Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner – Book

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner is a sort of a “cover” of the classic book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This time there are only two girls in the Kaufman family who live in a little “Dick and Jane” house on Alhambra Street. They are named Jo (Josette) and Beth (Bethie) – the mom is Sarah and the dad is Ken.

My initial negative reactions to Mrs. Everything were decidedly generational. In Alcott’s book Jo and Beth didn’t have sex. Jo had ambitions that were not considered feminine, and she was aware that she would find it difficult to fulfill those ambitions, but she did not seem to struggle with her sexual identity, hardly an acceptable topic when Alcott wrote her novel.

However I got over myself. After all I am a child of the sixties. I did not find Bethie’s “rebirth” odd. I heard more than a few primal screams in my time. What bothered me more was the stereotypical presentation of the two sisters differing prepubescent personalities. Not every girl who likes sports and doesn’t care to play with dolls or wear dresses will be lesbian or have a sexual identity anywhere on the LGBTQ spectrum. The only saving grace for the lack of research into the subject can be found in the fact that the characters were intended to parallel the character differences between Alcott’s Jo and Beth.

Modern Jo knew that she was attracted to girls when she was in high school and she had quite a long relationship with her best friend. Her heart was broken for the first time when her first love got married to her high school sweetheart, a boy. Jo could never have pleased her mother by being as feminine as her mother wished her to be, and once her mother learned of Jo’s true sexual orientation, Sarah’s constant disapproval insured that Jo would be happy to leave for college.

Bethie (Beth) was every bit as feminine as her mother would wish her to be. She got lots of positive reinforcement. However, the lives these sisters actually lived most likely will not match the trajectory you think they are on. They were born into a decade of radical change. Trite but true, life happens.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner is about identity and reality, bravery and duty, social pressure, love, and broken hearts. It did not push the button in me that said “eureka, this is a great book”, but perhaps the way readers experience the quality of this book will turn out to be generational.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Chicago Tribune

Look for me at thearmchairobserver.com and on goodreads.com as Nancy Brisson

July 2019 Book List

July 2019 Book List

If you are a fan of real space travel, there is a list of books related to the Apollo 11 moon landing, which happened around the same time as Woodstock, 50 years ago this year. I also found both interesting fiction and nonfiction available in June, enough titles to make me wish I could read faster. Print the list out, mark it up. Remember you can almost always find a summary on Amazon and at your library or your library’s web site. Some people get a lot of reading done in the summer. Happy 4 th of July.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes  *

Deep River by Karl Marlantes

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess  *

Stay and Fight: A Novel by Madeline Ffitch*

Very Nice: A Novel by Marcy Dermansky  *

The Great Unexpected: A Novel by Dan Mooney  *

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead  *

The Lager Queen of Minnesota: A Novel by J. Ryan Stradel

The Most Fun We Ever Had: A Novel by Claire Lombardo *

In the Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark *

Mysteries and Thrillers

Lock Every Door: A Novel by Riley Sager

Lady in the Lake: A Novel by Laura Lippman

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson

The Possession (The Anomaly Files) by Michael Rutger

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The Friend: A Novel by Joakim Zander

The Need by Helen Phillips

Wanderers: A Novel by Chuck Wendig *

The New Girl (Gabriel Allon) by Daniel Silva *

Big Sky (Jackson Brodie) by Kate Atkinson  *

Biographies and Memoirs

Stronghold: One Man’s Quest to Save the World’s Wild Salmon by Tucker Malarkey

Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem: A Memoir by Daniel R. Day

Hitler: A Life by Peter Longrich

This is Not a T-shirt: A Brand, a Culture, a Community – A Life in Streetwear by Bobbie Hundreds

The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison’s Ten-Year Road Trip by Jeff Guinn

Casting into the Light: Tales of a Fishing Life by Janet Messineo

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Elsinger, Steven Scott, illus. Becker – Memoir

The Lie: A Memoir of Two Marriages, Catfishing and Coming Out by William Dameron

George Marshall: Defender of the Republic  by David L. Roll

The Life of John F Kennedy Jr.: America’s Reluctant Prince by Steven M. Gillon

Nonfiction

Hungry: Eating, Road-Tripping, and Risking It all with the Greatest Chef in the World by Jeff Gordinier

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey through the Heart of America’s Fast Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Killer of the 21stCentury by Maureen Callahan

The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting by Ben Lewis

The Story of the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak in History and of the Outbreaks to Come by Richard Preston

Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein *

I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch by John Zada

Science Fiction and Fantasy

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Salvation Day by Kali Wallace

Wanderers: A Novel by Chuck Wendig  *

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep: A Novel by H. G. Parry

The New York Times Book Review

June 7

Fiction

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Loudermilk by Lucy Ives

Bakhita by Véronique Almi

Spring by Ali Smith

Crime

This Storm by James Ellroy

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

Murder in Bel-Air by Cara Black

The Body in the Castle Well by Martin Walker

The Shortlist

The Selected Works of Abdullah The Cossack by H. M. Naqvi

There’s a Word for that by Sloane Tanen

Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe by Evan James

Nonfiction

The Queen by Josh Levin

No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder

Generation Wuss by Bret Easton Ellis

The Pandemic Century by Mark Honigsbaum

The Pioneers by David McCullough

Range by David Epstein

Gropius by Fiona MacCarthy

Moneyland by Oliver Bullough

June 14

Nonfiction

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

L.E.I.: The Lost Life and Scandalous Death of Letitia Elizabeth Landon, the Celebrated Female Byron by Lucasta Miller

The Death of Politics by Peter Wehner

The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro

Clear and Present Safety by Michael A. Cohen and Micah Zinko

Women’s Work by Megan Stack

The Conservative Sensibility by George Will

Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks

The Case for Trump by Victor Davis Hansson

Fiction

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Where We Come From by Oscar Cásares

The Short List (from France)

Life of David Hockney by Catherine Cusset, trans. by Teresa Lavender Fagan

Exposed by Jean-Phillippe Blondel, trans. by Alison Anderson

Lie With Me by Philippe Besson, trans. by Molly Ringwald

June 21

50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

Hasselblad and the Moon Landing by Deborah Ireland

Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landing by Roger Launius

Shoot For the Moon: The Space Race and the Extraordinary Voyage of Apollo 11 by James Donovan

Apollo To The Moon: A History in 50 Objects by Teasel Muir-Harmony

Chasing the Moon: The People, the Politics, and the Promise that Launched America Into the Space Age by Roger Stone and Alan Andres

American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by David Brinkley

One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon by Charles Fishman

Nonfiction

The Plaza by Julie Satow

War and Peace by Nigel Hamilton  *

Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer

The White Devil’s Daughters by Julia Flynn Siler

Assad or We Burn the Country by Sam Dagher

Fiction

Original Prin by Randy Boyagoda

Orange World by Karen Russell (Short Stories)

Strangers and Cousins by Leah Hager Cohen

Big Sky (Det. Jackson Brodie) by Kate Atkinson  *

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada

The Poison Thread by Laura Parcell

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda

Children of the Ghetto by Elias Khoury

Walking on the Ceiling: A Novel by Aysegül Savas

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames *

All the Good Things by Claire Fisher

How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee

June 28

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner  *

The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

My Life as a Rat by Joyce Carol Oates

America Was Hard to Find by Kathleen Alcott

Juliet the Maniac by Juliet Escoria

Riots I Have Known by Ryan Chapman  *

Nonfiction

Democracy May Not Exist But We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone by Astra Taylor

The Problem of Democracy by Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein

The America: The Case for The Nation by Jill Lepore

Never Lovely So Real (Nelson Algren Biography) by Colin Asher

People, Power, and Profits by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Ill Winds by Larry Diamond. *

Spying of the South by Tony Horwitz

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene

Bottle of Lies by Katherine Eban

Picnic Comma Lightning by Laurence Scott

Publisher’s Weekly

June 7

Elderhood, Redefining Aging, Tranforming Medicine, Reimaging Life by Louise Aronson (NF)

Bunny by Mona Awad (F)  *

Recursion by Blake Crouch (Thriller)

Honestly We Meant Well by Grant Ginder (F)

Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Rosalie Lim (F)

The Darwin Affair by Tim Mason (Thriller)

The Stonewall Riots: A Documentary History by Marc Stein (NF)

Paris, 7 A. M. by Liza Wieland (Based on life of poet, Elizabeth Bishop) (F)

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner (F)

The History of Living Forever by Jake Wolff (F)

June 14

The Body Lies by Jo Baker (F)

Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland

The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (F) *

Roughhouse Friday: A Memoir by Jaed Coffin (F)

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone (Science Fiction). *

The Capital by Robert Menasse (F)

Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel (NF)

Conviction by Denise Mina (Thriller)

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda (Thriller)

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (F) (YA to Adult)

Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life by Darcey Steinke (NF)

June 21

Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast Food Kingdom by Adam Chandler (NF)

Happiness, As Such by Natalia Ginzberg, trans from Italian by Minna Zallman Proctor

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (F) *

The Maze of Transparencies by Karen An-hwei Lee.(F) *

Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties by Tom O’Neill with Dane Piepenbring (NF) (True Crime)

Murder in the Crooked House by Soji Shimada, trans. from Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai (puzzle mystery)

The Friend by Joakim Zander from Swedish by Elizabeth Clark Wessel (Thriller)

June 28

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21 st Century by Maureen Callahan (NF)

The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Vol. 4 by Neil Clarke (Science Fiction Short Stories)

Second Sight by Aoife Clifford (Crime Novel)

Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky (F)  *

Betrayal. In Time: A Kendra Donovan Mystery by Julie McElwain (F)

Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff by Anthony McCann (NF) Cliven Bundy and Son)  *

Maggie Brown and Others by Peter Omer (Character Sketches)

The Me I Used to Be by Jennifer Ryan (F)  *

Lock Every Door by Riley Sagar (Thriller)

The Public Option: How to Expand Freedom, Increase Opportunity, and Promote Equality by Genesh Sitaramen and Anne L Alstott (NF) (Favors public opinion)

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig (F)  *

 

 

Normal People by Sally Rooney – Book

Normal People, by Sally Rooney

Two people, two Irish people, one male, one female, one from a wealthy family, one from a working class family, child of an unmarried mom are the focus of Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People. Marianne’s and Connell’s worlds would not naturally connect, but in this case Connell’s mom cleans the house that Marianne’s family lives in. Connell’s mother is supportive and loving, doing all she can to provide for her son and to let him feel that he can talk to her and rely on her. Marianne’s father was abusive towards his daughter and his wife. Even with her father gone, Marianne’s family provides no haven of security. Her brother continues the abusive pattern of the father through a campaign of constant criticism and actual bullying which the mother refuses to intervene in. The absence of loving parents leaves Marianne alone to contend with her brother, although it is obvious she has no strategies to help her succeed against him.

Connell is a success in high school, despite his absent father. He is a football player and he’s an excellent student. Marianne uses awkwardness to keep everyone at bay in high school because she has no faith in her appearance or in her social skills. She does not try to look attractive or to make friends, but her isolation adds to her lack of self-esteem. She and Connell begin a secret and, at first, sexual relationship, but as they also talk to and confide in each other the relationship deepens and they begin to become more than friends but not an actual couple.

Connell’s academic skills and his relationship with Marianne give him the confidence to imagine escaping his working class roots and he goes off to the same upper class Trinity University that Marianne will attend, instead of going to Galway where his accent would not set him apart, instantly telling his schoolmates his background. He is a sort of fish out of water at Trinity, however.

Marianne is in her element at Trinity and she begins to fit in. The abuse she was subjected to in her family still has her choosing partnerships where she submits to cruel men. In fact as Marianne seeks out men who will treat her badly, she physically becomes thinner and thinner, frailer and frailer. (I did not like the idea that as she became more invisible, almost disappearing, she also, according to the author, became more and more beautiful. This equation which says the thinner you get the more beautiful you become is not necessarily either true or healthy.)

Connell and Marianne come together and part. They try to have relationships with other people but their unfinished business with each other keeps bringing them back into each other’s orbit, while their personality challenges keep driving them apart. It is a dance that is less about love and more about therapy. Can people repair childhood damages in each other? Can they do this without forming a lifelong commitment to each other? Maybe. Is this a bit frustrating to a reader who always wants characters this addicted to each other to find a happy ending? Of course.

Since this is a character-driven novel, do the characters ring true? Almost. They are just a bit too two dimensional for us to really care about them. This is not Anna Karenina. But of course modern Ireland, once quite as tragic as a Russia in transition, now has problems similar to those of any modern nation. These characters could come alive in a movie, but they are not quite that absorbing in Rooney’s book, Normal People. I did enjoy the rare occasions when Connell’s “Sligo” dialect was reflected in the text and I wished that we heard it more often. It is probably impossible to write a perfect book and although some authors come close it is always possible to find flaws, so despite my complaints this was still a novel that I enjoyed reading from cover to cover.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – NPR

This post is also available at https://thearmchairobserver.com/ and Goodreads.com

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone – Book

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone – Book

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone follows Kate Moore and her husband Dexter from a stay in Luxembourg in his first novel The Expats, where things started out calmly and went pretty badly off the rails. Kate worked for the US government in intelligence but, of course, it’s a secret. Dexter got lured into a scheme to hack a fortune in dirty money and his law-abiding wife finds out. She finds a way to keep Dexter out of prison but at the end of Chris Pavone’s first book, The Expats, the Moore’s marriage is a bit stormy – a very quiet storm because they are barely speaking.

After Luxembourg they travel around Europe for a while with their two children and then they settle in Paris minus the other expat couple they befriended in Luxembourg, a couple Kate hopes is out of their lives forever. Kate’s two children are now school age and she wishes she could enjoy being a full time mom, but life with the agency is just too exciting. What else would she do all day while her children are in school? And now she has been given her own little agency office to run in Paris.

Dexter works at home. He has decided to become a day trader. But it turns out that everyone, except Kate who is busy with her motherhood guilt, has revenge on their minds, and it all leads to one spectacularly messy day in Paris. If this day didn’t involve the deaths of two single fathers, a terrorist attack that immerses Paris in chaos, and threatens to nuke the Louvre it would most resemble one of those French hotel comedy/murder mysteries where everyone is sneaking in and out of everyone else’s room, sometimes with hanky-panky on their minds, and luggage is getting mixed up while people wander around in extravagant outfits and identities get confused. Perhaps to update the genre a bit this is a sort of thriller version of that Barbara Streisand movie “What’s Up Doc?”. Sadly the actual events in Paris seem a bit inappropriate to what is basically a romp, but such are the paradoxes here in the 21 st century and it is after all a thriller/romp.

The author’s chapters focus in turn on the characters, each telling his/her part of the story in small glimpses. You know that the facts will eventually give you the whole picture. You start to see or think you see through this plot – the author has left too many clues, the affair is too easy to unravel, but don’t become overconfident. There are plenty of surprises.

The Paris Diversion is not at all like a true thriller, but it is a true diversion that uses realities that have become far too normal to us. Throughout this whole crazy day the adults are having, the Moore children are safe in a good French school behind a high wall and at the end of the day will suspect nothing. How bad can things get in the space of someone’s slightly elongated school day? You won’t believe it.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Parnassus Musings

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – Book

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Sometimes fiction based on a true story is a difficult beast for an author to tangle with. It can be a struggle to make the elements of fiction (plot, setting, characters) hold the spark that turns a story into literature. The Tattooist of Auschwitz basically retells a true story told to the author Heather Morris by the man who we know as Lale Sokolov. The author, as a beginner tells the story well, but, for me the story lacks the depth and poignancy that might have come from the pen of someone more experienced in ways to use prose to embellish and flesh out the facts. However, perhaps the unadorned story is more useful for historical purposes.

This novel deals with the prisoners in the concentration camps who did jobs that put them in closer touch with German officers, tasks that carried perks like more food, better quarters, access to favors as long as the prisoner groveled properly when required. Although these prisoners often had no choice about taking on these “lighter” duties, they were seen by other prisoners as collaborators and their few rewards understandably were resented.

Lale, our tattooist was a young man on his way up. He worked in a department store until all the Jews were fired. He was and is a great admirer of women, although he doesn’t seem overbearing about it. He seems to possess some personal charm. When told to report to the train for transport he puts on a suit and tie. His mother makes him pack some books, which won’t matter because he will never see any of his personal items ever again. Not long after he arrives in the concentration camp he becomes assistant to the current tattooist and soon takes the lead tattooist’s place. In the camps people often just disappear, never for a good reason. Lale, as the tattooist, gets extra food and a room of his own. He does not have to labor with a shovel from sun up to sun down. He makes sure to pass some of his extra food along to his old bunkmates.

Once he sees Gita in the nearby women’s camp he falls in love and she returns his affection. Gita works in an office keeping records and lives in a barracks with girls who have named the building where they work Canada because that sounds like a safe place. They sort through and categorize the possessions the Germans take from prisoners. Lale eventually finds a way to take some of the jewelry slipped to him by Gita’s friends and exchange it for food, mainly sausages and chocolate, which he shares to supplement the starvation fare in the camp. The love that grows between Lale and Gita fuels their will to survive.

Every day he steadily tattooes numbers on the arms of more prisoners at Auschwitz and Birkenau, a flood of dispossessed people doomed by one man’s madness. Lale describes the building of the furnaces and the human ashes that drift down over all and have to be ignored for reasons of sanity and survival. But emotional content is missing and it just seems a bit superficial given the horrific circumstances and the daily dread – more news report than work of fiction. Maybe the way Lale survives is exactly is how some people survive by convincing themselves that they are able to use those who have imprisoned them. When so many were shot on the spot for the slightest infraction Lale’s good fortunes seem unlikely. The story could be true but it could be what one man told himself to get by.

The Tattoist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris does bring up the often examined issue of whether people like Lale were collaborators or just survivors. If it is true, this represents a rare alternative view inside the concentration camps. I don’t recall reading another book about collaborators within the camps, although there are many books about collaborators in occupied territories and much speculation about what makes someone a collaborator and even about degrees of collaboration. Although I am not enamored of the art of the book it raises interesting issues and takes us back to that question of what we would have been capable of in similar circumstances. So many brave survivors came out of the camps that I’m not sure Lale’s story seems similarly heroic, but perhaps it should.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – American Jewish University

June 2019 Book List

June 2019 Book List

Summer months often see publishers offering readers plenty of treasures, perhaps to attract readers who have more time to read in the summer. Lots of good books on this June Book List. I tend to try to be reasonable about the number of books I add asterisks to, because I cannot possibly read everything. Books with asterisks are not my recommendations for everyone. They are my picks for me. Sometimes I wish I could be cloned and one version of me could happily spend all her time reading while the other version of me could do laundry, clean bathrooms, mop floors, cook meals, do dishes, and socialize. Alas another part of me hopes we never learn how to clone ourselves and accepts that I have to read when I can. I share my reviews on goodreads.com. (as Nancy Brisson) I also have a book blog https://nbrissonsbookblog.com

Please stop by.

Amazon

Literature and Fiction

The Stationery Shop: A Novel by Marjan Kamali

The Travelers: A Novel by Regina Porter

Patsy: A Novel by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Ask Again, Yes: A Novel by Mary Beth Kane

The History of Living Forever: A Novel by Jake Wolff

On Earth We Were Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel by Ocean Vuong

Mrs. Everything: A Novel by Jennifer Weiner *

The Porpoise: A Novel by Mark Haddon

City of Girls: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert *

Mystery and Thriller

Joe Country (Slough House) by Mick Herron

The Sentence is Death: A Novel by Anthony Horowitz

Recursion: A Novel by Blake Crouch

Keep You Close: A Novel by Karen Cleveland

Murder in Bel-Air (An Aimeé Leduc Investigation) by Cara Black

One Night at the Lake: A Novel by Sarah Galley

The Darwin Affair: A Novel by Tim Mason

This Storm: A Novel by James Ellroy

Rogue Strike (A Jake Keller Thriller) by David Ricciardi

The Summer We Lost Her by Tish Cohen

Biographies and Memoirs

Smokin’ Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier by Mark Kram Jr.

We Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson by Bruce Conforth, Gayle Dean Wardlow

The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un by Anna Fifield

And Then It Fell Apart by Moby

Naturally Tan: A Memoir by Tan France

The Beautiful No: Tales of Trials, Transcendence and Transformation by Sheri Salata

Grinnell: America’s Environmental Pioneer and His Restless Drive to Save the West by John Faliaferro

My Parents: A Introduction/This Does Not Belong to You by Aleksandar Hermon

On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real and Listening Hard by Jennifer Pastiloff, Lydia Yuknavitch

Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line by Ryan Leigh Dostie

Nonfiction

Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love by Naomi Wolf

The Ice at the End of the World: A Epic Journey into Greenland’s Buried Past and Our Perilous Future by Jon Gertner

William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ‘n’ Roll by Casey Rae

Eyes in the Eye: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and Now it Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel

Underland: A Deep Journey by Robert Macfarlane

The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey

Norco ’80: The True Story of the Most Spectacular Bank Robbery in American History by Peter Houlahan

More Fun in the New World, The Unmaking and Legacy of La Punk by John Doe, Tom DeSavia

VC: An American History by Tom Nicholes (Venture Capital)

The Last Pirate of New York: A Ghose Ship, a Killer and the Birth of a Gangster Nation by Rich Cohen

Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Fall, or Dodge in Hell: A Novel by Neal Stephenson *

War (House War) by Michelle West

The Girl in Red by Christina Henry *

Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone *

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

The Lesson: A Novel by Cadwell Turnbull *

Magic for Liars: A Novel by Sarah Galley

The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford

The New York Times Book Review

May 3

Fiction

The Flight Portfolio: A Novel by Julie Orringer

Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan

Oksena Behave by Maria Zuznetsova

Lights All Night Long by Lydia Fitzpatrick

The Spectators by Jennifer duBois

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami

Homeland by Fernando Aramburu

Nonfiction

Firefighting by Ben S. Bernanki, Timothy F. Geithner and Henry M. Paulson Jr.

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

The Unwanted by Michael Dobbs

So Much Longing in So Little Space: The Art of Edvard Munch by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Martin Buber: A Life of Faith and Dissent by Paul Mendes-Flohr (Bio)

The Lost Gutenberg by Margaret Davis

Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe by Sheri Berman *

Crime

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone *

Black Mountain by Laird Barron

The Unquiet Heart by Kaite Welsh

The Woman in the Blue Cloak by Deon Meyer

May 10

Nonfiction

Our Man (Bio of Richard Holbrooke) by George Packer *

Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb *

Leap of Faith by Michael J. Mazarr (Why Iraq War)

Fall and Rise by Mitchell Zuckoff (9/11) *

Beeline by Shalini Shankar

The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez by Aaron Bobrow-Strain

The Second Mountain by David Brooks *

The Shortlist

Blueprint by Nicholas Christakis

Humanimal by Adam Rutherford

Genesis by E.O. Wilson

Fiction

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst (60’s)

The Dragonfly Sea by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

The Binding by Bridget Collins

May 17

Nonfiction

Furious Hours by Casey Cep

Who Brooklyn was Queer by Hugh Ryan

The Body Papers by Grace Taluson

Mother is a Verb by Sarah Knott

Sea People by Christina Thompson (Polynesia)

Endeavor by Peter Moore (Polynesia)

The Golden Age by Ian Kershaw

The Heartland by Kristine L. Hoganson

Nanaville by Anna Quindlen (True Short Stories)

Fiction

Not by Bryan Washington (Short stories)

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad *

Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum

The Ash Family by Molly Dektar

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza (from Argentina)

May 24

Nonfiction

The British are Coming by Rick Atkinson *

Sissy by Jacob Tobia

Real Queer America by Samantha Allen

The Player’s Ball by David Kushner

A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell

The Impeachers by Brenda Wineapple

Upheaval by Jared Diamond

The Last Job by Dan Bilefsky

Ghosts of Gold Mountain by Gordon H. Chang

Fiction

Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif *

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg

The Farm by Joanne Ramos *

Shortlist (new French fiction)

The Cook by Maylis de Kerangal

Waiting for Bojangles by Olivier Bourdeaut

Hold Fast Your Crown by Yannick Haenel

May 31

Fiction

The Poison Bed by Elizabeth Fremantle

Dream Sequence by Adam Fould

Prince of Monkeys by Nnamdi Ehirim

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura by Christine Wunnicke

Westside by W. M. Akers

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

Throw Me to the Wolves by Patrick McGuinness

Dawson’s Fall by Roxana Robinson

How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper

Thomas and Beal in the Midi by Christopher Tilghman

The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin

Nonfiction

Mr. Know-it-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder by John Waters

How to Become a Federal Criminal by Mike Chase (reviewer says ‘very funny’)

How to Build a Boat by Jonathan Gornall

Boom by Michael Shnayerson

Becoming Dr. Seuss by Brian Jay Jones

K by Tyler Kepner

Best. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery

The Regency Years by Robert Morrison *

Bitcoin Billionaires by Ben Mezrich (‘the Winklevii)

Hotbox by Matt and Ted Lee

Cult of Dead Cow by Joseph Menn (hacking)

Funny Man by Patrick McGilligan (Mel Brooks)

Land of the Ozarks by Bill Geist

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

Hot, Cold, Heavy, Light by Peter Schjodahl

The Drama of Celebrity by Sharon Marcus

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee

Ladysitting: My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century by Lorene Cary *

How to Forget by Kate Mulgrew *

Broadway, Balanchine and Beyond by Bettijane Sills

Dancing with Merce Cunningham by Marianne Preger-Simon

Out of the Shadows by Walt Odets

Underland by Robert Macfarlane

Publisher’s Weekly

May 3

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (F) (YA)

The Assassin of Verona by Benet Brandreth (F)

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang (Science Fiction) (Short stories) *

The Law of the Skies by Gregoire Courtois, trans. from French by Rhonda Mullens (F)

The Archive of Alternate Endings: A Novel by Lindsey Drager (F)

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna (F) *

The Buried: An Archeology of the Egyptian Revolution by Peter Hessler (NF)

Calm Seas and Prosperous Voyage by Bette Howland (Short Stories)

China Dream by Ma Jian, trans. from Chinese by Flora Drew (F)

The Flight Portfolio: A Novel by Julie Orringer (F)

Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and The End of the American Century by George Packer (NF) *

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race by Lara Prior-Paler (NF)

May 10

The British are Coming: The War for America: Lexington to Princeton Volume One of the Revolution Trilogy by Rick Atkinson *

The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver (F)

Dream Sequence by Adam Foulds (F)

A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism by Adam Gopnik (NF) *

Once More We Saw Stars: A Memoir by Jason Greene (Memoir)

Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif (F) *

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren (F)

Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan (YA)

The Satapur Moonstone: A Mystery of 1920’s India by Sujata Massey (F)

The Obsoletes by Simeon Mills (F)

Lanny by Max Porter (F)

No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder (NF)

Message from the Shadows by Antonio Tabucchi, trans. from Italian by Anne Milano (Short Stories)

May 17

Gather the Fortunes by Bryan Camp (Fantasy)

Riots I Have Known by Ryan Chapman (F)

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (F)

Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers (Short Stories)

The Island by Ragnar Jónasson (Thriller)

Deception Cove by Owen Laukkanen (F)

Necessary People by Anna Pitonisk (F)

The Organs of Sense by Adam Ehrlich Sachs (F)

The Vinyl Frontier: The Story of the Voyager Golden Record by Jonathan Scott (NF)

Einstein’s War: How Relativity Triumphed Amid the Vicious Nationalism of World War I by Matthew Stanley (NF)

The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband from a Deadly Superbug by Steffanie A Strathdee, Thomas Patterson (NF)

May 24

Supernavigators: The Astounding New Science of How Animals Find Their Way by David Barrie (NF)

Time is the Thing a Body Moves Through: An Essay by T. Fleischmann (Essay)

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz (Mystery)

Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne (Romance) *

Dark Site by Patrick Lee (F)

Austentatious: The Evolving World of Jane Austen Fans by Holly Luetkenhaus and Zoe Weinstein (NF)

May 31

A History of the Bible: The Story of the World’s Most Influential Book by John Barton (NF)

Exposed by Jean-Phillippe Blondel (F) *

This Storm by James Ellroy (F)

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (F) *

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (on Pride and Prejudice) (F)

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane (NF)

Out of the Shadows: Reimaging Gay Men’s Lives by Walt Odets (Memoir)

Dual Citizens by Alix Ohlin (F)

Aug. 9 – Fog by Kathryn Scanlan (F) *

Grinnell: America’s Environmental Pioneer and his Restless Drive to Save the West by John Taliaferro (NF)

Love They Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America by Ayaz Virji with Alan Eisenstock (NF)

In West Mills by De ‘Shawn Charles Winslow (F)

 

 

 

 

 

The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates – Book

When I post on Linkedin.com I often see posts from Bill Gates. Lately it seemed that he kept trying to get me (yes me personally ha-ha) to read The Moment of Lift, a recently published book by his wife Melinda Gates. Sometimes I leave billionaires out of my personal pursuits because their lives are so distant from mine that they don’t really feel like real people. It is exclusionary but I always figure they don’t really mind because it doesn’t impact their lives in any negative way and I am not real to them either. But prejudice in any form is probably not good for the soul and billionaires who are also philanthropists, trying to make life better in some way for all us on this tiny planet at the edge of this universe deserve some attention, even if it is just to see whether or not they are just making huge cosmic errors out of misguided arrogance. Now I am being arrogant. Anyway I read Mrs. Gates’ book and it really did give me a moment of lift, in fact more than one moment. When people use their huge fortunes to make a difference for people at the bottom of the economic heap it makes the inequalities of our current economy seem less obscene. And their experiences can teach us about realities in places we can’t afford to go.

I was deep into Chapter 3 of Gates’ book when Alabama decided to make abortion illegal in that state except in rare cases for the health of the mother. Melinda Gates was talking about the effect of women’s lack of control over their reproductive health and what a profound effect that has on the success of an entire family and even the village in which the family lives. If a women gets pregnant many times with little space in between it means she can’t pay proper attention to each child so the children often do not thrive. Infant mortality rates are really high in such cultures and the family is not able to progress, to send the children to school, to grow more crops or work harder to save money and the family does not thrive either. Generation after generation this is a reality that keeps families poor.

Gates was working in Africa and Asia, in countries where these patterns are very noticeable and small efforts can make a big difference. She began with finding ways to provide free vaccines to children. But she found that the mothers were begging to get regular access to contraceptives so they did not wear themselves out having baby after baby. Access to contraceptives is not something you might think would have such profound positive outcomes wherever it is available, but evidence shows us that it does.

So I cheated a bit and made use of Melinda’s new book to try to drum up readers for my recent blog post “Alabama and Melinda Gates” because I wanted to shine a light on what is happening with Roe v Wade.

https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/alabama-and-melinda-gates/

Melinda Gates is a very spiritual person. She is a devout Catholic who completed her college degrees at a Catholic college. But she is not a missionary. If she was about the business of spreading Catholicism she might not be so open to listening to women in the African and Asian places she visits, she might care more about fulfilling her own needs than the needs of the people she meets. However she has learned to let socially active people she meets at conferences and in her travels, people who know where to look in Africa and India to enlist the Foundation’s help for programs that already exist. These people become her mentors and they take her with them to meet the village people and see programs that are successfully allowing poor people around the world to have a future that is not simply a repeat of the lives people in that area have lived for generations, lives that can’t plan ahead, lives that can only get through each day and sometimes not even that.

There is no sense in talking about this as a work of literature. It is not intended to be considered in that way. But the book made me aware that not all billionaires are selfish people sailing around on yachts, drinking and dining at swanky restaurants, or building survival dwellings in isolated places. It gave me a lift to learn about the intimate problems of women on other continents (although we certainly have some of these problems on our own continent) and to hear about programs that were trying to lighten women’s loads and free them up to enjoy feeling that they could make personal contributions to their families and their culture, that life did not have to be drudgery and heartache or full of repetitive and difficult tasks that wear down the spirit.

So you might find that you also get to experience some of The Moments of Liftthat Melinda Gates offers in her book if you spend a few days immersed in the life of the wife of a billionaire. One more point – just because this book is mostly about the things women face does not mean that men should not read Gates’ book. Perhaps they need to hear about these issues even more that women do. Many women’s lives are still under the control of men, and men’s lives also change for the better when women become partners rather than property.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Goodreads