If you know me, you know I am a reader and a walker. When I looked through the books I read in 2022 (78 – not a record), I was amazed that less than 10% of the books I read were art related. So – 2023 is my year to devote more of my downtime to art. (more…)
Category Archives: Recommended Books and videos
JOIN ME ON MY READING QUEST ON MY TRIP TO KANSAS
In case you aren’t familiar with my reading quest, I am currently reading a book written by someone from each state in the United States.
I read not one, but two books written by Sarah Smarsh from Kansas. Born in rural Kansas, she grew up on farms in small towns. Her family moved frequently and she attended eight schools before reaching ninth grade. Attending the University of Kansas, she received her MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University (not a small feat!).
HEARTLAND: A MEMOIR OF WORKING HARD AND BEING BROKE IN THE RICHEST COUNTRY ON EARTH
This is not only a powerful but a very relevant book. As Smarsh says “You can go a very long time in the country without being seen.”
Born into a family of farmers, she traces her family through five generations of teenage pregnancies – her mother was just 17 when Sarah was born.
During her childhood, in the 1980’s, family farms were going under – sometimes a victim of foreclosure, but also often the growth of giant agribusinesses. Her father began taking any job he could get, roofing, driving semi trucks and even disposing of poisonous industrial chemicals – one that almost killed him, resuting in years of debilitating psychosis.
The family was living below the poverty line, while at the same time considering themselves middle class. She writes:
“That we could live on a patch of Kansas dirt with a tub of Crisco lard and a $1 rebate coupon in an envelope on the kitchen counter and call ourselves middle class was at once a triumph of contentedness and a sad comment on our country’s lack of awareness about its own economic structure. Class didn’t exist in a democracy like ours, as far as most Americans were concerned, at least not as a destiny or an excuse. You got what you worked for, we believed. There was some truth to that. But it was not the whole truth.”
If there is an underlying question that begs to be answered, it is how did Smarsh get out?
How did a member of the sixth generation end up with a graduate degree from Columbia, a down payment for a house, and a memoir that is nominated for the National Book Award? There is no single answer, even she doesn’t know if herself. She suggests she had supportive male role models – her father and grandfather – in a family where many women were prey to dangerous men. She abstained from teenage pregnancy – but she was talented and worked hard. Going to the University of Kansas on a merit scholarship, she also had three jobs lined up – this is the only thing that made college possible for her.
Is it a rebuttal to Hillbilly Elegy? Could be, because she proves that poverty is not the result of laziness and bad choices, and the American Dream is not always possible for even those that work hard.
Not a political book, she does point out most of her family are Republicans, which for them is a matter of pride, even if it means they are voting against their best interests.
“People on welfare were presumed ‘lazy’, and for us there was no more hurtful word.”
When she is admitted to college on a federally funded program for minority, first-generation, and low income students, she found the handful of those in the program called themselves “White Trash Scholars”.
This is not a sentimental book, but she makes a powerful point that much of the “American World” has taught them they are disposable.
It seems as if the second book would be a perfect fit, but actually I read this book first.
SHE COME BY IT NATURAL, Dolly Parton AND THE WOMEN WHO LIVED HER SONGS – While Sarah Smarsh was growing up in poverty, she heard songs by country female artists telling powerful stories of life, hard times and surviving. It was a language among the women – and no one said it clearer for them than Dolly.
This was originally published in a four-part series for THE JOURNAL OF ROOTS MUSIC. Smarsh feels Dolly’s songs have validated women who are invisible – the “trailer trash” women who are struggling. Dolly began singing on the front porch of her family home, achieving stardom in Nashville – a world managed by powerful men. Along the way, she managed to found both a self-made business and philanthropy empire, in her own terms. Go Dolly!
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT KANSAS
Dodge City is the REAL Windy City in the US – average wind speed is 14 MPH
Kansas really is as flat as a pancake as it was compared topographically to an IHOP pancake.
White Castle – the first hamburger chain was started here. Weirdly, there are no White Castles in Kansas at this time.
The amount of wheat grown here would stretch all the way to the Pacific Ocean from Kansas.
The helicopter was invented in Kansas.
Next I travel to Kentucky and then Louisianna – and I have my books picked out for these states. But then I travel to the “M” states (of which there are eight!).
If you have requests for the authors from the remaining states – let me know!
WHAT I READ IN JUNE
June was an unusually light month for me. Partly, because the first selection took longer than usual! So, here goes:
CLEOPATRA, A LIFE by Stacy Schiff: Oh, what a life it was! Her story is told by Stacy Schiff, who previously won the Pulitzer Prize for Vera, Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov. But, be forewarned, this book will take some time. What did I learn? First of all, I learned I know very little about the ancient world. And, what did I know about Cleopatra? I knew the story Shakespeare gave us and the face Hollywood gave us (Elizabeth Taylor). However, there is incest, murder, wars and more. Cleopatra married two of her brothers, went to war with one and poisoned the other. Apparently that was not unusual behavior in those days (her parents may have been siblings.) She had children with the two most powerful men in Rome, Julia Caesar and Marc Antony. Speaking nine languages, read also read Homer and travelled all over the Mediterranean. In fact, as the author herself says, Cleopatra has one of the busiest afterlifes in history – and remember none of the early biographers actually knew her!
THE SHIP OF BRIDES by JoJo Moyes: Taking place after WWII, it tells the story of 600 Australian brides, and their journey by boat to reunite with the men they met during the war. Interestingly, the HMS Victorious traveled from Sydney with 655 brides, and the author discovered her grandmother was among them. This historical fiction novel tells the story of four women from different background that are forced to share a small cabin for the 6 week journey. Good story based on historical events I never knew happened
THE LAST OF THE HONKY-TONK ANGELS by Marsha Moyer: I realized after I began the book it is a sequel to THE SECOND COMING OF LUCY HATCH, but that doesn’t really matter. Lucy has married Ash after a whirlwind courtship. After three months, Ash’s ex-wife dumps their 14 year-old daughter on their doorsteps. Seems as if everybody has a secret in this small east Texas town. A little predictable.
DINNER WITH BUDDHA: A NOVEL by Roland Merullo: This is the third book in this fictional series and apparently there is another one expected to come out in a couple of years. Food writer Otto Ringling took his first road journey with brother-in-law Volya Rinpoche eight years before this novel takes place. Otto has had many changes to his life during this time, and now his sister has been having dreams about her seven-year-old daughter. Could she be the next Dalai Lama? Otto and Rinpoche travel through the west, visiting Native American reservations, diners, casinos and more, Not only is mindfulness an important lesson to learn, so is learning gratitude and compassion. Often humorous, always thoughtful, I look forward to the next installment, even though this had a fairly satisfying ending.
CREATING MOMENTS OF JOY FOR THE PERSON WITH ALZHEIMER’S OR DEMENTIA: A JOURNAL FOR CAREGIVERS – Jolene Brackey: I will keep this book and refer back to it, it is a great source of information, as well offering solace and comfort. I made some changes in the way I talk to my mother after reading this book. I have given my copy to other family members to help us with this journey and I’d recommend the book to others. It is very readable, with concrete stories that will make you laugh, cry, but also make you think.
So – now I have to get back to that other book I started over a week ago that I still haven’t finished. It is due back at the library today, and there is a waiting list for the book so I can’t renew it! I’m almost finished with it, and it too wasn’t the easiest read. I found myself rereading portions of it, but I’m finding the pay off if worth it! You have to wait until the end of July to know what book it is – but I will say it is often classified as scence fiction (written in 1997).
THREE MONTHS OF READING – JULY THROUGH SEPTEMBER
To say I’m behind is an understatement. I have some catching up to do. In the past three months I read some crime stories, an older classic children’s book, a Russian novel, Science Fiction and my new standby Sherlock for starters! So – here goes!
FATAL EMBRACE, THE INSIDE STORY OF THE THOMAS CAPANO/ANNE MARIE FAHEY MURDER CASE by Cris Barrish – I originally started this book as part of my quest, to read a book by an author from each state. This was originally my book from an author from Delaware – but about halfway through the book, I decided Delaware deserved better. However, this is an unbelievable true story. Thomas Capano was the former deputy attorney general of Delaware, married with children AND the last person seen with Anne Marie Fahey. Her body was never found, however, his brother admitted to helping bury her at sea. Compano was convicted and actually sentenced to death. This is a fascinating crime story, actually made into a movie starring Mark Harmon and it inspired an episode of Law and Order!
PLAINSONG by Kent Haruf – I read this as part of my quest, this was my selection for Colorado – you can read about it here! I am currently reading the sequel Eventide.
A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway – I read this as a reading group selection. It is important to note, this book was published posthumously in 1964, edited from his manuscripts and notes by his fourth wife and widow, Mary Hemingway. It consists of Hemingways personal observations of life in Paris in the 1920’s. It is a quick and enjoyable read.
A MAP OF THE KNOWN WORLD by Lisa Ann Sandell – this is my selection for my quest for the state of Delaware – I will be blogging separately about this book.
THE MAN IN THE GREY FLANNEL SUIT by Sloan Wilson – This is my selection for my quest for the state of Conneticut – so I will be blogging separately about this book (I’m behind on blogging about my quest!).
A SUMMER PLACE by Sloan Wilson – I enjoyed the book The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit enough to read another book by Sloan Wilson. The 1959 movie starring Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee is but a sliver of the book. The book focuses on the lives of teenage loves, Ken and Sylvia, who end up marrying other people and meet up years later. The movie focuses on the children of Ken and Sylvia – Molly and Johnny. The book has a lot more depth and texture than the movie. Both the book and movie were considered controversial in the late 50’s, focusing on divorce, adultery and sexuality.
BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA by Roland Merullo – this is a delightful little book – considered “spiritual fiction”. It follows Otto Ringling, a food book editor living in New York, who travels to his parents home in Bismark SD to liquidate their estate. He reluctantly agrees to take Volya Rinpoche, a Siberian Monk, with him at the urging of his sister. Along the way, they go to a chocolate factory, go bowling, and attend a baseball game at Wrigley field. Otto begins this journey as a skeptic, but he slowly gains new perspectives on the world and his life with Rinpoche’s company. There have been two sequels, titled Lunch with Buddha and Dinner with Buddha. It was a sweet and somewhat thought provoking book – I plan on reading the sequels,
FIRST LOVE by Ivan Turgenev – Originally published in 1860, it begins with a 16 year old boy falling in love with a 21 one year old neighbor. The girl, Zinaida, has several other suitors, and the boy, Vladimir, gets in line. However, Vladimir eventually discovers the true object of her affection is his own father, and the last two chapters take a tragic turn. This is a wonderful and beautiful written little gem of a novella – and it is free on Kindle.
THE VACATIONERS by Emma Straub – The Post family is spending two weeks in Mallorca to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of Franny and Jim. Franny is a food editor, Jim was recently forced to resign as an editor of a New York Magazine because of an affair with a 23 year old intern. Obviously, their marriage is in trouble. Their daughter Sylvia has recently graduated high school with a goal to lose her virginity. Son Bobby arrives from Florida with his much older girlfriend, Carmen. Then there is Charles, Franny’s best friend, and his husband Lawrence. The book is very well reviewed, but I found it kind of exasperating.
BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter – I love books about movies. Beginning in 1962 in Porta Vergogna, a tiny Italian coastal town, you meet Pasqual who’s family owns the only hotel in town.. There is an American tourist who comes annually to work on his novel for two weeks a year. A beautiful actress, Dee, arrives from Rome, where she has been filming the movie Cleopatra. It jumps around in time, going to modern day Hollywood with a legendary producer as well as a character that is pitching a movie about the Donner Party. Richard Burton makes an appearance. I found this book entertaining – even though it is almost epic in scope, moving around time and also moving around the world.
A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett – as a child, I loved the movie that starred Shirley Temple. The story line is basically the same, Sara arrives from India to London to go to Miss Minchin’s school, enjoying a life of privilege. All of this changes for her in a classic riches to rags story. Her father is killed and she becomes a beggar and a servant. But Sara is kind and becomes inspirational. The movie ads an entire plot line that doesn’t appear in the book. Surprisingly, Frances Hodgson Burnett also wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden!
A STUDY IN SCARLET by Arthur Conan Doyle – I think I need a monthly does of Sherlock these days. This is considered the first Sherlock/Watson pairing. The best part is also when Sherlock begins his deductions to Watson’s amazement, who proclaims “You are wonderful, Holmes!” – you know what? I agree!
THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir – the story about this being published is almost as interesting as the book itself. I really loved the book and can’t wait to see the movie!
THE GIRL WHO SAVED THE KING OF SWEDEN by Jonas Jonasson – this should be a Wes Anderson film. Nombeko is born in 1961 in Soweto. She becomes imprisoned and ends up as a housecleaner for an incompetent engineer in a research facility working on nuclear bombs. There is an extra bomb and Nombeko excapes to Sweden (along with the bomb) where she meets the twins Holger One and Holger Two, whose father wanted to take down the King of Sweden. The Mossad gets involed, as well as Jimmy Carter and other dignitaries from the time. I could go on about the story, but it sounds crazy when trying to recount it! Even so, enjoyed this, but if you want to read only books that are realistic, this isn’t for you. If you like crazy, fantastic stories that somehow make sense, enjoy!
MY 10 MOST MEMORABLE BOOKS OF 2014
I am taking part of in a 10-day creativity challenge, that of course, began YESTERDAY. But, in my defense, I’m winding down my year at work – and after today – I am off until January 5, 2015. YEAH!!!
So, I thought I’d take a moment to list my most memorable books of 2014. In this list, you will find books about art, a classic children’s book and a book that made me make a commitment. These are in no particular order.
1. OFF THE WALL, A PORTRAIT OF ROBERT RAUSHENBURG, by Carl Tompkins
2. BREAKFAST WITH LUCIAN: THE ASTOUNDING LIFE AND OUTRAGEOUS TIMES OF BRITAIN’S GREAT MODERN PAINTER BY GEORDIE GREIG – I enjoyed it so much, I continued with another book about Lucian.
3. MAN WITH A BLUE SCARF: ON SITTING FOR A PORTRAIT WITH LUCIAN FREUD By Martin Gayford – I’m fascinated with Freud’s process and his life.
4. THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt – I read it before it won the Pulitzer Prize!
5. ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND by Louis Carroll – need I say more?
6. AN ARTIST OF THE FLOATING WORLD by Kasuo Ishiguro – set in postwar Japan, it won the Whitbread Prize in 1986 (ok, I’m a little behind!)
7. MR. PENUMBRA’S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE by Robin Sloan – what is better than a book about books?
8. THE FAMILY FANG – by Kevin Wilson – think Wes Anderson in print – about performance art – or is it?
9. DAILY RITUALS – HOW ARTIST’S WORK by Mason Currey – rituals of 160+ artists
10. THE HAPPINESS OF PURSUIT – FINDING THE QUEST THAT WILL BRING PURPOSE TO YOUR LIFE by Chris Gillebeau – I declared a quest after this – you can read about it here.
If you don’t know me, I am a voracious reader. I have to limit my reading sometimes. Halfway through the year, I limited my reading to no more than a book a week! Yes, it was tough!
What have you read you want to share?
HISTORICAL FICTION, A BIOGRAPHY, A FAIRY TALE – OH MY!
Yes, November was an interesting month of reading.
MADAME PICASSO by Anne Girard: Beginning1911, it is set in that wonderful time in Paris that is so much fun to read about. A fictional historical novel, it tells the story of Eva Gouel, one of Picasso’s first loves. A seamstress at the famous Moulin Rouge she spots him in the audience and later meets him backstage. Names like Matisse, Gertrude Stein, Apollinaire, George Braque, Maurice Chevalier to name a few appear. Even the sinking of the Titanic makes an appearance. Eva Gouel is fairly hard to find in the history books, but she did exist. Picasso describes some of his art himself which was nice to read. It is a well-researched novel set in a wonderful time to read about.
IF YOU LIVED HERE, I’D KNOW YOUR NAME, NEWS FROM SMALL TOWN ALASKA by Heather Lende: I’m on a quest! I’m reading a book by an author from every state in the nation (you can read my declaration here). This is my selection from Alaska with a separate blog to come. I will say I enjoyed this book and the inhabitants of Haynes, Alaska. Heather is a frequent contributor for NPR’s Morning Edition.
TINSELTOWN – MURDER, MORPHINE AND MADNESS AT THE DAWN OF HOLLYWOOD by William J. Mann: The basis for this book is the murder of William Desmond Taylor, then the president of the Motion Pictures Directors Association, in his own home. It is billed as “The Day of The Locust” meets “Midnight in the Garden of the Good and Evil” and “The Devil in the White City”. The books says the crime has never been solved, but other books have been written devoted to this topic. It starts off fast, but it gets bogged down in the middle. As it goes into the history of 1920’s Hollywood, the rivalry between Adolph Zukor and Marcus Loew is investigated, as is the lack of morality, Christian vigilantes, anti-trust violations, and of course, sex and drugs. There is ALOT of information but the murder somehow gets lost along the way. It left me wanting to read The Day of the Locust about the people that lived on the fringes of Hollywood.
STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett: I am a fan of Ann Patchett, so I was excited to find this book. But – it gets downright wierd as it follows Dr. Marina Singh into the Amazon to investigate the death of an employee of a pharmaceutical company and also to investigate the progess of a drug that is being researched. This part was interesting, but when she gets to a village deep in the Amazon, she finds there is research being done on women that bear children well past menopause. I found most of the characters flat, almost unlikeable. When the women go into the jungle to chew on the bark on trunks of trees, I found it unbelievable. Then, there was an ending that left a lot to be desired.
THE WISHING SPELL (#1 The Land of Stories) by Chris Colfer: This book is about twins Alex and Connor as they journey to a fairy tale land through an ancient book of stories. Here they meet all the characters they read about growing up, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty are all queens of different kingdoms, married to the “Charming” brothers. Goldilocks is a wanted fugitive, the evil queen who poisoned Snow White has escaped prison and the son of The Big Bad Wolf is intent on revenge. The twins want to go home and they begin a scavenger hunt taking them through the kingdom. It was great fun! The author is an actor on Glee!
THEN AGAIN by Diane Keaton: This is as much about Diane Keaton’s mother as it is about her. Her mother kept about 85 journals over the course of her life and much of this book is Diane sorting through these and learning more about her mother. Her life seems to be mentioned in passing, she’s in a play with Woody Allen and then she has broken up with him. She has a childhood crush on Warren Beatty – and then they are together. She makes The Godfather with Al Pacino and years later they are a couple, then not, and then they are, and then not. It is an enjoyable book. My favorite section was her hanging out with Larry McMurtry – I wish she would explore this more in depth at a later time.
ONE DOG AND HIS BOY by Eva Ibbotson: I am writing a series of blogs regarding Women in Art, and Eva Ibbotson was my choice for the letter “I”. I had never heard of her – and I’m so glad I found her while researching women artists that start with the letter “I”. You can read that blog here. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any 8-13 year old that loves dogs. It was described as Lassie meet Roald Dahl – and that’s not too far off. Basically it is about a boy and a dog that belong together, his parents who think they can buy him anything to make him happy – anything but a dog, and the journey the boy and the dog make to be together (which includes a trip the circus, an orphanage and a monastery).
That’s it for November! Happy Reading!
Yes – I made a goal to read only ONE BOOK a week. I think what I really meant is I would only read one fiction book a week. I have been reading ALOT of blogs lately and a couple of ebooks. I decided I would include one book on tape I listened to – I’ve never included them. I listen primarily while in my studio – they keep me company, but I rarely pay very close attention to them.
INDIGO: In Search For The Color The Seduced The World by Katherine McKinley: I am in a book club that is comprised of female artists and this was our most recent selection. We had high hopes for this book. This is the story of the author’s trip to West Africa in search of indigo cloth. It is NOT the history of indigo, it is a personal story, which I found a little tedious. It did spark an interest in learning more about the color. I felt it was a little self-indulgent, unevenly written by the author who was in Africa on a Fullbright Grant. The book jumps around, and when it gets interesting, she jumps somewhere else.
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent A Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin: I felt this was another self-indulgent book. Her “aha” moments felt to me like – “really? you just figured that out?” Most of the things in this book have been rehashed over and over again. She is a lawyer who gave it up to pursue writing. She neglects to point out her husband is the son of the former Treasury Secretary under Clinton. While the premise is a good one, I felt the writer was a little spoiled and out of touch for the most part.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: Yep, you read that right! Lately I’ve started adopting the minimalist philosophy, which is decluttering and getting rid of what you don’t need. That included my books. Why am I keeping all these books to “read again”? Why, when they are available in the library. So I have made a vow to “reread” the books I keep for that reason. If I haven’t read it by the end of the year – they are out of here! So- that’s why I read this book. I have read this numerous times, but haven’t read it in probably 20 years! I think it was more enjoyable this time around. I relaxed and read it at leisure and really paid attention to it. It still only took an afternoon to read. If you haven’t read it – give yourself a lazy afternoon and sit back and read it! I will probably be reading Through the Looking Glass soon!
Firefly Beach by Meira Pentermann: This was a free download on Amazon. I read it over a weekend. The story was pretty good, a woman moves to Maine after a divorce and takes up painting again. She finds a diary of a girl who disappeared over 20 decades ago. This part of the story is pretty good. However, the main character is aided by a ball of light that she originally assumes is a firefly. I’m all for fantasy and magical realism, but this felt as though it was utilized because she (the author) couldn’t figure out how to move the story along logically. I am shocked to discover there are almost 1000 5-star reviews on Amazon. I thought it was okay, a good weekend read, but nothing more.
The Accidental Creative: How To Be Brilliant In A Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry: This is a book you can read in under an hour. Nothing earth-shattering about creativity, but he does make his points concisely. I’ve been reading alot about creativity lately, so I will refer back to this book from time to time, as it puts alot of concepts together in one place about how to be more creative.
Fearless Fourteen: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich: It would be difficult not to enjoy a Stephanie Plum novel. This is the book I listened to and I really like the voices of the characters, and yes, they are characters! Yes, this series is a little silly, but they are enjoyable. I think if this was the first one you read – you’d have to find some of the back story with Stephanie, Ranger and Morelli.
Louisianna Longshot by Jana DeLeon: another free download for Kindle and it is another silly book. CIA assassin Fortune Redding is sent to Sinful, Louisianna when a price is placed on her head by an international arms/drug dealer. She pretends to be an ex-beauty queen who has come to town to inventory her recently deceased aunt’s belongings. Of course, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery when the dog finds a human bone in the bayou out back. It was an afternoon read, and even though Fortune works with a silver-haired group of women that have secrets of their own, it is full of typos!
So – that’s it for August reading! I am going to read at least one classic in September!!!!
What do you recommend?
Lately – I’ve been downsizing and decluttering. July was a pivotal month for me – I gathered up 7 bags of clothes, packed up a set of dishes we don’t use (my husband didn’t even know they existed!) AND – I took in 5 boxes of hardback books to a thrift shop that uses the money for animal rescue. Why was I keeping all of these books? I don’t need a film encyclopedia that was published in 1996! I am not going to look at 100 years of National Geographic. Nor, I am not going to read Anna Karenina – and if I decide to read it – it is available at the library. Why did I keep paperbook editions of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird? Yes, I’ll reread them, but again, they are available at the library too. Also – I made a goal to read NO MORE THAN ONE BOOK A WEEK for the remainder of the year!
So – I decided start cleaning out. I decided to seriously look at the books I kept to reread. I started by rereading The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. This book held up! I think I got more out of this reading than my initial reading. It is beautifully written, sometimes I just had to stop and reread a passage because it was so beautiful. Covering 40 years, it is the story of Tom Wingo who goes to New York to help a psychiatrist work with his suicidal twin sister Savannah. This is the story of a dysfunctional family (with a capital D) set primarily in the lowlands of South Carolina. I would deem this a modern classic – one of the great American novels of all time! You may know the outcome while reading it, but the circumstances are revealed slowly. The characters are alive, you can smell the salt water, you want to run out and eat shrimp and oysters! This is a FIVE STAR book!!!! I’m glad I decided to clean out and purge, and I’m glad I reread this book. Now, which Pat Conroy book will I read next that I’ve saved.
A Season in Purgatory by Dominick Dunne – I’ve always liked Dominick Dunne’s style of writing, so I was happy to find this little gem on my bookshelf. About the wealthy Bradley family, it begins with the lines “The jury was in it’s third day of deliberations”. I was hooked. The Bradley’s are a large Irish-Catholic family, the patriarch of the family wants his favorite son, Constant, to be president. Sound familiar? Yes, it is a thinly veiled account of the Kennedy family, however, the hook is it deals with a shocking crime committed by Constant and aided by the focus of the book, Harrison Burns. The crime brings up comparisons to Michael Skakel. A real page turner!
The Joy of Less: A Minimalist’s Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize and Simplify your Life by Francine Joy – this was a fun and quick read – dealing with our relationship with “stuff” and getting rid of it. I have to say, the more I get rid of, the more I have a sense of freedom. “Things” just don’t hold that much power over me anymore. This is the journey I am on at the moment.
So – I only completed 3 books in July – this is groundbreaking for me. I did read more blogs, I did paint more, and I did exercise more!
I posted a picture of our wall of books. I will go through them again this month and get of more. I will reread a book that I have kept for that purpose too! I’m on a moratorium, I’m not buying ANYMORE books right now – I have quite the stack to read and reread!
What do you consider the “great American novel”?
Here is a sample of what I have stacked up!
I’m a few days late in posting this – but here are the books I read in April – some better than others. Some were almost forgettable – now I know not to buy books at the Dollar Store – simply because they are there. Here goes:
BODY SURFING by Anita Shreve: I usually like Anita Shreve, but I found this book predictable, somewhat tedious and just okay. The most interesting thing about the book is she is revisiting a house that has been in a couple of her previous novels, most notably The Pilot’s Wife.
SAVAGE HARVEST: A Tale of Cannibalism, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman: With a title like that, it was hard not to be drawn in. As I was reading it, the story kept popping up on the news (from NPR to CBS Sunday Morning)! Michael Rockefeller disappeared off the coast of New Guinea in 1961. It was long thought and accepted he had drowned. Now after 50+ years and alot of research, this is possibly a true account of what happened. This is a story of a different culture, a detective story with cannibalism and headhunting, and a little art thrown in on the side. Michael’s collection of primitive art was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A STRANGER LIKE YOU by Elizabeth Brundage: I usually love books about Hollywood, but this was at the Dollar Store – and frankly – I’d forgotten I read it one rainy afternoon!
THE WRITING CIRCLE by Corinne Demas: Another book from the Dollar Store – but this one was somewhat better. The writers in the circle are professional published writers, which made it a bit more interesting. It was “okay”.
THE GREEN LINE by E.C. Diskin: I read this in one afternoon – as I do most legal thrillers. The Green Line refers to a a train line in Chicago. While I was aware of civil forfeiture, this spells it out and shows how innocent people can be stripped of their personal property without due process. While it is somewhat predictable with a very crooked police force, it was still fun to read and learn about this unbelievable law!
A PLACE AT THE TABLE by Susan Rebecca White: This book started out in familiar territory, my home of Decatur, Ga. The original inspiration is the friendship of Atlanta Chef Scott Peacock and his friendship with renowned Southern chef and author Edna Lewis. The two main characters, Bobby Banks – a gay man from Decatur and Alice Stone – an African American that grew up in Emancipation, NC. come together in a New York restaurant, where their love of home cooking draws them together and secrets are revealed. I enjoyed this book!
A MAN WITH A BLUE SCARF, On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucien Freud by Martin Gayford: Martin Gayford is a well respected art critic, and this is his telling of sitting for seven months for a portrait by Lucien Freud, widely regarded as one of the best figurative artists in the 20th Century. This is a great book about the creative process, as Gayford took notes throughout the process. Interestingly, when the painting was completed, he sat again for an etching which took another nine months. I plan on reading this again, as this is a great look into a great creative mind.
EMPTY MANSIONS: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.; What a story! Her father made millions in copper mining – he is the “clark” from Clark County (Las Vegas). They had a 121 room mansion on Park Avenue. Huguette and her mother were big music lovers and art collectors. Huguette played the violin, painted, but was extremely shy. One of my favorite stories is about a musician playing in their house and her mother suggested he start a quarter, but he told her the problem was they didn’t have enough instruments. So – she took a Cezanne off the wall, went to a gallery and sold it, came back and took the musician with her and bought FOUR STRADS! 2 violins, 1 viola and 1 cello. Huegette also collected dolls and doll houses, loved the Smurfs, the Jetsons. She became a recluse, spending the last 20 years of her life in a hospital (she wasn’t sick!). Amazing story!
PLAY. CREATE. SUCCEED by Jean Hamilton-Fford: This was sent to me by the author as we are in a blogging group together. The subtitle of this is “Radical Thinking for a New Age”. There are so many golden nuggets in this!!! I read it quickly to get an overview – I wll definitely go back and re-read it slower and work through it. In reading through this, I realized I haven’t been playing much lately. I’ll write more on this later when I delve deeper into the book!
Another book I have picked up is COLOR: A NATURAL HISTORY OF THE PALETTE by Victoria Finlay . This is a fascinating book, but extremely dense. I have read the first chapter on the color Ochre. Each chapter could be it’s own blog post! (Maybe that will happen!)
One thing I realized in writing this list this month – I spent too much time readng things I didn’t fall in love with – I was just using up time. So – no more buying dollar books unless I have some background on the book. I’m going to take more recommendations – starting with a book left in a comment last month – THE OLD WAYS – A JOURNEY ON FOOT by Robert McFarlane, thank you Helen DeRamus!
I’ll take recommendations!
My January Books Plus a Little More
To say I’m a reader could be an understatement. I am a READER!!!! I read every day. However, I have not been good about keeping track of what I’ve read. In fact, when you look at Goodreads, it looks like I read 22 books last year. That is WAY OFF – in the month of January alone I finished 8 books. I’ve decided to keep better records and share what I’ve read on a monthly basis from now on. In fact, if something else has caught my attention – like a television show, a movie, a documentary – I’ll note that too. So – drum roll – here are my January books with a brief comment about each of them.
The Judgement of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism by Ross King: The book focuses on the Paris Salons from 1863 – 1874 and primarily follows Eduard Messonier, who was the most successful painter at the time and is now virtually overlooked and Manet, who is considered the father of impressionism. Very interesting, but reads like a textbook at times.
Eccentric Glamour, Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You by Simon Doonan. I was excited to find this book – I have kept his previous book Wacky Chicks, Life Lessons from Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women for years. This book was entertaining and a very quick read.
The King’s Deception by Steve Berry. This is part of the Cotton Mather Series. I love the way there is an international security issue against a historic person or event. In this case, it was against the history ofHenry VIII and Elizabeth. I didn’t know there was a theory that Elizabeth I was a man! I enjoy these series and when I saw the most recent book in Kroger, of all places, I immediately purchased it and went home at began reading it!
Off the Wall: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenburg by Calvin Tomkins. As biographies go, this one is comparatively smaller than average. However, the writer knew Rauschenburg, which makes it more appealing. I learned things I never knew – like his given name was actually Milton! This books covers the period of 1950’s through the 60’s. He explores his collaborations with Merce Cunningham and John Cage, Rauschenberg is not considered an abstract expressionist, and certainly not a pop artist. But he was there, along with Pollock, De Kooning, Frank Stella and of course Jasper Johns. I found it witty and informative. It did get bogged down a little in talking about “The Happenings”, but not enough to make me put it down. In fact, I googled a lot of the pieces and events he was talking about to get a first hand look at them!
Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham. I read this as part of an online group I’m part of. It was an interesting book, and I found I am basically a “creator”!
Famous Artists and Their Models by Thomas Craven. I thought it sounded so interesting, and it said it had many full pages reproductions of art work. What I missed in reading about the book, it is a pocket sized Penguin Book written in 1942. I’m not even sure it is totally accurate!
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Sattefield. It is kind of a creepy (in a good way) book. Very gothic in tone, you think you figure it out, and then – bam – you are thrown a curve! A good and fun read – even if the language is a little flowery, but it is very descriptive.
As Summer Dies by Winston Groom. If you don’t know, Winston Groom also wrote Forrest Gump. This book was published in 1980 and I believe it took place in the late 1950’s. I couldn’t put it down!
Other interesting facts:
Right now my favorite TV show is the BBC show Sherlock, I’m just sad there are only three seasons with only 3 episodes in each one. But, it is impossible to catch everything that happens, so it isn’t hard to rewatch them.
I think the best documentary I’ve seen in A LONG time is Searching for Sugarman, the unbelievable story of one of the greatest musicians from the early 1970’s that you have never heard of that became a sensation in South Africa – and the guys from South Africa that spent three years searching for him. HERE is a trailer of the movie. I highly recommend it!
What have you been reading and watching? Any recommendations. By the way, I have all the books if you want to borrow one!