*This one is going to be BRIEF.
I’m really going to try to do one of these reading lists every month. I love to read and encourage reading. By the way, I get almost all the books I read either from the Portland Public Library or Longfellow Books in Portland. When I am fortunate enough to have the time to make a trip up the coast to Rockland I always stop in Hello Hello Books and never leave without an armload. It is so important to support our libraries and local bookshops. And the spoken word in general – why I buy the $6 Sunday edition of the NYT every other week or so – well, that and it’s my primary news source.
OK, what I have been reading:
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – dark, disturbing, and none of the fun of Gone Girl.
Thunderstruck by Erik Larson – He is one of my favorite writers today. This is another well-written, well-researched book with as usual an interesting twist – Here’s the summary from Larson’s website:
The saga of how the lives of the inventor of wireless and of Britain’s second most famous murderer (after Jack the Ripper) intersected during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time. The inventor was Guglielmo Marconi, the young Italian genius; the killer was Hawley Harvey Crippen, who murdered his overbearing wife and fled Britain with his mistress, unaware that Scotland Yard was hot on his heels. The book—an instant New York Times bestseller—brings to life a host of forgotten characters, including spirit mediums, ghost-hunting physicists, Scotland Yard inspectors, and one of the great pioneers of forensic science. The climax occurs during a trans-Atlantic chase which, thanks to the miracle of Marconi’s invention, was followed by millions of people around the world—with Crippen and his mistress completely unaware.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – brief and utterly fantastic.
Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem – This book deserved more time from me than I have right now. It is a story based on Lethem’s own experiences growing up on the streets of Brooklyn during the 1970s. It requires rereading, because it is that smart….that good. What The Paris Review had to say:
It is indeed about the jail, and the place of jails in American life. It is also about superheroes, soul music, science fiction, community empowerment, Spaldeens, graffiti, gentrification, and headlocks. The novel follows two friends, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude—one white, the son of an experimental filmmaker, the other black, the son of an R&B singer, both motherless, both obsessed with comic books—from the 1970s through the 1990s. Along the way it captures a big swath of what used to be called, reverently, the inner city, and of boyhood and manhood in America.
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery – OK, here is the thing I am finding about so many of the reporters turned writers – it seems like there is this excitement of being able to write more than a few hundred words – they have this huge project and they get to indulge all those cravings for descriptions, etc. that get cut during their day job assignments. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes a reporter who produces Pulitzer Prize worthy news pieces gets lost in the jungle that is a novel. I cannot say I did not enjoy this book by Montgomery (who was nominated for a Pulitzer for his journalism), but it was nowhere near what I felt it should have been. When Montgomery writes about Gatewood’s abusive marriage he is spot on – you are present for all the vital details – but on the trail it is all facts and frankly that’s best left in a hiking guide book. I don’t mean to be overly critical here, I get it – who wouldn’t be panic stricken writing about someone this fantastic – and I mean he got me emotionally – but there was just so much missing along the way. What is that phrase – “When you can’t see the forest for the trees” – that’s half of this book to me. If you love the outdoors, if you love hiking, if you want to be inspired – read this book and please tell me what you think.
Selected Novels and Short Stories by Patricia Highsmith – I read “Strangers on a Train” and “The Price of Salt” (the film “Carol” is based on the latter) and loved both. Her dialogue is so entirely believable – she is a master at it. Highly recommend for a summer read.
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle – another brief and excellent read. Welcome Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. **By the way, did you know Doyle based Holmes on Edgar Allan Poe!? So cool!
The After Party by Anton Disclafani. New Release. LOVED. You bet your britches I will be purchasing a copy of her first book The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls after reading this one. It’s like the (film) Giant (you know the one – with Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean) meets The Help (the book!). Ladies, put on your best dress pour yourself a gin and tonic, paint your lips (and fingernails) red and get started….
Description from Random House: Joan Fortier is the epitome of Texas glamour and the center of the 1950s Houston social scene. Tall, blonde, beautiful, and strong, she dominates the room and the gossip columns. Every man who sees her seems to want her; every woman just wants to be her. But this is a highly ordered world of garden clubs and debutante balls. The money may flow as freely as the oil, but the freedom and power all belong to the men. What happens when a woman of indecorous appetites and desires like Joan wants more? What does it do to her best friend?
Devoted to Joan since childhood, Cece Buchanan is either her chaperone or her partner in crime, depending on whom you ask. But as Joan’s radical behavior escalates, Cece’s perspective shifts—forcing one provocative choice to appear the only one there is.
Houston Magazine mini feature here. And pics of the mansions here. And OMG THIS mansion here.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Wow! This was another of those books I picked up and could not put down. I did, but only to sleep, eat, work a bit and then was right back into it as soon as possible. It is beautiful and devastating and a must read after you read Anthony Doerr’s exquisite All The Light You Cannot See. Two weeks later and it is in the forefront of my mind. Reading this book I knew I would need to return to Paris much sooner than expected. (Well, and the Ritz did just reopen – YAY!!!) Description from the author’s page:
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gaetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women.