Title-book club

Bas Relief of Woman Reading One day in late October 2010, I was waiting for my bus (which was half an hour late, but did I complain? Mais NON), and it occurred to me how splendid it would be if Cathie, Lois, Rebecca, and I could meet on a regular basis to talk about what we’re reading--a sort of book club, without the reading assignments. We live fairly close together, and the Irish Inn seemed the perfect spot to meet, have a drink, talk books, and then go on our way rejoicing. And so it came to pass! We also have a blog, but there were many books discussed before the blog, and I thought I'd put them here, for reference. Bas Relief of Woman Reading
November 2010 January 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011

November 2010

Woman reading on Sofa by Labasque


Detective fiction is my preferred "guilty pleasure" (GP) reading. But it's only relaxing if it's well done, so that one can sink into it like a favorite armchair. Here's the list of reliably well-done Scandinavian police/detective procedurals I gave Lois.

Håkan Nesser--Inspector Van Veeteren

  1. Borkmann's Point (2006)
  2. The Return (2007)
  3. The Mind's Eye (2008)
  4. Woman with Birthmark (2009)
  5. The Inspector and Silence (2010)

Åke Edwardson--Erik Winter

  1. Sun and Shadow (2005)
  2. Never End (2006)
  3. Frozen Tracks (2007)
  4. Death Angels (2009)
  5. The Shadow Woman (2010)

Jo Nesbø--Harry Hole

  1. The Redbreast (2006)
  2. Nemesis (2008)
  3. The Devil's Star (2005)
  4. The Redeemer (2009)
  5. The Snowman (2010)
  6. The Leopard (2011)

Arnaldur Indriðason--Reykjavik Murder Mysteries

  1. Jar City (2004) aka Tainted Blood
  2. Silence of the Grave (2005)
  3. Voices (2006)
  4. The Draining Lake (2007)
  5. Arctic Chill (2008)
  6. Hypothermia (2009)

Gunnar Staalesen--Varg Veum

  1. At Night All Wolves Are Grey (1986)
  2. Yours Until Death (1993)
  3. The Writing on the Wall (2002)
  4. The Consorts of Death (2009)

Henning Mankell--Kurt Wallander

  1. Faceless Killers (1991)
  2. The Dogs of Riga (1992)
  3. The White Lioness (1993)
  4. The Man Who Smiled (2005)
  5. Sidetracked (1995)
  6. The Fifth Woman (1996)
  7. One Step Behind (1997)
  8. Firewall (1998)
  9. The Pyramid (2008)
  10. The Troubled Man (2011)
Woman reading I also mentioned Georgette Heyer's crime novels, of which she wrote 12 (my favorites are asterisked):
  • Footsteps in the Dark (1932)
  • Why Shoot a Butler? (1933)
  • The Unfinished Clue (1934)*
  • Death in the Stocks (1935)
  • Behold, Here's Poison (1936)
  • They Found Him Dead (1937)*
  • A Blunt Instrument (1938)*
  • No Wind of Blame (1939)*
  • Envious Casca (1941)*
  • Penhallow (1942)
  • Duplicate Death (1951)
  • Detection Unlimited (1953)*
Envious Casca is a Snowbound English Country Manor House Party book, a fairly narrow category that also includes several of my favorite Ngaio Marsh mysteries:
  • Death and the Dancing Footman (1941)
  • Death of a Fool (1956)
  • Tied up in Tinsel (1978)

And that reminds me of my favorite Ngaio Marsh mystery, When in Rome (1971).I guiltily admit to owning all of these titles in case anyone is interested in borrowing.

Pile of Books


Nicolas Freeling, born Nicolas Davidson (March 3, 1927 – July 20, 2003), was a British crime novelist, best known as the author of the Van der Valk series of detective novels which were adapted for transmission on the British ITV network by Thames Television during the 1970s, and revived in the 1990s.
  • Van der Valk series
  • Love in Amsterdam (1962), aka Death in Amsterdam
  • Because of the Cats (1963)
  • Gun Before Butter (1963), aka Question of Loyalty
  • Double-Barrel (1964)
  • Criminal Conversation (1965)
  • The King of the Rainy Country (1966)
  • Strike Out Where Not Applicable (1967)
  • Tsing-Boum! (1969)
  • The Lovely Ladies (1971), aka Over the High Side
  • A Long Silence (1972), aka Auprès de ma Blonde
  • The Widow (1979)
  • One Damn Thing After Another (1981), aka Arlette
  • Sand Castles (1989)

January 2011

Girl Reading


I thoroughly enjoyed Sacred Games--thanks. Rebecca! I've also read an interesting bio. of Tolstoy and his wife, called Love and Hatred, The Help, for my book club, and now a book my mother passed on to me called The Pursuit of Happiness, which I am ambivalent about, though I keep reading it. Also read a memoir called The Ambassador's Wife, written by the wife to the Italian ambassador, that spans the years 1923-1939, where they are stationed in China, then Moscow (10 years after the revolution), Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, before Mussolini abruptly recalled them for being pro-french, on the urging of Hitler. So she dined with a number of major despots.
Reading in bed


La's Orchestra Saves the World, by Alexander McCall Smith--thanks, Lois, for recommending it--a lovely book! As in all his books, there is a feeling of loving kindness, empathy for fellow human beings. It also chimed in with the other books I have been reading about the pre-war/WW1 era in England--Fall of Giants, The Children's Book, and also, Larkrise to Candleford, a charming memoir that I don't remember if I mentioned or not--I meant to! It is a hefty book, describing the writer's childhood in a lost England (though, who knows, I always say that and maybe after all the old ways survive in some forgotten hamlet. Hard to imagine though, what with BBC and internet and modern social practices). There was a very decorative TV series made of it, which we have enjoyed watching--but which, so far in my reading (2/3 through), has absolutely nothing to do with the book aside from the setting and the main characters. Perhaps the last third of the book will suddenly become plot heavy, and things will start happening! I recommend it as a window into times gone by--as is also Far from the Madding Crowd, though that is a much more powerful book, with an exciting story to tell and gorgeous language, and contemplation of human motives and personality. And those wonderful names: Gabriel Oak, Bathsheba Everdene, William Boldwood, Joseph Poorgrass. But the book that has me absolutely in thrall is called Clash of Kings, book 2 in a series in which book 1 is Game of Thrones. Huge panoply of quite believable characters--some truly horrible villains, some good hearted folk, some slippery tricksters--all moving through a grand sweep of action, in a well imagined country made up of equal parts medieval knighthood, Machiavellian intrigues, and undead flesh eaters. Plus, wolves, but not just any wolves--Dire Wolves, larger and fiercer than the regular sort. 7 children of a family find a dead dire wolf female, and adopt her 7 pups. Go ahead and larf--but gracious me, it has me hooked.

March 2011

Woman Reading


Jimmy Corrigan, or The Smartest Kid on Earth.This may be by Chris Ware actually. Its a semi- autobiographical graphic novel, somewhat hard to be sure about the order of the panels at times, but I found it intriguing and really liked it both visually and in terms of the story. Its about a poor lonely boy and flips from fantasy to" reality" of his life, and also goes back and forth in time.unusual book for me.

The Gobi Desert by Mildred Cable. I read this years ago so I'm not fresh in my memories of it, but remember that I liked her, her point of view, a tolerance and perceptive observational style,as well as finding the remoteness and exotic nature of the cultures she meets with, very interesting.

Hunting Mister Heartbreak by Jonathan Raban. His tale of leaving Britain for life in the USA, and his travels from New England to the Keys, to the deep south, can't remember whether it was Mississippi or ?? in a small town, he is engaging and I enjoyed the book. Also read this a while back.The books I brought were just ones I had and enjoyed to lend.

I actually read Tea for The Traditionally Built and The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander Mcall Smith this month, and they are enjoyable but not memorable to me.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by DaveEggers. I started this years ago, then read it through this month. I like him a lot, and ate the book up until somewhere past the middle I started to glaze over a bit with his squirrelly style of over-thinking everything he thinks or does or anyone else thinks or does. It sometimes feels like he is lost in his enjoyment of the workings of his mind, which I can relate to but which was sometimes tiring for me.

Brothers edited by Andrew Blainer. I got this for a dollar at the library. Its short essays or stories about the brother relationship. I liked it, and almost brought it, but since we aren't men I wasn't sure anyone would be interested. It was touching and showed the strength and competiveness.

I also read Our Kind Of Traitor by John Le Carre. I wasn't too caught up with it. It passed the time, but even though I read it so recently, its left a so what in my mind. I bought it so if anyone is a fan I can bring it to the next meeting.

April 2011

Hands and book


OK, the.....book. I mentioned that after a praise-to-the-skies-best-of-the-best review in the Washington Post of Heartstone, by Sansom, I became interested in the book. Here's the review, judge for yourselves!!!

The fact that it had 600 plus pages didn't even turn me off. After all, if a book is that good, who wants it to end! And there were other similar words of praise elsewhere. And though it was the latest in an established series, word was that it was a standalone story, not to worry. Anyway, reader, I put myself on the library wait list, which numbered over 100, and forgot about it until...I saw it on the 21 Day shelf, shoved all other reading aside, and took it home . 21 Days later was still not finished but had to be returned, so I went to another library branch and found another 21 Day opportunity, same book. Well, I read it. To the end. And there was interest. But it seemed very long and there were many references to past events involving our hero, so I always felt I was missing something. Or maybe it was just the wrong time for me to read it. Have you noticed that books are that way? Read at one moment--of little interest; read at another, the book you'll love and never forget. Life! Such human frailty! How do we manage to live it!

Anyway, Heartstone. It's about a particularly interesting time in English history when the ambitious grasping Henry VIII needed to defend his kingdom against--not the Pope, not froward women, but the French. And lawyer, detective, hunchback Shardlake weaves in and out of that story, and attempts to help a number of women and untangle some old and new mysteries. There are period maps. The history seems reliable, which is a good thing. Ships are also featured, including the amazing and tragically wrecked Mary Rose, the end of her mystery being played out in modern Portsmouth, where she was raised and explored 20 something years ago, after being sunk by Sansom and in reality, in Portsmouth Harbor in the 16th Century.

Hands and book


So, the books I mentioned were "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" by James Agee and Walker Evans, but Agee did most the writing...I think. Its a riveting and intimate look into the day to day lives of poor sharecroppers during the depression in Alabama. It also has an interesting introduction by John Hersey that gives the background and what happened to the authors afterwards. Photos alone are worth the book being looked at. "The Gypsies", I enjoyed for its youthful adventure feeling, plus telling about the Gypsy nomadic way of life, and culture as I knew nothing about them, and always found the idea of gypsies intriguing.

The other book was "Cleopatra", which again, because I am ignorant of ancient Egyptian history, I found very interesting. And Cleopatra seems to have been a much more formidable person than I thought. I just never really did think about her, so a good look into those faraway days, making me want to enlarge the picture with more reading either from or about that period and area.

Hands and book


My book: Anathem, by Neal Stephenson the setting of which took me back to my first encounter, long ago, with Hesse's The Glass Bead Game . Stephenson is brilliant (in both a geeky and a literary sense) and irritating (this probably goes with the territory).

I'm very glad to get Lo's recommendation on CJ Sansom's Heartstone. I think I tried one of the Shardlake Tudor mysteries a while ago but found it grisly. As Lois points out, readerly life is capricious, and not just in regard to interest. Sometimes grisly can be skimmed, and sometimes it leaves one tainted and heartsick, unable to continue (in "to everything a season" parlance, a time to refrain from grisliness). (Hope reminded me that quick relief from this effect can be obtained from the books of Alexander McCall Smith.) The draw of the Mary Rose mystery, and Lois's ultimately positive experience, will encourage me to persevere.

Cathie, I meant to tell you, but forgot, how much I enjoyed the loans from you (The Magician's Book and Weddings and Wakes). (By the way, I still have Praise of Drunkenness; will return next time.)

May 2011

Girl Reading


My books-of-the-month were the Bernie Gunther series, set in Germany just after Hitler came to power--just after those famous Olymlpic Games in Berlin, in fact--and following history and Bernie through the war and occupation eras, where I am now, in book 4. The books have all the flaws and all the virtues of the usual mystery series, to which I've been addicted (no other word) since childhood. Helplessly devoted.

So the stories are intriguing, familiar, dependable, predictable, yet full of surprises. Bernie's an odd duck, an independent thinker, a man of his country and culture--Germany and Germanic-- but observant, self-deprecating, aware of evil and his complicity and he's funny to boot. While suffering. Helpless and going along with the worst of it in some ways, but separate and somehow self-protective in others. Duped and duping, insightful observer of all things and people, etc. Sometime creaky plots, but the whole is saved by a wonderful sense that you're there and experiencing what it was to be in Germany then, and a German. Not that that's a good thing, it isn't. But....it's somehow bearable to read about it when Bernie's the narrator, though normally I have a really hard time getting emotionally anywhere near that place and time--though I feel I should, and often do. The details of persons and place are really astonishing, and not at all forced. All the big awful names of history's Hell-in-our-time are brought to life and people Bernie's world.

Anyway, with that confused and ambiguous introduction, here's the inevitable wiki of the author, Philip Kerr.

I think I'll read another one. Am totally sidetracked. And ambivalent about it, too. Speaking of Dads, in the immediate postwar years, mine--who was a WW2 Vet--would not permit products of German manufacture in the home.

I also read The Acupressure Atlas, a co-author was Bernard C. Kolster. An oversized color paperback, with very clearly designated images of energy pathways and pressure points, along with the ailments aches and pains they're associated with, and advice about how to use/manipulate them to make things better. Made perfect sense to me. Got a library copy, but think I'll buy it. Hm....must check Daedalus!

Girl Reading


I'm wading through a huge series, Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle. Just the thought of trying to answer the question "What is it about?" makes me tired, so here's the easy way out.

I borrowed and have started Cathie's "The Gypsies." Folded in its pages is a newspaper review of another book about Gypsies, Proud Outcasts: The Gypsies of Spain, by Merrill McLane. And when I saw that I remembered that Hope mentioned that her father wrote a dictionary of the Gypsy language, so I did a search and found it---A Glossary of Greek Romany As Spoken in Agia Varvara! On the Google search page, the phrase "Let us now praise famous men" jumped out at me, and of course this took me to the Memorial Service for Gordon Myron Messing.

June 2011

Hans Holbein Portrait of Lady Guilford


This month I read Wolf Hall, a really wonderful book. The story behind the story of how Henry the Eighth for love of Ann Boleyn turned prosperous cathedrals and monasteries and abbeys into ruined arches. And very cleverly turning the Wolf Hall ending into a hoped-for beginning. Oh, well done! Hope she does it again. Hilary Mantel Also read the incredibly prolific Alexander McCall Smith's new Lady Detective book in which Grace Makutsi and her sweet man....but I won't spoil the read for you, of "The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party". And the library miraculously also produced the second of his Corduroy Mansions series which, for me, is the ongoing story of Pimlico Terrier Freddie de la Haye, "The Dog who came in from the Cold". I absolutely love his books, the kind that turn me asocial, so I can have time alone with them.

Fragonard Reading Girl


Sarah Caudwell is a great suggestion! I have all 4 books; I'll bring the first (Thus Was Adonis Murdered) in case Cathie would like to start with that. Was already going to bring "Three by Tey" (omnibus containing Miss Pym Disposes, The Franchise Affair, and Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey, whom we mentioned last time.

July 2011

Man Reading


The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban. a subtle but rip-roaring children's tale with dark and scary complex characters, and a quest, and the search and fight for a home of one's own. I love this book. When All the World Was Young by Barbara Holland. A very likable local woman's childhood memoir, set in Chevy Chase and DC during WW 11 and afterwards. fun to read. Quicksand by Sybill Bedford. Well written evocative memoir of a girl with eccentric family, upper class, poor but somehow traveling all over Europe, I enjoyed her life vicariously after an initial irritation with her.

Naked Girl Reading


Here are the books I mentioned:

DUNE. Need I say more. Shaming, very, but I am totally hooked. It took all my strength to NOT DOWNLOAD the next in the series. Instead of which, I turned to:

The Man Who Mistook his Wife for His Hat. Which we all know and admire--it really is a charming and engaging book. Which we've all read before, but which retains its power.

Here is my main book, which has supported me through the years--when whatever I am reading is so totally exciting that I cannot read it at bedtime because to do so would be to ensure a sleepless night, I count on this one: Food in History, by Reay Tannahill--to calm me down and enchant me so that I can forget the soul killing excess of, say, Game of Thrones, and actually get some sleep. A fascinating account of what humans have eaten over the centuries. Beautifully written, wry, witty, and very engaging. And, how astonishing to find that Lois' book was written by the same person. A genial, likable author.

Man Reading by Candlelight


Trilogy by Sally Gunning: The Widow's War, Bound,The Rebellion of Jane Clarke . A quiet but not so quiet story of just-pre-Revolutionary New England. Written around a family living in (on?) Cape Cod, main characters are women out of step with their time. Full of details of daily life, set within a context of somewhat distant political conflict or, somewhat distant to -them- in their time and place. I liked these a lot, they let me live in another world at a time when I needed to. So much about liking books, I find, is the timing of when you discover and open them. That's Lillian Beckwith's story of her discovery of the Hebrides during the mid-20th Century, very much recommended. Not her other books, just this set of three, charming, original, amusing.

Reminds me of another "time and place apart" trilogy I felt the same way about, in an entirely different context and setting. That's Lillian Beckwith's story of her discovery of the Hebrides during the mid-20th Century, very much recommended. Not her other books, just this set of three, charming, original, amusing.

The other book I brought, Solomon vs Lord, is some improbably wise-cracking brash inventive smartass detective book which I'm finding very entertaining, which probably says more about my state of mind at the moment, than the quality of the book.

September 2011

Woman Reading


The book I brought was Terry Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight. Its in the witch series with Tiffany Achung as the main character, and its just a fun, likable story if you like Pratchett, and I like him a lot. I just read Civilization by Kenneth Clarke, and thought it was excellent in its substance and the enthusiasm and love he seemed to feel for so much of the world's great art. It was contagious enthusiasm.

Man Reading by Sargent


House of Wits: An Intimate Portrait of the James Family (Paul Fisher; 2009). The Unscratchables (Cornelius Kane (a pseudonym). The Fencing Master (Arturo Perez-Reverte; 2004)Also reading these: The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (David McCullough; 2011). Reamde: A Novel (Neal Stephenson; 2011) (Have mentioned this author before. I've ended up buying all of his books.)

October 2011

Woman with a book


West with the Night, by Beryl Markham. Grand descriptions of Kenya, lions, antelopes, jaguars--her childhood was wild and primitive, living on a farm and running through the ferocious and beautiful country--often armed with a spear, hunting warthogs or other grim creatures. Many fine descriptions of the horses she raised and loved--she writes very well, about her exotic life of astonishing adventure. From raising horses to flying planes--her terrific journey with Blitzen from Africa to England is peculiarly vivid, and her startling amazing solo journey from England to America. Beautifully read, too, by Julie Harris.

Primitive People, by Francine Prose. I read this years ago and recently discovered it again. The picture on the front is so charming, which I know has something to do with my fondness for the book. Though, this time I found it hard going--very, very clever writing--very witty, very entertaining--but such cynicism, such a bleak vision! She skewers her prey though and though, and don't they deserve it--but there is only one admirable person in this book, and she is so lost, so far from home or family, or any prospect of ever finding them again. Which is why we turn to TERRY PRATCHETT! Snuff is a grand book, very satisfying and silly. He seems at the height of his powers, which is strange, given his terrible disease, but what fun! Sam Vimes and the redoubtable Lady Vimes are on holiday, but of course, there is no holiday for a copper. Lovely stuff! It made me turn back to Guards, Guards, where they first meet. She breeds dragons. On the back of her coach is a sticker that says, Whinny if you love dragons! A very stalwart character, Sybil Vimes--possibly one of my favorites. And, thank you Cathie for the other one, I Shall Wear Midnight, which I very much enjoyed. Good man, Pratchett! Times are bad enough, thank you very much, I don't need no ghastly books that sink your heart and banish all hope--a light hearted ramble in Disc World is a tonic I am ever grateful for.

November 2011

Girl Reading


"The Psychopath Test", a quick read and interesting, specially the part about the different brain reactions of persons defined as psychopaths to stimuli Things that we (I'm pretty sure we don't fit the psychopathic mode;) would feel horror or fear about either produces no reaction or an excited, even sexual reaction. Also found disturbing the notion of how many leaders of society have the psychopathic tendencies. written by Jon Ronson. "Chasing The Mountain of Light" by Kevin Rushby was a book about the history of diamonds in India, focusing on the Koh-I-Noor diamond's journey as he tries to follow its path, sort of a travel story with a focus on diamonds. Interesting. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot. I read this for my other book club and was surprised at how gripping it was. its about the HeLa cells developed from one woman's cancerous cervix or uterus, that founded almost all the research done in the last 60 years with cells, and also tells the story of H. Lacks and her family.

Van Eyck


Cookbooks! Otherwise, have been doing mostly comfort reading this dark month, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, Little Lord Fauntleroy, all Francis Hodgson Burnett, juvenile fiction, but not inaccessible to adult sensibilities. IE, one particular woman with a perpetual adolescent streak of hopefulness. She writes tales with undercurrents of despair, then endurance, and redemption. Next, a lesser known of Burnett's that haven't read before, His Grace of Osmonde, will see if it's in the same tradition. As for mysteries, found Stefanie Pintoff who writes of a detective Simon Ziele in "old" New York, am only at his beginnings, will let you know.

Garrido--The Reader


Have recently read the following (borrowed from a friend who buys all the books her Book Club reads), all of which I liked: *Cleopatra: A Life* (Stacy Schiff), *The Elegance of the Hedgehog* and *Gourmet Rhapsody* (Muriel Barbery) Also read/am reading the following: *Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor* (Brad Gooch), *The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships: Decoding Social Mysteries Through the Unique Perspectives of Autism* (Temple Grandin and Sean Barron), *Conference at Cold Comfort Farm* (Stella Gibbons). Lots of fun! I've ordered two other Stella Gibbons novels, *Westwood* and *Starlight* (both published by Vintage Classics). Finally, on a long-ago recommendation from Lois, I acquired a used paperback boxed set titled *The Hebridean Quartet* (Lillian Beckwith), which contains the first four of Beckwith's Isle of Skye books: The Hills is Lonely, The Sea for Breakfast, the Loud Halo, and A Rope - In Case. Am working my way through these, and enjoying them.

December 2011

The Money Lender and his wife


I am reading Game of Thrones, and wonder if you have the next volume, and would be willing to lend it to me. I for see finishing the first and as I am enjoying it, loving to be snuggled under a blanket on a dark wintry night, off in a timeless fantasy world, would like to have the sequel ready.

Claude Monet's Reader


The library has produced for me the tireless Alexander McCall Smith's latest, "The Forgotten Affairs of Youth", in which moral philosopher Isabel Dalhousie reflects upon a recent difficult situation, "She still felt a pang at the thought of those final moments of the encounter on the judge's doorstep and her admission and apology. Social embarrassment was like that: the memory of some faux pas or gaucherie...brings a sinking feeling later, makes us think, Was that really us? Did we do that?"

Thomas Baker


I already started *I Will Wear Midnight* because I couldn't resist after devouring *Guards! Guards!* . I've prescribed myself an all-Pratchett diet to help me get through January.

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