Who knew such fascination awaits at either end of an extensive string of “0’s”. In each short essay, he explains his specific subject matter so well that his surprising revelations and digressions make sense. A worthwhile way of stretching the imagination.

God’s  Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson (NF). The story of how the King James version of the Bible came to be written with the full cooperation and deep scholarly input of both Catholics and Protestants despite their recent 200 years of bitter and bloody wrangling over every possible religious issue. Details how the newly crowned King James created the framework and the instructions for this to be done, chose the 51 senior scholars to do the work, and guided the six “teams” that met for more than 5 years to produce one of the most important pieces of writing in Western civilization. Crystal clear, adult writing (with a sprinkling of rarely used words (threnody, irenicon, encomium) properly used to keep the audience engaged). Each of the author’s sentences is a testament to the ability of a brilliant writer to make anything interesting, even the writing of an 800,000 word, 1200 page book that has been and will continue to be read cover-to-cover by less the 1% of its 1,000,000,000+ buyers.

Larry Longenecker:

I just downloaded a recommendation from Land Wayland titled “An Immense World.”  Why this one out of all the choices? I was intrigued by his mention of “I didn’t know that,” and “So that’s how/why they do that.” I’ll let you know what I think of the book.

In the meantime, having read Letters Home, I think you might enjoy John Grisham’s Sooley (F).

Marsha Harbison:

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (HF). It’s historical fiction, extremely well written, set in 1954 during a 10 day journey across the U.S. It’s a coming of age story with an interesting cast of characters and stories touching on many important themes about life.

The Masters of Medicine by Andrew Lam, M.D. (NF). This is non-fiction and an extremely interesting historical recounting of “Our greatest triumphs in the race to cure humanity’s deadliest diseases”.  Dr. Lam highlights many rivalries and feuds of scientists and doctors researching and making life saving breakthroughs in heart transplants, insulin, penicillin, polio vaccine, cancer, and childbirth. He is a local author (living in Longmeadow, MA) and an excellent retina surgeon, who has also written Saving Sight, Two Sons of China, and Repentance (the last two set in WWII).

Dinners with Ruth by Nina Totenberg (NF). This is an interesting quick read written by NPR legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg about the power of friendships,especially with Ruth Bader Ginsberg. It’s a touching book filled with interesting information about various political figures and journalists and also about her famous father, Roman Totenberg, violinist and teacher. One chapter features the discovery and return of his Stradivarius violin, which was stolen and hidden for 32 years.

Melanie Landau:

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (F), a novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived.  

Nicole Cate:

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (F). This book hit a lot of topics of interest for me, including poverty, opioid addiction, corporate greed, and “left behind” parts of America. The characters were complex and engaging, and I loved the writing style. 

Never Simple by Liz Scheier (NF). Memoir of a woman raised by a single mother with significant mental health issues.  Interesting and well-written story. The author used turns of phrase that were wise, spot-on, and funny.

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt (F). I am not one to tolerate a story featuring an octopus as one of the main characters, but I’m so glad I read this one. It’s a quick read with likable characters (even including the octopus) about family, parenthood, loss, and love.

Richard Miller:

What Ellen Miller and Fruzsina Harsanyi said (above), which allows me to list three different ones:

Elena Knows by Claudia Pineiro, translated by Francis Riddle (F). A reissue of a book written in 2007 that is simply outstanding. This short (145 page) novel is listed as a crime mystery, but that is the least important reason I loved this book and so enthusiastically recommend it. The writing (all done in the third person) and story explore a myriad of topics, including family issues – parent/child-mother/daughter: struggles with an incurable, progressive disease – Parkinsons; care giving; loneliness of ageing; issues of memory loss; suicide; religion; abortion, to mention just the most obvious ones. The final third of the book is particularly moving and revealing. While Elena Knows is a sad, difficult story, it hits honestly on the issues it explores. It was shortlisted for the 2022 International Booker Prize. I’ve got to find out what won the prize as I cannot imagine why this one wasn’t chosen.

Finding Me by Viola Davis (NF). Superb memoir read/performed by Davis. An incredible telling of her life’s struggles and successes and her honesty about herself and her life. From a difficult early life in a family of poverty and violence, she finds ways to find her way in the world. Continually recommended by a number of MillersTime contributors.

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (F). Newest work by the author of Cutting for Stone, one of my long time favorite reads. While Covenant is not quite as wonderful, nevertheless, the characters are engaging, likeable, and memorable and their stories are also engaging and memorable. It’s long, but I suspect it will keep you entertained throughout. Verghese, a doctor as well as an author, is someone I’d love to know.

Tiffany Lopez Lee:

The Children of the Night: The Strange and Epic Story of Modern Romania by Paul Kenyon (NF). I read this book in preparation for a trip to Bucharest, and it was an incredible history lesson on Romania’s rich history, culture, politics, communism, and how the country’s geographical position between Western Europe and the East has been tricky to navigate. The author covers the 15th century through communism’s fall in 1989, skillfully fast-forwarding to the interesting points, and providing a perfect amount of detail.

Great Siege: Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford (NF). I picked this one up ahead of my trip to Malta and was truly mesmerized by the story told in this book, and a bit shocked. I had not heard much about this place beforehand. It’s geographic location played an interesting role during the spread of the Ottoman Empire. I highly recommend for anyone heading to Malta, or interested in a small island next door to Sicily, often overlooked by the average person.

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If you are still looking for book suggestions, just click on any of the links below to get to previous favorite reads from other contributors, some who have been participating in this ‘exercise’ since 2009!

2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 Mid-Year, 2018, 2019 Mid-Year, 2019, 2020, Mid-Year 2021, 2022.

Call for 2023 Mid-Year Favorite Reads

“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read” – A. Lincoln

It’s been almost six months since I last asked for your Favorite Reads.

So it’s time to think about a mid-year posting of books MillersTime readers are particularly enjoying.

For this ‘mid-year’ call, you can submit up to three recent reads and your accompanying remarks about why you enjoyed those book(s).

As usual, give the title, author, identify the book as F or NF, and, most importantly, write a few sentences or a paragraph of what it was/is about this book that makes it into your category of particularly enjoyable or exceptional.

I’ve already chosen my three.

What are yours?

If you do not have anything to add at this point, you might want to check out: THE LIST – 2022 Favorite Reads from Dec. 31, 2022. There were many enticing reads submitted for that post.

Please Send Your Current Favorites by May 26, 2023

Send to :


A Speech to Watch and to Hear


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Tennessee Rep. Justin Jones

Readers of this MillersTime blog likely know that I have largely refrained from posting articles about political issues over the past several years. However, this morning I watched and listened to a short speech that I think is worthy of readers’ time and deserves to be seen and heard widely.

It is the three and a half minute speech Rep. Justin Jones’ gave in the Nashville Legislature upon his return to that body when the Nashville Metro Council voted 36-0 to return him to that body. (You may need to click on Skip Ads in the lower right hand corner to get directly to this speech.)

Here it is:

Even more important, in my opinion, is a longer C-SPAN clip of Rep. Jones speaking to the Legislature just prior to his expulsion. Among other points, he cited numerous incidents where previous (and one present) House members were not disciplined (expelled) for far worse behaviors and calmly and directly ‘spoke truth to power.’

Here is that 25:55 minute segment where Rep. Jones eloquently speaks to the Legislature, and to the country, including a five minute exchange with a representative who seeks to justify the reason for expulsion:

Respectful Comments are welcomed.

2023 MillersTime Baseball Contests


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Contest # 1:

What effects will the new MLB baseball rules AND the new scheduling have in 2023? The more specifics you list, assuming they are accurate, the more likely you are to make the top five submissions. Then, I’ll ‘crowd source’ these for all participants to vote for which one wins.

Prize: A copy of Joe Posnanski’s The Baseball 100 or a copy of his new book to be published this year, Why We Love Baseball.

Contest # 2:

Are you a ‘homer’ or not? (a sports fan who is so blinded by their loyalty to their home team that they can’t be objective about the team’s prospects for the coming year).

Choose your favorite team and answer the questions below.

  1. Name the team.
  2. What will their season record be in 2023?
  3. Where will they end up in their Division at the end of the regular season.
  4. Will they make the 12 team playoffs?
  5. If so, how far will they go in those playoffs.
  6. What will be the reasons for how well or poorly they do this year? The more specific you are the better.

Prize: Join me for a Nats’ game in DC, or I’ll try to join you, if possible, for any regular season game elsewhere. In either case, I’ll buy the tickets. You can buy the food and drinks.

Contest # 3:

  1. Who will be the four teams playing in the League Championship series in 2023?
  2. What two teams will actually make it to the World Series.
  3. How many games will the WS go?
  4. Which team will win the WS?
  5. What are the reasons that team wins?

Prize: One ticket to the 2024 All Star game or the 2024 World Series.

Additional Details:

1. In case of a tie in prdictions, the contestant with the earliest submission will win.

2. You don’t have to enter all three of the contests.

3. Send your predictions to me at with as much specificity as you can as I suspect that will be important in choosing winners.

4 MillersTime Winner T-Shirts go along with the prizes mentioned above, for those who have never had the ‘pleasure’ of receiving this unique gift.

5. If you get a friend or foe to enter the Contests, if they win, and if they mention your name, you’ll get a (to-be-determined) prize also.

Deadline for Submissions: Noon (EST) Opening Day, March 30, 2023

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PS – I have a Nats’ half season plan this year (Plan B) with two seats. If you want to join me for a game, let me know. Or, if you have interest in using the two tickets for games I cannot attend., let me know that too.


Oaxaca, Mexico: Thru Ellen’s Lens


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Blue Sky, Pink Building – Oaxaca Centro

Ellen and I have been making a habit of traveling in January, as an alternative to the ‘winters’ and ‘politics’ of DC. Generally, we find a city we want to explore and settle in for ten days to two weeks, giving us a chance to enjoy a new place in a leisurely manner. This year it was also an opportunity for me to relax following a particularly intense five weeks of DC Superior Court Grand Jury service (more about that in an upcoming post).

We chose Oaxaca, a city and a state, in southwest Mexico, a UNESCO World Heritage site with a population of 300,000, largely people of indigenous origin — Zapotec, Mixtec and Mazateco. There are eight major groups of indigenous people each still speaking their own languages as well as a large Spanish influence. The Spanish arrived in the area in the mid-1500’s. Several friends had spent time in Oaxaca and urged us to explore what it had to offer.

We ‘found’ a two bedroom house at the end of the Calle de Manual Bravo, inside the City Centro, and in walking distance of the Zocalo – the city’s main square – and close to the markets, local restaurants, and some of the other sites we wanted to explore. We also convinced a long time friend to join us for six days.

The pictures you see on this post and the accompanying slideshow are not meant to be a travelogue but instead are some of Ellen’s favorite photos from among the more than 1,000 she took.

We generally planned one major excursion a day, leaving time for just wandering in the City Centro and exploring the markets and daily life of Oaxaca. Not much English is spoken, so for the most part we successfully fumbled our way through with hand gestures and nodding our heads, though sometimes when it came to food, we were surprised! In many ways Oaxaca seemed the most authentic of the various places we’ve been in Mexico.

Some of the highlights:

Gueta Oaxaca – a six hour class of traditional Oaxacan cooking led by a wonderful women who introduced us (hands on) to a variety of traditional dishes as well as stories about what she had learned from her grandmother about making “moles” and other country recipes. This was a delicious experience all the way around.

Monte Alban – a sunset tour of this site, an ancient center of Zapotec and Mixtec culture whose initial construction began about the 8th century BCE. We were fortunate to wander through these great plazas, terraces, partial pyramids, temples, and tombs with the guidance of an archeologist and at a time when there were no other tourists at this outstanding Mesoamerican site. We later visited the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxacain that displays many of the artifacts found at Monte Alban.

Hierve de Aqua – two white rock formations that appear to be waterfalls (think cave stalactites). Located in an isolated region about an hour and a half from Oaxaca City, these unusual ‘falls’ are set in the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca mountains, 5,000-feet above sea level.

El Árbol del Tule – located not far from Oaxaca in the lovely town of Santa María del Tule and next to a small church, this cypress tree is more than 1,500 years old and is reported to be the widest tree in existence. Though not the oldest tree in the world, it’s continuing to grow with it many knots, gnarls. There’s is also a second cypress on the other side of the church that is a mere 1,000 years old, though not many visitors seem to notice it. We strolled through this small, delightful town of 8,000, a lovely diversion from the ‘big’ city.

Centro de las Artes de San Agustín – This art center founded by Francisco Toledo (about a 30 minute drive from the city) had an exhibition featuring the collaboration of Seamus Heaney, a Nobel prize winning author, with the Dutch-born artist Jan Hendrix that largely featured Hendrix’s very large hanging textiles and smaller works in other media. The art was stunning and was based on a collaboration between the artist and the poet after visiting an area know as Yagul, a scenic archaeological site with unusual topography. (We wanted to stop there on our return trip to Oaxaca, but it was closed to the public at that time.)

Angelico Jimenez – We had the good fortune to spend time watching and talking with this wonderful artist in his wood carving studio. He is a Mexican Postwar & Contemporary artist, born in 1954, and is the son of Manuel Jimenez, “a Mexican carver, sculptor and painter credited as the originator of the Oaxacan version of alebrijes, animal creatures carved in wood and painted in strong contrasting colors with intricate designs.” We had lunch — and purchased at few items — and continued our conversations with Angelico and his family in the courtyard of their lovely house in San Anotnio Arrazola.

Oaxacan Steet Food Tour – Betsy Morales, an Oaxacan born resident, led us on a four-hour walking and eating tour through three very different markets (the Organic Market, the 20th November Market with its ‘smoky alley,’ and the Mercado de Benito Juarez. The food she selected for us to try was remarkable — Ellen eschewed the grasshoppers, but I did not). So many different and wonderful tastes! We returned to these on our own as market-wandering is one of our most favorite activities wherever we are.

Mezcal Vago – A family connection led us to an hour-long introduction to the world of mezcal, the distilled alcohol ‘beverage’ made from agave plants. We tasted four variations of this artisanal mezcal made in the traditional way from corn and agave in the southern mountains of Oaxaca. And for our remaining days in Oaxaca, we began (and continued) our evening meals with Vago margaritas. We decided that mezcal was an acquired taste…and by the end of our trip, we had all acquired it.

And then there’s the cuisine, which is unlike any other Mexican food we have tasted over the years. If you go to Oaxaca, pick any of these restaurants, and you’ll not be disappointed: Ancestral Cocina Tradicional, Casa Tarviche, Tierra del Sol, Casa Oaxaca El Restua,rante, Origen, El Destilado, Pitiona, Los Danzantes and the bar Puro Burro. These restaurants range from snack food to six course outstanding meals. We ate dinner under the stars, on roof tops for most every meal. One last non-Mexican food note: Seek out Boulenc Cafe and Bakery. Their almond croissant maybe the best we’ve ever eaten anywhere in the world, and their sourdough sandwiches were outstanding. We bought fresh bread (and sometimes cookies) from them almost every day for our at-home breakfasts and afternoon snacks.

Also, the coffee and chocolate are wonderful everywhere you try them, and all are locally sourced.

Barrio de Jalatlaco – Oaxaca
Pots, Pans & Cook – Oaxaca Centro
Zocola – Oaxaca Centro
Blue Wall, Potter’s Studio – Oaxaca State
Political Poster, Desperado – Oaxaca Centro
Angelico Jimenez. Artisan – San Anotnio Arrazola
Turquoise Wall, Potter’s Studio – state of Oaxaca
El Árbol del Tule, Santa María del Tule in the state of Oaxaca
Hierve el Aqua 2 (”Water’ Falls) – San Lorenzo Albarradas
Mount Alban – Mesoamerican Site
Street Scene with Grey Wall, Oaxaca

To see all 41 of Ellen’s photos, go to: Oaxaca, Mexico, January, 2023.

As always, we recommend you view all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer). They are much sharper and offer much more detail and color than the ones above.

For the best viewing, click on the very tiny arrow in a rectangle at top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show.

THE LIST – 2022 Favorite Reads


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A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read.” A. Lincoln

(Note – 1/8/23: Some readers have expressed interest in having a printed list of just the titles, authors, and contributors. For some reason, I have not been able to embed it in this post, but if you send me your mailing address, I’d be glad to send it to you. RAM)

Sixty-four contributors responded to this 14th MillersTime call for favorite reads. Readers of this site offered 229 titles they identified as books they’ve particularly enjoyed over the past year. Nonfiction (NF) were cited far more often than Fiction (F), 58%-42%. The contributors were evenly divided between female and male – 32-32.

Books listed just below this paragraph are titles that appeared in two or more submissions:


*Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

*Horse: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks

*Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmis

*The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan

*The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

*The Personal Librarian by Benedict & Murray

*The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

*Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin


*Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis

*How Civil Wars Start & How to End Them by Barbara Walter

*In Love: A Memoir of Love & Loss by Amy Bloom

*Invisible Stop by Jason Kander

*Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit

*Saints & Soldiers by Rita Katz

*Stolen Focus by Johann Hari

*The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson

*The Grieving Brain by Mary-Frances O’Connor

*The Man Without a Face: Putin by Masha Gessen

*These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

*Walking the Bowl by Chris Lockhart & Daniel Chama


What makes the list below of particular value to me are the personal descriptions of why a book was a favorite. And for the time each contributor took to write and send in their (up to six) titles, I am deeply thankful.

Hopefully, you’ll return to this list throughout 2023 for possible new reads, many of which (most in fact) have not been listed in the various ‘Best Lists of 2022’ by ‘professional’ reviewers.

The list below is alphabetical by first name. Any errors are solely my responsibility. Let me know if I need to make corrections. And if you missed the deadline, you can still send in your favorites – – and I can easily add them.

Abigail Wiebenson:

The Daughters of Yalta by Catherine Grace Katz (HF). It was fascinating to read this segment of history from a woman’s perspective in a very masculine power centric world. 

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (F). Oh my, Isabel Allende is such a reliable, spellbinding storyteller. This time her characters navigate challenging situations and family secrets. 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (HF). Rich in literary language (Maggie is a walking thesaurus) and family Shakespearean history during pandemic times, this spellbinding story of relationships is provocative, complicated, and enlightening. 

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams (NF). As always, navigating and creating the language of conversation is fascinating and compelling. The anatomy and choreography of questions is critical to leadership of self and others and key to my work in leadership coaching. 

Allan Latts:

Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence by Ajay Agrawals, Avi Goldfarb, and Joshua Gan (NF). In Prediction Machines, three eminent economists recast the rise of AI as a drop in the cost of prediction (the computer revolution recast rise of computers in cutting the cost of calculations). With this single, masterful stroke, they lift the curtain on the AI-is-magic hype and show how basic tools from economics provide clarity about the AI revolution and a basis for action by CEOs, managers, policy makers, investors, and entrepreneurs. 

How the Mountains Grew: A New Geological History of North America by John Dvorak (NF). After visiting Utah, I read this book on the geological history of the earth America. It was a little dense but really interesting tidbits of info. (I think this was this year…could have been last)

Mistborn Series by Brian Sanderson (F). I read this series…sci-fi / fantasy – Really great story line across five books.

Anita Rechler:

Matters of race on my mind. Two very different books:  

Horse: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks (HF).  An easy read, interesting, though imperfect book (the ending is contrived). It is a story well told about a slave, the remarkable racehorse Lexington, their relationship, a mystery painting and its artist, a romantic relationship, and more. The story looks back to 1850’s Kentucky and forward to contemporary DC (folks who live in DC will recognize city landmarks), telling a story about racing and racism, then and now.

Douglas: Prophet of Freedom David Blight (NF) – This is a detailed biography of Fredrick Douglass and his emergence from slavery to a complicated life as a gifted orator, energetic proselytizer, friend, colleague, husband and father. I read the book imagining what he might say if reborn to this moment. 

And recommend this and anything else Anand writes:

Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas (NF). The book is a devastating critique of the wealthiest who donate big bucks to various causes and charities of their own creation. Read it, and it is impossible to look at big philanthropy and its elite donors in the same way again. 

Barbara Friedman:

Mary Churchill’s War: The Wartime Diaries of Churchill’s Youngest Daughter Mary Churchill edited by Emma Soames (NF) is a fascinating book even if you have read a lot about Churchill. You get an “inside” perspective on the family and the times.  She provides interesting perspectives on the life of a young women in war times – the parties, the gaiety, and the bombing.  In addition, you see life at the Admiralty and 10 Downing Street from the perspective of an insider.

Power and Liberty: Constitutionalism in the American Revolutionby Gordon Wood (NF) is an excellent book on the framers as they wrote the American Constitution, covering what they included and why, what they left for future consideration (slavery), and how it all came together. An excellent book of the times.

Forty Autumns: A Family’s Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall by Nina Willner (NF) is a wonderful book about her family (grandparents, mother, aunts, uncles, and cousins) who were born in East Germany and who lived behind the Berlin Wall.  Aided by her grandfather, her mother escaped East Germany and eventually lived a normal American life while her mother’s family lived, suffered, endured, and made the best of living in East Germany.  The author was the first female US Army Intelligence Officer to lead sensitive intelligence operations in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. I found the book in a shop across from Checkpoint Charlie.  It is a fascinating read.

The Death of Democracy by Benjamin Carter Hett (NF) is an excellent and well written history of the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler in 1930’s Germany, the widespread use of lies and untruths among the Nazis and Hitler in particular, and the confidence of the conservative politicians who thought that Hitler and the Nazis would support but instead drove them out of power and created the Hitler regime.  The parallels with today’s conservatives are eerie.

The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb (F) is a wonderful novel about Ray, a black boy/man who became a concert and prize-winning violinist, and his PopPop’s (his great grandfather’s) violin. This old, rosin encrusted violin turns out to be a Stradivarius and is stolen just as he is practicing for the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Did he win it?  The book is not only a compelling story about Ray and his ascent up the path to becoming a professional violinist, but it also tackles the inevitable issues of discrimination and racism. The hurried pace at the end of the book to tie everything together is a bit disappointing, but the book remains a great read.

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson (NF) is a MUST READ!  The book focuses on the exploration and understanding of RNA and this part of the book was fascinating and written in English! However, what I found most interesting was the debate on gene editing – is it OK to correct genetic mutations by restoring a “normal” version of a gene –  such as eliminating sickle cell anemia or Huntington’s disease?  Probably yes. But if you do this gene editing, do you then affect genes that are resistant to malaria or West Nile virus?  Not a great result!  Is it okay to gene edit to make a newborn taller or have blue eyes, etc?  Probably no!  Great questions!  The book ends with the work done in recent years regarding Covid 19.  An interesting fact – Isaacson participated in the Pfizer-BioNtech clinical trials! Said again…a MUST read!!

Ben Senturia:

Harlan Coben Series by Harlan Coben (F). I am continuing to read this series of mysteries which I love. The main character is a sports’ agent (Myron Bolitar). They are well written and fun.  

Bob Thurston:

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (NF). This is the story of the American rowers who competed in the 8-man (plus coxswain) boat that represented the US in the 1936 Olympic Games (“Hitler’s Games”). The author weaves many strands together: a picture of the sport of rowing, hitherto dominated by elite schools in the east; the program at U of Washington and its driven coach, Al Ubrickson; a sense of the mechanics and demands of rowing; and most compellingly, the story of one young man, Joe Rantz, who had to overcome incredible odds just to support himself, never mind getting to the U of Washington and its rowing program.

I had to keep reminding myself that this is a true story; it reads like a novel in that you want to keep turning the pages. Brown’s narration of the actual races was excellent and, in many cases, suspenseful. Each chapter is prefaced by a bit of wisdom from George Pocock, a boatman and aracing shell builder, sort of the Yoda of this story. The author includes some of the story of the Nazis, including the decision to make a grand show of the 1936 Olympics, and how the Olympic areas were “cleaned up” to impress visitors and hide evidence of atrocities. I found it inspiring to read about how the physical and mental toughness of the rowers allowed them to overcome situations that, at critical times, looked hopeless. Definitely a fun read.

Brandt Tilis:

Bittersweet by Susan Cain (NF). Why do we push people toward happiness instead of letting each other (and ourselves) just be?  This book is about normalizing negative emotions and finding the good in our sadness.

Boom Town by Sam Anderson (NF). The history of Oklahoma City that you never knew you had to read. I have never been to Oklahoma City, and outside of the 1995 bombing and their basketball team (the Thunder), I have never thought much about it.  This book goes through the history of the city from the Land Run (fascinating!) to the bombing (tragic). It is so well written and colors everything through the lens of the Thunder who have become a major part of the city’s identity. Boom Town is for people who like quirky history.

Mindset by Carol Dweck (NF). This is not a new release, but it is timeless.  Mindset is about the two different types of mindsets: Fixed and Growth, and how to identify and cultivate a Growth Mindset in ourselves, our children, and our workplace. This book changed the way I look at everyone, particularly my kids. If you have young children or grandchildren, Mindset will help you have meaningful, constructive dialogue with them beyond “Good Job.”

Quit by Annie Duke (NF). Quitting things is frowned upon in our society, but some great success stories are born from decisions to quit. This book will give you the confidence to quit and tips for how to know when it’s time

Stolen Focus by Johann Hari (NF). Our phones and social media are designed to distract us from what’s happening in front of our faces. Reading this book has given me a reason to look past my phone and live more intentionally (though I’m still striving for perfection there).  If you think you spend too much time on your phone, do yourself a favor and read this book.  It is eye-opening.

The Power of Regret by Daniel Pink (NF). Another book about normalizing negative emotions. This time, about feeling regret for past actions. This book breaks down different types of regret and shares some very poignant, real-life examples of people’s regrets. The author collected thousands of peoples’ greatest regrets in life and broke them down. This book helped me learn to appreciate my regrets instead of suppressing them.

Brian Steinbach:

Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) (F). As I said last year about Lethal White, Rowling always writes a page-turner, and this is no exception. Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellicott remain engaging characters, and the story – involving a forty-year ago disappearance – kept me going even thought it was over 900 pages. I await her latest, The Ink Black Heart, to appear in paperback come next June. (The TV films aren’t bad, either.)

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (F). Several others have already commented onthis book last year and spring, I can’t add much. Very engaging, amusing and at time horrifying, a mostly satisfying ending.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (F – mostly). A real tour de force telling the story of John Brown – both in Kansas and Harper’s Ferry – through the eyes of a enslaved youngboy who is taken in by Brown during Bleeding Kansas times, who believes he is a girl and a good luck charm. He separates from Brown and resides for a time in a brothel, then is reunited and accompanies Brown to Harper’s Ferry. Much of the account of Brown’s action is true. The boy escapes to live a long life. An adventure, but also a lot of insight into identity and survival.

All Roads Lead to the Birchmere by Gary Oelze & Stephen Moore (NF). The story of the“legendary music hall”, but also chock full of short biographies of the musicians and characters who have played there, most interconnected. Great for a history of the DC music scene and great stories.

Of The Land by Lou Stovall (NF). Mary [wife] knows Lou from her days at Sidwell and gifted me one of his prints before I had any idea who he was. (We have another one as well). We once went to his studio with our then young kids, and he worked with each to do abstract prints. More recently we attended his shows at the Kreeger Museum and the Phillips. Much of the former drew on this book, put together by his son Will. The book tells Lou’s life, but focuses on work done in 1974 and 1977, with accompanying poetry and a short autobiography. A great introduction to his work.

Carole Haile:

The Lobotomist’s Wife by Samantha Greene Woodruff (HF). Very interesting book that delves into what actually happened to people who received lobotomies and what can occur when ego overtakes reason.  As is often the case, the author’s notes were as captivating as the book. 

Based on true events during the introduction of frontal lobotomy and movement to the “icepick” outpatient procedure. What seemed to be an effective procedure, was not followed up with objectively evaluated results for decades.  

The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku (NF). When you start a book and can’t put it down it’s a 5.  I don’t remember how I learned of this book. After I closed the book, I needed some quiet time to digest it. What begins as a difficult to read Holocaust story, written so well that I verbally reacted to some of the atrocities, ends with Eddie completing his vow to smile every day and lead a happy life as a tribute to those that didn’t survive. His memoir succinctly presents his life before, during, and after his capture and imprisonment (more than once). He lived to 101, dying in 2021. I would have loved to have met him. He realized later in life that it was important to share his story to truly liberate himself and to ensure the youth today understand the Holocaust DID HAPPEN and 6 million Jews were killed. He’s done a Ted Talk as well. Would be great if this was required reading in high school. 

The Last Stand of Payne Stewart by Kevin Robbins (NF). Listened on audio and highly recommend this format. The narrator brings the emotions of the story to life. This isn’t just about Payne Stewart’s career and untimely death. There’s a tremendous amount of golf history and trivia. What I enjoyed most was learning about the friendships and competitiveness between golfers and following Payne’s transition from a cocky kid to a thoughtful, caring, mature husband, father, and golfer. Who would have thought you’d need tissues for a golf book? You do!  And after the epilogue, what resonates with me is that you never know when the last words you speak to someone may be your last. Make them count.

Catherine Lynch:

In the Darkroom by Susan Faludi (NF). Faludi, well-known American feminist (she wrote Backlash, which is just wonderful), tracks down her estranged Hungarian-born father, who had returned to Budapest, and discovers that he has transitioned and is now living as a woman. Absolutely fascinating. 

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (F). Loved this. Tackles the origins and nature of love, ideas about God and religion, class and talent and illness and alienation and loss. Ishiguro is just remarkable. 

How Civil Wars Start by Barbara F. Walter (NF).  Everyone should read this. Here’s the summary: Be afraid. Be very afraid. 

Charlie Atherton:

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve read any fiction worth reporting, but in July I started to get seriously involved in baking sourdough bread and have come across several good books which cover everything from creating your own starter to baking in a Dutch oven. The dough is the thing.

The first two books I read were:

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread by Peter Reinhard (NF).

How to Make Bread: Step by Step Recipes for Yeasted Breads, Sourdoughs, Soda Breads and Pastries by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou (NF).

Several others were:

Artisan Sourdough Made Simple: A Beginner’s Guide to Delicious Handcrafted Bread with Minimal Kneading by Emilie Raffa (NF).

New World Sourdough: Artisan Techniques for Creative Homemade Fermented Breads, With Recipes for Birote, Bagels, Pan de Coco, Beignets, and More by Brian Ford (NF).

Tartine Bread by Chad Roberston (NF).

I especially enjoyed the various authors’ descriptions of how it was that they became bakers and how they learned the trade. Then, of course, were all the descriptions of equipment and techniques for baking good sourdough bread. I’ve not got into their pastries, etc, I’m just a sourdough baker.

Charlie Haile:

Freezing Order by Bill Browder (NF). The true story follow up of Red Notice, also by Mr. Browder. More murder and corruption in modern day Russia. 

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn. (F). A fictional story that is a cross between Girl on the Train and Rear Window

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks (F). A fictional mystery of love and betrayal that puts a couple and their unlicensed therapists on a collision course. 

Chris Boutourline:

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (F). I wasn’t loving it through the first 30 pages or so but it was well worth continuing on. The plot involves a bank robbery gone awry and the taking of a group of hostages in an apartment. I enjoyed he plot twists and the way the characters evolved.  

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. (F)  I know, when you see the subtitle, “A Sheep Detective Story”, you think, “not another one of those”. Lots of fun to follow the flock.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (F). A gritty, wild ride in this coming-of-age tale from the author of A Gentleman in Moscow

Chris Rothenberger:

Kathryn “Kate” Quinn is the author of three of the historical fiction books that I highly recommend.  I became a fan after reading The Rose Code (F).  Not always easy reads, the reader is transported to the frontline in each of these powerful stories.  Also, in each book, Quinn’s notes help to understand her mindset and choices as she weaves the real history into the complex stories she creates.

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn (F) is an unforgettable WW2 story of a quiet woman who becomes history’s deadliest female sniper.  It is based on a true story and drawn from the personal memoir of Mila Pavlichenko. In 1937, Mila, a student and single mother in the Ukraine, is recruited to join the fight against the Nazi’s. Over time, she transforms from a student to a deadly sniper who becomes known as Lady Death. When news of her 300th kill makes her a national figure, she is sent to Washington DC on a goodwill tour. An unexpected friendship develops with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, which provides an unexpected twist to the story. When an old enemy from Mila’s past joins forces with a deadly new foe, Mila finds herself in the deadliest duel of her life. The story is a haunting story about heroism, desperation, and a woman who changed the course of history. This story tells a little-known story about the role females during WW2, and how heavy a blood price Russia paid to help defeat the Nazi regime. This well researched and well written novel conveys details about Soviet culture, the harsh landscape that is Russia and weaves an unforgettable story. You can practically smell the gunpowder and feel the frigid cold because the words are rich and vivid. There are great photos of the real Mila, and the author’s notes are very insightful as she portrays this strong woman, rich characters, and puts a human face to wartime. It is particularly meaningful as we understand facts about the past history of Russia and now read about the War in the Ukraine today.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn (F) is the story about two women whose lives intertwine in WW1 and 2.  Their story is told in dual timelines which alternating well with each chapter. It is another well researched story based on a real female spy ring in wartime France. The story is told from the perspective of two characters, “Charlie” and “Eve” in various English and French locations. The book centers on the search for Charlie’s Cousin Rose who is missing. Eve is a battle-scarred spy who has no interest in helping until she realizes her own hunt for a French collaborator and Charlie’s hunt may lead to the same man. The riveting and heartbreaking stories of their journey are well done. The characters are engaging and the settings of England, France, and Germany are vivid with a lot of period detail.  Kathryn Quinn combines the two time periods well and brings the two stories together nicely. This covert story of spies who infiltrated German lines, memorable characters, a meaningful epilogue, and the themes of courage, guilt, redemption, and what it means to be a warrior woman are riveting.

The Huntress (F) is the story about Nina Markova who grows up in icy Russia and joins the infamous night witches, an all-female night bomber regiment that is charged with attacking Hitler’s Eastern Front. Shot down, she is thrown into the path of a Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, a ruthless murderer. Ian Graham is a British war correspondent who abandons journalism to become a Nazi hunter. He joins forces with Nina who is the only witness to escape the Huntress. Meanwhile, Jordan, a 17-year-old in Boston is very suspicious of the woman her father has chosen to marry.  The characters of Nina, Ian, and Jordan converge and eventually they must come to terms with their pasts.  The characters are vivid, themes of PTSD, survivor guilt, evil brutality, denial of truth are intertwined. Another fascinating story, based on true events, draws the reader into a world few know about or can even imagine as the hunter becomes the hunted. Be sure and read the author’s notes at the end.

 Chuck Tilis:

The Terrorist Hunter: The Extraordinary Story of a Woman Who Went Undercover to Infiltrate the Radical Islamic Groups Operating in America Originally–by Anonymous and since revealed to be Rita Katz (NF).  Want to read about one of the bravest women in America?  Get this book and be inspired by Rita’s life story starting with her childhood in Iraq, escaping to Israel after her father was executed, making her way to the United States, raising a family and becoming a leading expert on terrorism in the United States. And, with all that going underground to infiltrate Islamic terrorism organizations to help expose the threats which our own government fails to detect. Issued in 2003, this is the classic must read to gain an appreciation of how terrorism organizations operate in the United States. While Rita’s story is one of triumph, the revelations are disturbing.

I read The Terrorist Hunter in anticipation of her second book Saints and Soldiers: Inside Internet-Age Terrorism, From Syria to the Capitol Siege by Rita Katz(NF) which was published this October. Rita’s second book, given the timeliness of the subject matter, mandates we remain vigilant to protect our democracy against the impact social media/on-line forums have in promoting extremist behavior and especially the antisemitic fervor being promoted today. 

By The Grace of the Game: The Holocaust, a Basketball Legacy, and an Unprecedented American Dream by Dan Grunfeld (NF). THIS IS NOT A HOLOCAUST BOOK NOR A SPORTS BOOK. This is a book for entire families—Parents, children, and older grandchildren to enjoy reading about an incredible story of a grandmother who survived the Holocaust and her family’s story, especially her relationship with her grandson Dan, all as told through the lens of Dan himself.  In the end it’s a love story—the love of family, the love of life, the love of bubby’s cooking and the love of a game– basketball–which provided so much to the Grunfeld family.  Yes, Dan’s father is Ernie Grunfeld who is believed to be the only professional athlete in the U.S. to have parents who survived the Holocaust.  Ernie was an acclaimed NCAA star at Tennessee, on a US Olympic Gold Medal winning team, NBA player for years and a NBA General Manager for several teams including the NY Knicks.  Get multiple copies to share with family and friends as the story is inspiring on so many levels but, in particular, how to enjoy life by pursuing excellence as a person, in a career and through hardship. An added bonus is that I can say from first-hand knowledge having spent time corresponding with Dan–he is such a mensch.  You don’t (want) me to say this though–the book speaks volumes.

Cindy Olmstead:

The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson (NF). Isaacson covers the life of Jennifer Doudna, Nobel prize winner for developing CRISPR, gene editing that will help to cure diseases, viruses, as well as create healthier babies. Book covers the intense scientific research and competition to development of this methodology. It also highlights the moral issues that are emerging with the ability to manage future children’s DNA. Much scientific data but an excellent read even for the non-scientific. Certainly raised my awareness on the impact of our transitioning to the next great innovation revolution, the life-science revolution.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams (HF). Delightful and interesting read about the formation of the Oxford English Dictionary as well as the importance of words that are missing. Given that the original OED words were compiled by educated men, Esme, the protagonist, collects her own words relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences that were not recorded. Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement and pending Great War, the novel intertwines history and actual events.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (F). Ignore the cover! I thought it was some ditzy novel but actually was very surprised with the depth of the novel. It is a NYTimes bestseller and author’s first book. It is about Elizabeth Zott, single mother, dedicated scientist who is forced by life’s circumstances to take on a role outside of the science lab, a cooking show. Teaching cooking as a science she becomes a star and emboldens women to seek their own creativity. It is a great read that tends to stick in your thoughts once the book is closed.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict & Victoria Christopher Murray (HF). Historical novel about JP Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle de Costa Greene, the Black American woman who hid her identity to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books and artwork for JP Morgan’s new Pierpoint Morgan Library. This is the story of an extraordinary woman known for her intellect, style (famous for her hats), and ability to mingle in society’s upper circles to accomplish what she knew she had to do. Excellent read!

How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them by Barbara Walter (NF). Walter is a professor of International Affairs at the Univ of California San Diego’s School of Global Policy. She is one of the world’s leading experts on civil wars, political violence, and terrorism. Her book examines the dramatic rise in violent extremism around the globe and exposes the increasing likelihood of a second civil war in the US. She reveals the warning signs of a civil war, where they tend to start, who initiates them and why some countries move to conflict while others remain stable. She identifies the crucial risk factors, democratic backsliding to factionalization and politics of resentment, all symptoms that are precipitated by social media. It is a very insightful book and one the made me realize how complacent we are towards this possible reality.

Dominique Lallemont:

A repeat of my March submission: The Hare with Amber Eyes – A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal (NF). A cultural fresque through a family memoir — the Ephrussi’s — spanning the 19th and 20th C., three continents and many countries, all brilliantly tied by the travels of a collection of Japanese Netsuke’. Most painful descriptions of the Anschluss of Austria and the human devastation from WWII. Some passages reminiscent of what we are living today with Russia’s president. (PS. November/December 2022: During my recent visit, I was hoping to visit the Nissim de Camondo museum in Paris, which is mentioned in the book. Alas, not enough time…)

I will Never See the World Again: The Memoir of an Imprisoned Writer by Ahmet Atlan (NF). Atlan wrote this book while in prison for his political activism in 2018-2019. How to keep one’s sanity when in prison: dreams, memories of travels, the stories you write, the authors you revisit…

Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit (NF). A brilliant literary and political essay anchored in a reflection on Orwell’s life-long cultivation of roses, leading to a profound reflection on the 20th c. Solnit unfolds a tapestry covering the Bolshevik revolution, the emergence and evolution of the Soviet Union, the Spanish Civil War, and Western Europe in WWII, all woven with great dexterity with highlights of great literary, political, and artistic figures: Diego Rivera, Lenine, Trotsky and Tina Mondotti to name a few. A masterpiece that leads us to major contemporary issues: the preservation of our planet, the protection of our environment and the saving of modern democratic systems.  A humorous wink: too bad she did not start with battle of Hastings in 1066 described in the Bayeux Tapestry….

The Man Without Face: the Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gassen (2012) (NF).  A brilliant biography of Vladimir Putin that clearly explains what’s happening today in/with Russia. Nothing has changed since she wrote the 2014 Postface, except that everything got worse as she had predicted. After Crimea, the Donbass and now Ukraine, Russia is waging an ideological war against Europe and the West. How long will it be before Russians actually realize that he is actually destroying Russia? Once criticism though: she could have addressed better the role played by such Western economists as Jeffrey Sachs who arrogantly contributed to fostering the rise of the oligarchs through the privatization programs; they now protect the current regime. 

And, if the following books are ever translated from the French, I highly recommend them: Cherif Mecheri: Courageous Prefect Under the Vichy Government by Boris Cyrulnik and Joe Lenzini (NF); Les enfants de Cadillac by François Noudelmann ( (NF); and Le Mage du Kremlin by Giuliano da Empoli (NF).

Donna Pollet:

Cork O’Connor Series, 1-19 by William Kent Krueger (F) Audio and Print. More than good story telling and a compelling mystery and crime series, it is an insightful study of character, unimaginable ethical choices, Native American culture, and place, the north woods of Minnesota. Start with #1 Gailbraith (F) and meet Cork O’Connor, part Irish and part Anishinaabe, ex-sheriff turned private eye and be transported into his world. Other books by this author, not in the series, may also be of interest. This Tender Land (F) and Ordinary Grace (F).

Walking the Bowl, a true story of murder and surival among the street children of Lusaka by Chris Lockhart and Daniel Mulilo Chama (NF) Like Beyond the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo which told the story of India’s poorest of the poor children, this is another heart wrenching portrait of children surviving in the worst possible conditions imaginable. The place is the capital city of Zambia, where a child, horrifically disfigured, is found murdered and left in an alley way of garbage. The back story is daily survival as seen through the lives of four children. Heartbreaking tragedy abounds, but there are also glimmers of uplifting moments and experiences when resilience and “good” win out. This book has appeared on the list previously. 

Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis (NF) Audio and Print. Viola Davis in her own words, an unvarnished telling of her rise to accomplished actor. It is gritty, difficult to read in parts, but also humorous and inspiring. It is also the story of race as it permeates theater and film.  It is the very private and behind the scenes look at what it takes to be an actor.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray (F) Audio and Print. This is a fictionalized portrait of Belle de Costa Greene, the first librarian of the J Pierpont Morgan Library in NYC. It is a mesmerizing story of an accomplished, intelligent woman who rose to great professional heights in the world of rare books and art collecting all the while “passing” and hiding her true identity as African American throughout her entire career beginning in 1902 till her death in 1950. FYI: there is a work entitled An Illuminated Life, Bella De Costa Greene’s Journey from Prejudice to Privilege (NF). 

Ed Scholl:

The Inside Game: Bad Calls, Strange Moves, and What Baseball Behavior Teaches Us About Ourselves by Keith Law (NF). I really enjoyed this book, not only because I love baseball, but I loved how he analyzed baseball and decisions made in the game and by front office executives. He draws on knowledge from the fields of behavioral science and psychology to analyze how decisions in baseball are made (wisely or irrationally) and how they are rooted in how we make decisions in everyday life. 

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird (NF), 2005 (winner of the Pulitzer Prize). I listened to this as an audio book during a cross-country drive and it sure made the hours pass by. I knew only a little about this brilliant physicist who led the development of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. I really   that came to pass. It was fascinating to learn as well how he lost his security clearance and was unable to work as a result of McCarthy era hearings that maligned him for his past association with progressive causes that had real or perceived Communist associations.

Elizabeth Lewis:

Leonardo de Vinci by Walter Isaacson (NF). The 525 pages of this book is as close a meeting with a genius that I will ever have. Isaacson’s lucid writing unveils the mysteries of Leonardo’s scientific inquiry for the layperson, the exquisite nature of how that science informed the art, and the mystery that connects the man and his oeuvre:  “But by the time the list (of inquiries) gets to an infant in a womb and the cause of sneezing, it is clear that he is looking for more than information that might help his brush.”  While the book is stronger on the science than the art criticism, its encyclopedic quality does justice to the “uomo universalle” who is Leonardo.  The quality of the paper and the clarity of the plates make this a book that belongs in your library.

Elizabeth Tilis:

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng (F). Latest from the author of many fabulous books, but probably my favorite to date. Very poignant.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow byGabrielle Zevin (F). Recommended by several other MillersTime readers, a story about two friends and how their lives intertwine over decades.

The Lincoln Highway byAmor Towles (F). A (very) long read about the story of three young men and a young kid traveling across the United States in 1954. Probably would have read another 500 pages if he’d written more. 

The Last Green Valley byMark Sullivan (F). From the author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky, a work of historical fiction that takes place in the dark days at the end of World War II detailing the bravery and heroism of the Martel family, one of the many families of German heritage whose ancestors farmed in Ukraine for more than a century. I don’t typically love historical fiction, but this book was the exception. 

Invisible Storm: A Soldier’s Memoir of Politics and PTSD by Jason Kander (NF). A progressive Kansas City politician icon opens up about his struggles in Afghanistan, his PTSD, and his family. 

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari (NF). Spend too much time on your phone? Or on any devices? Read this book, get your life back. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. 

Ellen Kessler:

The Prison Minyan by Jonathan Stone (F) – (amusing if it does rely on some stereotypes, but it still has a serious side). It is fiction, but it is based on the Federal Pen. in Cooksville NY, which is where Michael Cohen was imprisoned, so it is based on a real (semi-real) place with a large Jewish population.

The Thread Collectors by Shaunna Jones and Alyson Richman (F). Two Harvard- trained attys (I think-definitely lawyers) collaborated to present fascinating insights about Afro-American and Jewish soldiers in the Civil War. It does have a ring of truth, and both the authors are very impressive. 

The Venice Sketchbook by Rhys Bowen (F). It wasn’t my favorite and some of the plot was a bit disappointing, but there was a romantic and Venetian sense that was pleasant–maybe a nice beach book?  I loved to remember Venice reading this book.

From the Dark We Rise by Margarret Kommonow (F). I read this during my WWII novels-about -courageous women who saved thousands of lives by their activities but were ignored after the war and either forgotten or relegated to secretarial duties and completely forgotten.

Non-Fiction books are not my favorites generally, but during my WWII period, I read two that I can recommend.

A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Hill about Virginia Hall (NF), a society kind of woman, who set up and managed an effective spy ring in Europe, saving so many lives. She was the subject of a special Gestapo squad. She saved so many lives and retrieved so much information. She accomplished all this despite her disabilities relating to the loss of her leg and managed daring trips at great physical pain. This was selected as THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR & received many other awards. Apparently, she was mostly ignored by historians, but there has been increased information about her activities.

The Daughters of Yalta by Catherine Katz (NF)) about the daughters of FDR, Averill Harriman, and Winston Churchill who accompanied their fathers to Yalta and had important supportive functions. When I read about the book, I was fascinated and bought it immediately, but when I started reading it, it was rather ponderous–seemed dull despite the subject matter. I felt after reading it, as I often do when I read non-fiction, that I have improved myself but would have rather read a novel!

Ellen Miller:

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World by Jonathan Freedland (NF). Despite a promise (to myself) to read fewer books about the Holocaust this year, I was hooked by this nonfiction account after page two. The story is about a man named Rudolph Vrba who planned his escape from Auschwitz to let the world know what was happening there. He details his own time as a prisoner while he methodically memorizes the number of transports, the treatment of prisoners, and every detail of the exterminations. His goal is to let the world know what is happening in time to stop it. After the escape, he writes a report detailing all the horror, and points fingers and names names of all those in officialdom — throughout the world – who were in the position to try to stop the horrors of Auschwitz or acted too slowly, if at all, to do so. This book is a “tough” read. It’s another side of the story I haven’t read before.

Demon Copperhead (Barbara Kingsolver (F). This much-heralded book lives up to Kingsolver’s reputation and the critics’ praise of the book. Even without knowing that it is a reworking of the David Copperfield, it is a moving description of a boy’s challenges, as he grows up essentially, on his own. The book is set in Appalachia, where Demon is born to an unwed mother. It tells his life’s story, and the reader is engulfed by the challenges he faces: the “support” system offered by government agencies that fail him miserably; the mal and well-intentioned adults who shape his life, along with the good and bad choices he makes. The book uncomfortably reflects the reality of the American today for too many children and families. It’s must-read.

How Not to Drown in a Class of Water by Angie Cruz (F). This was one of the books I most thoroughly enjoyed this year. It’s a must-listen. It’s funny, it’s real, and it’s heartbreaking all at once. And it is another story about how we fail as a country to serve those who need just a little bit of help to raise themselves out of poverty. The heroine of this story is a woman – a factory worker for 25 years — named Cara Romero who was laid off in her md-50s. She turns to a government agency to help her find a new job. The book is comprised of “transcripts” from her many visits to a government agency which, after assessing her skills, will try to place her in a new position. This is a light “listen” that takes a hard look into how America fails those who need help. I highly recommend listening to this book.

Kiki Man Ray: Art, Love, and Rivalry in 1920s Paris by Mark Braude (NF). Freewheeling Paris in the 1920s, plus the artists, musicians, thinkers, and writers who gathered there, make for one heck a great story, especially when it’s about a woman unknown in today’s world, yet an artist and influential thinker. The captivating nightclub performer “Kiki” became a muse for Man Ray, the famous artist. She was good friends and a muse with others whose names you know, whose paintings you’ve seen, whose books you’ve read, and whose avant-guard movies you might have seen. Her story as an artist in her own right has never been told. Later in life she wrote a memoir, for which Ernest Hemingway wrote the introduction. The memoir made front-page news in France and was immediately banned in America. That’s another good reason to learn more about her.

Finding Me by Viola Davis (NF). I listened to this book which I enjoyed very much: it was read by the author, and it was superbly executed. I am certain it would be a good read too. This is the actress Viola Davis’ life story – rising from poverty to world- famous actor. It details the huge hurdles she faced and overcame along the way. But it is not just a story about rising up and out of poverty, but also a story of the institutional and systematic discrimination from the establishment artistic world as she struggled to advance her career. Reading biographies of famous people is not usually something I seek out. I am so glad I found this one. Anyone interested in the theater and film worlds will find this extremely enlightening.

Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took on a World at War by Deborah Cohen (NF). I loved this historian’s account of the band of famous American reporters who, in the run-up to World War II, from their posts in Paris told the story of what was happening in Europe at that time. The reporters — John Gunther, H. R. Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean, and Dorothy Thompson — got exclusive interviews with Hitler and Mussolini, Nehru, and Gandhi. What they reported shaped what Americans knew about that world at that critical time. This book is also a personal story of what these reporters gained and lost as they aggressively pursued their truth telling. It’s a marvelous, engaging true story of real American heroes.

Ellen Shapira:

My favorite books for the second half of the year:

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Gramus (F) is one of the few books that I can say I loved in 2022.  For me the book had all the elements that I love:  set in the past (1950’s-60’s), interesting, quirky characters, some thoughtful issues to explore that resonate for a baby boomer woman coming of age in a male dominated society and above all, humor. 

Horse, A Novel by Geraldine Brooks (F) is written by one of my favorite authors. All of her books are very different from each other and this one doesn’t disappoint. There are two story lines with the first one being about a Smithsonian bone researcher intrigued with knowing about a misplaced skeleton of a famous racehorse from the mid 1860’s and her relationship with the art historian who helps her unravel the mystery.  The second story line is far more compelling, telling us the story of a famous racehorse and his slave trainer.  While the horse, named Lexington, was an actual real champion, his Black slave trainers and jockeys are largely unknown.  The story, set in the pre-Civil war years, that Brooks develops around the horse is captivating. I particularly loved to the tie-ins with Kentucky and art history.

The Latecomer: A Novel by Jean Hanff Korchlitz (F) tells the story of a wealthy New York family in conflict.  A mis-matched couple has triplets by in vitro fertilization and then as an afterthought use the last of their fertilized eggs to have another child.  I found the plot intriguing and the relationships explored compelling. 

The Last Green Valley: A Novel
by Mark Sullivan (F) is a World War II novel.  Mark Sullivan had written Beneath a Scarlet Sky which I had really enjoyed.  This story centers on a group of German settlers in Ukraine who were caught between the opposing German and Russian armies.  It was interesting to get a perspective on the Eastern Front of the war and to learn how European refugees had to survive during the war.

Call Your Daughter Home by Deb Spera (F) is set in South Carolina in the 1920’s in the aftermath of the boll weevil infestation that destroyed the cotton crops and the local economy.  The story is told from the perspective of three different women whose lives intersect: one is a poor white mother, one a plantation mistress and one a black housekeeper.  The characters are well developed, and the story moves at a pleasing pace with a few plot twists to keep the reader’s interest.

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray (F) is another work of historical fiction though based on three very real women placed in three different periods of history.  The first is the fascinating story of Adrienne Lafayette, the wife of the General Lafayette of the American Revolutionary War fame.  I particularly liked learning of the political intrigue that she was involved with at the French Court during the 18th Century.   The second story centered on an American woman residing in France during World War I who helped establish a home for war orphans at the ancestor Lafayette chateau and the third story is about one of the grown-up orphans who becomes involved in an elaborate resistance operation during World War II. The book is well written with exquisite details.

Emily Nichols Grossi:

The Yank: The True Story of a Former US Marine in the Irish Republican Army by John Crawley (NF). John Crawleywas born in New York to Irish immigrant parents and moved to Ireland as a young teenager to attend school. Inspired there by the struggle for Irish freedom against British rule in the North of Ireland, he returned to America to receive military training in an elite, special forces “Recon” unit of the US Marine Corps. Afterwards, he returned to Ireland to volunteer for the IRA and conducted many missions, including gun-running from the US, working with Boston criminal head Whitey Bulger. Crawley would be captured and imprisoned twice, both in Ireland and in England, while on major missions, done in both times by informers.

The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time by John Kelly (NF). In The Great Mortality, author John Kelly lends an air of immediacy and intimacy to his telling of the journey of the plague as it traveled from the steppes of Russia, across Europe, and into England, killing 75 million people—one third of the known population—before it vanished.

The Ruin. The Scholar. The Good Turn. The Murder Rule. all by Dervla McTiernan (F). Fabulous Irish-living-in-Australia crime writer. The first three books are a series. The Murder Rule is independent. 

The Fell by Sarah Moss (F), although could easily be NF. Moss is queen of gorgeously written small books, and this story, which takes place in a small English town during the pandemic, is no different. I couldn’t put it down.

Eric Stravitz:

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Toles (F).

 Live by Night by Dennis Lehane (F).

 The Overstory by Richard Powers (F).

Fruzsina Harsanyi:

The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss by Mary-Frances O’Connor (NF). This amazing book by a neuroscientist shares groundbreaking discoveries about how our brain handles grief and provides a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and restoration.  It was on my list in July and stays on. 

Churchill’s Shadow: The Life and Afterlife of Winston Churchill by Geoffrey Wheatcroft (NF).  In 535 pages I could not put down, Wheatcroft tells the good and the bad, the successes and failures, the passions and prejudices of this great man. Most interestingly, he describes Churchill’s afterlife, the evolution of a mythical figure whose legacy has been used and misused by today’s politicians.   

And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by Jon Meacham (NF). This is the best book on Lincoln written by my favorite Presidential historian. Meacham argues that 1) Lincoln believed from early in life that slavery was wrong; 2) nevertheless, he disappointed abolitionists time and again; 3) because Lincoln was not a full-time reformer but an office-seeker,” not “a preacher but a politician.”  And yet, Meacham finds, it was his religious faith that guided him through the most consequential decisions of the “American struggle.”  Not a surprising conclusion for a man of faith, but his massive endnotes and bibliography support this very readable book.

The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan (F). A beautifully written book about life and death and how we adapt to our own extinction. It is told in the style of magic realism, which in this case is not a gimmick, but essential to telling the story.

What Storm, What Thunder by Myrian J.A. Chancy (F). This fictional account of the aftermath of the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti is based on interviews the author had with people who lived through and knew people who didn’t. The book is built around the story of 10 characters through whose experience she explores the horror of the earthquake and the desperate conditions in the camps. It’s heartbreaking for the people in Haiti and in a different way for the people who made it to an unwelcome America.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (NF).  I’m just catching up with this wonderful book written in 2013 by a botanist and citizen of the Potawatomi Nation. Its subtitle: “Indigenous wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants” is a good description of the contents, which I read AND listened to with wonder.

Garland Standrod:

Into the Great Emptiness: Peril and Survival on the Greenland Ice Cap by David Roberts (NF). I just received this book and couldn’t put it down. It details the story of the once famous, but now chiefly forgotten, British explorer, Henry George Watkins, and of his daring rescue expedition in Greenland in the 1930’s. It’s a fascinating read about someone of whom I knew nothing and a book which I quickly read.

Spadework for a Palace by Laszlo Krasznahorkai (F). This short, strange novel,  by a Hungarian writer, written all in one sentence, consists of the thoughts of a librarian at the New York Public Library whose name is Herman Melville, and who spends the course of the book discussing the architecture and landscape of Manhattan and how Herman Melville, the author, and Malcolm Lowry, the author, and Bartok, the musician, related to Manhattan, all the while trying to explain the perfect Library Palace. 

Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard (F). Stoppard’s latest play, in nine scenes, is a powerful, searing, intergenerational study of a two Viennese, inter-married, upper middle-class, Jewish families covering the years 1899 – 1955. Stoppard is usually known for his wordplay and comic sense, but in this play he is deadly serious, even with just a little word play and humor. Stoppard shows the vanity of ideas, especially political ideas, when confronted by the evil of racial hatred.

Bliss Montage by Ling Ma (F). The short stories in this collection tackles the troubles of the real world by transporting the reader to the indeterminate realm between sleeping and being awake. She contrasts the irretrievability of the past with the instability of our recollections. These are stories preoccupied with sudden, yet ordinary, schisms—death, violence, birth, infidelity, migration, publication, and the end of love.

The Last Days of the Dinosaurs: an Asteroid Extinction, and the Beginning of Our World by Riley Black (NF). Riley Black walks readers through what happened in the days, the years, the centuries, and the million years after the asteroid impact, tracking the sweeping disruptions that overtook this one spot, and imagining what might have been happening elsewhere on the globe. Most geological and ecological changes take enormous amounts of time to occur, but this extinction process started all in one day.

The Years by Annie Ernaux (F/NF). Ernaux, who won the Nobel Prize, writes auto-fiction—that is, a mixture of memoir and fiction. Ernaux’s The Years (2006) is a group autobiography, told in the first-person plural, of the generation that came of age in France after World War II. Ernaux tells her story not through the movements of history in any conventional sense but as a list of ordinary events, of television programs and advertisements and minor celebrity. She has been criticized as being too banal or sociological, but I found her work quite interesting, being of the same age group of which she writes.  This could profitably be read in conjunction I Remember by George Peerec (NF).

Glen Willis:

Row House Blues-The Decline and Loss of the Old Philadelphia Neighborhoods during the Suburban Migrations 1966-1999 by Jack Myers (NF).I was born in West Philadelphia in April of 1941. We lived over a Butcher Shop during the early 40’s while my dad went off to War. When he came home, we couldn’t afford to stay there, so we moved closer to South Philadelphia because the apartments were cheaper there. My Dad took advantage of the GI Bill and went to Painting and Paperhanging school. We moved again to a Southwest Philadelphia Row House, a few houses away from my grandmother. Mom and Dad were both working, my sister and I were both in Catholic School and went to Granma’s until they got home.

I share this with you, good reader, because that is a prelude to this book about living in a city neighborhood about to suffer the great migration of families into and out of the various neighborhoods scattered throughout the City of Philadelphia.

Once I started reading this book I could not stop. I felt like I knew so many of the characters and locations by heart.

Harry Siler:

The Need to Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice by Wendell Berry (NF) – a revisit of what he’s come to believe.

The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by James Hillman (NF) – an excellent companion to The Need to Be Whole.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (F) – upper class man is forced to live out a long, and interesting, life under house arrest.

Haven Kennedy:

You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt (NF). For a book written more than 50 years ago it’s incredibly relevant. Roosevelt takes a long look at privilege and the damage it does. Roosevelt also talks about dealing with pain, how to live with courage, and the importance of love.

Right after this book I read Nothing Was the Same by Kay Redfield Jamison (NF). Jamison wrote the groundbreaking book The Unquiet Mindher bipolar diagnosis, and I was curious about her other work. Nothing Was the Same was written after Jamison lost her husband to cancer. She is a brilliant writer and has a way with words. Jamison’s story resonated with me, as my own struggles with mental illness impacts my marriage. But – the book was lacking compassion and love towards others. The amount of privilege shown in the book was intense – her husband took part of clinical trials despite not qualifying for them. He held onto life even when it was clear that he was dying.

Roosevelt, on the other hand, shared a more pragmatic and compassionate way view of life and death. Roosevelt was matter of fact and aware of her privilege. Throughout the book she talks about the importance of service, of using your privilege to help others.

I understand that Jamison was grieving, and the book shared that. She wrote beautifully of her life with her husband, and the life they shared was beautiful. It is unfortunate, however, that Jamison never talked about her privilege. She talked about being attacked by a fellow doctor – he drunkenly told her that the only reason she wrote The Unquiet Mind was because of her privilege. She disagreed – mental illness affects everyone. What she failed to understand is that most people cannot talk about their mental illness. If I were to come into work and announce that I had anxiety and depression, I wouldn’t be greeted with applause. I would be avoided. Jamison just lost her private practice; she was still able to teach.

I recommend reading both these books and comparing the lessons in each. Read separately they are excellent books, but together they paint a picture of privilege. How to use it for good, and how to ignore the gifts it gives.

Hugh Riddleberger:

NEVER by Ken Follett (F)…pretty chilling..the only positive element is the President is a woman..and has to make the most difficult of all choices..but shows how easily “never” can happen.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray (HF).  Did I read this one because it was on your readers’ list?  But a story that shows the power of one’s ambitions and a willingness to compromise her family values to achieve something even greater.

The Palace Papers by Tina Brown (NF)…my wife does not agree with my including this book and my obsession with the Royals, but there! I’ve admitted it!  Tina Brown does an excellent job writing the book. I liked it, but I will admit my monarchist support for a pretty dysfunctional family who cannot deal with their emotions should cause anyone to question my choice in books to read.  

Dinners with Ruth by Nina Totenberg (NF) …while it hardly focused on the title, RBG obviously played a significant role in Nina’s life.  Some criticize the “name dropping” that Nina seems to focus on…I prefer to think of the remarkable women she includes in her book, many at NPR/PBS, and in this year when Judy Woodruff retires, she is worthy of including in Nina’s next book.

Jane Bradley:

In July I listed Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (NF), an extraordinary history of the family and marketing strategy at the heart of the opioid crisis.  That book provides context for the compelling story of Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (F), set in Appalachia where opioid addiction touches all the characters. 

Recognizing that the inspiration for Kingsolver’s novel was David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (F), I was prompted to read that charming classic and realized how much fun Kingsolver must have had creating and naming her characters.  I recommend reading all three books in succession.

I don’t know how I missed reading David Copperfield before, but I also had never read Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev (F), a timeless novel about the generation gap and nineteenth century Russia. 

Two other novels I found unforgettable are The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li (F); and The Slowworm’s Song by Andrew Miller (F) – both beautifully written and engaging.  These are the first books I’ve read by those two novelists, and I’ll definitely read their earlier works. 

Finally, Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (F) left me eagerly awaiting Strout’s next book.  I hope we haven’t seen the last of Lucy Barton.

Jeff Friedman:

Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge by Ted Conover (NF). The author spent four years living on the Colorado prairie, where land is basically free and there is essentially no government presence. He presents a captivating description of what that’s like and what these people are up to. The book has a lot of what people liked about Hillbilly Elegy and Strangers in their Own Land but it’s not particularly political. I really felt like I was there with them.

Putin by Philip Short (NF). A very interesting biography, particularly with respect to Putin’s early life. I learned a lot about Russian government and society. I also found it very interesting to see America’s foreign policy through Russian eyes. 

Jesse Maniff:

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (NF).

Trust by Hernan Diaz (F). 

Invisible Storm by Jason Kander (NF).

This is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth (NF).

Jim Kilby:

Talking to GOATS by Jim Grey (NF). Interesting and funny. He has led a charmed life and had and still does, relationships with some of the most interesting people, on the planet. A lot of inside stuff.

Judy White:

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (F) — I am rarely a fiction fan, but this book, adapted as fiction from a true story of British women breaking German codes during WWII, kept me turning pages.

West With Giraffes by Linda Rutledge (F). I also enjoyed this adaptation as fiction from a true story set in the Depression of the transport of two giraffes from New York to the San Diego zoo.  

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman (NF) — A perennial favorite of mine, re-read during the pandemic, sensitive and perceptive story of attempts by the California medical system to work with Hmong refugees.  Great cross-culture perceptions.

Native Voices: Listening to Native Americans by Alison Owings (NF) — Another re-read during Covid. I love this book, which gives a real feel for the breadth of experiences of Indians today. Seventeen different people from different tribes, some on reservations, some in cities. The author is obviously a great listener and gains trust, for people confide in her.

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey (NF). The author, who had a tough childhood in an evangelical community, faces this question with honesty and without attempting a definitive answer. I especially was impressed by descriptions of communal prayer during historical crises and how that seemed to affect the resolution of the crisis.

Fifty Two Ways to Walk by Annabel Streets (NF) — Fun and inspiring set of, indeed, 52 ways to walk (think walking backwards, walking to smell, etc.) with pretty amazing research results of the benefits.

River of the Gods by Candace Millard (NF). I am a fan of anything by Candace Millard, and this one, about Burton and Speke’s explorations in East Africa, did not disappoint.

Kate Latts:

I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys (HF) takes place in Romania during the final days of communist dictatorship in 1989. It is told from the point of view of a 17-year-old boy who dreams of freedoms that don’t exist in Romania and instead finds himself caught up in the frightening citizen spy network that ultimately brings an end to the reign of terror. It is not the most sophisticated of writing but really interesting to read about the harsh conditions that still existed in Romania as Communist regimes were falling throughout rest of Europe.

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi (HF) is about an Afghan woman in modern day still managing the trauma she suffered as a young girl when her family was killed during the communist takeover of Kabul. As she navigates her adult life in NYC, she decides to return to Kabul to explore what happened to her family. There are a few annoying coincidences but overall, an interesting book about another historical time period I did not know much about.

Kathleen Kroos:

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee (NF) – a girl’s escape from North Korea.

In My Mother’s Footsteps by Mona Halaby (NF) – a Palestinian refugee returns home.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni (F).

Kathy Camicia:

Lessons by Ian McEwan (F). Granted I like everything he writes, but this topic is unusual. If you want to understand how sexual grooming and trauma can determine the limits of a life, McEwan takes you through a full life that is never full.

Most of what I read is essays.

Essays 1 by Lydia Davis (NF) is outstanding as is the always reliable Best America Essays 2021 (NF).

Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit (NF) is a lovely meandering journey. 

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (NF) should be enjoyed all at once which is not hard to do.

On Getting Better by Adam Phillips (NF) is for anyone who wants what the title offers.  Written by a leading British psychoanalyst it is an easy read without jargon and more about a sympathetic understanding of the human condition.

A Swim in a Pond in Rain by George Saunders (NF) is outstanding for any frustrated would-be English major. He teaches Russian short stories, and this is how he does it.

Kevin Curtin:

The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life: Eternal Truth for Hiker Trash, Ski Bums, and Vagabonds by Tim Mathis (NF). This is a great book if you are interested in maximizing more adventure in your life and minimizing the pressures of your career, that is, how to make your career something that supports your passion rather than a barrier to the adventures you wish to seek. The book is a guide on how to do this effectively, such as how to manage money (live a minimalist lifestyle), relationships (be around cool people who support you), and other responsibilities. As an avid hiker and trail runner (who wants to do more), I found it inspiring.    

Smoke, Snort, Swallow, Shoot: Legendary Binges, Lost Weekends, and Other Feats of Rock ‘n’ Roll Incoherence Edited by Jacob Hoye (NF). This book is a compilation of stories of excess by famous/infamous rock and roll legends, centering on their use of substances of abuse. Stories (confessions) written by Johnny Cash, Marilyn Manson, Dee Dee Ramone, Lemmy, Greg Allman, Anthony Kiedis, Slash, and more, are mostly sad, often vulgar, and sometimes funny (I can admit it).  

Other one’s I’d recommend:

Group by Christie Tate (NF).

The Stranger in the Woods (by Michael Finkel (NF).

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (F).

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (F).

Land Wayland:

An Immense World:  How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong (NF). This is the most interesting/ amazing book I have read in seven years.  It was like watching “Wizard of Oz” for the first time and coming to that magical moment when the door/camera in a black-and-white world opened onto the world of TECH-NICOLOR. This book, page after page, introduces, explains and accolades the thousand senses of every kind of animal on, over or under the face of this planet. Human beings are not in the top 100 of anything except ability to see subtle colors.  Before reading, put on your chinstrap to hold your jaw mostly closed so you don’t keep muttering: “I didn’t know that”.  “So that’s how/why they do that!”.  Fives+ across the board   Readability 5.  Information 5. Credibility regrading physics 5.  To be reread annually.  

When We Cease to Understand The World by Benjamin Labatut (NF).   Recommended for those somewhat familiar with atomic physics who have heard of Schrodinger’s Cat and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.   Starts with brilliant examples of science gone wrong or misused to establish the premise that the scientific view of reality is often quite at odds with the general view.  Focuses on the story of the fall of the certainty of Newtonian physics (as represented by Schrodinger) and its replacement with the current incompatible and thus far irreconcilable views of uncertain reality espoused by the Heisen-berg school.  Concludes with a discussion of the strange dichotomy of a princi-pal science whose fundamental basement stone is composed of two concepts that are incompatible but are which both needed to understand the existing structure of the field. Makes it clear that unraveling this conundrum will re-quire a genius of the magnitude of at least an Einstein or the patient work of 1000 lesser gifted souls.   Distracting is the author’s gratuitous insertion of contrived scenes (most are sexual and libelous) portraying the fictitious private lives of some of the prin-cipal scientists. They are irrelevant and (worse) they are not interesting. If the author had wanted to produce a longer book, he should have edited the dross and provided more information about the certainty/uncertainty debate—but perhaps he wasn’t up to it and decided to write about something he was vague-ly familiar with. Readability 5.  Information 5. Credibility regrading physics 5. Credibility regarding imaginative scenes .001 (they are written like a scientific report)  

Periodic Table: A Cultural History of the Elements from Arsenic to Zinc by Hugh Aldersey-Williams (NF). A bright, chatty recounting of the history and interesting details of the elements that make up our universe.  Well written.  Easy to pickup and easy to put down to do something more pressing.  Readability 4.8, Information 5.  Credibility 4.8. (some of the abstruse elements could have been given more space but that was probably just my wishful thinking that something more interesting could have been said).  

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (NF). Random House/Penguin New York. Well established as a “go to” book to understand habits, what they are, why we rely on them, how to make ‘em and the struggle to break ‘em. Readability 4.8, Information 5.0, Credibility 4.8.  

EDISON: A Biography by Edmund Morris (NF). Every possible detail about a very powerful, very boring man.  Good attention to Edison’s process of invention or co-opting the work of others to create many of the essential items of everyday electrical life. The author is under no illusions about the subject he was working with and about halfway thru I mentally gave up hoping for more or for a hero to emerge.  Readability 4.2, Information 4.1, Credibility 4.4. Perfect for long winter nights before the fireplace; it will take a month to get through it.

Larry Makinson:

Deacon King Kong by James McBride (F). A cast of unforgettable characters in this novel of a rundown housing project in Brooklyn in 1969 and the people who live there. Enjoyable, complicated, often heartwarming. A supremely satisfying read.

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putinby Masha Gessen (NF). Definitive biography of Vladimir Putin’s rise to power and the thuggish behavior he has exhibited ever since. This should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand what drives the world’s most dangerous man.

Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami (F). Marvelous novel about a Japanese artist who lives for a while on a mountaintop house once occupied by a great artist. He finds a hidden masterpiece in the attic, and everything changes from there. Wonderfully engaging, even to someone who doesn’t like the fantasy genre.

Walking the Bowl by Chris Lockhart & Daniel Mulilo Chama (NF). An immersive plunge into the world of the street children of Lusaka, Zambia. It reads like a novel, but it was co-written by anthropologists and based on a multi-year research project in the slums of Lusaka. Educational and absorbing.

Lydia Hill Slaby:

As you know I drift fiction, which (in one perspective) focuses on emotional truth over factual truth. The best series I read this year on that was the Rowland Sinclair mysteries by Sulari Gentill (F). Set in 1920s/30s Australia, the facts of those times told through fiction felt very true now, which triggered a lot of conversations in our house. Plus, I haven’t read a lot of Australian literature — fun to learn about a different culture. 

Mary Bardone:

Last Boat from Shanghai by Helen Zia (NF). This book chronicles the lives of four people who lived in Shanghai from 1939 until they each left for various destinations in the 50s and 60s.  It is  a fascinating view of Chinese history from the  Japanese occupation through WWII to Chang Kai Chek to Mao and beyond.

Neither Wolf nor Dog and Wolf at Twilight by Ken Neubert (NF). These are two books of a trilogy, but I only read these two.  Each gives a very in-depth insight to the native American’s experience and philosophies.  You might think that you have read enough on this topic, as did I, but I learned a lot and got a different insight into the issue.  It is spiritual, philosophical and at time brutal as the history is recounted.

The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan (NF). Initially drawn to this book as it is a Bozeman author, we live in Bozeman, and it is the story of a local family who eventually got here from Ukraine. Their story is of a harrowing escape from the Soviets and the Nazis, eventually making their way to Montana and an inspiring story of immigrant success. They defied all the odds to get here to to be successful in business once they got here. 

Mary L:

The Tragic Muse by Henry James (F).  He wanted to be a playwright, but his only play was his only failure.  This book is after all that and features some features of the 19th century theatre world–one character is an actress.  Great for me, but recommended only for other fans of Henry James.

Allegorizings by Jan Morris (NF).  Her last book, it’s about life, the universe, and everything, as Douglas Adams would say.  The essays are not connected, but in Morris’ world, everything is connected. As I said in 2020, she was a travel writer/essayist who creates prose as if she were a poet.

Marie Lerner-Sexton:

Grey Bees by Kurkov (F). Probably the best living writer in Ukraine today, Kurkov takes us into the country with an extraordinary, immersive look at the eastern Grey Zone through the eyes of a beekeeper. The emotional impact of a war’s deprivations and challenges plays a part in the novel’s lingering sentiment, and yet, the story takes place before the current Russian conflict. The characters feel real, and the story bends toward Ukraine’s present-day reality.

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony (NF). This is an older (2009) non-fiction book about an animal reserve owner who is “gifted” a herd of elephants. A beautifully- told page-turner that grips your heart whether you love animals or not.  It reads like a novel. 

Voyage of the Morning Light by Endicott (F). An historical novel that transports the reader to the South Seas at the end of the 19th-century.  It took me a while to get into the book because it moves as slowly as the sailing ship depicted.  But soon the story engages, and the main characters’ lives take on a greater importance than their circumstances. 

Matt Rechler:

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith (NF). Through travels and conversations, Smith looks at how slavery has left its mark on all of us. From Monticello to Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana, Smith peels away myths and sheds light on stories omitted from official tours.  Angola prison for 4 million people and was the bloodiest prison in America.  The book is informational without being confrontational. It won the National Book Critics Award for Nonfiction.

Mecca by Susan Straight (F). The book focuses on people of different backgrounds (Mexican, Mexican American, African Americans, indigenous peoples, white) who live and work at non-glamorous jobs in non-glamorous southern CA. There are several intertwining stories, for example, Johnny Frias, a California Highway Patrol officer and Ximena an 18 year old Mexican migrant pregnant from her human smugglers. These are honest stories about the lives of extraordinary people who are fragile and proud. I recommend reading the Boston Globe review by Lauren LeBlanc, “The Art of Listening in Susan Straight’s ‘Mecca’” to preview the book.

Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis (NF). This is an honest, raw telling of a life from poverty to theatrical prominence. Davis’ father was an alcoholic and violent to her mother. The family was “po”: She had one skirt, few showers. She experienced racism and sexual abuse. Life was never easy but along the way she found role models and mentors, persevered, and survived as a dark-skinned, black woman who was often ignored or rejected.

Meggie Herrlinger:

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus (F). It was an easy read, and I found myself enjoying the quirky characters. 

Melanie Landau:

A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny (F) Her 18th book – worth reading if you are read her books – fiction- but one always feels that the town of Three Pines should exist.

Micah Sifry:

Why We Did It by Tim Miller (NF): A both hilarious and sobering dissection of why so many Republicans who knew better went with Trump, by one who didn’t.

Gunfight by Ryan Busse (NF): A gun industry insider explains how it became radicalized.

Producing Politics by Daniel Laurison (NF): How and why the political campaign industry became a self-licking ice cream cone.

Sandy Hook by Elizabeth Williamson (NF): A wrenching portrait of how the misinformation industry led by Alex Jones fanned lies about the massacre and how the survivor families fought back.

The Quiet Before by Gal Beckerman (NF): An exploration of the settings and processes that incubate world changing new ideas, from the correspondence societies and cafes of the Renaissance to the manifestos of the Furturists and zines of the riot geeks to the Arab Soring and beyond.

In Love by Amy Bloom (NF): A personal memoir of caregiving when one’s partner chooses to die on his feet rather than live on his knees with Alzheimer’s.

Michael Slaby:

Before Religion by Brent Nongbr (NF) is in fact a fascinating exploration of religion as a modern concept of sociology more than theology that actually helps break up some of the sclerosis around moral philosophy and civic life interestingly. Part of an entire curriculum of reading this year for me in the role of religion in society at Union.

Born to Be Good by Dacher Keltner (NF) not as new but a wonderful exploration of how our positive instincts are more at the heart of human nature and our capacities to thrive and survive.

Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graeber (NF)..He was (sadly gone too soon) one of the most brilliant moral and anthropological thinkers of his generation. Debt takes us through history of money and upends a lot of bad unhelpful assumptions about barter and trade and debt and how by fixing those bad assumptions we can unlock different ways of thinking about concepts like public financing and mutual aid.

Mike White:

Operation Pineapple Express by Scott Mann (NF). Great story of the efforts of former Special Forces officers in Afghanistan to get their Afghan counterparts out of Afghanistan during the chaotic withdrawal of American forces.

Weapons of Mass Delusion by Robert Draper (NF, unfortunately). Wins for scariest book of the year.

Unthinkable by Jamie Raskin (NF). Very clear description of how close our government came to failing during the January 6 insurrection.

Nick Fels:

Tom Stoppard: A Life by Hermione Lee (NF). Recommending this and also Stoppard’s autobiographical play, Leopoldstadt, well worth the time, and even the money, required to see it on Broadway.

Nick Nyhart:

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom (NF). A superb writer chronicling a brutal love story. The author writes beautifully about her husband’s decision to end his life after a diagnosis of dementia while in his mid-60s and the road map after that decision. The harrowing consequences of a deep love, interspersing humor alongside its grieving.

American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis by David (NF). Hochschild tells the story of an authoritarian government locking up dissidents, imprisoning a Presidential candidate, and permitting/encouraging mob violence against outgroups. Immensely readable, it moves quickly, covering a short and mostly unexamined slice of American history, 1917-21. 

What it Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party by Michael Kazin (NF). This biography of a political party traces the continuing thread of pragmatism through two centuries of shifting coalitions, forming, and re-forming to win the ability to govern. It provides an insightful lens for looking at both of our major parties today.

Randy Candea:

This year I decided to re-read series of books written by my favorite authors. I started with Louise Penny and her 17 novels based on Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Due to the continued character development, I read each book in the order they were written, starting with Still Life (F) and ending with The Madness of Crowds (F). The books were as good if not better than the first time around! 

The second series of books, written by Donna Leon, are based on vice-commissario of police and detective genius, Guido Brunetti.  There are 32 novels; so far I am in the middle of the 12th book Uniform Justice. (F). Excellent reading!

Rebekah Jacobs:

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (F). Spanning thirty years, Sam, Sadie, and Marks grapple with success, joy, and tragedy, after creating a blockbuster video game. It explores friendship, art, creativity, and loss. It was my favorite book of 2022.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro (F). Everything changes for the Wilf family after a car accident which they never speak of again. Chapters flow between 1985, 2010, 1999, 2020, 2014, and 1970 and we see Mimi, Sarah, Theo, and Ben endure, sustain, and surprise each other.

The Matchmaker’s Gift by Lynda Cohen Loigman (F). The chap­ters alter­nate between two nar­ra­tors: Sara, a young immi­grant Jewish woman who serves as a match­mak­er on the Low­er East Side around World War I; and her grand­daugh­ter, Abby, who works for a 1990s law firm spe­cial­iz­ing in divorce. It is entertaining historical fiction with a touch of magic. 

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonie Garmis (F). Elizabeth is a chemist, forced to leave the lab due to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy in the 1960’s. She eventually becomes a star of a television program called Supper at Six takes American housewives by storm as she teaches them science and independent thinking. 

Hello, Molly by Shannon (NF). Shannon begins with the loss of her mother and sister in a car accident when she was 4.  Raised by her father with little rules, the author describes her childhood, including the time she snuck on a flight to New York City when she was 13 and her rise to SNL. Equal parts funny and sad. 

The Measure by Nickki Erlick (F). This was another favorite.

Richard Miller:

The first four of these are on my list not because they are ‘favorites’ in the sense of good literature, enjoyable reading, good writing, or intriguing story telling. Each of the four, in their own way, took me beyond my previous knowledge and understanding of issues that confront us and our society. All four are eye opening, informing, and educating. Each is compelling.

Saints and Soldiers: Inside Internet-Age Terrorism, From Syria to the Capitol Siege by Rita Katz (NF). A wakeup call as to what is truly going on in terms of how the Internet is being used in ways that most of us don’t know. Katz is doing and has done an amazing service by exposing “the surprising connections between Islamist militants and violent groups on the far right and explains why the latter now poses a far graver threat to Americans and to democracies around the world. Through case studies recounted in alarming detail, Katz shows how radical organizations are exploiting social media to extend their reach and amplify their power.” — Joby Warrick.

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention – and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hard (NF). If you are uncomfortable with the amount of time you spend on your phone, general screen time, or time on the internet, you’re not alone. Hari explores what has happened to his and our ability to pay attention to anything for longer than a short period of time. It’s not only about our personal inability to focus but goes much deeper. Definitely worth the time to understand what is happening to all of us and what we might do about it.

The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss by Mary-Francis O’Connor (NF). From earlier in the year. The most insightful explanation of anything I’ve read in connection with the topics of loss, grieving, and grief.  O’Connor writes about what happens in our brain when we experience loss and why grief and grieving are so powerful. In helping us understand what science has recently learned about these issues, she shows us a new perspective and a new way to think about these powerful issues. O’Connor writes that The Grieving Brain is in no way an ‘advice book,’ yet for me it offers so many new insights on these subjects that I will return to it many times and highly recommend it to others. A good companion book is The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van her Kolk (NF).

Walking the Bowl: A True Story of Murder and Survival Among the Street Children of Lusaka by Chris Lockhart and Daniel Mulilo Chama (NF). Also from earlier in the year. An amazingly true story – narrated non-fiction – about the street children in Lusaka, Zambia (and by implication other street children around the world?). It took five plus years and eight individuals, including five embedded individuals, to gather, sift, and put together this story. The book reads like fiction. Were it so. Similar to Pulitzer Prize winner author Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. But with a bit of a twist. This one also has a message about how one good deed, if walked forward, played forward, can have ripples of positive effect.

These Precious Day: Essays by Ann Patchett (NF). A longtime favorite writer of mine, these are personal stories of and from her life, told simply and honestly. I listened to them and felt she was a good friend, talking directly to me. I suspect reading them would have the same affect. She is a treasure.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver (F). The only fiction choice of the six books I’m allowed to favorite, Demon Copperhead is a riveting story of a young boy born in a trailer in southern Virginia to an addicted, single, teenage mother. It’s a tale that could easily have been overwhelming depressive – which it is on some accounts – but it’s told in the first person by this young boy who has a will to survive, a keen sense of humor, and in a language (Appalachian) that rings true. Kingsolver tells this coming-of-age story of a boy nobody wants, except to exploit, with a barely repressed sense of outrage. It mimics the Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield story, but you need not know anything about that to understand the value of what Kingsolver has written. Put this one on your ‘to read’ list.

Robin Rice:

Blonde Indian: A Native Memoir by Ernestine Hayes (NF). Recommended by Mary Bardone. How can one grow up in a compromised native American culture and still maintain links to its redeeming, lyrical links. Eloquent.

Sal Giambanco:

Grant by Ron Chernow (NF). The most extraordinary book about America I have read in a really long time. Chernow’s biography, simply titled Grant, tells the story of one of the most maligned American heroes – following his death. Grant is maligned because no other American President before or since tried to do true justice towards Black Americans – he almost succeeded. Think 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments – all exist because of Grant’s support. He defeated the first installment of the KKK across the South, etc. This book is a reminder that narratives and the stories we tell ourselves and our children really matter.

Sam Black:

Best New Books:

The Anomaly by Herve Le Tellier (F). This book caused a sensation in France and Europe when it first came out, in 2020. Just translated into English and released in 2021. Set in the present with just a single but existential astrophysical twist.  Unputdownable – and it leaves you with things to think about. Not overly long – you could read the whole book on just part of a transatlantic flight. Won the Prix Goncourt.

The Tyranny of Merit by Michael Sandel (NF). A careful analysis and evaluation of the history, rationale, and subtle biases of current American versions of meritocracy. Especially provocative on the rhetoric of Democratic candidates. The principal areas of focus are U.S. college admissions and U.S. national electoral politics. Essential.

The Dawn of Everything by Graeber and Wengrow (NF). Turns much of the last few hundred years of cultural anthropology, a k a the study of human prehistory, upside down. A fresh look at the evolution of human culture. Thought-provoking on every page. A magnificent accomplishment that involves the re-thinking of the received wisdom in almost an entire field.

All That She Carried by Tiya Miles (NF). Based on an exhibit in the African American Museum in Washington: a cloth sack given, with a few contents, by a mother to her 9-year-old daughter, Ashley, when their family, which was enslaved, was broken apart. The emotional reactions, to this exhibit, of hundreds of museum guests resulted in curators placing boxes of tissues alongside the display case. Starting with a description of the exhibit, the author traces Ashley to a place and time, traces her family to the past and almost to the present, and creates a tapestry of narrative and analysis out of this humblest of objects. By a woman historian, a professor at Harvard, the book digs into the history of materials, food, gender roles, culture, and the skewing of the historical record by the socially and economically dominant forces that create the records. (Ed. Winner, National Book Awards 2021 for Nonfiction)

A Brief History of Equality by Thomas Piketty (NF). The kind of book that gives you a new perspective on major issues every time you read a chapter. Based on the best set yet of compilations of the (historical, recent and current) nation-by-nation data on income and assets, and on the author’s deep thinking on the issues of equality. The analysis digs into what happened to wealth distribution after the end of slavery, and after the French revolution, and what are the arguments pro and con for compensation to those who were, or whose families were, enslaved. What causes changes in the distribution of wealth? What social principles underlie these changes? What political changes would be needed to bring about a more egalitarian distribution of income or wealth? The kind of book I may have to read more than once.

Tiffany Lopez:

The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin (F). This was one of the most fascinating, mind-shifting books I have ever read. It is set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and blends physics, philosophy, and a dystopian fantasy book into one incredible story that is somehow, not as far-fetched as it sounds. I was not aware of the Chinese cultural revolution, which has sent me down a very deep, dark rabbit hole, and many of the scenarios in the book made me pause and consider some pretty hefty questions. This book has been the topic of many interesting dinner conversations with friends, and I recommend it for anyone needing a good think.

Going Postal by Sir Terry Pratchett (F). This is a light-hearted, whimsical satire book I picked up as a recommendation from a friend. This is one book out of the Discworld series (41 books in total), but no previous knowledge of the other books was required. I loved the cheesiness, puns, and witty banter of the characters, and unbeknownst to me, every mention of anything ties into the greater Discworld, which is literally a disc-world (think flat planet) balancing on four elephants on the back of a turtle. So I guess it is sci-fi, too. It reminded me of Absurdistan or A Confederacy of Dunces, but with much, much more runway for future reading.

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (NF). This one has been on my reading list (MillersTime suggestion) for years, and I finally had the time to get through it this summer. It has been a beautiful book to read to better understand the evolution of civil rights and to learn about the great migration in the US. While living in Sweden, it has been interesting to reflect on what I was reading while also seeing a similar micro segregation here due to the influx of asylum seekers and refugees after several different humanitarian disasters in recent times. 

Freezing Order by Bill Browder (NF). This is Bill Browder’s own account of following the trail of money laundering, leading to murder, and eventually surviving Putin’s wrath. I decided to try to understand more about Russia and the oligarchs after the war in Ukraine started this spring, since I am living a stone’s throw from Russia, in a land with a pending NATO application, realizing I know very little about our neighbors, and war feels much closer to home than it did when I was in the US. It is in large part to the work mentioned in this book that the world was able to sanction Russia during this war at the speed they could, but is it actually making an impact? Browder also follows the money right to Washington, where the picture he draws makes so much sense, and it just leaves me asking why we are not doing more. 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (NF). I listened to this audiobook after seeing Trevor on tour this summer. This book really highlights his gift for storytelling, his playful energy, and his humble, human, real-life experiences. I understand so much more about South Africa from hearing his story and can truly relate to his account of growing up bi-racial and finding it hard to fit in with any group, regardless of how you identify. This light-hearted adventure with a serious underlying plot was a pleasure to hear read with the author’s own emotions.

Predictable Success by Les McKeown (NF). I enjoyed this relatively short book, and though it is very high-level, it is an simplified description of the lifecycle of companies, with some very tangible descriptions and stories of companies and leaders in each phase. I read this book during my most recent job transition and felt I could see how different areas of the business I was leaving was in different phases and how the attitudes and strategies of different individuals landed the company right where they were at during my tenure. I appreciated how the author gave some advice for transitioning from one phase to the next, and back, now if only it were that straight forward to pull off in real time. 

Todd Endo:

Facing the Mountain by Daniel James Brown (NF). By the author of The Boys in the Boat, Facing the Mountain tells part of the story of how Japanese Americans fought for their rights and their place during World War II by fighting in Europe as part of the all-Japanese infantry unit (442nd Regimental Combat Team) and by challenging the Constitutionality of the forced removal of Japanese American from the west coast of the US.

Tom Perrault:

Breakfast with Seneca: A Stoic Guide to the Art of Living by David Fideler (NF) – I really enjoyed this easy-to-read distillation of Seneca’s writings into nine (or so) thoughtful ways to live your life. I still think about this book, and it has fundamentally altered my thoughts and behaviors.

Across the River: Life, Death, and Football in an American City by Kent Babb (NF) – It helps that the “American City” is New Orleans and feels intimately familiar so there’s that. But upon finishing, I felt compelled to tell almost everyone I could think of to read this book. It’s non-fiction but reads like a novel. I loved it.

Memorial by Bryan Washington (F) and 100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell (F) – Two LGBTQ choices that I lump together because a) I read them concurrently and b) they feel stylistically the same in spirit, if not in form. “Memorial” is the more “traditional” novel form but super offbeat characters and plot which kept me captivated. “100 Boyfriends” was more of experimental writing with amazing short stories, sometimes as small as a few paragraphs. Both written by gay Black authors that I’m grateful are finally getting a larger and louder platform in which to be heard.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard (NF) – It was a (fun) slog but I *finally* understand ancient Roman history!! Worth the read.

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To see previous years’ lists, click on any of these links: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018 Mid-Year, 2018, 2019 Mid-Year. 2019. 2020, Mid-Year 2021, 20221. 3/30/22. 7/16/22.

Year End Call for Favorite Reads


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As I have done for the past 13 years, I am asking for a list (anywhere from one to as many as six) of books you’ve most enjoyed reading in 2022.

There is no definition to the kind of book which you might add to this list. They can be fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, short stories, science, poetry, mystery, romance, hobbies, children’s books, etc. I’m most interested in what you truly enjoyed this past year (old or new books) with the thought that others might get some ideas for their reading in 2023.

Even if you think others may recommend a particular book that you liked, please include it on your list. Some of you like to know that more than one or two MillersTime readers have enjoyed a given title.

Also, if you want to include any of the books you cited from the March 30, 2022 or July 17, 2022, feel free to do so. You can review what you sent in here:

March 30, 2022 Favorite Reads

July 16, 2022 Favorite Reads

Send me your list ( with the title, author and whether the book is fiction (F) or non-fiction (NF).

Please take the time to include a few sentences about the book and particularly what made this book(s) so enjoyable for you. For many of the contributors and readers of this annual list, it is the comments that are what’s most important about MillersTime Favorite Reads each year.

Send your list by December 20. Then I can post the results on Dec. 31, 2022.

Thanks in advance.

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To see previous years’ lists, click on any of these links: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018 Mid-Year, 2018, 2019 Mid-Year. 2019. 2020, Mid-Year 2021, 20221. 3/30/22. 7/16/22.

Cappadocia: Thru Ellen’s Lens


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Overlooking the Devrent Valley

Following our time in Jordan, the second part of our recent trip was focused on Cappadocia, in Central Turkey, also a place we had long wanted to visit.

Over the past decade or so, as we considered this trip, we must have seen hundreds of photographs of the strange formations which make up this magical area. Often, when that happens, the traveler is disappointed with the reality, for how can the beautiful images match the reality of what you’ll see and how you will experience it? We are happy to report that in this case we were not disappointed. Cappadocia is even more impressive than its pictures, even Ellen’s!

Kapadoky (its Turkish name) was designated in 1985 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, primarily for its dramatic landscapes, underground cities, cave churches, and houses carved in the rocks.

It’s a semi-desert region dating back as far as the Bronze age and known for its tall, cone-shaped, rock formations (“fairy chimneys”) and for its cave dwellers (“troglodytes”). It later became used as refuges by Christians.

The soft volcanic rock was shaped by erosion into towers, cones, valleys, and caves and was used throughout history (think Byzantine, Roman and Islamic eras) by inhabitants who built rock cut churches, underground tunnels, and ‘cities’. Wind erosion created exotic shapes out of the sandstone, each area different — strange, weird, mesmerizing. Ellen’s camera never stopped clicking.

We went to Cappadocia largely for its stunning landscapes and natural wonders, but we learned so much about ancient religious history. We flew from Istanbul to Kayseri and drove to the small town of Uchisar. We stayed four nights at the wonderful Museum Hotel (partially built into the caves) with its unique rooms and panoramic views of various valley and sites.

The photographs you see below and in the slide show are from the Devrent, Pasabag, Pigeon, and Zelve Valleys and the underground city of Kaymakli, the Goreme Open Air Museum, the ancient city of Sobesos, and Ortahisar.

Certainly one of the highlights was the hot air balloon flight as we floated over Cappadocia’s unforgettable landscapes. We rose at 5 AM and took our place in that tiny but tall basket below a very large hot air balloon. We rose into the air as the sun was breaking over the mountain tops around us. To say this was spectacular would be an understatement. At one point, there were well over 100 hot air balloons in the air at the same time, creating a unique sight itself. Fortunately, none of them crashed that day.

Our time in Cappadocia, along with the first part of the trip (see Thru Ellen’s Lens: Petra & Wadi Rum), certainly ranks in the top tier of our continuing explorations of the world.

Devrent Valley Rock Formations

Zelve Valley

Zelve Valley
Pasabag Valley “Fairy Chimneys”
Goreme Valley, City with 6th Century Churches

Goreme Valley Churches
Filling Our Hot Air Balloon
The View from Our Hot Air Balloon
Balloons Over Pasabag Valley
Balloons Descending
Basmelek Mikail Church and Monastery

To see all 41 of Ellen’s photos go to: Cappadocia: Thru Ellen’s Lens

As always, we recommend you view all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer). They are much sharper and much more detail than the ones above or if you only look at the opening page of the slide show.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show.

Thru Ellen’s Lens: Petra & Wadi Rum


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Exiting The Siq, Petra

Ellen and I recently returned from a 10-day trip to Petra (Jordan) and Cappadocia (Turkey). For many years we had wanted to visit these two treasures of civilization. Having to postpone the trip twice because of COVID restrictions, we were finally able to make this long desired trip in October.

We have divided Ellen’s photos and some brief notes about these trips into two posts, starting with our journey to and through Jordan. (The second post will appear in a week or two, focusing on Cappadocia.)

We met our wonderful guide, Riyad Shishani, who stayed with us for our five days in Jordan and proved to us once again the importance of having the right person to introduce us to and teach us about the treasures and stories of his country:

Riyad – Our Guide

We began our trip with a drive north from Amman to the hills of Gilead and the Greco-Roman city of Jerash, an extensive area of archeological remains (Neolithic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Umayad) where we spent a half day exploring this vast site:

Jerash — Oval Plaza

Riyad then took us back to Amman where he introduced us to its Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic remains (The Citadel, The Roman Theater, The Forum) and the wonderful views over the city. We also wandered in the old part of Amman and wished we had more time to explore the markets, restaurants, and crafts there:

Amman – The City

Amman – The Citadel

Our knowledgeable driver, Nabil Hamo, drove us south to Dana, Jordan’s largest nature reserve (think 200 square miles of spectacular mountains and wadis on the edge of the Great Rift Valley) and then on to Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon). One of the two highlights of this part of our trip, we explored this desert landscape by four-wheel jeep, a four-hour, five-mile hike through the sand dunes, canyons, and sandstone mountains, and an overnight stay at the Aicha Camp. (Ask Ellen some time about locking us out of our luxurious domed ‘tent’ at 4:45 AM.):

Wadi Rum by Jeep
Wadi Rum

Heading back north through more stark landscape, we stopped at Little Petra, a site that dates back to the first century and may have served as a ‘suburb’ to the larger city of Petra. Smaller and less crowded than Petra itself, Little Petra’s buildings are carved into the walls of the sandstone canyons and gave us a taste of what we were to experience over the next two days.

Entrance to Little Petra

Petra itself covers an area of 100 square miles. It was carved into and out of rocks and canyons between 800 BC and 100 AD. It was an important city in its day as it served as a stopping point along a major caravan route. Until an earthquake in the 4th century destroyed much of the city, it thrived as the capital of the Nabataean Empire with its temples, theaters, tombs, and extensive water system. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World (2007).

For us, the 1.2 km long, narrow gorge (The Siq), leading into the city and The Treasury, was the highlight of Petra. We walked in an out of this dramatic entryway twice, once by day and once by candlelight. That walk will be forever in our memory.

Entering Petra – The Treasury
Inside Petra

We ended our road trip in Jordan with a brief stop at Mount Nebo, the biblical site where Moses was said to have viewed, but was not able to enter, the Holy Land. Despite some cloudy weather, we were able to see Jordan, the Dead Sea, and Israel.

From Mount Nebo to the Holy Land

The trip was fascinating on many levels: its ancient historical backdrop; the landscapes of the gorgeous red desert of Wadi Rum; the passageway into ancient Petra (and walking there after dark by candlelight); the delightful and knowledgeable guide; the adorable group of school girls picnicking (who insisted on phone pictures) as we walked in the Dana Reserve; learning how to open and eat a pomegranate just plucked from a tree by a local guide; and the general good will we felt as tourists. As always, we took a cooking class, and enjoyed the local cuisine, largely for its delicious hummus, pita bread, baba ganoush, and many variations of salads.

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To see all 44 of Ellen’s photos go to: Thru Ellen’s Lens: Petra & Wadi Rum

See all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). They are much sharper, and the larger format presents them in much more detail than the ones above, or if you only look at the opening page of the slide show.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show.

Slot Canyon – Petra

I Changed My Mind


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On August 30th, I unequivocally, but sadly, wrote that after 18 years as a full season ticket holder of the Washington Nationals, I had terminated my annual contract with the team and its owners.

Primarily, I was fed up with the Nats’ model of getting good young players and then abandoning them when they reached free agency, which, among other things, is unfair to the fans. Getting attached to players only to have them go elsewhere maybe understandable (players have every right to determine their value, and the owners have their right to their business model). But as I came of age in a time when a fan could count on their favorite player being with their favorite team year after year, I found it hard to adjust to this new reality. And so I decided I wanted to withdraw my financial support of both the owners and players.

There were also other reasons I gave up the tickets. All my season ticket partners for the 81 home games had, for a variety of reasons, gradually dropped out of the partnership, and the tickets and parking therefore had become extremely expensive. Watching the Nats go 55-107 was another reason I was unhappy with the Nats and their ownership, even for this Red Sox fan who has endured many, many years of disappointment. While I still cared about baseball, it seemed I could choose to go to a few games a year and continue to ‘register’ my protest as a fan about being part of a system that rewarded the owners and the players to care more about the money than the game.

Then, over the last month or so of the season, I attended five or six games and found that despite all the reasons listed above, I still loved being at the ballpark, watching baseball, and always looking for something I had never previously witnessed (e.g., one umpire being overridden on three consecutive missed calls at first). Above all, I enjoyed being with family and friends for an afternoon or evening of baseball and companionship.

So, while I had terminated my full season three seats and parking, and with some encouragement from Cassie Bullis, my young Nats’ account executive, I decided to return as a partial season ticket holder (two seats, 41 games, and parking). I won’t have total choice of every game I want to see, but I can swap tickets for a particular game(s). The Red Sox, for instance, are here for three games in August and only one of those is on my 2023 Plan B.

If any of you have interest in being a partner for at least five games, let me know, and we can discuss which games, costs, etc.

And I will continue to invite various family and friends to join me and so urge you to let me know if you want to attend a game together. (Added Note: if you don’t live in DC but will find yourself coming to our ‘swamp’ sometime in the next year, consider checking with me about seeing a game, either together or with a friend.)

I will also continue to pass on some tickets to various charities and friends at no cost.

Baseball will remain a part of my life even while I disapprove of many aspects of what it has become.

As the Duke of Brooklyn (Sean McLaughlin) has said, “with all its faults, it is still THE best sport.”

Baseball Contests: Winners & Losers


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There were only two contests this year, and the questions required contestants to answer six questions in the first contest and five in the second. In both contests, it was difficult to declare an outright winner, but here’s what yours truly has decided:

Contest #1: Are you a ‘homer’ or do you really know your team?

If your name is NOT in the following list, consider yourself a ‘homer’:

Ed Scholl, Jesse Maniff, Matt Galati, Larry Longenecker, Brent Schultz, Nicholas Lamanna, Bill Bronwell, Zack Haile, Jim Kilby, Chris Ballard, Dawn Wilson, John Carlson.

Of these 12 who all avoided the ‘homer’ label, it was difficult to choose between the two best submissions.

Matt Galati said the Pirate’s record would be 60-102 (they were 62-100), would be last in their Division (they were), and wouldn’t make the playoffs (they obviously didn’t), and he attributed that to mismanagement, lack of offense, and a weak defense (all true).

Chris Ballard said the Astro’s record would be 97-65 (they were 106-56), said they’d win the AL West (they did), have a first round bye (true), would go to the World Series and win it (true). His eight reasons were detailed and amazingly on target.

And so Matt and Chris share the Winner title for Contest #1, and each will receive a copy of Joe Posnanski’s superb The Baseball 100.

Contest #2: Name the four teams in the LCS, what two teams will make it to the WS, how many games will the WS go, which team will win, and why.

No one shined in this Contest. Brent Schultz did pick the Phillies to make it to the LCS and the WS (where they would lose to the Twins). Pretty good.

Joe Higdon and Chris Ballard (the same guy from Contest #1) had the best overall answers, each getting one of four teams in the LCS, one of two teams in the WS, who would win it all, and pitching being the reason for the victory.

Joe wins as he picked the Astros in six, and his submission was early. Chris loses to Joe as he picked the Astros in seven and, as usual, was late in making his picks.

So Joe gets one ticket to the 2023 World Series.

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See you all again next year when MLB will have instituted some new rules in the hopes of making beisbol more fan friendly.

Plus, look for my upcoming post, Mea Culpa.

Vote for Ellen’s Photo!


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JUST A DROP by Ellen Miller – a lone rock remains to be crushed by time (Namibian Desert)

Many of you have commented over the past few years about your enjoyment of Ellen’s photos from our various trips throughout the US and abroad.

A panel of judges at Wilderness Safaris, one of our favorite outdoor travel/adventure companies, has chosen Ellen’s photo above as a finalist in one of their four contests, African Landscapes.

If you think the photo above is worthy, you can cast a vote for her photo, as the winner(s) will be chosen exclusively by visitors to Wilderness Safaris’ website.

You have to register to vote, but there is a box to check so you will not receive any future mailings from Wilderness Safaris.

Do vote in each of the four categories as there are some truly amazing photos in each.  As you vote, the display will automatically move to the next category. Ellen’s photo is in the category of African Landscapes, and, as you can see above, it’s a picture of a lone rock on the vast red/orange of the Namibian desert.

The link to voting is here.

Full disclosure: There is a prize for the winning photos. But when I urged Ellen (she describes it as ‘extreme coercion’) to enter the contest, we knew nothing about prizes being attached to contest. I simply felt it could be fun to see how others who do not know Ellen would judge her work.

And while it would be rewarding to be chosen as a winner, the fact that her desert rock photo has made it to the finals in this amazing collection of photos is certainly an honor in and of itself.

Voting closes 10 October 2022

(PS – Feel free to pass this post on to one or two friends.)