HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
  • LibraryThing
  • Book discussions
  • Your LibraryThing
  • Join to start using.

rocketjk's 2017 50-Book adventures

50 Book Challenge

Join LibraryThing to post.

1rocketjk
Edited: Jan 6, 1:28pm Top

I haven't gotten to 50 books over the last six years, or since I bought my used bookstore. My last five totals are 41, 41, 46, 44, 46 and, in the first year of the store, only 40. Hope never dies, however!

In case you're interested:
2016 50-Book Challenge thread
2015 50-Book Challenge thread
2014 50-Book Challenge thread
2013 50-Book Challenge thread
2012 50-Book Challenge thread
2011 50-Book Challenge thread
2010 50-Book Challenge thread
2009 50-Book Challenge thread
2008 50-Book Challenge thread

In addition to the books I read straight through, I like to read anthologies, collections and other books of short entries one story/chapter at a time instead of straight through. I have a couple of stacks of such books from which I read one story/chapter each between the books I read from cover to cover (novels and histories, mostly). So I call these my "between books." When I finish a "between book," I add it to my yearly list.

Master List (Touchstones included with individual listings below):
1: The Incredible Human Journey by Alice Roberts
2: Victory by Joseph Conrad
3: Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst
4: Under the North Star by Väinö Linna
5: We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
6: The Uprising by Väinö Linna
7: The Deceived by Brett Battles
8: Six Plays of Clifford Odets
9: Reconciliation by Väinö Linna
10: West With the Night by Beryl Markham
11: The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
12: A Treasury of the World's Great Letters edited by Max Lincoln Schuster
13: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
14: Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen
15: A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
16: The Valley by Rolando Hinojosa
17: The Reluctant Art: Five Studies in the Growth of Jazz by Benny Green
18: Greenmantle by John Buchan
19: Casey Stengel: Baseball's Greatest Character by Marty Appel
20: And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You by Kathi Kamen Goldmark
21: True - The Man's Magazine: August, 1958 edited by Douglas S. Kennedy
22: Back to Delphi by Ioanna Karystiani
23: The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
24: Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves
25: Living the Turtle Life by Janet Rene Snyder
26: A Purple Place for Dying by John D. MacDonald
27: Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
28: Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada
29: lost boy lost girl by Peter Straub
30: Land of Frozen Laughter: a Community Development Volunteer in the Vietnam War, 1967-1969 by John Lewallen
31: Fire in the Sky by J. A. Shears
32: The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
33: The Jews of Dubrovnik: a Walk Through Space and Time from the Early Days to the Present by Vesna Miovic
34: Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration by Sam Quinones
35: The Collected Works of William "Chili Bill" Eichinger by William Eichinger
36: The Reporter - A Fortnightly of Facts and Ideas: February 2, 1954 edited by Max Ascoli
37: Homeworld by Harry Harrison
38: Veli Jože by Vladimir Nazor
39: Deductions from the World War by Baron von Freytag-Loringhoven
40: Wheelworld by Harry Harrison
41: The Quick Red Fox by John D. MacDonald
42: Starworld by Harry Harrison
43: The Arbor House Treasury of Great Western Stories edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin Harry Greenberg
44: From the Land of Sheba: Tales of the Jews of Yemen collected and edited by S. D. Goitein
45: Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven
46: Where Trouble Sleeps by Clyde Edgerton
47: Grunt: the Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
48: Washington and his Generals by Joel T. Headley
49: The Reporter - A Fortnightly of Facts and Ideas: March 31, 1953 edited by Max Ascoli
50: West of Here by Jonathan Evison

2Ameise1
Jan 8, 2017, 7:43am Top

Happy reading 2017, Jerry.

3rocketjk
Jan 8, 2017, 11:36am Top

>2 Ameise1: Thanks!

4rocketjk
Edited: Jan 31, 2017, 1:27am Top

Book 1: The Incredible Human Journey by Alice Roberts



Scientist Alice Roberts went on a journey around the world for a BBC multi-episode documentary tracing the history of origins of the human species and the theories regarding when, where and how our earliest ancestors journeyed out of Africa, where we evolved into being, and eventually ended up living on every continent save Antarctica. Along the way, Roberts visits with scientists doing important archeological work in many spots and also spends time with many tribal cultures, such as Bushmen in Africa, Aborigines in New Zealand and reindeer herders in Siberia, people who are living as closely as she can find to the manner in which the ancient inhabitants of those places might have lived. In short, as the book's subtitle puts it, Roberts did her best to present "the story of how we colonized the planet." This book was published in 2009 as a companion piece to the television series. The one published review of the book I found, from the Guardian, claimed that the book was in fact much more satisfying than the documentary, because it is more sober and much more detailed. That would not surprise me.

At any rate, I found the book to be interesting and certainly detailed enough to make me feel like I'd gotten a good picture of the evolution (you should pardon the expression) of the many theories about the timing and methods for the human species' arrival at our many global ports of call over the millennia. The science of it all is quiet fascinating, and Roberts does a good job describing competing theories without becoming doctrinaire about one or the other. There are some drawbacks to this kind of book, however, the main one being that theories in this field can become outdated quickly. The book was published in 2009, so we must assume the research and writing was accomplished a year or more before that. In the very section about our cousins, the Neanderthals, who were already established in Europe when humans arrived there, the topic of human/Neanderthal interbreeding comes up, along with the possibility that humans now carry Neanderthal DNA around in our genes. At that point, scientists were just beginning to map the Neanderthal genome from fossilized bones, and the consensus was that the likelihood was very small that any such ideas were valid. I remember my wife telling me recently that she'd read articles to the contrary, however. A google searched revealed, sure enough, that just a year after the book was published, the same scientists who'd been so skeptical on the subject had now been convinced of their earlier error. Don't get me wrong: I think it's to everybody's credit that these folks were willing to admit their errors when new information arose. It's just a cautionary tale that books on science can lose their currency fairly quickly. Nevertheless, I still think that the lion's share of the information in this book still presents currently active theories.

All in all, I thought the writing itself was good. Roberts doesn't mind using first person, of course, to describe her interactions with the various people she meets, from scientists to tribe members, but mostly she has a light touch and a down to earth point of view. One quibble is her overuse of the word "suggests." Scientists "suggest" things and evidence "suggests" things, and it seems to be the only word Roberts is comfortable with. Over and over again, sometimes five or six times a page. As a longtime copy editor, this sort of thing jumps out at me. Somebody find this woman a Thesaurus! Nevertheless . . . 4 stars.

5rocketjk
Jan 14, 2017, 4:17pm Top

Book 2: Victory by Joseph Conrad



This reading of Victory represents the continuation of a now years-long tradition of mine of reading (or, in most cases, rereading) a Joseph Conrad novel as the first book begun in each calendar year. In this way, I've been going through all the Conrad novels in order of publication, beginning with The Nigger of the Narcissus. (I decided to skip Conrad's first two novel's, An Outcast of the Islands and Almeyer's Folly, but I'll probably get to them at the far end of the project, fates be willing. Same story for the three novels Conrad co-wrote with Ford Maddux Ford.)

Anyway, Victory begins as a wry tale, narrated by a sardonic sailor who sees the proceedings being described more as a comedy than otherwise. Conrad was never shy about changing up narration styles mid-stream, and as the point of view switches to the perspective of the protagonist, Heydst, and then again to an omniscient narrator, the sense of danger, and then of dread, commences and slowly tightens. Not wanting to give away plot, I'll just say that this is a psychological romance, with love, jealousy and greed as the driving forces, and a pair of the most evil villains this side of Iago. The book is written in a romantic style that was, by the book's 1915 publication, probably more or less out of style. For this reason, for example, Nabakov wrote disparagingly of it. But for me, at least, the characterizations ring true, with a less of Conrad's normal distortion of personality types, and the plot hurtles along, also somewhat unusually for Conrad. Since this was a reread for me, I approached my re-immersion into this universe of suspicion and dread with some trepidation. But I was rewarded with another wonderful reading experience, courtesy of my favorite author.

6rocketjk
Jan 19, 2017, 2:23am Top

Book 3: Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst



This fine thriller was the first for me of Alan Furst's highly regarded Night Soldiers novels. It is Paris, circa 1938, and two Spanish emigres are going about the difficult and often dangerous business of trying to find, buy and ship arms to the Spanish Republican Army. Though the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War already seems clearly to be lost, the attempt must be made. I found Midnight in Europe to be very well plotted, crisply written and believably set in a fascinating period in history. The protagonists, too, are mostly believable. In addition to Paris, we are taken to some of Europe's trouble spots, Berlin, Gdansk and Odessa, as the continent is pulled inexorably into total war.

7rocketjk
Edited: Feb 13, 2017, 1:07am Top

Book 4: Under the North Star by Väinö Linna



Under the North Star is the first book of a trilogy of the same name. Together, these three volumes are considered true classics of Finnish literature. The trilogy takes in Finnish history from the 1880s through the 1950s. This first book follows the fortunes of tenant farmer Jussi Koskela and, eventually, his son Akseli. Jussi values hard work above all else, but that work is not really his own, as his place on his own land is never secure, given that it is owned by someone else. Linna moves his lens in and out skillfully, sometimes focusing in on the Koskelas themselves, and sometime pulling back to show us the plights and struggles--and joys--of the tenant workers as a whole. Correspondingly we see Finland itself struggling under the whims of the Russian Czar, as Finland at that point was not independent, but a possession of Russia. As the years move along, Finland begins to assert its rights againt their Russian rulers, and the tenants begin to assert theirs against the landowners, with Socialism becoming an increasingly significant factor in the countryside. The narrative is presented always with a light touch and, at times, an affectionate wink.

My wife and I traveled to Finland several years ago. While there, we were assured that this trilogy really does present a good picture of Finnish history and of the development of the Finnish national character. My wife read these books soon after our return from that vacation, but for some reason it's taken me much longer to finally get to them. Now I'm very glad I have.

8rocketjk
Edited: Feb 18, 2017, 2:36pm Top

Book 5: We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler



This story of a 14-year-old girl, Gwen, whose teenage rebellion orbits out of control, and her harassed, disaffected father, Phil, is full of stunning language and imagery, but it doesn't seem that Handler was fully in control of his story line. The story is fable-like in the telling, which is fine with me, but Phil's unhappiness with the shallowness of his lot is by now an over-familiar theme, and the lengths that Gwen goes to act on the perceived injustices of her life (boredom, not being one of the cool kids and an overbearing mother, primarily) seemed discordant to me. I laughed out loud frequently, and often stopped to reread wonderful paragraphs and passages. And the surreal quality of the work was clearly intentional, and could have worked very well for me--I'm a fan of the surreal. But the plot just didn't hold together enough for me. So: 3 1/2 stars.

9PaperbackPirate
Feb 20, 2017, 8:30pm Top

I just realized I haven't said Hi in 2017! Happy New Year!

I just bought We Are Pirates because I was a fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Have you read those books?

10rocketjk
Feb 20, 2017, 8:39pm Top

>9 PaperbackPirate: No, I haven't read them, but I'm fond of them because I sell a ton of them in my bookstore. And "Hi" to you, too! Happy reading in 2017.

11laytonwoman3rd
Mar 1, 2017, 5:54pm Top

Just found your 2017 thread, Jerry. Sorry to be late to your party! I think you're the only person I know who loves Conrad the way you do. My respect for his work has been growing. I read Lord Jim for the first time this year, and I'm looking forward to a re-read of Heart of Darkness fairly soon.

12rocketjk
Edited: Mar 6, 2017, 3:33am Top

>11 laytonwoman3rd: Hi Linda. Thanks for checking in. I know several other Conrad lovers, though none of those particular folks are on LT as far as I know. He is an acquired taste, I think. There's almost always a somewhat almost impressionistic cast to his work, just a shade or two off from absolute realism. That throws a lot of people, I think. And then, of course, some people just don't like him. I took a great intensive seminar on Conrad in grad school, taught by a fabulous professor, and that sealed my fate for life. Cheers!

13rocketjk
Mar 8, 2017, 4:30pm Top

Book 6: The Uprising by Väinö Linna



This is the second book of Linna's "Under the North Star" trilogy. The novel takes us through the short (3 months) but very brutal Finnish Civil War, fought immediately after the Finns gained independence from Russia in 1918 (after the Russian Revolution). The fight was between the so-called Reds, who were Socialists and Social Democrats rather then Communists, and the Whites, essentially the classes of power, money and land. The Reds took control of the southern part of the country, but the Whites, with better trained soliders and better arms, and with the support of the German Army, which sent troops, marched south and retook the country. The Uprising shows us the events leading up to the conflict, and the war itself, through the eyes of the tenant farmers of the fictional farming town of Penti's Corner. Linna explores through his characters the conditions that drove plain spoken farmers and workers to become revolutionaries, and then takes us through the violence and frustrations of their doomed uprising. Finally, we get the horror and fury of the war's aftermath, as the Whites take bloody and demoralizing revenge upon their defeated opponents.

I don't want to give the impression that the book is simply a history lesson, however, as the people in the book and their situations become very real to the reader, as does their suffering. This is history as seen through the eyes of very vivid characters, particularly the main protagonist, Akseli Koskela and his family. This book will stay with me for a very long time, and I'll be reading the third book in the trilogy, Reconciliation, very soon.

14rocketjk
Mar 16, 2017, 7:40pm Top

Book 7: The Deceived by Brett Battles



This is the second in Brett Battles' "Jonathan Quinn" series of espionage thrillers. Jonathan Quinn is a "cleaner," a specialist hired to clean up messes so that authorities need not become aware when espionage schemes go awry. He is, of course, super-competent and even has an evolved sense of right and wrong. He is hired to "disappear" a body found in a transport container, but a complication (of course) immediately arises, as the body turns out to be the remains of one of his best friends. Adventure ensues. This is well-written series, especially given the genre, and nicely handled from a plot and character aspect, as well. I read the first book in the series last year, and while I don't know that I'll make a point of continuing the series, I would happily recommend the books to fans of this sort of thriller.

15rocketjk
Edited: Mar 20, 2017, 12:16am Top

Book 8: Six Plays of Clifford Odets



Read as a "between book" (see first post). This collection of plays was originally published in 1939. We know this because Odets states in his introduction that he is writing said introduction on his 33rd birthday, and Odets was born in 1906. So lets reflect a minute on a playwright who had penned and had produced six plays in New York before his 33rd birthday! At any rate, these plays, all produced during the Depression, are considered to be quite influential to authors like Arthur Miller and Paddy Chayefsky who came along afterward. The earliest, especially Waiting for Lefty, are overtly leftist in theme. The later plays, especially Rocket to the Moon, are more explorations of human nature with any political slant much more subdued. In one way or another, however, they each all about the importance for the individual to resist being restrained by outside forces, be they the expectations and limitations of societal norms or the demands of family, even sometimes the most loving of families. The may at times feel a bit dated, and for the longer plays one gets the point quite early on. Still, in most cases the characters do come alive, even on the printed page, and there is effective and thought-provoking dialogue aplenty.

16laytonwoman3rd
Mar 20, 2017, 12:55pm Top

>15 rocketjk: I've always known of Clifford Odets, but never experienced him in print or on stage. Sounds like maybe he's one for the students of theater, more than the mere lovers of good drama well-played?

17rocketjk
Mar 20, 2017, 2:05pm Top

>16 laytonwoman3rd: Well, that would be an exaggeration, I think. Direction and acting would have a lot to do with how effective some of these plays would be on the modern stage. I think, especially, Golden Boy, Paradise Lost and Rocket to the Moon could still work quite well, especially the later, which has characters that really do develop in interesting ways during the play.

18rocketjk
Apr 13, 2017, 5:45pm Top

Book 9: Under the North Star 3: Reconciliation by Väinö Linna



This is the final novel in Väinö Linna's trilogy, "Under the North Star," a classic of Finnish literature. Reconciliation begins shortly after the short but very bitter Finnish Civil War has been completed. Our protagonist, Akseli Koskela, has been a commander on the losing side and now only wants to get back to his farm. Reprisals have ended, but bitterness remains. As the title suggests, however, those rifts, while not forgotten, begin to heal as the country begins to face an even greater menace than each other, the Soviet Union, which is demanding that the Finns cede a wide swatch of territory along the border between the two countries. Soon it is not Akseli but his sons who are off to war.

Throughout this trilogy, which begins in the 1880s, Linna is able to skillfully adjust his focus frequently between the societal concerns and struggles of Finnish culture as a whole and the details of life for the many classes of the fictional southern Finnish town of Penti's Corner. In particular, we see, embodied in the Koskela family and their friends, the daily lot of the hard working tenant farmer class and their efforts to attain autonomy and suffrage. Progress is slow and ground is given but grudgingly by the privileged classes.

I know I'm not doing this work justice, here. I was assured during the visit to Helsinki that my wife and I enjoyed a few years back that this trilogy ably and accurately reflects Finnish history and character. The bottom line for me: this is one of the most powerful works of fiction, and most memorable sets of characters, I can ever recall reading. The trilogy takes a bit of patience at the beginning, as the plot moves slowly at first, but the reward is great. Each book of the trilogy contains a brief but very helpful historical synopsis of the period covered, as Linna wrote for a Finnish audience and assumed familiarity of Finnish history that few outside the country are likely to possess. However, I would issue a stern warning against the Translator's Note at the beginning of this third novel, as it contains a frustrating plot spoiler.

19rocketjk
Edited: Dec 13, 2017, 1:47pm Top

Book 10: West With the Night by Beryl Markham



I finally read this classic (or at least semi-classic) memoir. I certainly enjoyed it, although not as much as others have. For one thing, I wrongly assumed that the book was entirely about Markham's flying adventures, and was somewhat disappointed to find that most of the first half of the book is about her childhood and then her young adulthood as a horse trainer. Although those sections were interesting, and Markham's writing good, I began to get impatient with both. The topics just weren't what I wanted to be reading about. In addition, there were times when I thought Markham fell in love a little too much with the sound of her own voice. Finally, although I am a firm believer in accepting authors' attitudes within the context of the time and place they wrote, I couldn't help growing uncomfortable sometimes at her easy acceptance of the colonial system and her apparent embracing of the White Man's Burden credo. On the other hand, it is instructive to read back almost 100 years and see the thinking. All that said, the writing overall is very good and the stories well told. I'm certainly glad I read this, and I would recommend it to others, with the foregoing reservations.

20PaperbackPirate
Apr 15, 2017, 12:37pm Top

>19 rocketjk: My friend just gave me this book to read because I enjoyed a historical fiction story about Ms. Markham. I love reading about horses so I think it will be just right for me.

21rocketjk
Apr 15, 2017, 1:10pm Top

>20 PaperbackPirate: I'm sure you will like it a lot.

22rocketjk
Apr 21, 2017, 3:34pm Top

Book 11: The Black Echo by Michael Connelly



This the first book in Connelly's very popular "Harry Bosch" series. I can see why people like the character so much, and Connelly's a pretty good writer, especially as this sort of genre fiction goes. There's a bit of depth to the character and I was willing to overlook the cliched aspects (loner detective, distrusted by him colleagues, embittered Viet Nam War vet, hyper-engaged moral compass, etc.). The plot was well designed, well paced and engaging.

This was Connelly's first novel, and the character names are so whimsical, though (Harry's Bosch's real first name is Hieronymous; the two IAD policemen are named Lewis and Clark and their boss is named Irving Irvings; and the main female protagonist is Eleanor Wish) that it made me conjecture that Connelly figured he'd never get it published anyway, so he might as well amuse himself. Also, about a third of the way in, Connelly began employing one of my thriller writing pet peeves, the overuse of characters' first and last names, when one or the other would do. (e.g. "Bosch rang the bell and Eleanor Wish opened it quickly.") The fact that Connelly didn't begin doing that right away, though, made me wonder whether some idiot editor might have gone through the manuscript and inserted them. Anyway, those were relatively minor distractions within a good mystery. I don't plan on rushing to continue the series, but I probably will read some more Bosch novels somewhere along the line.

23rocketjk
Edited: May 2, 2017, 12:50am Top

Book 12: A Treasury of the World's Great Letters edited by Max Lincoln Schuster



Read as a "between book" (see first post). This collection took me several years to go through, one letter or set of letters at a time. This is a fascinating collection that begins with and exchange of letters between Alexander the Great and King Darius III and ends with Thomas Mann's indictment of the Nazi regime from his exile in Switzerland. In between there are letters to and from all manner of famous writers, scientists, generals, politicians and great thinkers, set forth in chronological order. Spinoza, Napolean, George Washington, Dickens and Dostoevsky. Disraeli and Gauguin. P.T. Barnum. Intimate moments (Pierre Curie's marriage proposal to Marie), teaching moments, complaints, philosophy and advice are all represented.

My copy of the book, published in 1940 and purchased at some garage sale or thrift store somewhere along the line for $3.00, bears hand-written name, "Warren C. Breidenbach Jr., March 10, 1941, Ann Arbor and, on the next page, "A gift from mother on my 21st birthday." A quick Google search determined that Warren Breidenach was an All-American track star at the University of Michigan in the '40s who went on to become a leading reconstructive surgeon. (I think it's fun if you can learn a thing or two about the person or people who owned your book before you did, assuming the book was purchased used.)

24PaperbackPirate
Apr 25, 2017, 10:19am Top

I read a book of letters between Frank Lloyd Wright and Rose Pauson. It was fun to see the different stationary the letters were written on and telegrams. It made me wonder if some day people will make a book of emails between people, and it just doesn't seem like as much fun.

That's so surprising that you were able to find out so much about the previous book owner!

25rocketjk
Apr 25, 2017, 3:55pm Top

>24 PaperbackPirate: I agree with your point about emails and letters, although I suppose a good editor with worthy subjects could put something valuable together.

As to the previous owner, whenever I read a book with the previous owner's name in it one way or the other, I always run a google search in hopes of getting lucky. Every once in a while you find out something interesting!

26PaperbackPirate
Apr 26, 2017, 12:40am Top

>25 rocketjk: You're probably right about "worthy subjects" & good editors!

27rocketjk
Edited: Dec 13, 2017, 1:50pm Top

Book 13: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen



I saw my first Bruce Springsteen concert in 1974 in the Student Union building of Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ, while home on spring break from my freshman year of college. Over the intervening years, Springsteen has been one of the most potent artistic forces in my life, his lyrics, music and performances, as well has his stances on public issues, hugely influential to me. So there was no doubt that I was going to read this autobiography sooner rather than later. Springsteen writes, here, quite candidly on many fronts. He does a terrific job describing his difficult childhood in working class New Jersey, his father's depression and alcoholism and his mother's optimism and determination to keep the family together in the face of these difficulties. Also, Springsteen's narrative of his early fascination with rock and roll and then his early music career and the bands in which he honed his playing, song writing and leadership abilities are handled quite well. Nor does he stint on describing his own lengthy bouts of debilitating depression and alienation, and his lifelong fear of emotional commitment.

Springsteen also takes us through his years of growing fame, and all the hard work, attention to (and obsession over) detail, worry and triumph they entailed. He provides good insight into the evolving thematic content of his songs/albums. But in these later years, it feels sometimes that things are missing, or at least it felt that way to me. For the most part, the members of the E Street Band are cyphers. There is some detail about Springsteen's relationships with Danny Federici and with Clarence Clemons, the two most problematic band members. But for the most part, we are left only to imagine about the band dynamics, personality-wise. Even Springsteen's famed friendship with Clarence, "the Big Man," gets fairly short shrift. This is understandable, to a certain extent, as Springsteen was clearly loath to air anybody's dirty laundry but his own. And who could blame him? Still, it's clear that Springsteen was focused on telling his own story, and everyone else enters into the narrative only as they relate to his own personal narrative.

At any rate, while I consider my reservations to be significant in my overall assessment of the book, overall I consider Born to Run to have been well worth the time to read, and that's putting it mildly. This is a fascinating man telling a fascinating, "by his bootstraps" story of talent, determination, soul and the creative process. I know a lot more about Springsteen, now, including more of the blemishes. My regard for Springsteen as an artistic force and, I'm gonna say it, one of my personal heroes, has not been altered.

28rocketjk
May 13, 2017, 9:02pm Top

Book 14: Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen



This is an entirely entertaining, quick-paced, sometimes laugh out loud funny crime story full of knuckle-headed characters and a couple of heart-of-gold, oddball protagonists. A Duck Dynasty-type reality show actor flubs a stand-up comedy appearance in Key West, in the process enraging the audience and having to run for his life. His manager, in a case of mistaken identity, has been kidnapped. Hilarity ensues. Our hero, Andrew Yancy, a former detective turned health inspector, in an attempt to win back his detective's badge, puts himself on the case. The string tying them all together is the title character. Just a whole lot of fun is what this is. Great dialogue, great, if unlikely, plot.

29rocketjk
Edited: May 27, 2017, 1:41pm Top

Book 15: A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman



In Israel, Avishai Lazar, a retired judge still grieving the death of his wife, receives a call from a barely remembered boyhood friend he hasn't spoken to in decades. The friend is Dov Greenstein, a standup comic somewhat past his prime but still able to fill a club. Greenstein has a request, that Lazar come to his next performance and then tell Greenstein what he's seen. Why, after so many years? Lazar is at first reluctant, but eventually agrees. But the performance, when it begins, quickly veers from comedy to an monologue of reminiscence of teen-years trauma, flecked with humor, yet increasingly harrowing, with Lazar, within his narration of the story, filling in details of his own. Sounds like fun, right? What makes this such an entirely noteworthy book is the universal humanity that Grossman works into the stories spun by Greenstein and, to a lesser extent, Lazar. Greenstein's story-telling pulls us along, even as most of his audience, expecting comedy rather than self-analysis, becomes resistant and angry. And while the story is necessarily tied to its Israeli locale, with references made to occupied territories and relations with the Palestinian people, this is ultimately a riveting foray, as noted above, into the human condition.

30rocketjk
May 30, 2017, 3:16pm Top

Book 16: The Valley by Rolando Hinojosa



This short novel, first published in 1983, is really a series of anecdotes and vignettes describing the Texas Mexicano community in fictional Belken County, right on the border with Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley. In these snapshots, the border between the two countries is portrayed as more of a state of mind than a physical border, and some of the families here have been on the Texas side of the line since before there was a Texas. The writing is delightful, and many of the same stories pop up several times, but told from different perspectives. There is much humor, some gentle, some more broad. The sparse interactions these characters have with their Anglo Texas neighbors across the tracks (and in institutions of power, like the courthouse), reminded me at times of the interactions that the shtetl Jews have with their Russian and Polish neighbors in the writing of authors like Singer and Alechem. Some of the humor is reminiscent (although not strictly analogous) to those writers, as well. At any rate, The Valley reads quickly (and is quite short) and feels breezy, yet is ultimately revealing and thought provoking. Plus, I learned some interesting things about the history of the Texas/Mexican community.

31rocketjk
Edited: Aug 27, 2017, 11:23pm Top

Book 17: The Reluctant Art: Five Studies in the Growth of Jazz by Benny Green



Read as a "between book" (see first post). Benny Green was an English jazz musician of some prominence who, beginning with this book, originally published in 1962, began a transition from musician to full-time author of books both fiction and non-fiction. At any rate, the "studies" here provide great informatin about Bix Beiderbecke, Benny Goodman, Lester Young, Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker. When the book was republished in 1991, Green added in an essay on Art Tatum that he'd written in in 1976.

Green was (he passed away in 1998) a good writer, with a sometimes acerbic wit and plenty of scorn for those not as enlightened as he was. These essays are very informative, but probably best for folks who already possess a rudimentary (at least) knowledge of the subject matter, as Green supplies only the biographical material needed to inform his theories. There's lots of great information here for jazz fans. I learned a lot, for example, about what it was about Charlie Parker's music that made him such an innovator, and also much about what made both Lester Young and Billie Holiday so great. Part of what makes the essays interesting is that Green clearly considered himself a bit of a myth buster.

Green was not shy about broadcasting his peeves and aversions, however. He particularly had it in for a) Benny Goodman and b) non-musicians with the effrontery to write about jazz. (That was me for quite a few years in the 2000's. Yikes!) As to Goodman, Green seems to relish relating the famed clarinetist's shortcomings more than his considerable achievements in the essay dedicated to him, and never misses a chance to take a swipe at Goodman in other chapters. In fact, in the Preface to the new edition, Green relates an anecdote about Goodman declining to be interviewed by Green on British television, stating, "Mr. Green does not understand the predicament of the American musician." Green's comment was, "I agreed to tear up my contract, more than consoled for the loss by the knowledge that Goodman had inadvertently endorsed my bona fides, for there is no finer testimony to a man's character than that Goodman should have disapproved of it." Whoa!

Regarding Pet Peeve B, Green couches many of his explanations in technical musical language regarding chord structure and the like that seems designed as much to leave his non-musician readers behind as to bolster his points. No doubt, the technical points are accurate and helpful to those who can understand them, and there was a fun rhythm about them that made the language enjoyable, for all their opaqueness to me.

At any rate, I am emphasizing too much these points about Green's attitudes. All in all, the book is well written, informative and fun.

32rocketjk
Edited: Jun 6, 2017, 4:24pm Top

Book 18: Greenmantle by John Buchan



This is the second in Buchan's classic series of spy novels featuring hero Richard Hannay. It's interesting to read a thriller about World War I that was written during World War I. The introduction tells us that Buchan wrote Greenmantle "between February and June 1916 when serving as a Major in the Intelligence Corps in France." Hannay tells a tale about British agents trying to foil what they believe is a German plot to unite the Arab world against the Allies behind a religious/spiritual leader of their choosing. Buchan clearly had no way of knowing that, in real life, at that time T.E. Lawrence was going around Arabia trying to do somewhat the same thing on behalf of England.

At any rate, Greenmantle is a lot of fun to read, as was the first Hannay novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps. One must, however add the usual caveats for a Buchan novel: racism, anti-Semitism and, in this case, glorification of combat and war. If a reader doesn't mind side-stepping such distractions, this book is a nice slice of escapist fun.

33rocketjk
Jun 19, 2017, 4:07pm Top

Book 19: Casey Stengel: Baseball's Greatest Character by Marty Appel



I received this great biography from my darling wife as an anniversary present. The book is very well written. It's full of all sorts of information about Casey Stengel, the person, the ballplayer and the manager. I was particularly interested in the chapters about Stengel's playing career and his early managing career, before he got the job with the Yankees that made him so famous. I appreciated the fact that only the first 20 pages or so concerned Stengel's childhood. While the early years of some people's lives are extremely important in understanding the adult they came to be, in some cases it seems that biographers spend too much time on their subject's childhood more or less for form's sake. At any rate, I highly recommend this biography to baseball fans of all ages.

34rocketjk
Edited: Jul 2, 2017, 9:51pm Top

Book 20: And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You by Kathi Kamen Goldmark



This is a fun, breezy novel, a comedy about the country music scene. The book is sort of a groovy fable, reminiscent to me of stories like the movie Bagdad Cafe, where everything is breezy and all the characters just a little to perky and quirky and cool to be believable. So, as I said, the book is fun, but you have to be in the mood for that sort of thing. There were some of the pacing problems one might expect from a first-time novelist, as Goldmark was when she wrote this. But Goldmark was not an amateur writer. She was involved in both music and publishing and authored many essays, so the writing here is pretty much devoid of annoying cliche and the characters, while sweet, are not, at least to me, sickly sweet.

Fun for me personally was that most of the story takes place in Lake County, California, which is just next to Mendocino County, where I live. Goldmark, who, sadly, passed away a few years back from cancer, was a fairly well known figure in the San Francisco literature scene and was also a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock band made up of a revolving roster of published writers, including Stephen King and Dave Barry.

I can recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, light read, but don't be looking for much in the way of real life here.

35rocketjk
Edited: Jul 17, 2017, 11:32am Top

Book 21: True - The Man's Magazine: August, 1958 edited by Douglas S. Kennedy



Read as a "between book" (see first post). For many years, I have been going through a couple of stacks of old magazines I've saved, reading them not straight through, but one article at a time between other books I've read. Up until now, those magazines have been relatively recent, published within the last 20 years or so, and I haven't included them in my 50-Book Challenge totals, the exceptions being the annual New Yorker fiction issues. Now, however, I've have completed those more recent editions and I am on to an even larger stack in my home office closet of even older publications. Since those often have longer articles, and are, at least potentially, of more historic interest, I have decided to begin adding them in here.

The first of these is this True - The Man's Magazine August, 1958 edition. The content is as you'd imagine: adventure stories, pieces on "manly" pursuits like hunting and hand-to-hand combat, and the like (I skipped one particularly egregious piece called "All About Men" as well as the hand-to-hand combat piece), but with some very interesting articles on history. The articles I read included an informative short biography of Nikola Tesla called "The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century" by George Scullin; a profile of baseball player Enos Slaughter, "The Last of the Old Pros," by Jimmy Breslin; and the supposedly true tale of an outrageous frontier grifter named "Soapy" Smith, "Showdown for a Con Man" by J.P. Cahn

The two most interesting were:

"The Wild Irish War" by Charles McCarry, the story of an historical incident I knew nothing of, the ill-conceived invasion of Canada by an army of Irish soldiers, recent veterans of the Union Army in the American Civil War. Their goal was to put pressure on England to let loose their hold on Ireland.

and

"We Could Have Been the First into Space" by Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson. This was a news story about a now all but forgotten project whereby a rocket was lofted into the upper atmosphere via a giant balloon and then launched into space. The launch took place some months after the Soviets had scored a major propaganda victory with the launch of Sputnik. The authors' claim was that the balloon/rocket project could have been managed before Sputnik, making the U.S. first into space, had it not been for administrative resistance and foot-dragging within the Air Force, under whose auspices the project took place. Perhaps the most interesting point to me about the piece is that it was written long before NASA was initiated but inadvertently shows us the need for such an organization. For when space exploration was still within the administration of the Air Force, its proponents had to fight the heavy headwinds of Air Force brass who thought space exploration to be a waste of time (they were busy trying to maintain the supremacy of U.S. air power, after all) and tried to starve such projects of funding and talent.

Part of the fun of these old publications is running online searches of the authors' names to see who they were. McCarry, author of the piece on the Irish invasion of Canada, was, according to wikipedia, "an American writer, primarily of spy fiction and former undercover operative for the Central Intelligence Agency who The Wall Street Journal, in 2013, described as being the dean of American spy writers." J.P. Cahn was, among other things, a distinguished investigative journalist for the S.F. Chronicle. George Scullin wrote for the movies and authored the treatment from which Leon Uris wrote the screenplay for "Gunfight at OK Corral."

36rocketjk
Edited: Jul 21, 2017, 1:47am Top

Book 22: Back to Delphi by Ionna Karystiani



The writing in this book -- sentence level, richness of metaphor and characterizations -- is crazy good. Greek novelist Ionna Karystiani does an admirable job of putting her readers inside her two characters' minds. The problem is that those two minds are very dark places to spend much time. As the novel begins, Viv, a widow, has just picked up her grown son for a 5-day furlough from his prison cell. (This occurrence is presented without comment, leading me to believe that such furloughs are common practice in Greece.) Through flashback, we begin to learn about the events that have brought them to this spot, and why the relations between them are so strained. Stated briefly, the novel is about the ways in which Viv, unhappy since childhood, has unintentionally but indelibly impressed her own despair and fear of life upon her son, and about the consequences of that dynamic. It's not a question of evil, here, and there is a strong and sincere, if difficult, bond between parent and child, and one of the persistent themes is the struggle to attain a level of hope amidst unhappiness. The writing, as I said, is thrilling, and the people come alive. It's just that this is a hard world to spend time in. If that seems even remotely your cup of tea, though, I heartily recommend this book.

37rocketjk
Edited: Jul 31, 2017, 3:56pm Top

Book 23: The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell



George Orwell, an avowed Socialist when there was nothing particularly unusual about that, especially in Europe, was commissioned by The Left Book Club in 1936 to write about working-class life in northern England, Yorkshire and Lancashire in particular. Often referred to as a memoir, because the first third of the book is Orwell's report of his time spent in those places, and among those people, I would say this book qualifies more precisely as reportage. At any rate, that first section, in which Orwell brings his immense writing skills to bear on his descriptions of life in the coal mines and in the homes of the mining families, made squalid by poverty and overcrowding, is immediate, horrifying and unforgettable. Orwell also describes the terrible, rising hopelessness he finds as more and more people are thrown out of work by the Depression. The second section of the book, in which Orwell deconstructs the British class systems and the great difficulties he sees in overcoming its effects, is also very interesting. The final section, in which Orwell discusses the steps Socialists must take in order to hasten the rise and eventually world-wide acceptance of Socialism, is the book's least effective. In part this is because few of the events Orwell foresaw took place. For example, while he sees the coming horrific clash across Europe, his surmise is that the capitalist democracies, England included, would never actually fight against Facism, and thought the only two options for England was the adoption of Socialism or a sort of white-gloved Fascism, less barbaric than Nazism but soul-crushing nonetheless. So while this section may provide an interest "time capsule" look at some of the political ideas of the 1930s in England, Orwell's conclusions are too far off in that regard to make the section particularly satisfying. One of Orwell's more amusing points is that the Socialism of the time and place was being hampered by the dilettante and, to him, unattractive nature of so many of its proponents. Here is one memorable, and frequently quoted, passage on the subject:

Of course, as I have suggested already, it is not strictly fair to judge a movement by its adherents; but the point is that people invariably do so, and that the popular conception of Socialism is coloured by the conception of a Socialist as a dull or disagreeable person. ‘Socialism’ is pictured as a state of affairs in which our more vocal Socialists would feel thoroughly at home. This does great harm to the cause. The ordinary man may not flinch from a dictatorship of the proletariat, if you offer it tactfully; offer him a dictatorship of the prigs, and he gets ready to fight.

All in all, however, I still consider this a very important book.

38rocketjk
Aug 4, 2017, 4:46pm Top

Book 24: Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves



What a wonderful novel this is. Clear and effective writing, interesting and believable characters and a very interesting time and place that all add up to a compelling book that I raced through in just a few days. The setting is 1920s Alabama, and the story takes place both on a farm and in a prison. Roscoe Martin is an electrician during the days when electricity was just coming to the rural south, and he loves his work. His wife is a school teacher, but when her father dies, the couple moves onto her family farm. Roscoe immediately feels out of place. As his marriage suffers thereby, he decides to use his skill to "pirate" electricity from the power company's lines (rural farms not yet being on the list for official electric power) to help make the farm more prosperous. The ensuing death (of which we're told in the book's very first sentence) sends Roscoe to prison. That's the bare framework of the plot. The book is really about relationships, memory and the often thin line between guilt and forgiveness.

39rocketjk
Aug 14, 2017, 12:34pm Top

Book 25: Living the Turtle Life by Janet Rene Snyder

This is an in-progress memoir written by the mother of a friend of mine. I was asked to read through the manuscript and offer editing/writing suggestions. The writer has made a very good start at these reminiscences about her and her husband's first year of many spent traveling the U.S. in their RV.

40laytonwoman3rd
Aug 14, 2017, 3:14pm Top

>38 rocketjk: I've heard a lot of good things about that one...onto my "someoneofthesedays" list it goes.

41rocketjk
Aug 14, 2017, 3:58pm Top

>40 laytonwoman3rd: Yes, I recommend it. It's a "first novel," and though it has from some of the flaws you might expect of such a work, they are relatively quite minor. Or, to put it another way, and more to the point, the book is extremely impressive for a first novel.

42rocketjk
Aug 17, 2017, 3:01pm Top

Book 26: A Purple Place for Dying by John D. MacDonald



This is the third Travis McGee novel and, for me, the best so far. McGee is lured out to (what is presumably though never named specifically) small-town Texas to by a woman who believes her husband has stolen her money. But, of course, things are never that straight-forward in McGee World, are they? There's a lot of good reasons why this series is considered a classic of the genre, and I've quickly become a fan.

43rocketjk
Edited: Sep 7, 10:02am Top

Book 27: Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb



This is a terrific history, well written and exciting, about the decades-long search for Adolph Eichmann and how he was finally kidnapped in Argentina by Israeli agents and brought to trial in Israel. Bascomb used a lot of newly declassified information to provide impressive insight into the long search for Eichmann, the intricate planning for his capture, and the moment-by-moment unfolding of that plan. We are also shown Eichmann's Nazi career, his years of hiding, and his family life in Argentina. A comprehensive historian, Bascomb describes fully the political situation in Europe and in Argentina that made kidnapping, rather than extradition, a necessity. Also, the book describes the greater world situation that made this such a matter of urgency for the Israelis. You would think the need for justice and/or revenge would in themselves be enough, but with anti-Semitic incidents once again on the rise across West Germany in the late 1950s, the Israelis were determined to shine as harsh a light on Nazism as they could for the world to examine and be repelled by again. But I don't want to misrepresent the reading experience. The search, the planning, the capture and the escape from Argentina make up the fascinating bulk of Hunting Eichmann.

44rocketjk
Sep 19, 2017, 2:34pm Top

Book 28: Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada



This a compelling, horrifying, fascinating and, at the same time, ultimately uplifting book that takes the reader through several years of Nazi era Berlin. At the center of the story is the small and ultimately futile, but still potentially deadly, resistance carried out by a middle-aged couple, the Quangels, who have been embittered by the death of their son, a soldier, during the invasion of France. But is their gesture really futile? That is the question at the novel's philosophical core. In the meantime, we are shown the inner workings of the Nazi tyranny on a day-to-day level. Honest citizens, street-level grifters, Gestapo inspectors and more all come under Fallada's acute and wry observation, with the grinding effects of the relentless months and years of terror, with the threat of arrest, torture, imprisonment and death lurking behind every neighbor's peephole and every knock on the door. To what extent does compliance equal complicity? This question, too, hums below the surface of the narrative like an electrical current. Fallada himself lived through this time and place, intermittently finding employment and harrassment from the Nazi powers, so his attitude toward his characters is far from doctrinaire. I almost never hand out 5-star ratings, but for this book, I did so.

45laytonwoman3rd
Sep 19, 2017, 3:26pm Top

>44 rocketjk: I have a copy of that here. I've heard it described as "difficult" and "harrowing", and I have been hesitant to dive into it, but you've convinced me to move it much closer to the top of the pile. Thanks for the review, Jerry.

46rocketjk
Sep 19, 2017, 3:42pm Top

>45 laytonwoman3rd: Harrowing, yes, on a psychological level, although not especially graphic. Difficult only in that significant stretches of it are harrowing. But, now that I've read it, I consider it absolutely crucial reading.

47rocketjk
Sep 29, 2017, 4:52pm Top

Book 29: lost boy lost girl by Peter Straub



I rarely read in the horror genre, but I found this book to be quite enjoyable and I'd say that Straub is a fine writer. The characters were interesting and the relationships between them were believable. Also, there were very good descriptions of place, mood and atmosphere. As to the plot, I found the story engaging and even believable, within a "willing suspension of disbelief" framework, at any rate.

48rocketjk
Oct 26, 2017, 8:17pm Top

Book 30: Land of Frozen Laughter: a Community Development Volunteer in the Vietnam War, 1967-1969 by John Lewallen



John Lewallen served as a community development volunteer in several far flung regions of Vietnam from 1967 through 1969, then came home and immediately wrote this memoir. However, he didn't publish the book until just last year. For the sake of full disclosure up front, I will say that John, now in his 70s, is a friend and neighbor of mine and that he did a reading from his memoir in my used bookstore last year. All that aside, however, this is an extremely well-written and gripping book. It is full of compelling episodes of his struggles to help the people in the villages he's assigned to while navigating ethnic rivalries, governmental bureaucracy and, of course, his desire not to get himself killed, especially during the infamous Tet Offensive. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in what life in the rural villages of Vietnam was like during the late 1960s.

49laytonwoman3rd
Oct 26, 2017, 8:19pm Top

>48 rocketjk: That sounds very interesting, Jerry, especially after having watched Ken Burns' documentary on the Viet Nam war.

50rocketjk
Oct 27, 2017, 10:24am Top

>49 laytonwoman3rd: Yes, it's quite fascinating, Linda. I don't know John very well, and although I knew him to be an intelligent and soulful fellow, I was quite blown away by the quality of the writing and the depth of the insights, here.

51rocketjk
Edited: Nov 24, 2017, 6:52pm Top

Book 31: Fire in the Sky by J.A. Shears



I couldn't find any information about this author, who evidently wrote two books (at least there are two listed here on LT and also on Amazon). At any rate, Fire in the Sky was an entertaining adventure tale about a rough and tough American trapper (but with a heart of gold, of course) and his Native American bride in the Alaskan Yukon when that territory was still owned by Russia. The antagonists are vengeful and fierce Native Americans. There is some very good nature writing along with a fun adventure story. This was excellent vacation reading.

52rocketjk
Edited: Nov 5, 2017, 2:03am Top

Book 32: The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster



Professor/writer David Zimmer has been in despair for long months after the death of his wife and two children in a plane crash. A short clip seen on TV from a movie by obscure silent film actor/director/writer Hector Mann finally makes Zimmer laugh out loud for the first time. He decides to track down and watch all 12 of Mann's films to write a critical examination of Mann's career. In the meantime, Zimmer is intrigued by what he learns about Mann's sudden disappearance just after the last of those movies was released. Zimmer's investigations into Mann's work, and subsequently into his life, bring him out of his own despair slowly but surely. Into this story, in a complex yet wholly satisfying whirl of narrative within narrative, Auster invents the details of all 12 films, the uncovering of Mann's history and the lives of those around him, and Zimmer's own fight to return to life after his tragedy. We get Auster's usual fine writing and high levels of compassion for and understanding of the human condition.

53rocketjk
Oct 29, 2017, 1:44pm Top

Book 33: The Jews of Dubrovnik: a Walk Through Space and Time from the Early Days to the Present by Vesna Miovic



I bought this book during my recent vacation in Croatia. By happenstance, the studio apartment my wife and I rented during our three days in Dubrovnik was on the street where, in the 15th through 17th centuries, the Jewish ghetto was located. The Synagogue dating back to those times is still there within the rooms of an old house as it always has been, and is now part museum as well. At any rate, this book is a brief but very interesting history of Jewish life in this fascinating city. Although Jews certainly had there problems here, sometimes bad ones, as in all places throughout Europe, life was often safer than was normal for them. the city/state of Dubrovnik, which for many years walked a difficult line of neutrality between the Ottoman Empire on its border (in current-day Bosnia) and the powerful state of Venice just across the Adriatic, allowed Jews much more latitude than was normal for the time. For example, Dubrovnik was one of the only places in Europe where Maranos, Jews who had been forcibly converted to Christianity in Spain and Portugal, could safely return to the religion and customs of their birth.

It would be great if there was more detail here, but that's not really what the book aims for. Also, the translation from the original Croatian is often slipshod and sometimes laughable. But really, that just mostly made me smile. At any rate, this book helped fill in a lot of the blanks in knowledge left by my visit here.

54rocketjk
Oct 29, 2017, 3:22pm Top

Book 34: Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration by Sam Quinones



Read as a "between book" (see first post). This fascinating collection of articles by journalist Sam Quinones provides excellent perspective about the relationship between Mexican and American culture, and particularly about the economic and societal pressures that drive so many Mexicans to seek their fortunes in the U.S. whether they become citizens or not. One of the enduring images of the book is the picture of Mexicans who go to the U.S. to work and send enough money back home to build themselves beautiful homes, but then never return to their native country to live in those homes. A partial list of the stories here includes a profile of a "coyote" guiding would-be immigrants across a barren and deadly desert to get to the U.S.; the tale of the partnership between a Mexican artist and American entrepreneur that help ignite the velvet painting craze; the crazy politics of an L.A. suburb that had gone from all white to half Mexican over a few short years and the instructive tale of a Mexican youth soccer team in Kansas. Quinones illuminates the levels of corruption and neglect on the part of the Mexican government that make in necessary for people to leave their country to get ahead, and stresses that it is the people with the most gumption, energy and resourcefulness who end up making the journey. Clear and lively writing help make this book extremely enjoyable and enlightening.

55rocketjk
Nov 1, 2017, 4:29pm Top

Book 35: The Collected Works Of William "Chili Bill" Eichinger by William Eichinger



Read as a "between book" (see first post). Chili Bill Eichinger was a friend of mine. He was a bartender at Finnegans Wake, the local gin joint for most of the 20 years that I lived in the Cole Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. Chili could be gruff and more than a bit persnickety. (I once witnessed him throwing a couple out of the bar one late afternoon for the crime of laughing too loud.) He could also be a thoughtful friend. In addition, he was a pretty fascinating guy, once you got to know him. He was a world traveler, a former martial arts student and something of a connoisseur, especially of Chinese food, and maintained a food blog detailing the progress of his avowed project of eating in every Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. My friend Charles, who wrote this book's introduction, claims Chili accomplished this goal, although I personally remain sceptical. At any rate, Chili, was quite a fine, if quirky, writer. Sometime before he passed away, Chili handed over several of his travel journals, diaries and assorted other writings to Suhail Rafidi, a writer and Finnegans regular. A few years after Chili's passing, Suhail finished his editing of these works and self-published this collection. It was a lot of fun reading through these, as it game me a chance to visit periodically with my old friend and to hear his voice again.

56rocketjk
Edited: Nov 4, 2017, 4:23pm Top

Book 36: The Reporter - February 2, 1954 edited by Max Ascoli



Read as a "between book" (see first post). This is the second periodical from the stack of old magazines in my closet that I am going to be reading through over the next few years. The Reporter labeled itself "A Fortnightly of Facts and Ideas." According to the Wikipedia entry linked to in this post, "The Reporter had a huge influence in its day, both among policy makers and the educated public. One author, writing in Commentary in 1960, praised The Reporter as 'represent{ing} the concerns of intelligent American liberalism.' In a 1962 survey of reporters asking what magazines they cited in their work, The Reporter came in fourth place after Time, U.S. News & World Report, and Newsweek, with no other publication coming close."

I love going back in time through these old periodicals and being reminded of the issues and attitudes of the days in which they were published. For example, which modern American president made this statement during his State of the Union Address?

"The Administration is profoundly aware of two great needs born of our living in a complex industrial economy. First: The individual citizen must have safeguards against personal disaster inflicted by forces beyond his control. Second: The welfare of the people demands effective and economical performance by the government of certain indispensable social services . . . There is urgent need for greater effectiveness in our programs, both public and private, offering safeguards against the privations that too often come with unemployment, old age illness, and accident.

If you guessed Dwight D. Eisenhower, you are a winner.

This edition of The Reporter also includes:

** a fascinating critique of America's post-war foreign aide programs by Harlan Cleveland ("County agents from Kentucky and Nebraska found that there was no point in talking about growing more food when their listeners were interested only in getting a fairer share of what they were already growing.")

** an insightful article about the downfall, show trial and execution of powerful Soviet general Lavrenti Beria.

** Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s review of Louis Morton's then new World War 2 history, The Fall of the Philippines.

** A discussion, in Edward L. Katzenbach, Jr.'s article, "The Diplomatic Cost of Military Penny Pinching," of whether small, mobile atomic weapons could be made to substitute for more costly large-scale armies. ("The use of 'volunteers' to fight a foreign war is only one of the dodges the Communists have available to them. What are we to do if a 'spontaneous peoples' revolution' starts throughout Southeast Asia? This is the sort of question to which in the past no clean-cut answers could be given. If we were vague about it, we were also flexible. But if atomic cannon are substituted for men in this area, a decision on the ground will be harder, not easier, to reach." -- And this is being written in 1954, mind you.)

57richardderus
Nov 8, 2017, 3:29pm Top

Here I am! I'm particularly disgruntled that the entire Long Island library system, both counties!, has no books by Väinö Linna. The series sounds fascinating.

58rocketjk
Edited: Nov 9, 2017, 3:25pm Top

>57 richardderus: It is. I think they're pretty hard to find in English translation. My memory is that we bought them in Helsinki and shipped them home, or the other possibility is that we ordered them online, but I did some research recently that led me to believe that the publishers who had put out the English version had gone under.

59rocketjk
Nov 9, 2017, 3:37pm Top

Book 37: Homeworld by Harry Harrison



Homeworld is the first novel of Harry Harrison's "To the Stars" trilogy (the omnibus edition of which is pictured above because I read this first novel out of that volume). This is a fast and fun dystopian story about a world ruled with an iron if often disguised fist by a tyrannical few while most of the society's most privileged live in blissful, comfortable ignorance and the masses live lives of poverty. Our hero, engineer Jan Kulozik, is one of the mindless privileged until a chance encounter at sea changes his perspective. Adventure ensues. I will be reading through the rest of the trilogy in relatively short order.

60richardderus
Nov 12, 2017, 2:22pm Top

>59 rocketjk: Sounds so much like our world that it would be an uncomfortable read for me.

61rocketjk
Edited: Nov 12, 2017, 2:45pm Top

>60 richardderus: Well, yeah. Although there are a few technological differences . . . space stations and interstellar travel and the like. You know what the series is reminding me of is the Thursday Next world, but more sinister and without the magic and whimsy.

62richardderus
Nov 12, 2017, 3:12pm Top

Window dressing only...as Harrison no doubt intended. It makes the message slide down so much more easily.

*sigh*

63rocketjk
Edited: Nov 15, 2017, 2:52pm Top

Book 38: Veli Jože by Vladimir Nazor



This book is being reported out of order. It really belongs up at around Book 31 or so, because I read it during my recent vacation in Croatia. Unfortunately, the book did not make it home with me, so it went out of my mind for a week or so. At any rate, Vladimir Nazor was a well-known Croatian author at around the turn of and during the early decades of the 20th century. Veli Jože, published in 1908, is his allegorical folktale of Jože the Giant, peaceful and powerful, who lives outside the Istrian town of Motovun and labors on behalf of the Venetian rulers of the city. Soon Jože's eyes are awakened to his thralldom, and he begins gathering the other giants of Istria together to encourage them to work for themselves instead of their foreign masters.

According to the wikipedia entry on the book, via the not always perfect Google translator, "Veli Jože became a symbol of Croatian Istria, an allegorical image of the national past, its illness and humiliation, but also the power and power that has for centuries oppressed."

So the book, really a novella, is fun to read and provides a nice folktale picture of one segment of Istrian history. (Note: Istria is a peninsula in northwest Croatia. My wife and I spent several days there on our trip, including three days in Motovun, outside whose walls this story takes place.)

This story was not translated into English until 2015. I bought my copy at the tourist information office in Motovun. Disappointed to find that my copy was not inside the box of odds and ends that my wife and I had mailed home to ourselves on our last day in the country, I went online and found the name of the translator, who I then found on Facebook and contacted. He helpfully directed me to the translation's publisher, who quickly responded to my query. So I will soon have a replacement! Only 700 were printed, so I very much want to make sure I get one.

64richardderus
Nov 15, 2017, 1:59pm Top

>63 rocketjk: I can pretty much promise you that you made that translator's day, week, and month. Quite the tale of bookish derring-do!

Thanks for that happy glowy feeling, I needed it.

65rocketjk
Nov 15, 2017, 2:54pm Top

>64 richardderus: And you made my day by checking in and commenting on my investigation! Cheers, my friend.

66richardderus
Nov 15, 2017, 4:51pm Top

I'm toasting you with my cranberry mango cup that cheers.

67rocketjk
Edited: Nov 16, 2017, 4:14pm Top

Book 39: Deductions from the World War by Baron Alexander von Freytag-Loringhoven



"It may seem presumptuous to draw conclusions from the World War while it is still in progress," says Baron von Freytag-Loringhoven at the start of his Author's Foreward to Deductions from the World War.

Indeed, von Freytag-Loringhoven, Deputy-Chief of the German General Staff, wrote this treatise during the final months of World War One. The entry on von Freytag-Loringhoven on the website First World War.com (see the link of von Freytag-Loringhoven's name) comments that in this book he "he expounded his opinion that Germany would fail to win the war." I could not find a spot where he does that overtly, but his discussions do seem to take for granted that the war is a lost cause and that lessons must be learned so that preparations for the next war may begin immediately. What von Freytag-Loringhoven didn't see coming, among other things, was the Versailles Treaty and the furious dismantling of the German war machine. (And yes, we know how that worked out, but still . . . )

In a way it's surprising that von Freytag-Loringhoven didn't see the degree to which surrender terms would be vengeful, given that he notes the new phenomenon of a more ubiquitous press corps that helped turn the war into a much more personal affair on the part of the Allies than propriety would have previously allowed. Early on he notes that

". . . the increased facilities of communication of modern times rendered the nations more closely coherent within their own borders and more accessible to the suggestive influence of the Press for good as well as for ill. That men have always been susceptible to suggestion is demonstrated by the spread of religious fanaticism, but the present age has increased this susceptibility still further. Even distinguished minds are subject to mass suggestion, as is shown in the case of numerous distinguished scholars and artists among our enemies. Neither judgement nor good taste availed to prevent them from joining in the general orgies of hatred directed against everything German."

A few pages later, von Freytag-Loringhoven explains that the use of guerrila tactics against the Germans in Belgium meant the Germans "found themselves compelled to resort to severe measures of retaliation. Thus the War acquired a character of brutality which is otherwise very alien to the nature of our well-conducted German soldiers." (As I recall, Barbara Tuchman in The Guns of August had a different take on the origins of German brutality in Belgium.)

At any rate, given all that, it's a little surprising that von Freytag-Loringhoven seemed to expect a business as usual "boys will be boys" settlement at the end of the war.

And while he speaks of the ongoing development of new and better weapons, he somehow misses by a mile the coming preeminence of the tank (which he basically dismisses as a British toy) and even the airplane. On page 68 begins this chilling passage:

"Moreover, by raids into the enemy country carried out by squadrons of aircraft, we were able to inflict damage on fortifications, sources of military supplies, and other military establishments. In the course of these raids some unfortified places without military significance have had to suffer. The bombardment of these places is in itself objectionable, but the limits of what is permissible are in this matter in many ways elastic. A new weapon opens up its own paths, as is shown, for example, by the submarine war. In any case, in this contest of nations with its economic background, the War is turned more and more against the enemy countries, and the principle hitherto accepted that war is made only against the armed power of the enemy is, in this case as in other spheres, related to the background."

A lot of the book is taken up by discussions of military tactics, as you'd imagine, as well as such issues as the advisability of compulsory military service, even in peace time, and the inadvisability of ever truly taking the German Army (or any army) off of a wartime, or at least a war-preparation, footing. While he gives a bit of lip service at the end to the horrors of war, he concludes that "however convinced we may be that war is a sin against humanity, that it is something worthy of detestation, this conviction brings us no nearer to eternal peace. War has its basis in human nature, and as long as human nature remains unaltered, war will continue to exist. . . . The often quoted saying of Moltke that wars are inhuman, but eternal peace is a dream, and not even a beautiful dream, will continue to be true."

Not an uplifting book, to be sure, but a fascinating one in its way.

68rocketjk
Nov 20, 2017, 2:51pm Top

Book 40: Wheelworld by Harry Harrison



This is the second novel in Harrison's "To the Stars" trilogy. Our hero, engineer Jan Kulozik, is now living on a far-flung planet where, once again, the social structure quickly becomes problematic. This is really the story of an exodus-like journey, with Kulozik in charge. A deft narrative infusion of desperation keeps the reading fun, despite the high content of technological description. This novel has the feeling of being more of a bridge between books one and three in the trilogy than a full-on third of the overall story. It was still entertaining to read. At any rate, I'll be reading the third novel, Starworld, fairly soon.

69rocketjk
Nov 22, 2017, 3:09pm Top

Book 41: The Quick Red Fox by John D. MacDonald



The fourth in the excellent and iconic Travis McGee series, and I think the most entertaining so far. The book has its flaws, but overall is very well written and entertaining. I read it in three ravenous sittings, in fact.

70richardderus
Nov 22, 2017, 4:23pm Top

>68 rocketjk: Your enthusiasm for Harry Harrison's work reminded me of my long-ago infatuation with The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat, so I checked it out of the library for a re-read.

>69 rocketjk: I'll forego re-experiencing Travis McGee, though. I sense a major disappointment in remembered casual misogyny.

71rocketjk
Edited: Nov 22, 2017, 5:03pm Top

>70 richardderus: Yes, women are certainly in McGee's world to be judged and categorized. Men are too, but not as condescendingly. There's a chunk of homophobia in this one, as well. Herman Wouk and Leon Uris also get the treatment, by the way. I suppose for the early 60s, it could be worse, but I do take your point.

72rocketjk
Nov 26, 2017, 1:58pm Top

Book 42: The Arbor House Treasury of Great Western Stories edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin Harry Greenberg



Read as a "between book" (see first post). Boy, was this fun! A great selection of short stories covering the history of the Western genre, offered in chronological order, from Mark Twain and Bret Harte through Elmore Leonard and Marcia Muller. Greats like Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour were also included, of course, along with some excellent authors I didn't know of. This was also a good education for me, as I have a pretty robust Westerns section in my used bookstore. Now I can identify some of the more important writers, whereas before many of them were just names to me.

73rocketjk
Edited: Nov 26, 2017, 8:25pm Top

Book 43: From the Land of Sheba: Tales of the Jews of Yemen collected and edited by S. D. Goitein



Another "between book." This is an enjoyable and fascinating collection of folktales that help provide a background to the Jewish culture of Yemen and the lives these people lived for centuries embedded within the Moslem culture of the region. The tales reflect the tensions between the two groups, the ways in which the Jews were usually dependent upon the good will and protection of the local rulers and the consequences to them when that protection wore thin. As someone much more familiar with the culture, history and mythology of European Jewish culture, I found these tales to be most interesting. Goitein's historical introduction to the collection, "About the Jews of Yemen," is very valuable for a full understanding of the stories. In 1949-50 there was a mass immigration of the Yemeni Jewish population to Israel.

74rocketjk
Edited: Nov 26, 2017, 2:50pm Top

Book 44: Starworld by Harry Harrison



Good grief! I forgot one! This should really be Book 42 and, well . . . who cares? Starworld is the conclusion to Harrison's "To the Stars" trilogy. In a way, this was the least satisfying of the three books in the series: more plot, less character development. Evil empire, plucky rebels, both whiz and bang. There were no big surprises, but the whole trilogy was just a bunch of fast-paced science fiction fun.

75richardderus
Nov 26, 2017, 3:41pm Top

>73 rocketjk: Okay, that one hit. Ow.

76rocketjk
Dec 4, 2017, 9:12pm Top

Book 45: Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven



This is a novel that I thought started out pretty well and then got consistently better as it went along. The story takes place during the Depression in Appalachian North Carolina in a mountainous area that is to a great degree isolated from the outside world. Velva Jean is eleven years old, living with a family that is, for the most part, loving but begins to slowly disintegrate as the events of life unfold. The sense of place and time that Niven provides us is excellent. Southern Baptist religion mixes easily with nature healing and local superstition. Velva Jean's voice is a strong one and grows subtlely as she ages (the narrative brings her to 18). The plot line is a good one, and believable, if not entirely compelling at all times. It story centers around Velva Jean's growth and dreams, her family's and community's dynamics, and that community's feelings, ranging between dread, fierce resentment and excitement, towards a new highway that is slowly being built toward them and end their isolation. I gave this book 3 1/2 stars. It could just as easily be four. All in all, I recommend the novel fairly strongly.

77laytonwoman3rd
Dec 5, 2017, 3:28pm Top

>76 rocketjk: Hmmmm.... the Appalachian mountain setting always appeals to me. Wishlisted.

78rocketjk
Dec 5, 2017, 4:16pm Top

>77 laytonwoman3rd: If you like Appalachian settings you will like this book very much.

79rocketjk
Dec 12, 2017, 6:10pm Top

Book 46: Where Trouble Sleeps by Clyde Edgerton



Is there such a thing as a kind-hearted black comedy? That's more or less how Clyde Edgerton's Where Trouble Sleeps struck me. Listre, North Carolina, circa 1950, is a sleepy small town, where the blinker light at the town's main crossroads is still a landmark of some note to the inhabitants. Most of the folks in this town are eccentric in one way or another, but just about all of them seem well intentioned. However, a malevolent drifter, bent on larceny, soon shows up. Will the townsfolk be able to figure him out in time to prevent his planned dastardly deed?

This is an entertaining, affectionate comedy of blue collar southern manners. The jacket blurb compares Edgerton to Flannery O'Connor, but this book isn't anywhere near that dark, not even close. The story is told through several characters' points of view, with the 7-year-old Stephen's the most entertaining and, in fact, quite believable as well. All in all, this is a sly, breezy novel.

80laytonwoman3rd
Dec 18, 2017, 9:30pm Top

I haven't read Edgerton in a while, and I have a copy of that one. I find him just what the doctor ordered sometimes.

81rocketjk
Dec 19, 2017, 1:10am Top

>80 laytonwoman3rd: Yes, I didn't really know what to expect, as I grabbed the book more or less at random off the shelf at my store, but it was quite a nice diversion.

82rocketjk
Dec 20, 2017, 1:15pm Top

Book 47: Grunt: the Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach



Finally read Mary Roach's most recent book, Grunt. Roach here applies her usual blend of on-site reportage, thorough research and fine writing to her latest topic, the various problems related to military life in general and combat in particular, and the studies being undertaken to try to address those issues. Roach presents issues like chronic fatigue among submarine crewmembers, the problems of combat medics trying to keep composure and efficiency as bullets and shrapnel fly all around them, and the ongoing efforts to help soldiers who have had their private parts damaged or destroyed by explosives or bullets regain a semblance of normality in their lives. Due to the subject matter, Roach has appropriately scaled down her normal doses of whimsy and humor here, although those components of her general approach are not gone entirely. As usual, Roach presents an enlightening and thought-provoking work.

Here is my normal Mary Roach full-disclosure proviso: Mary is a personal friend, as she was my wife's college roommate and frequent traveling companion.

83richardderus
Dec 21, 2017, 3:00pm Top



Happy Yule Book Flood!

84rocketjk
Dec 23, 2017, 1:34pm Top

Book 48: Washington and his Generals by Joel T. Headley



Read as a "between book" (see first post).

According to Wikipedia, "Joel Tyler Headley (December 30, 1813 – January 16, 1897) was an American clergyman, historian, author, newspaper editor and politician who served as Secretary of State of New York." Full Wikipedia entry here.

In Washington and his Generals, Headley provides a biographical sketch of Washington, every man to serve in the American Army during the Revolution above the rank of Brigadier, plus Admiral John Paul Jones. The chapters are of varying length, depending on the importance and activity of the individual. Washington himself checks in at 90 pages. The book was published in 1875, a mere 99 years after the Declaration of Independence. In many cases, certainly in Washington's case, Headley presents a hagiography. Brows are noble, resolution is firm, bravery and sense of purpose is unwavering. There are some few cases where pride and venality come into play, of course. Benedict Arnold gets that full treatment. The bulk of each chapter deals with each subject's actions during the Revolution and I don't want to give the idea that failures are not treated here as well as successes, as they are.

There are many detailed and quite vivid battle descriptions included. These make the best reading of the book. However, I am far from being Revolutionary War scholar enough to have any idea how accurate those accounts might be. For me the most intriguing aspect of this book was its historical quality, the window it provides into the attitudes about the American Revolution as they would have existed (at least among white males) in the late 19th century.

My copy of the book is a first edition. I can remember the day I bought it at an antiquarian bookstore in San Francisco, though it sat waiting on a shelf for my attention for several years thereafter. The first inscription in the book is: E.F. Test, Omaha, Nebraska, February 28, 1876. (I am not sure of the first letter of Test. Possibly it's a J or an F). On the top of the page on which the chapter on Washington begins, is written, in the same handwriting, "Please handle with care and do not Strain nor Soil the book." Also, on the blank page before that inscription is written J.E. Sloan (I am guessing as to that last name, but that's what it looks like.)

Finally, inside the book I found a newspaper clipping in tiny print with the heading "A Forgotten Naval Hero." It is a brief sketch of Pierre de Laudais who was "a midshipman in the French nave and of noble ancestry {who} entered the service of the American colonies when war broke out with England" and who commanded a frigate under John Paul Jones.

Did I mention that I love to read old books?

85richardderus
Dec 23, 2017, 2:29pm Top

I love the discovered treasures in old books. I use them as bookmarks. One find was an owner's manual for a Rolleiflex camera in a 1951 copy of ABC of Poetry by Ezra Pound, along with the original compliments slip signed by James Merrill!!

86RBeffa
Dec 23, 2017, 7:04pm Top

I've been doing quite a bit of family history research so I hope you find this interesting
Name: E F Test
Residence Year: 1890
Street address: 2404 Capitol ave
Residence Place: Omaha, Nebraska, USA
Publication Title: Omaha, Nebraska, City Directory, 1890

In the 1920 census:
Name: Edward F Test
Age: 76
Birth Year: abt 1844
Birthplace: Alabama
Home in 1920: Omaha Ward 11, Douglas, Nebraska
Street: Charles Street
House Number: 3840
Residence Date: 1920
Race: White
Gender: Male
Relation to Head of House: Head
Marital Status: Married
Spouse's Name: Rose D Test
Father's Birthplace: Indiana
Mother's Birthplace: South Carolina
Able to Speak English: Yes
Occupation: Editor
Industry: Paper
Employment Field: Wage or Salary
Home Owned or Rented: Own
Home Free or Mortgaged: Mortgaged
Able to Read: Yes
Able to Write: Yes

and

Name: Edward F Test
Birth Date: 1843
Birth Place: Alabama, United States of America
Death Date: 1930
Cemetery: Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Burial or Cremation Place: Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, United States of America
Date of Interment 8 30 1930

87rocketjk
Dec 24, 2017, 12:59am Top

>86 RBeffa: Interesting? That's fascinating! Unfortunately, the first address, 2404 Capitol Avenue, is now a parking lot according to the Google Maps satellite view. The second address, 3840 Charles Street, is a beautiful home on a tree-lined street that could easily be the house Edward Test lived in. And he was a newspaper editor! How cool. Thanks for that research!

88laytonwoman3rd
Dec 24, 2017, 10:11pm Top

Merry Christmas, Jerry!

89rocketjk
Edited: Mar 4, 12:35pm Top

49: The Reporter - A Fortnightly of Facts and Ideas: March 31, 1953 edited by Max Ascoli



Read as a "between book" (see first post). Though not quite as interesting as the issue of The Reporter I read earlier this year (see post #56 on this thread for more on that edition and the magazine in general), this was still an enjoyable and informative edition to read. The issue's subtitle was "What About This Psychological Warfare?" It was 1953, and America was finally coming to terms, it seems from this reading, with the fact that the smaller countries of Eastern Europe would remain firmly within a Soviet Union sphere of influence with totalitarian puppet governments. At the time of this publication, Eisenhower been inaugurated but two months previously. Harry Truman's stated policy had been "containment" of the Soviet sphere rather than direct confrontation in an effort to free those Soviet bloc countries. Eisenhower's policy seemed little different, with a strong emphasis on "Psychological Warfare." In other words: propaganda. To what degree would the Voice of America and other Western propaganda outlets be effective in weakening Soviet control and encouraging the people of the beleaguered countries to rise up against the Russians? In hindsight, these seem obviously futile questions, but at the time, evidently, they were still being debated within the U.S. Three years later, Hungary would, in fact, rise up, but the U.S. would choose not to send help, and the uprising was brutally supressed.

At any rate, several pieces in this edition of the Reporter deal with the efficacy of this approach, generally with a very generous slice of skepticism. (Roy A. Gallant's piece is called "More Psycho than Logical," although Thomas W. Wilson, Jr. does contribute "Red Propaganda Can be Beaten.") At the same time, the McCarthy hearing were going on, and Marya Mannes supplies a acerbic critique of those proceedings as they appeared on television, particularly as they had to do with McCarthy's claims of Red subversion within the Voice of America.

There is also a scathing critique of the Eisenhower Administration's trade protection policies and a fascinating article about the ways in which the Mexican oligarchy was keeping the country from progress and stealing not just money but opportunity from the country's citizens.

90rocketjk
Dec 27, 2017, 8:34pm Top

Book 50: West of Here by Jonathan Evison



Jonathan Evison has accomplished a very impressive feat of narrative and imagination with West of Here, set in Washington State's Olympic Peninsula. The novel brings us an impressive array of well-drawn characters and plot lines, moving gracefully back and forth in time from the 1890s, when the area was first being settled and explored by Whites (while natives were trying to keep hold of their culture and, to some extent at least, their land), to 2006, when the inhabited part of the area has been turned mostly in a suburban blight of fast-food joints and small, frustrated lives. The characters, for the most part, are well drawn and sympathetic, even the cast of 21st century people who's lives are marked by roadblocks and trap doors, often of their own making. The 19th century characters, on the other hand, are often somewhat larger than life. We willingly follow this cast of characters, natives as well as whites, through several months of their lives in both time periods. For the most part, we root for their success and/or redemption. The 1890s bring us more adventurous, heroic deeds, but both time periods, in the end, become engrossing as we grow to know the characters. And if the connections drawn between the characters of the two eras sometimes seem a bit forced, I was mostly willing to forgive what in the end seemed quite a minor flaw. The descriptions of nature in both eras are quite good, indeed. All in all, I highly recommend this book.

And that makes 50! It's the first time since I bought my bookstore in 2011 that I've made this goal. I must admit that I helped myself with a bookkeeping adjustment, as for the first time I began counting the periodicals I read as "between books" (see first post). Nevertheless, it's fun to have made 50 again after all seven years.

91elenchus
Dec 31, 2017, 5:19pm Top

>84 rocketjk: thru >87 rocketjk:

Great stuff on the contents of the book and its provenance!

92PaperbackPirate
Jan 1, 11:33am Top

Congratulations on reaching 50 and Happy New Year!

93rocketjk
Jan 1, 12:01pm Top

>92 PaperbackPirate: Thanks! And Happy New Year to you, as well!

94Ameise1
Jan 1, 2:11pm Top

Congrats on reaching 50 and Happy New Year.

95richardderus
Jan 1, 2:13pm Top

>90 rocketjk: I share everyone's thrill in your goal being met! I congratulate you, Jerry, and hope 2018 brings the same again.

96rocketjk
Edited: Jan 2, 12:39am Top

Thanks to all for the good wishes and right back atcha for a happy 2018 and another fun reading year!

97lamplight
Jan 2, 9:04am Top

Hey! You did it! Way to go.

98laytonwoman3rd
Jan 2, 10:37am Top

Have you started a 2018 thread? Link us when you do, please!

99rocketjk
Edited: Jan 2, 11:31am Top

>97 lamplight: Thanks!

>98 laytonwoman3rd: Not yet, but will do as soon as I finish my first 2018 book, which I'm almost halfway through now.

100rocketjk
Jan 6, 1:32pm Top

OK. My 2018 thread is up and running here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/281080

Group: 50 Book Challenge

2,980 members

97,901 messages

About

This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.

Touchstones

Works

Authors

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 129,510,725 books! | Top bar: Always visible