Sunday, May 29, 2011

NY Times 2011 Summer Beach Books.

Up-Dated December 2011:  Here is a link to the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2011 and the Times' Ten Best Books of 2011.


This weekend Janet Maslin at the New York Times produces a nifty list of summer beach books.  Why do I like Ms. Maslin's list?  To begin, she states up-front that "[i]t's time to find new favorites."  Yes.  That is exactly the information we want from someone employed as a book critic for a major news outlet.

Next, Ms. Maslin leads by recommending a parody, The Girl with the Sturgeon Tattoo, something that sounds perfect for casual reading. This suggestion also gives her readers props for possessing some wit and for being sufficiently well-read to have delved into the Steig Larsson / Scandinavian book scene.

And for those who want more of that scene, Maslin transitions into recommendations for new Scandinavian crime-writing authors and then it's off to the races:  Recommendations range from those offering suspense (Before I Go to Sleep), to spite (Gone with a Handsomer Man), and sports (Those Guys Have All the Fun).  She has even gone through the avalanche of books that arrive each summer by well-established authors and recommends three.

Will you and I like all of these books?  Who knows!  What we do know is that Janet Maslin uses her professional judgment to produce a fine column that digs out new authors, books with fresh stories, and the best of the rest.  Great work.  I have already placed a bunch of her recommended books on my "to read" list.

For the complete story and list of books, check out the link.    

Also, check out my all my recommended books at this link - lots of good reading recommendations there.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

L.A. Times 2011 Summer Reading List.

Up-Date December 4, 2011:  Here is the link to the L.A. Times 2011 Holiday Book and Gift Guide.


The L.A. Times published a list of 203 books to consider for summer reading.  Check it out; it's fun to play with the web page created by the paper for this story.  Quantity does not assure quality, however, and I found this list disappointing.

What's disappointing is that the list doesn't provide us with much help in finding hidden gems to read.  For example, many of the books listed under the category "Page Turners" are by well-known writers with their own marketing machines.  You and I could have easily found the latest Lawrence Block on our own (if, for some unimaginable reason, we would want to do so).  The fiction list seems rather uninspired.  Other titles are just nonstarters - Dick Morris?  I don't think so.

Still, if you see a book on this list that you think looks good, let me know what it is and why.  I'm keeping an open mind.

[For more good book recommendations, check out all my recommendations at this link!]

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"The Terror of Living" by Urban Wait.

The Terror of Living is an incredibly suspenseful novel by Urban Waite.  Set in Washington State, along the Canadian border, law enforcement is chasing drug dealers, dealers are fighting amongst themselves, and one very sick and dangerous killer is in the middle of it all.

The Terror of Living is an exciting read.  You'll be rooting for the good guys, be they in law enforcement or drug trafficking.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Books with a Paris Connection, Part 2: "The Greater Journey" by Historian David McCullough.

Last week I wrote a post about books set in Paris.  Today I'm adding another book title to those previously listed, The Greater Journey:  Americans in Paris by David McCullough.  McCullough, of course, is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and has previously published 1776, Truman, and John Adams as well as other works.

The Greater Journey is, according to the book's description, the "story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others of high aspiration who set off for Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900, ambitious to excel in their work."

For one opinion about the book, check out Janet Maslin's column from the New York Times.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Summer Reading: Books for those who travel . . . and for those who stay home.

For a holiday this July, my good friend S. is going to Paris with her husband.  What fun!  My own summer travels will occur closer to home.  I can, nonetheless, celebrate her trip by reading books with a Paris connection.

Ideas for a few titles set in Paris can be found in this article from The Guardian where Malcolm Burgess sets down his list of the top 10 books set in the City of Lights.  One of Burgess' recommendations, The Hare with Amber Eyes, received a great deal of buzz last summer; it has been on my 'to read' list for a while.

My own thought is that you can't go wrong with The Paris Review.  I greatly enjoyed reading The Paris Review Interviews, and it might be time to check out The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators and Waiting Rooms.

A good read, supplemented with a glass of French wine and a plate of  artisan cheese, is no substitute for Paris but it is certainly something excellent to enjoy while staying at home.       

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Plucked from the Pages: Three Titles from the May 15 New York Times Book Review

Finally today I've gotten around to reading the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Lots of interesting material in this issue, with three books standing out above the rest.

To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild

The first book is also the cover story of this weeks book review.  Reviewed by the wonderful Christopher Hitchens the book is To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild.

Hochschild's examination of World War I is called a "moving and important book" by Hitchens; ". . . a book to make one feel deeply and painfully, and also to think hard."  This is high praise from Mr. Hitchens.  Frankly, no more need be said to get To End All Wars on my reading list.

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Second is a book discussed in a review written by Jane Smiley, author of A Thousand Acres and many other works.  Ms. Smiley writes about Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks.  Brooks is also the author of March, a novel about the Civil War, as well as People of the Book, which I greatly enjoyed reading.  The new book is set in 1660 and is about a young woman living in a Puritan community in Massachusetts.  Smiley calls the book enlightening, involving and beautifully written.  As with To End All Wars, this recommendation is more than enough to get me interested in reading Caleb's Crossing.

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock  

Thirdly, I am very intrigued by a book called The Paper Garden:  An Artist (Begins Her Life's Work) at 72 by Molly Peacock.  The book is about a woman named Mary Delany (1700 - 1778) who became an artist in her 70s, making collage portraits of flowers and plants.  "Today the collages," according to reviewer Andrea Wulf, "reside in the British Museum."  Sounds inspirational, don't you think?

So there you have it:  Three book titles plucked from the pages of the New York Times Book Review.  If you are looking for something good to read, check them out and let us know your opinion on these works.     

Friday, May 13, 2011

Latest Additions to the Reading List

Added a  few books to the "to be read" pile.  If you've already read any of these titles, let us know what you think of the book!

The Wrong War:  Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan by Bing West

The Terror of Living by Urban Waite

Vienna Twilight by Frank Tallis.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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What to Read Next: "Swimming" by Nicola Keegan.

Swimming, a novel by Nicola Keegan, is about a girl named Pip, her troubled family, and her remarkable athletic talent.  What makes this novel exceptional is listening to Pip tell us the story of what happens on the way from her home in Kansas to the Olympics and a big pile of gold medals.  Pip is a young person with talent and Keegan wonderfully captures her voice:  The vulnerability, resilience, impatience, know-it-all, emotional-roller-coaster ride that is youth.    

Set in the late-1970s through the 1980s, the book opens with Pip's frazzled parents taking their infant daughter to the pool for aqua baby class.  "I'm a problematic infant . . ." says Pip, "I'm nine months old and the longest I've slept at one time is one hour and forty-three minutes."   Happily for everyone, Pip takes to the water and her course is set.  Pip swims.

Initially, Pip's swimming is an interest she loves and pursues as she copes with a number of tragic events in her family; nuns and Catholic school; being a girl growing up; and having serious sugar jones.  This first half of the book was my favorite part:  I laughed, cried, underlined passages and jammed the book with numerous book marks.  In my opinion, the book is worth reading for that portion alone, but you should read the whole thing because the story's second half is interesting, thoughtful, and appropriate.

As Pip gets older, her swimming talent is recognized by coaches.  She begins the intensive training required for competing against the world's best, including Pip's nemesis from East Germany.  Even as I enjoyed this part of the story I wondered, how will this end?  And that is exactly the question Pip is left with after she wins her medals, grows older, and gets slower in the pool.  What do you do after swimming?

Swimming, a thoughtful and funny novel, is a highly recommended read.