Resisting Everything Except Temptation: CarolineMc Reads in 2017 Part 2
This is a continuation of the topic Resisting Everything Except Temptation: CarolineMc Reads in 2017.
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The World Broke in Two (Bill Goldstein)
Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell)
Sing Unburied, Sing (Jesmyn Ward)
The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (Claire Tomalin)
Sea Change (Jorie Graham)
Why Write? (Philip Roth) (Essays)
The Foreigner: Two Essays on Exile (Richard Sennett)
Life in the Garden (Penelope Lively)
Albion (Peter Ackroyd)
The Poems of Norman MacCaig
David Bowie: A Life (Dylan Jones)
'Sicily'(John Julius Norwich)
The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Read in 2017
The Invention of Angela Carter (Edmund Gordon) ****1/2
A Florence Diary (Diana Athill) ***
A Jar of Wild Flowers: A Celebration of John Berger (Various) (Essays) ****1/2
Cataract (John Berger/Selçuk Demirel) ****
The Saffron Road: A a Journey with Buddha's Daughters (Christine Toomey) ****1/2
Smoke (John Berger/Selçuk Demirel) ****
Utopia For Realists: and how we can get there (Rutger Bergman) ****1/2
The Dark Romance of Dian Fossey (Harold Hayes) ****
Insomniac City (Bill Hayes) ****1/2
Soul at the White Heat (Joyce Carol Oates) ****1/2
South and West (Joan Didion) ***1/2
Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson) ****1/2 (book group) ROOT
Plot 29 (Allan Jenkins) ****1/2
On Tyranny (Timothy Snyder) ****
The Stranger in the Woods (Michael Finkel) ****
Dust Tracks on the Road (Zora Neale Hurston) AAC ***1/2
Politics: Between the Extremes (Nick Clegg) ****1/2
The Thoughtful Gardener (Jenny Blom *****
The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry ****1/2
Rooms of One's Own (Adrian Mourby) ****
Angela Merkel (Matthew Qvortrup) ****
A Secret Sisterhood (Emily Midorikawa/Emma Claire Sweeney) ***1/2
My Life with Bob (Pamela Paul) ****
Every Third Thought (Robert McCrum) ****
Plant Dreaming Deep (May Sarton) reread ***** ROOT
The Richard Burton Diaries (Richard Burton) **** ROOT
Hope in the Dark (Rebecca Solnit) (Essays) *****
The Mother of all Questions (Rebecca Solnit *****
What Happened (Hillary Rodham Clinton) ****1/2
Devotion (Patti Smith) ****
Jacob's Room is full of Books (Susan Hill) ****
Silence in the Age of Noise (Erling Kagge) ****1/2
At the Existentialist Café (Sarah Bakewell) ****1/2
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Ann Patchett) ****1/2
Out of the Wreckage ( George Monbiot) ****1/2
After Europe (Ivan Krastev) ****
Embracing Change (Tony Buzan) ****1/2
Women & Power (Mary Beard) ****
A Life in Parts (Bryan Cranston) ****
A Life of my Own: A Biographer’s Life (Claire Tomalin) ****
The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (Claire Tomalin) ****
Why Buddhism is True (Richard Wright) ****1/2
Sculptor’s Daughter (Tove Jansson) ROOT ***1/2
The World Broke in Two (Bill Goldstein) ****1/2
Kindred (Octavia Butler) (AAC) (Kindle) ****1/2
A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles) ****1/2
The Mangan Inheritance (Brian Moore) **** (LL)
The Gustav Sonata (Rose Tremain) **** (Kindle)
Judas (Amos Oz) (21/02/17) (274/2,866) ****
Emily, Alone (Stewart O'Nan) ***1/2 ROOT
The Golden Age (Joan London) ****1/2
High-Rise (J G Ballard) **** (Kindle) (book group)
The Round House (Louise Erdrich) ****
The Harbour Master (Daniel Pembrey) (Kindle) ***
The Invisible Man (H G Wells) ***1/2
Larchfield (Polly Clark) ****
I Saw A Man (Owen Sheers)**** (book group)
Persuasion (Jane Austen) ****
The Unseen (Roy Jacobsen) ***
The Last Temptation (Val McDermid) ****
The Torment of Others (Val McDermid) ***1/2
Open City (Teju Cole) ****
Borderlines (Micheal Wrong) ***1/2
Cousins (Salley Vickers) ****
The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry) **** ROOT
'Beasts' (Paul Kingsnorth) ***1/2
Motel Chronicles and Hawk Moon Re-read ***** ROOT
Swing Time (Zadie Smith) ***1/2
Midwinter Break (Bernard MacLaverty) ****
The One Inside (Sam Shepard) ****
City of the Mind (Penelope Lively) ***1/2
Forest Dark (Nicole Krause) ****
Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie) ****
The Red-Haired Woman (Orhan Pamuk) ***1/2
The Shape of Water (Andrea Camilleri) ***
The Grand Sophy (Georgette Heyer) ****
The Various Haunts of Men (Susan Hill) ***1/2
The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald) 35th reread. *****
Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi) *****
The Amber Fury (Natalie Haynes) **** ROOT
Conversations with Friends (Sally Rooney) ****
News of the World (Paulette Jiles) ****
Say Something Back (Denise Riley) ***1/2 ROOT
Life on Mars (Tracy K. Smith) ***
Collected Poems: John Berger (John Berger) ***1/2
Selected Poems: Emily Dickinson ****1/2 ROOT
The Simple Truth (Philip Levine) ****
The Beauty (Jane Hirshfield) **** ROOT
Imagining Alexandria (Louis de Berniéres) (poetry) ***1/2
Inside the Wave (Helen Dunmore) ****
Angel Hill (Michael Longley) ****
Bone (Yrsa Daley-Ward) (Poetry) *****
Sea Change (Jorie Graham) (reread) ****
Elementum - One: Calling (Journal) (various) *****
Catching up with reviews:
40. The Unseen (Roy Jacobsen) ***
I enjoyed this quiet novel of Island life, but it didn't blow me away.
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize.
41. Inside the Wave (Helen Dunmore) ****
Sadly the final poetry collection by Helen Dunmore who died earlier this month.
'And now we come to the unknown land
With its blue coves and inlets where sweet water
Bubbles against the salt. Its sand
Is ready for footprints. Give me your hand.'
From Terra Incognita
42. The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry *****
An extraordinary collection of Berry's essays spanning a lifetime of writing, and so very relevant still today.
I always intend to make notes about individual essays, but I tend to just want to sink myself into them. These will get a second, more thoughtful, reading in time though.
43. The Last Temptation **** and 44. The Torment of Others ***1/2 (Val McDermid) vols 3&4 of the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series
I really like Hill and Jordan and enjoy their relationship unfolding, but it is the complexity of McDermid's plotting and the fascinating knowledge she infuses her novels with that draw me back each time.
Why hello Dante of Lyme, you cute little thing you!
Oh, and hi Caro. :)
>1 Caroline_McElwee: A very composed composition. xx
Happy new thread, Caroline.
Talking of readers...
Happy New Thread, Caroline.
Looks like I should read some Jane Hirschfield poetry, yes?
Happy new thread Caroline, love your topper and the other work of Ellen de Groot on your previous thread.
>4 Caroline_McElwee: The small owl is cute!
Sorry to see that the Paddington Bear creator, Michael Bond passed away this week, Caroline. I remember reading his books to the kids at bedtimes probably 13 or so years ago.
Have a lovely weekend.
Happy New Thread, Caroline!
Back to your prior one and the discussion about solitude, introversion, and extroversion.....
The film I saw at the visitor's center in Fairbanks was indeed, I think, Alone in the Wilderness. The man's name was Dick Proenneke and his experience was fascinating.
I'm extroverted in two senses: I process information out loud (I sometimes preface comments at work with "I don't yet know what I think about this, I just need to talk out loud about it for a moment" so that people know that the first thing out of my mouth is not necessarily my final opinion). And I draw energy from time with other people. I usually come away from social situations amped up and energized. Of course, it depends on the dynamics.
And I crave solitude and I need alone time every day. I think that is especially true living in a busy city and working at a people-intesive job. I once heard someone say that how much alone time you need depends on how much you easily get. That made total sense to me.
>14 tiffin: >15 NanaCC: >16 FAMeulstee: >17 laytonwoman3rd: thanks for peeping in ladies. Dante is rather special. The de Groote was a lucky find.
>18 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul, well he was an older gent, and I suspect had a fine life. Paddington goes on.
>19 EBT1002: >20 EBT1002: I shall have to look out for that film Ellen. Dante is ceramic.
I've been sidetracked Ellen, so may not get to it until next week. I've read it several times before, and loved it, but not read it in the last ten years, so will be interesting to see if it still holds up. It is a slow burn.
I'm leaving apologies here for not keeping up with all your threads this past week or so, I've just not been in the mood to offer the attention I would like. But I'll catch up soon, and hope you are all well.
I'm just a bit out of steam at the minute Darryl. Decided not to spin quite as many plates as I sometimes do. Thanks for asking.
Agreed, Caroline. Sometimes it's best to cut back. Debbi and I send warm wishes.
"Decided not to spin quite as many plates as I sometimes do."
Amen to that, Caroline! I think we all need breaks from LT (just like we need breaks from other things in our lives) now and then. I hope you're doing well.
I am another one struggling, Caroline.
Never had such an unproductive month reading wise and life pretty much sucks at the moment too.
Have a lovely weekend and I do hope that those plates start twirling again vigorously.
So sad to learn about the death of Sam Shepard. One of the great American Playwrights IMO. His work has been in my life for maybe 35 years. Last night I watched some interviews and readings by him. Never dull. This morning I pulled Motel Chronicles and Hawk Moon off the shelf for another reread. It’s one of my favourite books. I bought my copy in 1990. I’ve bought copies of this book for several people over the years, it gets harder and harder to get in the Faber and Faber edition I have. I love his eye, his tone, his thought processes. The plays are painful, hard, harsh, edgy. His characters suffer pain. Actors must fight to take those parts. I wish I’d got to see Ed Harris in one of his plays recently, I kept putting off getting a ticket.
If you are interested in the process of creativity itself, Sam was too, there is a great collection of letters and writing between he and Joseph Chaikin Letters and Texts 1972-84
The most recent film I saw him in was August, Osage County, wonderful. He'll now become one of my 'dead friends' as my living friends call my dear creative passed-over!
Thanks Darryl, Jim, Joe, Ellen and Paul. I just needed to duck out of a few things for a while, and I may come and go a bit ongoing. Not sure why. Sometimes it is just too much to do, mostly just grabbing a bit more quiet/me time. I've swung past your threads to catch up a bit.
>32 Caroline_McElwee: I never heard of Sam Shepard before, Caroline.
A search tells me that there are only a few plays translated into Dutch. And I saw Paris, Texas, great movie!
>32 Caroline_McElwee: Echoing your thoughts on Sam Shepherd. Somewhere along the line I culled the first two volumes of his collected works, but there was nothing in them to dismiss. My favorite was "Curse of the Starving Class"; back in my acting days, I relied on a monologue from it. Have you ever seen the film, "Cold in July"? He is terrifying in it. Not a great film, really, but wonderful for his and Don Johnson's flamboyant performances.
>35 majleavy: No, I haven't seen that movie Maj. He did a lot of films that didn't look like they were my cup of tea in recent years. That said, maybe I'll have a Shepard movie blitz over Winter.
It was so long ago that I read or saw most of the plays, but Fool for Love was good, and I saw it more than once. It put me in mind of Tennessee Williams.
>36 Caroline_McElwee: "Fool for Love" was, wasn't it? "Buried Child" and "True West," too.
It's a big loss with Sam Shepard gone, Caroline. Our local Steppenwolf Theater produced a lot of his plays, including remarkable productions of Buried Child and True West.
Shepard was truly wonderful in August, Osage County. And also very good in Mud, which was a strange little movie; and Raggedy Man (another excellent, but often overlooked movie, in which Henry Thomas, the E.T. kid, made his film debut). But let's not forget his turn as a drummer with the Holy Modal Rounders, particularly on Bird Song in the classic movie Easy Rider. I know so much less about his writing, and I must do something about that.
>37 majleavy: I've seen Buried Child live, but not True West, though I saw a recording of that with John Malkovitch and Gary Sinese in (I think a Steppenwolf production) Maj.
>38 jnwelch: >40 jnwelch: I think the True West Steppenwolf production was the one with Malkovitch and Sinese Joe, did you see it, or any of the others?
Yes 'Days of Heaven' too. I think the first film I saw him in was The Right Stuff.
>39 laytonwoman3rd: Now I'm not really familiar with his music, I heard he was in that band/created it, but not got round to listening to anything they have done, I'll have to check it out.
I watched the first episode of 'Bloodline' last night on NetFlix. I can see how it ties into his theatre work, which is solidly about the exploration of the dynamic of family. I'm not sure if I'll get through 3 series, though think they might be short series.
>41 Caroline_McElwee: His music wasn't his strong suit, Caroline. It's funky and off-beat, to say the least, and he didn't stick with it very long.
>41 Caroline_McElwee: Yes, we did see the Sinise/Malkovich True West; Buried Child featured the exceptionally creepy Ted Levine. We're lucky - we've been Steppenwolf subscribers forever, and we also got to see William Peterson/Gary Cole/Amy Morton at the Remains Theater before they all (I think all) joined Steppenwolf.
Lucky, luck, lucky you two re True West, Joe. Energy off the Richter scale from the recording I saw. I did see Malkovitch in Landford Wilson's Burn This, twice. The description 'electrifying' certainly applied. I also saw him in a Dusty Hughes play a few years later too, but stagewise I think he mainly directs these days.
Wonderful piece about Sam by Patti Smith in the New Yorker:
>45 Caroline_McElwee: That is a great article, Caroline. Much understated and underestimated writer and playwright in my opinion.
Have a lovely Sunday.
>50 Thanks for updating, Caroline. Some favourite writers amongst your poetry reads although for some of them (de Bernieres and Dunmore for example) I have only read their prose. I like the unfettered directness of Philip Levine.
Have a lovely week.
Caroline, it was a pleasure to see your visit over on my thread. Somehow this year hasn't been quite what I'd hoped in a variety of ways, but I have managed a great deal of reading, some of it very good.
Have you read anything by May Sargon? Primarily a poet, she also wrote memoirs and essays. One title that leaps to mind is Journal of a Solitude, which I think you'd enjoy.
Gail, I love May Sarton and have read much of her work. I love that journal, as well as her other diaries. One of my favourite books of hers is Plant Dreaming Deep which I have moved near my reading chair for another reread soon. I enjoy her novels too. She is not, on the whole, particularly well known here. And I admit, after reading a very good, well rounded biography of her, I do wonder whether I would have liked her in person, she was quite self-centred and a bit thoughtless of the damage she could do to others.
I'm always conflicted when I love the work, but suspect I may not love the person in person!
>53 Very interesting point about Sarton's personality, Caroline. I'm quite sure I would have found her insufferable, but I enjoy her work. A lesson in compromise, perhaps?
I am keeping >2 Caroline_McElwee: up to date. Will try and do some reviews at the weekend.
Hi Caroline. I've enjoyed reading through the discussion of Sam Shepard and his work. I realize that I know little about the man but I will look into streaming a film or two. Part of it is that I don't see movies very often so I've only seen him in Steel Magnolias, Swordfish, Frances...
I don't think I've ever seen any of his plays but with his passing, maybe the Seattle Rep or ACT Theater will take something on in the next year or so.
Wishing you a fabulous weekend, Caroline.
I am hoping for a peaceful one before Hani goes off to the UK.
>56 Hi Ellen, well you will have such me good treats ahead on the Sam Shepard trail, a very talented man.
>57 thanks Paul, I'm enjoying a weekend in Brighton with a friend. Having a short break before an early supper. Breakfast is so huge we can never eat lunch. Hope your weekend was sweet.
>59 tee hee. So far not Paul, but there was an odd dodgy dealer in the pub me thinks...
Finally, very short notes on my reading over the past few months, I have got soooo behind with my reviews! No need to consume in one go, if at all :-)
45. Open City (Teju Cole) ****
A fine debut novel by Teju Cole, whose character Julius meets with strangers and friends as he wanders the City. Full of interesting reflections on life.
46. Borderlines (Michela Wrong) ***1/2
Read for my local reading group, the writer is an experienced journalist, and the novel has the feel of fictional biography. Interesting on this kind of life, but it has its flaws.
47.Rooms of One's Own: 50 Places that made literary history (Adrian Mourby) ****
Does what it says on the tin.
48. Cousins (Sally Vickers) **** ROOT
When Will’s night climbing of the spire of a Cambridge college goes badly wrong, we follow the impact as narrated by 3 members of his family.
49. Angel Hill (Michael Longley) (Poetry) ****
Longley continues his connection with the natural world in this new collection.
50. Angela Merkel (Matthew Qvortrup) ****
I really got a sense of Mrs Merkel from this biography. A thoughtful woman with a science background, who won’t be rushed into important decisions. More left leaning than is commonly perceived. A listener. A compromiser when necessary. Although she has had sticky moments in her political career, on the whole she is perceived as a safe pair of hands.
51. A Secret Sisterhood (Emily Midorikawa/Emma Claire Sweeney)) ***1/2
An interesting volume about literary friendships between women.
52. My Life with Bob (Pamela Paul) ****
A lovely literary gift – one woman’s Book of Books, her life in reading.
53. The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry) ****
An enjoyable read, and yet something was missing, that I can’t put my finger on.
54. Beasts (Paul Kingsnorth) ***1/2
Another novel that didn’t quite hit the spot with me, whilst still being interesting.
55. Motel Chronicles and Hawk Moon (Sam Shepard) Re-read ***** ROOT
After Shepard’s death I had to pull this old favourite off the shelf.
56. Swing Time (Zadie Smith) ***1/2
Not quite sure why this received the hype it did. I have loved several of Zadie Smith’s novels, and certainly got very much into the second half of this novel, but it didn’t rivet me either on story or tone.
57. Midwinter Break (Bernard MacLaverty)) ****
Long awaited novel (16 years) from Bernard MacLaverty. A deceptively simple, but thoughtful novel.
58.The One Inside (Sam Shepard) ****
Sam Shepard’s final volume, described as a novel, but supposedly heavily autobiographical, it continues his theme of complicated family interrelation.
59. City of the Mind (Penelope Lively) ***1/2
Not my favourite Lively, but I suspect I will pull it off the shelf again down the line.
60. Elementum - One: Calling (Journal) (various) *****
Beautiful new nature periodical, originally illustrated with thoughtful contributors.
61. Every Third Thought (Robert McCrum) ****
Another fine memoir from McCrum meditating on the touchstone of death in people once they pass that boundary of the age of 60.
62. Plant Dreaming Deep (May Sarton) reread ***** ROOT
Fourth reread of Sarton’s lovely, plangent memoir about moving to a new home as she hits 50. Lovely meetings with her neighbours and other friends, as well as offering a powerful sense of place.
63. The Richard Burton Diaries (Richard Burton) **** ROOT
I wasn't sure I'd carry on at 100 pages (of 650) but it got better. It's intriguing, repetitive, fascinating, maddening, heartbreaking, warm, passionate and probably very much the man he was. I'd have liked him I'm sure.
In summary, he was a contradiction, loved life, yet suffered depression, enjoyed fame but needed solitude. Greatly generous of his time and with money. LOVED the written word and read voraciously from detective novels to serious history, literature of all shades. He worked hard, but had little respect for his profession (compared to work others did). In his dreams he would have been an academic and writer. He was a self-taught linguist, fluent in Welsh, English, French, Spanish, Italian, had a little German and was dabbling in Serbo-Croat whilst working on a film, and tried to learn to read Russian. He was a self-confessed drunk, who knew how boring and verbally aggressive he became under the influence, but he couldn't stay dry for long. And he loved deeply. He was obsessed with Elizabeth Taylor. Barely spent a week apart at any one time. They were a volatile match, but a match all the same.
64. Hope in the Dark (Rebecca Solnit) (Essays) *****
Solnit’s work is never less than thought provoking, and will always be returned to. I will never take it all in in one read.
I think it is that one Linda, though she wrote another book for a later move as well.
Lots of good reading! Mark had the same kind of problem with Swing Time. Doesn't sound like one of her best.
Wish we were going to be seeing you soon in London. Next year!
Hi Joe, yes disappointed not to be seeing you and Madam MBH this year, but will enjoy it all the more next year.
Caroline, I will have to go and find those Richard Burton Diaries - he was such an interesting fellow.
Have a lovely weekend.
65. The Mother of all Questions (Rebecca Solnit) *****
Another of Solnit's very fine collections. I'm hopeless at taking serious notes when I read, I just want to sink myself into the work on first reading.
Covered in this volume, in the title essay is the obsession with why a woman does not choose to become a mother, and how women in the public domain are expected to account for their choices. A man will never be asked in interview why he chose not to be a father. As with other essays, this one looks at one of the many ways women are not permitted ownership of their own bodies.
Other essays look at the different aspects of silence, and being silenced, including how that differs between men and women.
Solnit is not anti-men, but much of her work looks at paternalistic society and hence can appear to those who do not actually read her to be so. One of the many ideas in her work is the assumption that by oppressing women, men are also damaging themselves.
>68 that sounds fascinating, Caro. I'm familiar with Solnit's work but have not read any of her books. Looks like it would be worth seeking out.
>68 Nice review, Caroline, she sounds like an interesting writer.
This book will come out in Dutch translation later this year. I did find a Dutch translation of Men Explain Things to Me, I might start there.
That is also a fine volume Anita. I've not been disappointed in her work so far.
66. Forest Dark (Nicole Krauss) ****
Review to follow.
67. What Happened (Hillary Rodham Clinton) ****1/2
I have really enjoyed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened. She is a fully rounded, bright, intelligent woman. Totally aware of her flaws. Totally aware that many of her own choices led to the result that occurred in 2016.
Probably the most consistent thing she does is acknowledge all those people who have supported her throughout her career, and all those people she has met who have offered her private insights into their lives so that she can be a more effective policy maker, responder, supporter, to her nation and others. No-one else’s work goes unnoticed by her. She also has a strong sense of her own skills and of what she is capable of, and she says so. This clearly offends some people and she knows it. She has a capacity she wishes every girl or woman had, faith and confidence in her own abilities. She contextualises, not just with recent but historic information/data. This is her story, but it is a story also of women who strive, whether in politics or any aspect of life.
She not only tells us what she would have done if she had become President, but how she would have achieved many of the things on her list. She describes herself as a policy wonk, and suggests her passion for the detail, and the budget stacking up before she commits to moving forward, are things that go against her because the media can’t use those things in the way they can inflate ‘big promises’ that can’t be backed up with how they can be achieved.
Although her team sometimes tried to steer her to taking less confrontational places to visit, especially after a speech where something had been taken out of context and manipulated by the opposition, but instead she always chose to go to the areas where she knew people would have been more hurt by her decontextualized words (the mining areas are a key example here), who were likely to be more aggressively confrontational. I must have been wondering as I nodded off to sleep, how she girded herself for volatile, contentious situations like this, and when I woke, I came up with the thought that she can deal with the situation (not without being bruised) because she is so sure that her actions are/were incontestable. Her intentions were manipulated, and although she may have used careless language, her intentions were and are not in opposition to the needs of the community/person concerned. Such self-awareness is not ego, but because she has done her homework, and revised it and improved it and she knows that it will change things. She also understands that you cannot get anything done without reaching across the aisle. That that often means more compromise than most people would wish, but it leads to action. Being unbending leads to words, and words and no action, which adds to the voters feeling that government do nothing for them.
Throughout, but mostly in the final chapters of the book, she looks at the external interference in the election and sets out what occurred, to our current knowledge, acknowledging that we are still understanding what happened. But her ultimate focus is on facing up to the vulnerabilities of our technological age, and how we might protect ourselves more effectively going forward. This is not just a US problem. There have been suggestions that the Russians had some effect on the vote as to whether the UK should stay in the European Union, it would favour them to have a destabilised bloc of European nations going forward.
The book enhanced my feeling of a lost opportunity, a President Hillary Clinton would have been a powerful and effective leadership, inspirational to all young people, but especially young women. Whilst she would have dragged the best of the past forward, she is a forward thinker and an encourager of challenge, imagination and striving. She is a true server of her people. I look forward to reading about what she does in the future.
>73 Nice review Caroline. I have been reading some of the excerpts that have been in the press here. I don't think I can read this book right now. My emotions remain to raw. I cannot imagine how she summoned the ability to write a book on the subject so close to the events. It feels like something people would never recover from.
Nice review of Hillary Clintons book, Caroline, I will impatiently wait for the Dutch translation.
>74 On some levels she will never recover from it Erik, but she is smart and pragmatic, and knows there are things she can do to try to shape the future, to continue to serve. I'm pretty sure she won't run again, but she is already helping to support potential Democartic leaders going forward, and organisations who aim to obstruct the worst actions of the current administration where possible, or help those worst hit by their acts. Writing it now was probably quite carthartic too Erik.
>75 I hope you don't have to wait too long Anita.
>73 PaulCranswick: Good review, Caroline.
I firmly believe that HRC was the wrong candidate to have put up against trump and the strategy of avoiding some of the key battleground states - especially Wisconsin - as her team clearly felt they were in the bag, lead to the loss despite gaining more votes overall. There is a serious flaw in the American process when the whole nation votes to elect one man or woman to its most important office and all the votes don't count equally. They should simply poll all the votes and who gets the most becomes President.
That said she is obviously a woman of immense calibre. I will never be a fan but I would like very much to read her views.
Very sketchy notes for these books, but I may come back and fill them out later:
68. Devotion: (why I write) (Patti Smith) ****
Part of Yale Universities ‘Why I write’ series, Patti Smith offers some short essays to show how she came to write a particular short story, and then includes the story. The layered process of inspirations across time, that play into the final piece. But with Patti, little is final.
69. Home Fire Kamila Shamshie) ****
2017 Man Booker shortlisted, a fine novel that broadens out the Muslim experience when 3 children are orphaned, and raised to adulthood by the oldest. The experiences of the twins make the central plot, as the brother becomes radicalised, and his twin tries to bring him home. (fuller review to follow).
70. The Red-Haired Woman (Orhan Pamuk) ***1/2
With echoes of the story of Orpheus and the Persian Shahnameh mythologies Pamuk weaves a story about father/son relationships in modern Turkey, and how they are bound to traditions of the past. I expected to like this novel more than I did, I found it more contrived than I would wish.
71. 'Bone' (Yrsa Daley-Ward) *****
A really fine debut volume of poems from Yrsa Daley-Ward. Powerful, insightful, full-blooded. Life felt deeply.
Off to Sicily tomorrow, I always take too many books, but hey!
At the moment the plan is:
First 4 Montalbano novels
Jacob’s Room is Full of Books (Susan Hill)
At the Existentialist Café (Sarah Bakewell)
The Waves (Virginia Woolf) – reread
After the Ecstasy, the Laundry (Jack Kornfield)
Essayism (Brian Dillon)
Kindle (I have Lampedusa's The Leopard on it as well as loads of other stuff).
Off to Sicily tomorrow - how great! Have fun, Caroline (I know you will).
I love the idea of your reading Montalbano in Sicily!
I enjoyed your review of Hillary's book. I saw her speak in Chicago several years ago, and she was brilliant. I'm still sad about what might've been . . .
Two weeks Anita. The first in Palermo, and then on to Taoarmina. I’ll post a few photos while I am away.
Have a wonderful trip dear Caroline. I have always wanted to go to Sicily so I shall be keen to get your impressions. Of course my idea of the place has been coloured by Montalbano and it gluttony and cheerful butchery. xx
Love the view, Caroline. Hope you are having a fine time. Like Paul, my only experience of Sicily has been from Montalbano.
>87 Lovely. Let me know when you bump into Montalbano or at least his hapless "Cat".
I can just about smell the seafood cooking - mullets for supper?
I have never read anything by Rebecca Solnit but I'm going to look for her next time I visit the bookstore.
I love the view from your Palermo balcony! Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
Ha. It turns out that I have a copy of The Faraway Nearby somewhere on the TBR shelves (according to my LT collection). I just need to (a) find it, and (b) start digging into it.
Jacob’s Room is Full of Books (Susan Hill)
The Various Haunts of Men (Susan Hill) (Kindle)
Silence in the Age Of Noise (Erling Kagge)
Well none of these were on my original holiday reading list.... enjoying them all.
Posting these for Joe as he likes street art. These are at the bottom of Marcato di Ballaro, Palermo. It’s a very diverse, down at heal, but vibrant area. The market is mainly food, but with a mish mash of other domestic goods as well. Not to mention biscotti!
I think Joe has made us all lovers of street art. Those are magnificent...a South American influence in that first one?
I enjoyed The Various Haunts of Men and keep thinking that is a series I need to revisit before I completely lose the thread.
>97 I downloaded the series on my Kindle a while ago Ellen. So far so good!
I haven't lurked here for a while, but thought I would break cover to say how much I like the images of reading women and the holiday photos are wonderful. I've never been but would love to.
Reading wise I've added May Sarton to the wishlist and of the pile in >93 EBT1002: The lovely hand size edition of Silence looks very appealing.
Hi Charlotte, good to see you pop your head in. I’m enjoying Silence in the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge, very much. I wait until it is silent, at night, to read it.
I think the tickle to come to Sicily was ignited by an exhibition at the British Museum last year. Palermo is quite a poor, ramshackle but warm-hearted place. In the next couple days of days I’ll do a trip to Monreale to see the famous mosaics. I’m in Palermo until Saturday, then take the train to Taormina.
Wistfully looking at your photos, Caroline. Sicily is definitely on my bucket list. xx
72. Jacob’s Room is Full of Books (Susan Hill) ****
Another enjoyable romp through Susan Hill’s library and reading. We share many a reading pleasure. Only Shirley Hazzard’s essays fell into my shopping basket, I’d read many of her novels (which Hill doesn’t mention), but not the essays.
Susan Hill can come across occasionally as a bit of a grump, but I have to remind myself that is based on three or four moments, colouring a whole book, and I agree with one of her grumps: how good manners are on the wain, a brief moment of gratitude and politeness goes a long way.
Between the books are memories, especially of people, bird sightings, weather and occasionally a little repetitiveness.
>104 I really enjoy a lot of Hill's novels, but I didn't care for her other reading memoir, Howard's End is on the Landing. I didn't record my reaction to it, but a certain grumpiness does rather ring a bell.
>94 Caroline_McElwee:. I love it! Thanks for the street art photos, Caroline. Street art tends to show up in the edgier parts of town, doesn’t it.
It makes me happy to see the Montalbano books, too. Perfect for Sicily. Are you having a chance to read any?
>95 Caroline_McElwee:. Wow, that’s a very nice thing to say, Linda. Thanks! I just enjoy street art so much. I’m glad that’s been contagious. :-)
P.S. I particularly like the weird multi-colored dog in the Palermo street art.
>72 Caroline_McElwee: "...a brief moment of gratitude and politeness goes a long way." Well, I heartily agree with that!
I continue to enjoy your photos. The fig trees are pretty amazing. They must be quite old....
73. Silence in the Age of Noise (Erling Kagge) ****1/2
Not only a book of quiet wisdom, a beautiful artefact in itself.
Part memoir, part repository of learning. Often presenting an already sensed understanding of silence, it’s various guises and methods of attainment, its value and its gifts. I shall reread it again soon.
>109 Mmm, that one is definitely one to look out for.
How is Palermo?
Palermo is very pleasant Paul. Off to see the mosaics at Monreale, just outside the city, this afternoon.
>109 jnwelch: That looks like my kind of book, Caroline. It hasn't come out here yet. I added it to the WL.
>112 >113 I think you would both like it Charlotte and Joe. For a small book it covers a lot of territory. It’s not that you don’t know most of it, but in some ways it is that you do know most of it, and pulling it all together. There are of course little twists of perspective too, that make you think.
The most famous mosaic in Sicily
At the Cathedral at Monreale, about 40 minutes outside Palermo.
I move to Taormina tomorrow. Four hours on the train, one change, and a short taxi hop to my apartment with sea view.
>117 Sicily had some different rulers through time.
>118 Safe travels, Caroline, an appartment with sea view sounds good!
>118 Taormina is lovely! We had a holiday there back in about 2005. Siracusa was somewhere else that was really interesting. Funnily enough we were just talking about our holiday in Sicily this evening as J is watching The Godfather and one of the places we visited near Taormina was the place where they filmed some of the Sicilian sections. It was a little lost on me at the time as I had never actually got around to seeing The Godfather, but we did watch it when we got back!
Yup, this is the view from my terrace....
I may not move from my terrace ha.
I have an apartment, so will do a mix of eating out and cooking in, as I did in Palermo.
>120 I’ve not done more than get some groceries Rhian, but I will enjoy exploring tomorrow. I shall probably do two day-trips elsewhere as well in the coming week.
74. The Shape of Water (Andrea Camilleri) ***
By artist bruno
Finished the first Montalbano novel The Shape of Water. I thought I might be the only decenting voice, I don’t much like the tone, or the negative presentation of most of the women, but the plot has saved it, with some interesting twists and turns. I do think it’s of it’s time (25 years ago) so trying to take that into consideration where some of what I don’t like sits. I’ll probably go on to the second one and see how I feel then (I brought 4 to Sicily with me, but I won’t read them all).
>123 Still a chance - hope the next one goes over better with you, Caroline. No worries if not.
You win some, you lose some Joe. It wasn’t a total fail, I read it in a day, and did want to know what happened in the end. He gets a second chance. Maybe if you tell me which is your favourite. I have the first ten, but it doesn’t have to be one of those.
>126 Lovely, and so is the view from your terrace!
A lot of the pleasure in the Montalbano books lies, for me, in following Salvo and all the other characters, enjoying Camilleri's descriptions of Sicily (I want Salvo's home by the sea), the unexpected literacy - as a Guardian article says, one woman discusses Kafka while groping for Salvo's genitals, the food (mouth-watering), the humor, and the wicked takes on Italy and Sicily (Camilleri is a Marxist).
Having said that, the second one, The Terra Cotta Dog, is very good. Its success caused Camilleri to decide to continue the series, so maybe it will you, too.
Here's the pretty charming Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/oct/14/featuresreviews.guardianreview31
Taormina looks lovely from your balcony / terrace Caroline.
I hope the second Camilleri grabs you. I love them to be honest.
>127 Another one who wants his house by the sea - and his friends who cook for him.
The Greco-Roman Amphitheatre at Taormina
That is Etna in the background.
In case you were wondering Darryl lunch was a delicious Aubergine ravioli with a creamy Parmesan sauce, and just a grating of pistachio.
Followed by almond semifredo (half ice cream, half parfait)
One of my favorites, from early on:
‘But, Charles, no blame attaches to Miss Wraxton! She cannot help it, and that, I assure you, I have always pointed out to your sisters!’
‘I consider Miss Wraxton’s countenance particularly well-bred!’
‘Yes, indeed, but you have quite misunderstood the matter! I meant a particularly well-bred horse!’
'You mean, as I am perfectly aware, to belittle Miss Wraxton!'
'No, no! I am very fond of horses!' Sophy said earnestly.
Before he could stop himself he found that he was replying to this. 'Selina, who repeated the remark to me, is not fond of horses, however, and she-' He broke off, seeing how absurd it was to argue on such a head.
'I expect she will be, when she has lived in the same house with Miss Wraxton for a month or two,' said Sophy encouragingly.”
Charmed by Etna, the Ampitheatre and the semi-fredo!
We really ought to make Sicily a required destination for the group!
Aside from the theatre, Taormina is too touristy for me: shops, shops, more shops. Restaurants. But a little peek of the town that enchanted all visitors including D H Lawrence (who lived here for a while in the 1920s), and Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote visited at other times...
As you can see, I did not resist temptation. My final (maybe) Italian dessert, a Cassata Sicilian, with Cointreau and espresso:
I will be travelling back to Palermo, and then on to London tomorrow.
75. The Grand Sophy (Georgette Heyer) ****
A rollicking, Regency roustabout. A fun read. Had pretty much worked out who would end up with who, by page 30, but enjoyed it all the same, despite the farcical tying up of threads at the end.
Congratulations on reaching 75, Caroline!
And safe travels back to London.
Yay for reaching 75 with one of my favorite books...favorite Heyer at least!
I’ve been enjoying your photo journey.
Love the food and scenery pic, mouth watering. Hope that your journey home is a smooth one, and congrats on the 75.
I am tempted by the Heyer- kindle very cannily had a few for 99p, so I revisited 3 and now of course want to read more, which are sadly full price. Well done Ms/r Marketing.
76. At the Existentialist Cafe (Sarah Bakewell) ****1/2
A wonderful romp through Existentialism, and its foundation Phenomenology. Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, De Beauvoir and Camus, to name but the most predominant participants. Complex, changeable, living participants of a philosophy that still has plenty to say to the 21 Century.
Certainly a book that will require a reread down the line.
Thanks for looking by Anita, Jim, Joe, Coleen and Charlotte.
Yes, I might squeeze another Heyer in this year, I did enjoy it.
Went to see the exquisite, newly identified and restored Leonardo Da Vinci painting Salvator Mundi. The chances are it will go into private hands and never be seen again. It goes on sale in New York soon.
It’s estimate is $100m, I wouldn’t be surprised if it fetched $300m.
How wonderful you were able to see Salvator Mundi!
The nose, mouth and face shape reminds of Mona Lisa, hard to believe it was only found back in the 1950s.
>147 Really cool. Shame to think that it might go into private hands and thus not seen.
Saw the wonderful visual feast that is ‘Loving Vincent’ yesterday:
Wonder what he’d make of it.
>150 Sounds like you'd recommend it, yes? The snippets sure make it look wonderful.
P.S. You reminded me of this moving episode of Dr. Who with Vincent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubTJI_UphPk
>151 Yes, definitely a recommendation Joe.
I have that edition of Dr Who.
77. The Various Haunts of Men (Susan Hill) ***1/2
Susan Hill’s first adventure in crime fiction, now, I think, up to the seventh novel in the series.
Possibly overcrowded with characters, and certainly too long, however, I stuck with its twists and turns, and will likely continue with the series in time.
78. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Ann Pachett) (Essays) ****1/2
I really enjoyed this collection of autobiographical essays about Patchett’s writing life, her childhood, her family, her marriages, her dog and her friends. Her successes and failures.
79. Out of the Wreckage (George Monbiot) ****1/2
An incredibly straightforward summing up of not only the the problems we are suffering (the focus primarily on the UK and US, and influence these nations have globally), but possible solutions to those problems, or in a more optimistic sense, the knowledge that although it won’t be easy, there are actions that can be taken to move us out of the mire, to empower us as individuals and communities, and to supplant and undermine the invidious neoliberalism that has its stranglehold.
For such a short book, it has a considerable amount of information, cites a number of important books that have shaped his thinking and i will be reading some of these books, and certainly be doing a reread of this one in the foreseeable future.
Inevitably, those with more knowledge than I, might be able to unseat some of his propositions, but as long as they do so by offering legitimate alternatives, progress can be made.
>158 Yes, that made me rather cross as well, but I liked the main character enough to carry on.
>159 I can understand that, Linda. I know a lot of people love the series.
Caroline, I missed you passing 75 and then some!
The Salvator Mundi is exquisite but there is also something a little unnerving about it too, don't you think?
>158 Caroline_McElwee: >159 Caroline_McElwee: Exactly Joe and Linda. She seemed like the main character to me, and I liked her.
I have the first four or five on my Kindle, I’ll probably read the next one soonish, and see what I think then. I think I miss the edginess of Val MacDermid’s Tony Hill/Carol Jackson series, I’ve read four of those and am rationing the rest at the moment.
Eudora Welty (by Jill Krementz)
I have decided to read some of Eudora Welty’s work as part of my Winter reading, focusing on her short stories and essays, maybe moving on to her novels in Spring. I’ll also read biographical and autobiographical works as well.
My poet for Winter will be the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig, who is relatively new to me.
I’ll be reading other things including some Oscar Wilde (which will be mostly rereading).
I’ve more of an itch for non-fiction at the moment, but I’ll squeeze a few novels in too.
>164 Ooh I like Norman MacCaig and have his collected stuff somewhere. I'll join you along the way for sure.
That’s great Paul. Someone brought him to my attention about a year ago, then I went in hunt of his big book of poems last week.
So glad you shared your holiday photos, they really are wonderful, especially the view from your apartment terrace!
>123 jnwelch: I didn't care much for the first of Camilleri's books either but as they were on my bookshelf (from a library booksale) I continued with the series. They definitely get better.
Thanks Vivienne, glad you enjoyed the photos. It’s a bit nippy here now, so missing Sicilian weather.
I’ll definitely give the second Montalbano book a go.
>168 Agree with Vivienne; they do get better - a lot better.
The Many Days a selection of poems by Norman MacCaig is sitting on my reading table waiting upon you, dear lady!
Have a lovely Sunday.
I’ve been reading 3-4 pages a day of the latest edition of The Poems of Norman MacCaig Paul, I’m going to read the volume through, rather than dip.
>171 Caroline, I am greatly enjoying his vivid verse too. This is his London to Edinburgh.
I'm waiting for the moment
when the train crosses the Border
and home creeps closer
at seventy miles an hour.
I dismiss the last four days
and their friendly strangers
into the past
that grows bigger every minute.
The train sounds urgent as I am,
it says home and home and home.
I light a cigarette
and sit smiling in the corner.
Scotland, I rush towards you
into my future that,
grows smaller and smaller.
Oh and by the way, I think that you'll be satisfied with my pick for March 2018 for the Irish Author Challenge.
>172 I have read several of his books Ella. He always has something important to say. There where chapters in this I nodded a lot at.
>173 that’s a fine one Paul, you really feel it as your own memory or experience.
>174 :-) she may be no Beckett, but I like her tone.
>176 yup, brain fart oops. :-)
I think that your numbers have gotten a bit jumbled, Caroline in >175 !
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi goes on sale at Christie’s at 7pm New York time tonight. Sadly I suspect it will go into private hands.
Interested to see what it raises, my guess is $300m (the estimate is $100m)
Caroline wins! The actual sale was for $450 million, says The Guardian.
80. After Europe (Ivan Krastev) ****
If only Krastev had prepared the literature pre-Referendum, maybe we would not be where we are now. Another book that will require a reread, there is a lot of information for a small volume.
81. The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald) *****
What can I say, it was my 35th read...
There are always reasons to reread it. I relish scenes ahead of me, I see things more deeply sometimes. Scenes I looked forward to less in previous reads have become more loved.
82. Embracing Change (Tony Buzan) ****1/2
A useful tool to guide you to coping with and making the most of change, acknowledging and reminding of the constant change we live in, that we barely perceive, but offering tools to take control of our situations and even shape positive outcomes from difficult and painful situations. A book for ongoing use.
83. Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi) *****
Mind-boggling how Gyasi, a debut novelist, managed to tell the stories of 16+ characters with such depth and warmth, and in 300 pages. Sharing the extreme hardships and history, weaving and interweaving the characters into a rich tapestry. Definitely a keeper. And I want to read what she does next.
>180 Incredible Caroline!
Another positive review for Homegoing I see.
I loved Homegoing, too. I thought the structure and interconnections were fascinating.
I'm glad that you also loved Homegoing, Caroline. I agree with you; I'm eager to see what her next book will be about.
Congratulations on surpassing the 75 Books mark!
Hi Paul, Joe, Laura and Darryl
Isn’t it great when you find such a fine novel, from a young writer, with so much opportunity ahead for more great work. I also love reading novels I know I will read again.
>184 yes Laura. Looking at the chapters before I started, and seeing that you didn’t have return chapters for the characters, I thought it was going to be more like a volume of short stories with connections, which this definitely is not. It’s a very skilled structure.
>180 lauralkeet: >182 Caroline_McElwee: An informed guess Paul and Linda. It’s too much money, despite it being Da Vinci and one of only 20 paintings to survive, and being exquisite. What it means for major sales is public institutions are never going to be able to afford to bid, and Great works will remain in private hands with no guarantee of being loaned for public display. It’s why I made the effort to go and see this painting, and stand almost nose to nose with it.
84. Women & Power: A Manifesto (Professor Mary Beard) ****
A reflection on the origins of the silencing of women and their exclusion from power, and a suggestion that change will require a totally reformed definition of power in order to achieve radical change.
Beard herself has been a victim of online trolls and abuse and threats, every time she has appeared on tv or radio in recent years, she has turned this invidious behaviour towards her into exploration, even befriending one of her first trolls.
85. A Life in Parts (Bryan Cranston) ****
I picked this up after seeing a short video conversation about the sexual abuse cases in Hollywood, and Cranston’s well thought out response* - a 2 minute slot, if that. His only performance I’d seen was Trumbo, which was superb.
All I can say is I like the man. If you got stuck in the lift with him, you’d be happy of his company. You’d learn something from what he had learned. He’s thoughtful, reflective, sincere and warm. His early life was not a walk in the park, but he tells it as a lesson in life, he knows people had worse lives. He decided to do the job he knew he loved and learn to do it well, than the job he might have a natural flare for, but never love it. He became an actor rather than a cop.
I finally watched the first episode of Breaking Bad, I’m not sure I’ll manage six seasons, but if I don’t, it won’t be anything to do with Cranston.
His run at The National Theatre in ‘Network’ is sold out unfortunately.
* As it happens, in the book, you learn he prepares to sack a crew member for inappropriate behaviour on one of his tv series (he was pipped to the post by a colleague).
I never got into Breaking Bad, but Cranston did a fine job as President Lyndon Johnson in the HBO biopic, All the Way. Johnson is known for the American Civil Rights Act of 1964 and being president during America's early years in Vietnam.
This is a time of year when I as a non-American ponder over what I am thankful for.
I am thankful for this group and its ability to keep me sane during topsy-turvy times.
I am thankful that you are part of this group.
I am thankful for this opportunity to say thank you.
>189 Cranston talks about the LBJ role which I think started on the stage. I’ll have to look out for the recorded version.
>190 thank you Paul, your friendship is valued too. LT has been very generous with its connecting of like-minded souls.
86. The Amber Fury (Natalie Haynes) ****
A debut novel with interesting layers from classicist Natalie Haynes.
After the death of her partner, Alex is offered a job in Edinburgh teaching children who have been excluded from the education system. Among other things an exploration of the marginalised, alternatively abled and the power of Greek tragedy, and grief, with a twist.
Found you! I seem to have lost your thread over at Club Read.
>73 PaulCranswick: Great review! I have a hold on Clinton's book but I'm far down the list so it will be a long time before I get it. I might buy my own copy or put it on my gift suggestion list.
>181 kidzdoc: I agree about Homegoing, what a memorable book!
>188 EBT1002: After a recommendation for Breaking Bad, we watched the entire six seasons in record time. It was addictive! Cranston did a great job. I've taken a BB for his memoir. Thank you.
Hi Vivienne. I was lured over to the 75ers. Glad you’ve found me, and sustained a bullet on arrival, fortunately bb’s are not generally life-threatening.
87. A Life of My Own: A Biographer’s Life (Claire Tomalin) ****
A literary and cultural life full of joy and warmth, if also bruised by more sadness and tragedy than many of us will experience, but survival with the support of a rich wealth of friends, and the company of books, a Pen, and historical lives.
>194 I hope we can tempt Vivienne across too for next year?!!
You are getting some excellent reading in as the year wanes, Caroline.
I could be in the UK in close to 10 days time and will definitely want a couple of days in London. Up for a poetry putsch?
Have a lovely weekend.
Yes Paul, I’ll happily meet up if you make it to London.
I’m enjoying my waning year reading, but want to consume too many books all at once. Every now and then that sensation feels more urgent.
>197 It looks like an excellent group with lots of fun happenings, but maybe a bit busy for me! I joined one year and then was overwhelmed by the amount of activity.
88. Conversations with Friends (Sally Rooney) ****
A finely wrought debut novel by a young Irish writer, well structured and paced, although I found it hard to warm to any of the characters.
One reviewer suggested it may have been inspired by Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, and on some levels I can see the wink. However, Rooney has a way to go before touching such iconic writing, though at 26, she has made a good start.
The Salvator Mundi >178 PaulCranswick: is going to the Louvre in Abu Dhabi - I’m so glad that it will be on public display. Great art should be seen by the masses IMO.
>201 That is very good news, Caroline, as I feared it would disapear in a private collection.
>199 PaulCranswick: We should all go at our own pace, Vivienne.
Would love to see you over here but I guess I'll go and hunt you over at the Club Reads.
Wishing you a splendid weekend, Caroline.
Thanks Paul, London is getting a bit of rare snow at the moment.
That is a better kind of C Word than the C Word in When Breath Becomes Air.
Have a lovely weekend, Caroline.
89. The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft (Claire Tomalin) ****
This one has been on the shelf, unread, for 32 years. Which proves I buy books I will still want to read years later, and also why I find them so hard to let go.
One of Tomalin’s early biographies, and already she has mastered the art of a rippling narrative, with lots of detail. If there is a lesson to be learned, and it only crops up for a reader who waits 32 years to read a book, the description of the Shoreditch area ‘now’, as a contrast to Wollstonecraft’s time, is very out of date.
Wollstonecraft has perhaps become more famous for being the mother of Mary Godwin Shelley, but that is the conclusion of her story, as she died shortly after childbirth at the age of 38, never knowing the story of her daughters life.
Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the early feminist writers, a woman who led a rare life of female independence in her era, although often supported by what might be called feminist men, sometimes from the Desenters who were prevalent at that time. She also went to France, and lived in Paris during the Revolution. Her most famous book was The Vindication of the Rights of Women (on the blocks to read in the early new year), which from the quotes still has plenty to say to the current era.
The best biographies tell you as much about an era and its context, as the life of its subject, and this book achieves that well.
90. Why Buddhism is True (Robert Wright) ****1/2
A little personal background: there were two teachers who helped shape the person I have become, the mixed race English teacher (Mrs Knight), who brought me to the work of African-American writers (James Baldwin especially), and hence ensured I learnt that the white perspective was not singular; that differing peoples are more alike than they are different, and that the differences were generally fascinating, wonderful and carried much wisdom. The second teacher was Mr Robert-Holmes who taught religious studies, and all of the above applied to his teaching too. He spent the school holidays travelling to learn first hand about other faiths and cultures, bringing back his photographic slides to illustrate his socially-contextualised lessons. I failed the exam miserably because 90% of it was on Mark’s gospel, when I’d had my nose in Shinto, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Judaism and on and on.
I have never subscribed to one ‘prescribed’ faith, but have been interested in all religions, and continue to be so, hopefully making use of the wisdom I find, if feeling deep concern for both the fundamentalist end of the spectrum in any faith, and the lack of understanding of ‘the other’, when I have found in all the faiths a requirement for tolerance (although I have grown to have issues with that word, as who among us wishes to be tolerated?).
All that said, probably the faith I have read most about is Buddhism, and I’ve been a sporadic meditator from a young age (why, when we have proven to ourselves that there is a powerful benefit to us to undertake a certain practice, are we often unable to sustain it for long?). So I found Robert Wright’s book a cogent secular summary of its core thinking, uncluttered on the whole, if occasionally repetitious on one or two of his own stories. It confirmed much of my understanding of the fundamentals (without going into great detail of all of them) and is a useful guide to thinking about Buddhism and psychology. I’d certainly recommend this book to someone who had already done some reading around the subject, who maybe wanted to decide whether to go deeper.
Although Wright himself says he is far from the most rigorous practitioner, he offers an opportunity to evaluate certain key premises of one of the worlds major faiths (although Buddhism has always drawn questions as to whether it is truly a religion).
91. The Sculptor’s Daughter (Tove Jansson) ***1/2
A collection of semi-autobiographical short stories of a Finish childhood in a creative home, with some beautiful moments.
There’s a possibility of hitting 100 reads at year’s end, for the first time in a while. I have a couple of books with bookmarks half way through, some planned Christmas reading which includes some slim volumes of poetry (not cheating, as they aren’t necessarily quick reads, and I read each poem three times). I’ve certainly had a years worth of fine reading this year, which I’ll summarise after the festive season.
Yep, I see 100 books on your horizon.
You just hit me with two book bullets: Why Buddhism is True, which I already own thanks to Joe hitting it with me last month, and The Sculptor's Daughter (wrong touchstone but it's not giving me alternatives). I've loved everything I've read by Tove Jannsen: The Summer Book, The True Deceiver, and Fair Play.
>207 I've always meant to read Claire Tomalin's book on Mary Wollstonecraft and your post reminded me so I immediately ordered a copy. Thank you for that.
I've already got Robert Wright's book on hold at the library but I'm far down the list. I've been atheist since a teenager but interested in some religions, Buddhism being one. I'm glad to hear Wright's book is a good one.
I have grown to have issues with that word, as who among us wishes to be tolerated? I LOVE that, Caroline! So well put.
I'm glad Why Buddhism is True worked for you. I've been an ineptly practicing Buddhist for a lot of years now, and share your wide-ranging view of religions - Debbi started calling me a Buddhajewbyterian almost from the beginning of our relationship.
Robert Wright's book is the one that has come closest to my Westerner's views - pragmatic, and not bogged down in minutiae, even though he clearly understands the minutiae. (Buddhism has a ton of flavors, as you know, just like other religions). I loved how he analyzed the impact of evolution and tied it in.
I never had the Moomins, but love her adult stories Joe. So far I think my favourite is Fair Play, though that said I’d probably compile a favourites list across the collections.
I’ve got a couple of volumes as yet unread, and a biography.
One of my friends used to call me a Pagan Buddhist! If I’m asked I go for Pantheist, and something in Wright’s book will take me to Hinduism next year, which has some strong Pantheistic roots I think.
Don’t ya just love learning new things.
Happy Friday, Caroline. Sorry, for the long delay stopping over here. Every time I think of it, I get distracted by something else. Excuses, excuses, I know...
Thanks to Joe, I have a copy of Why Buddhism is True home, from the library. I have all ready renewed it a couple of times, but I am still hoping to bookhorn it in, before returning it. Good review!
A Life of My Own: A Biographer’s Life sounds really interesting. I loved her Dickens book. One of my favorite author bios.
BTW- We share 555 books! I think that is pretty impressive.
>208 Caroline_McElwee: >209 msf59: >213 Ellen, Vivienne and Mark, Why Buddhism is True is definitely worth the time, and as Joe said, and I forgot to mention, the evolutionary impact is fascinating.
>213 lovely to see you passing through Mark. I haven’t read Tomalin’s Dickens yet (Peter Ackroyd’s is my favourite biog on him so far). I have her books on Austen and Pepys in the tbr mountain range.
Yes, that’s a tidy sum of shared books Mark.
"...the evolutionary impact is fascinating."
That has seriously piqued my interest. I'm amazed at what we know now about neurodevelopment and how it affects emotional and interpersonal experiences, how it plays out in attachment (which we tend to vilify but is at the very core of our humanity), etc.
Wishing you a happy holiday season with much laughter, love, light, and good books to read.
>126 jnwelch: awww, that could be my Jasper. Long departed, but he was a cuddly bear of a cat I had for 16 years.
Here’s Jasper (left) when he was about 10 weeks, with his ‘brother’ Belka (yes, I was a Hill Street Blues fan, named ironically as my mog was sleek and elegant) who was about 8 months.
Your Jasper and my Dorian might have been twins!
Oh, and "I was a Hill Street Blues fan" -- mais naturellement....
It is that time of year again, between Solstice and Christmas, just after Hanukkah, when our thoughts turn to wishing each other well in whatever language or image is meaningful to the recipient. So, whether I wish you Happy Solstice or Merry Christmas, know that what I really wish you, and for you, is this:
Merry Christmas from Philadelphia, Caroline! I didn't meet up with you as much as I would have liked to this year, but hopefully that will change in 2018.
^Hope you are having a lovely holiday, Caroline and that it involves some reading time, as well.
Hope to be in London on either 30th or 2nd, Caroline and will PM when my dates are sure.
Happy Holidays, Caroline!
We're already starting to plan our visit to London next September. I hope we'll get a chance to see you.
Top Reads of 2017
I read slightly more non-Fiction than Fiction this year. The gender balance was pretty even. I had real trouble narrowing the top list down, the NF list could have included another half dozen books which also had 4 1/2-5*s.
A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles) ****1/2
The Golden Age (Joan London) ****1/2
Home Fire (Kamila Shamsie)****
Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi) *****
Utopia for Realists (Rutger Bregman) ****1/2
Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson) ****1/2 ROOT
Plot 29 (Allan Jenkins) (03/05/17) ****1/2
Politics: Between the Exremes (Nick Clegg) ****1/2
The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry *****
Hope in the Dark (Rebecca Solnit) (Essays) *****
The Mother of all Questions (Rebecca Solnit) (Essays) *****
What Happened (Hillary Rodham Clinton) ****1/2
At the Existentialist Café (Sarah Bakewell) ****1/2 ROOT
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Ann Patchett) (Essays)) ****1/2
Out of the Wreckage (George Monbiot) ****1/2
Why Buddhism is True (Richard Wright) ****1/2
Say Something Back (Denise Riley) (Poetry) ****1/2 ROOT
Bone (Yrsa Daley-Ward) (Poetry) *****
94 books read
44 NF (23 Male Writers/21 Female Writers)
38 F (20 female writers/18 male writers)
11 Poetry (7 female/4 male writers)
26 ROOT reads. That has to more than double next year, still buying too many books!
I read one book this year that had been on the shelf, unread, for 32 years!
Some potential reading for 2018:
(The Art of Happiness will be a reread).
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.