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Forthwith tries again

75 Books Challenge for 2018

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Edited: Jan 6, 2018, 4:44pm Top

Well, I did just reach 75 books read in 2017 despite some health challenges. The biggest slowdown was due to some retinal damage. This will be dealt with in early summer of 2018 so maybe I can surpass 75 in 2018. The quality of experience is what counts anyway.

In 2017 I was kept busy with on-line teaching and other things so I did not get a chance to visit your posts. Maybe 2018 will be better. You are welcome to comment on my posts. I will as usual read only those books that I own or will own when read. I do tend to look at history and literature but some science and other matters do appear.
I don't have my entire library of books posted yet on Library Thing but maybe I will get that caught up in 2018.
I am open to reading suggestions. The most difficult challenge is choosing what to read next.
Many of my books are limited and have fine bindings. When that is the case, I may comment on the physical book. Of course, the content of the book is the most important. I tend to be selective before I commit to a book and I have much respect for someone who devotes so much of themselves to share it in a book so generally I appreciate their efforts. Many of the authors are devoted to their work even when it negatively affects their personal relationships. Sadly some authors were not appreciated nor even recognized for their work during their lifetimes.
I often supplement a book by watching/listening to lectures from The Great Courses series. I have contacted them in some about detail about their doing a course on the history of the book. They have an ample array of Professors who could meet the challenge. If I mention a particular publisher, it is solely as a fan. I have no financial or any other interest in that field. I am enthusiastic when I come across quality.
I do have some Audible and e-books and do not confine myself to the physical book. I find that the tools on e-books have become useful for notes and references. In the access to information and great works of writing, we are living in a golden age. Many of these works are available at a minimal cost. I do also support our local library through their support group and consider libraries as a treasure for all. After all, I need to take extra books somewhere!

Dec 29, 2017, 9:01pm Top

Welcome back!

Dec 29, 2017, 10:14pm Top

Hope your 2018 is filled with lots of good reading!

Dec 29, 2017, 11:25pm Top

Thank you both for stopping by.

drneutron I will keep plugging along with Gibbons in 2018 starting with Volume 3.

thornton37814 We cat fans have to be around our books don't we? We have two rescue cats. One came to us about 5 years ago at our front door and the other about three years ago at our back door. I am almost afraid to open either door!

Dec 31, 2017, 10:15am Top


Duncan Jones, the son of the late David Jones "Bowie" has just launched an online book club in memory of his Dad. David Bowie was well known as a serious reader. In 2013 he posted his 100 favorite books and it was a varied and impressive literary lot. This is from Duncan's Twitter post on Dec. 26:
"Alright gang! Anyone who wants to join along, we are reading Peter Ackroyd’s “Hawksmoor,” as an amuse cerveau before we get into the heavy stuff. You have until Feb 1."

I have read several of Bowie's 100 and just well may look into some of his picks and follow along. I think that his father would be very pleased with his efforts.

Dec 31, 2017, 11:22am Top

Got a link to it? Sounds like something i’d like to keep an eye on.

Dec 31, 2017, 12:30pm Top

Happy New Year! I wish you to read many good books in 2018.

Dec 31, 2017, 1:52pm Top

Happy reading in 2018, Michael!

Edited: Dec 31, 2017, 3:14pm Top

>6 drneutron: drneutron, he announced the effort via his Twitter Account. I suspect that he will set up a blog or other means as it progresses.


Here is a link to a list of David Bowie's favorite books that was first released in 2013. Bowie read much more than what is on the list so I would look for an even larger list from Duncan Jones as time goes along.


Maybe he will be the Oprah of a bit younger generation? He is a screenwriter and I suspect also a voracious reader. It will be interesting to see where this could go.

Dec 31, 2017, 3:24pm Top

>7 The_Hibernator: Thank you. It is good to see you back for 2018.

>8 FAMeulstee: As the song goes: "Hail, hail, the gang's all here."

It looks like many are well ready for 2018. Let the books open.

Jan 1, 2018, 3:59am Top

Happy New Year
Happy New Group here
This place is full of friends
I hope it never ends
It brew of erudition and good cheer.

Jan 5, 2018, 6:31pm Top

1. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

I am about four Chapters through this and have to pause and settle my stomach and take a walk. It is like reading The Godfather but those characters had values at least of loyalty. This makes The Prince or a biography of The Borgias seem light and hopeful by comparison.
I rarely start a book and do not finish so I will try again. This is dark and depressing without pausing for a hint of a redeeming value. It is an amoral tale.

Jan 5, 2018, 9:01pm Top

I'm not sure I have the stomach for that one. Thanks for taking one for the team. 😁

Edited: Jan 6, 2018, 5:24pm Top

2. The Smith of Smiths: Being the Life, Wit and Humour of Sydney Smith by Hesketh Pearson

This is a republished edition from 1977 with an introduction by Malcolm Muggeridge.

Pearson was not without controversy. He wrote The Whispering Gallery about a diary of a famous public figure. He later attributed the diary to Sir Rendell Rodd. However, it was a complete fiction to the dismay of Sir Rodd and the publisher.

Mischief abounds with this classic book of British wit. You must. You really must.

Sydney was a British cleric who kept many in London rolling in the streets with laughter. He was a famed "diner out." I cannot imagine a more lively dinner companion.

He edited The Edinburgh Review that Lord Macaulay also wrote for. Once he advised "I never read a book before reviewing it; it prejudices a man so." You didn't read that here!

Thomas Moore had this to say about our Rev. Smith: Sydney "Beyond anything amusing...Left Lord John's with Sydney and Luttrell, and when we got to Cockspur Street (having laughed all the way) we were all there seized with such convulsions of cachinnations at something (I forget what) that Sydney said, that we were obliged to separate and reel each his own way with the fit."

Feb 28, 2018, 6:31pm Top

3. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Sometimes we need to read something that may make us a bit uncomfortable. The brilliant James Baldwin is a companion to take us into an experience of our world that does not hold back. This is a brilliant work written in 1963 that could be written today. If we have a future, this will forever give insight.

It is the February selection of The Bowie Book Club.

"Behind what we think of as the Russian menace lies what we do not wish to face, and what white Americans do not face when they regard a Negro: reality—the fact that life is tragic. Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death—ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return."

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time (Vintage International) (pp. 91-92). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

4. Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine by Joe Hagan

This is an independent but not officially authorized very detailed look at the life of a magazine that defines a generation. Considerable access was provided along with 250 independent interviews. It tries to provide much new information about people covered for years in the popular press. It is full of references to many, many Rock and Pop stars. Disturbingly, almost every page references some form of illegal drugs. It is a tiresome exercise.

Wenner was told by his departing mother "You're on your own, Buster Brown." She meant it. Wenner (changed from Weiner to avoid embarrassment) was an impulsive energized person who with limited knowledge of music became for many the most influential power in the business. There was no hiding that this was all a business first.

While playing professionally on the fringes during this period, I avoided reading Rolling Stone or fan-like publications. Just being on the fringes revealed a brutal and disturbing business. Many are slowly coming to terms with the reality behind the music. These are not your friends, I trust.

Being in a band during this period should be a source for someone to write a great work of literature. This book isn't it.

This is a sad and possibly disturbing look at what tapped your toes.

5. Ghosts by Paul Auster

This probably belongs in the currently popular dystopian literature. It is a sort of Animal Farm without the politics. The writer uses the New York mystery genre and then lets his imagination run away. It is almost like he was bored and did not want to write just another crime novel. The writing and setting is a drawing on paper.

I must read more from Paul Auster.

1. Oh, I did finally slug through and complete Fire and Fury, feelings of guilt and despair, not withstanding.

Edited: May 2, 2018, 3:06pm Top

6. Alexander The Great: Student of Aristotle, Descendent of Heroes

A good introduction (with one typo) to Alexander the Great and preparation for the three book Mary Renault Alexander series that I hope to get to this year.

7. Classics: A Very Short Introduction by Mary Beard and John Henderson

A surprising, lively presentation just under 150 pages. This is what we may expect from Mary Beard. These books are quite good and written by carefully selected experts by the Oxford University Press. There are over 500 of these in print, as I recall, on quite a variety of subjects.
On Reflection: There are so many classic and new books that choosing the next one is daunting indeed. There seems to be an upswing in small private presses again that is quite encouraging. Even Letterpress and related printing is making a resurgence. Kickstarter is one source for these. The resurgence of hard copy books is a cause for celebration. However, I still appreciate the features of a good Kindle issue as well as the amazingly growing quality of Audible books. To have essentially easy and affordable access to the best in writing is overwhelming.
I often imagine what a reaction would be if we could hand a Kindle to Jefferson or Lincoln. Lincoln rode his horse a good ride to our own county seat to borrow books from an attorney who befriended him. To stand before the small outline of the Lincoln cabin where he grew up and imagine the glow of a candle as he opened his books is inspiring. To stand in the home Library at Monticello and be in the original Jefferson collection room of the Library of Congress are kind of sacred experiences.

Mar 24, 2018, 8:57pm Top

8. Russian roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump by Michael Isikoff and David Corn

This is backgrounder on the Presidential campaign and first few days of the new administration. The reporters were the first to report on some developments and have a solid background. If you have been reading closely during this period, the new information is limited. Historically, this may have greater value rather than researching many sources. As of the date of publication and indeed even today, this book raises many questions yet to be answered.

“'Trump! Trump! Trump!'” The crowd at the bar roared, as the election results came in. There was a large, life-sized photo of Trump in one corner, where Trump fans could take selfies. And a photo of Putin. The bar was in downtown Moscow."

"Hours later, the Russian Duma burst into applause when informed Trump was the victor. Putin’s operation—which had fueled divisions within the United States and influenced an American presidential election—had succeeded."

Isikoff, Michael. Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump (Kindle Locations 4202-4203). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Mar 25, 2018, 5:31pm Top

9. The Locked Room by Paul Auster

This is one of three novels in what was later grouped and published together as his New York Trilogy. In fact in this book, he mentions by name the initial two works: City of Glass and Ghosts. The Locked Room is then deemed to be the last of the three. I read and commented on Ghosts in the previous post. I will later read and comment on the City of Glass, reading these three works out of order.

In many ways this work relates and reads like it was written today. It seems ironically more real and maybe more profound than something like The Stranger. In fact it may even be better taking away the contemporary lens. His drawing of characters seems like an excellent piece of biography.
As I read this, I almost dreaded his inevitable gun and surreal ending. I could not resist reading until the end but I knew that that would disappoint. Just read until the last few pages? No.

"Things happened around that time in Fanshawe's family that no doubt made a difference, and it would be wrong to not mention them. Whether they made an essential difference is another story, but I tend to think that everything counts. In the end, each life is no more than the sum of contingent facts, a chronicle of chance intersections, of flukes, of random events that divulge nothing but their own lack of purpose."

Mar 26, 2018, 10:44pm Top

10. Out of the Ooze: The Story of Dr. Tom Price by Alexander Zaitchik

This reviews the legislative and political history of the former embattled Secretary of Health and Human Services. The responsibilities include the massive CMS which administers Medicare and Medicaid.

This kind of independent investigative reporting by a reader supported crowd funding replaces the light efforts of the few corporate media news organizations that are expected to be profit centers similar to their entertainment divisions. During this period of poorly sourced "news" appearing on social media and murky organizations behind the postings, these sorts of books somewhat replace long form journalism.

To be a reasonably informed citizen requires an effort to seek out sometimes more unconventional reporting sources not so much unlike the early American period of political pamphlets. While not yet expecting the next Tom Payne, these serve a purpose.

Mar 27, 2018, 5:46pm Top

11. Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures and Innovations by Mary Beard

This is a wonderful collection of mainly book reviews by Mary Beard originally published in periodicals like The New York Review of Books and The London Review of Books. (I currently subscribe to the digital New York publication and formerly the paper version of the London review.) Sometimes these articles review one book or a grouping along the similar topic. Indeed, a recent letter writer complained that the London Review of Books stopped writing about books and inserted political commentary exclusively. I leave the Editors and readers to sort that out.

The Introductory piece was an address given in 2011 as the Robert Silvers Lecture. It alone is worth even a full priced version of this book. Ms. Beard in her usual forthcoming and lively style faces basic questions such as why study the classics and whatever are the classics anyway. She is not shy about point out the degree of vitriol exchanged by classic scholars. Then she follows with very critical book reviews but without the sort of personal animus that she has sadly received from some on social media.

The illustrations are quite small in the Kindle Edition and sometimes the point of the inclusion is not easy to discern. Unfortunately, they do not have a separate section with the full screen illustrations as some Kindle books have. Even one Audible book that I am listening to (more about that later) has a downloadable pdf file with clear full page pictures from the book. I do not have the hard copy to compare the quality of illustration reproduction.

A couple of examples follow if you need reinforcement about her writing style.

"There is really only one good reason for learning Latin, and that is that you want to read what is written in it."

So there.

"Classics are embedded in the way we think about ourselves, and our own history, in a more complex way than we usually allow. They are not just from or about the distant past. They are also a cultural language that we have learned to speak, in dialogue with the idea of antiquity. And to state the obvious, in a way, if they are about anybody, Classics are, of course, about us as much as about the Greeks and Romans."

Beard, Mary. Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations (p. 8). Liveright. Kindle Edition.

Of course it is fair to not confine the study of the classics to what was written during the classical period but consider what others in later years wrote about and were affected by the classics.

The first third or so of the book addresses the Greeks and the rest of the book looks at periods of ancient Rome.

BTW: my two eye surgeries were considered a success and I actually see better now than I remember in my life. No additional surgeries are needed, I was told.

Edited: May 2, 2018, 3:05pm Top

12. After recently attending and enjoying the Broadway touring show "Schoolhouse Rock" it was time for this book title: Schoolhouse Wreck: The Betsy DeVos Story written by Jason Linkins and Phil Lewis

Coming from an amazing family of wealth and then marrying into the Amway fortune, Mrs. DeVos had avoided attending public schools. She instead favors Charter and Religious schools to "advance God's Kingdom." She defined public schools as a "dead end." With this, she was selected to be the Secretary of Education.

"As the Huffington Post’s Terkel summarized, 'In the Trump Cabinet, it turns out, you can more or less get away with being a plutocrat, a dilettante, or a saboteur hostile to the very mission of the agency you mean to lead. You just can’t get away with being all three at once.' The problem is, despite public opinion, maybe she can."

Linkins, Jason. Schoolhouse Wreck: The Betsy DeVos Story (p. 14). Strong Arm Press. Kindle Edition.

Apr 5, 2018, 4:01pm Top

13. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

This novel really presents the too real life of poverty as actually experienced by Orwell. In a way, this may be more profound than 1984.

After more than 100 pages of grueling vivid descriptions of living in poverty, he pauses to examine the poor. Who are they and how do they differ? Orwell tells us that the difference is only in income. We fear that they may be set loose and rob us of our possessions but Orwell says that they are already loose.

Poverty is shown in the squalor of working in the underground food preparation area of a posh Paris Hotel X. I am thinking "get me out of here." Leave your reading snacks in the kitchen. I won't quote the descriptions in case you have recently eaten. It is raw and disturbing. It is like a sensory tour through a Chicago stock yard processing plant for a vegan. This is written in the usual Orwell style of using essential words most effectively. His essays are masterly examples of this style.

Powerful stuff!

“We know that poverty is unpleasant; in fact, since it is so remote, we rather enjoy harrowing ourselves with the thought of its unpleasantness. But don’t expect us to do anything about it. We are sorry for you lower classes, just as we are sorry for a cat with the mange, but we will fight like devils against any improvement of your condition. We feel that you are much safer as you are. The present state of affairs suits us, and we are not going to take the risk of setting you free, even by an extra hour a day. So, dear brothers, since evidently you must sweat to pay for our trips to Italy, sweat and be damned to you.”

Orwell, George. Down and Out in Paris and London (pp. 105-106). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Now continuing on to something different but changed forever.

Apr 6, 2018, 6:06pm Top

14. The Book of General Ignorance by John Mitchinson and John Lloyd

I cannot recall a more fun read than this challenge to what we think that we know. It is like Trivial Pursuit but much better and certainly more fun and thought provoking. The founders of the wonderful BBC program QI which was hosted for many years by Stephen Fry is great fun. Acorn has the series on American streaming and Britbox (the American BBC and ITV streaming service) has more recent programs with Sandi Toksvig hosting.

The questions are posed by the host(ess) and the panel of four are tasked with not so much the correct answers but saying something interesting. Hilarity prevails. The show tapings last sometimes for two hours but the television broadcast is cut down to under 30 minutes.

So if you want to know how many States are in the U.S. or the highest mountain and many, many other basic questions, this book may give you a bit of a jolt. Each question is followed by a short essay of a page or so. The key word in the book title is Ignorance. You may not know what you think that you know. This is part of a small series of books.

In a way, it reminded me about a series of books by WTTV News Broadcaster Frank Edwards in the 1960s. They are still in print. I will have to reread one soon.

One book leads to so many others.

Edited: May 2, 2018, 3:09pm Top

15. The Dunning Man by Kevin Fortuna
This has six separate stories looking for six novels. Reading from one to the other is quite abrupt. For some reason, these people who you may know of but yet avoid, are worth reading about like a crane in the neck from watching an accident.

Following a wonderful Philharmonic Pops concert of John Williams music I read:

16. War Poet: The Life of Alan Seeger and His Rendezvous With Death by Michael Hill

This is a fine read. Really the generous inclusion of quotes from his prose elevates this literary biography. His letters to his mother from the trenches of WWI are quite wise and moving. Other than the title poem, I fond his prose even better than his poetry. His classmate at Harvard, Walter Lippmann, ran some of his prose in his then new magazine "The New Republic."

He, of course, is the poet/author of the famed poem Rendezvous With Death. He was killed at the age of 28 in battle just a few months after the famed British "war poet" Rupert Brooke died of a disease.

This makes for a nice reflective read for a Sunday. I wish that more people would give it a try. It does not get bogged down in literary babble.

With Library Thing having been down, it gives us actual time to read books. I nearly forgot about those things.

Apr 10, 2018, 4:08pm Top

17. Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark

I am enjoying slowly rewatching episodes of the ground breaking television series from which this book came. As you know, the BBC made a new series called "Civilizations" with three hosts. Simon Schama, Mary Beard and David Olusoga It is to play on the PBS Passport starting this month. Here is a preview.


I look forward to reading Civilizations, First Contact: The Cult of Progress by David Olusoga soon. Mary Beard also has a new book based on the series called Civilizations: How Do we Look/The Eye of Faith.

In a touching Preface by Alan Clark the son of Kenneth Clark he writes:
"Perhaps one reason why I am so appreciative of all my father's work is grounded in a childhood memory. He was the most wonderful companion on a walk. He had such wisdom, so compendious a fund of knowledge, and a sense of humour, sometimes of ridicule, which illuminated and lightened in his every word. Yet he was never intimate; never really opened himself.
And perhaps this is why I draw so much from his printed words; because even as I read, I can once again hear his voice."

It is enriching to see some of the places in the programs that I have been able to visit such as Assisi. Assisi is both simple and magnificent at the same time. I was there just after the new Pope had visited and the Papal flags were still flying and the simple wood stage next to the church was still standing. Meeting a small group of women who had walked there from many miles was inspiring. They had no complaints from their long journey and seemed so fulfilled.

Oh, they have some of the best gelato anywhere in a small shop! There is always room for gelato.

I read this in a slipcased version published in 1999. In part it was: "Set in Minion at The Folio Society. Printed by Butler and Tanner, Frome, on Fineblade Smooth Paper and bound by them in full cotton cloth, blocked with a design by David Eccles." The reproduction of the paintings and photographs are quite lovely.

It is a keeper. However, there are about 2,000 others.

Apr 10, 2018, 4:29pm Top

>22 Forthwith:

In another study of "the poor,"
Tomas Rivera's ...and the earth did not devour him opens the lives of Mexican migrants living in poverty in the United States.

A Guided Read of this book is still up on LT.

Apr 11, 2018, 12:44am Top

>26 m.belljackson: Thanks m.belljackson I will definitely check that out. Their plight is certainly awful.

The John Steinbeck classic Grapes of Wrath gives us a glimpse from the poor Americans making the trek west. Besides that great film and book, I saw a moving Play based on that work in Indianapolis by their Repertory Company. I think that the Steppenwolf Company in Chicago originated that Play.

I worked for a few years with the aged, disabled and blind in desperate poverty and got to head up a task force to rescue several from a real terrible person.

Apr 12, 2018, 2:22pm Top

18. Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright

Mrs. Albright is an impressive speaker and writer. When I attended a presentation by her, the reasoned pride that she has as an American was inspirational. Her own story of fleeing with her family from her home in Czechoslovakia as a small child just learning to walk. They hid for about 10 days and made it to England. There in Nottingham they went through the German bombing during WWII. Then after the war during a period of relative stability they returned to their home country from where they had to flee again from the Communists. They then were admitted as refugees to the United States. Hearing her speak of the pride that she felt when she later was the American Secretary of State landing in a foreign country on the plane with the United States designation was moving.

This book was just released about 48 hours ago. The cover and the title is alarming but not hysterical.

She knows personally from the sufferings of her own family what a fascist leader can bring.

After an almost chilling initial chapter, the book devotes chapters to Mussolini and Hitler. She also has chapters on other leaders from other countries including Russia. She conveys personal recollections from her meetings within a clear historical context.

This is an important modern history book for these times of threatened democracies.

Apr 13, 2018, 11:12pm Top

#19 Longitude by Dava Sorbel

This was a fascinating story of persistence by a humble man from modest beginnings. It shows the sacrifices and work behind so much that we take for granted today. The book was printed on Abbey Wove paper and bound at L.E.G.O S.p.A., Vicenza, Italy. The pictures of the intricate devices to measure longitude are beautifully produced. Even though this is a science history book, it is aimed for the general audience. The original book was first issued in 1995 and sold very well. This edition pictured was printed in 2015.

#20 The Last Enemy by Richard Hillary

This is a finely produced limited edition #953 printed in West Yorkshire, England.
The author was a British pilot who fought in the Battle of Britain. He sustained terrible burns to his hands and feet when his plane was shot down. He was a Cambridge student who was able to write about his experiences in an elegant and near objective manner. Had he lived, we could have hoped for some more fine literature.

Apr 16, 2018, 1:29pm Top

21. The Devil in the Flesh by Raymond Radiguet

This book was controversial when it was published in 1923 and is still unsettling today. It is considered as literature and Jean Cocteau considered it as such as well as many others of his time.

It was written when the author was 17 years old. He died at age 20. He wrote one other book and some poetry.

It is based on the author's affair as a 14 year old with the wife of a soldier who was off fighting in WWI. The age of consent in France at that time was 13.

Apr 18, 2018, 12:07am Top

22. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership by James Comey

This is the much talked about new book by the fired FBI Director. The first half of the book goes into Comey's professional background and famous cases such as Martha Stewart and mafia prosecutions. Throughout the book, he discusses leadership traits and how he tries to apply those to his professional life.''The book was gripping in parts especially when he describes witnessing the bedside drama of the dying Attorney General, John Ashcroft.

Then the second half gets directly into his experiences with the Clinton e-mail investigation. He had worked on the investigation earlier of the Vince Foster death and Whitewater also. Then he reports on the famous contacts with President Trump and his firing.

Apr 18, 2018, 8:38pm Top

I am working on the To Be Read list while trying to keep up with new and interesting book releases. There is probably no pattern to be found (consciously) in the selections.

23. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd

This is my first try to read a fiction book by Ackroyd. I came across this as the first book chosen by Duncan Joes the son of the late David (Jones) Bowie for his online book club.

I chose the Audible version because it is narrated by the great Derek Jacoby. I started this back in January and would do an occasional chapter at a time. There are twelve chapters with varying lengths but generally around one hour each.

Maybe it was because of how I chose to go through this, but I found it hard to follow a narrative or even keep the characters straight. The non-fiction is that there was really an architect of these named seven churches in London by the name of Hawksmoor. There is a character named Christopher Wren. From those few real people, Ackroyd lets his imagination go unrestrained. Time becomes fluid and over going back to the work, it becomes difficult to follow.

The book has mystery elements and fantasy elements mixed in with an almost obligatory serial killer to satisfy contemporary audience expectations. Was this ultimately intended for a television mini-series? I can see where this book would have interested Bowie in his many faceted personas.

I need to get a look at some reactions from other readers and try to better sort out what this is. With that said though, listening to a single chapter was a great pleasure as a sort of stand along set piece. Jacoby gives this an effort that reaches an artful reading.

I will give a read on another Bowie Book Club paper bound book next. These are not always easy to find in print.

Apr 27, 2018, 4:32pm Top

You may have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood but here from 1930s London is a Walking Library in case you are out for a pleasant walk. War and Peace is not recommended if you have an aching back.

Apr 27, 2018, 7:40pm Top

24. Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s by Otto Friedrich

The book starts in 1918 with the humiliating conclusion for Germany of WWI. With the resignation of the Kaiser, Germany was in chaos with what was left of the government trying to organize and survive factions such as the Communists. The German government was limited to no more than 100,000 military troops that were restricted to internal affairs only. This made order difficult and opened the door for warring factions to seek control.

Instead of this book being a strict political review, it almost seamlessly works in cultural, scientific and intellectual characters. Each chapter covers a one year period. The 1920s are framed by chapters from 1918 through 1933. We know basically what happens next but the years covered by this book are generally less well known, except what we learn from Isherwood and the Cabaret era.

I still feel chills with my personal memory of visiting the Eagles Nest as a tourist. I recall passing the hills where the film version of The Sound of Music was filmed. We stayed in a small hotel in Strasburg that had a channel that played only The Sound of Music 24 hours a day. The local people then and now do not like the film but they do tolerate the tourists money.

The book is written in a manner similar to reading several sections of a fine Sunday newspaper.

Here is an example of how well it works in political developments with other important concurrent people and events in the 1919 year chapter.

"In looking back across time, we occasionally see that the political crises of a given period were not necessarily its most important events. We forget even the names of the once-powerful princes who commissioned Michelangelo's David or Bach's Brandenburg Concerti. And in the Spring of 1919, when the Freikorps forces were battling their way through Berlin, and the German government was trying to negotiate for a treaty to end the war, the scientist who worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes in the peaceful suburb of Dahlem were concerned with something more fundamental, an imminent eclipse of the sun."

With that, he describes the monumental experiment that proved Einstein's theory of matter and energy.

This was a book selected by the Bowie Book Club. An associated group is reading Madame Bovary now. Duncan Jones (son of David) announces his selection on the first of each month.

Apr 28, 2018, 9:39pm Top

Lots of interesting reading going on here!!

Apr 29, 2018, 8:40am Top

>35 figsfromthistle: Thanks. I got off to a slow start because of health issues but I am getting back on track.

Edited: May 2, 2018, 2:45pm Top

25. Wallis In Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy by Andrew Moron

Well now, have a seat by me, as Alice Roosevelt Longworth showed on her couch cushion. If you are hungry and want the dish on Mrs. Simpson, you are seated in the right room.

Andrew Morton is the infamous British gossip columnist who revealed more than the Palace wanted on Princess Diana.

I went through this via an audio book. I somehow listened to a chapter a day during lunch to control my appetite. Actually, it starts out rather tame and objective but when the British Royal family come along, the tone gathers some snark. Some of the details are disputed as we might expect about a controversial figure with very few real friends. I do not plan to form a Midwest fan club for Ms. Simpson.

26. Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters

I read this in a beautiful full leather edition from the defunct Franklin Library as one of their early The 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature. I occasionally pick one of these up from my collection at leisure that I received starting in 1976 for the American Bicentennial. These older books have held up splendidly and are a pleasure to hold. Unfortunately this series is not well known. Some of their later series of books did not keep up with the original quality in this series.

This is a series of free form verse of epitaphs from citizens of the fictional Spoon River community based on real characters in northeast Illinois just south of Chicago. It shreds the image of a peaceful harmonious rural American community of the early 1900s. You would not expect to see these on a standard Hallmark greeting card. As with Cassius Hueffer

"They have chiseled on my stone the words:
'His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him
That nature might stand up and say to all the world,
This was a man.'
Those who knew me smile
As they read this empty rhetoric.

My epitaph should have been:
'Life was not gentle to him,
And the elements so mixed in him
That he made warfare on life,
in the which he was slain.'
While I lived I could not cope with slanderous tongues,
Now that I am dead I must submit to an epitaph
Graven by a fool!"

So how are those two books for some variety?

Edited: May 25, 2018, 2:17pm Top

>24 Forthwith: The Daily Posting from The New York Review of Books has an interesting piece about the German television series Babylon Berlin about the Weimar Republic setting the start of the Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s. The article states that this is a well financed production and getting much attention in Germany.
I did see a brief trailer but with so many quality productions saved for later viewing, I too quickly added it to the to be seen list. I may need to go back and catch this series. It is now showing two seasons on Netflix.


If it is as enjoyable as the series Versailles, it could be quite entertaining and maybe interesting. Unfortunately, only the first two seasons of three are available now in the United States and the BBC's Inside Versailles features were not ordered for the third season. I had enjoyed historian Greg Jenner's presentations. He has been concentrating on writing a new book on Celebrity.

May 2, 2018, 7:53pm Top

27. Strangest of All by Frank Edwards

This is a collection of unexplained events that was written in the late 1960s.

I often watched Frank Edwards news broadcasts on the independent television channel in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was their News Director at the time and gave fairly standard local Indianapolis and national news late evening broadcast. The television station was no longer part of a national television network and had to rely n their own personalities to get viewers. Their personalities included the professional wrestling legend Dick the Bruiser and others. Cable television was not a factor then but if it had been the station would have been a candidate for something like the station WTBS became.

Like so many especially young boys at the time, I found Edward's tales of UFOs and other strange phenomenon fascinating. Edwards wrote a series of books that sold very well nationally. He had earlier been on the national mutual radio network and had a national reputation. Stranger than Science was the one that he was known for. I read this particular one again because it was the only one on a Kindle format and it does not get so much into the UFO category.

The book is interesting and entertaining but a good round of skepticism can be used as he presents his tales. You will not find annotated resources listed in his books. It appears from the writing that he did considerable research but... I am not sure what the now retired skeptic James Randi thought about his books.

I found that his book Strange People is listed as one of the 100 best books named by the late David Bowie. I had read through that list before but did not make the connection from that title nor the Frank Edwards of my childhood until today. Really. Stranger Than Science.

May 4, 2018, 8:56pm Top

28. Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse

I listened to this on an audio book with a very enthusiastic reading by John Simms. This almost invites a Sitcom and indeed it did in England as well as a short lived one in the U.S. as well as a West End show. The phrases are carefully constructed and pleasing to the ear. I would fear that the descriptive language would be lost in a Play.

It reads almost like a long form Monty Python program or even more like the format of the sitcom The Royle Family - one of my very favorites. This is character driven and has a lot of activity for a single day. It is a bit disturbing though when Billy clumsily inserts a "passion pill" into a piece of chocolate in light of recent news. In this case it is meant as a piece of almost slapstick.

29. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Again, I listened to a couple of chapters at a sitting to a recording read by Nicole Kidman. The Australian accent adds a bit. She reads in a monotone but since it is mostly interior dialog, I suppose a case could be made that our interior thoughts have little change in imaginary volume.

This is even absent of a plot compared with Mrs. Dalloway and requires a great deal of concentration to appreciate. There were no car chases nor special effects in sight.

30. Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier

This is the version translated by Katherine Vivian and also known by in English The Land of Lost Content.

This is a rereading from several years ago. It is a beautifully told romantic story and a classic of French Literature. Since my first reading, I did see one of the two films based on the book. This would have made a fine Merchant Ivory film.

I hope that you have been able to see the National Theater productions of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch and the daring production of Julius Caesar in a theater. Each of these was recorded live and shown in movie theaters around the world including the intermission. The production was so dynamic that it was sort of dangerous in light of the mass shootings. It was highly interactive and the audience was moving about as directed among the actors. Usually a contemporary version of Shakespeare does not work well but this was really remarkable. Next up in the National Theater series is Macbeth. It does not have the glowing reviews that the other productions received.

I have enjoyed recent concerts including an evening of John Williams film music and an astounding production of Richard Strauss and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. I am glad that the concert hall roof was firmly attached!

May 10, 2018, 9:54pm Top

31. The Autobiography and Other Writings by Benjamin Franklin

This collection includes the Autobiography, Poor Richard's Almanac, Letters, Essays and other writings.

As I read Franklin's listing of virtues I wonder how many pf our current politicians are doing a similar exercise. The contrast is inescapable. He does own up to personal faults and transgressions especially as a younger man. What would be the effect of such an admission now?

Much has been written about the loss of public virtue. Author David McCullough had some interesting reflections on this and he does not predict a return of the depth of public figures that the American founders were. I do not recall the precise reference to the source of McCullough's reflections. I do believe it was in one of his books rather than an essay.

Do we witness the pursuit of what is best for the common good or just specific and self serving interests?

Could a current politician admit to being a Deist and have the religious views of Franklin and still win an election? In one of the letters in the book to the President of Yale who asked him about his views of Jesus, Franklin asked that the letter/views be kept confidential.

The Great Courses has a new course on Franklin and after four lectures so far, it is an interesting Course.

Last year I read a new book on the sad but fascinating relationship between Franklin and his son.

Perhaps a new Broadway show based on Franklin could also be in order. With all of his accomplishments, there would be so many words to rhyme. I am looking forward to seeing the Broadway tour of Hamilton and reading the special Lapham's Quarterly single issue on Hamilton. It is the only issue dedicated to one person. It was released as a special issue. It is crying out on my TBR list.

May 14, 2018, 8:04pm Top

32. My Life and Times by Jerome K. Jerome

This is a biography by the famed writer of Three Men In a Boat. This is a book that is not well known possibly because it is not intended to only be a book of wit and differing in the expectations of his readers. The first few chapters ae devoid of his famous wit as he describes growing up in poverty.

Then, as he gets some success, he rallies his wit about people and events of his time. He associated with a number of interesting characters such as: Swinburne, J. M. Barrie of Peter Pan fame, Phillip Burke Marston and his blind poet father Westland Marston, Dr. Aveling (wrote under the name Alec Nelson) a socialist who married Karl Marx's daughter, George Bernard Shaw and several others. He even thought that he had met Charles Dickens at one early time.

He was born in 1859 and presents a vivid description of his times. He describes participating in the London to Brighton Rally on Nov. 4, 1869 for automobiles. The rally was scheduled for the day after the lifting of the law that required someone to walk in front of an automobile waving a red flag as a warning. The speed limit of 2 mph was also lifted. The plan was for 25 vehicles to come roaring down Preston Road just after noon to the roaring approval of crowds. It did not work as planned. Many broke down for various reasons and Jerome did not appear until 3:30 as others straggled through. The expected cheers were jeers and sarcasm. Along the roadside "at the slightest sign of trouble, they would take the whole thing in pieces, and spread it out upon the roadside. Some cheerful old lady, an aunt presumably, would be groveling on her hands and knees, with her mouth full of screws, looking for more." I wonder what their reaction would have been to have witnessed an Indianapolis Grand Prix pit stop this past Saturday.

I read this in a 1992 slip-cased book in fine condition. It used Corvo White Laid paper that is textured and durable.

Now, I need to add Three Men in a Boat, that was recently reprinted, to my reading list.

May 20, 2018, 9:11pm Top

33. Absolutely On Music by Haruki Murakami

As an acclaimed novelist Murakami followed the music of Seiji Ozawa, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. Although each person is an artist, they create using different paths.

While Ozawa was going through a long recuperation from cancer, Ozawa agreed to do a series of interviews/conversations with Murakami on the subject of music. They look at particular pieces and interpretations. Murakami would sometimes play a record and they would talk about it. Usefully, the book includes the exact time in the performance of the part that they discuss. Murakami has a long time interest in jazz and classical music or as Duke Ellington said there is only good music and the other kind.

Even remarkably and another vast benefit of the integrated multimedia of today, Murakami's website has the Spotify recordings of some of the particular performances that they discuss.

His site is: http://www.harukimurakami.com

From the home screen select Resources and then Music. Then select the title of this book "Absolutely On Music" for several pieces discussed. Also on the Music page, Murakami lists his other works of fiction and the music related to those.

This is a wonderful insight of the creative minds of these two very accomplished artists and a good multi-media companion for a Sunday read.

Here is a very brief intro to the book. https://www.facebook.com/harukimurakamiauthor/videos/1525095380851180/

I just watched the film "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" and am getting interested in the life and writings of Sir Laurens van der Post. He was certainly a character and more recently much more controversial. I noted that his book The Seed and the Sower is only available in expensive paperbacks - many are used - and no digital version is available. The film was based on two books about the author's own WWII experiences as a prisoner of war in Indonesia. Some doubts are being cast now on the accuracy of some of his recollections although the books were written as fiction.

We did attend the National Theater version of Macbeth and it was very good but not quite to the excellence of their recent Julius Caesar and Hamlet. Ms. Duff, who plays in the television series Shameless, played the role of Mrs. Macbeth. I am very slowly rereading each play. It is exciting that they will rebroadcast in October the much acclaimed Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch that I missed each time it was shown earlier. I need to reread that book before October. The modern technology makes some of the world's best available to so many places. It is difficult to have even imagined how much would be available.

We also saw the TCM big screen and beautifully restored film Sunset Boulevard.

Edited: May 25, 2018, 2:17pm Top

34. The Assassins: A Radical Sect In Islam by Bernard Lewis
Because of the death of Mr. Lewis this past Saturday, I pulled this book to the top of my reading list. In it he traces the history of the violent sect back to the historical origins using western and eastern sources. Below are pictures of the book and links to the NYTimes death notice and one of his significant articles in the 1990 Atlantic Monthly. We have lost one of our treasured scholars and public intellectuals. He was called on to consult with the controversial United States Middle East policies.



May 23, 2018, 8:15am Top

Hadn't realized he died. I read The Assassins a few years ago and enjoyed it.

May 23, 2018, 2:27pm Top

He got some of the blame for the invasion of Iraq although he later denied it. His reputation was tarnished.

Historians are not always experts in predicting the future.

May 23, 2018, 2:35pm Top

35. A Month In the Country by J. L. Carr

Give yourself the pleasure of reading this wonderful book.

I understand that the film is also a great pleasure but I have been unable yet to access it. From many streaming film sites, it is not available.

"Ah, those days . . . for many years afterwards their happiness haunted me. Sometimes, listening to music, I drift back and nothing has changed. The long end of summer. Day after day of warm weather, voices calling as night came on and lighted windows pricked the darkness and, at day-break, the murmur of corn and the warm smell of fields ripe for harvest. And being young. If I’d stayed there, would I always have been happy? No, I suppose not. People move away, grow older, die, and the bright belief that there will be another marvelous thing around each corner fades. It is now or never; we must snatch at happiness as it flies."

May 25, 2018, 2:05pm Top

>47 Forthwith: That one is on my wish list already.

Edited: Jun 4, 2018, 8:30pm Top

36. A Nervous Splendour: Vienna 1888-1889 by Frederic Morton

This is a grand sweep of the quest for greatness and the unease about the future in the summer of 1888 in Vienna. About three years ago I was able to tour this still grand city.

On a personal note, this weekend, I remember my Uncle killed in the Battle of the Bulge and my father severely injured when his minesweeper exploded and he was left for many hours hanging onto some scraps amid circling sharks for many hours. He was left with injures and lifetime PTSD. Here is one of the two Purple Hearts that I have to remember them by.

May 25, 2018, 2:19pm Top

>48 thornton37814:

I hope that you enjoy it. It is wistful yet enjoyable. It may stay with you for a while.

Jun 4, 2018, 2:58am Top

37. Sir Harry Hotspur by Anthony Trollope

This is one of 47 books published in a series written by Trollope. I have about one half of that series. In my mind, Trollope is more readable than Dickens. Trollope's characters are less fanciful.

Trollope was a postal worker and would rise early and write before setting out for work. His output was something to behold. Where did he derive so many fully drawn characters? Did he know his postal patrons? Perhaps, I should become even less acquainted with my postal carrier less I show up in a future novel.

This work struggles with drawing a villain. Trollope sees an internal complexity usually in his characters and has less insight into a singular heartless character. This particular book is short for a Victorian novel and most of his novels. It seems like he was stretching it in places for payment by the word. He did write some short stories also. The characters are fewer in number also so you do not have to keep a notepad at hand. Do not look for lines of whimsey. You may think that you have picked up a Thomas Hardy book in mood only with this one.

With Trollope, the means justifies the end. The plots are Victorian and often long, but the many characters are beautifully drawn. He wrote of his times that he knew so beautifully.

I need to bring up his mother's book on her visit to the United States from my TBR stack. As I understand, she was not easily pleased by our manners. I am not either sometimes.

Edited: Jun 5, 2018, 2:01pm Top

38. Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

This "I am a camera" approach gives a slow development of a picture of Berlin from the late 1920s to about 1933 as the Nazis started their grasp for absolute power. The most famous Chapter introduces Sally Bowles the model for the Broadway show and film "Cabaret." Reading it now is especially chilling.

This particular edition has illustrations by George Grosz. These make me want to see more of his brilliant illustrations.

39. Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion

This is a selection of Essays by the author in various magazines. The subject is the mid 1960s. The phrases are worth the read even though much of the subjects are by now tired.

Jun 5, 2018, 9:17pm Top

40. Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, The Certainty of Dying and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich

This is the latest book from Ms. Ehrenreich. I have looked forward to her books and wanted to get at this one. She takes recent conventional wisdom and gives it a fresh examination before we try and build on something sure to slide out from under us. She does not seek to be trendy nor popular but is on a mission to have us rethink our assumed wisdom.

In this book she examines wellness and the questionable trend of multiple medical tests, especially invasive ones, that may serve financially the giver more than the recipient. Yes, even the people who have gone to extremes toward healthy living may have died earlier than the average age yet she herself talks about her gym visits. She is not advocating extreme positions as much as offering evidence for thinking these things through.

She has a PhD in cellular immunology and cites interesting findings on macrophage cells that we think of as protecting us against harmful invasions. However, these types of cells can reverse and actually aid harmful effects on our bodies.

I found her thoughts on the decision making (unpredictability) of these cells fascinating. With our endless debate on free will verses determinism, she avoids attributing a free will on these cells but rather uses the concept of agency. As science examines smaller and smaller matter the unpredictability seems to increase. Whether this is our early lack of knowledge about the factors affecting this matter or whether there is a built in randomness is an exciting area to explore.

Each Chapter has a view of the general topic from a different perspective. Resisting the temptation of oversimplifying her views, these spell out different perspectives. However, some editing is needed. We see unnecessary repetitions such as more than one explanation of workplace wellness and the reports of little or no improvement. It is as though the Chapters were written and pasted together rather than a building of a cohesive argument.

Jun 15, 2018, 3:48pm Top

41. The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World by Bart Ehrman

42. The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World by Catherine Nixey

This is a subset of Gibbons in his classic Decline and Fall set of books that I find fascinating. So how did a small religious sect of about 20 people come to grow so much in historical influence and what did they do when they obtained power?

I made the mistake of reading #42 first. Actually I should have done the reverse of the two to put this in some time sequence. These books were in no way meant to be in sequence with each other but they can certainly be read that way.

So if Gibbons asserts negative influences from the Christian religion toward the fall of the empire these look at that specifically. #41 looks at what was actually a slow growth rate but that happened fairly steadily over many decades. Why did the existing pagans convert to this concept of one God from so many pagan Gods? He finds that it was more by word of mouth rather than massive evangelical mass movements especially after St. Paul. Individual evangelism was a feature that was not present with pagans. Also, the new religion was exclusive and all encompassing. He says that most of the converts were pagans rather from the Jewish tradition. Like recent controversial discussions, he finds that the official prosecution of the new religion was chiefly localized and more limited than commonly thought. Of course, with vast periods of history and the limits of summarization, exceptions were violent for those caught up.

And then there was Constantine. Even then after his battle field inspired conversion, he did not directly mandate the conversion of others.

So with the steady growth in the numbers of Christians (check your bank account for the slow compounding of interest effect) and sanctioning by the state, how did Christians handle this new temporal authority? According to #42 by slashing the statues (see St. Apollonia about to go into action in the painting shown above) and writings of the Classical/pagan culture era using coercion and violence leading into the Middle Ages (formally called the Dark Ages - don't dare use that term around certain scholars or you will be assigned a series of courses). That is saying a lot in a sentence.

This is revisionist history to be sure and healthy skepticism is warranted but fascinating it is. #42 points out that with so much of our historical authority emanating from Oxford and Cambridge, Christian views were assumed.

"Until 1871 the University of Oxford required that all students were members of the Church of England (when created), while in most cases to be given a fellowship in an Oxford College one had to be ordained. Cambridge was a little freer - but not much."

If you are a history buff or are too comfortable for comfort in your assumptions, these are worth a read.

Jun 16, 2018, 5:38pm Top

43. Marcel Proust by Edmund White

44. Pleasures and Days by Marcel Proust

#43 is one of the biography series that selects an interesting contemporary writer to convey the life of a well known figure in a reasonably concise manner of about 200 or so pages. I have a number of these books and enjoy the series very much.

#44 is the published collection of short fiction and poetry by Proust done when he was quite young. Throughout, you can identify what monument temperature is to come. These are preparatory and an exercise from his own literary magazine. Already, we can experience his drawing of so many characters. This book is too much overlooked.

"On the two evenings she spent at Les Oublis, she would come and say goodnight to me in my bed, an old habit she had otherwise given up, since it gave me too much pleasure and too much pain; I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep, since I kept calling her back to say goodnight to me all over again, eventually not daring to do so any more, but feeling all the more passionately my need for her, and constantly inventing new pretexts – my burning pillow that needed turning over, my frozen feet that she alone would be able to warm up in her hands… So many sweet moments were made even sweeter because I felt these were the moments at which my mother was really herself, and that her habitual frigidity must be something she imposed on herself with an effort."

Jun 17, 2018, 2:26pm Top

#45 The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Goethe

This is a stirring masterpiece of literature that retains it's power for a contemporary reader. It should not be read by anyone in a serious emotional conflict due to the persuasive case made for suicide.

This may be unsuitable for many people in our present times.

"Must it ever be thus,—that the source of our happiness must also be the fountain of our misery?"

Edited: Jun 24, 2018, 1:45pm Top

#46. Odds Against Tomorrow: A Novel by Nathaniel Rich

I am not sure what I just read. Initially, it read like a plot for a very expensive mini-series. I knew though that the author was a former fiction editor of The Paris Review so I kept going. It did read fairly fast. Then as the 3rd Section came along it was a dark Dickensian tale. I need to digest what I just read. It is a very dark tale that rubs our face into the natural deterioration, sense of fear and doom.

#47. The Happy Captive by Francisco Nunez De Pineda y Bascunan

This is an autobiographical account of the capture of the author by the Araucanian Indians of Chile in 1629. He was the son of the fierce Spanish military commander who had a strongly divided opinion among the native population. The insights of the culture and individual Indian characters are quite remarkable. The importance of honor and fair treatment on both sides of the conflict saved his life. It is quite an adventure. The manuscript was not published until 1863.

Jun 24, 2018, 1:41pm Top

48. The Hellenistic Age: The Greek World 336 - 146 BC by F. W. Walbank

This is one of the books on the Ancient Greek World in a set of beautifully illustrated books. Each one is by a different scholar and covers a different period.

The late F. W. Walbank was an outstanding scholar of Polybius. He devoted his life to scholarship and bringing to a wider audience the carefully researched history of this important period. The initial chapter in this book reviews the major sources including coins of the time. It examines Polybius critically with these many other sources.

This is one of my favorite excerpts that I found provocative. Usually speculation has limited value but this brings a sense of wonder in asking if the Greeks could have organized an innovative governmental structure for their region. Their leagues were a start.

"One is bound to ask whether, given another century without Rome, federalism might not have developed fresh and fruitful aspects, for despite the use of force (and that Polybius admits) these federations grow out of an internal response of the Greeks themselves....But time ran out."

49. Antiquity: The Civilization of the Ancient World by Norman F. Cantor

This is a very broad overview of the ancient world. If you are starting on books from this time or want a refresher, this would be a great starting point for the general reader. Cantor does not hesitate to include some pointed thoughts and keeps the reader's interest. For example, echoing and then expanding on Gibbons conclusions on the decline of the Roman empire he starts with:

"And it was internal decline as well as from the outside, since the barbarian invaders, including women and children did not number more than 5 percent of the empire's population."

This is provocative in our own times as we weaken the American influence.

50. The Best of Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

This barbed book has about one half of her writings. She did not spare herself and her life was quite sad. Whether you laugh or cry, there was only one Dorothy Parker.


Some men break your heart in two,
Some men fawn and flatter,
Some men never look at you;
And that cleans up the matter"

Rest In Peace Mrs. Parker. We remember you.

Jul 4, 2018, 4:01am Top

51. Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency by Dan Abrams and David Fisher

To read this book you have to look beyond the unappealing cover and overlook the television insincerity of Dan Abrams. Cast those aside and get going for a rousing read.

This was a refreshing July 4th book to replace the dismal and discouraging news of today.

This does not gloss over Lincoln as a politician and approaches him as a real character and not a caricature. he struggled and worked very hard. He did not always win. He had more important things on his mind.

Jul 7, 2018, 12:13pm Top

52. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

After seeing the replay in a theater of the Benedict Cumberbatch National Theater production I went back and slowly reread the Play. What is left to say?

53. Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic For Life Under Tyranny by Witold Szablowski

This is the best new book that I have read so far this year. I found it from reading a review in The New York Review of Books and had to get it right away.

This is a remarkable story that reads like the most gripping television documentary. Most of the sentences are direct quotes from the fascinating people. It bears against the human version of the drastic changes was used brilliantly, an ultimate "I Am A Camera" approach.
The first half takes a deep personal look at the abuse of bears as entertainment. They are taught to dance for children and tourists by some who lost their living from previous communist governments. The bear owners express their deep devotion to the bears who are chained to a pole in their dirt floor homes and are fed bread and ample supplies of liquor. When Bulgaria was admitted to the EU the practice was banned and the bears were taken to a rescue center. The bears were then well fed but only very slowly showed progress. The point being that the sudden change of a life learned from a very young age had severe limits.

Then the second half of the book quotes people from Cuba to London to other former Communist countries and their terrible struggles with the sudden changes and kind of longing for the past. The section at the Stalin Museum was unforgettable. The book ended with conversations in Greece that were chilling.

The pictures of the bears and owners was at the end of the book in the Kindle version and they were difficult to see. If I had seen those earlier, I may have stopped reading this book. The delight of the tourist and children at seeing the mistreated bears were tough pictures.

Using the bears against the human stories was brilliantly done. About a year ago, I visited the big cat rescue center located near Brazil, IN. They had nearly 300 big cats rescued from abusive conditions. Some people attempted to raise them as pets. One was freed to walk on grass the first time in it's life. It walked in a circle continuously. Another one escaped and was never found. I talked with the owner who depends on donations to feed and care for the big animals. We have failed nature and our environment in a most pathetic way. How did this become political?

Visiting Slovenia, I met a man who had built a beautiful boat himself and took tourists visiting the resort on rides on the lake. The resort was visited by celebrities such as Paul McCarthy as a sort of getaway. It was formerly used by Marshall Tito. The man remarked about the difficulty of having to make so many decisions after the fall of the Soviet Union. I had to draw out that reaction. He seemed quite lost. He was not at all political but the politics had a profound effect on the life of his family. It was the shock of a generation.

This book is layered and I expect that it will create much discussion. What is freedom? If you want a look inside our world as it really is from a perspective that gets little attention, this is it. If you are looking for an easy fable with hope, this is not it.

Jul 7, 2018, 3:40pm Top

>60 Forthwith: Your description of Dancing Bears: True Stories of People Nostalgic For Life Under Tyranny reminds me a bit of Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets where the same nostalgia is found. I see a Dutch translation of Dancing Bears was recently published, I hope my library gets a copy soon.

Jul 7, 2018, 8:29pm Top

>60 Forthwith: Dancing Bears is getting a lot of attention so I hope that a copy will soon be available to you. If you read it, let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for the reference to Secondhand Time!

Jul 8, 2018, 1:19am Top

54. Souvenir by Rolf Potts

So why do we collect when we travel and what do we really want from a relative in their memory?

We seem to have that box in the back of the closet with strange items. Where did we get those things? This collecting is a multi-billion dollar international industry to satisfy that rather strange need, at a gift orofit, or course. This started probably before the religious pilgrimages.
What souvenirs do you have?

Edited: Jul 25, 2018, 7:28pm Top

After a brief break with some health issues, I should start up posting read books soon. I am in the process of cataloging a donation of 50 books to our local Library toward their semi-annual sale. The private Willard Library specializes in history and helps many families with record searches for family history as well as provides many history speakers and exhibits. Many of the books are first editions and in very good condition. Two are even new Folio Society books that have never been opened. I hope that they dell well for them. Oh, they even have a 24/7 Ghost Cam to try and capture images of the legendary Grey Lady. Spooky.

In the meantime, here is a photo taken two days ago from our Ohio River bank by a local resident while tending to the lawn. Enjoy.

Edited: Jul 27, 2018, 1:24pm Top

55. Civilizations: First Contact / The Cult of Progress / As Seen on TV by David Olusoga

This is one of the books based on the new BBC Civilizations television series. This book looks at the interactions of painting and the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment. Many paintings are shown throughout. I appreciated being able to enlarge the paintings to a full screen on the Kindle Fire. The reading experience has really even though enhanced.
Mary Beard's book is soon to be released in the US.

56. Charlemagne: Father of the Franks, Leader of the Lombards and Premier Holy Roman Emperor y in60learning.

I rather like these better than expected books. They are like an extended Wikipedia entry that are fairly well written. These are available to borrow in the Kindle loan system.

Jul 31, 2018, 4:16pm Top

57. President Evil: A Common Man Looks at Trump an the 2016 GOP Primaries by Joseph Murphy

58. President Evil II: A Clodwork Orange: A Common Man Looks at Trump and the 2016 Primaries by Joseph Murphy

59. Dear F*ucking Lunatic: 101 Obscenely Rude Letters to Donald Trump by Aldous J. Pennyfarthing

Aug 1, 2018, 6:51pm Top

60.Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn

After viewing the first three of five episodes of the superb "Patrick Melrose" mini-series on Showtime I dipped into the first of these five books. Cumberland took on the Showtime series and left us thinking that we were seeing a modern Hamlet. It is that good.This first book is actually the second television episode. I am not yet ready to take on the second book.
The book adds dimensions to the faithful television series.
The book and television programs are brilliant. Besides the Showtime series you can sneak a look at "Who is America? and "The Fourth Estate."
Do not try these for comfort.

Aug 2, 2018, 1:38pm Top

61. Shyness and Dignity by Dag Solstad

Do we need more of this? This is an acclaimed writer from Norway who has been recently translated into English.
It was heavily influenced by Proust and Mann and is a self conscious stream of very long paragraphs.
The inner life of a full man still has some lasting effects on a reader. This seems to have been bursts of words when a word came to mind with all of our inner contradictions and self illusions.
Who is next on the couch?

Aug 2, 2018, 10:06pm Top

62. A Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Well the book in post 61 per to the much discussed Mann novella. I read this on the Kindle version of the Dover Thrift Edition. The translation and commentary was done by Stanley Appelbaum. The commentary was quite interesting and included notes on the translation and Greek references.

Edited: Aug 8, 2018, 11:10am Top

"He checked the pills again (lower right pocket) and then the envelope (inside left) and then the credit cards (outer left). This nervous action, which he sometimes performed every few minutes, was like a man crossing himself before an altar – the Drugs; the Cash; and the Holy Ghost of Credit."

So goes the second Patrick Melrose book.

63. Bad News by Edward St Aubyn

Even though the subjects are difficult, the deeply drawn characters are richly drawn. The book is full of complete fully formed characters that disturbingly seem all too real. Is it really fiction?

64. War on Peace by Ronan Farrow

Looking at Ronan Farrow and hearing him speak seems like a model badly playing a diplomat. It takes some effort to realize that he is a very bright and scholarly man. After all, he was a Rhode's Scholar and served as a diplomat.

The book reveals an intelligent and gossipy diplomatic core of personal power. The diplomats personalities have a profound impact on our foreign policy. The book is a bit quirky but important.

Dry it isn't.

Aug 10, 2018, 4:10pm Top

On my front porch today was a delivery from Ardis books in London containing the following books that I had ordered:

A beautiful quarter leather bound Folio Society Edition of Dickens' Pickway Papers with beautifully reproduced original illustrations.

In that same series, Dickens' Dombly and Son.

A set of three Folio Society published Rimply Novels by Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley; Ripley Under Ground; and Ripley's Game. The color illustrations are remarkably apt.

John Donne's Complete Poems, of The Folio Poets series.

I cannot forget the beautiful two volume set of War and Peace.

Still to come is the full folio set of Proust's seven volume master work set.

From a Goldsboro delivery signed copies of The King and the Catholics (Antonia Fraser), Anthony Beevor's Arnhem, and Allison Weir's Jane Seymour.

On top of that box was the Library of America release of Madison with his letters and writings. It was in their slipcase and classic comfortable format.

Then from a bookstore trip, I came away with the already mentioned War on Peace by Ronan Farrow, a new edition with illustrations of Sapiens. Having tried to listen to an audible edition while walking and exercising, I needed to give this another look in print. After viewing his conversation with historian Michael Scott, I had missed the big picture of the big picture.

Also from the bookstore is a copy of Ron Chernow's Hamilton; Guns, Germs and Steel by Jarod Diamond for a reread, The Myth of Sisyphus, and the latest National Geographic and World Histories.

Even beyond that, I recently got these on Kindle: Everything Trump Touches Dies, The Plot to Destroy Democracy, The Race to Save the Romanovs, The Death of Expertise, Mortality, When Einstein Walked with Godel, and will soon receive the Woodward release.

It seems that publishers are moving fast with a variety of rereleased and new books of varying quality. Could this be part of why excessive Facebook interest is finally waning?

Recent audible books include The Soul of America, Enlightenment Now and The Age of Voltaire by the Durants.

Now, can I read each of these right away? I wish. Which one first?

We are living in an amazing age when we can have so much in our hands. This is a celebration of freedom.

Aug 20, 2018, 3:22pm Top

65. Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

This may be a difficult read for some. It is truthful, especially, if like me, you have had cancer.

A heavy delivery of the Folio seven volume of Proust arrived. I also received several volumes of Lapham's Quarterly including the first one.

To keep things in balance, I just returned from donating 50 fine books to our area Private Library. Another 50 will be prepared. I need to update the Library Thing Library listings considerably. I have fallen quite behind with that.

Sep 7, 2018, 5:34pm Top

66. Some Hope by Edward St. Aubyn

This is the third of the five novel Patrick Melrose series. This one has the famous scene at the birthday dinner with a visit of Princess Margaret. This was brilliantly done with wit. Like the others, it retains the dark outlook though. It portrays the end of the Old England with the strictest class restrictions, at least in St. Aubyn's view. Originally he intended to write only these three but after some time added two more.

St. Aubyn is open yet still guarded about how much of this reflects his own life. He maintains an interesting balance.

This is a series of novels well worth sticking with. The next one in the series was nominated on the short list of the Booker Prize. I wonder if the Committee realized their oversight in not naming the previous books. So far, I would rate this one as second favorite behind Bad News.

He references other books and his writing and opinions are valuable to me so I went looking intone in particular. I just downloaded the digital version of The Diary of a Disappointed Man and also just received a copy of the complete works. This looks like an exciting work to read in the future. I have seen it rated as second to Samuel Pepys famous diary. Samuel accidently struck Mrs. Pepys in his sleep and became "much afeared." Mrs. Pepys indeed had her hands full. I only wish that Mrs. Pepys could have written her own Diary! That is high praise indeed.

Sep 10, 2018, 11:35pm Top

67. Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

This was a recent best seller that is descriptive but fizzled out being prescriptive. For those with no awareness of the real suffering around us, it might be insightful.

Sep 26, 2018, 2:08pm Top

68. Fear: Trump in The White House by Bob Woodward

69. How Do We Look by Mary Beard

Neither book is as notable as promised. The Mary Beard book is part of the revision of the classic television series by Kenneth Clark.

Sep 29, 2018, 4:00pm Top

70. Mother's Milk by Edward St. Aubyn

As mentioned previously, this is the fourth of the five book series about fictional character Patrick Melrose and noted by the Booker Prize Short List.

It is a brilliant work. The perspective written from the new born is especially memorable. The wit stings and the insights are beautifully written.

Is it necessary to read the previous Melrose books to understand this book? I would say yes.

Oct 3, 2018, 8:51pm Top

71. In Search of Lost Books: The Forgotten Stories of Eight Mythical Volumes by Giorgio van Straten

This is a fascinating book of interest of almost any book enthusiast. The Chapters are based on a radio series by the author who leads the Italian Cultural Institute of New York.

He only selected books that have a strong possibility of actually have been written. The reasons that these books are not available to readers now are quite varied. I would expect that the Memoirs of Byron would have made a sensation on earlier Best Seller Lists and would still be widely in print. The first book is one that the author actually read himself but he honored the writer's widow and did not make a copy.

The Eight Missing books with the story behind the loss. Romano Bilenchi: The Avenue; Lord Byron: Memoirs; Ernest Hemingway: Juvenilia; Brono Schultz: The Messiah; Nikolai Gogol: Dead Souls; Malcolm Lowry: In Ballast to the White Sea; Walter Benjamin: The Contents of the Black Suitcase; Sylvia Plath: Double Exposure.

If you have any of these contact anyone and everyone and hire a good press agent.

72. The Art of the City: Rome, Florence, Venice by George Simmel

This book technically is to be released tomorrow by Pushkin Press in London but I received my copy today.

The author wrote each piece separately and these were later combined by his wife and published. The book itself is a delight to hold with the French flaps and Munken Premium White Paper was used for the text set in Monotype Baskerville.

The author was not able to get a formal academic appointment in spite of attracting large crowds to his lectures. He died in 1918 as WWI was wrapping up. Sadly being Jewish did not help him at that time in getting a position. He and his wife would hold gatherings of intellectuals in their home. He is one of the founders of what we know as sociology. One of the things that he focused on was alienation in urban centers. He spoke about the producer of a product no longer coming directly in contact with the customer. What would he think about the remote use of ordering through the internet? The focus on alienation is still very much with us as a major topic. Having just returned from visits to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., Toronto, Quebec and Montreal. Even standing in Times Square I thought of a friend who said that when he was there for the New Years Eve celebration, he felt quite alone. Even spending some time in rural Lancaster County in Amish country did not remove the feelings of alienation from the urban centers.

He traveled extensively so spoke with experience of his impressions of the three great Italian cities cited. He observed how the beauty of Rome came not from individual pieces but the overall impression of layers of architecture. He speaks highly of Florence but comments that Venice looks like what we would nod call a stage set, of sorts.

These are relatively brief essays followed by his famous "The Metropolis and the Life of the Spirit.

Oct 11, 2018, 10:17pm Top

73. The Coming Storm by Michael Lewis

This is in the form of an audio book that was read by the author, Michael Lewis.

Personal experiences impact like no other learning can do. This is an excellent listen. I was trained in Weather in the Air Force and have been in a tornado that totally destroyed our home and cars as well as recently been in the blackout from three tornados in Ottawa Canada. I even had the strange experience of broadcasting live on the air during a relatively earthquake.
This audio sincerely shares the experience itself and justly recognizes those dedicated public servants who serve in the National Weather Service in a compelling way. This agency and so many others take the abuse of politicians and even worse the derision of the public. This lifts the curtain on the work behind the scenes and tells an interesting story. Michael Lewis again uses clarity and individual people to enlighten the reader about what could be a dry technical manual. He is an articulate "everyman" who even slips into the speaking mannerisms of those who he is reporting on.

Oct 16, 2018, 1:45am Top

74. The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis

I found that "The Coming Storm" was contained within The Fifth Risk. As mentioned previously, I listened to The Coming Storm as an audio book. I read The Fifth Risk as a digital book.

Anyway, The Fifth Risk considerably expands the ideas of celebrating the Federal government workers especially with the Departments of Energy and Agriculture. I found myself feeling quite involved in the book and the personalities portrayed. The importance of those Departments cannot be understated.

The Fifth Risk is stated without revealing security secrets as Program Management. These are unspeakable risks that these agencies are charged to assure protection for American citizens. These works are my first exposure to Michael Lewis books and I need to check back again for more of his work.

“Program management” is the existential threat that you never really even imagine as a risk.

Lewis, Michael. The Fifth Risk (p. 75). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

75. A London Life by Henry James

I have hesitated for a long time about reading Henry James. I thought that it would be pompous and too pretentious to get through. However, this story published by the Library of America in a digital version seemed like a satisfactory TCM film on a Sunday evening. It would not be a good candidate for a modern film but something from the early 1930s would be about right. The plot is almost too predictable but vague enough at the end to satisfy a modest modern expectation from a very traditional story but not enough for a one hour Masterpiece Theater program. James openly tries to share his fascination with the differences from the American to the English character. You can see his outside looking in approach at this point on his writing career.

I see no reason to stop or even pause at 75. It's time to plow ahead. So far, the breadth of the works is wide indeed. I continue to work through that TBR stack as I continue to also add to it.

Oct 17, 2018, 9:49am Top

Congrats on hitting the goal!

Oct 17, 2018, 2:58pm Top

Thanks drneutron at least there was a considerable variety of books. Each book leads me to want another - something like trying to eat one peanut and failing.

Oct 17, 2018, 4:10pm Top

Starting on the next 75?
Not so fast.

76. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters by Tom Nichols

I listened to this on an audio book spoken by Sean Pratt who has performed hundreds of books.

If you do not already feel despair, this is the book for you. It will help you join the growing new sort of dropout - those who are tired of explaining established knowledge.

Our Republic assumes a knowledgeable voter. Instead we vote for the personality, as long as they are willing to bomb a cartoon country, that is.

Given up yet?

Oct 17, 2018, 6:08pm Top

Congratulations on reaching 75, Michael!

Oct 18, 2018, 6:54pm Top

Thank you FAMeulstee!

The journey was quite pleasurable. Unfortunately, the year started with illness so I got a later start.

I wish that I could say that I am reducing the TBR stack but I keep seeing more books coming faster than I can get to read - a happy dilemma.

Oct 19, 2018, 6:50pm Top

77. A Private Affair by Beppe Fenoglio

This is an interesting and seemingly easy read. However, a reread may be warranted. It places revealing short hints throughout and deftly mixes up war and romance with the emphasis on the latter. It is a very human story of a teenage longing and possible loss. Every word seems to have been carefully worked with no words left to spare. References to the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" are used effectively. On first hearing the young lady played the record 28 times. It obviously has serious literary intentions with much left to the reader. The contrasts between reality and longing are quite moving. This would be a good book for book clubs if copies were readily available.

The author himself was involved in the Italian battle as a partisan against the fascists in the 1940s and he draws on his experiences. These references seem quite authentic to this casual reader. The partisans revealed here were as young as age 13.

The book was published after the author's death at age 41. This translation was by Howard Curtis.

The Hesperus book seems to be out of print. I was able to secure a used paperback copy. Some of these paperbacks are now selling for more than $100 or much more. It seems that a reprinting is in order. Italo Calvino described it as the book of his generation. That got my attention. It was released in 1963 and seems very contemporary and not at all dated.

It is a good read that may stay with you - if only.

Oct 19, 2018, 6:52pm Top

Congrats on reaching 75!!

Oct 20, 2018, 4:45pm Top

Thanks. I hope that you are doing well with your goals.

Oct 22, 2018, 6:24pm Top

78. Conrad's Congo: Joseph Conrad's Expedition to the Congo Free State; 1890 Edited and introduced by J. H. Stape

If you have read The Heart of Darkness, this is the closest that you will get to the life and African experiences of the writer behind that remarkable and haunting book.

Included are letters from Conrad to family members and friends that in some way relate. In one to his Aunt he writes from the Congo:

"One doubts the future. For indeed - I ask myself - why should anyone believe in it? And consequently, why be sad about it."

His remarkable short story "An Outpost of Progress" about a fictional post in the Congo is included. I found it to be as powerful as The Heart of Darkness.

As a seaman, Conrad took on the Congo expedition in 1890 before it was declared a Free State. King Leopold II of Belgium had taken the Congo as his personal territory (not so much as a territory of Belgium per se) and from that tales of cruelty abounded. Although stories of slavery were written, Conrad stands out for making the world aware of the terrible situation in the Belgian Congo along with the report of Roger Casement, who Conrad had met.

Oct 26, 2018, 5:43pm Top

79. Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking

I highly recommend listening to the Audible production of this collected thoughts of the late Stephen Hawking. These remarks were intended by Stephen to be in book form and gathered and edited for this.
Even if you have the book itself, this audio book would be an enhancement. The Introduction is read by Noble Laureate Kip Thorn and the Forward is spoken by actor Eddie Redmayne. Interspersed throughout the warm reading by actor Ben Whishaw are recordings of Mr. Hawking's well known electronic voice. The book concludes with the voice of Mr. Hawking's daughter, Lucy Hawking. The whole experience is like being in the most knowing salon and listening in.

Provocative? Here are some quotes:

"My prediction is that we will know the mind of God before the end of this century."

"I believe that the future of communication is brain and computer interfaces."

"I believe that the future of education is the internet."

Sure, the discussions of black holes are beyond what we may understand but as the book concludes, in the words of Stephen Hawking "It matters that you don't just give up."

He never did.

80. Charm: The Elusive Enchantment by Joseph Epstein

This is a book that moves right along with delicious naughty examples for whatever may be considered charm. Yes, I was surprised to find this new book such a guilty pleasure. Don't tell.

Oct 29, 2018, 7:09pm Top

81. The Nun by Denis Diderot

This is quite an interesting book. It is also known under the French title La Religieuse.

It started out as a sort of joke and was turned into a novel. The book reveals an understanding of conventions within a convent. Diderot's sister herself entered the convent. Probably for his own safety, it was not published until after his death. It would have only increased his imprisonment. The book has someway been made into a couple of films (not the recent horror film).

If you have ever been taught by nuns, you may recognize or imagine some variation of this in a nightmare the night before an algebra test. At this time being forced against one's will into a convent must have aggravated the conditions tremendously.

The language as presented in this translation by Leonard Tamcock seems quite contemporary although the views represented are not, at least not yet again. The author only on occasion interjects his analysis and viewpoint. Otherwise, he lets the story carry the momentum. There was indeed an actual case of a nun requesting through the system to be let out of her vows during Diderot's time.

This co-editor and founder of the Encyclopedie was a key figure in the French Enlightenment.

Edited: Oct 31, 2018, 2:11pm Top

82. The Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca by Emily Wilson

Yes, this is the same Emily Wilson who translated the much acclaimed The Odyssey. I have not yet had the pleasure of reading that but I do have a copy in the TBR stack.

This history of Seneca is to also be highly recommended. The subject itself is fascinating. He rose from a sound family in Southern Spain at Cordoba where I and so many have toured the magnificent Mosque there. Although the family was well educated the elder Seneca brought up Seneca (the Younger) and his two brothers in this Roman Province far from Rome itself. The story of the rise of Seneca to prominence in influence to Nero and Seneca's fall from grace and life is a dramatic and not untypical arc of famous historical figures.

This book is accessible to a general reader and yet, I feel confident in the historical validity of the text. In reading this on the Kindle, I appreciate the easy click to the Notes. Hillary Mantel could not have written a more compelling book as one of her historical fictions. Take courage and open the first pages and you will move forward with confidence.

83. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Well it is Halloween you know. Fortunately, I snagged one of the 300 copies of this gem of a book published by Centipede Press. It sold out in less than 24 hours even though the price was raised during those hours.

Here is a look.

Nov 12, 2018, 2:13am Top

"The aesthetic vision of a dandy should be bounded by his own mirror."

84. The Works of Max Beerbohm (p. 10). Kindle Edition.

So says Max Beerbohm when discussing/displaying his envy for Beau Brummell. The age of the dandy was upon him. Snip Sniff. Three hours it took to ready himself to present an art in itself and not much more. Stop.

Why can't I be more like him, but then he didn't end up so well, did he? You get the picture?

Edited: Nov 14, 2018, 12:25pm Top

85. Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America by Seth Abramson

I am posting this now although I have only reached the halfway point of the Audible version because of the impact and urgency of the subject. The length is nearly 14 hours. This book was just released a couple of days ago and I had pre-ordered it. I anticipate completing this yet today.

The author has a well followed Twitter account with postings of current developments. The writer is a former defense attorney and when pertinent, he quotes precise legal citations. The reported developments have been massive and come fast but as absorbed from day to day, it has been easy to lose sight of a pattern or way of doing business.

Like others, I have accumulated my own Trump Tower stack of books. This one stands out of them all so far. It does an amazing job of meticulous gathering and putting in clear language the reporting of the allegations of Russian influence.

This could also be a weakness depending on the reader's view of the existence of "fake news."

I would strongly recommend this detailed survey. I would anticipate a robust set of criticism. However, it is here to read and digest for your own judgement.

Edited: Nov 19, 2018, 4:36am Top

86. Patriot or Traitor: The Life and Death of Sir Walter Ralegh by Anna Beer

This book deserves a wide audience. If you are interested in history this book should enlarge your understanding of the Elizabethan period. If you enjoy historical fiction, this book is so well written that you may need to be reminded that this stays closely to documented facts.

In modern times, we remain fascinated with Elizabeth I. How did she keep so much power as a single woman? How did she maintain that power for so long even with the challenge of Mary, Queen of Scots?

There are many historical works about Elizabeth and historical fiction and romances abound. One way to get a better understanding is looking at the period through the lens of another closely related figure.

This certainly brings Sir Walter Raleigh to the forefront. We love to be along for an adventure of a rags to riches story. Although Raleigh was certainly not from rags, he did climb to the top of a dangerous mountain of royalty and then fell violently to a dramatic end. That is a description of a model for the modern reader. Indeed, the subtitle "Life and Death" is reversed when the book grabs your attention with the death of Raleigh.

It reads like a Hillary Mantel historical fiction but is very cautious to remain consciously disciplined to the expectations of a documented history book.

I am adding this note. I see that this book is the new cover story for the Dec. 2018 edition of the BBC History magazine!

Nov 21, 2018, 4:49pm Top

As my mind wanders in anticipation of our first grandchild yet this week, a surreal dream-like reread seemed to fit. What kind of a world is a new person facing?

87. Inside the Head of Bruno Schulz by Maxim Biller

The book reflects on the memory and writings of Bruno Schulz. Schulz was famously shot by a Nazi while holding a loaf of bread who was bearing a grudge against Schulz. This was in a film but I do not recall the title.

The novella by Biller floats in and out of a basement apartment. The protagonist, like Schulz, was a teacher. The book gently slips into the surreal world with touches of political menace and violence.

Contained in the book are two pieces of the very few that survived by Schulz himself. They are "Birds" and "Cinnamon Shops." These are both internally reflective and may have been a recurring dream. The language captivates the reader. The translation was done by Anthea Bell.

Edited: Nov 29, 2018, 2:46pm Top

88. Stephen Fry's Victorian Secrets by Stephen Fry
This is an Audible only production.

Oh Stephen, I thought better of you. Maybe he could could consider returning to QI.

89. I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Nietzsche by Sue Prideaux

This is a new and acclaimed visit with Friedrich Nietzsche. For many years, we have seen him through his Nazi sister, Elizabeth, who personified "fake news." Using more widely researched materials, we get a broader view of this remarkable man.

Whatever restraints that you may have when choosing a book, this is one worth an extra stretch.

"Belief in “the higher swindle” that is religion, and that includes belief in the ideal, is in danger of being replaced by a blind belief in science which, through its promise of certainty, is becoming elevated to the status of religion. The man who wishes to attain freedom of spirit must apply analytical and critical interpretation to religion, science and the ideal. Free spirits of this kind do not yet exist but one day they will...Wanderers upon the earth, they know themselves as travelers to a final destination that does not exist. But this does not blight their lives; on the contrary, their liberation lies in taking pleasure in uncertainty and in transience; they welcome the mysteries of every new dawn for the evolution of thought that it will bring."

This was during his attraction to Voltaire's work. These are interesting thoughts from the son of a dedicated Lutheran Minister. I wish that I could leave a more extended quote just from this same page of this wonderful book but the author must be respected.

The many sections on his relationship with Wagner is worth the price of the book. Nietzsche was a frustrated musician which is almost as debilitating as actually being one.

This has set me upon seeking the author's other biographies. One is on Edvard Munch and the other on Strindberg. She cannot be accused of studying simple people!

Nov 26, 2018, 12:30am Top

Some great and varied reading here as always Michael.

Trust that your Thanksgiving Weekend went off splendidly.

Nov 26, 2018, 12:29pm Top

Thanks so much Paul. We are awaiting our first grandchild this week.

I hope that you enjoyed some good family time!

Nov 28, 2018, 1:06pm Top

Do you buy used books? What do those reveal? What will happen to your own books bought new? What are you leaving to the future from your books? What can we learn from libraries of ancient writers?
Science is revealing proteins left on ancient books. What did the writer eat? What disease was present? What else may be revealed from these proteins?


Nov 30, 2018, 3:45pm Top

90. The Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Neitzsche

This edition contains an extensive and helpful essay by Nietzsche's brother and commentary added in later years by Nietzsche himself.

"Accordingly, the man susceptible to art stands in the same relation to the reality of dreams as the philosopher to the reality of existence; he is a close and willing observer, for from these pictures he reads the meaning of life, and by these processes he trains himself for life."

The warring conflicts of what Freud calls the id with his concept of the super ego bright forth from the Greek sons gives us the angst of the modern man. Trying to meld art and science as an aspiring philosopher breeds difficulties.

The book is dedicated to Wagner. Nietzsche may want to take that back.

Dec 8, 2018, 11:09pm Top

91. The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg

This is a book published from the specialized fine literature publisher in London: The Peirene Press. They release three new books a year of modern European translated books generally under 200 pages. The intent is for the time reading a book is similar to the time of viewing a film. All of the paperback books are printed in good quality paper with French style covers. A portion of every book goes to Basmeh and Zeitooneh, a charity devoted to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

From my order of six books from them, this is my first exposure to their fine books. Maybe I just got lucky (very lucky) or perhaps the series quality is at this high level.

This Finnish book is worthy of being shelved with Faulkner and Steinbeck. There is a sense of foreboding throughout. It is not often when the characters, setting and story are blended this strongly. I strongly recommend this book.

Dec 10, 2018, 4:59pm Top

92. Shatila Stories with nine refugee writers

Sharia is a refugee camp in Lebanon that was haunted with about 3,000 divided Palestinian refugees. Now another 30,000 Syrian refugees have joined them. The deplorable conditions are well described in this book.

It is based on an ambitious three day writers clinic held in the camp. Follow up communications were added. Refugees were invited at first reluctantly to tell their stories. The goal was to fictionalized and combine these stories into a coherent narrative by the Peirene Press. A few pictures are in the book showing the conditions of the camp.

The concept could have been almost too grim to read. However, maybe knowing this as fiction aids the reader to pick it up. Indeed, the short chapters almost carry the reader along in a suspension of time. The details of life in the camp are gripping.

The book can be read in a single sitting.

The contrived novelizing (am I inventing a word?) does seem abrupt at times but the overall effect is a riveting read and a noble effort.

Dec 12, 2018, 6:22pm Top

93. Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe

This is a novella closely following the history of renowned 17th century Chinese painter Bada Shanren. He was born as a Prince in the Ming dynasty but entered the monastery as a monk when the Manchus invaded. He changed his name many times but those are clearly stated in the book. The book has 11 reproductions of his paintings and they are indeed elegant. I wish that these reproductions were done in a better quality.

The writing was translated from the German. So we have a western writer writing about this period using a sort of meditative poetic style trying to reflect the times. It seems a bit forced to me. The descriptions of the paintings were tiresome.

Dec 16, 2018, 8:23pm Top

94. Hi Bob with Bob Newhart

This is a thrown together effort but the charm and niceness of Bob Newhart pulls us through.

Dec 18, 2018, 2:09pm Top

95. Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

I read this in a clever new Folio Society edition. The booklet within the story is inserted as an actual cheaply reproduced booklet as described.

Here is some insight on Hesse. https://www.newstatesman.com/2018/12/Hermann-hesse-Wanderer-Shadow-Gunnar-Decker-review

Dec 24, 2018, 3:09am Top

96. People Like Me by Lynn Ruane

I am having trouble getting to turn in because this book is so compelling. I have this as a signed copy.

Senator Ruane is a real mover and shaker in Irish politics. Her life story at such a relatively young age is just her first volume of a life still being lived robustly. Having lived through terrible years of drugs, dropping out of school, early pregnancies and crime, she went on to return to school and graduate from Trinity College and get elected to the Irish Senate in part representing Dublin College.

The book tells of the family shock and death of her close friend at an early age. The descriptions of growing up in contemporary Dublin are powerful.

She is a member of my extended family, some of whom (mentioned in her book) are now visiting us in the United States.

Dec 24, 2018, 3:16am Top

97. Everything That I Know About Football by Dorothy Byers

This hardcover book was written for my father-in-law by my mother-in-law. The pages are blank.

Dec 25, 2018, 3:11am Top

Happy holidays, Michael.

Dec 25, 2018, 9:34pm Top

Thank you Paul and the best wishes for you and your family!

Dec 26, 2018, 11:39am Top

98. The Cut by Anthony Cartwright

This is described as a Brexit novel. The Peirene Press Editor commissioned this book because "The result of the EU referendum shocked me. I realized that I have been living in one part of a divided country."

This story is just starting and the divisions are getting wider and were indirectly referenced in the Queen's Christmas message. The book was published in 2017.

Dec 30, 2018, 9:24pm Top

99. Breach by Olumide Popoola and Annie Holmes

Again with the raging debate augmented with stubborn silence about immigration, we have another book of stories trying to use fiction to ironically bring us closer to the non-fictional story that isn't getting told. How a refugee gets somewhere is by it's nature complex and lengthy - too long to explain in a typical 4-6minute cable television "news" segment. With little patience, the audience is left with competing slogans at best. Why does a family pack up and move to an often unclear destination? What are they looking for? What right do they have to cross a national border? Is the refugee situation just a cover for the usual criminal element? What, if anything, do they offer to a receiving country? How do the countries handle refugees in transit? Who is responsible for feeding them and for how long?

These eight stories try to look into the minds of refugees and those who encounter them. One story in particular "The Terrier" took one lady taking in borders for her two room family farm homestead bed and breakfast and brought in her "guests." The government agency paid a nominal fee to house these children who did not necessarily want to stay in the home instead of their "Jungle" of a deplorable camp in Calais. You have a prescription for conflict that really brings the dilemma into focus.

The two authors, writing four stories each after visiting the so very real Calais camp with people intending to go to live in England. Look no greater distance to find the heart or heartlessness of Brexit.

The refugee literature though generally avoids the political motivations and chaos stimulating people to flee their homelands. Maybe these deeper one person at a time looks will actually start a more comprehensive discussion of a world disrupted.

Dec 31, 2018, 12:34pm Top

Dec 31, 2018, 3:15pm Top

I am closing in on this one. Book number 100 for 2018!
It looks like I have about 70 pages left with this Danish Murder mystery. There is still plenty of time I am telling myself.

Dec 31, 2018, 6:16pm Top

100. The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul

This 2009 Danish mystery won the Danske Banks Litteraturpris Litterary Prize and was translated into English in 2012. Like the craze for Danish mysteries such as the television series that never seemed to have a settled ending, this book is an example.

What exactly did I just read?

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2018

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