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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Four (and more) for February 2020

On the road into 2020.

Sometime at the end of 2019, I saw an interview with NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers in which Rogers said that he was setting a resolution to read more books in 2020. 'Hell fire,' I thought, 'If a busy guy like the Green Bay Packers star is setting an intention to read more, than I can set an intention to read more - and blog about it.'

So, let's go!

Four books have caught my attention for February 2020. The first is The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. I'm a fan of Larson, starting with the first of his books that I read, The Devil in the White City (nonfiction account of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago and a serial killer at large).

In his new book, Larson looks at Winston Churchill and London during the blitz, the bombing campaign waged against England by Hitler. Having just finished reading A Woman of No Importance, I'm in the mood for another nonfiction read about World War II. Stories of real people acting heroically are inspiring. (Actually, I may do this book as an audio book. Is that cutting corners? Nah.)

Second on my list for February is Weather by Jenny Offill. Based upon the summaries of the plot, I'm anticipating that this novel is one that is read more for the unique literary experience than for the hard-charging plot. The story is about a librarian named Lizzie. Lizzie's mentor, Sylvia, is a national expert on climate change. Sylvia is fed up with her fans and wants Lizzie to take over answering her mail. Lizzie does so. According to Kirkus Reviews, the ensuing "tension between mundane daily concerns and looming apocalypse, the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill's brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor."

On third base, as it were, is The Cactus League by Emily Nemens. Set in Arizona during spring training, this novel is about a baseball team and its star outfielder, handsome and talented Jason Goodyear - who is falling apart. I'm a baseball fan and since players will soon start reporting, this book sounds like it may be a good warm-up to the season.

Note also that if you want are interested in more books with a baseball hook, check out The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. Also, author Steve Hamilton has a good mystery series featuring Alex McKnight, a former minor league baseball player and former Detroit cop, who moves to Michigan's Upper Peninsula where he occasionally works as a private eye and always finds trouble. This is a very entertaining series; I suggest reading the books in order, starting with A Cold Day in Paradise which won Hamilton both an Edgar and Shamus award.

Moving along from baseball, the last book in this list of four for February is The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barnes. This historical biography interests me a great deal because I'm a huge fan of the painter John Singer Sargent (1856 - 1925). One of Sargent's most famous portraits is of Samuel-Jean Pozzi, entitled Dr. Pozzi at Home. The huge painting (about 80" by 40"), is a dramatic, full length portrait in which Pozzi appears standing in a red dressing gown. In The Man in the Red Coat, Barnes writes about Pozzi's life in Paris during the period at the end of the 1800s to before the beginning of World War I, know as the Belle Époque or beautiful era. John Singer Sargent fans may also enjoy reading Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis, which is another nonfiction read about Sargent and one of his most famous, and at the time scandalous, portraits.

To conclude, if Aaron Rodgers and I were chatting right now, here is what I'd recommend to him for February reading: 1) A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton (good entertainment), 2) The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (engaging nonfiction), and 3) The Cactus League by Emily Nemens (new fiction for 2020).

For me, I'm starting with The Man in the Red Coat.

1 comment:

  1. On February 21, the NYT ran a review written by Leo Damrosch of The Man in the Red Coat. In that review, Damrosch wrote, "[t]he book is a pleasure to read in every way." So, there's that! I'm enjoying it, too.