Tag Archives: reading

Good News Monday: It’s Not Easy…

But it’s possible to find a little inspiration.  Also some short distractions.  Hoping these links will work for non-subscribers.

The New York Times also recommends several books to entertain, enlighten and inform.  (The Churchill saga is going on my to-do list.) And I’ll add my own current favorite, a beautifully written novel I finished last week: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger.

THE DAIRY RESTAURANT, by Ben Katchor. (Nextbook/Schocken, $29.95.) The writer and illustrator Ben Katchor has produced a study of, and love song to, Jewish dairy restaurants, which began to flourish in New York City and elsewhere in the late 1800s; a century later, nearly all were defunct. It’s an “obsessive, melancholy and hungry-making” book, our critic Dwight Garner writes. “This is an encyclopedic book, history as told through old newspapers and telephone books and scraps of detail found in letters and memoirs.”

HITLER’S FIRST HUNDRED DAYS: When Germans Embraced the Third Reich, by Peter Fritzsche. (Basic Books, $32.) The historian Peter Fritzsche shows how Hitler and the National Socialists wasted little time after he was appointed chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933, transforming Germany into a place unrecognizable from the republic it had been just a few months before. “There’s something particularly clarifying about the hundred-days framing, especially as it’s presented in this elegant and sobering book, which shows how an unimaginable political transformation can happen astonishingly quickly,” our critic Jennifer Szalai writes.

THE RED LOTUS, by Chris Bohjalian. (Doubleday, $27.95.) In Chris Bohjalian’s new novel, a young man disappears and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor, falls into a new world of uncertainty and danger when she tries to figure out what happened. “Bohjalian strikes a fine balance between disclosure and secrecy” in deciding what to reveal and when, our reviewer Sarah Lyall writes. And “as suspenseful as it is, ‘The Red Lotus’ is also unexpectedly moving — about friendship, about the connections between people and, most of all, about the love of parents for children and of children for parents.”

BEHELD, by TaraShea Nesbit. (Bloomsbury, $26.) In this plain-spoken and lovingly detailed historical novel, the story of the Mayflower Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony is refracted through the prism of female characters. Despite the book’s quietness of telling, its currency is the human capacity for cruelty and subjugation, of pretty much everyone by pretty much everyone. “At the novel’s core,” Samantha Harvey writes in her review, lies “a critique of Englishness itself. There is a contradiction underpinning the whole project of English imperialism, and Nesbit flags it perfectly. On the one hand, the English pilgrims regard themselves as epitomizing civility, manners and thus superiority. On the other hand, they deploy barbaric cruelty in order to defend that superiority.”

THE EXHIBITION OF PERSEPHONE Q, by Jessi Jezewska Stevens. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) This debut novel centers on a young pregnant newlywed in post-9/11 New York City, who unexpectedly finds herself the subject of an ex-boyfriend’s photography exhibit. Implicitly, the book poses the question: How do affections alter appearances? “Stevens’s writing proves that both time and technology are best understood in retrospect, sequences made logical long after each moment has passed,” Haley Mlotek writes in her review. “The novel has a romantic slowness, unfurling gracefully, little by little, to show how quickly the present gives way to the future, or concedes to the past.”

THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson. (Crown, $32.) Larson’s account of Winston Churchill’s leadership during the 12 turbulent months from May 1940 to May 1941, when Britain stood alone and on the brink of defeat, is fresh, fast and deeply moving. “Through the remarkably skillful use of intimate diaries as well as public documents, some newly released, Larson has transformed the well-known record,” Candice Millard writes in her review. “The Blitz — its tense, terror-filled days, the horrors it inflicted — is palpable throughout this book, often by way of the kind of wrenching, carefully chosen facts that not only bring a story to life but also make a reader stop, look up and say to whoever happens to be nearby, ‘Listen to this.’”

LET THE PEOPLE PICK THE PRESIDENT: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College, by Jesse Wegman. (St. Martin’s, $27.99.) The Electoral College has distorted American politics throughout the country’s history and, as Wegman shows, if it didn’t already exist, no one would think to invent it. “People have been arguing against the Electoral College from the beginning,” Josh Chafetz writes in his review. “But no one, at least in recent years, has laid out the case as comprehensively and as readably as Jesse Wegman does.”

YELLOW BIRD: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country, by Sierra Crane Murdoch. (Random House, $28.) This painstakingly reported and beautifully written book, Murdoch’s first, examines the effects of fracking on a North Dakota reservation through the eyes of its title subject: a remarkable Native American woman who, determined to solve a murder related to the oil boom, exposes the greed and corruption that fueled it. “Murdoch resists easy portraiture (Indians as pitiful or pathetic or damaged) and blind compassion (Indians as noble sufferers or keepers of special knowledge),” David Treuer writes in his review. “Rather, she finds a way to balance her journalistic curiosity with respect for these complicated people. And Yellow Bird, as a person and as a guide through the mystery surrounding Clarke, is complicated. A fanatic, an addict, sure, but also brilliant, dogged, brave, funny, prickly, radically informed and just as radically nonjudgmental.”

BARRY SONNENFELD, CALL YOUR MOTHER: Memoirs of a Neurotic Filmmaker, by Barry Sonnenfeld. (Hachette, $29.) Sonnenfeld’s moment at the top of Hollywood’s food chain may have been short-lived, but the director of “Men in Black” and “The Addams Family” is an ideal tour guide through the vagaries and hypocrisies of the entertainment industry. “This is also a book about how Sonnenfeld became the artist that he is and the people he blames — namely, his parents — for how he turned out,” Dave Itzkoff writes in his review, noting that the memoir recounts moments of childhood sexual abuse and early work as a cameraman on porn films. But “it’s when Sonnenfeld turns to his career in legitimate cinema that the book really comes alive. As he perceptively observes, the same hang-ups that have inhibited him elsewhere in life are likely what drove him to become a great director of photography.”

THE POWER NOTEBOOKS, by Katie Roiphe. (Free Press, $27.) Best known for her polemical stances on feminist issues, Roiphe here turns her gaze on her romantic relationships, noting moments when she has ceded power to men or even endured their abuse. “Roiphe’s larger goal here is to investigate the lived reality of her romantic dynamics, not to get on a soap box and opine,” Lauren Elkin writes in her review. “The result is a beautifully written and thoughtful book.”

THE DALAI LAMA: An Extraordinary Life, by Alexander Norman. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.) A longtime associate of the Dalai Lama provides the most detailed biography to date, exploring the 84-year-old’s life on the world stage and his life inside the world of Tibetan Buddhism. Norman “reveals the Dalai Lama to be a sophisticated thinker and consummate scholar, one whose feet remain firmly on the ground, a trait often obscured by his broken English,” Donald S. Lopez writes in his review. “In keeping with a religion so obsessed with prophecy, the book, written in an engaging prose, ends with an insightful prediction of the legacy of the 14th Dalai Lama, and a cleareyed assessment of the challenges that the 15th will face.”

Good News Monday: Your Obscure Talent

Are you the only one of your friends who can decipher your doctor’s scrawl? The US Library of Congress has a request.

Their program, By the People, is looking for volunteers to help transcribe and review historic documents, diaries and more that can’t simply be scanned by machine.

Sign me up!

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Good News Monday: People Still Read Books

It’s not just about digital devices, TV and movies.  A recent survey of reader habits revealed some interesting stats:

  • Women are major mystery fans (37% citing as their preferred genre)
  • 2% of men admit that romance is a preferred genre
  • 70% of respondents prefer print over e-books
  • Women prefer reading in bed, and 13% of people read while they commute (hopefully not while driving)
  • Men and women were equally likely to read in the tub

beach-1866992_640Another cool thing: international literacy is on the rise. And although books are in short supply in developing nations, most people have access to cellphones, which broadens opportunities to read. In a UNESCO survey of more than 4,000 in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Ghana and Zimbabwe, 62% of respondents reported that they were reading more — by using their phone.

 

Addicted to Books

Our current move has involved putting approximately 1000 boxes of books weighing approximately 1,000,000 lbs into storage: Art. History. Art History. Theatre. Theatre History. Obscure Writings on Theatre History… you get the idea.

Which prompts me to wonder if my Dear Husband and others like him should form a chapter of Book Buyers Anonymous.

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In fairness, DH’s library is much better organized!

DH navigates a bookstore or library the way I peruse the designer floor at Neiman Marcus or almost any bakery: eyes glazed, slack-jawed and bent double so as to read the title/label. It’s nearly impossible to leave empty-handed.

Like chocolate and expensive perfume, scent is part of the experience: dusty, musty old books exude an irresistible pull, as does the cottony, slightly acrid crispness of a new volume.

I used to share DH’s addiction but, much as I love to read, I don’t collect books the way I collect, say, shoes and bags. Once done, I almost never return for a second round of the same story. The library would be a perfect solution, except that I prefer the pristine quality of a new book to one that’s been handled by someone else. Hence, regular purchases of paperbacks, which can easily be recycled to friends, family or Goodwill.

But as a kid the library was my safe haven, especially during the summers we spent on Cape Cod, when I had endless hours to curl up with a book.

My childhood library was founded in 1875 and moved to its present stone building in 1913. It felt both vast and cozy. Also deeply welcoming, despite the looming presence of librarians who’d shush you if you happened to be giggling with a friend.

I loved the dark, dusty stacks, the wooden files of Dewey Decimal System reference cards (named for the proprietary library classification system first published in the United States by Melvil Dewey in 1876), and most of all the sense of anticipation that you’d find something wonderful to bring home.

Dickens. Austen. Nancy Drew – I was voracious and indiscriminate. And I still have anxiety if I have fewer than 3 books at the ready. Kindles have their place but I want to hold my book. (Sounds like a Beatles song, no?)

Anyway. For the time being DH’s beloved boxes are safe and snug, though I have recurring nightmares of the second floor of our soon-to-be-built new home caving in under the weight of all those invaluable tomes.

Maybe I should go bake something.