Saturday, June 30, 2012

State of the Blog, Part Two: The Authors

 
Four times a year, I review the books I've read to that point and see what kind of progress I've made on my books lists and reading projects.  2012 is half over, but I like to think still have time to catch up.

This is the second of three quarterly blog assessment posts.  The first part addressed the book lists. Part Three will deal with the challenges I joined this year.

My lists of my favorite authors are over in the right-side column. These are now divided into General favorites and Mystery favorites.

NOTE: If you are working on any of these lists, please leave a comment here or on the post for the list (click on the title below or in the right-hand column) and leave a link to any related post. I will add the links on the list post.

So far in 2012, I have read the 12 books by my favorite authors. 

GENERAL FAVORITES





MYSTERY FAVORITES





Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Beginnings: Songs of Power and Prayer in the Columbia Plateau


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

Leave a link to your post. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING



Among religious prophetic traditions, found at the roots of many faiths throughout the world, indigenous Plateau prophecy stands out for one reason in particular: its reliance on song to relay its message and bring forth its power.
-- Songs of Power and Prayer in the Columbia Plateau: The Jesuit, the Medicine Man, and the Indian Hymn Singer by Chad S. Hamill, published by OSU Press.

This is a really interesting story about the connections between music, religion, and Native American spirituality.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

List: National Review's Top 100 Non-Fiction Books of the 20th Century



The 100 Best Non-Fiction Books Of The Century appeared in the May 3, 1999, issue of National Review magazine, in response to the announcement of the Modern Library's Top 100 non-fiction list.

The editors described how they went about creating their list:
We have used a methodology that approaches the scientific. But-certainly beyond, say, the first 40 books-the fact of the books' presence on the list is far more important than their rankings. We offer a comment from a panelist after many of the books; but the panel overall, not the individual quoted, is responsible for the ranking. So, here is our list, for your enjoyment, mortification, and stimulation.
The list of panel members is here.

There is no way I will ever read all the books on this list.  Setting aside that many are out of print or only available in expensive academic editions, some of them just look too overwhelming or deadly dull for me to ever undertake.

If anyone else is working on this list or has reviewed any of the books on it, please leave comments with links to related posts. 

Those few that I have read are in red; those on my TBR shelf are in blue. 

1. The Second World War, Winston S. Churchill

Richard Brookhiser: "The big story of the century, told by its major hero."
2. The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

Richard John Neuhaus: "Marked the absolute final turning point beyond which nobody could deny the evil of the Evil Empire."
3. Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell

Arthur Herman: "Orwell's masterpiece-far superior to Animal Farm and 1984. No education in the meaning of the 20th century is complete without it."
4. The Road to Serfdom, F. A. von Hayek

Mark Helprin: "Shatters the myth that the totalitarianisms 'of the Left' and 'of the Right' stem from differing impulses."
5. Collected Essays, George Orwell

Florence King: "Every conservative's favorite liberal and every liberal's favorite conservative. This book has no enemies."
6. The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper

Herman: "The best work on political philosophy in the 20th century. Exposes totalitarianism's roots in Plato, Hegel, and Marx."
7. The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis

Brookhiser: "How modern philosophies drain meaning and the sacred from our lives."
8. Revolt of the Masses, Jose Ortega y Gasset

George Gilder: "Prophesied the 20th century's debauchery of democracy and science, the barbarism of the specialist, and the inevitable fatuity of public opinion. Explained the genius of capitalist elites."
9. The Constitution of Liberty, F. A. von Hayek

John O'Sullivan: "A great re-statement for this century of classical liberalism by its greatest modern exponent."
10. Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman

11. Modern Times, Paul Johnson

Herman: "Huge impact outside the academy, dreaded and ignored inside it."
12. Rationalism in Politics, Michael Oakeshott

Herman: "Oakeshott is the 20th century's Edmund Burke."
13. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, Joseph A. Schumpeter

Christopher Caldwell: "Locus classicus for the observation that democratic capitalism undermines itself through its very success."
14. Economy and Society, Max Weber

Michael Lind: "Weber made permanent contributions to the understanding of society with his discussions of comparative religion, bureaucracy, charisma, and the distinctions among status, class, and party."
15. The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt

Caldwell: "Through Nazism and Stalinism, looks at almost every pernicious trend in the last century's politics with stunning subtlety."
16. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West

Michael Kelly: "For its writing, not for its historical accuracy."
17. Sociobiology, Edward O. Wilson

Lind: "Darwin put humanity in its proper place in the animal kingdom. Wilson put human society there, too."
18. Centissimus Annus, Pope John Paul II

19. The Pursuit of the Millennium, Norman Cohn

Neuhaus: "The authoritative refutation of utopianism of the left, right, and points undetermined."
20. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

Helprin: "An innocent's account of the greatest evil imaginable. The most powerful book of the century. Others may not agree. No matter, I cast my lot with this child."
Caldwell: "If one didn't know her fate, one might read it as the reflections of any girl. That one does know her fate makes this as close to a holy book as the century produced."
21. The Great Terror, Robert Conquest

Herman: "Documented for the first time the real record of Stalinism in the Soviet Union. A genuine monument of historical research and reconstruction, a true epic of evil."
22. Chronicles of Wasted Time, Malcolm Muggeridge

Gilder: "The best autobiography, Christian confession, and historic meditation of the century."
23. Relativity, Albert Einstein

Lind: "The most important physicist since Newton."
24. Witness, Whittaker Chambers (reviewed here)

Caldwell: "Confession, history, potboiler -- by a man who writes like the literary giant we would know him as, had not Communism got him first."
25. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn

26. Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis

Neuhaus: "The most influential book of the most influential Christian apologist of the century."
27. The Quest for Community, Robert Nisbet

28. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.

Helprin: "The infinite riches of the world, presented with elegance, confidence, and economy."
29. Up in the Old Hotel, Joseph Mitchell (reviewed here)

30. The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton

John Lukacs: "A great carillonade of Christian verities."
31. Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton

O'Sullivan: "How to look at the Christian tradition with fresh eyes."
32. The Liberal Imagination, Lionel Trilling

Jeffrey Hart: "The popular form of liberalism tends to simplify and caricature when it attempts moral aspiration -- that is, it tends to 'Stalinism.'"
33. The Double Helix, James D. Watson

Herman: "Deeply hated by feminists because Watson dares to suggest that the male-female distinction originated in nature, in the DNA code itself."
34. The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Richard Phillips Feynman

David Gelernter: "Outside of art (or maybe not), physics is mankind's most beautiful achievement; these three volumes are probably the most beautiful ever written about physics."
35. Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, Tom Wolfe

O'Sullivan: "Wolfe is our Juvenal."
36. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Albert Camus

37. The Unheavenly City, Edward C. Banfield

Neuhaus: "The volume that began the debunking of New Deal socialism and its public-policy consequences."
38. The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud

39. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs

40. The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama

41. The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker (discussed here)

42. The Age of Reform, Richard Hofstadter

Herman: "The single best book on American history in this century, bar none."
43. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes

Hart: "Influential in suggesting that the business cycle can be modified by government investment and manipulation of tax rates."
44. God & Man at Yale, William F. Buckley Jr.

Gilder: "Still correct and prophetic. It defines the conservative revolt against socialism and atheism on campus and in the culture, and reconciles the alleged conflict between capitalist and religious conservatives."
45. Selected Essays, T. S. Eliot

Hart: "Shaped the literary taste of the mid-century."
46. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard M. Weaver

47. The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs

48. The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom

49. Ethnic America, Thomas Sowell

50. An American Dilemma, Gunnar Myrdal

51. Three Case Histories, Sigmund Freud

Gelernter: "Beyond question Freud is history's most important philosopher of the mind, and he ranks alongside Eliot as the century's greatest literary critic. Modern intellectual life (left, right, and in-between) would be unthinkable without him."
52. The Struggle for Europe, Chester Wilmot

53. Main Currents in American Thought, Vernon Louis Parrington

King: "An immensely readable history of ideas and men. (Skip the fragmentary third volume-he died before finishing it.)"
54. The Waning of the Middle Ages, Johann Huzinga

Lukacs: "Probably the finest historian who lived in this century."
55. Systematic Theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg

Neuhaus: "The best summary and reflection on Christianity's encounter with the Enlightenment project."
56. The Campaign of the Marne, Sewell Tyng

John Keegan: "A forgotten American's masterly account of the First World War in the West."
57. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Ludwig Wittgenstein

Hart: "A terse summation of the analytic method of the analytic school in philosophy, and a heroic leap beyond it."
58. Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Bernard Lonergan

Mary Ann Glendon: "The Thomas Aquinas of the 20th century."
59. Being and Time, Martin Heidegger

Hart: "A seminal thinker, notwithstanding his disgraceful error of equating National Socialism with the experience of 'Being.'"
60. Disraeli, Robert Blake

Keegan: "Political biography as it should be written."
61. Democracy and Leadership, Irving Babbitt

King: "A conservative literary critic describes what happens when humanitarianism over takes humanism."
62. The Elements of Style, William Strunk & E. B. White

Abigail Thernstrom: "If only every writer would remember just one of Strunk & White's wonderful injunctions: 'Omit needless words.' Omit needless words."
63. The Machiavellians, James Burnham

O'Sullivan: "Burnham is the greatest political analyst of our century and this is his best book."
64. Reflections of a Russian Statesman, Konstantin P. Pobedonostsev

King: "The 'culture war' as seen by the tutor to the last two czars. A Russian Pat Buchanan."
65. The Hedgehog and the Fox, Isaiah Berlin

66. Roll, Jordan, Roll, Eugene D. Genovese

Neuhaus: "The best account of American slavery and the moral and cultural forces that undid it."
67. The ABC of Reading, Ezra Pound

Brookhiser: "An epitome of the aging aesthetic movement that will be forever known as modernism."
68. The Second World War, John Keegan

Hart: "A masterly history in a single volume." 
69. The Making of Homeric Verse, Milman Parry

Lind: "Genuine discoveries in literary study are rare. Parry's discovery of the oral formulaic basis of the Homeric epics, the founding texts of Western literature, was one of them."
70. The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling, Angus Wilson

Keegan: "A life of a great author told through the transmutation of his experience into fictional form."
71. Scrutiny , F. R. Leavis

Hart: "Enormously important in education, especially in England. Leavis understood what one kind of 'living English' is."
72. The Edge of the Sword, Charles de Gaulle

Brookhiser: "A lesser figure than Churchill, but more philosophical (and hence, more problematic)."
73. R. E. Lee, Douglas Southall Freeman

Robert Conquest: "The finest work on the Civil War."
74. Bureaucracy, Ludwig von Mises

75. The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton

Neuhaus: "A classic conversion story of a modern urban sophisticate."
76. Balzac, Stefan Zweig

King: "On the joys of working one's self to death. The chapter 'Black Coffee' is a masterpiece of imaginative reconstruction."
77. The Good Society, Walter Lippmann

Gilder: "Written during the Great Depression. A corruscating defense of the morality of capitalism."
78. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson

Lind: "For all the excesses of the environmental movement, the realization that human technology can permanently damage the earth's environment marked a great advance in civilization. Carson's book, more than any other, publicized this message."
79. The Christian Tradition, Jaroslav Pelikan

Neuhaus: "The century's most comprehensive account of Christian teaching from the second century on."
80. Strange Defeat, Marc Bloch
Herman: "A great historian's personal account of the fall of France in 1940."
81. Looking Back, Norman Douglas

Conquest: "Fascinating memoirs of a remarkable writer."
82. Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Henry Adams

83. Poetry and the Age, Randall Jarrell

Caldwell: "The book for showing how 20th- century poets think, what their poetry does, and why it matters."
84. Love in the Western World, Denis De Rougemont

Brookhiser: "What has become of eros over the last seven centuries."
85. The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk

86. Wealth and Poverty, George Gilder

87. Battle Cry of Freedom, James M. McPherson

88. Henry James, Leon Edel

King: "All the James you want without having to read him."
89. Essays of E. B. White, E. B. White

Gelernter: "White is the apotheosis of the American liberal now spurned and detested by the Left (and the cultural mainstream). His mesmerized devotion to the objects of his affection -- his family, the female sex, his farm, the English language, Manhattan, the sea, America, Maine, and freedom, in descending order -- is movingly absolute."
90. Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov

91. The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe

92. Darwin's Black Box, Michael J. Behe

Gilder: "Overthrows Darwin at the end of the 20th century in the same way that quantum theory overthrew Newton at the beginning."
93. The Civil War, Shelby Foote

94. The Way the World Works, Jude Wanniski

Gilder: "The best book on economics. Shows fatuity of still-dominant demand-side model, with its silly preoccupation with accounting trivia, like the federal budget and trade balance and savings rates, in an economy with $40 trillion or so in assets that rise and fall weekly by trillions."
95. To the Finland Station, Edmund Wilson

Herman: "The best single book on Karl Marx and Marx's place in modern history."
96. Civilization, Kenneth Clark

97. The Russian Revolution, Richard Pipes

98. The Idea of History, R. G. Collingwood

99. The Last Lion, William Manchester

100. The Starr Report, Kenneth W. Starr

Hart: "A study in human depravity."
NOTES

Last updated on December 28, 2012.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Are They Reading? Tresspass


Authors tend to be readers, so it is natural for them to create characters who like to read.  It is always interesting to me to read what books the characters are reading in the books I read. Even if I can't say that ten times fast.

Usually, the characters' choice of books reflects the author's tastes or, I sometimes think, what the author was reading at the time.  But sometimes the character's reading material is a clue to the character's personality, or is even a part of the story. 

This is an occasional blog event. If anyone wants to join in, feel free to leave a comment with a link to your related post. And feel free to use the button.  If this catches on, I can pick a day and make it a weekly event.

TRESPASS BY ROSE TREMAINE


This is a great, tangled story of grown up, messed up families living in southern France.  None of them are readers.  The French brother and sister barely function, let alone read. The English brother collects antiques,  his sister designs gardens, and her girlfriend paints watercolors, but none of the three read.

So the one book scene really stands out.  Anthony, the Englishman, describes his mother's death of cancer, including the detail of her re-reading favorite book while in the hospital.  The book was Staying On by Paul Scott.

Staying On is the sequel to Scott's Raj Quartet and won the Booker Prize in 1977.  It is the story of a British colonial couple who stays on in the hills of India after India's independence. 

It could be that Anthony's mother read Staying On because she was from South Africa and enjoyed the post-colonial theme of the novel.  But the plot of Staying On also ties in with the "trespass" themes of Tremain's book.  There is a potential, legal trespass involving the boundary lines of the French siblings' property, but there are also trespasses against family ties, emotional bonds, decency, and personal security.

Now I want to read Staying On to see how the book connects with Trespass.  But I am such a completist that I first want to read The Raj Quartet, which is on my TBR shelf.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Evolutionaries


Evolutionaries know the importance of good planning.  But they also know when to move ahead -- even when the plan is not perfect.

-- Evolutionaries: Transformational Leadership: The Missing Link in Your Organizational Chart, by Randy Harrington and Carmen E Voillequé.

This is a great, hand-on business book for how to lead your organization in these uncertain, fast-changing times.  


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. 



Monday, June 25, 2012

Mailbox Monday



Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

Marie at Burton Book Review is hosting in June.  Please stop by her beautiful blog where she is "Leafing through history one page at a time."

Thanks to Rachelle at my favorite Second Glance Books, I got a stack of books last week, several that I have been looking for for a long time. 



Death at the Chateau Bremont by M. L. Longworth (this was an impulse -- I couldn't resist the cover)



Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (on the Erica Jong list)



Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (Orange Prize winner)



Innocence by Penelope Fitzgerald (one of my favorite authors)



English Passengers by Matthew Kneale (Costa Book of the Year winner)



Saint Joan of Arc by V. Sackville-West (on my French Connections list)



Hole in the Sky: A Memoir by William Kittredge (on the list of 20 Greatest Oregon Books)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

State of the Blog: Part One, the Lists


Four times a year, I review the books I've read to that point and see what kind of progress I've made on my books lists and reading projects.  2012 is half over, but I still have time to catch up if needed.

This is the first of three quarterly blog assessment posts.  This first part addresses the book lists. Part Two, coming soon, will take a look at the author lists.  Part Three will deal with the challenges I joined this year.

My book lists are over in the right-side column. These are now divided into Prize Winners and "Must Reads" and include lists of books I have read or intend to read for some reason or another. Also in the right-side column are lists of my favorite authors. I add to these lists of lists from time to time.

NOTE: If you are working on any of these lists, please leave a comment here or on the post for the list (click on the title below or in the right-hand column) and leave a link to any related post. I will add the links on the list post. 

THE PRIZE WINNERS



Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: A Case of Need by Micheal Crichton (as Jeffery Hudson)


Books read in 2012: The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark (reviewed here; read for my 2011 Battle of the Prizes, British Version, challenge).



Books read in 2012: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson (reviewed here)


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: two, both for for the 2012 Battle of the Prizes, American Version

THE "MUST READS"


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: none so far


This list is from 99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939 by Anthony Burgess, which I reviewed here

Books read in 2012: The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark (reviewed here; read for my 2011 Battle of the Prizes, British Version, challenge).


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: two


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: Dracula by Bram Stoker (reviewed here)


Books read in 20112: none so far


Books read in 2011:

LT EARLY REVIEWERS

Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 202: none so far


Books read in 2012: zero (finished this list a couple of years ago).


Books read in 2012: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré (reviewed here)


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: none so far


Books read in 2012: none so far. Who knows if the list will change this year.


This is a new list that I just created in 2011. I made more progress in 2012 when I participated in the Venice in February Challenge.

Books read in 2012:


Books read in 2012: none so far

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Favorite Author: Susan Howatch


Susan Howatch (b. 1940) is an English author known for her Sweeping Family Sagas. After her own spiritual epiphany in the 1980s, she turned her talents to writing the same kinds of elaborate, gothic novels, but with a Christian theme and a philosophical bent. 

I read many of her earlier books when I was in high school and loved them, although I can't remember them now. Recently -- and remembering my enjoyment of the historical novels -- I read The High Flyer and was surprised that is was about the Church of England. But I really enjoyed it and decided to compile and read the rest of her "religious" books in order.

If anyone else is reading Howatch's books, please lease comments with links to related posts.

Here are her books in publication order. Those I have read as an adult are in red; those on my TBR shelf are in blue. My plan is to read all the Starbridge and St. Benet's books and maybe go back and read some of the earlier ones. I recently re-read The Rich are Different when I found an audiobook edition from my library.

The Dark Shore (1965)

The Waiting Sands (1966)

April's Grave (1967)

Call in the Night (1967)

The Shrouded Walls (1968)

The Devil on Lammas Night (1970)

Penmarric (1971)

Cashelmara (1974)

The Rich Are Different (1977)

Sins of the Fathers (1980)

The Wheel of Fortune (1984)

THE STARBRIDGE SERIES

Six books centered on the fictional Anglican diocese of Starbridge. Each book is a stand-alone story, but with overlapping characters.  The series begins in the 1930s and goes through WWII to the 1960s, when the last three books take place.

Glittering Images (1987) (reviewed here)

Glamorous Powers (1988)

Ultimate Prizes (1989)

Scandalous Risks (1990)

Mystical Paths (1992)
 
Absolute Truths (1994)

THE ST. BENET'S TRILOGY

This trilogy takes place in the London of the 1980s and 1990s and focuses on changes in the Church of England during those decades.  Many of the same characters from the Starbridge series are involved, although each book is a stand alone novel.

The Wonder Worker (US title) / A Question of Integrity (UK title) (1997)

The High Flyer (2000)

The Heartbreaker (2004)

NOTES

Some of Susan Howatch's earlier books are hard to find. But five of these gems have been newly released as ebooks by Open Road

Last updated on January 3, 2013.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Beginnings: Evolutionaries


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

Leave a link to your post. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING



It is extremely difficult to manifest and sustain strategic clarity in a world where thousands of tasks bog down the days and the rules seem to change the moment we gain momentum.
-- Evolutionaries: Transformational Leadership: The Missing Link in Your Organizational Chart, by Randy Harrington and Carmen E Voillequé.

So true! This sums up what frustrates me and my partners about trying to do any long-term planning with our law firm.  

Carmen was the keynote speaker at the Portland WIFS dinner I recently attended. She talked about how businesses can plan for the future when we are no longer able to make long-term plans for the future. I think I am going to be glad I read this book.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Opening Sentence: Greene on Capri



On a December morning of the late 1960s, I was sitting by the windows of the Gran Caffé in the piazzetta of Capri, doing the crossword in The Times.
-- Greene on Capri: A Memoir by Shirley Hazzard.

Like just about everyone, I love the idea of Capri -- fostered by a short college-days visit. And I love Graham Greene's books.  I don't know why, then, it has taken me so long to get around to reading Hazzard's memoir, which has been on my TBR shelf for about ten years.

This is so getting me in the mood for the Graham Greene Challenge, hosted by  Carrie at Books and Movies.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The Wet Engine


Consider why, all through history and in every sort of literature, the heart should by considered the seat of the soul, and not the head. What races when you are stimulated by love or fear?
-- The Wet Engine: Exploring Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart by Brian Doyle, published by OSU Press.

Doyle is a prolific author with a magpie's interest in all sorts of subjects.  His book The Grail (reviewed here) recounts his year spent at a winery in Oregon.  His debut novel, Mink River, is a charming story about the quirks and magic of life in a small coastal village. 

The Wet Engine is something different altogether.  It is Doyle's very personal, ruminative account of his son, born with a heart defect, and the surgeon who saved his life.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. 



Monday, June 18, 2012

Mailbox Monday



Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

Marie at Burton Book Review is hosting in June.  Please stop by her beautiful blog where she is "Leafing through history one page at a time."

I was in lovely Missoula, Montana for work last week and stopped by the Missoula Public Library, where they have a very impressive Friends' sale section. It isn't a whole store, but it is a whole aisle of books, with an excellent selection. I found a couple of gems:



City of the Mind by Penelope Lively (a favorite of mine, even if I haven't read a lot of her books yet -- I loved Moon Tiger)



The Crofter and the Laird by John McPhee (years ago, I really enjoyed The Survival of the Bark Canoe and want to read more of his work)



The Vicar of Nibbleswicke by Roald Dahl, with illustrations by Quentin Blake (I couldn't resist)




The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie (I am on a vintage mystery roll)

I also got a LibraryThing Early Reviewer book:



Mission to Paris by Alan Furst (I am listening to the audio edition of Spies of the Balkans now, so am looking forward to this one)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!


I love my dad! This has always been my favorite picture of him. I was only a toddler when it was taken, so I don't remember the occasion. But I love the combination of toga and penny loafers. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Opening Sentence: Witness



Beloved children, I am sitting in the kitchen of the little house at Medfield, our second farm which is cut off by the ridge and a quarter-mile across the fields from our home place, where you are.

-- Witness by Whittaker Chambers.

I have been meaning to read this forever.  But it's hard for me to crack an 800-page doorstop.

I am so glad I finally did!  Witness is Chambers' soul-baring autobiography of his years as a loyal member of the American Communist party (including writing for the Daily Worker), his time as a Soviet spy, his ultimate break with the party and denunciation of communism, and his involvement in breaking up the Soviet spy network in Washington, including his infamous participation in the two Alger Hiss criminal trials

It is an amazing story and it reads like the best Cold War spy thriller.  Well, sort of an egg-heady spy thriller, although it is more exciting and flows better than most Le Carre novels. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Book Beginnings: The Wet Engine


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

Leave a link to your post. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING


My son Liam was born nine years ago.
-- The Wet Engine: Exploring Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart by Brian Doyle, published by OSU Press.

Doyle is a prolific author with a magpie's interest in all sorts of subjects.  His book The Grail (reviewed here) recounts his year spent at a winery in Oregon.  His debut novel, Mink River, is a charming story about the quirks and magic of life in a small coastal village. 

The Wet Engine is something different altogether.  It is Doyle's very personal, ruminative account of his son, born with a heart defect, and the surgeon who saved his life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review: Glittering Images

 

Glittering Images is the first book in Susan Howatch's Starbridge Series, a fictional account of the Church of England in the 20th Century set in the Salisbury–like diocese of Starbridge. Glittering Images takes place in the 1930s, during the Anglican Church's debate over modernizing English divorce laws.

The Reverend Dr. Charles Ashworth is a polished Cambridge academic who prefers writing about medieval Christian theological disputes to active ministry. His mentor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, sends him to secretly investigate the Archbishop's rival, the charismatic Bishop of Starbridge, to determine if the Bishop's alternative household arrangements are as innocent as they appear or a sleazy ménage à trois sure to bring scandal on the Church.

Ashworth's integration into the Bishop's household culminates in his own traumatic breakdown – a major plot transition Howatch handles masterfully, gradually turning the story inside out. Only when Ashworth (with guiding counsel from an astute Anglican monk) untangles his own psycho-spiritual mess is he able to solve the mystery of Starbridge.

Howatch turned to the religious themes explored in Glittering Images after experiencing her own spiritual epiphany. The book is certainly Christian in outlook and subject matter, but in execution bears all the marks of Howatch's earlier pop-fiction family sagas. The fast-turning pages are full of gothic suspense, moody imagery, sex, scandal, and drama. May the rest of the Starbridge Series be this good.

OTHER REVIEWS

If you would like your review of this book, of any of Susan Howatch's books, listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

NOTES

This counts as one of my two 450 to 500 page books for the Chunkster Challenge, as well as one of my choices for the Mt. TBR and Off the Shelf Challenges.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Buried in the Sky



They'd fallen at least nine stories when Chhiring skimmed over the perfect patch of ice. The pick of hi axe dug in, and, despite their speed, Chirring held on.
-- Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan.

This is the nail-biting account of the 2008 K2 expedition that killed eleven climbers, focusing on the two Sherpa porters who survived. It is an incredible story, well told, based on thorough research into the tragic events and the Sherpa culture. 


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. 



Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review: On the Town in New York

 

On the Town in New York is Michael and Ariane Batterberry’s "Landmark History of Eating, Drinking, and Entertainments from the American Revolution to the Food Revolution." It is the classic culinary history of New York City, from 1776 to when the book was first published in 1973. The 25th anniversary edition adds a chapter on the era from about 1970 to 1998.

As the title suggests, the book is mostly about restaurant and hotel dining, not home cooking and not New York's agriculture or food production. This is about how people ate when they were On the Town, covering the transition from humble taverns to elaborate “pleasure gardens,” the rise of the grand hotels and the extravagant parties thrown in them, the evolution of tea rooms to lunch counters to automats, the influence of immigrant cooking, and development of New York’s modern restaurant scene.

There is a lot of information packed into this entertaining and encyclopedic book. The Batterberrys’ thorough research and love of their subject shows in the details they incorporate and the personalities they showcase. The inclusion of many historical pictures, including reproductions of famous menus, makes it even easier for the reader to appreciate this chronicle of New York’s food culture.

OTHER REVIEWS

If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

NOTES

The Batterberrys were the founders of Food & Wine Magazine. I first read about this book when Anthony Bourdain recommended it in Kitchen Confidential.

This counts as one of my books for the Foodie Reading Challenge, hosted by Margot at Joyfully Retired.



It also counts for the Mt. TBR, Off The Shelf, TBR Pile, and Non-Fiction, Non-Memoirs challenges.

WEEKEND COOKING



Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Beginnings: Buried in the Sky


Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author's name.

Leave a link to your post. If you don't have a blog, but want to participate, please leave a comment with your Book Beginning.



MY BOOK BEGINNING



A Sherpa named Chhiring Dorje dangled off an axe hacked into a wall of ice.
-- Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan.

This is a terrific book! The kind that makes you gasp out loud and stay up late to finish it.  I finally got my turn after Hubby snatched it away from me the minute it came out of the envelope. It is so right up his alley.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review: Home Truths



"Home truth" is an expression we don't use much in America, but it is a good one, meaning, according to the OED, "a wounding mention of a person's weakness."  David Lodge examines the concept in the context of creativity and success in his novella Home Truths.

The compact story centers on Adrian Ludlow, a former novelist turned anthology editor who lives with his wife in "a little pocket of slightly scruffy agricultural land" in Sussex – closer to Gatwick airport than the South Downs.  Their longtime friend, television screenwriter Sam Sharp, drops in on his way to Los Angeles, fuming over a hatchet-job profile of him in that morning's paper.   Adrian and Sam plot to turn the tables on the journalist, who walks right into their trap.

Lodge based the novella on his play of the same name, with a few tweaks and some added material.  It is easy to see the skeleton of the play in the book because the story is almost all set in the Ludlows' living room, is told mostly in dialog, and is highly choreographed, with characters conveniently moving in and out of the living room to give others opportunity for one on one conversations.  This structure adds to the story by giving it an immediacy not found in longer, more narrated novels.

As the plot unfolds, each of the characters has to face some home truths about their careers and personal lives.  Like with a good play, lines and scenes draw laughs, but the bigger ideas will linger long after this quick read is finished.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: Get Your Pitchfork On



If you have a cat that spends any time outside, the best advice is "don't get attached." . . . Coyotes, mountain lions, and owls will happily scoop up your kitty for a meal.
--  Get Your Pitchfork On!: The Real Dirt on Country Living by Kristy Athens, from the chapter on pets.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event. 



Monday, June 4, 2012

Mailbox Monday


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

This is the season for sales -- garage, rummage, yard, tag, etc. All are opportunities to add to my ever-expanding library, and I took advantage of several last week, ending up with a mishmash of reading goodies.



The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst (French spies in Poland on the eve of WWII)



The Perfect Martini Book by Bob Herzbrun (history and anecdotes of the king of cocktails, with only a few variations but lots of illustrations)



The Black Mountain and Might As Well Be Dead by Rex Stout (I am working my way through all the Nero Wolfe novels)



Kate Vaiden by Reynolds Price (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award)



The Michael Innes Treasury by Michael Innes (more vintage mysteries in an omnibus edition containing The Case of the Journeying Boy, Hamlet, Revenge!, and Appleby's End)



Variety of Men by C.P. Snow (biographical essays on famous men from the author of the Strangers and Brothers series)

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