I wondered in a previous post if there was any interest in contributors focusing on rereads for the end of August update on Favorite Reads. There seemed to be enough interest that I’m proceeding with the idea.
If you are interested and willing to participate, here are a few guidelines (I know some of you just want to stick with new books, which is fine, and I will of course include whatever you read between now and then).
Pick one or more books you’ve read previously (as a child, as an adolescent, in your young adult years, in your middle years, in your later years, recently, etc.), reread it with a few questions in mind:
Why did you choose this particular book to reread?
How was it the second time around?
What particularly struck you in this reread?
What accounts for any differences from the first reading?
Fifty of you responded this time, including our Senior Contributor who is 98 years of age, and you were divided almost equally between males and females. Nonfiction slightly outpaced fiction (49-43).
We’ll do this one more time at the end of the summer; so keep a record of your favorite reads in June, July, and August. Also, there was interest from enough of you in rereading at least one book from your past. I’ll proceed with that as a separate project/post and send a few guidelines shortly.
Mostly, however, I appreciate all of you who responded and sent in contributions, and I thank each of you for participating.
Contributors are listed alphabetically by first names.
Paladin by David Ignatius (F). Absorbing page turner spy novel. Frightening but at least not about a biological virus. Added bonus: watch interview with Ignatius here and And this replay of interview by Ignatius of Barton Gellman who has written a book about his journalistic reporting of Snowden.
The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See (F). Another wonderful book by Lisa See about the Haenyeo, a female diving/fishing community on the Korean island of Jeju and interwoven with a long-term relationship between two friends over several decades. On this island the women earn the money while the men tend to the children. The novel covers the time period starting with the Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII through the US occupation after WWII and the division of Korea into two countries and into the period when Koreans once again rule the country and what transpires for the inhabitants of Jeju. What holds the novel together over this long period, however, are the two women, Young-Sook and Mi-ja who are life-long “friends.”
The Rationing: A Novel by Charles Wheelan (F). A HOOT of a novel and published a year ago, it is about a pandemic in the US in the mid-2020’s, how the NIH and other medical professionals worked to understand the Capellaviridae pandemic and how it was caused. (Sound familiar?) From the beginning, they knew the drug Dormigen could cure the sick patient, but it was in short supply in the US, and other countries had an excess of supply but wouldn’t send it to the US in case they needed it. The politics – both international and within the US and its parties — ring so true for what we are seeing with COVID-19. The book is a bit long, but in today’s real pandemic, a HOOT is worth it!
These Truths by Jill Lepore (NF). Still working my way through it – it’s long and for some reason my reading time seems limited – but it’s the history of our country that we need now, and she writes engagingly. I’m rapidly becoming a Jill Lepore groupie – I don’t know where she gets the time (professor of History at Harvard, New Yorker staff writer, and now even a podcast!).
Maid by Stephanie Land (NF) – at a time when we’re understanding “essential workers” in new ways, and discovering all the tears in the safety net, this account of the life and struggles of a “cleaning lady” is sobering.
I completed Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (F) this past week and enjoyed it from cover to cover, as it describe an area where we had a family farm, so I knew some of the types of folks in the region growing up on summers there.
I am reading Larry Cuban’s new book, and probably his last Chasing Success Chasing Success and Confronting Failure in American Public Schools (NF).
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (F).
The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay (F)
The Eleventh Man by Ivan Doig (F) takes you into the war experiences of football teammates, dispersed around the globe with the breakout of WWII. Ben Reinking is pulled out of pilot training and assigned to write about each of his buddies, thereby providing “hero” fodder for the war propaganda machine. The novel raises agonizing problems—Ben’s simmering resentment of the team’s bullying coach, and of the smarmy newsman Ben suspects of dreaming up this whole propaganda project; questions like what is heroism, or bravery, after all; a hot love affair with troubling issues— and Doig treats these issues adroitly without providing any easy answers.
White Lies(NF) – aired as a 7-part series on WAMU (NPR) that focused on the murder of Rev. James Reeb in Selma, 1965—caught my attention because Reeb had been an assistant minister at All Souls Unitarian Church that we belong to. Two journalists went to Selma to learn what they could, and the series shares their process, interviews, and findings—amazingly (and maybe because they were from Alabama) they got folks to say things they had kept secret for all these years. You learn not only about the racial issues in that place and time, but also much about the nature of perception and the deep-rootedness of beliefs – available as a podcast and worth hearing!
My first recommendation is Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (NF). This is a true story of his growing up in Africa. He is a wonderful comedian
Second book is Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker (NF). True story of a family where six of the 12 children were diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and is interspersed in a very readable way with research which has done on that terrible disease.
The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre (NF) is the story of Oleg Gordievsky, the son of two KGB employees who follows his older brother, a KGB operative, into the fold. Oleg’s exposure to Western ideas and values which, ironically, he was exposed to while working for the KGB out of a foreign embassy, leads him to betray the motherland in the hope of bettering his own life and those of his countrymen. It’s an account that kept me interested throughout and informed me of Russia’s attempts at foreign manipulation, countered by Western efforts, all of which began earlier than I was aware of.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller (NF). This is her journey after being sexually abused by a Stanford Univ student. I listened on Audible as she reads the narrative. It is extremely poignant and shows how the victim (in 2016) is still viewed as guilty. Chanel does an excellent yet laborious job of sharing her struggle to find her voice, ultimately being able to get the legal system to change.
We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter (NF). The author traces her Jewish family’s horrific saga living in Poland during Hitler’s reign. She weaves the lives of the siblings together even when they had not heard from each other for several years. A moving story.
While readingOur Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives – and Save Theirs by Richard Louv (NF) the subject matter of which I am quite interested in but found the book although fine on breadth, rather weak on depth
I came across Louv’s very positive comments about Jay Griffiths’ book WILD: An Elemental Journey (NF). In WILD she breaks down the planet into Wild Earth, Wild Ice, Wild Water, Wild Fire, Wild Air, and Wild Mind. Jay traveled to and reported on abused wild peoples all over the globe who she got to know through lengthy multi-week visits in highly primitive living conditions located outside of normal “civilization.” Jay, an English writer, lived with Amazon River basin shamans in their huts by beginning each day drinking ayahuasca. She also resided with Eskimos near the Canadian North Pole; Pygmies in the Calamari Desert, tribal people still using bows and arrows in Papua; Aborigines in Australia and a multitude of other peoples and places. Her impressive reporting was superbly supplemented by detail references quoted from the books in her huge bibliography. Clearly a wild woman herself, Jay’s identification with the wild people she describes is made clear by her ranting style of writing and by her photograph on the dust jacket in which looks like she might be bipolar.
I just finishedRabbit At RestbyJohn Updike (F). I like the way he writes.
I also reread Atonement by Ian McEwan (F). I like the way he writes also.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (F). This is historical fiction, filling in events in the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah – a real 500 year old, beautifully illustrated book that has managed to survive the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazis, and the Serb attacks on Bosnia. It is really a series of inventive short stories cleverly told and held together by their relation to the book, and the book conservator hired to stabilize the manuscript . I found it totally engaging.
Buzz Saw: The Improbable Story of How the Washington Nationals Won the World Series by Jesse Dougherty (NF). Baseball fans, and Nationals fans in particular, will much enjoy this recounting of last year’s historic postseason run by the Nationals. The author was the beat writer for the Washington Post and covered the Nationals throughout the season. The book is more than a game-by-game recap of the postseason; it has lots of very interesting back stories that give the read insight into the personalities and chemistry of the ball club.
The Guardians by John Grisham (F). This is another legal thriller by the master of the genre. It takes place in a small Florida town where a young black man is convicted of murdering a young lawyer. Guardian Ministries (which has a lot of similarities to Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative) takes on legal representation for the accused when they become convinced he was wrongfully convicted and forgotten by the system.
Mary Wollstonecraft by Eleanor Flexner (NF), a biography, not about the author of “Frankenstein”, but her mother, who was a late eighteen century feminist in England. It is overly researched and academic to make for easy reading, but her life was so unusual for the time that it is worth the effort.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (F). A highly acclaimed Czechoslovak author skillfully uses wit, philosophy, politics, passion in magnificent prose sometimes ordering on poetry to tell a complex story.
Elizabeth (Goodman) Lewis:
Blindnessby Jose Saramago (F): Did I say fiction? It sure reads like it’s real. But actually it’s an allegory of what happens in a country when all the inhabitants become blind. Written in the 1990s by this Nobel Prize winner, Blindness narrates the worst-case scenario of a pandemic.
The Library Bookby Susan Orlean (NF): With a thesis that, “in a library, (you) can live forever,” this book details the great fire of LA Public Library, its history, and its role in the city. Along the way, the author brings the characters that people the library to life and exposes the difficulty of proving the crime of arson.
Stan (husband) reads like a gourmet, and I think I read like a garbage disposer–putting it all in and then starting again.
I am almost finished Armando Correa’s The Daughter’s Tale (F) about a WWII Jewish German family and in another way, presents a choice for the mother similar to Sophie’s in Sophie’s Choice.
I am adding two more books by Jean Grainger, The Star and the Shamrock(F) and its sequel,The Emerald Horizon(F). The Grainger books are really Beach Books, rapid to read, happy ending, and characters who are pretty flat with a simple plot. All three are WWII books, with the Grainger books fun with simple take-a-way. Correa’s book is far from simple and it’s ending seems appropriate to the book.
Inge’s War. A German Woman and Story of Family, Secrets & Survival under Hitler by Svenga O’Donnell (NF). A remarkable true story — a Holocaust-era book with non-Jews as the central characters — about the author’s great-grandparents, her grandmother, and her mother and what they faced as Hitler rose to power through the post-war war period. It is mesmerizing story telling, revealing secrets hidden for many decades, brilliantly researched, and very well written. Perhaps most importantly, this book is also a reckoning by the author as she reveals the legacy of her family’s neutrality and inaction during those times.
This is All I Got by Lauren Sandler (NF) . I would not recommend this book for everyone, but for those particularly interested in how our democracy fails the people at the lower rungs of economic ladder, especially those who try to do everything right to get ahead, this work of nonfiction is for you. At theheart of this story is a 22 year old woman and her infant as they confront the system to get ahead. It’s a story of failing government services, red tape, the struggle to raise yourself up, despite the institutional pressures to keep you pinned down.
My two favorite books recently (read on Kindle) were both on your list generated last time:
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare (F). The novel is set in Nigeria in recent years, first in a remote village where the young protagonist is sold first into marriage as a third wife, and then after an escape is sold into virtual slavery in Lagos. The story, though sad is actually heartwarming, and the language and dialogue are exquisite.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride (F). This novel set in the 1960’s tells the story of events occurring after an elderly, drunk, church Deacon, named Sportcoat, shoots one of the young drug dealers in his Brooklyn neighborhood. There is a whole host of entertaining and colorful characters who help move along the intertwining plot.
Emily Nichols Grossi:
In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away by Dionne Searcey (NF). Searcey was West Africa bureau chief for the NY Times from 2015-19, and this is about that experience. While I’m not sure the book matches the title, or vice versa, I did enjoy it. It’s been hard for me to concentrate on most reading during corona life, but I love Africa, knew little about Dakar, and very much enjoyed reading about her travels, colleagues, and experiences in Senegal and further afield. Boko Haram, gender equality, gender roles in marriage, parenting while trying to maintain a career…all fascinating stuff.
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Familyby Robert Kolker (NF). Fascinating book, for all the reasons we’ve discussed.
Paradise Alley by Kevin Baker (F).
Less by Andrew Sean (HF).
The Overstory: A Novel by Richad Powers(F)
This book has been described as “an impassioned work of activism and
resistance;” “a hymn to Nature’s grandeur;” and “a monumental work of
environmental fiction.” It won the 2019 Pulitzer and short-listed for
2018 Man Booker. I resisted reading it, and now I can’t forget it.
The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter(NF). Not much new information but a thoughtful perspective on leadership in a time of crisis. Writes Alter: FDR had many attributes and methods that in the hands of a different person (Alter mentions Huey Long) would have turned out quite differently. Doesn’t take much imagination to extend the analogy.
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy (NF). This collection of Mary McCarthy’s insightful and witty essays, including theatre reviews, book reviews, and essays, covers such subjects as Eugene O’Neill, Salinger, and Simone de Beauvoir.
Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman (NF). This autobiographical book provides insight into how movies scripts are written and how movies are made. Very eye-opening.
The Paladin by David Ignatius (F). Hi tech computer hacking with a great spy story as the setting. Page turner for me. Read in two days. I have a lot of time.
If it Bleeds by Stephen King (F). Four short stories with King’s amazing insights into the human psyche.
Zoey & Sassafras Series by Asia Citro (F). They are a series of books featuring a young girl – Zoey – and her cat, Sassafras. Zoey and her mom have the ability to see magical creatures, they come to the house for help, and Zoey uses the scientific method to help the animals. The books are amazing, and it’s really helped Miriam (age 6) to think about things in a scientific way. She has loved the books and has incorporated them into her daily life, noticing that aphids were eating our bean plants, whereupon she informed me that we needed to get ladybugs – just like Zoey did!
The Seven & Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (F). I read this several months ago, and I loved it. It’s a great melding of sci-fi and mystery, my two favorite genres. The book starts out as a typical English murder mystery, but quickly delves into sci-fi as they days repeat.
Reading Susan Rice’s Tough Love (NF) right now and loving it. Remarkable person. An easy read. And interesting to read what really happened during significant events in our recent history…when we had an administration that acted with intelligence and careful thought. May those days return in November.
The Overstoryby Richard Powers(F).These beautifully written stories about different people and the role that trees play in their lives are especially captivating when you learn how some of them are connected in the end.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (NF). I found this biography to be totally absorbing. In addition to examining Malcolm X and the civil rights movement, the book contains many insights about the dynamics of political and social radicalism that I found relevant to thinking about a very broad range of contemporary issues.
Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective by Space Cowboys (F). I’m kind of pushing it on this one, but I think it counts. A set of extremely detailed and well-crafted choose-your-own adventure novels. (It’s technically a board game, but everything is presented in the form of books.) You explore London to solve mysteries: each one takes a few hours to solve and you can do them with family/friends or by yourself – a very good way to spend an evening during quarantine.
Highly recommend Michael Beschloss’s Presidents of War (NF), an excellent and wonderfully written study of the use and expansion of presidential power. Who knew that presidential overreach began with the otherwise undistinguished James K. Polk? And guess who was the son of Capt. George Morison, leader of US naval forces during the Gulf of Tonkin incident?
Also recommend The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst(F) or any of his spy novels set in Europe on the eve of World War II. Furst fills his books with attractive characters in murky situations. He has a mordant sense of humor and like his mentor, Georges Simenon, can really describe a meal!
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (F). There was a lot of hype around this book at the start of the year, and it did not disappoint. It may not have been 100% accurate in portraying the agonizing plight of the refugees coming to America, but it was compelling, well written, and a great story.
The Wedding Giftby Marlen Bodden (HF) – The Wedding Gift is an intimate portrait of slavery and the 19th Century south that will leave readers breathless.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (F) – A little violent with domestic abuse, but it is set in Alaska and keeps your interest from the beginning.
The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes (NF). This is about a famous painting by Sargent which you have probably seen. The story about the man, Dr. Pozzi, is a history of the times with famous and unforgettable characters. If you like history and culture, this is a fun read by a great author.
Levels of Life by Julian Barnes (NF). This is partly autobiographical and partly history which is how he likes to analyze subjects. His wife died very suddenly. He writes about grief in a most literary and poignant way, and if you ever need to look at grief for understanding, this is the best book I have ever read on the subject.
Kook: What Surfing Taught Me About Love, Life, and Catching the Perfect Wave by Peter Heller (NF).
Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America’s Stolen Land by Noe Alvarez (NF).
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded by Simon Winchester (NF)., On August 27, 1883 the volcano island of Krakatoa, Indonesia blew five cubic miles of dirt 12 miles into the air with an explosion heard 3,000 miles away, that utterly flattened or buried all the towns within 20 miles, that generated tsunami waves that circled the globe seven times and killed 30,,000 and whose dust blanket created amazing sunsets and caused the earth’s temperature to drop by two degrees thereby destroying crops everywhere. The author, a professor of geology at Oxford, details the history of this event with a lucid explanation of the forces that create plate tectonics, the way many kinds of volcanoes work, the immediate impact of the largest noise ever heard by human beings (equivalent to more than one billion atomic bombs), and the rebirth of life on this shattered lifeless island.
How the Irish Save Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role From the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill (NF). As the Roman Empire began to collapse and withdrew from the British Isles and Northern Europe, this left a void in scholarship in many areas of Western Civilization. With libraries and universities closed and general education greatly reduced, there was a very strong possibility that Western intellectual thought would collapse and very little would be passed on to history. To the surprise of many, Irish Monks under the leadership of St. Patrick set out to copy and thereby save all the books they could find…and they were successful. This is that story about how significant numbers of important books were preserved and were available to fuel the Renaissance five hundred years later.
The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson. (NF). English is spoken by so many because it blends so many languages, but this history creates many mysteries about how this all merged to create the world’s most used language. Bryson has a knack for coming up with the perfect factlet to illustrate a point and keep the exposition lively and informative. As a person captivated by meandering searches through the dictionary and thesaurus, for me this was a 5/5 book all the way.
I never read the original Dracula by Bram Stoker (F) before this year, so it’s not a reread, but it is an oldie but goody which I definitely recommend. Maybe if you call it “Oldies But Goodies,” you can include all those books one meant to read but never had time for, plus the rereads.
Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Deadby Olga Tokarczuk (F). I picked up this small book( 270 pages) and could not put it down until I saw the mystery solved. The writers style and views about life, the privileges of gender, wealth and power will give us a great deal to discuss. This book was made into a movie titled Pokot which was directed by Agnieska Holland. It premiered at the Berlin festival where it won the top award.
My Penguin Year: Life Among the Emperors by Lindsay McCrae (NF). British photographer Lindsay McCrae spent a full year in Antarctica documenting a year in the life of an Emperor penguin colony, as well as his own surprisingly action-packed year. The book that came out of his experience is a great read, and his photographs are stunning.
I’ve been supposed to read Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain (NF) since my college mentor recommended it more than a half a century ago. Now I know why: my mentor and Merton both studied English @ Columbia U. w/ the great teacher/critic/poet Mark Van Doren. Merton’s book is engrossing enough, but not for everyone.
Rather, I recommend Van Doren’s monograph Shakespeare (NF), a conversationally written book about each play as if the characters were real people and the events just happened last month.
As I look at the books I have read this year, I realize that I found them all on your annual list which usually forms the basis for my readings. I finally got around to reading Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (NF) and A Man called Ove by Frederik Backman (F).
Am now reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (F). Although I know it has been panned for being politically incorrect, and she writes in too great a detail about details so I skim that, but the story is interesting and somewhat gripping.
Long Bright Riverby Liz Moore (F). The Kensington District of Philadelphia in the early 2000s became an open-air opioid market, with rampant addiction and young women turning tricks to support their habit. Mickey, a single-mother cop, is concerned that her addicted sister Kasey disappeared and may have been killed or overdosed. The special aspect of the novel is how the opioid epidemic totally affects the lives of the entire community.
The Gone Deadby Chanelle Benz (F). Billie James left the Mississippi Delta in 1973 at age four with her mother when her black poet father died. She returned to the Delta thirty years later to claim her inheritance, including the shack she had lived in. By interacting with people who remained in the community since 1973, Billie began to understand their complex behavior, ultimately establishing that her father’s death was racial, not an accident.
The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre (NF). Fascinating read if you like cold war type double agent spy intrigue. Carefully detailed and stranger than fiction. True account of Oleg Gordiesky, double agent for M16, working through the KGB.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (F). A small college town mysteriously becomes the site of an unknown pandemic (a sleeping sickness). The book was written pre covid 19. It provides an interesting fictional account of coping with a virus of unknown origin.
Nancy Cedar Wilson:
I just finished Louise Erdrich’s latest – The Night Watchman(F)— based on her grandfather’s journals concerning his battle to save the Tribal Rights of the Chippewa Indians in Minnesota, when they were under attack–led by a self-righteous Mormon Senator in the ’50’s. She develops a fascinating cast of characters, well drawn and believable. It’s great read, filled with mystical Indian lore. I highly recommend this book!
The second book I liked, tho not quite as much, was Isabel Allende’s A Long Petal of The Sea — another book of (F) based on actual historical events — the Spanish Revolution and the more recent, too brief, Chilean Revolution. The whole recording of human aspirations turned into war and dashed hopes of social change, as seen through the eyes and lives of a few memorable characters. It was a rewarding read too!
Two non-fiction books I’ve read over the past two months that I’ve enjoyed very much, though for completely different reasons.
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larsen (NF). It covers the first year of Winston Churchill’s WW II tenure as prime minister of England, when the threat of a German invasion of England loomed large and Luftwaffe bombing raids were a nightly reality across that nation. The book details Churchill’s leadership and family life during that period (who knew he fancied pink PJ’s), with compelling storytelling that easily pulled me through its 500 pages, night after night.. It’s an example of charismatic leadership that put country first at a time of existential crisis.
Election Meltdown by top election scholar Rick Hasen (NF). It’s spare – not too much more than 100 pages. Written before the pandemic, it details the fragility of how America administers elections, predicting the likely failure points of our system if subject to stress. If horror stories keep you up at night, read it during daytime as we tick down the days to November’s vote.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (F). The movie was awful – the book was great!
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (F) – although this one is heavy (they both are) so perhaps wait till things don’t feel so grim.
Inge’s War: A German Woman and Story of Family, Secrets & Survival under Hitler by Svenga O’Donnell (NF). Ellen has written above about this engrossing book. What sets it apart from other books about this period that many of us have read is that its author is not Jewish but is German, and her discovery of her family’s story is captivating. So far, my favorite read (audible) of the year.
My contribution for this month’s book is, again, Mink River by Brian Doyle (F). I’m a couple days into a re-read and am enthralled yet again, this magic place of words, a perfect balm for these reflective days.
I’m also re-reading David McCullough’s John Adams (NF)…important, gripping history dolled out in McCullough’s gift for telling a a fine story. (Ed. note: MucCullough received a Puliter Prize for this biography.)
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (F). It’s about a young girl growing up in isolation in the marshes off the coast of North Carolina. She learns to survive by observing how the wildlife survive, and she is seen as an outcast and odd girl, although a natural beauty, so she catches the eye of several men and that’s where the plot thickens. I read this while on vacation in Costa Rica, and I could hardly put it down.
Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard by Douglas Tallamy (NF). Basic premise of the book: the combined acreage of the National Parks totals about 20 Million; our combined lawns take up 40 million acres; why not convert lawns to conservation corridors and wildlife habitats? It’s so easy to be pessimistic about climate change and our declining ecosystem, but here are some practical things we can do and Chapters 10 and 11 have lots of good details and suggestions. Right now, this is the best book, in my humble opinion (as a Master Naturalist and Tree Steward), of practical conservation that’s doable.
De Gaulle by Julian T. Jackson (NF) This biography of Charles De Gaulle is truly fantastic.
What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love and Marriage by Amy Sutherland (NF). What contemporary techniques for training other animals tell us about dealing with dealing with adult humans. Funny, short and insightful.
The Looming Tower:Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright (NF). A masterpiece, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A history of al-Qaeda to 9/11. Among many high points, the book recounts the uses of religion to justify mass murder, mass attacks on civilians of all faiths, and genocide. A grippingly reported narrative; indispensable.
Essays in Ethics by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (NF). Our Rabbi, who is from England, gave it (to me). and I’m reading it as if it was a piece of chocolate cake… but dieting– slowly and savoring each bite.
The Rabbi by Rabbi Telushin (NF). He came to NO Chabad and was a great speaker. Reads quickly.
Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom (NF). It’s non-fiction and sort of but not quite social science. Fascinating.
When God Had a Wife: The Fall and Rise of the Sacred Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition by Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince (NF).
God Save Texas by Lawrence Wright (NF). I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer (F). It’s a book about a 50 year old, white gay man living in my neighborhood in SF. I mean, perfect for me right? And I did enjoy it. It was only after that I recalled it won the Pulitzer Prize and that I didn’t really understand. Enjoyable book; not earth shattering enough to win such a monumental prize. Huh.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irb (NF). She’s kind of a “literally thing” these days, and I enjoyed her latest, best-selling collection of essays. Super raw and honest and funny. Again, not earth shattering, but I was always happy to return to the book.
Two months ago now I asked for MillersTime readers to send in a favorite read that you had since the beginning of 2020 (and a favorite listen if you listen to books on tape/audible). Thirty-seven of you responded, and the result was Favorite Reads in Time of Self-Isolation, April 2020.
Now let’s do that again.
Here’s the drill this time: From either the last two months or, if you wish, going back to Jan. 1, pick TWO favorite reads (and up to TWO favorite listens) to share with each other. These should be different ones from any you sent in previously.
Send me the title, author, and whether the book is fiction (F) or nonfiction (NF).
Write just three sentences about each favorite read or listens so others may know more than just the title.
Send me your contributions over the next week, by May 25th, so I can compile them and post them at the beginning of June. Use my email (Samesty84@gmail.com) to convey your two choices.
Please follow these few instructions as it makes my job of compiling the list easier. If you only have one book or one listen, that’s fine too.
Thanks to each of the individuals below who responded to my appeal for a new version of MillesTime Readers Favorite Books – one book read over the last several months that stood out for the reader among all the others read (or listened to).
Hands down, I’ve been totally intrigued by The Body: A Guide for Occupants byBill Bryson (NF).While the man radiates obsessive compulsion, it’s balanced by his totally entertaining writing style. His descriptions of viruses is fascinatingly informative and timely as is his writing on diseases. I have learned a lot and enjoyed each “chapter-lectures”.
One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear Warby Michael Dobbs (NF). Written in 2009, this is a non-fiction thriller about how the United States and the Soviet Union came to the brink of nuclear conflict over the placement of Soviet missiles in Cuba. Read this for a George Washington University class on the Cold War. Chilling to think what would be if this happened with Trump in the White House.
The Cartiers: The Untold Story by Francesca Cartier Brickell (NF). A fascinating story of the creation of the Cartier stores told by the granddaughter of the 5th generation of Cartiers to work with/in/for the stores. Francesca found an old, dusty trunk in her grandfather’s basement, went through the papers diligently, talked to her grandfather, Jean-Jacques Cartier, and writes a fascinating tale of growing a jewelry empire, creating the jewels, selling them the rich and famous, and watching it sold off. It is a fascinating story of the jewelry but also of how it was created, the engineering behind it all, the changing of styles and items to “stay ahead of the crowd”, and how the fourth generation of three brothers worked together and really made it all happen… It is more than a book of creating fabulous jewels (and it is certainly that) but all that went on behind it to make it a great and co-operative grand success . . . then how it fell apart and was sold.
The Reckoning by Jeffrey Pierce (F), a biblical scale Armageddon, spurred by the horror of the First World War, demons rise and take possession of the slain. Author Michael Connolly writes about this book : “Eloquent and hard muscled, deeply researched and defy imagined…It is an entrancing, fantastical journey to the end you will never see coming.” I had the pleasure of reading it and following the audio tape of the actor/author’s voices for all the characters. (Ed. Note: Author is Bill & Kay Plitt’s son!)
The Man I Never Met by Adam Schefter (NF). Sports fans know Adam as the premiere NFL new-breaker; this is a story about his journey to find a soulmate and his now-wife’s journey to overcome losing her first husband in 9/11. The book runs the emotional spectrum from tragic to overjoyed. You don’t need to be a sports fan to read it, but you might want a box of tissues nearby.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (NF). This is a quick read about Noah Trevor’s growing up in South Africa. He is a wonderful comedian.
I’ve been enjoying Streak: Joe DiMaggio and the Summer of ‘41by Michael Seidel (NF). It combines interesting stories of a baseball nature with concurrent world events of the day. I’ll second the suggestion of Brian Doyle’s Mink River. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea as demonstrated by the negative reviews/letters that Brian faithfully/gleefully saved and which I had the pleasure of hearing his widow read at Powell’s Books not too long ago.
The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (F).The Last Wish is a collection of fictional short stories in the Fantasy genre, collected and published together in 2008, which should be read first if you wish to read the published works in narrative chronological order (as opposed to the published order). This collection of stories is also the primary source material for the eponymous Netflix series, The Witcher. After watching the first season of that show, I became enamored with the world Mr. Sapkowski had created and started reading the source material.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (F). Wasn’t sure I was going to like this but could not put it down.Wife of journalist, who exposes the drug cartels in Acapulco and flees with son as migrants to the US. Gripping, scary, yet a mother’s love for son propels her to take unbelievable risks. A good read!
Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow (NF). Audio, read by Farrow himself it’s about his investigative journalistic effort to expose Harvey Weinstein. Farrow gets over 200 interviews to discover the truth. NBC’s coverup efforts of Weinstein and Matt Lauer are terribly disturbing. Admire Farrow’s tenacity and courage. History now values his efforts.
Shining Light on Transcendence – The Unconventional Journey of a Neuroscientistby Peter Fenwick (NF). Written by this distinguished British scientist and scholar now 84 years of age contains perhaps his most compelling and inspirationalwriting ever. Fenwick laments that the generally accepted view of science “equates consciousness with mind and sees both as a function of the brain.”He states that the prevailing scientific view is that the mind and brain are identical or that mind is created by the brain, and he makes it clear that this is not his view.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield (F) Audio and Print. Good old fashion storytelling at its best! Set in 19th century England in a village on the banks of the Thames, it is a story of science, magic, folklore and fairy tale…a magical mystery tour of miraculous explanations and a chain of revelations as three families claim (a young girl) as their long lost kin.
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (F). It is a beautiful book! It is about the 13th summer in the life of the narrator, recalled about 30 years later in a elegant “whodunit”. The cadence of the book somehow captures the confusion and the concerns of that summer and the beauty of life.
Deacon King Kong by James McBride (F). This latest book is superb, filled with characters (sometimes hard to keep track of!), tone, and language that is brilliant, and a story to keep you moving. It tells the story of a crotchety, alcoholic old church deacon, Sportcoat, (a crazy and wise old man) who one day wanders into the courtyard of his housing project in South Brooklyn and shoots the project’s drug dealer. There’s a lot of humor in this book along with compassion and hope, and I highly recommend it.
Abigailby Magda Szabo (F). Audio. This is also a repeat author for me as Szabo is a stunning novelist. This book was written in 1970, but translated only recently, and tells the story of the teen-age girl, growing up during World War II and as the war intensified her father sends her away to boarding school — a strict religious institution where she had a very hard time fitting in. The story tells what happened to her there, a life-changing story, and one that is hard to put down; the writing is fluid and eloquent, the pace focused and intense, the audio version was well performed, and I loved it.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara (F). It is a story told from the point of view of a 9 year old boy, Jai, living with his family in a “basti” slum outside a big city in India. Children are disappearing one by one, and Jai and his friends become detectives to help find them. The book is a heartbreaking, but the characters are so well described and the dialogue is totally charming.
Emily Nichols Grossi:
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (F). This novel, about a Mexican woman and her son escaping cartel violence in Acapulco by attempting to get to el norte, is riveting, horrific, gorgeous, educational, and unforgettable. It’s nearly 400 pages long, and I read it in maybe two days; I couldn’t, and didn’t want to, put it down. You may have heard about the backlash against American Dirt, based on Cummins’ being only partly Latina: who gets to tell whose stories? Here is a good article about the controversy, but nonetheless, I found the book magnificent and moving and think it’s absolutely worth reading.
The Convert by Stefan Hertmans (F). Using the same technique he did to great effect in War and Turpentine to mingle past with present, this time (Hertmans) tackles a tragic story from the 11th century of a Christian girl who marries a Jewish boy; she converts and thereafter for the rest of her life, faces the wrath of her father as she flees from his knights. History comes alive as we follow him and her through ancient cities and unimaginable circumstances. Hertmans based his story on a scrap of a document found in the genizah (storeroom) of the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo, and his book is a scholarly work of fiction, my favorite category.
The Institute by Steven King (F). It’s scary because it could really happen An excellent read that I couldn’t wait to get back to it every time I put it down.
The Light Between the Oceans by M.L. Stedman (HF). I haven’t finished because it’s narrative layout makes me face issues to hard to read more than a chapter a night. You’ll see. You’ll get deep into it with hints along the way that will make it impossible to just keep turning pages. I’ll finish Sunday night, less than 50 pages to go, and I don’t see anyway this can end well.
The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson (NF). I never cease to wonder at how Bryson comes up with factoids that both amuse and inform.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (F). Audio. This audiobook is read by the author, and while I’ve enjoyed all of her books, this might be my favorite.
Ahab’s Wife:Or, The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund (HF).
Jesse Leigh Maniff:
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Definance During the Blitz by Erik Larson (NF). (The author) documents Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister.
I just finished Strangers in the House: A Prairie Story of Bigotry and Belonging by Candace Savage (F). I had trouble following this story at first, then realized it was because of my ignorance of Canadian history and geography. After moving into a house in Saskatoon and finding intriguing ‘found objects’ inside the walls during a renovation, she traces the history of the family who built the house and uncovers a level of prejudice and ethnic violence that I had no idea had existed in Canada. Very well written; the second half is easier to follow than the first.
This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (HF). It is set in Minnesota in 1932 and chronicles the tale and relationship between two orphaned brothers as they first weather life at the “school” for Native American boys and then flee and venture out on their own journey. Along the way, they meet many people who further the story and help develop the characters and brothers’ relationship. It is pretty long, but really good.
The Overstory by Richard Powers (F). Just finished… it’s about the destruction of forests and is a parallel play about today’s times. The obvious is in front of us, and people continue to deny and do stupid things. Excellent read.
Re-reading The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology by Simon Winchester (NF). Smith, a canal digger in England in 1793, discovered he could follow layers of rock all over England, and he spent 22 years doing that and creating a map of the country’s geological roots. In 1815, this map was published in a full-color 5 foot by 8 foot book and turned the scientific and the religious world up side down. Clear explanation, excellent lively narrative, and lots of detail and asides to create context, five stars for content and presentation.
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (F). A good book to get lost in by a Polish author and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. It’s an engaging story – cum mystery – about an eccentric Polish woman living in a remote village beset by some unusual deaths in which animals seem to be taking revenge on their human tormentors.
The Red Daughter by John Burnham Schwartz (HF). I loved this historical fiction about Joseph Stalin’s complex daughter who defected to the US – great background to the Cold War era told with an innovative narrative technique and psychological insight.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (NF). I have always been interested in Africa so I was drawn to this memoir of Trevor Noah’s life in Johannesburg during apartheid. He had quite a life as a boy, considering what he is doing now. What I liked most is that his story took my mind off COVID-19 so I’d fall asleep thinking of other things!
My newest favorite heroine detective is Veronica Speedwell (first book in the series) A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn (F). Feisty, smart, and set in the late 1800s London. Five books and counting, so makes a lovely little escape for a week or so depending on how quickly you can read these days.
(ALSO, plug for bookshop.org — a new website set up as an independent bookstore competitor to Amazon. It’s brand new and still in beta, but very VERY worth a gander and a purchase.)
A Day in the Bleachers by Arnold Hano (age 98!) (NF). With no games to watch, I enjoyed his account of the game containing “the catch.” Wes Westrum, Whitey Lockman, Alvin Dark, along w/ The Say Hey Kid; these guys & the others refreshed in my memory by this book were my first team. When I read the dimensions of the Polo Grounds now (which I didn’t know when I was 6), I am appalled (and a little thrilled).
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré (F). The novel focuses on Adunni, an intelligent and likeable 14 year old girl in a rural Nigerian village whose mother wanted her to get an education so that she could speak for herself with a Louding Voice to determine her future. Unfortunately, her mother died and her father was hopelessly poor and married Adduni for bride money from an older man with two wives who wanted a son heir….The book is fast-paced, and it is never clear whether Adunni would survive, let alone be victorious…
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nahesi Coates (F).
From Third World to First: The Singapore Story:1985-2000 by Lee Kuan Yew (NF). In conjunction with our recent trip to SE Asia, I began to learn about this city-state and more particularly its founding, visionary father, Lee Kuan Yew, and wondered how I had not known anything about either. The story of Singapore and this autobiography has affected me more than anything I’ve read about the world beyond the US. It’s 683 pages that I read in a couple of days, and I hope to say more about that as time goes on.
No Visable Bruises: What we don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder (NF). Audio. Worth the time. Didn’t expect to learn so much, about why and how individuals abuse, why victims stay in relationships, why it is so difficult for victims to escape, and about individuals and groups working on this issue.
Mink River by Brian Doyle (F). When I asked my local guy, Eric, at Pegasus Books in W. Seattle – used and new books – or a second recommendation after his first of A Gentleman In Moscow, he recommended Mink River.“I love this book,” he said, and so did I, a mix of stream of conscious narrative, humor, a good story, evocation of terrain on the Oregon Coast, and two wonderful wacky characters. It’s a love of a book.
Blood: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (NF). The story of Stanford dropout Elizabeth Holmes and the unicorn wunder startup Theranos — instant complex blood analysis from a finger prick — until the company crashed and burned. Stunning and enthralling. It made me want to stay up all night reading it.
I have finally finished a wonderful biography, Rebbe by Joseph Teleshukin (NF). The Chabad movement, has had a significant impact on the Jewish people, limited, in scope but also to the community at large.
The Night Watchman by Louis Erdrich (F). It may be fiction, however the story is based on Erdrich’s Chippewa grandfather who in the 1950s courageously fought against a bill in Congress that would terminate the reservations. The book also follows the travails of Pixie, as she tries to find her sister in “the cities” – Minneapolis-St Paul. Going back and forth in time, mood and stories, the book is lyrical, heartbreaking and affirming.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (F). Currently rereading (AK) and forgot how incredible Tolstoy is.
No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (NF). On my bookshelf are many unread books; I picked No Ordinary Times this month because it explores the human story of how Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt worked together and apart as the country went through the late Depression and early World War II years. Kearns explores well how Franklin and Eleanor made their separate and joint decisions. While reading, I cannot help but compare how our country and the current occupant of the White House are making decisions in our current crisis
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Finally, if you missed sending one this time, no problem. I’m going to do this again for the beginning of June.
So any time between now and Memorial Day, May 25th, please send me up to TWO books (and two audio ones if you do that) that have been favorites since the beginning of 2020. And please consider adding your comments on what you send in THREE sentences on each book.
“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read”- A. Lincoln
Each year, this post is always my favorite. It combines my love of reading with the opportunity to stay in touch with friends all around the country. My hope is that each of you will find a book or books that will bring pleasure in the months ahead. And I look forward to hearing from you about what you find here that is a good read.
This 2019 list is comprised of the favorite reads of 82 adults and six children (ages 2+ to almost 11). Slightly more contributors (51%-49%) were female, about the same as last year. There were an equal amount of fiction and nonfiction books cited. (Last year, nonfiction led fiction 53%-47%, and all the previous nine years fiction led nonfiction.)
I’ve organized the post in three ways:
I. The Books that have been cited by multiple readers are listed first.
II. Next, the Contributors are listed alphabetically by first name — to make it easy if you are looking for the favorites of someone you know — with the titles and authors next, followed by any comments they made about those books.
III.Finally, a Spread Sheetis arranged in alphabetical order by the first name of the Contributor for quick reference. You can print out this alphabetical list of the MillersTime Contributors whose names are followed by Book Title, Author, and whether it is Fiction (F) or nonfiction (NF).
Also, at the end of this post, I’ve linked to the yearly lists beginning in 2009, just in case you need more suggestions or want to know what you or others favored in the past.
I. Titles that appear on more than one reader’s list.
A Woman Is No Man, Etaf Fum
Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate
Bruno, Chief of Police Mysteries, Martin Walker
Evvie Drake Starts Over, Linda Holmes
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan
No-No Boy, John Okada
Normal People, Sally Rooney
Olive Again, Elizabeth Strout
Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill
Stoner, John Williams
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah
The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne
The Nickel Boys, Colin Whitehead
The Other Americans, Laila Lalami
The Overstory, Richard Powers
The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates
Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
American Prison, Shane Bauer
Bad Blood, John Carreyrou
Becoming, Michelle Obama
Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
Catch and Kill, Ronan Farrow
Educated, Tara Westover
Furious Hours, Casey Cep
Grant, Ron Chernow
Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson
Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kearns Goodwin
As always, this post would not be possible without the participation of friends (and friends of friends) who have taken the time to share with me and others titles and comments about what you are reading and enjoying. Think of it as a ‘community’ of readers even if some of you do not know each other. I thank you all for responding to my ‘gentle reminders.’
This 2019 mid-year list is comprised of the favorite reads of 53 adults and 5 small children (10, 8, 6, 3, and almost 2 years of age.) Surprisingly, at least to me, this year nonfiction choices lead fiction 54% to 46%, a reversal of every previous compilation over the past 10+ years. Fifty-seven per cent of the contributors are female, 43% male, a typical breakdown.
I’ve organized the post in three ways:
I. The Books that have been cited by multiple readers are listed first.
II. Next, the Contributors are listed alphabetically by first name — to make it easy if you are looking for the favorites of someone you know — with the titles and authors next and then any comments they made about those books.
III. Two Spread Sheets for quick reference and in case you want to print out either list for future use:
Spread Sheet #1 – Listed by the Contributor’s Name, then Title, Author, & Fiction/Nonfiction
Spread Sheet # 2 – Listed by Book Title, then Author, Contributor, & Fiction/Nonfiction
Also, at the end of this post, I’ve linked to the Midyear and Final lists from 2018, just in case you need more suggestions than those in this Midyear post.
I. Titles that appear on more than one reader’s Favorites’ List.
Beartown, Fredrick Backman
Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate
Beneath the Scarlet Sky, Mark Sullivan
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
The Lost Man, Jane Harper
Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan
The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne
Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago, Alex Kotlowitz
Bad Blood: Secrets & Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, John Carreyrou
Becoming, Michelle Obama
Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
Educated, Tara Westover
K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder & Memory in Northern Ireland. Patrick Radden Keefe,
The Library Book, Susan Orlean
Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, Robert A. Caro
Rather than wait until I do a mid-year round up of readers’ favorite reads for the first half of 2018, I thought I’d mention four books that I’ve recently read and thoroughly enjoyed and might have interest for others.
All four are from suggestions by MillersTime readers, and all four are non-fiction, generally my reading of preference.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (NF) – Recommended by Ellen Hoff & Suzanne Stier.
Ellen H. wrote: “ A pure research scientist who writes well about her own adventures in science, her life, and, fascinating to me, bits of botany. If you are interested in botany, skip her struggle with mental disorders. If you are not interested in botany, some fascinating bits on her curiosity and fascination with pure research and asking new questions, and the struggles facing research scientists in finding funding and developing a lab.”
Suzanne S. wrote: “This book goes at the top of my list. It is a combination of science about trees and plants and a memoir by Hope about her journey as a scientist and her relationship with a man named Bill…who is her soul mate/twin/co-conspirator…The book is serious and funny and well written. A must read for all.”
Me: I listened to Hope Jahren’s narration of her book and that added immeasurably to my enjoyment as I felt she was basically talking directly to me. Certainly the best memoir I have ‘read’ in years. If you read and enjoyed H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, one of my favorites from last year, you’ll certainly enjoy Lab Girl. If you didn’t read Macdonald’s book, you now have two wonderful books in store for you.
Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry (NF) – Recommended by Ellen Miller.
Ellen M.: “This is the story of the Tsunami that on March 11, 2011 hit the northwest coast of Japan, killing more than 18,500 people. It focuses particularly on the personal stories of several families and one community focusing on accountability for deaths in one school. It is heartbreaking.”
Me: I ‘resisted’ reading this exploration of the consequences of the Tsunami, doubting it would be of interest to me. How wrong I was. The author does a brilliant job of not just describing what happened but also of going inside the Japanese culture to give insights and understandings into a world that is often closed to outsiders.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tiva Bailey (NF) – Recommended by Melanie Landau.
Melanie: “Fascinating, meditative. Account of minutely observing a tiny snail while bed ridden and ill.”
Me: Snails? Another account of something I never thought I’d have interest in. Wrong again. A wonderful story/memoir and most enlightening both about the author and about these little creatures.
Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer (NF) – Recommended by Abigail Wiebenson.
Abigail wrote: “A totally fascinating story of saving thousands of ancient manuscripts in Mali which becomes entangled in the jihadi movement all of which the author describes with spell-binding dexterity.”
Me: Despite a totally misleading title, I found myself immersed in a true tale about so much I never knew, not only about manuscripts and the written word but also about the jihadi incursions and exploits outside of the middle east.
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If you are not already keeping track of books you’ve enjoyed/are enjoying, please consider doing so. In June, I will ask for books readers have most enjoyed over the first half of 2018, which I will then post in July.
“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read”- A. Lincoln
Here are all, in one place, the 2017 mid-year favorite books by MillersTime readers.
The first ten in this list were not in earlier posts. They are followed by the ones I posted earlier.
New Additions to the List:
I’ve enjoyed many of the same books already listed by others, including:
The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston (NF).
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (NF).
Between Them: Remembering My Parents by Richard Ford (NF). [audiobook]
A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel by Amor Towles (F). [audiobook]
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag (F). [audiobook]
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (F).
Moonglow by Michael Chabon (F). [audiobook]
Two biographies that have captivated me are Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (NF) [audiobook]; and Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt by H.W. Brands (NF), which I’m still reading.
A novelist new to me this year is Rachel Cusk, author of a trilogy about a British writer whom we get to know mostly through her encounters with others. The first two novels in the trilogy are Outline by Rachel Cusk (F); and Transit by Rachel Cusk (F), and I’m looking forward to the third.
This year I have read many of the books written by Lisa See, a Chinese-American author of historical fiction. She has written numerous books highlighting stories about Chinese characters and culture, and illuminating the strong bonds between women. Her stories are in depth and fascinating and shine the light on little known topics, and a culture that proves fascinating. Her research is impeccable, and deep, including travel to China to remote areas to research her stories. She has won numerous awards and is a NY Times Bestselling author. The books are both engaging and characters well developed; at times the stories are painful and sad, but culturally revealing.
Books I’ve read so far are: Sun Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls, Dreams of Joy, China Dolls by Lisa See (All F).
Killing the Rising Sun by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard (NF). It’s a story every American should read. Like his other books, it does not disappoint. The background of the dropping of the Atomic Bomb to end WW2 is riveting, and the sequence of events carefully shared. I learned volumes about our history, as I have in his other books.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (F). It’s the story of 3 women whose lives converge during WW2. It highlights actual events in US and Germany during the wartime and provides a different perspective about war through the female viewpoint whose lives were impacted by war. Their destinies converged around Ravensbruk, Hilter’s Concentration Camp for women. The story is based on the lives of real people and highlights love, redemption and years of secrets.
The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani (F). A novel about a man’s fascination with the garden of an eccentric Jewish family in Italy just prior to WWII. The novel’s tension results from the knowledge by the reader that the family will end up in a concentration camp. Published some time ago but an Italian classic.
Robert Lowell: Setting the River on Fire by Kay Redfield Jamison (NF). Thus study, although overlong, is a fascinating study of bipolar disease combined with poetic genius, by the author of An Unquiet Mind.
I loved The Rent Collector by Camron Wright (F).
Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (F) was good.
Let There Be Water by (NF) is a good read.
I just wrapped up 3 audiobooks I’d been working on all year:
Americanah by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie (F) was another read in my quest to understand/fathom race in America, esp. blackness in America. I actually prefer fiction as the vehicle for that, over non-fiction, since fundamentally I’m looking for stories over data (which is not typical for me). Anyone who reads this should get the audiobook version, just so they can hear the narrator’s delightful Nigerian-American English, as well as the correct pronunciation of Igbo.
I didn’t like Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (NF) at first and put it on pause for some time. Most people I talked to said the first part was the most interesting, but I was more taken by the middle/final parts. Again, the stories here are more interesting than the data, but Vance does a good job of weaving them together. As a side note, I thought it was interesting that his advisor at Yale law was Amy Chua, she of the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, who convinced him to write the book. I think I saw a joint interview with them in The Atlantic. However, while I expected to come away with more empathy for rural working class folks, I found the internal contradictions that Vance lays out to be really frustrating, rather than relatable. That is unusual for me.
I picked up The Idiot by Elif Batuman (F) because I heard it was about a college student studying linguistics at an elite private school in the mid-90s, which is *almost* me. It was surreal – I was interested, I was engaged, but the plot didn’t really develop. Nobody wanted anything, everything just happened, for no discernible reason. Then the protagonist’s freshman year was over. There were a few insights on the immigrant experience, but overall, things just “were” or “happened”, but I still wanted to finish. Not typical for me.
Lydia Hill Slaby:
How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barret (NF). I’ve been reading and enjoying this one. Otherwise, it’s been a quiet year in Lake Wobegon.
I strongly recommend folks check out Andrew Mayne (the most recent book of his that I read wasOrbital (F), and I gave it 4 of 5 stars. It was a sequel to an earlier novel: Station Breaker (F). He has written a wide variety of books, across genres, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every single one of his books that I’ve read (I think I’ve read his entire bibliography except two so far). So I’d like to recommend folks check out anything by him.
Bad Blood by John Sanford (F). Murder mystery.
Fatso. Story by and about Art Donovan (NF). Ex Baltimore Colt lineman. “When Men Were Men.”
Uh-Oh: Some Observations From Both Sides of the Refrigerator Doorby Robert Fulghum (NF). The guy who learned everything he needed, in kindergarten.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (F). Life through the eyes of an African intellectual.
The Greatest Stories Never Told by Rick Byer (NF). The real strange true history, about how the world’s events unfolded.
Five Easy Decades by Dennis McDougal (NF). How Jack Nicholson became the world’s biggest movie star.
General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution: From Redcoat to Rebel by Hal T. Shelton (NF). A book that would only interest me about Gen. Montgomery, a friend of George Washington, killed in the Revolutionary War, and an ancestor of my mother.
Faithful Place (three stars) and The Secret Place (four stars) both by Tanya French and both (NF).
Currently reading Into the Water by Paula Hawkings (F) which I would recommend, but so far it is about 3 stars.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (F).
The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison (F).
Tanya Chernov Smith:
I only have one recommendation that isn’t a “how-to-get-your-baby-to-sleep” guide:
The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert (NF). At a time when American politics have many of us considering life off the grid, this true story of a mountain man provides a special brand of comfort. Eustace Conway left his comfortable suburban home at 17 to move into the Appalachian Mountains, where he has since lived off the land. A charismatic and romantic figure, both brilliant and tormented, brave and contradictory, restless and ambitious, Conway has always seen himself as a “Man of Destiny” whose goal is to convince modern Americans to give up their materialistic lifestyles and return with him back to nature.
Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruggle (NF). This was a NYTimes rec for the previous year. The author is a poet and her observations are written in a beautiful style and language.
The Best American Essays 2016 Ed. by Jonathan Franzen (NF). Not the best year but they are always good; not that many from the New Yorker
Landscapes by John Berger (NF). My favorite art critic who recently died. A collection of his essays on art, travel and the world.
A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women by Siri Hustvedt (NF). Very interesting essays on art and feminism by this author who is also a novelist and scholar. The second half of the book focuses on neuroscience and perception.
Known and Strange Things by Tegu Cole (NF). This is my favorite book of essays, and one I recommend highly. If you aren’t familiar with the author, it will be worth your while. He writes for the NYTimesSunday magazine on photography and art. The book includes other topics such as travel, literature, history and politics.
Commonwealth by Anne Patchett (F). Good.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (F). Good.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (F). Very good and still creepy.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (F). Very good.
Any Human Heart by William Boyd (F). Excellent.
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster (F). Excellent but not for everyone; post-modern
The Little Red Chairsby Edna O ‘Brien (F).
The Blue Guitar by John Banville (F). Good and always a pleasure to read.
The Secret Chord by Gerald Brooks (F). Very good.
The Making of Zombie Wars by Aleksandar Hemon (F). OK, but the author writes so well that I will read anything from him.
“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read”- A. Lincoln
Several years ago I decided waiting until December each year was too long a time between posts that share favorite reads among MillersTime readers. So I started asking in May/June for books you’ve read so far in the year that have particularly resonated with you. And since some of our memories are not quite as sharp as they once were, the idea of having a midyear call for your favorites and a midyear post, I hope, will be useful to all and will continue to be a regular feature here.
I ask that you send me a few that have stood out for you so far, along with a sentence or two of what was particularly appealing. Send them to my email (Samesty84@gmail.com), and when I get at least a dozen or so responses, I’ll post them for other readers to see. I’ll also do a second summer post for those of you who may be too busy to respond in the next couple of weeks (but know you can expect a couple of reminders if you don’t respond to this first appeal).
To start everyone off, both Ellen and I have listed books that we’ve particularly enjoyed since Jan.1, 2017, along with a few sentences about each. (We may have overdone our list here a bit, but remember we are retired, don’t watch TV, and our grand kinder go to bed early.)
If Ellen hadn’t continued to rave about this book, I would not have read it. The title, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by Isabel Wilkerson (2010), didn’t seem to be something that would interest me.
Fortunately, I followed Ellen’s advice and read and listened to the 640 page nonfiction story of the southern black migration to the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast. I couldn’t put the book down. I found I was learning something on virtually every page I read.
The book covers the exodus and migration of six million blacks within our country between 1915 and 1970. In what was actually an ‘internal migration’ that had significant impacts on both where they came from and where they went, it is a story and a look at history that largely differs from what has previously been written about this movement out of the south and across the country.
In many ways Warmth of Other Suns reminded me of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. As he told the story of the Joads, an ‘Okie’ family that left the Midwest because of the dust storms and ‘moved’ to California, he not only told their story but in what is called ‘interchapters’ explained the history of the times. Just as that book has stayed with me ever since I read it in school, Wilkerson’s book will stay with me.
Wilkerson takes three individuals and follows them from their southern roots to their new homes, giving us an understanding of why these individuals needed to leave the Jim Crow south despite their families having lived there for generations. She follows them on their ‘escape’ by overground railway and, in one case by car, to their new homes. She then tells what happened to each of these three and their families over the next 50+ years of their life.
In preparation for writing Warmth of Other Suns, Wilkerson interviewed more than 1200 individuals before she settled on the three stories in this book. She traveled to each southern home, followed their paths north, and continued to interview the three individuals and their families for many years in their new homes. And similar to Steinbeck, she incorporates what she learned from the 1200 interviews as well as her exploration of census data, newspapers, historical records, etc. into ‘interchapters’ that put these three stories in context.
I’m not sure I’m qualified to agree or disagree with the NY Times about The Warmth of Other Suns being one of the best all time nonfiction books. However, it will certainly be at the top of my list of favorite reads in 2016.
“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read”- A. Lincoln
Not wanting to wait until December to report what books various MillersTime readers are enjoying so far this year, I asked all those who have contributed over the years to ‘Favorite Reads’ to send me the titles and a few sentences about what they’ve been reading and enjoying in the first half of 2016.
I hope this post will encourage others of you to send in what’s brought you reading pleasure over the last six months. When I get another batch of responses, I’ll post those too.
Maybe the best book of the year so far…
Into the Silence by Wade Davis (NF). Recounts the story of the 1921, 1922, and 1924 Everest expeditions by the British in the context of biographies of all the principal participants. The biographies tell other stories as well — the enormous effect of WWI on these men, the effect of the War on their generation’s idea of the destiny of the Empire and the relationship of these things to the turn-of-the-century ideal of exploration. The book also covers the 199 discovery Mallory’s body and what it means for how far he and Irvine got near the summit. Recommended by David Banks.
The PathtoPower and Means of Ascent, vols. 1 and 2 in Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of LBJ (NF). Essential reading for anyone who lived through the Kennedy years and the Vietnam War.
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris, Vol. 1 of the triology (NF). Morris is a wonderful storyteller and writer. Crackles with TR’s ability, ambition andpersonality. Recommended by Joe Higdon.
Violin Dreams by Arnold Sterinhardt (NF). An engaging short memoir, with several chapters discussing the Chaconne in Bach’s Partita No. 2 for solo violin, an astounding piece of music — the effect of this single work on Steinhardt’s musical development, the origins of the work, and its multidimensionality.
The Keeper of Lost Causes and The Absent One, books 1 and 2 in the Department Q series by Adler-Olsen (F). The Copenhagen murder deterives’ bureau ostracizes one of its veteran members, exiles him to a basement office, gives him two untrained assistants, and assigns cold cases to him. See what happens next. Well worth your time. Recommended by my sister Molly.
The Fall Line by Nathaniel Vinton (NF). The rise of Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn to the top of the U.S ski establishment. A good read. I learned a lot about how U.S skiers train and advance, relate to their sponsors, deal with speed and pain, and cope and compete on the international circuit. Hair-raising in passages. Recommended by Michael.
2. Chris Bourtourline:
I’ve recently read two good novels:
The Wildingsby Nilanjana S. Roy (F) is a story about various groups of cats in Delhi, India and the adventure that ensues when an extraordinary kitten comes into their midst.
Life After Lifeby Kate Atkinson (F) which mostly centers on the lives of a British family between 1910-1945. Through the lens of a time warped, kaleidoscopic telling, the author explores the effect small changes have on outcomes in life.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (NF) is his account as an escaped convict and his life, “on the run”, in Mumbai, India. The story is so fantastic that I often found myself questioning whether it was true but happily turned the pages nonetheless.
3. Lance Brisson:
Most Americans know at least something about the American Revolution, which liberated the 13 colonies from Great Britain. My hunch is that most Americans know little if anything about what historian Joseph Ellis calls “The Second American Revolution” that took place from 1783 to 1789. Ellis’ book, The Quartet (NF), tells the compelling story about how four men – George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison – led this largely bloodless revolution and overcame widespread and deeply held resistance in many former colonies to the formation of a federal government. Their extraordinary efforts led to the writing of the Constitution and the creation of something most of us take for granted today, the United States of America. After reading this book, I believe that the honorific “Founding Fathers” applies in more ways than one to these four men.
4. Jane Bradley:
Twenty hours down, six more to go on audiobook Barkskins, by Annie Proulx (F). I can see where it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m quite engaged so far!
5. Kathy Camicia:
Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 (NF) — his magnum opus. If you’re a big fan, as I am, you will love it—all 1167 pages of it. It is about Japan in 1984 with reference to Orwell.
Paradise Nowby Chris Jennings (NF). This book examines a series of Utopian communities in the United States, like the Shakers and the Oneida colony. All of them are totally fascinating, and though they each fail, they were all able to gain a large number of followers for a substantial period of time. The writer is terrific at bringing out their visions.
The Only Rule Is It Has to Work by Ben Lindberg and Sam Miller (NF). Two baseball statisticians who write for baseball prospectus get to take control of an independent baseball team for a year. Their experiments say a lot about the balance between analytics and people management in baseball, but it’s also just a highly amusing take on life in the independent leagues.
The Witchesby Stacy Schiff (NF) The Salem Witch Trials are interesting in their own right, but tracing how this kind of populist hysteria rose and then fell is also an interesting backdrop for current events.
The Song Machine by John Seabrook (NF). A book by a New Yorker columnist about the business side of contemporary pop music. Learning how this works is interesting, and needless to say, the stories about artists and studios wrangling with each other provide a highly entertaining backstory to famous songs.
8. Meg Gage:
Just finished A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (F). A debut novel that came out three years ago. Beautifully written story placed in the Chechen wars of 1996 – 2004. Horrific, hilarious at points, and a reminder we didn’t need about the horrors of war. I was chagrined at how I had not remembered (forgotten?) much about that war. There have been so many subsequent ones. It’s a complicated tale told unchronologically. I kept thinking I had missed something and then discovered that it hadn’t been told yet. So much sadness and cruelty that accomplishes nothing. An eight-year old girl (is) at the center of the story, (and her) survival is at stake.
Another novel about war and a child I recently finished is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (F), another story about war — WW II — and another vulnerable child, this one blind. Also very well-written and one of the best WW II novels I’ve read — comparable to Marge Piercy’s Gone To Soldiers.
I’m currently in a Harlen Cobren move. Definitely too lowbrow for MillersTime readers. Writes like Lupica. (Ed. note: Then I guess I’m ‘lowbrow’ too as I enjoy his thrillers, multiple plots lines, escapism, etc.)
First I read Just One Look(F) which was pretty good. The end was sorta sloppy. Then I read Missing You (F) which I liked a bit more. Now I’m reading No Second Chance (F). I can’t say any of them are super memorable, for me at least, and the titles seem incidental at best.
The reason I’m on this kick is because once upon a time, over five years ago, I was paging through the NYT Book Review, and they had an illustration of him on the authors of note page. I don’t really know why, but the pic ‘spoke’ to me’, so I cut it out and pinned it to my cork board. This is kind of part of my process, Someties I get a gut feeling about something, sit on it for a while, then explore it. Anyway, I was cleaning up my cork board recently and figured I should figure out why I mean to read this guy.
Just finished the 948 page Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (F) (1848). Before radio, movies, TV, reality TV, there were serials by Dickens. Dickens’ bad guys are just as bad as any conjured by Quentin Tarantino. His materialistic men and women are just as grotesque as any Trump or Kardashian. But he also documents the 19th century–before photography. So if you can weather the constant plot twists (very, very B-movie), you really can travel to another country (the past — as Pinter wrote in The Go-Between, where they do things differently). As a writer of fiction, Dickens is not a genius, but as an accidental social historian, there is no one like him.
13. Ellen Miller:
Nora Webster by Colm Toibin (F). Detailed and sympathetic portrait of a women coping with the death of her husband and raising her two children in a small town in Ireland. Beautifully written, great story-telling, compelling read.
14. Robin Rice:
Feathers by Thor Hanson (NF). A fine, engaging writer exploring the evolutionary wonder of avian adaptation.
In preparation for a trip to Berlin, we’ve been reading Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, the story of Ambassador William Dodd and his family’s year in Berlin in 1933. (NF).
Without joining in to hyper-partisan discussions, I am struck by the extent to which the “establishment,” especially the German army elite, believed they would be able to control Hitler once he achieved power.
The account of the murder of two distinguished army generals is particularly chilling.
It’s a sobering read. We (not me, I wasn’t born yet) closed our eyes to what was happening there. And we reaped the whirlwind.
17. Micah Sifry:
I Shall Bear Witness,1933-1941 and 1941-45, the diaries of Victor Klemperer, a German Jew who, with his Christian wife Eva, survived the rise of Nazism in Dresden. I’ve never read anything like it — completely transformed my understanding of why some German Jews didn’t flee but attempted to ride out Hitler’s reign. Nothing like Anne Frank’s diary or any of the Holocaust memoirs by Wiesel or Levi; these diaries hit closer to home because they describe a familiar world turning incredibly dark. (NF)
Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes (F). A viciously funny satire where Hitler wakes up in 2009, gets mistaken as a character actor and is given a TV show. Which he proceeds to use as a launching pad to return to power…
18. Suzanne Steir:
Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein (NF). This will raise the hair on your head if you are of a certain age. The amount of sex and sexism that Orenstein reports is staggering. She interviews young girls of junior high school age, high schoolers and college women. I fear for both my grand-daughters and grand-sons…Reader beware.
Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance (NF), a biography of Elon Musk, Space and Tesla motors. Fascinating. The man is a visionary, persistent and egotistical.
The English Spy by Daniel Silva (F). I do love reading Daniel Silva and his character, the Israeli spy who is a restorer of ancient art.
Just finished The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman (F). It is fiction, and the surprise is a bit of biographical history about the artist Camille Pissarro. A good read.
Just reread East of Eden by John Steinbeck (F). So beautifully depressing, brilliantly written – some pieces of that book should be circulated as stand alone essays. My reaction was totally different from what I remembered from the 1950s. I am now rereading books more often – and convincing 3 or 4 people I meet reading in a coffee shop (some I know and some I meet for the first time) to do the same. We plan to meet over lunch or dinner a couple of weeks later for discussion. August 8, four of us will be discussing East of Eden during a Happy Hour at the Fields Bar and Grill. Join us. Am in the middle of Malraux’s Man’s Fate and looking forward to discussion with a young trio I met who just happened to be interested in French Literature. I have read this book 5 or 6 times – it still speaks to me.
Two other books I highly recommend are Edward O Wilson’s The Meaning of Human Existence (NF) and Hanya Yanagihara’s heavily reviewed A Little Life (F). The first, short but important, and I am trying to force it down the throat of my 5 grandchildren, four of whom are mired in the STEM world. Wilson, after dealing with the meaning of meaning makes a plea (really a demand) for marrying science with the humanities if science is going to have meaning for we mortals. I loved this book and love the writer. The second is much much much longer than the first is short, much darker, quite painful and maybe not worth recommending – but if you take it on don’t expect to be pulled in for at least 150 pages. If you get there you won’t easily put it down – and you will have at least another 700 pages to go. If it was not for the hub bub about it I don’t know if I would have read it. I am not sure I liked it – some similarities to East of Eden, but Eden is for me the better choice.
I have not found any more good escapist reading but am desperately in need of a new Crais or Child. (Have read everything they have written.) I tried Steve Hamilton’s first Alex McKnight novel, A Cold Day in Paradise. It won the Edgar Award in 1998 – but may not buy another until my next flight. But I will buy another. This was my first read of him.
A good friend just published his first book, and it is the mystery genre I so enjoy. He will get better, but you will see a lot of Portland in Larry Erickson’s A Bullet for Your Thoughts, (F). Nate Harver is his Alex McKnight. And it was Larry who got two of us rereading East of Eden.
20. Land Weyland:
One I just finished rereading the Isaac Asimov’s FoundationTrilogy(F) which was the book that introduced me to Science Fiction about 60 years ago. Then I was captivated by the idea of being able to use mathematics to reliably predict the future and I was so taken with this concept that I vowed that I would do this for a career. I soon realized that to do this, I would have to know everything about many, many subjects and this was the reason I took classes in college in every subject in the school catalog except art history and modern dance. 164 units in four years and I could have had a quadruple major in History, Political Science, Economics and Philosophy it I had taken one or two more classes in History, Poly Sci and Phil.
That is when I realized that there is a heck-of-a-lot more to learn about even one thing than most people can master in a lifetime (because, no matter what the subject, the questions just keep on coming and because every subject, no matter how simple, is directly related to at least twenty other subjects and they ALL have many outstanding questions that simply must be answered.) So I left my quest to someone with more brains and more time and decided to just study one subject (law…and soon discovered that it is so complex that even one small area takes many years to understand and even then can never be completely mastered because the facts of every case are so frustratingly different.
Upon again reading the Foundation series, I realize now why they call it ‘science fiction” —It is because it is fiction that is posited as being something that could conceivably happen some time, some where. It is like the Stars Wars movies which are set in a galaxy far, far away a million years ago or a million years in the future. (why doesn’t English have a word that mirrors the word “ago” with the word “futuro”
To think that one person or any group of persons could master enough subjects and develop the mathematics to reduce them to a series of formulas that can precisely predict the future is only a dream or a hope…or a nightmare . Advertising consultants can’t do it. Political pollsters can’t do it. Economists can’t yet begin to do a credible job of predicting the future of an economy or a business in even the short run. For at least a thousand years, Mr. Asimov’s dreams must remain a fiction.
But he wrote well and was able to present an interesting idea in an exciting (to a 14 year old boy) story and I loved it. Unfortunately the same 74 year old boy is not so ignorant or optimistic as to believe the basic premise and this time it was merely a pleasant reminiscent read. Even the writing now seems geared to appeal to the mind of a 14 year old.
Ah, to regain the innocence and arrogance of youth (along with a lot of other attributes). I can’t recommend this book because, other than the basic idea, the writing is so shallow and formulistic/formulaic that it would turn off any serious reader.
P.S. I also recently reread the TheIliad and was pleased to note that the writing of Homer and his editors stands up to the test of time. (Surprise, surprise).
** ** ** * * ** ** **
If you’re looking for book suggestions from last year’s MillersTime readers’ favorites, you can get to the list in any of three ways:
Favorite Books Listed by TITLE, (non-fiction then fiction), then author, then the MillersTime contributing reader. A quick way to scroll through the list, bypassing what readers’ said about each book. You can easily print out this list.
“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read”- A. Lincoln
Once again, you’re gonna need some time for this post.
And probably pen and paper to jot down some titles that you’ll likely want to add to your ‘to read’ list for 2015.
Despite a recurring theme in contributors’ emails about not reading as much this year, not finding as many memorable books and not remembering the titles read, I think you’ll find a diverse and rich list of titles and comments.
Seventy-four of you contributed this year, listing approximately 450 books, with fiction leading nonfiction 60% to 40%. At least 300 of the titles were only listed once. The female-male division of contributors was 56%-44% (F/M), about what it has been in the past. The contributors are listed alphabetically to make it easier to find specific individual’s choices.
Titles that appeared three times or more were:
All the Light We Cannot See (F) by Anthony Doerr (12)
The Goldfinch (F) by Donna Tartt (11)
The Boys in the Boat (NF) by Daniel James Brown (6)
No Place to Hide (NF) by Glenn Greenwald (6)
Americanah(F) Chimananda Ngozi Adichie (6)
The Lowland (F) by Jhumpa Lahiri (6)
Stoner (F) by John Williams (6)
The Invention of Wings (F) by Monk Kidd (5)
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (F) Anthony Marra (5)
The Children’s Act (F) Ian McEwan (4)
The Signature of All Things (F) by Elizabeth Gilbert (4)
The Light Between the Oceans (F) by. M.L. Stedman (4)
Gone Girl (F) by Gillian Flynn (4)
Zealot (NF) by Resa Azlan (3)
Wonder (F) by R.J. Palacio (3)
The Woman Upstairs (F) by Claire Messud (3)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North (F) by Richard Flanagan (3)
Orphan Train (F) Christine Baker Kline (3)
To Kill a Mockingbird, (F) Harper Lee (3)
For me, however, the strength and value of this (and previous) years’ lists have more to do with what contributors said about the books they enjoyed than the number of times a book was listed.
At the suggestion of one contributor, I have linked each book to Amazon’s site so you can read more about that particular book. I am not a fan of Amazon nor am I encouraging purchasing through them, but I did want to give readers a link to more information about each book. Hopefully, you will consider supporting your independent bookstore if you have one in your area.
Just a reminder that this list is not meant to be the best books published in 2014, but rather what the title of this posting states – The Books Most Enjoyed by MillersTime Readers in 2014.
“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read”- A. Lincoln
As many of you know, each year I ask MillersTime readers to take some time and send me your Favorite Reads of the past year. I then compile the list and post it so that you can see what others have read and most enjoyed over the past 12 months.
If you have participated in the past, please do so again this year. If you are new to this part of MillersTime, please consider taking the time to add to the list for 2014.
Here are a few guidelines that may help in drawing your list and in making my compilation easy:
* When I ask for your Favorite Reads of 2014, I’m seeking fiction and/or nonfiction books that stood out for you above all you’ve read in the past year. What have been the most enjoyable, the most important, the most thought provoking, the best written, the ones you may go back and read again, the ones you reread this year, and/or the ones you have suggested others read?
* You are welcome to send just one title or up to a half dozen or so.
* List the title, the author, and indicate whether it is fiction (F) or nonfiction (NF).
* If you are willing, please write a sentence or two about why each particular book made it to your list for this year. If you prefer not to add this, no problem, but I’ve found readers enjoy the comments and use them in choosing books to read for the coming year.
* Don’t be concerned about whether others will have the same book(s) on their lists. If we get a number of similar titles, that’s just an indication of the power of a particular book/author.
* Your books do not have to be ones that were written and/or published in 2014, just ones that you read over the past year.
* Send me your list in an email (Samesty84@gmail.com) by Dec. 20, 2014 so I will be able to post the entire list at the end of the year.
PS – Dec. 9 – After a discussion with an avid reader and a faithful contributor to this list, one additional guideline: If any of the books you read fit into a category of “must reads” (i.e., “put down everything else and read this book now”), please so indicate by putting a star after the title. Said friend is looking for such a read.