Everyone made it to our house despite the road closure. Yea! First, we will catch up with Christine, Michael, and Brad, whose reports I missed last month.
Christine had read The Power of Different: The Link Between Disorder and Genius by Gail Saltz, M.D. The author compares brain differences and aptitudes. Uses the term “brain difference” rather than “mental illness.” The author found that most people she interviewed did not wish to change their differences (in the absence of serious conditions) as that was what made them what they had become. Christine is also working her way through the Three Pines series of books by Louise Penny and wants to visit the town someday.
Michael had previously reported on The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Now he is reading Rules of Civility and A Gentleman in Moscow by the same author. Rules of Civility is his debut novel set in Depression-era Manhattan. Features a young woman as she rises from the secretarial pool in a Wall Street firm to high society. A Gentleman in Moscow is the story of Count Alexander Rostov. In 1922, he was deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal and sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. He lives in an attic room and observes the tumultuous changes in Russia from his window. Michael also read a couple of books by Maggie O’Farrell: The Marriage Portrait set in Renaissance Florence, Italy, telling the story of Lucrezia de Medici. Hamnet is a fictional account of the life of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet who died at age 11. Also on Michael’s list were a couple of books by Bruce Chatwin, an English travel writer. He read The Songlines which features Aboriginal songs and the nomadic travel that is connected to the music. Utz is a novel that deals with obsession that leads someone to collect a certain type of object.
Brad had read Horses Don’t Fly: The Memoir of the Cowboy Who Became a World War I Ace by Frederick Libby. Libby was an American cowboy. At the outset of WWI, he went to Canada and volunteered to serve in their military. He worked in the motor pool but took an opportunity to transfer to the Royal Flying Corps as an “observer.” He did well and eventually became a pilot. He fought against two of the German flying aces, Boelcke and Richthofen. When America joined the war, he transferred to the US Army Air Service.
Now for the current books!
Peggy read Visual Thinking: The Hidden Gifts of People Who Think in Pictures, Patterns and Abstractions by Temple Grandin. Not her best work, but still interesting. Next is Mother Daughter Traitor Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal. This book is based on true stories of Nazi spy rings that operated in America in the 1930s.
Kat read The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff, a biography of Samuel Adams during the Revolutionary War. Alternately gripping and funny. Next was Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces by Michael Chabon. These essays about fatherhood were entertaining but not memorable. Kat had reread Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov. She first read this book as a teenager and it’s still one of her favorite books. It is a powerful critique of 19th century Russia, contrasting aristocrats with the merchant class and condemning the feudal system. Kat’s last book is Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Make Us by Rachel Aviv. Although the book is an innovative take on psychology, Kat would have liked more analysis of the case histories presented.
David read The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. Germany and Japan won WWII so life in the US has followed a different track since the end of the war. This book is the inspiration for the TV series of the same name. Next was Ice Cave by Toby J. Nichols. Dinosaurs are found in an ice cave under Antarctica. Amusing footnote: a list of other books issued by this publisher are listed in the back. All have dinosaurs on the cover or in the title! David has read the first two books in the Time Shards series by Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald, Time Shards and Shatter War. Time shatters in a random manner. Anyone or anything caught when this happens is transported to the same location, but at a different time.
Coleen read a couple of literary mysteries. The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths takes place in contemporary England. Clare is an English teacher in a private school. The older section of the school was the home of a writer of gothic horror tales. Suddenly, one and then another of the English teachers at the school are murdered. And some unknown person is writing in Clare’s personal journals! Another literary mystery is The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray. Set in the world of Jane Austen’s novels, this book features characters from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abby, Emma, and Persuasion. The characters are attending a house party at Emma’s home when an unexpected and unwanted George Wickham arrives. He is prevented from leaving for a couple of days by horrible weather. Before he can leave, he is murdered. Who has murdered the thoroughly unpleasant Mr. Wickham?
Rodney brought more of his Modern Library collection. And some interesting trivia concerning the publisher. Modern Library specialized in reprints of classic literature. At one point, they decided they wanted to expand and publish some random books that were not classics. Hence Random House was born! Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural edited by Herbert A. Wise and Phyllis Fraser contains lots of eerie stories from Balzac to Lovecraft! Famous Science Fiction Stories: Adventures in Time and Space edited by Raymond J. Healy and J. Francis McComas contained equally interesting tales. Copyright dates on these books are 1944 and 1946. Rodney’s last book was The Enormous Room by e. e. cummings. Unexpectedly, this is not poetry but a memoir of a time when the author had been in Paris in 1917. He was arrested and was in prison from September to December 1917. The prisoners were being held in an empty church sanctuary that was enormous. This book is an account of that time and is scheduled to be rereleased soon in a version including photos.
Brad read Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. Set in a near-future Earth dealing with the results of climate change, the story follows attempts to implement a solar geo-engineering scheme to remedy the climate change. The Rescue by Steven Konkoly is a good action/adventure story. Brad enjoyed it. Next up is A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. A set of unrelated stories with a large set of characters who are all connected to Bennie Salazar, a record company executive, and his assistant Sasha. This book won the Pulitzer Prize. Brad read Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton. He found it had too many lyrics and not enough life for his taste. Final Patrol: True Stories of WW2 Submarines by Don Keith, was not as interesting as it sounded. Primarily the stories of 16 US submarines and one German U-boat that have been restored and people can tour. Stories from former sailors are included. Finally, The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic that Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics by Stephen Cross tells the story of the Boston smallpox epidemic in 1721. Cotton Mather convinced Doctor Zabdiel Boylston to “inoculate” healthy people by making an incision in their arm and implanting smallpox in the incision. Quite a revolutionary procedure. Other players that year in Boston were James and Benjamin Franklin, Elisha Cooke, and Samuel Adams.
I was intrigued to see similarities in books we read. Several books included Samuel Adams. Several were about Russian characters. Several were about Nazis, Nazi spy rings, WWI, and WWII. I don’t usually see that much commonality in what we are reading. Interesting!
Come see us in December on the second Sunday at 2:00 p.m. for a conversation. Book talk begins at 2:30 p.m. (but come even if you are a little late). Snacks are appreciated but not required — just you and your books!