Friday, December 28, 2012

Reading List 2012

1. No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin   A great book! And a wonderful way to understand history.
2. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schalbe    Wonderful!

3. Destiny of the Republic, A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard   Excellent!  Enlightening and the way I like to learn history…via personalities.

4. Snowdrops by A. D. Miller

5. The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje

6. The Round House by Louise Erdrich     Marvelous novel. Told from view of 13-year-old boy who seeks revenge for his mother’s brutal assault. A good look at the injustices endured by our Native Americans.

7. The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo

8. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

9. The Leopard by Jo Nesbo

10. Phantom by Jo Nesbo

11. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn   The big mystery hit of the year and deservedly so.

12. The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak    Loved it! Finalist for the National Book Award.

13. It’s Fine By Me by Per Petterson  What is it with these Scandinavian writers? Another wonderful book. I  also read Petterson's “Out Stealing Horses” and became an admirer.

14. My Antonia by Willa Cather

15. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford    Supposedly a classic but I found both the plot and the writing annoying.

16. Washington Square by Henry James  The classic that became “The Heiress.” Wonderful!

17. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

18. Howards End by E. M. Forster

19. Prague Winter by Madeleine Albright     Not really an autobiography since Albright was a little child at the beginning of WWII. I especially was taken with her chapter on the camp Terezin since I had been there. Those memories will never fade.

20. Nemesis by Jo Nesbo    I love Jo Nesbo but this is not his best.

21. Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

22. The London Train by Tessa Hadley

23. Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog

24. And Furthermore by Judi Dench

25. Blue Nights by Joan Didion

26. Then Again by Diane Keaton

27. Empire of the Summer Moon – Quanah Packard and the Rise and Fall of the Commanches, The Most Powerful Indian Tribe in History by S.C. Gwynne  Although I am very interested in the settling of the American West and the lives of Native Americans, I did not find this book very compelling.

28. What Remains by Carole Radziwill    Didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. Very compelling look at illness from the viewpoint of a caregiver.

29. How It All Began by Penelope Lively

30. Canada by Richard Ford

31. Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow   The true story of the Collyer Brothers, hoarders who lived in a Fifth Avenue mansion.

32. This Side of Brightness by Colm McCann  A very interesting tale of a generation of sandhogs.

33. Desperate Characters by Paula Fox   A selection of the NY Times “Big City Book Club.”

34. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

35. Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles What a surprise this was! Quirky, original and very entertaining.

36. Felicia’s Journey by William Trevor  I chose to read this because it was mentioned in Schwalbe’s book. Creepy story but well done.

37. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz  Despite the hoopla, I didn’t enjoy it that much.

38. The Forgotten Man – A New History of The Great Depression, Amity Schlaes

39. The Likeness by Tana French

                                                     Not Up to Expectations:
40. Books– A Memoir by Larry McMurtry

41. The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

42. Nocturnes– Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro

45. Mission to Paris by Alan Furst

46. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran    Crude, crass and not worth its time. I actually threw it in the garbage.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The End of Your Life Book Club

I was very moved by Will Schalbe's journey with his mother Mary Anne as she underwent treatment for cancer. As the two of them sat waiting at Sloan Kettering and doctors' offices they discussed their recent book selections. While book lovers will definitely enjoy their thoughts about a variety of books, no one will come away without an understanding of the remarkable woman and the son who loved her very much. Although it covers two years, you know the ending before you start. Just as Mrs. Schwalbe did...she always read the end of the book first.

I was delighted to receive this book from my niece Kathie for my 75th birthday and just as delighted that her sister-in-law Sue Carswell asked her friend Will Schwalbe to autograph it for me. It's one of those books that you keep.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This is a powerful story of injustice told through Joe, a thirteen-year-old Ojibwe living on a North Dakota reservation in 1988. He and his three friends search for answers when his mother suffers a brutal rape. Historic questions of whether the act was committed on federal, state or tribal land hinder the investigation.

The events in the book are loosely based on actual cases and stories.

Erdrich's compelling tale is emphasized by the realization of the long history of mistreatment of Native Americans. This is a book that stays with you. Highly recommended.   

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Washington Square by Henry James

Every once in a while, it's time to forego the best seller list and reach into the past for a good book.  So if you're looking for a reason to read (or re-read) a literary classic, the Big City Book Club has chosen Henry James's "Washington Square" as its next selection.  The choice is in conjunction with "The Heiress," a 1947 play currently on Broadway.

"James's short, potent novel about a wealthy doctor, his plain daughter and the young man of highly dubious ambitions who comes between them is a classic tale of New York social climbing," says the New York Times, which sponsors the Big City Book Club.

The date and time of the BCBC discussion will be announced soon. To become a member and receive updates about future chats, send an e-mail with "Join" in the subject line to

The current cast of "The Heiress" includes Jessica Chastain, David Straithairn, and Dan Stevens.  Oldtimers will recall Olivia DeHavilland, Ralph Richardson and the incomparable Montgomery Clift in the roles.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Vote for the Second Syllable

Is it as jarring to your ears as mine when you hear the word electoral pronounced e-lec-tor'-al rather than the standard e-lec'-tor-al? I don't recall commentators during the last election season choosing to accent the third syllable of the word.

I wondered if it were simply another case of "You say to-may-to and I say to-mah-to." But it isn't so.  I checked the American Heritage, the Oxford, and the Macmillan websites and they agree that the accent in electoral should be on the second syllable, not the third.

Those who know me know that things like this can drive me nuts. In case you're muttering that I should "get a life," you have to know that my feet are planted firmly in the old school when it comes to language and grammar.

My guess is that the misguided commentators who say "e-lec-tor'-al" are influenced by the sound of the word "electors," the people who comprise the electoral college. 

Of course, during this electoral season, there is so much more to be concerned about. So, I'll wait like the rest of America to see how the electors in the electoral college elect the next president. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

 Even if science fiction isn't your usual genre

On Wednesday, May 16 from 7 to 10 p.m., the New York Times Big City Book Club will hold a live discussion of one of my all-time favorite books -Time and Again by Jack Finney. Although science fiction has never been one of my usual genres I was drawn to the 1970 novel about time travel in 1995 when I learned that the setting was Manhattan in the 1880s.

The plot concerns advertising artist Simon Morley being chosen to take part in a secret U.S. government project where he would travel back in time to 1882 New York City -- just to prove it could be done. Soon Morley steps out of his twentieth-century apartment right into the winter of 1882. He finds himself living in an apartment building which Finney modeled after the Dakota on Central Park West.  These were the years when the Dakota and the Museum of Natural History were the only two main structures on Central Park West.
Imagine the days when horse cars and carriages caused traffic jams or when gaslights illuminated the streets at night; when El trains took shoppers to the Ladies Mile, the main retail center in the area around Broadway and 23rd Street.  

Finley complements his intriguing plot with historic photos and drawings supposedly done by Morley to show the leaders of the secret project.  It’s a fascinating book, some consider a “classic.”
To join the New York Times Book Club and take part in the online conversation on May 16th, go to and put “Join” in the subject line.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Destiny Of The Republic: A Tale Of Madness, Medicine And The Murder Of A President

Destiny Of The Republic: A Tale Of Madness, Medicine And The Murder Of A PresidentDestiny Of The Republic: A Tale Of Madness, Medicine And The Murder Of A President by Candice Millard

Had he not been gunned down a few months following his inauguration as president of the United States, James Garfield might have been considered among one of our greatest presidents.  Born into poverty in Ohio, Garfield became a college professor, president of Williams College, a Civil War hero and finally a reluctant candidate for the presidency.

A decent and extremely intelligent man, Garfield tried to rise above the divisive political schemes of his day. Political machinations, a deranged assassin, and the inadequacies of medical care make this a very interesting and informative contribution to presidential history.

The question - and obvious answer - is that it wasn't the gunshot that killed Garfield but the actions of his doctors who deliberately ignored the discovery by Joseph Lister that germs and lack of cleanliness lead to infection which ultimately causes death.

Alexander Graham Bell also features prominently in the book. Shortly after the success of his telephone, he began working on a device which would have determined which area in Garfield's body the bullet would be found.  Instead, doctors wasted precious weeks ignoring Bell and furthering the demise of the president.

If you like your history told from the perspective of individuals' lives rather than from dry and stodgy historical data, you will find this a fascinating book. Before reading this, I would  not have been able to tell you anything about President James Garfield.  And I would guess I'm not alone.