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Summer reading thread


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#16 LiLing

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 07:15 PM

The film of Sarah's Key has opened. If you plan to see it, I recommend reading the book first.

#17 Helene

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 11:26 PM

I'm reading it on a Kindle. Malcolm X was just shot, and the Kindle reads that I'm at the 63% mark. I've been afraid to see how much of the rest is book, and how much of the rest is index and sources.

Rather than just try to shatter the myths, Marable has taken the myth-making and character-making as a main subject. I read the "Autobiography" over two decades ago. I'm reading this from a much different place, and it's pretty easy to read this now and to understand his point of view. A lot of the detail seemed to me to be repetitive and a bit tedious -- it could have been written with a lot more tension -- but I think Marable gives a good feel for what it's like to go down rat holes, hit dead ends, make the similar decisions again and again, and be lauded in new places and to return to the mundane.

The man had extraordinary energy to have accomplished what he did. I'm glad to be reminded.

#18 kfw

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 09:08 AM

Thanks, Helene. I admire Malcolm X tremendously and I know the Autobiography is significantly fictionalized and that he was a more complex figure than he's presented as there. You may remember The New Yorker an article some years ago that suggested he even had a hand in firebombing his own house. I also admire Marable for his decades of labor on the book . . . and then to die just before it came out! I think I'm going to read it.




#19 macnellie

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 09:29 AM

I'm reading Michael Palin's diaries--watching as he writes Monty Python and Ripping Yarns--wonderful fun!

#20 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 12:23 PM

Skipping back and forth between two books: -- John Julius Norwich, Absolute Monarchs: a History of the Papacy -- and Judith Chazin-Bennahum, Rene Blum & the Ballets Russes: In Search of a Lost Life.


Thanks for the tip on "Absolute Monarchs," Bart! Midway into the Kindle sample of Grimwood's "The Fallen Blade" I realized that it was going to be just another vampire confection, and I am done with vampires. And while I'm enjoying Sarah Bakewell's "How to Live"-- it's impossible not to love Bakewell's Montaigne -- I find I need to put it aside after a chapter or two. (Montaigne's particular concerns hit home in my 50s in a way they didn't in my 20s, especially when they're put in the context of his life.) So I took "Absolute Monarchs" for a test drive and so far it's been perfect late-summer non-fiction. In fact, I think I'll go polish off another chapter right now ...

#21 JMcN

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 10:27 AM

I've just finished reading VIC'S BIG WALK by Vic Heaney. I found out about this book because he is the brother of an ex-colleague. He spent the 70 days leading up to his 70th birthday walking from his home in the French Pyrenees to the house where he was born in Blackpool (NW England). It is a light but interesting read and all proceeds are being donated to research into Pancreatic Cancer.

This book is available in e-book format.

#22 dirac

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 04:27 PM

Thanks, JMcN. Sounds like an offbeat read.

#23 vagansmom

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 06:29 PM

I finished Mistry's A Fine Balance which I strongly recommend. Simply on its merits as an engaging novel, it's a great read. There's certainly terrible sadness and atrocities (what novel about India's lower castes wouldn't include that?), but human kindness is also in great abundance. Anyone who would like to learn about India's caste system and Indira Gandhi's government - appalling stuff - will find it well worth the effort, despite the book's length.

I then did some light beach reading: Another Alice McDermott novel (Why do I return to her writings summer after summer even though I say I won't?) Also read Elizabeth McCracken's The Giant's House about a boy with gigantism and the older librarian who loved him. Very touching book. I'd read McCracken's book of short stories, Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry and was impressed. The title story in that book is a page turner. I wish she wrote more novels.

In August, I launched into Karen Armstrong's writings, starting with her autobiography, The Spiral Staircase. Armstrong is a former Catholic nun who has written extensively about spirituality and the history of religion. Having grown up in parochial schools, I've always been fascinated with convent life. Her time inside those walls occurred during the period when Pope Paul VI was beginning to overturn some of the modern changes made by the Second Vatican Council under Pope John XXIII. Fascinating account of the clash between the older veteran nuns and the new. Armstrong suffered a nervous breakdown, left the convent, attended college and has written extensively on religion. I'm currently also reading one of her books on religious fundamentalism called The Battle for God. It lays out the historical background of fundamentalist Islam, Christianity and Judaism. I also have her A History of God sitting on my night table.

#24 dirac

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 03:22 PM

The update is appreciated, vagansmom. Thank you!

#25 Helene

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 02:28 PM

These past few weeks I've read "Sarah's Key", about which I have mixed feelings. I mostly liked it, even the bizarre ending, but I found the part with the father-in-law a bit too pat.

I just finished Erik Larson's "In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin", the story of the newly appointed American ambassador to Germany in 1933, William Dodd, an academic from the University of Chicago, and his wife and children, both young adults. It's a fascinating account of the period in which Hitler completed his consolidation of power.

Erik Larson's style is strong and engaging, with an occasional glimpse of his particular combination of directness and snark. A dense subject, the book just flew by. Some examples:

He called her Motsie and pledge himself to her in letters composed of stupendously long run-on sentences, in one case, seventy-four lines of single-spaced typewriting.


From his acknowledgements and footnotes:

Above all, I thank my loyal early readers... and, as always, my wife and secret weapon, Christine Gleason, whose margin notes--complete with crying faces and trailing lines of zzzzzzz's--once again proved indispensable. Thanks to my daughters also for their increasingly astute critiques of my manner of dress.


He began this letter with the greeting: "Dearest of women." For a return address, he wrote: "The Bank."

Honestly, we men can be so tone deaf.


Dodd took a dim view of golf and golfers, especially those members of his Berlin staff who were continually skipping work to play a few rounds at their Wannsee club. It is a good thing Martha moved his body, because his ghost surely would have proved a daunting hazard, blocking putts and hurling balls far off into the adjacent swales and roughs.


A short and lovely walk away, in the library of the University of Wisconsin, I found as well a supply of materials on the only UW alumna to be guillotined at Hitler's command, Mildred Fish Harnack.



#26 Rosa

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Posted 18 February 2012 - 04:17 PM

*The Sleeping Bride by Dorothy Eden
*The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
*Peter Pan on Stage and Screen, 1904-2010 by Bruce K. Hanson
*Sibley and Dowell by Leslie Spatt (Why can't ballet books written today be like this?)
*The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
*The Boy Who Shoots Crows by Randall Silvis
*The Runaway Princess by Kate Coombs
*Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer

#27 Rosa

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 06:07 AM

What has everyone been reading this summer?

*Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
*In the Water They Can't See You Cry by Amanda Beard
*The Satanic Mill by Otfried Preußler
*The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer
*The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
*Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl
*Do You Think I'm Beautiful? by Angela Thomas

#28 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 06:25 AM

Lots of junk, guilty pleasure little numbers...nothing to brag about over here...Posted Image

#29 bart

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 09:04 AM

Rereading (translation: "ploughing through") Anthony Powell's series Dance to the Music of Time. This has surprised me. What seemed important and revelatory in my youth now seems padded and often lifeless. The novels do give you a sense of social changes in Britain from the 20s to the 70s, but are generally stronger when dealing with the narrator's school years and entry into the adult world. Nicholas Jenkins, Powell's alter-ego, reveals little about himself, content to observe others closely and with increasing skepticism. Surely Kenneth Widmerpool, who pops up in every novel, is one of the most annoying characters in 20th-century literature, though not always as Powell seems to have intended.

I'm glad I have just discovered Hilary Spurling's Invitation to the Dance -- an alphabetical glossary of characters, places, and cultural references for the entire series.

One good thing about this experience: it has made me want to read the Evelyn Waugh again.

#30 Helene

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Posted 31 July 2012 - 09:05 AM

I've been slowly, very slowly, reading Robert Caro's latest book on Lyndon Johnson, "The Passage to Power," and Alan Taylor's "The Civil War of 1812."


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