Sunday, January 10, 2016

Casting about for a book to read?

Here is an interesting list of 80 books. Published at Esquire and selected by eight well-known writers, these are titles that the writers suggest that everyone should read.

If you are looking for something to read today, why not start with Louise Erdrich's novel The Round House? In the Esquire list The Round House is suggested by Roxanne Gay; and it is highly recommended reading by me. The book also won the National Book Award for Fiction. Check it out!

Here's hoping you have a good book to read on this chilly Sunday in January.

The Hallelujah Saguaro
by Amy S Dixon

Friday, January 8, 2016

Short Takes: Trapeze by Simon Mawer.

In Trapeze, a young woman is recruited by the British to act as a spy in France during World War II. After a long build-up - during which she undergoes spy training, has a love affair, and begins to worry about the bomb - she finally parachutes into German occupied France and begins her missions. This part of the novel, where the protagonist is operating in France, is quite suspenseful. And the ending of the book was quite a surprise.

Much like I imagine the times themselves were, Trapeze is dark and tense. It is an interesting novel.


Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 New Year's Resolutions

How are you doing with your resolutions for 2016? I'm doing well with mine. Although my resolutions, move more and eat right, are fairly ordinary and don't demand an extreme effort. For something more substantive, I've looked to Maria Popova's article at Brain Pickings, 16 Elevating Resolutions by Some of Humanity's Greatest Minds.

The 16 resolutions on Popova's list are inspiring and the explanation for each is good reading. Check it out for a rich and fruitful year.

Sunrise over the mountains.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Books for Mystery Fans: The Ellie Stone Series by James Ziskin

Looking for a great mystery series? Then check out James Ziskin's excellent books featuring Ellie Stone: 1) Styx and Stone, 2) No Stone Unturned, and 3) Stone Cold Dead. I just finished tearing through all three and think they are terrific.

The books are set at the start of the1960s. The protagonist is single, in her early 20s, and working for a small town newspaper in New York. The stories are a bit gritty: People are bashed on the head; they live hidden lives; Ellie consumes more scotch than seems prudent. All together, the noir-style novels are suspenseful and entertaining.

 Ziskin has a fourth book coming out in June and I'm really looking forward to reading it!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Highly Recommended: "Dear Committee Members" by Julie Schumacher

Let me start by stating that Julie Schumacher's novel Dear Committee Members is funny. It's also witty, keenly observed, honest, and an absolute pleasure to read.

Written in monologic epistolary style, it features a year's worth of letters written by Professor Jason T. Fitger, tenured professor of creative writing at Payne University. In his mid-50s, Fitger's own creative writing and publishing has stalled. In its place, the day-to-day demands of his job, and in particular the writing of letters of recommendation (LORs), consumes all his time. But what letters they are! For example:

Internship Coordinator
State Senator Pierce Balnearo's Office
The Halls of Power
. . .
Melinda is intelligent; she is organized; she is well spoken. Given her aptitude for research (unlike most undergraduates, she has moved beyond Wikipedia), I am sure that she will soon learn that the senator, his leathern face permanently embossed with a gruesome rictus of feigned cheer, has consistently voted against funds for higher education and has cosponsored multiple narrow-minded backwater proposals that will make it ever more difficult for her to repay the roughly $38,000 in debt that the average graduate of our institution inherits - along with a lovely blue tassel-on the day of commencement.

A major theme in Fitger's LORs is society's deflation of the value of teaching young people how to think and write. Perhaps this sounds like dull reading, but author Julie Schumacher masterfully presents the subject with biting humor, often simply by speaking the truth using scrumptious word choice. And through these letters, some sent to prospective employers on behalf of students, others to faculty colleagues, his ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, and his publisher, Fitger himself is slowly revealed. Happily, under the crusty shell is a person we like.

I think Dear Committee Members is a wonderful book and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Entertaining Read from Dennis Lehane: World Gone By (Joe Coughlin Series Book 3)

In World Gone By, it's the 1940s and Florida gangster Joe Coughlin is looking for financial opportunities that may arise from the war 'over there'. Joe is a rainmaker, and very good at this role. Although influential, Joe, who is of Irish descent, is no longer a big boss in the Italian crime syndicates. As threat to no one and a source of income, it comes as a great shock to Joe to learn that there is a contract on his life. How Joe handles the threat is the story of World Gone By.

Full of interesting characters and suspenseful plot twists, World Gone By is features plenty of gangster crimes but also philosophical reflections on the life. This novel can be enjoyed without reading the two earlier books in the series, The Given Day and Live By Night. That's what I did. Now, I will definitely seek out these other books.

As a side note, at this writing, the hardcover ($15.81) and Kindle copy ($14.99) of this book are practically the same price. If you buy the book, which format will you choose? Let's us know at the Facebook page.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction: How Many Have You Read?

I was looking over this list of Pulitzer Prize winners and nominees and was surprised at how many of the books I had read. I seem to prefer books that are finalists rather than the year's prize winner. For example, I preferred Richard Ford's Let Me be Frank With You, a 2015 finalist, and Philipp Meyer's The Son, a 2014 finalist, over the books that were the winners in those respective years.

How about you: have you read many of these book? did you enjoy them? Check out the Facebook page and leave a comment!