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dchaikin part 3

This is a continuation of the topic dchaikin in spring (and then some).

Club Read 2014

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1dchaikin
Edited: Jan 1, 2015, 12:12am Top

Currently Reading:


- The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy (started Dec 26)
- All Joy and No Fun : The Paradox of Modern Parenthood (Audio) by Jennifer Senior, read by the author (started Dec 18)
- Poetry October 2014 - (started Dec 12)

Recently Read


Favorites from this year
....

Newsworthy books read this year


Old threads: 2009 Part 1, 2009 Part 2, 2010 Part 1, 2010 Part 2, 2011 Part 1, 2011 Part 2, 2012 Part 1, 2012 Part 2, 2013 Part 1, 2013 Part 2, 2013 Part 3, 2014 Part 1, 2014 Part 2

2dchaikin
Edited: Dec 25, 2014, 6:54pm Top

Books Read in 2014
(links go to the correct post on this thread.)

DECEMBER

77. 12.25 MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman (read Dec 11-25)
76. 12.18 A Tale for the Time Being (Audio) by Ruth L. Ozeki, read by the author (Listend Nov 20 to Dec 18)
75. 12.17 The Book of Proverbs (Read Dec 1-17)
74. 12.15 Little Failure: A Memoir (Audio) by Gary Shteyngart, read by Jonathan Todd Ross (listened Dec 4-15)
73. 12.12 Poetry September 2014 - (Read Dec 1-12)
72. 12.10 Maus II : A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman (Read Dec 7-10)
71. 12.06 Maus I : A Survivors Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman (Read Dec 2-6)

NOVEMBER

70. 11.30 The View from Castle Rock : stories by Alice Munro (Read Nov 16-30)
69. 11.26 The Paris Review 84 Summer 1982 (Read Oct 25 - Nov 26)
68. 11.19 The Chinese in America : A Narrative History (Audio) by Iris Chang, read by Jade Wu (Listened Oct 29-Nov 19)
67. 11.17 The Book of Psalms : A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter (read Mar 10 to Nov 17)
66. 11.16 Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (Read Nov 9-16)
65. 11.09 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (read Nov 1-9)

OCTOBER

64. 10.31 Indonesia Etc. : Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth Pisani (read Oct 19-31)
63. 10.29 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Audio) by Sherman Alexie, read by the author (listened Oct 27-29)
62. 10.27 The Swerve : How the World Became Modern (Audio) by Stephen Greenblatt, read by Edoardo Ballerini (Listened Oct 17-27)
61. 10.24 The Paris Review 208, Spring 2014 (Read Aug 17 - Oct 24)
60. 10.18 Evening Is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan (Read Sep 28 - Oct 18)
59. 10.16 The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Audio) by Michelle Alexander, read by Karen Chilton (Listened Oct 6-16)
58. 10.10 When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant (re-read, Read Oct 4-10)
57. 10.06 Bonnie Prince Charlie (Audio) by Carolly Erickson, read by Steven Crossley (Listened Sep 23 - Oct 6)

SEPTEMBER

56. 09.29 Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli (Read Sep 25-29)
55. 09.25 A Short History of Malaysia : Linking East and West by Virginia Matheson Hooker (Read Sep 14-25)
54. 09.23 A More Perfect Heaven : How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos (Audio) by Dava Sobel, read by Suzanne Toren Fernandez (Listened Sep 17-23)
53. 09.18 Archipelago : The Islands of Indonesia : From the Nineteenth-Century Discoveries of Alfred Russel Wallace to the Fate of Forests and Reefs in the Twenty-First Century by Gavan Daws & Marty Fujita (read Sep 6-18)
52. 09.16 The Garden of Evening Mists (Audio) by Tan Twan Eng, read by Anna Bentinck (Listened Sep 2 - 16)
51. 09.12 A History of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei by Constance Mary Turnbull (Read Aug 30 - Sep 12)
50. 09.02 A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (Audio) by Stacy Schiff, read by Susan Denaker (Listened Aug 4 - Sep 2)

AUGUST

49. 08.30 We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (read Aug 25-30)
48. 08.24 The Liars' Club by Mary Karr (Read Aug 15-24)
47. 08.16 Granta 127: Japan (Read July 23 - Aug 16)
46. 08.14 The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (Read Aug 13-14)

3dchaikin
Edited: Aug 25, 2014, 12:43pm Top

Books Read in 2014 - Continued
(links go to my part 2 thread)

AUGUST

45. 08.13 The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler (Read Aug 4-13)
44. 08.03 This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (Read July 22 - Aug 3)

JULY

43. 07.31 The Planets (Audio) by Dava Sobel, read by Lorna Raver (Listened July 28-31)
42. 07.25 Being Wrong : Adventures in the Margin of Error (Audio) by Kathryn Schulz, read by Mia Barron (Listened July 10-25)
41. 07.22 Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky (read July 9-22)
40. 07.20 Poetry July/August 2014 (Read July 9-20)
39. 07.11 The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman, used an audio version for the first half, read by Nadia May (Listened/Read May 28 - July 11)

JUNE

38. 06.28 Poetry June 2014: Volume 204, Number 3 (read June 16-28)
37. 06.27 My Life as a Traitor (Audio) by Zarah Ghahramani with Robert Hillman, read by Marjanne Doree (Listened June 18-27)
36. 06.18 A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship, and Survival (Audio) by Caroline Moorehead, read by Wanda McCaddon (Listened June 6-18)
35. 06.14 Webster Review : Volume Twelve, Number two (Fall 1987) (Read May 28 - June 14)
34. 06.06 Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones (Read May 29 - June 6)

MAY

33. 05.28 The Linen Way by Melissa Green (Read May 23-28)
32. 05.28 "What Do YOU Care What Other People Think?" : Further Adventures of a Curious Character (Audio) by Richard P. Feynman, as told to Ralph Leighton, read by Raymond Todd (Read May 20-28)
31. 05.23 The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (Read May 18-23)
30. 05.19 Anne Frank Remembered : The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family (Audio) by Miep Gies & Alison Leslie Gold, read by Barbara Rosenblat (Listened May 6-19)
29. 05.17 A Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev (Read May 9-17)
28. 05.07 New Letters, Volume 80 No. 1, 2013-14 (Read Mar 27 - May 7)
27. 05.05 Moonwalking with Einstein : The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Audio) by Joshua Foer, read by Mike Chamberlain (Listened Apr 23 - May 6)
26. 05.03 The Hunter by Julia Leigh (Read Apr 28 - May 3)

APRIL

25. 04.26 Reading the Lines : A Fresh Look at the Hebrew Bible by Pamela Tamarkin Reis (Read Mar 27 - Apr 26)
24. 04.23 The Universe in a Nutshell (Audio) by Stephen W. Hawking, read by Simon Prebble (Listened Apr 20-23)
23. 04.19 The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (read Apr 12-19)
22. 04.19 Blood and Thunder : An Epic of the American West (Audio) by Hampton Sides, read by Don Leslie (Listened Apr 2-19)
21. 04.01 About Alice (Audio) by Calvin Trillin, read by author (Listened Apr 1)

MARCH

20. 03.31 Incognito : The Secret Lives of the Brain (Audio) by David Eagleman, read by author (Listened Mar 23-31)
19. 03.27 Writing Down the Bones : Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (Read Mar 15-27)
18. 03.26 The Paris Review 207, Winter 2013 (Read Feb 28 - Mar 26)
17. 03.23 The Wave : In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (Audio) by Susan Casey, read by Kirsten Potter (Listened Mar 11-23)
16. 03.13 Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper (Juvenile Fiction, Read Mar 8-13)
15. 03.10 Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Audio CD) by Michael Moss, narrated by Scott Brick (Listened Jan 29 - Mar 10)

4dchaikin
Edited: Aug 25, 2014, 12:14pm Top

Books Read in 2014 - Continued
(links go to my part 1 thread)

MARCH

14. 03.08 People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (Read Feb 28- Mar 8)
13. 03.04 Just Write: Here's How! by Walter Dean Myers (Read Feb 21 - Mar 4)

FEBRUARY

12. 02.28 The Book of Job (Read Feb 10-28)
11. 02.28 Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Audio) by Sheri Fink, read by Kirsten Potter (Listened Feb 3-28)
10. 02.26 Stories from the Country of Lost Borders by Mary Hunter Austin (Read Feb 15 - 26)
9. 02.15 Granta 125 (Read Jan 21 - Feb 15)
8. 02.14 A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz (Read Jan 19 - Feb 14)
-- 02.05 The Book of Ester (Read Feb 3-5)

JANUARY

7. 01.31 The Early Life and Times of Max Hanold by Howard Leff (Read Jan 24-31)
6. 01.29 Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild (Audio CD) by Lee Sandlin, read by Jeff McCarthy (Listened Jan 17-29)
5. 01.20 Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas (read Sep 5 - Jan 20)
     - Notes are on my old thread here & here, and on this thread here & here
4. 01.19 Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings (juvenile fiction, Read Jan 18-19)
-- 01.17 The Book of Judith (Read Jan 14-17)
3. 01.15 The History of Science (Audo CD) by Peter Whitfield, read by the author (Listened Jan 3-15)
-- 01.14 The Book of Tobit (Read Jan 12-14)
-- 01.12 The Book of Nehemiah (Read Jan 1-12)
2. 01.12 One Summer: America, 1927 (Audio CD) by Bill Bryson, read by the author (Listened Dec 10- Jan 12)
1. 01.11 My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (Read Jan 6-11)

5dchaikin
Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 7:20pm Top

Short Stories, Essays, and the like

95. 12.11 Francine J. Harris - The Brother - essay on loss, response to Michael Brown, Poetry September 2014
94. 12.11 Lesley Wheeler - Undead Eliot: How "The Waste Land" Sounds Now - essay, Poetry September 2014
93. 12.10 Douglas Kearney - Freedom of Shadow: A Tribute to Terry Adkins - essay on graphic design art poetry, Poetry September 2014
92. 11.26 Edmund White - The Secret Order of Joy - short story, from future novel A Boy's Own Story, Paris Review 84
91. 11.25 James Merrill - The Art of Poetry XXXI James Merrill - interviewed by J. D. McClatchy, Paris Review 84
90. 11.15 Norman Rush - Lying Presences - short story, Paris Review 84
89. 11.05 Archibald MacLeish - The Selected Letters of Archibald MacLeish - edited by Roy H. Winnick, Paris Review 84
88. 11.03 William Ferguson - A Summer at Estabrook - short story, Paris Review 84
87. 10.28 Philip Larkin - The Art of Poetry No. 30 - interviewed by Robert Phillips, Paris Review 84
86. 10.25 T. Coraghessan Boyle - Greasy Lake - short story, Paris Review 84
85. 10.25 Evan Connell - A Visit with Evan Connell - interviewed by Gemme Sieff, Paris Review 208
84. 10.24 Bill Cotter - The Window Lion - short story, Paris Review 208
83. 09.27 Rachel Cusk - Outline: Part 2 - part 2 of 4 of Cusk’s forthcoming novel, Paris Review 208
82. 09.04 Zadie Smith - Miss Adele Admidst the Corsets - short story, Paris Review 208
81. 09.02 Ben Lerner - Specimen Days - short story(?), Paris Review 208
80. 08.25 Matthew Weiner - The Art of Screenwriting No. 4, interviewed by Semi Chellas - Paris review 208
79. 08.21 Luke Mogelson - To the Lake, short story - Paris Review 208
78. 08.18 Adam Phillips - The Art of Nonfiction No. 7, interviewed by Paul Holdengräber - Paris Review 208
77. 08.16 Tomoyuki Hoshino – Pink - translated from Japanese by Brian Bergstrom - short story, Granta 127
76. 08.16 Rebecca Solnit - Arrival Gates - personal essay, Granta 127
75. 08.16 Yukiko Motoya - The Dogs - translated from Japanese by Asa Yoneda - short story, Granta 127
74. 08.12 Adam Johnson - Scavengers - personal essay, Granta 127
73. 08.11 David Peace - After the War, Before the War: Ryūnosuke Akutagawa on The Bridge of Nine Turnings, in Shanghai, in 1921 - fictional biography, Granta 127
72. 08.11 Toh EnJoe – Printable - translated from Japanese by David G. Boyd - short story, Granta 127
71. 08.08 Andrés Felipe Solano - Pig Skin - translated from Spanish by Nick Caistor - short story, Granta 127
70. 08.07 Pico Iyer - The Beauty of the Package - personal essay, Granta 127
69. 08.06 Hiroko Oyamada - Spider Lilies - translated from Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter - short story, Granta 127
68. 08.04 Hiromi Kawakami - Blue Moon - translated from Japanese by Lucy North - Personal Essay (?), Granta 127
67. 08.04 Tao Lin - Final Fantasy III – Personal Essay(?), Granta 127
66. 08.03 Ann Patchett - The Mercies - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
65. 08.03 Ann Patchett - Dog without End - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
64. 08.02 Ann Patchett - Our Deluge, Drop by Drop - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
63. 08.02 Ann Patchett - This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
62. 08.01 Ann Patchett - The Bookstore Strikes Back - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
61. 08.01 Ann Patchett - Love Sustained - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
60. 08.01 Ann Patchett - Introduction to The Best American Short Stories 2006 - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
59. 08.01 Ann Patchett - Do Not Disturb - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
58. 07.31 Kyoko Nakajima - Things Remembered and Things Forgotten - translated by Ian M. Macdonald, Granta 127
57. 07.30 Ann Patchett - The Right to Read - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
56. 07.30 Ann Patchett - “The Love Between Two Women Is Not Normal” - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
55. 07.30 Ruth Ozeki – Linked – Personal essay, Granta 127
54. 07.29 David Mitchell - Variations on a Theme by Mister Donut – short story, Granta 127
53. 07.29 Ann Patchett - My Life in Sales - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
52. 07.29 Ann Patchett - Fact vs. Fiction - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
51. 07.29 Ann Patchett - The Wall - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
50. 07.28 Ann Patchett - On Responsibility - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
49. 07.28 Ann Patchett - Tennessee - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
48. 07.28 Ann Patchett - My Road to Hell Was Paved - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
47. 07.27 Ann Patchett - The Best Seat in the House - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
46. 07.27 Ann Patchett - This Dog’s Life - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
45. 07.27 Ann Patchett - The Paris Match - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
44. 07.27 Ann Patchett - The Sacrament of Divorce - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
43. 07.27 Toshiki Okada - Breakfast - translated from Japanese by Michael Emmerich - short story, Granta 127
42. 07.26 Ann Patchett - The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
41. 07.23 Sayaka Murata - A Clean Marriage - translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori - short story, Granta 127
40. 07.22 Ann Patchett - Nonfiction, an Introduction - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
39. 07.22 Ann Patchett - How to Read a Christmas Story - essay from This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
38. 07.20 Rickey Laurentiis - Kinds of Dark - essay, Poetry, July/August 2014 e-version exclusive.
37. 07.19 Dorothea Lasky - What Is Color in Poetry: Or Is It the Wild Wind in the Space of the Word - essay, Poetry, July/August 2014
36. 06.14 D. J. Durnam - I Know Some Things - short story, Webster Review v12.2
35. 06.11 Bo Caldwell- What People Say to Babies - short story, Webster Review v12.2
34. 06.10 Barbara Esstman - Choices - short story, Webster Review v12.2
33. 05.06 Philip Gerard - Why Are You Telling Me This? An Essay on the Writers Craft
 - New Letters v80.1
32. 05.06 Gladys Swan - Menial Work
 - short story, New Letters v80.1
31. 05.02 Lewis Ellingham - Robert is Waiting
 - essay, New Letters v80.1
30. 04.27 Elisabeth Kirsch - Tony Naponic, introduction to the art
 - essay, New Letters v80.1
29. 04.27 Tony Naponic - Whispering
 - single page short story, New Letters v80.1
28. 04.27 Dave Smith - When Bird Dogs Roamed the Earth - essay
, New Letters v80.1
27. 04.20 Paula Streeter - Angels and Animales
 - essay, New Letters v80.1
26. 04.04 Brian Doyle - Elson Habib, Playing Black, Ponders the End Game - fiction, New Letters v80.1
25. 03.30 Edward Hoagland - Hippies and Beats - personal essay, New Letters v80.1
24. 03.26 Lydia Davis - The Seals - short story, Paris Review 207
23. 03.23 Rachel Cusk - Outline: Part 1 - part 1 of 4 of Cusk’s forthcoming novel, Paris Review 207
22. 03.23 Geraldine Brooks - Chronicles : The Book of Exodus : A double rescue in wartime Sarajevo - essay, the true story behind her novel People of the Book, The New Yorker, Dec 3, 2007. Link to PDF here
21. 03.18 Richard B. Sewall - The Book of Job - a chapter in The Vision of Tragedy
20. 03.17 Edward P. Jones - The Art of Fiction No. 222, interviewed by Hilton Als - Paris Review 207
19. 03.17 Maria Popova - How the Invention of the Alphabet Usurped Female Power in Society and Sparked the Rise of Patriarchy in Human Culture - essay on The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Shlain. Link here.
18. 03.15 Nell Freudenberger - Hover - fiction, The Paris Review 207
17. 03.14 Andrew Solomon - The Reckoning: The father of the Sandy Hook killer searches for answers. - nonfiction, The New Yorker, under the section "Annals of Psychology". Link here
16. 03.08 J. D. Daniels - Empathy - fiction, The Paris Review 207
15. 03.07 Geoff Dyer - The Art of Nonfiction No. 6, interviewed by Matthew Specktor - The Paris Review 207
14. 03.06 Jenny Offill - Magic and Dread - Fiction, The Paris Review 207
13. 02.28 Ottessa Moshfegh - A Dark and Winding Road - short story, 11 pages, The Paris Review 207
12. 02.26 Mary Hunter Austin - Lost Borders - 110 page collection of essays on the California desert, published 1909, Stories from the Country of Lost Borders
11. 02.20 Mary Hunter Austin - The Land of Little Rain - 150 page collection of essays on the California desert, published 1903, Stories from the Country of Lost Borders
10. 02.15 Hari Kunzru - Stalkers - essay on visiting Chernobyl, Granta 125
9. 02.15 Patrick French - After the War - personal essay on WWI ancestor, Granta 125
8. 02.12 Yiyun Li - From Dream to Dream - fiction about Chinese-American immigrant, Granta 125
7. 02.09 Paul Auster - You Remember the Planes - personal essay, Granta 125
6. 02.09 Aminatta Forna - 1979 - personal essay on the Iran revolution, Granta 125
5. 02.08 Herta Müller - Always the Same Snow and Always the Same Uncle - personal essay, Granta 125
4. 02.05 A.L. Kennedy - Late in Life - fiction, Granta 125
3. 02.02 Thomas McGuane - Crow Fair - fiction, Granta 125
2. 01.23 Romesh Gunesekera - Mess - fiction in post-civil war Sri Lanka, Granta 125
1. 01.21 Lindsey Hilsum - The Rainy Season - Non-fiction essay on Rwanda Genocide, Granta 125

6dchaikin
Edited: Dec 24, 2014, 10:27pm Top

A list of poets read:

DECEMBER

Poetry October 2014 - Leontia Flynn, Kathryn Simmonds, Mir Mahfuz Ali, Colette Bryce, Liz Berry (Dec 12), Ruby Robinson, Matthew Francis, Julian Stannard (Dec 14), Hugo Williams, Caleb Klaces, Hannah Lowe, Claire Trévien (Dec 17), Tim Wells (Dec 18), John Wilkinson, Pascale Petit, David Harsent, James Brookes, Rory Waterman (Dec 19-22), Sophie Collins, Martin Monahan (Dec 24)
Poetry September 2014 - John Ashberry (Dec 1, and still Ashberry's poems made no sense), Henri Cole, Catherine Field, Sylvia Legris, Rowan Ricardo Phillips (Dec 2-5), John Koethe*, Francine J. Harris, D. Nurkse, Alli Warren (Dec 6), Arthur Vogelsang, Robert Fernandez, Dana Levin, Susan Barba, Stephen Sandy, Amy Beeder, Kay Ryan* (Dec 7), Noah Warren (Dec 9)

NOVEMBER

Paris Review 84 - Hugh Seidman, Adam LeFevre (Nov 1), Harvey Shapiro, Charles Fowler (Nov 2), Mark Halliday (Nov 7), Robert Phillips (Nov 8), Wendy Salinger (Nov 9), John Morgan, David Lehman (Nov 10), Stephen Sandy, George Bradley, Charles Simic (Nov 24), Lisel Mueller, James Merrill (Nov 25)

OCTOBER

Paris Review 208 - Nick Laird (Oct 24)
Paris Review 84 - Daniel Halpern, Michel Deguy (translated from French by Raymond Federman), Tom Disch (Oct 27)

SEPTEMBER

The Paris Review 208 - Geoffrey G. O'Brien (Sep 3), Carol Muske-Dukes (Sep 5)

AUGUST

The Paris Review 208 - Dorothea Lasky, Frederick Seidel, John Ashberry (Aug 31, but the Ashberry poems made no sense)

7dchaikin
Edited: Dec 25, 2014, 6:54pm Top

Various extra lists...

Normal Books Actually Read
Excluding all audio, juvenile, graphic, poetry books, bible parts, etc.
29. 12.25 MetaMaus by Art Spiegelman (read Dec 11-25)
28. 11.30 The View from Castle Rock : stories by Alice Munro (Read Nov 16-30)
27. 11.17 The Book of Psalms : A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter (read Mar 10 to Nov 17)
26. 11.16 Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (Read Nov 9-16)
25. 11.09 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (read Nov 1-9)
24. 10.31 Indonesia Etc. : Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth Pisani (read Oct 19-31)
23. 10.18 Evening Is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan (Read Sep 28 - Oct 18)
22. 09.25 A Short History of Malaysia : Linking East and West by Virginia Matheson Hooker (Read Sep 14-25)
21. 09.12 A History of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei by Constance Mary Turnbull (Read Aug 30 - Sep 12)
20. 08.30 We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (read Aug 25-30)
19. 08.24 The Liars' Club by Mary Karr (Read Aug 15-24)
18. 08.13 The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler (Read Aug 4-13)
17. 08.03 This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (Read July 22 - Aug 3)
16. 07.22 Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky (read July 9-22)
15. 07.11 The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman, used an audio version for the first half, read by Nadia May (Listened/Read May 28 - July 11)
14. 06.06 Dreams of Speaking by Gail Jones (Read May 29 - June 6)
13. 05.28 The Linen Way by Melissa Green (Read May 23-28)
12. 05.23 The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure (read May 18-23)
11. 05.17 A Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev (Read May 9-17)
10. 05.03 The Hunter by Julia Leigh (Read Apr 28 - May 3)
9. 04.26 Reading the Lines : A Fresh Look at the Hebrew Bible by Pamela Tamarkin Reis (Read Mar 27 - Apr 26)
8. 04.19 The Gift of Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (read Apr 12-19)
7. 03.27 Writing Down the Bones : Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (Read Mar 15-27)
6. 03.08 People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (Read Feb 28- Mar 8)
5. 02.26 Stories from the Country of Lost Borders by Mary Hunter Austin (Read Feb 15 - 26)
4. 02.14 A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz (Read Jan 19 - Feb 14)
3. 01.31 The Early Life and Times of Max Hanold by Howard Leff (Read Jan 24-31)
2. 01.20 Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas (Read Sep 5 - Jan 20)
1. 01.11 My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok (Read Jan 6-11)

Audio Books
27. 12.18 A Tale for the Time Being (Audio) by Ruth L. Ozeki, read by the author (Listend Nov 20 to Dec 18)
26. 12.15 Little Failure: A Memoir (Audio) by Gary Shteyngart, read by Jonathan Todd Ross (Listened Dec 4-15)
25. 11.19 The Chinese in America : A Narrative History (Audio) by Iris Chang, read by Jade Wu (Listened Oct 29-Nov 19)
24. 10.29 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Audio) by Sherman Alexie, read by the author (listened Oct 27-29)
23. 10.27 The Swerve : How the World Became Modern (Audio) by Stephen Greenblatt, read by Edoardo Ballerini (Listened Oct 17-27)
22. 10.16 The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Audio) by Michelle Alexander, read by Karen Chilton (Listened Oct 6-16)
21. 10.06 Bonnie Prince Charlie (Audio) by Carolly Erickson, read by Steven Crossley (Listened Sep 23 - Oct 6)
20. 09.23 A More Perfect Heaven : How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos (Audio) by Dava Sobel, read by Suzanne Toren Fernandez (Listened Sep 17-23)
19. 09.16 The Garden of Evening Mists (Audio) by Tan Twan Eng, read by Anna Bentinck (Listened Sep 2 - 16)
18. 09.02 A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (Audio) by Stacy Schiff, read by Susan Denaker (Listened Aug 4 - Sep 2)
17. 07.31 The Planets (Audio) by Dava Sobel, read by Lorna Raver (Listened July 28-31)
16. 07.25 Being Wrong : Adventures in the Margin of Error (Audio) by Kathryn Schulz, read by Mia Barron (Listened July 10-25)
15. 06.27 My Life as a Traitor (Audio) by Zarah Ghahramani with Robert Hillman, read by Marjanne Doree (Listened June 18-27)
14. 06.18 A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship, and Survival (Audio) by Caroline Moorehead, read by Wanda McCaddon (Listened June 6-18)
13. 05.28 "What Do YOU Care What Other People Think?" : Further Adventures of a Curious Character (Audio) by Richard P. Feynman, as told to Ralph Leighton, read by Raymond Todd (Read May 20-28)
12. 05.19 Anne Frank Remembered : The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family (Audio) by Miep Gies & Alison Leslie Gold, read by Barbara Rosenblat (Listened May 6-19)
11. 05.05 Moonwalking with Einstein : The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Audio) by Joshua Foer, read by Mike Chamberlain (Listened Apr 23 - May 6)
10. 04.23 The Universe in a Nutshell (Audio) by Stephen W. Hawking, read by Simon Prebble (Listened Apr 20-23)
9. 04.19 Blood and Thunder : An Epic of the American West (Audio) by Hampton Sides, read by Don Leslie (Listened Apr 2-19)
8. 04.01 About Alice (Audio) by Calvin Trillin, read by author (Listened Apr 1)
7. 03.31 Incognito : The Secret Lives of the Brain (Audio) by David Eagleman, read by author (Listened Mar 23-31)
6. 03.23 The Wave : In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean (Audio) by Susan Casey, read by Kirsten Potter (Listened Mar 11-23)
5. 03.10 Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Audio CD) by Michael Moss, narrated by Scott Brick (Listened Jan 29 - Mar 10)
4. 02.28 Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Audio) by Sheri Fink, read by Kirsten Potter (Listened Feb 3-28)
3. 01.29 Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin, audio book narrated by Jeff McCarthy (Listened Jan 17-29)
2. 01.15 The History of Science by Peter Whitfield, audio book narrated by author (Listened Jan 3-15)
1. 01.12 One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson, audio book narrated by author (Listened Dec 10- Jan 12)

Biblical Books
-- 12.17 The Book of Proverbs (Read Dec 1-17)
-- 11.17 The Book of Psalms (read Mar 10 to Nov 17)
-- 02.28 The Book of Job (Read Feb 10-28)
-- 02.05 The Book of Ester (Read Feb 3-5)
-- 01.17 The Book of Judith (Read Jan 14-17)
-- 01.14 The Book of Tobit (Read Jan 12-14)
-- 01.12 The Book of Nehemiah (Read Jan 1-12)

Graphic Novels
3. 12.10 Maus II : A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman (Read Dec 7-10)
2. 12.06 Maus I : A Survivors Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman (Read Dec 2-6)
1. 09.29 Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli (Read Sep 25-29)

Magazines
10. 12.12 Poetry September 2014 - (Read Dec 1-12)
9. 11.26 The Paris Review 84 Summer 1982 (Read Oct 25 - Nov 26)
8. 10.24 The Paris Review 208, Spring 2014 (Read Aug 17 - Oct 24)
7. 08.16 Granta 127: Japan (Read July 23 - Aug 16)
6. 07.20 Poetry July/August 2014 (Read July 9-20)
5. 06.28 Poetry June 2014: Volume 204, Number 3 (read June 16-28)
4. 06.14 Webster Review : Volume Twelve, Number two (Fall 1987) (Read May 28 - June 14)
3. 05.07 New Letters, Volume 80 No. 1, 2013-14 (Read Mar 27 - May 7)
2. 03.26 The Paris Review 207, Winter 2013 (Read Feb 28 - Mar 26)
1. 02.15 Granta 125 (Read Jan 21 - Feb 15)

8dchaikin
Edited: Dec 25, 2014, 8:12pm Top

Some stats:

2014
Books read: 77
Pages: 23,742
"regular books" (excluding various oddities. See post 5): 29
Formats: Hardcover 12; Paperback 18; ebooks 10; Audio 27; Lit magazines 10
Subjects in brief: Novels 17; Non-fiction 44; Poetry 7; Graphic 3; Juvenile 4; History 17; Science 11; Journalism 7; Anthology 10; Short Story Collections 8; Essay Collections 4; Classics 5; Biographies/Memoirs 26; Interviews 5
Nationalities: US 55; UK 7; Israel 5; Australia 6; Netherlands 1; Iran 1; France 1; Malaysia 2, Canada 1
Genders, m/f: 30/33
Owner: Books I own 41; Library books 35; Books I borrowed 1
Re-reads: 4
Year Published: 2010's 34; 2000's 20; 1990's 7; 1980's 9; 1970's 2; 1960's 1; 1950's 0; 1940's 1; 0-1939 0; BCE 3

"Everything"*
Books read: 702
Pages: 226,180
"regular books": 484
Formats: Hardcover 171; Paperback 417; ebooks 44; Audio 37; Lit magazines 32
Subjects in brief: Novels 186; Non-fiction 311; Poetry 51; Graphic 37; Juvenile 32; Scifi/Fantasy 63; History 123; Science 50; Journalism 55; Anthology 38; Short Story Collections 25; Essay Collections 20; Classics 49; Biographies/Memoirs 139; Interviews 9
Nationalities: US 452; Other English speaking countries 132; Other countries: 116
Genders, m/f: 478/164
Owner: Books I owned 499; Library books 140; Books I borrowed 62
Re-reads: 13
Year Published: 2010's 102; 2000's 231; 1990's 135; 1980's 93; 1970's 40; 1960's 23; 1950's 20; 1900-1949 23; 19th century 14; 18th century 0; 17th century 3; 16th century 3; 0-1499 2; BCE 13

*well, everything since I have kept track, beginning in Dec 1990

9dchaikin
Aug 25, 2014, 1:12pm Top



46. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (2006, 211 page paperback, Read August 13-14)

My 9-year-old daughter and wife suggested this. I was thoroughly charmed by the opening 50 pages about a toy rabbit who observes the world around him and thinks his own thoughts, but can't move or communicate in anyway. He just passively observes, never sleeping since his painted on eyes don't close. He evolves through the book from a subtly selfish and spoiled rabbit to one with a great deal of feeling and compassion. I thought it was exceptionally well done.

10dchaikin
Edited: Aug 25, 2014, 1:51pm Top



47. Granta 127: Japan (spring 2014, 280 pages, Read July 23 - August 16)

I was a bit intimidated by the Japanese theme, afraid it would contain a collection of odd stories that would be difficult for me to appreciate. That says something about my bias is on Japanese literature, especially since I had not previously read any Japanese literature. Anyway, the magazine is a nice collection of stories and essays by Japanese authors or on Japanese themes. There are some oddball stories, but a lot of very good stuff. I think my favorite story was by Chinese-America author Tao Lin, where asks his Chinese parents about Japanese people and watches them stumble over their answers.

Brief notes on each story or essay. My favorites have an asterisk.

Sayaka Murata - A Clean Marriage, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori - short story
Definitely odd. A couple in a sexless marriage decide to get pregnant, told by the wife.

Toshiki Okada - Breakfast, translated from Japanese by Michael Emmerich - short story
Odd applies again. This is about the break-up of a marriage. The narrator’s wife flies in to Tokyo for less than a day only to meet with her husband to end the relationship.

David Mitchell - Variations on a Theme by Mister Donut – short story
A simple story in a donut shop told from several different points of view. Mildly entertaining.

*Ruth Ozeki – Linked – Personal essay
Ozeki writes about her grandfather, who was born in Japan, emigrated to Hawaii, and then, after four years of incarceration during WWII, having lost everything, returned to Japan. Her grandfather was a serious poet who wrote haikus. After her essay, she includes several of his haikus along with her own responses, which I found it well done.

*Kyoko Nakajima - Things Remembered and Things Forgotten, translated by Ian M. Macdonald - short story
Probably my favorite short story. It’s a bit odd in style, but it’s a simple story. An older man goes with his wife to meet his senile older brother in his nursing home. Then nostalgia brings him back to the dark days after WWII, where memory doesn’t exactly match reality.

*Tao Lin - Final Fantasy III – Personal Essay(?)
The American-Chinese author asks his parents about what they like about Japan.

Hiromi Kawakami - Blue Moon, translated from Japanese by Lucy North - personal essay(?)
A haiku poet’s experiences after being diagnosed with possible terminal cancer

*Hiroko Oyamada - Spider Lilies, translated from Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter - short story
Good stuff. The narrator meets her fiance's very strange grandmother who tells her some very strange stuff about spider lilies and breast milk. It's almost believable.

Pico Iyer - The Beauty of the Package - personal essay
Iyer explores Japanese culture through the actions in a Japanese wedding he attends. He is interested in the relationship between acting out the expression of a feeling and the actually feeling.

*Andrés Felipe Solano - Pig Skin, translated from Spanish by Nick Caistor - short story
Odd and entertaining - but odd in what i would consider a non-Japanese way. A Columbian on a ferry between Korea and Japan befriends a Korean who asks for some unusual favors.

Toh EnJoe – Printable, translated from Japanese by David G. Boyd - short story
Philosophical essay of sorts that begins with the narrator translating a long, unwritten work

*David Peace - After the War, Before the War: Ryūnosuke Akutagawa on The Bridge of Nine Turnings, in Shanghai, in 1921 - fictional biography
Ryūnosuke Akutagawa was a real Japanese author and this is Peace’s fictional account of him from an incomplete novel. I found it fascinating to see a reflective Japanese point of view of Shanghai before the fighting started.

Adam Johnson, Scavengers - personal essay
About his experiences in North Korea and his curiosity in the story of a famous North Korean wrestler who was raised in and performed in Japan.

*Yukiko Motoya - The Dogs - short story
Wintering in self-chosen isolation, a woman gets attached to a pack of wild dogs, while only vaguely aware of the problems they are causing.

Rebecca Solnit - Arrival Gates - personal essay
After going to several disaster sights in Japan in some kind of work capacity, the author walks the orange gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha, a shrine in Kyoto.

*Tomoyuki Hoshino – Pink - short story
A young woman babysitting her niece during a heat wave gets caught up in communal spinning – as in spinning her body in circles. Enjoyed this, but the meaning is quite mysterious to me.

11dchaikin
Edited: Aug 25, 2014, 10:16pm Top



48. The Liars' Club by Mary Karr (1995, 326 page paperback, Read August 15-24)

To some degree I encountered a childhood memoir just like this once before, in The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (published in 2005), which leaves me to wonder if there is a literary theme of the experiences of 1960's era children of somewhat well-educated white alcoholics. I'm over simplifying, since, for example, it would be difficult to call either of Mary Karr's parents well educated even if her mother spent her life immersed in Jean Paul Sartre.

Karr's memoir is mainly about two or three exceptionally hectic years in her rather crazy childhood. She grew up in the shadow of east Texas oil refineries, where her father worked. Her mother didn't quite do anything, including keep house. Her life takes its first dramatic change when her maternal grandmother comes to live in her house while undergoing rather gruesome and eventually failed treatment for cancer. Her grandmother mans the house as a damning judge,exposing the not-normal aspects of their lives. Then, when her grandmother finally passes, Mary's mother becomes unhinged. The alcoholism exaggerates, and she goes on a several different varieties of what I might call insane binges that basically don't stop until she runs out of money. Caught in the midst of all this is Mary and her older sister, and, her alcoholic father, who gets his own character study. The Liar's Club is the small group her father hangs out with at bars to tell crazy, generally made up an exaggerated stories - stories her father excels at.

The consequences to Mary and her sister are touched on, but not explored in depth. And, despite these consequences, this is not an angry memoir. It's maybe something more of a character study of her parents, or an exploration into parents who had so much say, but gave so little about themselves away. In my 10th anniversary edition every blurb in the book talks about how funny or "hilarious" this book is, which is, I think, an odd thing to take away as it's a bitter humor. I found it sad. But it is quite fascinating - in it's character studies of her parents, in the exploration of world around Mary that she was exposed to, and in her own young response to all this.

12baswood
Aug 25, 2014, 7:27pm Top

It is strange what people can laugh at. Enjoyed your review of The Liars' Club

13mabith
Aug 25, 2014, 9:47pm Top

What people label "hilarious" is very strange. Michael Moore's movie Bowling for Columbine had a "hilarious" blurb on the front and it always really rubbed me the wrong way.

Not enjoying the bookclub books is what keeps me away from them! I ran my own non-fiction book club for a while, but it was very small, no one was finishing the books, and it was stressful to host. Now I have one online book club that gets me to read many things I wouldn't otherwise. Last year was pretty good but this year with them isn't so much. I'm trying to appreciate being out of my usual zones.

14dchaikin
Aug 25, 2014, 10:30pm Top

>12 baswood:, >13 mabith: - The book definitely has humor as part of the experience of it, I just find it odd aspect to stress independently of the cost of much of that humor. I mean the overall affect of the book is not all encapsulated by the word "hilarious".

>13 mabith: - interesting about trying to run your own book club. It seems a bit strange that it can be so hard to make a book club work.

15mabith
Aug 25, 2014, 11:15pm Top

If you have a larger group, or people who actually read the books I imagine it isn't so hard. I did reserve book-choosing for myself, so I could choose titles with a lot of discussion angles. My anxiety over it was just irrational social anxiety, and even when people hadn't read the titles we always had a nice chat, but their guilt over not finishing them caused problems and it was easier to stop.

16labfs39
Aug 26, 2014, 1:22pm Top

Thanks for taking the time to do the Granta review. I too have preconceived notions of Japanese literature, based almost entirely on Murakami, Oe, and Keiji Nakazawa. In fact, looking through my LT collection, it looks like the only other Japanese books I have read are Black Rain by Ibuse, The Housekeeper and the Professor by Ogawa, and Kamikaze by Yasuo Kuwahara, which is nonfiction. Perhaps a short story collection would be a quick way to broaden my perspective.

17Poquette
Aug 26, 2014, 3:01pm Top

Dan — I am still catching my breath after reading your various lists and statistics in >1 dchaikin: through >8 dchaikin: above! And I like the growing trend which you have adopted to display the covers of books on the current reading list. Very nice thread . . .

18dchaikin
Aug 27, 2014, 12:07am Top

>15 mabith: hoping you current group finds a way to work out better. As for the irrational social anxiety - I understand.

>16 labfs39: Lisa - I'm always nervous with short story collections, as you end up very dependent on the tastes of editor, but other than that concern it's probably a great idea. This Granta issue worked nicely for me...I actually wish it was longer because it was the right mix of stories.

>17 Poquette: thanks Suzanne. I'm addicted to these lists...and I keep wanting to add more.

19labfs39
Aug 27, 2014, 1:10pm Top

My usual mantra is The longer the book the better, as I have a penchant for historical detail. But since it's unlikely that I will read a slew of Japanese novels any time soon, I thought short stories might help me broaden my outlook quickly. But then again I did buy a few novels when Rebecca and others were doing a Japanese theme read. I have Sun and Steel and Confessions of a Mask by Mishima, Woman in the Dunes by Abe, and Silence by Endo sitting on my shelves unread.

20JDHomrighausen
Aug 29, 2014, 2:55pm Top

Hi Dan -- looking forward to Psalms Sep 1st. Also, are we getting to minor prophets any time soon?

21detailmuse
Aug 29, 2014, 3:32pm Top

Glad to be catching up just when you review The Liar's Club, you make me want to get to it soon.

22dchaikin
Aug 29, 2014, 9:40pm Top

>19 labfs39: I held off buying any Japanese authors then, just read the reviews which left a lot to think about. Those four books sound good.

>20 JDHomrighausen: I think I had planned to do proverbs after psalms, with minor prophets coming near the end - somehow I think we were following KJV order. Any advice on a book to get me motivated to actually enjoy the psalms?

>21 detailmuse: I would recommend The Liars' Club to you. Glad you caught up and hope I can return the favor.

23lilisin
Aug 29, 2014, 10:29pm Top

19 -
I'm one of those passionate about Japanese literature which is why I created the Japanese theme read and yet Sun and Steel is one of only two Japanese books I've ever abandoned. Despite being short I found it to be a slog.

24labfs39
Edited: Aug 29, 2014, 11:02pm Top

>23 lilisin: Hmm, I'll hold off on that one then...

ETA: I'm curious, what was the other?

25lilisin
Aug 29, 2014, 11:54pm Top

24 -
The other was a book called Shot by Both Sides by Meisei Goto. Interesting premise, poorly done in my opinion. Unfortunate.

26RidgewayGirl
Aug 30, 2014, 5:35am Top

The Granta issue on Japan sounds fascinating. I love the Grantas, but they tend to stack up alarmingly if I allow myself to pick up any that look interesting (i.e. all of them). I have a few unread ones, and I don't think I even brought them with me to Germany (I only brought 500 books, which the movers were still quite bitter and vengeful about.)

I read The Liars Club a year or so ago and I'm still thinking about it, much like The Glass Castle. A large part of that has to do with having children, don't you think? I read The Liars Club back before I had any kids and it was an entirely different experience than reading it last year.

27FlorenceArt
Aug 30, 2014, 7:11am Top

If you're intimidated by Japanese literature, it might be easier to start with older, more classical, writers. I don't think Kawabata is difficult to read at all, and he wrote wonderful books like The Sound of the Mountain and House of the sleeping beauties. The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue is beautiful too.

28rebeccanyc
Edited: Aug 30, 2014, 7:43am Top

The first Japanese book I read, before lilisin's Author Theme Reads group focused on Japan, was Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura, which I found beautifully written and haunting. Many of the books I read for the theme read were disturbing, mostly because they dealt with disturbing issues in disturbing ways, if that makes sense. I am thinking not only of books like Woman in the Dunes and the other book by Abe that I read, The Box Man, and Almost Transparent Blue, but also Mishima's The Temple of the Golden Pavilion and some of the works of Shusaku Endo, although The Sea and Poison is stunning.

Some of the works of Natsume Soseki are fascinating, yet easier to read (as >27 FlorenceArt: suggests) including Kokoro and Sanshiro.

29dchaikin
Aug 30, 2014, 8:24am Top

I want to post without interrupting the flow about Japanese literature. Not sure that's possible but enjoying the comments.

>26 RidgewayGirl: The Glass Castle hasn't withstood the test of time with me. I do recall that it had me thinking about a lot about parenting, by which I mean how parenting affects the kids, not the parents. With The Liar's Club I didn't relate to that aspect, it was just a story to me. What I really liked about The Liar's Club may have been just my imagination, so I hesitated on commenting on it and left it out of the review. It was that the books begins by telling a story. But, somewhere along the line it becomes a more complicated thing - the language becomes part of the experience and then the main part of the experience. I liked Karr's writing a lot - but it took a hundred pages for more for me to sense that (or just imagine it).

30mabith
Aug 30, 2014, 9:55am Top

If The Glass Castle hasn't stood up to time, don't read her second book, Half Broke Horses about her maternal grandmother. It ends up glorifying a woman whose terrible parenting at least partially created her own mother's terrible parenting.

31dchaikin
Aug 30, 2014, 12:57pm Top

>30 mabith: hasn't called to me. :)

32labfs39
Aug 30, 2014, 1:57pm Top

they dealt with disturbing issues in disturbing ways

That has been my experience with the little Japanese literature which I have read. Either that or convoluted and enigmatic (i.e. Murakami). Neither of which makes for easy reading. I've bookmarked the posts above so that I have some alternative titles to pick up. Thanks!

33dchaikin
Aug 30, 2014, 3:54pm Top



49. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (2013, 310 page paperback, Read August 25-30)

I'm wondering if I can capture what it was that kept me up till 1 am reading the last 160 pages of this. I may have lost that. This isn't a book for everyone, and I think it's safe to say that I liked it a lot more than how good* of a book it is...

Rosemary begins her story in middle, when she is a college student at UC Davis in 1996. Her tone is very casual, and will put some readers off, even as she casually inserts of few thinking points here and there, including her personal scars that led her to become almost a loner. She lost a sister when she was five, and then her older brother ran off when she was twelve, leaving her now an only child of some not so happy parents. But both her siblings are still alive, and she will take some time to explain the peculiarity of her sister, something hinted at openly on most covers, and explained in the back cover blurb of my trade paperback, but I'll leave it out of my review anyway. The point is there are a lot of places this story could have gone wrong for me, and could go wrong for you.

But I liked Fowler's effort to capture mid-1990's college life, which I experienced (Fowler credits her daughter for insight), and I took to the tone and very much took to Rosemary. I could have spent more time with her, if she hadn't brought the story around to present so suddenly.

What I think this all sums up to is a very nice story with a some thought points and some interesting psychological complexity. I liked how the story echoes the psychological concepts it talks about. And like how it aptly quotes Kakfa's A Report for an Academy at the opening of each section. I gave it five stars for keeping up and entertained.

quotable:

Language does this to our memories--simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.

--

I wonder sometimes if I'm the only one spending my life making the same mistake over and over again or if that's simply human


*sic

34dchaikin
Edited: Sep 3, 2014, 2:38am Top



50. A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America (Audio) by Stacy Schiff, read by Susan Denaker (2005, 21 hours 57 minutes, 512 pages in text form, Listened August 4 - September 2)

A long audio book, I kind of let this run along in the background, while being careful not to think about other audio books I might want to read next. I could enjoy it as long as I didn't ask too much in any one sitting. That being said, it's a pretty major work.

Benjamin Franklin spent nine years in Paris as a US Ambassador during and after the US War Revolutionary War. I always saw that as a footnote, but his roll was fundamental to the success of the war. It was French aid that allowed the US to separate from Britain, and it was French political decisions that allowed the US to then immediately become an independent entity without foreign ties. And yet, poor France not only never benefited from US independence, but spent so much on it, that this specific debt would play a key roll in the fall of the Bourbon monarchy and the beginning of the French revolution. Franklin was in center of this aide. Not only was he key to getting this kind of non-interfering French help, but he was one of very few, maybe the only one who could pull it off so well.

But the book is not so much a history of events as it is an effort to spend a lot of time with Ben Franklin, see what it was like to be him, see how he acted, what he was like in his many different relationships, see how he worked and thought and how he handled the various challenges that came his way. How he dealt with developed his relationship with the key French minister, Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes, and how he handled the various British ministers in Paris with their varying personalities.

This was an old Franklin with serious health problems that would only get worse. He was 70 years old when he arrived in Paris, and he brought along (illegitimate) grandsons. And he arrived as a hero. France went crazy over him, celebrated him as the celebrated their own Voltaire, to the point that Franklin had little privacy.

And there were many different Franklins. There was the playful one that flirted in with married woman, goaded those about him. The ever curious one involved in all sort of scientific endeavors, including a famous expose of Franz Mesmer (who gave us the word mesmerizing). There was the theatre going the Franklin, and the frugal one who limited his expenses, and the very hard working one. There was the distant and not at all warm family man, who chastised at length any of his children's or grandchildren's interests in anything not frugally responsible, and yet who, by necessity, offered associates children anything they might request. And there was simply brilliant and energetic famous Franklin who published newspapers, dashed off inventions, started postal and fire services. And then there was the foreign statesman, and here truly was a different Franklin, one who used all his strengths and charms, one who built relationships, balanced methodologies, worked in many different ways at the same time, who mastered the art of never committing to anything, one with common sense, and one who brought with him a wealth of well-rounded wisdom. It's quite amazing how it all came together so well - how he was such an elegant master of diplomacy.

There are a lot odds and ends I could mention here. There was French-American culture clash, where the royalty obsessed French valued honor, but had to learn that the greatest compliment they could give to an American was that he was sensible. Americans simply didn't get the French. Sam Addams' not so helpful diplomatic efforts stand out. Brilliant in many ways, rightly suspicious of France, he was an open book, and diplomatic disaster who went straight after everything and openly wore his disdain for the needed French on his sleeve. He couldn't stand, and never got, Franklin's inability to commit to anything. His hatred of Franklin only subsided when Franklin's health deteriorated. Adams comes across as a buffoon - and he was one of the better diplomats. Thomas Jefferson later did get Franklin. After Franklin left, King Louis XVI, in a question, asked if Jefferson was Franklin's replacement. Jefferson replied that no one could replace Franklin, and he was merely Franklin's successor. Adams could never have managed to say that.

And there is Franklin's legacy. His American legacy is mixed, at best. An American hero, yet he has been butchered by American intelligentsia as unsophisticated, inelegant, practical, and distant. He returned from Paris to become elected to the equivalent of governor of Pennsylvania, but Congress would never pay him his expenses from Paris. His contemporaries never came to terms with Franklin's nine years away. Yet, in France Franklin arrived a hero and left an even bigger hero, praised by the many great French thinkers throughout history.

My complaint with this book would be the length and lack of movement. Trying to get the most out of every moment, Schiff slowly drags through the years, and in audio it reads even slower. For someone looking to fall in love with Franklin, this would be a nice place to spend time. I found it enjoyable, but felt a constant itch to have things move along a bit.

35baswood
Sep 3, 2014, 2:56am Top

>50 excellent review Dan, which I enjoyed reading because I am entirely ignorant of that piece of history.

36NanaCC
Sep 3, 2014, 7:42am Top

Nice review of A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. Anything I've read about him shows him to be an interesting character.

I would need to do this one in paper format. I find that I have a hard time with most non-fiction books in audio format. Especially long ones. Agent Zigzag was an exception, but that one read like a novel.

37mabith
Sep 3, 2014, 2:30pm Top

Great reivew! That sounds like one I'd better add to my list. With the really long audiobooks sometimes I'll take a break in the middle. I think I listened to A People's History of the United States, which was 34 hours, in three parts, with other audiobooks in between.

38dchaikin
Sep 3, 2014, 2:46pm Top

>35 baswood: thanks Bas! I learned a lot here too. I think a simple time line of the Revolutionary War would have helped me though.

>36 NanaCC: I'm just the opposite. The more like NPR the better. I'm trying my first fiction book on audio right now - Garden of the Evening Mists Tan Twan Eng. so far it reads like a nonfiction., and the language is very precise and clear. So, it's going well...I'm only on chapter 2 though.

>37 mabith: Thanks. I thought about giving up a few times, but then I got myself in the mode of the listening to this book for a while. At the point there was no need for a break.

39Poquette
Sep 3, 2014, 3:44pm Top

>34 dchaikin: Am fascinated by your review of A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, partly because of who wrote it. This would be the same Stacy Schiff who wrote Cleopatra: A Life, a few years ago, which a lot of people were raving about and which has been on my wish list for some time. From Cleopatra to Franklin — that's quite a leap!

40rebeccanyc
Sep 3, 2014, 6:37pm Top

>34 dchaikin: Interesting review. I really enjoyed Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra, which definitely didn't have a problem of dragging through the years. She wrote that after the Franklin book, so maybe her writing skills improved.

41dchaikin
Sep 4, 2014, 8:22pm Top

>39 Poquette: & >40 rebeccanyc: - Nothing in A Great Improvisation would turn me off another book by Schiff. Her historical work was excellent. She wrote a very good book, it's just long and slow. I think the length was as style choice by Schiff. If my library had Cleopatra on audio, I would try to borrow it.

42rebeccanyc
Sep 5, 2014, 11:32am Top

Also, Cleopatra had a more exciting life (maybe much too exciting) than Ben Franklin, so that contributed to the liveliness of the book.

43labfs39
Sep 5, 2014, 2:06pm Top

I loved Cleopatra and am intrigued by Franklin, so this might be a book for me at some point. Wonderful review, Dan.

44dchaikin
Sep 12, 2014, 6:18pm Top



51. A History of Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei by Constance Mary Turnbull (1989, 316 page paperback, Read August 30 - September 12)

This is an adequate overview, that is about as much praise as I can give it. The information is there, but nothing extra. Turnball never even tries to bring this to life and at times the book reads like a list of facts. I guess I could also compliment the author on her brevity.

But Malaysia has a fascinating history as a trading crossroads and mixing of cultures as the Malaka Straights were a key part in maritime trade. The mixing of cultures through trade includes hundreds of years of Arabs, different groups from the the India subcontinent and Ceylon, Chinese, the Indonesian archipelago, the whole southeast Asian peninsula of modern day Burma, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam, and Europeans. The control passed from Orang Asli to Malay (and Thai) to Portuguese to Dutch to British to Japanese to eventually the mix of cultures that make up Malaysia - mainly Orang Assail, Malays, Chinese & Indians - who don't really mix and who each have their own variations of cultures and wealth and languages and ideologies and embracement of British culture, and which also don't always mix. There has been a lot going on there for a long time, quite a wildly complex pot. I imagine there are better books out there that actually capture some of this.

45labfs39
Sep 13, 2014, 4:04pm Top

Why did you choose to read this book now, Dan? Planning a trip?

46dchaikin
Sep 13, 2014, 11:01pm Top

yes - Kuala Lumpur next summer - I think.

47rebeccanyc
Sep 14, 2014, 11:02am Top

What made you decide to go there?

48dchaikin
Sep 14, 2014, 4:35pm Top

>47 rebeccanyc: We have the opportunity. We have a friend in the US foreign service stationed there with her family. It gives us a chance to visit KL with friends for us and, since are kids are similar ages, for the kids...and with a place to stay.

49labfs39
Sep 16, 2014, 9:35pm Top

Sounds exciting! Have you ever been to the region?

50dchaikin
Sep 17, 2014, 12:50am Top

>49 labfs39: First time. The closest I have been was when doing field work in China for my geology master's thesis. The next closest was a visit to Hawaii.

51dchaikin
Sep 17, 2014, 1:11am Top



52. The Garden of Evening Mists (Audio) by Tan Twan Eng, read by Anna Bentinck (2012, 15 hours 36 minutes, 352 pages in text form, Listened September 2 - 16)

My first fiction on audio. The narration by Anna Bentinck was superb and I simply loved listening to this. She had to cover various Chinese, Japanese, Boer, Tamil, Malay, British & American accents.

The novel itself is complex enough, assortment of aspects mixed into a complicated Malaysian background, that it gets a bit difficult to describe. But it reads very clean, and the formality of the narrator in the opening sets a tone of precision and reserve.

Yun Ling is an ethnically Chinese female supreme court judge in Malaysia who has just retired. She does not speak Mandarin, but only English, Malay, her family's Chinese dialect and some Japanese. She is also the only survivor of a WWII Japanese labor camp. On retirement, she heads to a Japanese garden in the mountain rainforests, a garden she hasn't visited in over 30 years. As she settles in, already bringing up a variety of curiosities, she begins to tell her story about her time working in the Japanese Garden during the violent Chinese Communist driven Malaysian Emergency in the early 1950's, and, eventually about her experiences during WWII.

It's maybe appropriate that a story exploding with color is centered on a garden, a formal Japanese garden carved out of a wild mountain rain forest. Yun Ling is striking in her anger and defiance, and is curious in her strange compulsion to work with Japanese gardener when so much of her anger is directed toward the Japanese. The gardener, Nakamura Aritomo, is another multifaceted curiosity, and, by extension, so is his garden. And did I mention Boer as an accent.

I found it a moving story. It's also a distinctly Malaysian story, incorporating the complex assemblage of cultures and histories that make up Malaysia. And there is balancing act between the reserved formality of the language, and the intense emotional aspects of the story.

I do wonder how much of affection for this book is due to the reader and how much is due to text, but either way it's a very good novel - complex, interesting, intriguing in many ways, and ultimately thought provoking.

In one of stories in the book, the Japanese gardener tells of meeting a blind Japanese monk when traveling by foot as a young man. He tells that the monk pointed to a flag flapping in the wind and asked,
“Is it the wind that is in motion, or is it only the flag that is moving?”

“Both are moving, Holy One.”

The monk shook his head, clearly disappointed by my ignorance. “One day you will realise that there is no wind, and the flag does not move,” he said. “It is only the hearts and minds of men that are restless.”

52baswood
Sep 17, 2014, 2:43am Top

Excellent review of The Garden of Evening Mists. I have this one in mind for my book club to read.

53Mr.Durick
Sep 17, 2014, 4:33am Top

Our book group read it and as I remember got a long and active discussion from it.

Robert

54dchaikin
Sep 17, 2014, 6:12am Top

>52 baswood: & >53 Mr.Durick: Thanks Bas. Seems like a good book for a group read. Robert - what did you think of the book?

55dchaikin
Sep 17, 2014, 6:20am Top

Robert, found your comments on it from a year ago ( http://www.librarything.com/topic/155968#4272963 ). I especially agree with this: "and it is about how we might know a person and not know, for sure, their character."

56NanaCC
Sep 17, 2014, 7:53am Top

The Garden of Evening Mists sounds like one I would enjoy. Your review is putting it on my Audible wish list.

57deebee1
Sep 17, 2014, 8:22am Top

Dan, how exciting that you're going to KL! Malaysia is an interesting country to discover -- if you can, do fly out to Sabah in Borneo island, and do some nature exploration. Yes, that's where you can still find chimpanzees, and the famous Rafflesia -- it is a memorable treat for kids (and adults too!). Do visit Melaka for culture and history, and yes, food -- you will enjoy it. I have plenty more to suggest if you'd like more specific ideas on traveling there and elsewhere in the region -- just PM me anytime.

I have just picked up my latest history of southeast asia book, which seems to me, much better than previous publications on the subject. It's called A New History of Southeast Asia edited by M. C. Ricklefs (published by Palgrave Macmillan). The authors are from the National University of Singapore and come from the region (each contributing the chapters referring to his or her country of origin), rather than some guest Western contributors, so I guess that should offer more original perspectives. You might want to check it out.

For fiction, here's a couple more titles by Malaysian authors - Little Hut of Leaping Fishes by Chiew-Siah Tei, and Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan. I enjoyed the second book and wonder why Samarasan is not writing more. She seems to be worth watching.

58dchaikin
Sep 17, 2014, 9:34am Top

>56 NanaCC: Colleen - it's really well done on audio - at least I thought so. I would recommend it that way.

>57 deebee1: wow and thanks! I'll pm you as I have questions. I'll look for the Ricklef. I happen to have a copy of Evening is the Whole Day in the house, borrowed from the library. I will try that next.

59labfs39
Sep 17, 2014, 7:20pm Top

Fabulous review of a fabulous book. I keep meaning to find his first book, The Gift of Rain.

60dchaikin
Sep 18, 2014, 9:41am Top

>57 deebee1: - deebee1 - how do you know so much about Malaysia?

>58 dchaikin: Lisa - I'm interested in that book now as well. I think he only has two books.

61deebee1
Sep 19, 2014, 10:56am Top

Did I say chimpanzees in #57? Sorry, I meant orangutans! Dan, I am from the region (though I've been living in Europe for more than 10 years now) and go there a few times a year for work and to visit family (i'm going again in a few days' time). I'm happy to share from experience. Let me know.

62dchaikin
Sep 19, 2014, 6:00pm Top

Funny, I just finished a coffee table book on Alfred Russel Wallace and when I read your post I simply translated in my head chimpanzee as organutan without really realizing it...

Anyway, a huge thanks for the offer! I might pm you with a list of questions some time...once I get organized...

63dchaikin
Edited: Sep 25, 2014, 10:59pm Top



53. Archipelago : The Islands of Indonesia : From the Nineteenth-Century Discoveries of Alfred Russel Wallace to the Fate of Forests and Reefs in the Twenty-First Century by Gavan Daws & Marty Fujita (1999, 240 page coffee table book, Read September 6-18)

Prologue by Edward O. Wilson
Epilogue by John C. Sawhill

Sometimes I just need a mindless read and this fit my state of mind. I started it just after we got a nine week old puppy, which, among other things, provides a constant distraction.

I don't have anything positive or negative to say about this. I wasn't expecting much, but it was interesting to learn a little about Alfred Russell Wallace.

64dchaikin
Edited: Sep 25, 2014, 11:27pm Top



54. A More Perfect Heaven : How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos (Audio) by Dava Sobel, read by Suzanne Toren Fernandez (2011, 7 hours 24 minutes, 288 pages in text form, Listened September 17 - 23)

Stage play voices by George Guidall, John McDonough, Peter Jay, Alma Cuervo, & Andy Paris

I couldn't pass up a Dava Sobel on Nicolas Copernicus...and in audio. But I would only grant this three stars overall.

This is mainly an exploration of the world of an elder Copernicus from about the time when he apparently picked up his neglected astronomical work and finally prepared it for publication. Sobel inserted a stage drama inside the book about this time, which was entertaining on audio with several actors adding voices. George Guidall was the voice of Copernicus.

Copernicus had become a valued diplomat and apparently a valued medical doctor. He experienced the early days of Lutheran reformation, when the catholic leaders were forced to respond and were suddenly expected to be better behaved. The clerical politics got complicated and an elder Copernicus was expected to part with his female housekeeper, who was likely his long time partner. Yet Copernicus was allowed to work on and publish this religiously controversial work, and his main assistant in finalizing his work, a young expert mathematician named Georg Joachim Rheticus, was Lutheran.

I found all this interesting but a bit limited in scope. Copernicus's younger life and legacy were covered but not in a very rewarding way as they are not the book's focus. I did enjoy the stage play on audio, even if it never felt authentically true to me.

65dchaikin
Edited: Sep 25, 2014, 11:43pm Top



55. A Short History of Malaysia : Linking East and West by Virginia Matheson Hooker (2003, 307 page paperback, Read September 14-25)

Another OK history. The book has an interesting set up. It opens with a brief official history as presented in a Malaysian museum, then says how the book will look into the problems in this manipulated history. But, it doesn't follow this up other than a few comments early on and then again on the second or third from last page. That was unfortunate.

I did find it interesting how the modern history is different here, in this 2003 publication, than it was in the 1989 publication I read previously. Modern Malaysia is a balance of Malay, Chinese and Indian populations that don't mix. The Orang Asli, or original peoples, are largely overlooked. In 1969 there was huge riot in Kuala Lumpur with fighting between Malays and Chinese. Much Malaysian policy since is a response to this event. Malays, who are the poorest, have more political power, and state support is unequal in an effort to get Malays better off economically and make the country more balanced. Other ethnic groups go along with this, with some resentment. The older book gives a strong sense of Malaysia's success in making all this work. This book shows that this success is purely economic. That politically the central government is heavy handed and quick repress any incendiary public discussion or criticism. Some topics are simply not permitted to be discussed and incendiary politicians are thrown in prison for long sentences. It leaves the reader wondering what might happen if the balled up tensions get suddenly released.

66NanaCC
Sep 27, 2014, 8:02am Top

>64 dchaikin: I have A More Perfect Heaven on my Kindle. I don't think I'm rushing to read it. Although it is short, so I may get to it at some point.

67dchaikin
Sep 27, 2014, 8:33am Top

>66 NanaCC: Some readers like this more than I did, although most seemed not crazy about the play, which I actually enjoyed...probably because it's better performed in audio then simply in text form. Anyway, it's harmless, and, as you pointed out, short.

68dchaikin
Edited: Sep 29, 2014, 11:03pm Top



56. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli (2009, 344 page hardcover graphic novel, Read September 25-29)

Can't really give this one any proper review. The story lines - about too much confidence and arrogance at the cost of respect, and about losing everything and starting over again - are interesting, but not original. The point is the art and the ideas behind the art, and form and design. I find illustrations intriguing.





69dchaikin
Sep 29, 2014, 11:03pm Top


70FlorenceArt
Sep 30, 2014, 4:18am Top

Thank you Dan. Not sure I like the drawings, but it is intriguing. But it's not available as an e-book that I can find, and I doubt I can find it at my local library. Maybe later.

71valkyrdeath
Sep 30, 2014, 1:14pm Top

I really liked Asterios Polyp when I read it earlier this year. The story itself wasn't original, but I thought the way it was told was. Everything down to the changing page layouts and the varying art styles seemed to have a purpose.

72dchaikin
Oct 1, 2014, 12:29am Top

>70 FlorenceArt: not sure what your library is like, but I imagine there is a French translation and you might look for that. (Google image search showed pictures from a Spanish translation.)

>71 valkyrdeath: curious how you came across this. I did like the story, but didn't think there was all that much to it.

73FlorenceArt
Oct 1, 2014, 3:49am Top

>72 dchaikin: Yep, you're right. They have the translation in their catalog. I'll have a look next time I visit them.

74valkyrdeath
Oct 1, 2014, 1:29pm Top

>72 dchaikin: I picked the book up randomly from the library to see what it was like having not heard of it before. I don't have a copy here to pick particular examples, but I liked how the art told the story almost more than the actual words, which I think is surprisingly rare in graphic novels. I liked the way the characters different world views were presented with different art styles, and how when they started a relationship the styles would blend together, and the sudden harsh clash of style when the relationship started to break down again. I just remember a lot of variation in the layout of the pages, and spacing that seemed to affect the pace of reading and the feel of the work. It just felt to me like a lot of thought had gone into all the details.

75dchaikin
Oct 2, 2014, 12:31am Top

>74 valkyrdeath: You've made me realize all three pictures I posted are roughly the same style, whereas the book as several different ones. Interesting you found this at random. I only have it because my wife took a class on making graphic novels and this was one of the books she was assigned.

76dchaikin
Oct 11, 2014, 3:58pm Top



57. Bonnie Prince Charlie (Audio) by Carolly Erickson, read by Steven Crossley (1989, 11 hrs 12 mins, ~300 pages in Paperback, Listened September 23 to October 6)

To some extent my choosing this book just shows that I'm open to about any book on history in audio. But, also I was curious about Bonnie Prince Charlie. His a name has come up here and there, never with any memorable contextual explanation. So, this was a chance to learn where he fit in English history.

It's hard to think any nice thoughts about him after reading over the years and years of his useless later life where we was drunkard who beat his mistresses and wife and who never came to terms with his lot in life and really had no redeeming features. But actually the younger Charles is fascinating. Grandson of the deposed Catholic James II of England, he was raised to see himself as the rightful heir of the English and Scottish crowns. He believed this completely, and believed with full conviction that he would take the crown from the current rulers of England, the Hanovers (Kings George I, II & III during Charles's lifetime).

In 1745 Charles landed in Scotland practically by himself, without adequate supplies, most of which were lost in route. And he raised a Scottish highlander volunteer army, convincing his followers merely by force of character. Charles was bold, full of confidence, eager, athletic - he was almost suicidally fearless. He led an uprising that took Edinburgh, won a huge and unlikely victory over an English army, and then invaded England en route to London. He marched past Manchester, as far Darby. A planned French invasion would join him. This was during the war of Austrian Succession, and the Hanover army was largely on the continent, pursuing Hanover interests. England was exposed. But, despite momentum, Charles's generals forced Charles to call a retreat instead of engage in a battle against a larger army. The momentum was lost, the French invasion plans nullified, and the remnants of his army were eventually thoroughly crushed in the Battle of Culloden. Charles escaped and slowly found his way out of Scotland and to France (while England burned the rebellious Scottish highlands to the ground).

Charles Stuart was successful momentarily through fearless foolishness and became a popular heroic and tragic figure throughout Europe. But he couldn't give in to reality, and his life and person became pretty dreadful.

Obscure stuff, but interesting nonetheless. Carolly Erickson, who later wrote several novels, wrote an entertaining and well-written history, bringing in a sense of the atmospheres of mid-18th century Rome, Paris, London and, of course, of Charles's highlander army.

77dchaikin
Edited: Oct 11, 2014, 4:15pm Top



58. When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant (2000, 1260 page Hardcover, Read October 4-10)

This was a re-read for my synagogue book club. It was my recommendation...although I wasn't present during the meeting it was actually chosen. Anyway, I love the book because of it's descriptive power and how it captures the British controlled Jewish Bauhaus white city of 1947 Tel Aviv, just on the brink of independence. I'm worried about how the rest of the book club will respond. I'll find out tomorrow.

78NanaCC
Oct 11, 2014, 4:39pm Top

Nice review of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

79japaul22
Oct 12, 2014, 7:46am Top

I read a book about Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson a few years back and found it highly readable and interesting. I knew nothing about Bonnie Prince Charlie either, so your review is my intro!

80rebeccanyc
Oct 12, 2014, 12:26pm Top

I enjoyed the book I've read by Linda Grant, The Clothes on Their Backs, but I've never read anything else by her. When I Lived in Modern Times sounds intriguing.

81dchaikin
Oct 14, 2014, 9:15am Top

>78 NanaCC: thanks!

>79 japaul22: Erickson is fun to read. She has several non-fiction works on English history. I would be happy read, or better yet listen, to more.

>80 rebeccanyc: I shoukd read more fiction by Grant. I do recommend My Life in Modern Times, not just because I loved it so much, but also on the strength of my bookclub where, to my relief, everyone really liked it. I have an old review from 2012 if you're interested in more a about it, but I'm pretty sure you read it when I posted here.

82SassyLassy
Oct 15, 2014, 12:50pm Top

>76 dchaikin: My grandmother gave me a small framed print of a portrait of The Young Pretender when I was about eight or nine. It has followed me from house to house all these many years since. She also made sure I knew the story, or at least her version of it. There are so many; it's difficult to find one relatively free of bias. Any recommendations from anyone gratefully received.

>81 dchaikin: I read When I Lived in Modern Times after reading your earlier review and really liked it. I'm glad to hear your reading club did too... being the person whose suggestion is being read is like hoping your guests are having a good time.

>79 japaul22: You may have encountered the Skye Boat Song on your musical ramblings. It is about Charlie's escape. Robert Louis Stevenson also wrote a variation to the same tune. There are many wonderful parodies of it as well.

83dchaikin
Oct 15, 2014, 4:33pm Top

>82 SassyLassy:
I don't think Ericosn had any bias...but how interesting to see the Jacobites holding out for some 200 years! Was your grandmother's family Catholic?

And suggesting a book is worse than hosting. When you host, you can change things if people aren't happy. It's like being a host who sets stuff out for the guests and then leaves.

84dchaikin
Edited: Oct 24, 2014, 9:48pm Top



59. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Audio) by Michelle Alexander, read by Karen Chilton (2010, 13 hrs 16 mins, 336 pages in Paperback, Listened October 6-16)

I thought this would be a disturbing look a racism, but nothing new. But there were some very positive reviews in CR, so I was happy to give it a try when it showed up in my library's audio collection.

It's a much more important book than I suspected. It's a major work, and has led me to shift the context of how I view the drug war and modern hidden racism. I had no idea the stuff, clearly presented here, was going on. And I'm kind of stunned that this is such a poorly covered topic. The book is wow. It's a book which you simply can't understand how important it is until you have actually read it and Michelle Alexander has a chance to fully lay this all out.

Among the topics here are how the drug war focuses almost entirely on poor black neighborhoods, where up to 80% of young black males in some major cities have, at least, a police record, if not an arrest and conviction. Of how the drug war essentially ignores drug issues in white middle class suburbs, where young kids can stumble through their own experiences, while the same types of things in poor black neighborhoods lead to convictions and long jail sentences. Of the cost of a conviction, which leads to a life of limited employment opportunities, legal discrimination (because who likes a felon?) and therefore to more crime and more drug enforcement. And finally how that legal discrimination against criminals, who are disproportionately black or Latino, has become the current and painfully effective form of racism.

I had no idea that when a politician said he or she wanted to be tough on crime, this was understood by many to be a coded racism. Started under Reagan, the the two president most responsible for ramping up the drug war were Clinton and Obama...

Some of the worst parts are of the failures in police policy. How arrests are actually causing crime. And how law enforcement decisions set from higher up at the federal level set in motions policies such that police on the ground don't need to be consciously racist to, in effect, be racist. There is no racist terminology anywhere.

And then there is the US Supreme court which has undermined every legal option to fight against this kind of racism. One case was lost where prosecution records were requested to investigate possible racist policy. If I understood this correctly, the records (why are they not public anyway) were withheld because the requester had no data to support their suspicions of racism. Go figure the logic. Any change in policy will have to come outside the legal system...

It's strange how obvious this all seems after reading it. I have to wonder why I didn't fully appreciate this before.

I listened on audio, read very nicely by Karen Chilton.

85FlorenceArt
Oct 22, 2014, 9:05am Top

Wow. This sounds like a must-read though distressing book. And it reminds me of an article I meant to post about but (as happens so often) was too lazy to.

The Cost of Contemporary Policing: A Review of Alice Goffman’s On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by danah boyd.

http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2014/07/09/alice-goffman-on-the-run.ht...

86japaul22
Oct 22, 2014, 9:13am Top

Great review of one of the most important books I've ever read, Dan. Like you, I was shocked at how much I didn't know about this topic. It definitely changed my views on the state of racism today, drug sentencing laws, etc. Everyone should read this book!

87NanaCC
Oct 22, 2014, 9:23am Top

>84 dchaikin: This sounds interesting and important. I am going to check it out.

88kidzdoc
Oct 22, 2014, 1:17pm Top

Great review of The New Jim Crow, Dan. I haven't read it yet, but most of what you describe is well known in the African American community. Hopefully I can get to it early next year.

89rebeccanyc
Oct 22, 2014, 4:06pm Top

When I read The New Jim Crow two years ago, I was familiar with some of the ideas about hidden or unconscious racism but I found it both chilling and shocking in its depiction of the insidiousness of the "drug war" and what it has done to generations of young African-American men. I thought Alexander presented her arguments systematically, and at the end of my review I wrote "I am ashamed for my country."

90baswood
Oct 23, 2014, 5:43pm Top

Excellent review of The New Jim Crow A book that I know I ought to read but probably won't

91dchaikin
Oct 24, 2014, 9:15pm Top

Thanks for the comments - Flo, Jennifer, Nana, Darryl, Rebecca & Bas. About time I can sit down and post some responses.

>85 FlorenceArt: Thanks for mentioning Boyd's On the Run, I will keep this in mind.

>89 rebeccanyc: and at the end of my review I wrote "I am ashamed for my country." - Oh, Rebecca, I have great big bucket of reasons to be ashamed, and I'm thinking just the last 35 or so years. This is just another one to add.

92dchaikin
Edited: Oct 24, 2014, 9:43pm Top

>86 japaul22: Everyone should read this book! - if only they would...

>87 NanaCC: I'll look forward to your response.

>88 kidzdoc: I'm curious whether this is a book of stuff you already know, or something more.

>90 baswood: You can be forgiven, being a Brit and all.

93mabith
Oct 24, 2014, 9:28pm Top

One of the powerful things about The New Jim Crow was Alexander saying at the beginning that even though she'd studied this topic already, the situation was far worse than she was expecting. She was prepared for it to be terrible but it exceeded all expectations. That stuck with me, in terms of perspective and how far we often are from understanding this kind of institutional racism (and the latent racism everyone has, at least in the US).

94dchaikin
Oct 24, 2014, 9:45pm Top

Yes! That comment means more after you read the book than it does when she says it at the beginning.

95dchaikin
Edited: Oct 24, 2014, 9:57pm Top



60. Evening Is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan (2008, 340 page Hardcover, read September 28 - October 18)

This one just didn't work me. Actually, I'm not sure Indian novels, in general, works for me. I think I have read four different books from Indian authors from very different backgrounds (all women though). Each has very nice prose, sometimes spectacular vocabularies, but go on and on about stories that don't seem very interesting to me. Somewhere along the line I'm missing something.

Evening is a Whole day is the stifling story of an unhappy wealthy Tamil family in Malaysia with one very unfortunate servant. It touches on the place of Tamils in ethnically divided Malaysia, the cultural stratification of this Tamil society, and even the 1969 riots in Kuala Lumpur (an ethnic riot between Malays and Chinese). At first I found it pleasantly readable, but not memorable in that I wasn't thinking about it when I wasn't reading it. But I had to force myself through the second half as it slowly revealed each somewhat interesting but not fascinating event in drawn out emotionally indirect detail. I think I'm happy to have read it, but I didn't enjoy the actual act of reading.

96RidgewayGirl
Oct 25, 2014, 4:19pm Top

Excellent review of The New Jim Crow. I plan to read it before the end of the year.

97rebeccanyc
Oct 26, 2014, 3:20pm Top

>95 dchaikin: Actually, I'm not sure Indian novels, in general, works for me. I think I have read four different books from Indian authors from very different backgrounds (all women though).

I've been disappointed with many of the recent Indian novels I've read, including those by some highly touted women. But I'm a huge fan of A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (and other books by him), and although it is flawed I loved Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra; I also liked much of Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil, although the ending in which the authors deals with today's Bombai/Mumbai is much weaker than the beginning.

98dchaikin
Oct 27, 2014, 1:16am Top

>96 RidgewayGirl: thanks!

>97 rebeccanyc: this is good encouragement. Wish I could tell up front whether the book would be rewarding or not. I think Chandra has a Houston connection (through the University of Houston's creative writing program)...not that trivia should specifically interest you in anyway, but...

Ok, I looked Chandra up and he attended UH, but got his MA elsewhere (Johns Hopkins)

99rebeccanyc
Oct 28, 2014, 10:44am Top

That's interesting about Chandra, because Sacred Games struck me as being so immersed in the world of Bombay/Mumbai that I would not have guessed he had spent so much time in the US.

100lesmel
Oct 28, 2014, 1:28pm Top

>97 rebeccanyc: Sacred Games is on my To Read list for the holidays. I only read Books That Double as Weapons™ during my Thanksgiving or Christmas vacations. I have a friend that insists on finding Books That Double as Weapons™ for me to read. Since he's pretty accurate in accessing my reading tastes, I don't complain too much that his choices are weaponized.

101rebeccanyc
Oct 28, 2014, 1:48pm Top

just as a warning to anyone interested in Sacred Games, after I read it several people on LT encouraged me to read Shantaram, which they said was better. Oh how I hated that book, even though a lot of people love it!

102dchaikin
Oct 31, 2014, 6:52am Top



61. The Paris Review 208 Spring 2014 (246 page journal, read August 17 - October 24)
Edited by Lorin Stein

I put this down for a long time before finally picking it up to finish and either I've forgotten how good it was, or it simply wasn't that great overall. The interviews were of authors I don't know, although I probably should know Evan Connell, who was very frail and passed away before his interview sessions were done. The standout contribution for me was Ben Lerner's autobiographical feeling short story Specimen Days, a first person account of an author at a writing retreat in tiny Marfa in far west Texas.

Contributions, in order:

Dorothea Lasky, Four Poems

Adam Phillips, The Art of Nonfiction No. 7, interviewed by Paul Holdengräber

There was a lot of psychology discussed here, although Phillips made me uncomfortable in indicating that he maybe says a lot hoping one of the things he says will catch someone's interest. I liked this ilne:
We all have self-cures for strong feelings. Then the self-cure becomes a problem, in the obvious sense that the problem of the alcoholic is not the alcohol but sobriety. Drinking becomes a problem, but actually the problem is what’s being cured by the alcohol. By the time we’re adults, we’ve all become alcoholics. That’s to say, we’ve all evolved ways of deadening certain feelings and thoughts.
Frederick Seidel, Five Poems

Luke Mogelson, To the Lake - short story

Francesca Woodman, Fugitive Photographs

Matthew Weiner, The Art of Screenwriting No. 4, interviewed by Semi Chellas
Weiner is the screen writer and director of the TV show Mad Men

John Ashbery, Three Poems

*Ben Lerner, Specimen Days - short story

An author on writing retreat in west Texas. Instead of writing his intended essay, he is putting together a poem about his experiences in Texas. At first he is very lonely with strange hours where he works all night and sleeps all day. Then later he becomes suddenly immersed into the social world of the writers and artists around him. Good stuff.

Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Two Poems

Zadie Smith, Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets – short story

A life of poverty and frustration culminate in a breakdown at a lingerie store for poor, overweight black woman holding out in a gentrified part of New York City. Very sad.

Carol Muske-Dukes, No Hands - poem

Rachel Cusk, Outline: Part 2 - part 2 of 4 of Cusk’s forthcoming novel

I read and liked part one of this novel where an English teacher of writing visits Greece for something professionally related gets various monologues from everyone she encounters. Maybe I waited to long between reading parts 1 & 2, but the monologues got old this time.

Bill Cotter, The Window Lion - short story
Meh. An odd compilation of drama in an apartment complex.

Nick Laird, XY - poem
not that I remember this, but I remember liking it...

Gemma Sieff, A Visit with Evan Connell

This was short as Evan Connell was already very frail when the interviews started and passed away before Sieff could finish the interviews. But it left me interested in reading Connell.

103labfs39
Nov 1, 2014, 2:58pm Top

I finally caught up on your thread, Dan. Too late to say much, except that your review of The New Jim Crow makes me want to read it and not want to read it at the same time. From what you and others have said it is not-to-be-missed, yet utterly depressing. I keep thinking I'll read it when I'm in the right frame of mind, but when would that be?

I agree with Rebecca about Shantaram. Regrettably I did not write a review of it to provide my memory with specifics, but I gave it 2.5 stars. A long, pretentious adventure story that masquerades as autobiographical fiction.

My favorite book written by an Indian author is Sea of Poppies. It's the first of a trilogy about the Opium Wars. Did you read it?

104dchaikin
Nov 1, 2014, 6:51pm Top

Thanks for catching up. I have actually read Sea of Poppies, but forgot about it when I wrote the review (oops). I was mixed on that crazy plot, but it was fun and doesn't fit any of the descriptions from my comments on Evening is the Whole Day.

105labfs39
Nov 1, 2014, 7:39pm Top

I like Sea of Poppies quite a bit, but was disappointed by the second book in the trilogy. I enjoyed the history, but I was sorry to lose track of the characters Ghosh spent so much time building up in the first book and didn't care for the new ones as much.

106FlorenceArt
Nov 2, 2014, 3:05am Top

I remember seeing Shantaram on LT a while ago, and I think I decided I wouldn't like it, but I don't remember why. It's funny how people will say "if you liked this book, you will love that other one" without really knowing why you liked that first book.

I have read very few books from Indian authors, but I liked the ones I can remember. My favorite was The God of Small Things. I was a bit disappointed by The White Tiger as a literary work but it was a fascinating look at contemporary India. One of the reviewers didn't seem to like that it didn't match the perfect image of India they wanted to keep.

107rebeccanyc
Nov 2, 2014, 8:01am Top

I haven't read Sea of Poppies because I disliked The Hungry Tide because it had such a big Message (even though I loved the sense of place). I wasn't a fan of The God of Small Things, although I read it so long ago I don't remember why, and I agree with you, >106 FlorenceArt:, about The White Tiger. About Shantaram, I just felt it was phony and the narrator was so infuriatingly self-serving.

>102 dchaikin: Enjoyed your summary of The Paris Review.

108baswood
Nov 2, 2014, 11:27am Top

Shantaram - ugh

109dchaikin
Nov 6, 2014, 11:55am Top



62. The Swerve : How the World Became Modern (Audio) by Stephen Greenblatt, read by Edoardo Ballerini (2011, 9 hrs 42 mins, 368 pages in Paperback, Listened October 17-27)

The title of this book bothers me, as does the comment "A riveting tale of the great cultural "swerve" known as the Renaissance."

The book is actually about the rediscovery in the 15th century of On the Nature of Things by the Roman Epicurean philosopher Lucretius. The "Swerve" refers to one translation of one of the fundamental aspects of the atom-based concepts promoted in the poem. Yes, Lucretius believed in what we today call atoms, or really, elements, or maybe really protons, neutrons and electrons. He also had the basic ideas of natural selection worked out, and what we would consider a more modern view of the cosmos. The "swerve" is a translation of his variety of what we might call atomic level chaos theory.

The book is pretty good stuff. It's overly dramatic, but Greenblatt looks closely into the world of books and monasteries in the 15th century and how they got there, at the political world of the Popes, early humanists, and one momentarily out-of-work scholarly humanist, Poggio Bracciolini, who found a copy of Lucretius in a still unknown but likely isolated monastery.

Then Greenblatt has to somehow deal with what I would consider several plot obstacles in that Poggio never really did anything with Lucretius, and that almost no authors could directly acknowledge influence of Lucretius since his ideas are so far outside the Christian, and especially Catholic, concepts of the times. So Greenblatt looks for anything he can find on atomic theory and claims it is either a reference to Lucretius or influenced by him. I was sometimes skeptical, and felt Greenblatt way overstated Lucretius's influence on the already underway Renaissance. But still this was enjoyable and worth pondering.

Fun stuff and decent on audio.

110Poquette
Nov 6, 2014, 6:38pm Top

I read The Swerve a couple of years ago and also enjoyed it. Nice review!

111dchaikin
Nov 6, 2014, 10:18pm Top

Thanks S! I was just looking over and admiring your review, from 2011. I'm pretty sure your review led me to try this.

112dchaikin
Nov 6, 2014, 10:38pm Top



63. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Audio) by Sherman Alexie, read by the author (2007, 4 hrs 53 mins, 259 pages in Paperback, Listened October 27-29)

From The Swerve I switched randomly to young adult fiction (actually, it's catalogued at juvenile fiction), partly because I wanted a new book right away without taking the time to look. But these kinds of comments don't give this book it's proper respect.

The Absolutely True Diary is a partly autobiographical look the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington state from the point of view of an awkward but intelligent 14-year-old Indian who makes an unusual decision to go to an off-reservation white high school.

There is a lot of fact in the basic story. Like Junior, the narrator, Sherman Alexie was born with "water on the brain", did grow up in Wellpinit, did leave the reservation to go to Reardon High School where he did become a star basketball player. He later went to college for medical school and apparently broke down under the pressure to succeed as he was one of very few Spokanes to attend college. Whether it's true that he attended exactly 42 funerals by age 14 is beside the point.

A few things comes across here. First, Alexie is a great reader, reading the whole book in a slightly exaggerated but charming Indian accent. Second is the book has a lot of charm, and it builds as the book moves on. The combination of these two, the book and Alexie's reading, made this memorable and an experience. Like many modern fictional and factual biographies, he strengthens the book by keeping it short and simple.

The third thing that comes out of there is the dreadful atmosphere of the Spokane Indians, wholly overwhelmed by alcohol, poverty and hopelessness. There is a lot of love in this book, which makes this all the more poignant.

I seem to recall the book gets mixed reviews. I have no criticisms for it. I enjoyed it and still think about it.

113edwinbcn
Nov 6, 2014, 11:27pm Top

Your assessment of Adam Phillips seems to be "spot on." I think Phillips started out as a quite gifted essayist in the 1990s, writing case studies along similar lines as Oliver Sacks. I remember much enjoying Terrors and Experts (1995), and around the same time bought On Flirtation (1994), which remains unread on my TBR. However, I was deeply disappointed with Monogamy (1996), which was real meaningless trash.

It seems that since then, Adam Phillips is distrusted by critics as mainly producing "kitsch," and, like you said, vying for attention.

114labfs39
Nov 7, 2014, 1:43am Top

I loved Absolutely True Diary when I read it a couple of years ago. I thought Alexie did an amazing job conveying the difficulties facing Indian youth living on reservations without being maudlin or pretentious. He was funny and irreverent, yet honest about the emotional impact of the decisions made. I may try this again on audio since you recommend Alexie as a narrator.

Btw, have you read The Round House by Louise Erdrich? I read it last year and was similarly impressed, although the tone of the book is vastly different.

115rebeccanyc
Nov 7, 2014, 11:17am Top

>109 dchaikin: A friend gave me The Swerve a couple of years ago, and I started it, but never got very far in it. Based on your review, I probably should give it another try.

>112 dchaikin: I'm sure I read something by Alexie years ago, but I don't have anything in my LT library and I can't remember what it was or anything about it!

>114 labfs39: I loved The Round House too. It is the second in a projected trilogy about the protagonist's family (the first was The Plague of Doves), but can be read on its own.

116Poquette
Nov 7, 2014, 8:45pm Top

>115 rebeccanyc: Could it have been The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven? It made a bit of a splash at the time it came out.

>112 dchaikin: Interesting that Alexie is writing YA fiction now. His Lone Ranger was quite irreverent, as I recall.

117kidzdoc
Nov 7, 2014, 10:00pm Top

Nice reviews of The Swerve and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Dan. I'll eventually get to Alexie's book, hopefully sometime next year.

118janeajones
Nov 7, 2014, 11:56pm Top

I'm a fan of Stephen Greenblatt -- especially his Marvellous Possessions: The Wonders of the New World and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare and the fact that he is now the senior editor(?) of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. I've not yet read The Swerve -- not sure I'm terribly interested in Lucretius, but your review is enticing -- maybe next year, when I've retired.

re: Sherman Alexie -- have you seen the film Smoke Signals -- it's based on a story in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven? -- I thought it was a wonderful movie.

119rebeccanyc
Nov 8, 2014, 7:36am Top

>116 Poquette: Sorry, Suzanne; that wasn't it (I don't think I would have forgotten that title!).

>118 janeajones: I enjoyed Will in the World too; I read it when we were in England several years ago.

120dchaikin
Nov 8, 2014, 8:54am Top

>113 edwinbcn: interesting about Phillips. Wonder why The Paris Review chose to interview him this year.

>114 labfs39: Regretfully, I haven't read Erdrich, even though I have been meaning to for years. Terrific characterization of Alexie's Absolutely True Diary

>115 rebeccanyc:,>116 Poquette:, >118 janeajones:, >119 rebeccanyc: - My First guess was either The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, or a short story from it. Now, I'm really curious was you read, Rebecca. And, Jane, I loved Smoke Signals (but have not read the book)

>115 rebeccanyc:, >118 janeajones: - Rebecca, for some reason I can't explain I don't see you loving The Swerve. Maybe it just seems lighter than most of your nonfiction (which makes it nice on audio). No complaints about Greenblatt, though. He comes across as very knowledgeable.

>116 Poquette: as I understand, An Absolute Diary is Alexie's only young adult.

>117 kidzdoc: Thanks!

>118 janeajones: how many books a year do you plan to read after you retire? :)

121janeajones
Edited: Nov 8, 2014, 9:59am Top

I'm not setting numbers -- just looking forward to picking up books whenever and not feeling guilty about not grading papers ;-)

I have discovered that I enjoy Kindle reading while we're on the road, so that may increase the input, but there's also a new grandbaby imminently due so....

122rebeccanyc
Edited: Nov 8, 2014, 9:42pm Top

>120 dchaikin: I'm beginning to think I didn't actually read it -- just owned it for a while and then uncharacteristically gave it away. When I have more time, I'm going to look at covers to see if one rings a bell!

123dchaikin
Nov 8, 2014, 7:21pm Top



64. Indonesia Etc. : Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth Pisani (2014, 395 page Hardcover, Read October 19-31)

I’ve spent most of my year giving cursory reviews. I would like to give this book a little more attention, but that is sometimes a counterproductive goal. The short review is that Pisani has very professionally collected and put together an informative collage of modern Indonesia. The book is clean, informative, a nice accomplishment, but not a magical one.

Along her travels through Indonesia, Pisani make a number of general points - such as how vast the spread of Indonesia truly is and how it defies any practical solutions to its distances; and what this means, the resulting cultural differences and clashes that probably prevent any true cohesion. Also she explains the Java centric view of the government, the in-progress environment disaster the country is; and, she humanizes many of its varieties. She can only touch at the totality of the variety and hint that there is more.

Pisani calls herself English, but really hasn't spent much time in the UK. Her life in Indonesia has been piece meal (she was kicked out for years for her reporting) and generally professional as a reporter, yet she has somehow managed to spend more time there than anywhere else.

A thorough professional, her traveling is hardly about enjoyment. Pisani took a year (?) to tour the country with a series of sort of instances of part time immersion journalism. She would find a culture to stay with, the selection coming via hospitable invitations by strangers. Then she would get very involved with them, staying a while, becoming as useful as she could, and dressing and acting in manners they were comfortable with. She relates a story where a recent acquaintance is so shocked by her appearance, in local costume, that he refuses to greet her. (In another case she found two women debating whether she was European or Javanese.)

Her coverage is wide but necessarily spotty. She makes her way around some of the outer eastern islands (citing Wallace a few times), then several parts of Sumatra, a few places in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), then through Java and a few later stops east of Java that don't get much mention.

If she has a failure, it's probably in her integrity. (I want to compare her negatively to Bruce Chatwin, who wrote fictional misinformation, but who captured completely my imagination. Pisani’s book has great information, but it’s not a literary treat.) While she relates fascinating stories, a lot of her experiences are really only somewhat interesting in detail, drag on a bit, sometimes holding the reader just enough. The cumulative affect is to leave the reader with a scatter shot incomplete impression of Indonesia. I finished much better educated about some of its variety of problems and curiosities, but only selectively curious.

124edwinbcn
Nov 8, 2014, 8:42pm Top

Pity Indonesia Etc. : Exploring the Improbable Nation is such an overall disappointment. Pisani would certainly look like an interesting author.

125rebeccanyc
Nov 8, 2014, 9:46pm Top

>120 dchaikin: >122 rebeccanyc: I'm embarrassed to report that I suddenly realized that the reason I couldn't remember which Sherman Alexie I had read was that I hadn't read anything by Sherman Alexie; the book I was thinking of was by a different Native American author, The Death of Jim Loney by James Welch. But I will look into Alexie now that I can stop trying to figure this out!

126dchaikin
Nov 8, 2014, 10:06pm Top

>125 rebeccanyc: funny. Glad you have found your peace. : )

>124 edwinbcn: note sure i would classify it that way. It's just a little dull despite all she encountered, and I had trouble describing that. Maybe I was over critical? I think it's important, still.

127edwinbcn
Nov 8, 2014, 11:25pm Top

>126 dchaikin:

The comparison between Elizabeth Pisani and Bruce Chatwin did seem a bit unfair. Chatwin is a novelist, and it seems, as you indicated in your review above, that Chatwin twisted or at best treated the non-fictional parts of his travelogues with too much freedom, not even to mention that he used his sources inappropriately. I have not read any of those works by Chatwin, but I assume that he is a good writer.

I often tell my students that the difference between much academic writing and novels is that the later are written by professional 'writers' while academic writing is written by professionals who are not very good at writing. That's why we love reading a novel, and despite our true interest in the subject often feel tired reading a few pages into a scholarly book. This is to reassure my students that, while they need to study the conventions of academic writing in m class, their true strength lies in their academic major.

I would assume Elizabeth Pisani's writing is more scholarly, or, she might be moving toward a reporting style of writing. That type of professional writing may not be so gifted.

However, I would definitely still be interested to pick up Indonesia Etc. : Exploring the Improbable Nation out of interest for that country. If she has spent so much time there, surely there must be interesting snippets of information and insights ripened over time.

128dchaikin
Edited: Nov 9, 2014, 12:05pm Top

>127 edwinbcn: I couldn't ask for a better response. Thanks Edwin!

129baswood
Nov 9, 2014, 5:09pm Top

It does sound like Pisani has missed a lot in her book, but it would be of interest no doubt for anybody wishing to travel there.

130dchaikin
Nov 10, 2014, 11:53pm Top



65. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005, 564 page Paperback, Read November 1-9)

This was a pleasant place to pass some time. I know that pleasant is an odd word for a book about Nazi Germany, even if it's Young Adult, but Zusak really doesn't ever reach what I would consider reality. He hovers about in an artificial feeling world.

There are a zillion reviews, but, for those who haven't read it or the reviews, Zusak is an Australian author whose parents spent WWII in Germany and Austria. He took something from their stories, although I didn't find what exactly he took, to create a story around a bombed out street in a small town near Munich. There is a long lead up, following a young girl named Liesel Meminger who begins the book as a 9-year-old orphan, and early on befriends a young boy so inspired by Jesse Owens 1936 Berlin Olympic heroics, that he paints himself black and takes to a track to imitate Owens.

Probably you shouldn't take the book too seriously, although it has it's complexities. But if you can hang out with it, Zusak will do a good job of keeping you entertained with his narrator, a wistful personification of Death, and give you plenty of stuff to build around and to mull over what it might have actually been like in Nazi Germany. A successful entertaining book.

131dchaikin
Nov 10, 2014, 11:55pm Top

>129 baswood: Bas, she does cover a lot of ground. Indonesia is just a lot to cover. Every little island spread of thousands of miles has it's own cultural quirks and complexities.

132RidgewayGirl
Nov 11, 2014, 2:14am Top

I was given a copy of The Book Thief and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I do like an author trying something new. And, having lived in a small town outside of Munich, I think he was pitch perfect with the atmosphere and setting.

133labfs39
Nov 11, 2014, 12:18pm Top

Nice review. Your use of the word "wistful" to describe Death is perfect. There is a movie version of The Book Thief starring Geoffrey Rush as Hans. If you hadn't read the book, I wouldn't recommend the movie, but I did like Rush's performance, and twelve-year-old Sophie Nelisse as Liesel was brilliant.

134dchaikin
Nov 11, 2014, 3:22pm Top

>132 RidgewayGirl: interesting, in a good way, that you have local insight. I did not expect you to say pitch perfect.

>133 labfs39: I'm not going to search out the movie, but if it happens along sometime I would watch. Thanks.

135labfs39
Nov 11, 2014, 5:42pm Top

Exactly. Btw, I'm glad you are back posting. :-)

136avidmom
Nov 14, 2014, 11:43am Top

>130 dchaikin: So glad you enjoyed The Book Thief!

137dchaikin
Edited: Nov 19, 2014, 7:41am Top



66. Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman (1993, 144 page e-book, Read November 9-16)

Couldn't take it in. I just wasn't in the right state of mind. I liked what I "saw", but in the same way one wanders through a museum casually, noting each exhibit but not engaging. So, I could kind of appreciate that there was something nice here.

Einstein's Dreams gets rave reviews for its inspiration for creativity. Lightman uses Einstein as sort of source because of Einstein's ideas of space-time and relativity. Each chapter is about four pages on a different world with different physics, and the imagined experience on those worlds. Most of the physical changes have to do with time. In some worlds time moves backwards, in others people can sense time, in one world they can even see it. In some worlds time is relative to the observer so that each person experiences time differently.

Our sense of time is outside our regular senses. As our awareness of it comes and goes, so our sense of time becomes more and less attuned to real time. One cumulative affect is that we do actually each have a varying sense of time perception. Further, we don't really know what time is. It has a physical reality that alludes our senses. It's out there, fundamentally affects us, and yet we have trouble understanding its fundamentals. But yet we count on time's regularity. It has a permanence that we rely on for our sense of reality. Lightman puts it less concretely, "A world in which time is absolute is a world of consolation. For while the movements of people are unpredictable, the movement of time is predictable. While people can be doubted, time cannot be doubted."

Each of Lightman's worlds has an aspect that we can relate to in some way, that is they all touch on something in our reality. But each offers a change of perspective. It also offers an opportunity for the reader to continue well beyond the four pages of the chapter, and create their own worlds that Lightman's ideas might lead us to. That, I think, is the true value of the book. But...I didn't do that. Instead I got caught up in a soft but persistent skepticism, looking for inconsistencies or shrugging at some of the silly details. I maintained a safe, observational distance, if you like. So, I missed out. I'll have to consider trying again.
"Suppose that time is not a quantity but a quality, like the luminescence of the night about the trees just when a rising moon has touched the treeline. Time exists, but it cannot be measured."


138StevenTX
Nov 19, 2014, 9:21am Top

Einstein's Dreams sounds like an interesting book of thought experiments and rather like what I've read of Italo Calvino. I think I would enjoy it.

139rebeccanyc
Nov 19, 2014, 12:42pm Top

Someone gave me Einstein's Dreams years ago, and it's languished on my TBR ever since. Thanks for reminding me about it, but not sure I'll be picking it up anytime soon.

140Poquette
Nov 20, 2014, 1:32pm Top

>137 dchaikin: Your review tells me you got Einstein's Dreams intellectually at least. Sorry it didn't speak to your soul. Speaking of Calvino, his Invisible Cities is very much in the same vein although the focus is imagined cities rather than time.

141dchaikin
Edited: Nov 20, 2014, 2:39pm Top

>138 StevenTX:, >140 Poquette: Haven't read Calvino, but I suspect he's a much better writer. Lightman is more focused on the ideas than on their presentation

Steven - you would probably like it.

Suzanne - I have been thinking about it, so it has left a mark. Writing the review helped a lot. Thinking about how any change in time would so fundamental change how we understand and perceive.

>139 rebeccanyc: - I won't try to rush you, promise. :)

142dchaikin
Edited: Nov 25, 2014, 1:16am Top



67. The Book of Psalms (Read March 10 to November 17)

I read two versions with notes
- The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary
by Robert Alter (2007, 548 page Paperback)
- The HarperCollins Study Bible : New Revised Standard Version, general editor Harold W. Attridge (2006, 117 pages within Paperback)

I am the wrong reader for the psalms. I'm reading the bible to find interesting and memorable stuff. I'm looking for something to engage me and make me think. Job was terrific for this, as the whole poem is an argument back and forth and touches on various religious hot points. The psalms, however, are not like this. They are designed to comfort.

As I beat my head against these 150 repetitive and painfully dull hymns, I had that extra awareness to psalm references, and they come up everywhere, including in my reading in many places. And usually they were moving within the context used. In literature often a person looking for comfort, sometimes just to quiet their anxious mind, turns to the psalms and embraces them. It wasn't always a meditative quality, although that is found a lot, but the meaning of the psalms was valuable, precious, and beautiful. Which is to say that the psalms serve a purpose, but they require a certain kind of buy-in. Not necessarily faith, although that helps a lot, but a willingness to let go, give yourself over to a psalm in some way. I don't think I ever did that. It was rare that I felt any beauty or comfort, just annoyance.

Despite all this, I have a list of favorites and when I think about them altogether (maybe a dozen in total), I'm a bit struck by the richness within them. There are psalms with historical curiosities, and there are ones where the speaker would reach me, such as psalm 77 where anxiety and insomnia lead the speaker to worrying thoughts, or psalm 90 which explores our mortality and asks god to help us come to terms with our temporal limits, or psalm 139 which thinks through a bit the idea of this all knowing, and therefore inescapable, god.

The psalms come in many varieties, and I won't go into detail here. But a lot of them are simply formulaic requests - I'm sick, help me. Or help us, or protect from some bad evil thing...slander seeming to be a very common example of that bad evil thing. They involve a lot formulaic praising of god and mix in a lot of complaints about god not answering. They ask how long will god be silent. It all gets mixed together so that it doesn't at first strike the reader that all this elaborate praise and pronouncement of faith is really just decoration around on a straight forward request for divine intervention. At least that's the jaded perspective - the one I could not avoid, and the one that saw in this a lot whining.

The psalms also come in varying lengths. And, for me, the shorter the better. There is a series of 15 psalms known as the Songs of Ascent that are all short, and this was my favorite section of the psalms (pss 120-134). The short psalms at their best are very spare, a few words with a radiating meaning. They can be moving. Where as the longer psalms tend to be almost meaningless, just collections of formulaic statements.

One summary of all this is that I think the psalms are primarily designed to be comforting, not thought provoking. They are to rest the mind, presumably in anguish of some kind, even if that anguish is merely mental wanderings on mortality.

As for the translations, I can say with confidence that Robert Alter's translations of the psalms is a train wreck. I like his translations elsewhere. But here in the psalms he consistently makes odd decisions that make the psalms less clear, or more clunky. His notes explain many of his decisions, but typically they left me thinking that his solution was much worse then the problem he came up against. And often, all too often, he just seemed to have no aesthetic sense. Had I figured this out up front, I would have ditched his book. But I was half way through before I gave up on trying to find the good in him here. I had no problem with the NRSV, however. After Alter, I appreciated it's clarity. And these psalms don't actually have much subtlety - translation sensitive or not.

I'll conclude with my favorite line, from ps 131, which expresses a desire I can relate to and one that is pertinent for our current world: But I have calmed and quieted my soul

143Mr.Durick
Nov 25, 2014, 2:09am Top

I have not gotten deep into the psalms, but it is decades since I discovered some of their power in calming and quieting the soul — one can hope that the universe will comfort one if one doesn't think one can call on a personal power to ease the circumstances.

But I agree that if you are not into them to find comfort, they can be repetitive, simplistic perhaps, and nothing to think about except as one ponders the big questions as for example is the first Psalm right? There are inferences, too, that one can make to build the ontology of the deity; is it necessary that God hides his face? Can God be called on? But the dullness wears, and so I am far behind you in reading them.

Robert

144dchaikin
Nov 25, 2014, 10:34am Top

>143 Mr.Durick: thanks for that comment. I feel like I should say something more. It has me thinking.

145Poquette
Nov 25, 2014, 3:11pm Top

>142 dchaikin: Nice review of the Psalms! Also, noteworthy accomplishment to have read and absorbed them all!

146NanaCC
Nov 25, 2014, 4:11pm Top

Finally caught up on your thread, Dan. I seem to be busy enough that I am not getting to all of the threads as often as I'd like.

I'm glad that The Book Thief worked for you. I enjoyed it myself, and put off seeing the movie because I was afraid that it couldn't do justice to the book. I finally watched it on TV a couple of weeks ago, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. (Box of tissues later, but then commercials can make me cry). As Lisa said, the young girl's performance was brilliant.

I'm not sure that I would like Einstein's Dreams, but I may check it out.

I enjoyed your recap of Psalms.

147dchaikin
Nov 26, 2014, 3:32pm Top

>145 Poquette: thanks...but don't know that i absorbed all that much. I did take 35 pages of notes...

>146 NanaCC: i appreciate you making the effort to catch. Not an easy thing here. You make me want to see the movie version of The Book Thief.

148rebeccanyc
Nov 27, 2014, 9:00am Top

I too appreciate your thoughts on the psalms. I've only encountered some of them, and often in snippets, so I admire you for reading all of them.

149dchaikin
Nov 27, 2014, 5:37pm Top

Thanks R! They are not recommended. : )

150Oandthegang
Edited: Nov 29, 2014, 4:29pm Top

>147 dchaikin: I'm more impressed with the thirty-five pages of notes than with the reading of the psalms in the first place! I didn't think the psalms ran to an awful lot more than that. But then I haven't really read them since having to do them in school, when we read them from bibles with thin crinkly paper and very small print running in two columns down each page. King James version, of course. Wonderful stuff to quote - "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my strength," etc. I agree though that there is overall a lot of whininess about it, and I tend to think of the supplicant as an unpleasant brat in the school ground wanting his big brother to come round and do horrible things to anyone who slights him or gets in his way.

I've always found stories like that of Job utterly perplexing. I could never understand why God would need to test anybody, as given that He is supposed to know all things throughout time, and even before and after time, He must know the outcome before He begins. This is the sort of thing that would drive anyone mad. It would be like being locked in. It would be impossible to escape from your own knowledge, to speculate or anticipate, an excruciating boredom. But then I guess eternal all-knowing beings probably think differently from us.

I was doing some pondering on Job earlier in the week after seeing Andrey Zvyagintsev's film "Leviathan" which takes in Hobbes as well as the bible. An excellent bit of proper cinema, which I strongly recommend.

151FlorenceArt
Nov 30, 2014, 3:35am Top

>150 Oandthegang: "I tend to think of the supplicant as an unpleasant brat in the school ground wanting his big brother to come round and do horrible things to anyone who slights him or gets in his way."

Yes, that's an apt description of many of the psalms.

152dchaikin
Nov 30, 2014, 1:35pm Top

>150 Oandthegang: I was hoping just taking the notes would help my memory, but it didn't seem to. That's why I took so many. Reading the notes helps spark my memory, so I'm glad I have them.

I should have read KJV, but couldn't bring myself to start there and it was too much to add. In a perfect world I would read the entire KJV, without notes, after reading study bible versions, just to soak in the language.

There is a lot in your comment to respond to, such as why I like Job so much - I didn't worry about the envelope story, but really got into the poetic discussions...and how your comment puts a new perspective on Big Brother. And I'll keep Leviathan in mind, although I'm not ready to take up with Hobbes (except for the stuffed tiger variety).

>151 FlorenceArt: Are we wrong for all agreeing on this?

153Oandthegang
Nov 30, 2014, 7:02pm Top

Erm... It should of course have been 'help' rather than 'strength' coming from the hills. Pity. I quite like 'strength', but it's wrong.

Lots of studies keep demonstrating that writing things down longhand does make us remember better.

154baswood
Dec 1, 2014, 2:33pm Top

Very interesting review of The Book of Psalms something that I will probably never read and yet I hear that many people find them Beautiful, amazing and the highlight of the bible.

155dchaikin
Dec 2, 2014, 11:12pm Top



69. The Paris Review 84 1982 Summer (250 page journal, read October 25 - November 26)
"Publisher" Ron Dante (The magazine does not mention a main editor)

I loved all the poetry in this old issue. The new issues have some poetry, but it's very limited. There is enough here to allow the editors to include some playful variety. Interesting interviews of poets Philip Larkin and James Merrill didn't hurt. But the highlight was from a then unpublished book by Edmund White (later published as A Boy's Own Story). White's writing is simply brilliant.

Brief comments on the entries:

fiction

T. Coraghessan Boyle - Greasy Lake, short story
I really didn't like a newer short story I read recently TC Boyle, so much so that I am hesitant to read more by him. But this story from 30 years ago has a lot of energy in the opening paragraphs. The story itself is simple, an expression of violence and damage from boys trying to be bad – with links to Bruce Springsteen’s Spirit in the Night. After that opening, the story just kind of runs along and fades away, and feels kind of pointless. But the language in the first two pages is striking, and feels carefully worked over.

William Ferguson, A Summer at Estabrook, short story
A narcissistic and struggling musician talks about random stuff mixed with erotic hallucinations. I associate the tone with Eastern European male authors – first person male unreliable narrator talking about nothing but meaning something. I always find these unpleasant to read, but then distastefully thought provoking…

Norman Rush, Lying Presences, short story
The bad, irresponsible, arrogant, out-there brother into UFO’s gives his uptight older brother his latest spiel…and it’s actually pretty thought-provoking.

**Edmund White, The Secret Order of Joy, short story
This was my favorite entry in the magazine. It’s a shortened chapter from White’s then forthcoming first book of his fictionalized autobiography, A Boy’s Own Story. He would later publish two more books to follow up. White, homosexual and newly awakened, is hoping this is all a passing phase, while he becomes close friends with a heterosexual boy he adores. The tension of his position is palpable. But, there was something about the writing the goes beyond the subject. I felt, while reading, that the writing itself was brilliant, and topic, which I loved, was irrelevant.

interviews

Philip Larkin, The Art of Poetry No. 30, interviewed by Robert Phillips
Done through airmail. Apparently the first set of questions took Larkin five months to answer. These start out a bit dull, but Larkin gets more interesting as the questions progress. He’s curiously simple as a person, single, private, working as a librarian, hardly traveling at all outside his town of Hull, and, according to him, going long stretches without writing.

James Merrill, The Art of Poetry No. 31, interview by J. D. McClatchy
What an odd interview, apparently in two parts. In the first part Merrill goes on and on about how he uses a Ouija board to help with his poetry and how seriously he takes this. It’s weird and boring and I started to get really annoyed. But in a second part there is a different Merrill who has very interesting things to say about poetry (and who mentions that he has stopped using the Ouija board). The interview is followed by several of Merrill’s poems and they are brilliant. What an odd, off the wall and unique character.

poetry

Daniel Halpern, Passing & On a Little Theme, poem
Michel Deguy, Three Poems, translated from French by Raymond Federman
Tom Disch, Two Poems
Hugh Seidman, two poems - confusing but still sounded interesting and important
Adam LeFevre, Nocturne with Cows - very descriptive and of the moment
Harvey Shapiro, On a Saturday
Charles Fowler, Fust,
Mark Halliday, Ballplayer at Midnight
Robert Phillips, The Land: A Love Letter
Wendy Salinger, The Eternal Boy
John Morgan, The Inlet
David Lehman, Love and Destiny
Stephen Sandy, Two Poems
George Bradley, Two Poems
Charles Simic, Two Poems
Lisel Mueller, Monet Refuses the Operation - I liked this enough that I posted it on the CR poetry thread
James Merrill, Five Poems - these are brilliant

feature
Archibald MacLeish, The Selected Letters of Archibald MacLeish, edited by Roy H. Winnick
It's cool that he was writing to Hemmingway, Dos Passos and most notably to Erza Pound. He worked to get Pound released from prison. Pound spent over ten years in prison in the USA but was never convicted for treason. MacLeish was key to getting him released, a favor he did even though he had no respect of Pound’s political and racist opinions. But, having said all that, the letters themselves weren't very interesting.

156Poquette
Dec 3, 2014, 7:17pm Top

Appreciate your summary of the Paris Review issue. I have always gone straight for some interview or other and have completely missed the other content.

157dchaikin
Dec 5, 2014, 10:08am Top

>156 Poquette: thanks! I've developed an affection for literary magazines, as long as I don't feel any pressure to keep up. So, i take my time and read one all the way through. I do enjoy the interviews.

158rebeccanyc
Dec 6, 2014, 5:51pm Top

Ditto what >156 Poquette: Suzanne said. Sadly, I almost never get to the magazines I subscribe too, so I really enjoy reading about your forays into literary magazines.

159dchaikin
Dec 6, 2014, 11:15pm Top

R - I treat them like books, otherwise I would not read them either. Actually, I'm so poor at reading magazines that I cancelled all my subscriptions years ago (except what my mother insists on sending me...sigh). Also, thanks for the comment.

160dchaikin
Dec 7, 2014, 12:09am Top

I didn't realized I skipped this...



68. The Chinese in America : A Narrative History (Audio) by Iris Chang, read by Jade Wu (2003, 16 hrs 40 mins, 512 pages in Paperback, Listened October 29 to November 19)

I feel guilty finding interest in Iris Chang, author of this book and The Rape of Nanking, because she committed suicide, and because there is both a book and a documentary about her life (The book is Finding Iris Chang by Paula Kamen.). I probably should have read The Rape of Nanking instead of this, but this was available in audio at my library...

As for the book itself, in some ways it's very good and important and in some ways I felt it was only OK. The reader, Jade Wu, was kind of dull, which didn't help.

Chang put together a big history of Chinese immigration to the US from the mid-19th century railroad workers, through to today's immigration of highly educated Chinese from the People's Republic of China. She fits every stage into the context of Chinese and American history of the times. And it's entertaining in that she has such a negative, but probably accurate view of US. From her perspective the US is a xenophobic madhouse looking for cheep labor to exploit without giving up it's white male European center of power.

And what comes across is a history of racist hatred and violence against innovative hardworking Chinese. The first Chinese were looking for gold in the 1849 California gold rush, until California law basically gave whites a free pass to take over Chinese owned prospects (and there were unpunished massacres). The next phase was the Chinese labor used to build the first railroad from California, across the western deserts and mountains, across the Rocky mountains to the plains - the hardest part of the railroad. There was a lot of dying. And upon completion all these Chinese were immediately laid off. Then there is a long stretch of Chinese labor in San Francisco and other China towns, almost exclusively men, as Chinese woman simply could not immigrate, even if their spouses were in the US. So, as China collapsed, there were whole areas around Guangdong of wives supported by their US husbands. In the US the Chinese men labored hard and long to make very little money and send it to China. But in China this little bit was a lot of money and supported large families. When funding was cut for various reasons, these families starved.

US xenophobia led to the Chinese Exclusion Act - laws that cut Chinese immigration to almost zero for the first 50 years or so of the 19th century. After Mao took over all of China, almost all Chinese immigration came from Taiwan - a country ruled by it's own control-freak government. Large numbers of Taiwanese strived to come to the US or elsewhere, and their ticket out was education. They had to be the top students to have a chance. So, for a generation the US saw a pool of remarkably intelligent Chinese from Taiwan, who were raised to be quiet, obedient and industrious. The combination of xenophobia and culture clash meant that these Chinese excelled far less than whites of equivalent education....but still they excelled. The latest wave of Chinese immigration comes from the PRC, and again they are generally highly educated and have become critical parts of certain parts of the US, such as in medicine where Chinese Americans make up a huge percentage.

So now you don't need to read the book. Of course there is plenty I didn't cover. But, I was bothered by how simplistic this history was, without a lot of critical documentation, or doubt in the tone of the author. Focusing so much on the negative leaves a reader like me wondering how much of this history was an expression of frustration with US xenophobia (When the US overreacted to worries about potential Chinese spies in the defense technology groups, they chased away the best Chinese minds, including, in one case, a Nobel laureate quality scientist who was forced back to China where he helped develop China's missile technology. This was a big deal when Chang was writing). I'm not saying this all wasn't true, or that it isn't important. But I couldn't help but think there must be more to the story. And, sure, an author must limit their coverage, but they can still wave their hands at the complexities they don't cover. That kind of nuance was missing here.

So, I'm mixed on this and it was long, and the reader was dull. If the topic interests you, I think you will find value here.

161mabith
Dec 7, 2014, 12:18pm Top

Seeing your thoughts on The Chinese in America makes me recommend Lisa See's On Gold Mountain even more strongly. It covers a lot of the big, national issues but from an individual family perspective (and the addition of a mixed Chinese and white American marriage). The chapters go back and forth between a more novelized form of the story (focusing most heavily on See's great-grandfather Fong See and her great-grandmother Lettice Pruett) and talking to her relatives, about records she's found, etc... which makes it especially readable (to me, anyway, I want the story, but I also want some facts and figures).

162dchaikin
Dec 7, 2014, 3:46pm Top

>161 mabith: - Thanks. I had The Chinese in America in mind when reading your comments about Lisa See books. I'm definitely interested in On Gold Mountain.

163rebeccanyc
Dec 7, 2014, 5:04pm Top

Actually, both books sound interesting, although I think the simplistic tone would annoy me too, Dan.

164Poquette
Dec 7, 2014, 5:19pm Top

I had not heard that Iris Chang had committed suicide. Wait, let me make sure I read that right! Wow! Now I am curious . . .

165dchaikin
Dec 7, 2014, 5:24pm Top

>164 Poquette: - see, it's not just me! : )

>163 rebeccanyc: - I wasn't really annoyed while reading, just depressed for Chinese Americans.

166baswood
Dec 9, 2014, 11:02am Top

Dan, Interesting to read about the Chinese in America, but I take your point that there might be another side to the story. However the treatment of immigrants by the mother country that arrive en masse is usually appalling, whichever country is involved.

167dchaikin
Dec 10, 2014, 11:26pm Top

>166 baswood: Too true...

168dchaikin
Edited: Dec 14, 2014, 7:05pm Top



70. The View from Castle Rock : Stories by Alice Munro (2006, 349 page hardcover, Read November 16-30)

About time I got to last year's Nobel Prize winner. This book of "stories" is more like a book of personal essays on Munro's family history. She starts in Scotland in the late nineteenth century, touching on a few larger historical distant relations, then focuses in on her ancestors departure from Scotland and immigration to Canada, to, eventually, clearing and working a farm in Ontario. Mind you, in her intro she makes a point to say that this is all fictionalized.

But much of this is somehow both too odd and too regular to be fictional, the consequences of chance and personality along with the the mystery of history and miscellaneous death and disease. Well, she covers a lot of ground. She wooes us in with hints about ancient Scotland, and then quickly become overtly fictional. The immigration comes as an 80 page short story, with personalities and dialogue essentially created out of the mist. Castle Rock is part of Edinburgh Castle (which was quite gorgeous when I saw it briefly, circa 1987). A great ancestor father takes his son there to look at the view:
The sun was out now, shining on the stone heap of houses and streets below them, and the churches whose spires did not reach to this height, and some little trees and fields, then a wide silvery stretch of water. And beyond that a pale green and grayish-blue land, part in the sunlight and part in the shadow, a land as light as mist, sucked into the sky.

“So did I not tell you?” Andrew’s father said. “America. It is only a little bit of it, though, only the shore. There is where every man is sitting in the midst of his own properties, and even the beggars is riding around in carriages.”
And so goes imagination, I suppose, and much else. But, despite all this history, she ends the book by talking a lot about her younger self and her observations and experiences, and, especially her parents. So, it becomes a biography and one learns a lot about rural Ontario.

Probably there are other ways to read this, but for me it left a sense of the oddities of personalities in history and maybe the unpredictability of it all, individual to individual.

169rebeccanyc
Edited: Dec 14, 2014, 8:33pm Top

A View from Castle Rock is my favorite of the Alice Munro books I have read. I didn't take her statement of fictionalization altogether seriously, but it's been a number of years since I read and since it was before my LT reviewing stage, I don't remember too many details, just that I loved it.

170dchaikin
Dec 14, 2014, 8:51pm Top

It's an excellent book, even if my response is more muted than yours. I'm really happy to have read it and I think having read this will make any others books of hers that I read in the future better.

171dchaikin
Dec 14, 2014, 8:54pm Top

R - I'll add that I'd been wanting to read this since in came out in 2006 and the NYTimes had a nice review. Only took 8 plus years...

172dchaikin
Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 7:48pm Top



71. Maus I : A Survivors Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman (1986, 159 page paperback, Read December 2-6)
&
72. Maus II : A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman (1991, 136 page paperback, Read December 7-10)

Maus changed the graphic novel. When it was published, the idea of a serious graphic novel, the idea of German cats and Jewish mice on the Holocaust, meant to be taken seriously, with depth, was so far outside the norm that most publishers didn't know how to market it. Most publishers rejected Maus not because they didn't like it, but because they were intimidated by the marketing challenges that came with it.

It's also a masterpiece. Spiegelman spent years on it not because he could not decide what to do, but because he sketched things over and over again, reworked the tone until he felt he had it right, and then reworked it again as he added stuff in, because he put so much detail into it. He also did a ton of research and interviews, most of which is more or less concealed within the book.

And it's actually not about the Holocaust, well, not on the surface. It's really about Art's relationship with his survivor father, and about his father's story telling, and about trying to find Art's mother, a Holocaust survivor who committed suicide when Art was 20, and about Art trying to take all this in, to report it and yet not be overwhelmed by it. And, ultimately, it's about Art Speigelman, the psychologically tormented child of Holocaust survivors.

I see Maus as a touchstone point in literature, and, of course, in graphic novels. It's a book from the 80's that touched a nerve, that hasn't dated; a special point in the history of the creative arts.

I re-read this for my book club.

173rebeccanyc
Dec 16, 2014, 6:30pm Top

I read Maus when it came out and it made a vivid impression on me. You almost tempt me to reread it.

174dchaikin
Dec 16, 2014, 6:47pm Top

You could always read MetaMaus...

Glad i could tempt, anyway. I didn't read them until my (then not Jewish) fiancé introduced them to me in 1999.

175Poquette
Dec 16, 2014, 8:18pm Top

Dan, yours is the most lucid commentary on Maus that I have read — not that I have particularly sought any out — and you have made me really want to read it. Thanks for helping me to understand what it is all about. Onto the wish list . . . ;-)

176FlorenceArt
Dec 17, 2014, 7:08am Top

Thank you for the great review of Maus. I thought about reading it not too long ago (last year?), but I was afraid to do so. I guess I should get over it and give it a try.

177rebeccanyc
Dec 17, 2014, 7:28am Top

>174 dchaikin: MetaMaus sounds fascinating -- I've been reading a little about the creative process this year.

178dchaikin
Dec 17, 2014, 10:32pm Top

>175 Poquette: - Thanks! I love that you used the word "lucid" to describe something I wrote. Glad you'll consider these. they are maybe a couple hours a book.

>176 FlorenceArt: - have not fear, Flo. OK, they are weighty. But then you were reading de Sade...I think you would be OK. ;)

>177 rebeccanyc: - I'm only a third of the way through MetaMaus, but most of the information in my review actually came from that instead of Maus. It's rewarding because he tells so much about the story behind the books. It also had a DVD which includes some of his key recorded interviews of his father, but I haven't pulled it out yet.

179dchaikin
Dec 17, 2014, 11:00pm Top

I finished The Book of Proverbs today. I wouldn't normally announce it here, this way, but it's my 75th book of the year...and I've never read that many books in one year before. (This number was greatly helped by the 26 audio books I've completed so far this year.) It's also the 700th book on my list of books read - although there is some arbitrariness to the first book on that list.

180NanaCC
Dec 17, 2014, 11:16pm Top

>179 dchaikin: I'm jealous. Nice job.

181dchaikin
Dec 17, 2014, 11:23pm Top

>180 NanaCC: thanks!

182dchaikin
Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 12:08am Top

Thinking ahead to 2015...

A list of 50 books from 8171769::Beowulf on the Beach : What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits by Jack Murnighan. (I read this in 2009)

1. The Illiad-Homer (circa 900 B.C.)
2. The Odyssey–Homer (circa 900 B.C.)
3. The Old Testament (15th- to 2nd-century B.C.) ----- I've been reading this since January 2012
4. The New Testament (1st-2nd century)
5. The Aeneid–Virgil (19 B.C.)
6. Metamorphoses -Ovid (A.D. 17)
7. Beowulf (10th century)
8. Inferno (Divine Comedy)-Dante Alighieri (1308)
9. Paradiso (Divine Comedy)-Dante Alighieri (1321)
10. The Decameron-Giovanni Boccaccio (1353)
11. The Canterbury Tales-Geoffrey Chaucer (1400)
12. *The Faerie Queen-Edmund Spencer (1596) ----- read in 2011
13. *Hamlet-William Shakespeare (1600) ----- read in 2013
14. King Lear-William Shakespeare (1605)
15. Macbeth-William Shakespeare (1605)
16. Don Quixote-Miguel de Cervantes (1615)
17. Paradise Lost-John Milton (1667)
18. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling-Henry Fielding (1749)
19. *Pride and Prejudice-Jane Austen (1813) ----- read in 2005.
20. Faust I II-Johann Wofgang von Goethe (1832)
21. Eugene Onegin-Alexander Pushkin (1832)
22. Père Goriot-Honoré de Balzac (1835)
23. Jane Eyre-Charlotte Brontë (1847) - read in 1991, I will re-read this
24. Wuthering Heights-Emily Brontë (1847)
25. *Moby Dick-Herman Melville (1851)----- read in 2012
26. Bleak House-Charles Dickens (1853)
27. Great Expectations-Charles Dickens (1861)
28. Madame Bovary-Gustave Flaubert (1856)
29. *Crime and Punishment-Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866) ----- read in 2003.
30. *The Brothers Karamazov-Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880) ----- read in 2010
31. War and Peace-Leo Tolstoy (1869)
32. *Anna Karenina-Leo Tolstoy (1877) ----- read in 2004
33. Middlemarch-George Eliot (1872)
34. The Wings of the Dove-Henry James (1902)
35. Remembrance of Things Past-Marcel Proust (1922) ----- read the first two books in 2010...
36. Ulysses-James Joyce (1922)
37. *The Magic Mountain-Thomas Mann (1924) ----- read in 2011
38. The Trial-Kafka (1925)
39. To the Lighthouse-Virginia Woolf (1927)
40. The Sound and the Fury-William Faulkner (1929)
41. A Farewell to Arms-Ernest Hemmingway (1929)
42. Tropic of Cancer-Henry Miller (1934)
43. Native Son-Richard Wright (1940)
44. The Man Without Qualities-Robert Musil (1942)
45. Lolita-Vladimir Nabakov (1955)
46. Giovanni’s Room-James Baldwin (1956)
47. One Hundred Years of Solitude-Gabriel García Marquez (1967)
48. Gravity’s Rainbow-Thomas Pynchon (1973)
49. Blood Meridian-Cormac McCarthy (1985)
50. *Beloved-Toni Morrison (1987) ----- read in 2013

... too much for touchstones??

183dchaikin
Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 12:01am Top

2015 idealistic goal one - finish the Old Testament

Old Testament
Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Ezra
Nehemiah
Esther
Job
Psalms
Proverbs
------------------------------I've read to here
Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Ezekiel
Daniel
12 prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books
Tobit
Judith
--------------------------------------------------​I've read to here
Additions to Esther (Vulgate Esther 10:4-16:24)
Wisdom (or Wisdom of Solomon)
Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira (or Sirach or Ecclesiasticus)
Baruch
Additions to Daniel
1 Maccabees
2 Maccabees
1 Esdras
Prayer of Manasseh
Psalm 151
3 Maccabees
2 Esdras
3 Maccabees

184dchaikin
Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 12:04am Top

2015 idealistic goal 2 - read through the novels of Cormac McCarthy - or, at least through Blood Meridian.

Novels
1. The Orchard Keeper (1965)
2. Outer Dark (1968)
3. Child of God (1973)
4. Suttree (1979)
5. Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West (1985)
6. All the Pretty Horses (1992)
7. The Crossing (1994)
8. Cities of the Plain (1998)
9. No Country for Old Men (2005)
10. The Road (2006) ---- read in 2008
11. The Passenger (unpublished)

185dchaikin
Dec 18, 2014, 12:03am Top

2015 idealistic goal 3 - novels sitting around that I would like to read

(I might add to this later)

How Does a Poem Mean by John Ciardi
HHhH by Laurent Binet
A Time for Everything by Karl Knausgaard

186baswood
Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 7:18pm Top

Interested to read your excellent review of Maus I and Maus II, books that I can't see myself reading, but it's nice to know that they are there.

Those books on the 50 Greatest Hits list are very predictable, but I suppose greatest hits are predicable.

187dchaikin
Dec 18, 2014, 6:09pm Top

No surprises, although surely there is plenty to quibble about. It has struck me as a nice list of 50 books to read with care. And I think I like that they are in chronological order. Anyway, it serves as a plan.

188dchaikin
Edited: Dec 18, 2014, 7:48pm Top



73. Poetry September 2014 (~82 page e-magazine, Read December 2-12)
edited by Don Share

Just passively taking these magazines in. I like the thoughts one of John Koethe's self reflective poems and I was very intrigued by Kay Ryan, a recent US Poet Laureate. The best part for me was the Podcast, where two editors listen to the poets recite their work and then discuss them. It helps a ton to hear the poem, and hear the cadence. And I learned a little bit about the, to me and others, bewildering John Ashbery. (The podcast can be found here)

POETS
John Ashbery
Henri Cole
Catherine Field
Sylvia Legris
Rowan Ricardo Phillips
*John Koethe
Francine J. Harris
D. Nurkse
Alli Warren
Arthur Vogelsang
Robert Fernandez
Dana Levin
Susan Barba
Stephen Sandy
Amy Beeder
*Kay Ryan
Noah Warren

Essays
Douglas Kearney - Freedom of Shadow: A Tribute to Terry Adkins - on graphic design art poetry
Lesley Wheeler - Undead Eliot: How "The Waste Land" Sounds Now
Francine J. Harris - The Brother - on loss, response to Michael Brown

189Oandthegang
Dec 19, 2014, 2:58pm Top

>182 dchaikin: Beowulf on the Beach - a great double bill with Einstein On The Beach!

The list appears to be rather short on happy endings. I sometimes wonder why we don't value joy. I remember a singer telling me that the easy way to hook in and impress the audience was to sing sad songs, even though from her point of view there was just as much skill and effort - possibly even more - in singing lighter ones.

Your year would become gloomier still if you read all of Cormac McCarthy during it. And I say that even though I think everyone should read Blood Meridian (wonderful to read aloud, that one) and am generally a great admirer of his work.

And as for the Old Testament - Jeremiah and Lamentations ahead!

An ambitious programme, but I hope you will have Gaiety Song And Dance somewhere.

190Oandthegang
Edited: Dec 19, 2014, 3:00pm Top

message appeared twice, so deleting second copy

191SassyLassy
Dec 19, 2014, 3:31pm Top

>189 Oandthegang: Someone (don't remember who offhand) said that it is not all that interesting to read about happiness, whereas everyone is interested in the unhappiness of others, or words to that effect. Not that we don't value joy personally of course.

192dchaikin
Dec 19, 2014, 11:34pm Top

I feel the cloud hanging over... :)

Something true in that, Sassy. The fun parts of books don't have the same lasting effect.

O - I'm certainly not looking for a pick me up in McCarthy or the OT, just hoping I find a way to make them catch my curiosity. Of course, speculation is just speculation, especially in leisure reading. Who knows what 2015 will bring. Hopefully something unpredictable!

193dchaikin
Edited: Dec 20, 2014, 8:39am Top



74. Little Failure: A Memoir (Audio) by Gary Shteyngart, read by Jonathan Todd Ross (2014, 12 hrs 46 mins, 368 pages in Paperback, Listened December 4-15)

I hadn't been interested in Shteyngart, but this book popped up on NPR's best books of 2014 page and, when another audio book I was reading was unexpectedly and automatically returned to the library, I needed* an audio book and this was available at the library. I liked it enough that when the first book came available again, I chose to keep listening to this.

The first half or maybe even 2/3's of this memoir is about Shteyngart's immigration to and assimilation with the US. His family left Russia with many other Jews in the late 1970's when Shteyngart was five. They spent about a year in different places in Europe and then immigrated the US, or the enemy as Shteyngart understood it, when he was seven. It's a rich and fascination experience of the world in Russia and then the confusion in the US. As a Jew in Russia, a large portion of Shteyngart's aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles and at least two of his great grandfathers died young, many during WWII where his mother's family, in Belorussia, was caught between Russian and German abuse. In the US his parents linked up with a very conservative Jewish community and Shteyngart found himself circumcised at age 7! And, in his cultural confusion and effort to hide his Russian identity, he told his friends at his all Jewish school that was East German.

The book keeps going and Shteyngart becomes a really messed up high schooler and young adult, with severe drug and alcohol problems and self destructive neurosis. I didn't know any of this, and it's almost like a completely different book. I simply didn't see these problems coming. At one point a friend who has been his benefactor gives him a loan based on the promise that Shteyngart will get psychiatric help, and the therapy seems to have been key in Shteyngart stabilizing his life and becoming a successful author.

There seems to be a lot of insight into Shteyngart's novels, but I haven't read any of them. What I found interesting was that he lived through the same era I did, and yet our experiences were so radically different. Even his cultural references were often so different from my own.

Overall I found the book very good, and certainly it's great for Shteyngart fans. I'm not sure whether or not I want to read his novels.

Note on the audio: Jonathan Todd Ross has a fantastic voice. But, his voice is so wholesome American, I didn't feel it was the right voice for this book.

*"needed" is maybe too strong a word for really wanted

194rebeccanyc
Dec 20, 2014, 6:31pm Top

>189 Oandthegang: >191 SassyLassy: Of course, Tolstoy famously wrote that all happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

I found your list of 2015 reading goals fascinating, Dan, particularly as someone who just picks up whatever books strikes her fancy at the moment.

>193 dchaikin: I was not a fan of the Shteyngart novel I read, or of the one I read excerpts from in the New Yorker, but you make this memoir sound intriguing, at least until Shteyngart gets to his teenage years!

195janeajones
Dec 21, 2014, 3:03pm Top

Hi Dan -- I've been MIA for awhile, only now catching up.

Boyle's "Greasy Lake" used to be anthologized all the time in Intro to Lit. books (no more) -- I loved it -- it reminded of the late 1960s in upstate NY.

I thoroughly enjoyed Munro's A View from Castle Rock when I read it a few years ago.

I keep meaning to read Maus, but haven't yet gotten to it -- your review is inviting. Have you read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi set during the Iranian revolution? I'm sure Satrapi was heavily influenced by Spiegelman.

196dchaikin
Edited: Dec 21, 2014, 3:25pm Top

>195 janeajones: Had no idea about that Boyle. Thanks for mentioning it!

I loved Persepolis. No clue on Spiegelman's specfic influence. Since she published out of Paris, i imagine she got a lot out of the graphic environment there.

>194 rebeccanyc: see, lastyear i read without a plan. It went OK, but i never felt i read deeply, if that makes sense. So, this year i'll at least start with a plan. But, you know how that goes...

And you definitely picked up on my partiality to the first part of Shteyngart's memoir, even though the later part is more directly relevant to his writing...actually, i'm questioning that last bit as i type it.

197rebeccanyc
Dec 22, 2014, 7:09am Top

>196 dchaikin: I enjoyed the first part of The Russian Debutante's Handbook, which took place in Russian immigrant Brooklyn, but once the protagonist took off for Eastern Europe I lost interest. And that's when I lost interest in Shteyngart too.

198dchaikin
Jan 1, 2015, 12:37am Top

Just numbers:

To complete the year (minus reviews of my last three book), I'm re-posting my year summary from post #8

2014
Books read: 77
Pages: 23,742
"regular books" (excluding various oddities. See post 5): 29
Formats: Hardcover 12; Paperback 18; ebooks 10; Audio 27; Lit magazines 10
Subjects in brief: Novels 17; Non-fiction 44; Poetry 7; Graphic 3; Juvenile 4; History 17; Science 11; Journalism 7; Anthology 10; Short Story Collections 8; Essay Collections 4; Classics 5; Biographies/Memoirs 26; Interviews 5
Nationalities: US 55; UK 7; Israel 5; Australia 6; Netherlands 1; Iran 1; France 1; Malaysia 2, Canada 1
Genders, m/f: 30/33
Owner: Books I own 41; Library books 35; Books I borrowed 1
Re-reads: 4
Year Published: 2010's 34; 2000's 20; 1990's 7; 1980's 9; 1970's 2; 1960's 1; 1950's 0; 1940's 1; 0-1939 0; BCE 3

That's 6,000 more pages and 10 more books than than I have ever read in a single year. 27 audio books helped. But the number of "Regular" books is actually about the same as it has been every year for the last ten years. Not sure what any of that says.

I tried to read more books by women this year and and it's the first year I have ever read more books by woman than by men (excluding anthologies and other mixed author books or biblical books where the authors are unknown).

Other oddities
- my lowest paperback total since 2004
- most ever non-fiction, audio (by far), literary magazines, science related books, books that I considered journalism, memoirs/biographies (20 of the 26 were memoirs/autobios), US-authored books, books written by women, library books, re-reads (only four re-reads though), books from the 2010's and, oddly, books from the 1980's.

It's also the first time I've put all these numbers together year by year, which only says I make weird use of my free time.


199NanaCC
Jan 1, 2015, 12:59am Top

Love your stats. Happy New Year, Dan!

200dchaikin
Jan 1, 2015, 11:06pm Top

Thanks! Happy New Year Colleen!

201JDHomrighausen
Jan 2, 2015, 1:32am Top

I did stats too! It's nice to see what we've been doing in hard numbers. Here's to another year of great reading, Dan!

Group: Club Read 2014

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