Snash's Reading for 2019
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Here we go again. Here's a list of books read this year.
1) Coat Upon a Stick by Norman Fruchter
2) The Only Story by Julian Barnes
3) Tacoma Stories by Richard Wiley
4) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
5) Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
6) No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe
7) Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley
8) Eventide by Kent Haruf
9) A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo
10) The Hue and Cry at Our House by Benjamin Taylor
11) Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
12) The Pilgrim by Hugh Nissenson
13) Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehishi Coates
14) Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
15) Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia by Irene Levy Baker
16) Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
17) Babylon is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate by Wolf Schneider
18) Behind Putin's Curtain by Stephan Orth
19) The Tie that Binds by Kent Haruf
20) The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan F.P. Rose
21) Quiet by Susan Cain
22) To the Birdhouse: A Novel by Cathleen Schine
23) Germany? Germany! by Kurt Tucholsky
24) Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene
25) King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild
26) With Walt Whitman, Himself by Jean Huets
27) Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
28) Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
29) While I Was Gone by Sue Miller
30) A Sport of Nature by Nadine Gordimer
31) Don't Knock the Hustle by S. Craig Watkins
32) A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen
33) The Card by Arnold Bennett
34) The Fellowship by John Gribbin
35) Knock Down by Debra Zimring
36) Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf
37) Born Fighting by James Webb
38) Kokoro by Natsume Soseki
39) Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah
40) Indignation by Philip Roth
41) From the Shadows by Juan Jose Millas
42) A Wilder Time by William E. Glassley
43) The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
44) Strange Pilgrims - Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45) What the Butler Saw by E.S. Turner
46) White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
47) The Chinese Nail Murders by Robert van Gulik
48) Let Nothing You Dismay by Mark O'Donnell
49) After This by Alice McDermott
50) Rising Tide byJohn M. Barry
51) Bad Stories by Steve Alford
52) The Guest Book by Marybeth Whalen
53) Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
54) The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
55) In the Skin of a Lion by Micael Ondaatje
56) The Land that Never Was by David Sinclair
57) Where the Crawdads Sing by Della Owens
58) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
59) The Accidental Homo Sapiens by Ian Tatteral and Rob Desalle
60) The Secret Life of Sam Holloway by Rhys Thomas
61) The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maughan
62) The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
Coat Upon a Stick is a story of a very angry old Jewish immigrant living amongst ghost from his past and other old Jewish men each of whom have found better ways of coping. Very well written. 4 stars
The Only Story ruminates about the nature of love and its place in life and therefore about the nature of life. Full of quotable truths. The love affair described was awkward and later painful. 4 stars
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised
I look forward to keeping up with you, Sharon, this year.
A group of people in a bar are the characters in the collection of stories, Tacoma Stories. I enjoyed many of the stories although some seemed far fetched. My one problem with the book was that I often lost track of who was who. 3.5 stars
Things Fall Apart presents Nigerian tribal culture and its conflict with the white missionaries from an African point of view. 4 stars
Arrow of God presents the conflict of African tribal society with that of the white man and Christianity. It does so from the African point of view concentrating on the efforts of a priest's attempts to deal with the changes.
No Longer at Ease is a look at the struggle between African and Western cultures in Nigeria right before Independence as told from an English educated Nigerian's life.
Some parts of Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters were very enlightening, thought provoking, and awe inspiring. Other times when writing about something I knew about, the treatment was simplistic. The author also displays some prejudice on topics of nurture and psychotherapy. 4 stars
Eventide is so well written that one feels a part of the scene. It's the story of a cast of characters in a small town, many just barely making it, but often helping each other out. 5 stars
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is an intriguing book about cultural differences and communication written in a very clever way. My hesitation is that it seemed to me the strong focus on sex was not integral to the story. 3.5 stars
In The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered the author is present reminiscing about his 11th and 12 years, with forays earlier and later. The events and emotions are presented both as they were then and as viewed from adulthood. 4 stars
Book of Negroes was a totally engrossing tale of a black woman's life from 1745 in Africa to 1806 in London. In between which she was abducted into slavery in South Carolina, escaped in New York City, served the British during the Revolutionary War, removed to Nova Scotia, and then to Sierra Leone. 5 stars
>17 m.belljackson: I don't quite understand it. It seems like they're two names for the same book.
>17 m.belljackson:, >18 snash: The Book of Negroes is the Canadian title, which was changed to Someone Knows My Name in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. The original title was thought to be off-putting for US readers, given the history around the word "negroes," which doesn't have the same connotations here in Canada (Hill is a Canadian author. He lives about fifteen minutes from me, actually!).
Either way, it is such a great book! I also really liked Hill's The Illegal and Any Known Blood.
>19 Cait86: Thanks for the clarification. I'll have to check out his other books.
The Pilgrim was the story of a Puritan struggling against his sinning self to find salvation. He travels from England to New England in 1622 where he battled hunger and Indians as well as himself. 3.5 stars
Between the World and Me was written to his son, a memoir, eloquent, an unflinching examination of the brutality of life, and an exaltation of the struggle to comprehend it. 5 stars
Born A Crime. Born of a white father and an amazing black mother in Apartheid South Africa. A revealing account of South African history and culture along with sometimes humorous, sometimes appalling account of his life. I wish the book had address how he turned from hustler to comedian, but perhaps that's another book. 4 stars
>23 snash: How are you using "hustler" in this context, Sharon? To me it means "male sex worker," and that's not part of my knowledge base about Trevor Noah.
No, as seen in the Baldwin quote, you had it exactly right. Hustle on!
Unique Eats and Eateries of Philadelphia comments on over 200 eateries (some bars, groceries and miscellaneous), The focus of each short entry is on the history and people, with only a nod to the food. Missing some I'd think should be there and including a few I wouldn't. 4 stars
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is a bright and breezy (despite some unpleasant moments) reminiscence by a 85 year old plucky verbally adroit lady while walking her beloved streets of New York City.. It's a celebration of city walking as much as it is of a life. It is closely aligned with the life of Macy advertiser and poet, Margaret Fishback. 4 stars
Babylon is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate, a history of cities, was written in 1960 and so is somewhat dated. It gives a thorough look at man's created artificial environment across history and cultures. 3.5 stars
I found Behind Putin's Curtain a fascinating look at Russia, the ordinary people and their attitudes. Particularly interesting was the breadth of his travel revealing a wide range of micro cultures and numerous large cities I had no idea existed.
The Tie that Binds presents rural America and a resilient woman's sense of duty and strength of character while battered by an abusive father and various accidents of fate. 4.5 stars
Viewing cities as complex organisms, The Well-Tempered City presents solutions and problems of cities throughout time. It includes numerous suggestions as to how cities can become healthy and resilient. 4.5 stars
As an introvert much of Quiet seemed rather obvious but interesting nonetheless. i was surprised to hear how much things have tilted to reward the extrovert in recent years; schooling and working in teams. 4 stars
On the cover of To the Birdhouse I was promised quirky characters and a humorous comedy of manners. I got unbelievable characters and limited absurd almost slapstick humor edging upon sadistic humor. Sometimes entertaining but mostly a struggle to get through it. 2.5 stars
Germany? Germany! is collection of satirical essays written between 1920 and 1934, some cutting and some both cutting and humorous. While some seemed better than others and some seemed a bit repetitious, it was overall and entertaining and thoughtful. 4 stars
Travels with my Aunt is a little bit travelogue, a little bit humorous, a little bit mystery, a little bit philosophical, and a whole lot entertaining. 4 stars
King Leopold's Ghost was an excellent, well-researched, even handed history of the Belgian Congo under King Leopold. I appreciated his attempt to present the black voice, the various characters as persons, and to place events in perspective. 5 stars
With Walt Whitman, Himself is primarily a picture book with commentary and excerpts from Whitman's poetry and prose. As such it provides a good sense of the man and his times but does not allow for the greater depth a biography. 3.5 stars
Another Brooklyn was an excellent story of four childhood friends growing up to young adulthood in a poor Black neighborhood told in snipers of memory. Haunting. 4.5 stars
Ceremony was the story of an Indian/white man dealing with his past and his experiences in the Philippines during WWII. He used ancient Indian stories and medicine men to regain peace with the world. 3 stars
While I Was Gone was the story of a woman who left a husband to find herself, joined a commune which ended in the murder of one of them and how this event came back to haunt a later more successful and happy life. A story of mistakes and the need for forgiveness of others and oneself. 3.5 stars
A Sport of Nature was the story of a woman who gained influence and power in Africa during the liberation upheavals. It was suggested that she achieved this by her intelligence and personal integrity but it was more by shifting from one man to another, each more powerful than the last. It was also written with asides to the future and past that often confused the story. 2.5 stars
Don't Knock the Hustle Starting with the positives. I appreciated learning about some of the creative efforts being made to include a broader spectrum of people in design and idea think tanks along with their useful creations. My problems with the book were primarily in the first half which was very repetitious and touted technology as the answer to everything. One aspect of the innovation economy that the author does not address is its impact upon the consumer. Often products are well designed but have poor quality control. Many of these products are applications or application controlled. When the consumer has a problem or there's been a system update they're very apt to discover the makers are no longer there. They've trotted off to pursue another idea. We've had this happen with two sound/mute, hearing enhancing ear buds of significant cost. 3 stars
A Doll'e House was a play about an immature couple where the woman realizes she's being treated as a doll. She determines to leave her husband and children so that she can figure out who she is. What's not clear is whether she's really enlightened or still acting immaturely. A psychological play. 4 stars
The Card was a fun and humorous book about a young man, born poor, who by a series of ludicrous yet surprisingly effective schemes moves up the social and financial ladder to mayor of the town. 4 stars
The Fellowship refers to the Royal Society (English science group) from the first ideas about scientific investigation to the society's healthy position some 100 years later. The professional biographies and where possible personal biographies of the key players are presented in an accessible and interesting manner. 4 stars
Knock Down explores the questions of how much of the past and family obligations should one hang on to and when to move on. 3.5 stars
Where You Once Belonged is another story from the small town in Eastern Colorado of Holt. It's a tragic story of a troubled boy/man who embezzled the town both financially and emotionally. 4 stars
Parts of Born Fighting, Scots-Irish history and culture and its impact on America, were fascinating and enlightening. Glorification of that culture and some of its champions like Andrew Jackson diminished my assessment of the book. 3.5 stars
Kokoro set in Japan in the 1800's is about loneliness and dealing with guilt. 4 stars
The Paradise of a benefactor merchant, garden, and young girl turns out to be too tangled and shackling to tolerate.
Indignation is about how seemingly small decisions can have disproportionate effects. 4 stars
Sometimes surreal, sometimes humorous, sometimes sad and pathetic, From the Shadows describes alienation and the power of fantasy: thoroughly enjoyable while revealing the the human condition. 4 stars
It is hard to sense the awe, raw beauty, and self-insignificance experienced in a wilderness while sitting in a city, but A Wilder Time makes that possible. I had some difficulty following all of the geology before reading the epilogue but that didn't diminish my appreciation of the book. A poignant cry for the preservation of what little wilderness remains on earth. 5 stars
The Story of Lucy Gault set in Ireland begins with an attempted arson, causing the parents to decide to leave for England. Lucy, not wanting to leave runs away, breaks her ankle and her parents, thinking she's drowned, leave. The rest of the lives of all including the arsonist are tragic. 3 stars
Strange Pilgrims - Stories is collection of stories about South Americans living or visiting in Europe. Many surreal and fanciful. 4 stars
What the Butler Saw is a history and description of servants in England (with a couple of chapters about American servants) from 1700 to 1900+. As such it provides quite a description of everyday life both upstairs and down in the homes of the slightly rich to very rich. 4.5 stars
I found White Fragility an enlightening book, not only for pointing out the various ways that racism manifests and perpetuates itself, but also how quickly most whites insist they're personally not involved in racism. That response of innocence just maintains and fuels the problem. It has made me reflect on my own roll. 4.5 stars
The three mysteries in The Chinese Nail Murders are based upon legends of the Chinese magistrate, Judge Dee, made twice as interesting by their setting in Imperial China.
In Let Nothing You Dismay the main character, rather immature and pathetic, spends a day traveling from one social group's party to another. That provides the author with the opportunity to make pithy commentary about the various groups (lower class family, artsy fringe, celebrities, filthy rich, etc). All in all his witticisms seemed forced and over done, only occasionally funny. 2 stars
After This was the story of a family, mid-20th century, dealing with all the shifts those years brought. It's an ordinary family compassionately drawn and viewed from each persons perspective. 4 stars
Just thought I'd stop by and let you know that someone does come and read about what you are reading about!
Have a great weekend.
Thanks for the info. I mostly write this list for myself, so I can remember what I've read but am glad it is of interest to others as well.
You also have a good weekend. The weather's gloriously less hot and humid here this weekend so I'm sure I'll enjoy mine.
The Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America was an excellent and fascinating look at the Mississippi River, attempts to control it, politics, race relations, and the persons wielding power. Yet another story illustrating the self-serving underhanded use of power to the detriment of the ordinary person. 4 stars
Bad Stories was excellent, accessible, intelligent look and how our society allowed Trump to become president. He presents numerous stories that we told ourselves that we're incorrect. 5 stars
The Guest Book was a little too religious for my taste but despite that it held my interest and was entertaining. It was about a family who lost their father/husband ten years previous and their efforts to come to grips with their grief and move on with their lives. 3.5 stars
Five Quarters of the Orange was a captivating story, not because it's pleasant but because of the psychological truth of it and the writing approach which consistently teases the reader with hints of the dark truth. It is also a sociological look at the conflicts and stresses of living in an occupied country (France during WWII). 4 stars
The Yellow House is a memoir but also the story of a family, a house, New Orleans, and Katrina and its aftermath.
In the Skin of a Lion contained descriptions of scenes that were awe inspiring, although the plot was too fanciful for my taste and its point escaped me.
The Land that Never Was was an account of a Scottish man who lived a life of fraud and deception with impressive audacity. He sold land and promoted settlement of a land that did not exist gaining converts on the basis of fake military prowess and an elaborate set of brochures and documents.
Where the Crawdads Sing is the story of a young girl abandoned by her family, living in the marshes of the Carolina Outer Banks. A story of survival, love, murder, all within a deep appreciation for nature. Not always believable. 3 stars
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was written somewhere close to stream of consciousness, the book is about grief and the near impossibility of dealing with loss. While it manages to create humorous scenes, every person involved in the story is dealing with loss. 3.5 stars
The Accidental Homo Sapiens presented 4 or 5 interesting and even important points but gave way more background than necessary, particularly since their presentation of the background science was not simple to follow (even for a science major). Some good points, behavioral changes take place after genetic variation makes it comfortable and possible; All behaviors are controlled by many genes and are equally or more so influenced by culture and upbringing; Shifts in the behavioral norms occur individual by individual so we can each do our tiny part. 3 stars
The Secret Life of Sam Holloway is about dealing with painful events of the past and learning to trust others. Therefore it's touching and serious but it also manages to have numerous funny episodes. A fun book.
The Painted Veil was about a vain and superficial girl who through numerous tragedies grew up and resolved to live the rest of her life more seriously. 4 stars
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