Steve's reading log



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These I have read recently and liked unless otherwise noted. Sometimes stars are given instead of, or in addition to, any annotation. Most recent are at top of list:

  • The mirror crack'd by Agatha Christie (9/2014) ***+   can't go wrong with these, guessing whodunit till the end and then the yarn is 85% plausible. Might have worked out just as interestingly without all of the additional fatalities.

  • Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis (9/2014) ***+   the original book behind the musical ("Mame", which I was in way back when playing the young Patrick). More fun to read than I expected, and interesting to remember how the musical went and see how it the original plot was rearranged.

  • Papillon by Henri Charriere (8/2014) ***+   autobiographical account of a French underworld kingpin being arrested and sentenced to life at hard labor in the harsh French penal colonies in Guyana. The book was apparently transcribed and translated from 15 notebooks that the author kept during his tribulations, and there are a lot of interesting aspects. Sometimes it seemed repetitious (miraculous escape, capture, dungeon, miraculous escape, capture, dungeon, etc.) and it seemed like wardens, guards and their wives consistently befriended him and gave him breaks, and this didn't always ring true. There has been later debate over how much of the account is really true vs. hearsay from other inmates, etc. Story was made into a good film of the same name.

  • The folklore of Maine by Horace P Beck (7/2014) ***+

  • The late George Apley by John Phillips Marquand (6/2014) ****

  • Fast food nation by Eric Schlosser (4/2014) ***+

  • One hundred years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (2/2014) *** Seen on a lot of "favorite books" lists, this multi-generational South American epic has some interesting vivid nuggets in it, but with all the nonsensical/magical proceedings, confusing character names and meandering I eventually found it hard to complete, although I did.

  • Fathers and sons by Ivan Turgenev (12/2013) ***+ A nice Victorian-era novel set in Russia.

  • The Leap by Tom Ashbrook (11/2013) ***+ The author leaves behind a successful journalism career with the Boston Globe to try a web startup partnership in the late 1990's. Insightful peeks into the mechanics of venture capital funding and other trials and tribulations including keeping a family together while burning through cash and putting in endless hours of work and running around. Tom now hosts the popular public radio news discussion show "On Point".

  • A house for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipul (11/2013) **** A gem-like and very funny telling of one man's life, fortunes and misfortunes from birth to death amongst the Carribean Indo-Trinidadian community.

  • Dark star safari by Paul Theroux (10/2013) **** The author, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda in the 1960's, embarks in an overland journey from Cairo to Capetown in the mid 1990's, way off the usual tourist track. Many frank and candid observations on what the areas and people are like, how they've changed since the 60's, the impact of foreign aid agencies and missionaries, and what travelling there is like.

  • The murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (9/2013) ***+ Written in the 1920s this early Hercule Poirot detective mystery has some brilliant aspects.

  • John Saturnall's feast by Lawrence Norfolk (9/2013) *** Pretty good with some nice details of place, time, and food (England in the 1600's King James era) but none of the characters really came to life for me.

  • Two years before the mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (7/2013) **** Fascinating firsthand account written in the 1830's. The author enlisted on a merchant marine square-rigged sailing vessel in Boston, and sailed around Cape Horn to California to acquire cattle hides for Boston's leather industry. California at that time was a sleepy Mexican outpost (gold, U.S. possession, and massive population influx would come a short while later). Long intricate passages of nautical terminology and procedures, interesting enough to me but would be super for anyone really interested in sailing.

  • Tobacco road by Erskine Caldwell (7/2013) **** The poor tenant farming culture of rural Georgia during Depression era. Somewhat like Sinclair's "The Jungle" ... just when it can't get any worse for these desperate people.... it does. Also some humor as well.

  • Snow by Orhan Pamuk (6/2013) **** Set during a huge snowstorm in Kars, eastern Turkey. A stymied poet is suddenly inspired to write again as bizarre, romantic, and profound events unfold around him.

  • Neither here nor there: Travels in Europe, by Bill Bryson. (5/2013) ***+ Can't really go wrong with Bryson. Seemed a little strange for a man to be travelling around Europe, drinking pints and reading books in pubs alone for weeks on end with a wife and kids back in England.... but I guess the trip probably paid for itself many times over in book royalties.

  • Serena by Ron Rash (4/2013) *** An wicked logging baron and his even more wicked wife, in the Great Smokey region during the 1930's. Mostly well written and pretty good... the logic of some of the latter portions (the cross-country pursuit and sudden series of murders) didn't quite add up for me, and some of the characters seemed flat on the page and mechanically going thru the motions with unclear motivations.

  • Born in blood and fire by John Charles Chasteen (4/2013) ***+ A concise readable history of Latin America. My son had it as a college text book then gave it to me to read.

  • The Associated Press stylebook (3/2013) *** Never had looked at this before, but took a glance then decided to go thru it cover to cover. An interesting attempt at standardizing how news is written, not just in terms of mechanics but also approaches to political, religious, and volatile topics, political correctness, things to avoid, and so on. I started out doubting whether all these rules were necessary, then realized that they probably are in order to get the news coverage we've come to expect. Also discussed are the arcane wire service coding protocols and teletype considerations which are rapidly fading into obscurity... like which cities stand alone in the dateline, e.g. HAVANA (AP) vs. KINGSTON, JAMAICA (AP).

  • Train dreams by Denis Johnson. (3/2013) **** A gem that can be read in one or two sittings... Western Americana and mysicicism from the pre-1940 era.

  • Sacred hunger by Barry Unsworth. (3/2013) ***+ A nicely done historical fiction of some Englishmen setting out on a slave trading journey to West Africa then Jamaica in the mid 1700's. Dialog and the many details felt very authentic and insightful. Quite a page-turner until the last portion where the static setting and pages of pidgin dialogue slowed things down. Shows what even the most intellectual people will buy into without much questioning, if it is the society norm of the day.

  • The undertaking: life studies from the dismal trade by Thomas Lynch. (2/2013) ***

  • Tinkers by Paul Harding. (1/2013) ***+

  • 97 Orchard: an edible history of five immigrant families in one New York tenement, by Jane Ziegelman. (1/2013) ****

  • The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (1/2013) ****

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (12/2012) **** A thoughtful man stays behind in New Orleans during Katrina and the subsequent floods when the levies gave way. A great book.

  • A prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (12/2012) **+ Some interesting and thought-provoking things about this, but I found the 1st person narrative claustrophobic, small-towny and overlong at times, such as the hundred pages or so where both a church Christmas pageant and a town Christmas play are being rehearsed. Did not really empathize with the characters much and didn't quite get what the endpoint of the various messianic parallels was supposed to be.

  • At home: a short history of private life, by Bill Bryson (11/2012) **** Much of the work is a discussion of what England was like over the past few centuries, and time and time again you wonder how the human race survived all of the hardship, inequity, folly, waste, repression, cruelty, filth and disease over the years. Chock full of things that I had never heard of, but that changed the world in one way or another.

  • The house at Sugar Beach: in search of a lost African childhood, by Helene Cooper (10/2012) **** Well written memoir about a woman who grew up in Liberia then immigrated to US after the Samuel K Doe coup, and the internal struggles that go with immigrating like this. Audio book read by the author, which was nice because she went into true Liberian dialect for some of the dialog.

  • The fire balloon, by Ruth Moore (9/2012) ****

  • The Wapshot chronicle, by John Cheever (9/2012) ****

  • The man in the high castle, by Philip K. Dick (8/2012) ****

  • Lords of finance: the bankers who broke the world, by Liaquat Ahamed. (7/2012) **** Brilliant, clear, entertaining writing. The events and pivotal men that he describes (1910 - 1935) explain a lot about how the rest of the 20th century unfolded.

  • Chronicles in stone by Ismail Kadare (6/2012) *** Early 20th-century life in a small Albanian hill city of stone Ottoman-era structures, from a child's point of view. Hardly any plot and depressing (as the area is fought over and torn to pieces by occupying Greek, Italian, and German forces), however there is still much of interest here.

  • Things fall apart by Chinua Achebe. (5/2012) ***+ Village life in West Africa in the 1800s and the impact of the first European arrivals, told from a Nigerian villager's perspective. Although it was written in the 1950s the narrative convincingly seems to be coming from the earlier time, with many fascinating details.

  • The company we keep by Robert Baer, Dayna Baer. (5/2012) **+ A man and woman who become CIA agents and eventually get together. Turned out to not as interesting as hoped for. No intriguing secrets are revealed (the intro states that the text was reviewed and approved by the agency); and the foreign operative life comes across (perhaps unintentionally) as mundane, empty, and somewhat pointless.

  • Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. (5/2012) *** A fusion of the game of cricket, life in the tri-state (NYC) area, divorce, and tidbits from growing up in Holland.

  • The forged coupon and other stories by Leo Tolstoy. (4/2012) ***

  • Inside South America by John Gunther. (4/2012) ***+ Mid-1960's survey of every republic in South America.

  • Inside Africa by John Gunther. (3/2012) ***+ Part of a set of "Inside" books that the newswriter Gunther produced from the 1930s thru mid 60s for various areas and continents after traveling through them. This one was written in the twilight of the colonial era, and it's the kind of book you'd never pick at first glance, but it was a hurried grab at the library and I ended up really enjoying this 892 page volume... good writers make all the difference and he's one of them. His other "inside" books cover South America, U.S.A., Europe, and Asia.

  • Country driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler. (1/2012) ***+ Nonfiction accounts of the author's time in China in three sections: 1) a rural road trip following the Great Wall; 2) life in a small village not too far from Beijing, and 3) hanging out in the crazy southwestern coast of development zones and manufacturing. Interesting and great writing though a little slow at times with no plot to move things along.

  • Trails of history: The story of Mount Desert Island's paths from Norumbega to Acadia by Tom St Germain, Jay Saunders. (12/2011) ***+. Fascinating history of our local trails and their builders.

  • Brideshead revisited by Evelyn Waugh. (11/2011) ***+. Ate up the cleverly written wartime prologue but then stumbled thru the obscure early 20th century Oxbridge/elitist student slang dialog in the first chapters. But it got a lot better, and I'll be checking out more of Waugh's good writing again soon. Some fascinating insights into lifestyles of British aristocracy in the 1920s and 30s. The first person narrative was amazingly perceptive at times, claustrophobic at other times.

  • Revolutionary road by Richard Yates. (11/2011) ***+ Alternated between rolling on the floor laughing and extreme chill. This early 60's novel must have been groundbreaking in terms of masterful cynicism. One particularly interesting aspect to me was the detailed insights on how large New York offices operated before computers... the labarynthine central file complex, in and out baskets, primary and secondary paper piles, the all female secretarial/steno pool, the daily routine of leaving for coffee breaks and lunch, no air conditioning.

  • The weir by Ruth Moore. (11/2011) ***+ Maine author who lived very near to here. Quite an amazing writer... will be checking out more of her books. Selected this one at random but it turns out to be her first novel written in 1943. Great characters and details of the locale and era.

  • Silas Marner by George Eliot / Mary Anne Evans. (10/2011) **** A gem-like masterpiece, uplifting. Not so much of an ending but that's not a big deal.

  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (9/2011) ***+ His latest. Like "The Corrections", plenty of insightful awareness and strong grasp of current western society in terms of the workings of technology and bureaucracy (although ended up skimming some of the longer elaborate descriptions). Franzen also seems to know a lot about a lot of things, including birds. Great prose, easy to zip through the 500+ pages in a week or so. But, many of the characters seem quite sad and empty in spite of the rich array of sensual happenings.

  • Last call: the rise and fall of Prohibition, by Daniel Okrent. (9/2011) ***+ Good coverage of this period of U.S. history, showing that what on the surface seemed like a noble enough cause became a battle of rural vs. urban, whitebread vs. immigrant, and Protestant vs. everyone else. Lessons learned: making something taboo increases its appeal; outlawing something that a lot of people want will be crazy to enforce and will channel money into the underworld. Okrent made the point early on that people wanted badly to drink and were getting around the law left and right... then reiterated this a bit too much... otherwise a fairly interesting and entertaining book although the topic seems to have an inherant "dryness" to it.

  • Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. (8/2011) **** A well-written firsthand account of being in the bush as a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam War. On the one hand were the extreme violence, brutal frontline living conditions (in contrast to how the "rear-area fatasses" lived), dangerous chemicals, extreme hunger/thirst due to dumb administrative screwups and neglect, backbreaking make-work, and the routine manipulation of information (eg. body count data) as it moved up the chain of command. On the other hand there were times of exhilaration, intense friendship bonds, binges, pranks, antics, humor, and seeming to love the wildness of that life. In addition, he conveys well the tensions as blacks and whites worked together at that time in the 60's, under those conditions. Perhaps could have ended 100 pages earlier, and maybe a few too many "just when you think it can't get any worse... it does" moments.

  • The family Moskat by Isaac Bashevis Singer. (7/2011) ****+ Follows various members of a large Jewish family in Warsaw Poland from late Victorian era thru Hitler's invasion of Poland Sep 1 1939, beginning with the prosperous patriarch and ending with the mostly dissapated lives of the descendants. Recommended by a friend when I mentioned I'd like to find other family sagas like Buddenbrooks, and I like it maybe more than Buddenbrooks. Much rich description and I feel like I learned a lot about this culture. Originally written in Yiddish.

  • The book of Jamaica by Russell Banks. (5/2011) ****

  • Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. (5/2011) Second read of an all-time favorite.

  • The palm-wine drinkard and his dead palm-wine tapster in the Dead's Town, by Amos Tutuola. *** (4/2011)

  • The English major by Jim Harrison (4/2011) **1/2 Funny and insightful at times. But, the narrator's big "50 states project" didn't really add up (and the final result included a typo.. Ute twice) and most of his "romantic" situations didn't seem too plausible either.

  • Half a life by V. S. Naipaul (4/2011) A man's life in India, London, and then colonial Portugese Africa. Liked some aspects better than others; interesting settings and subtle insights but the writing seemed a bit hurried. Fortunately the London portion didn't dwell too long on the decadent literary dinner party scene.

  • Mill on the Floss by George Eliot / Mary Anne Evans. (3/2011) Enjoyed. The ending seemed to fade a bit. She is a master of subtle humor in her characters.

  • Sermons in stone: the stone walls of New England and New York, by Susal Allport. (1/2011) Prompted by a recent visit to the Catskills where mysterious stone walls can be seen running through the woods all over the place. Very interesting book.

  • The corrections by Jonathan Franzen. (12/2010) Great wit and prose, and the story line gives a lot to think about.

  • The razor's edge by W. Somerset Maugham. (12/2010) After getting past the drawing room and luncheon talk in the early portions, some interesting work and worthwhile take-home messages about faith and spirituality.

  • Joseph in Egypt by Thomas Mann. (11/2010) Part 3 of the trilogy (which apparently has 4 volumes), ending with Joseph being cast into prison after being entrapped by an Egyptian official's wife who was frustrated by his spurning of her overtures.

  • We'll be here the rest of our lives by Paul Shaffer. (10/2010) Audio book memoir read by Paul. He's been around for a lot of things... including Godspell, Saturday Night, Blues Bros, and of course Letterman.

  • The boat who wouldn't float by Farley Mowat. (10/2010) An entertaining account of fog-bound adventures in an antique, derelict sailing vessel along the coast of Newfoundland, with interesting insights into the maritime culture up there.

  • Young Joseph by Thomas Mann. (9/2010) Part 2 of the trilogy on the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis.

  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. (8/2010) ***+

  • Joseph and his brothers by Thomas Mann. (7/2010) **** Must be on a Thomas Mann kick this summer... This is the first part of a set based on the Genesis stories of Jacob and sons. Tha narrative is very enjoyable, rich, and absorbing; however the occasional discussion/ analysis portions I find mostly skippable.

  • World's Fair, by E. L. Docterow. (7/2010) ***+ Growing up in 1930's Bronx, New York and visiting the 1939 World's Fair, with lots of interesting details.

  • The magic mountain (Der Zauberberg) by Thomas Mann. (6/2010) ***** Second reading, as recommended by the author. Very enjoyable again with fast forwarding through some of the Settembrini/Naphta discussions. One of my alltime favorites, not sure why. Next stop.. Buddenbrooks redux? Or Joseph?

  • A short history of nearly everything, by Bill Bryson. (5/2010) **** Nice entertaining concise treatment of science topics. This would be a good one to buy and keep on hand as a reference.

  • The song of the lark by Willa Cather. (5/2010) **** Audio book performed by Barbara Caruso.

  • Tess of the D'urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. (3/2010) Enjoyed this book a lot more now than back in high school when it was an assigned reading. Best are the astute descriptions of time and place. The plot isn't quite as good as "Jude", hinging on too many implausible coincidences. ****

  • Looking backward by Edward Bellamy. (2/2010) This interesting mental excercise (which made a sensation in its day) was written in the 1880's. A man goes into a deep sleep in 1887 then awakes to a utopian America in the year 2000 where most aspects of society are managed (extremely competently) by the government. Citizens receive the exact same annual income (there's no money; credit is tracked using pin pricks on pasteboard "credit cards") and they happily put in short workdays with the vast centralized production workforce until retiring at age 45. "The country is rich... and everyone benefits" someone explains. With no marketplace excess, no military, and no superwealthy class, everyone has everything they need with plenty of time on hand to dress for dinner (at the local government dining house) and converse late into the night in the drawing room over brandy and cigars (the vehicle for most of the book's exposition). Automobiles, audio recording, motion picture/video entertainment, and electronic information technology are not hinted at at all, but there is a vast network of pneumatic delivery tubes. Social problems and substance abuse seem virtually nonexistent, which is strange given that it sometimes seems the closer one gets to "Utopia" the more edgy and unhappy one becomes. ***

  • The forged coupon and other stories, by Leo Tolstoy (2/2010) *** I'm going back over this list adding wikipedia links... and realize I've got to get back to Tolstoy sometime soon.

  • Release it! Design and deploy production-ready software by Michael T Nygard. (1/2010) Entertaining discussion of modern large, complex, web-based software systems and the pitfalls one encounters in developing and working w/ them. ***+

  • Vanity fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. (1/2010) At first glance this panaramic Dickens-era work looked antiquated and meandering... but quickly became absorbing with its many humorous winks and period insights. A masterful weaving of characters and places... and it all comes together and resolves amazingly in the end game. ****

  • The complete short novels of Anton Checkhov. (11/2009) Includes: The Steppe; The Duel; The Story of an Unknown Man; Three Years; My Life. W/ an interesting chronology paralleling the author's life with events in literature and politics. ***+.

  • A wild sheep chase by Haruki Murakami. (10/2009) ***

  • Crescent and star: Turkey between two worlds by Stephen Kinzer. (9/2009) ***

  • The news from Ireland and other stories by William Trevor. (8/2009) Short stories from one of the masters. ****

  • Nana, by Emile Zola. (7/2009) The best parts of this meandering narrative of the decadent elite in Paris' mid 19th century gaslight era are the rich, precise physical descriptions of the metropolis, the inner workings of the theatre of that day, the people, and the many little insights into what life was like. Also the English translation (Modern Library, by who?) is interesting and quaint at times. ***

  • Team of rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. (7/2009) Abraham Lincoln and his ability to lead, compromise, and forgive as he navigates the various political minefields of the late 1850's while things fall apart in the descent to civil war. Lincoln's mild mannered, shabbily-clothed brilliance becomes evident as he brings political adversaries together to form an cabinet inner circle that eventually clicks. He leads the Northern war effort as millions die, inwardly suffering tremendously himself, and then is willing to walk with the South in the journey towards reunification. Well written, thoroughly researched, interesting... an easy book to put down for a while then come back to. ****

  • A voyage long and strange, by Tony Horwitz. (2/2009) A journey in the footsteps of known European explorers that set foot in the Americas, starting with the Vikings. Historical account mixed with what the places and peoples are like today. Cruel butchery done at almost every turn... and much of what we're told about places like St. Augustine, Jamestown, Plymouth, etc. is probably legend rather than fact. *** 1/2

  • Sons and lovers by D. H. Lawrence. (2/2009) Has some great moments and fascinating insights into a Midlands coal mining family's life of a century ago, but in the latter portions some of the relationships start to become mercurial and repetitive/ obsessive and the characters began to seem less interesting. *** 1/2

  • One of ours, by Willa Cather. (1/2009) 1920's Pulitzer Prize winner, follows a Nebraska farm boy as he muddles through youth, college, career agony, marriage, and then signs up to be an officer in WW1 Europe. ****

  • War and peace by Leo Tolstoy. (12/2008) Modern Library edition translated by Constance Garnett. *****

  • In a sunburned country by Bill Bryson. (9/2008) Another fun romp from Bill... Uluru someday... ***

  • Irrestible revolution by Shane Claiborne. (8/2008) Taking the Gospels seriously and fighting the natural human tendency to entomb that revolutionary thinking within stained glass and varnished wood. A must read for anyone on a faith journey. ****

  • Moby Dick or The Whale, by Herman Melville. (5/2008) ***

  • Divine and human and other stories, by Leo Tolstoy. New translations by Peter Sekirin. (4/2008) ***

  • Hershey by Michael D'Antonio. Biography of Milton S. Hershey, the benevolent and quirky industrialist who, after a number of unsuccessful ventures, succeeded with Hershey's Chocolate and founded the company town of Hershey, PA along utopian lines. (2/2008) ***+

  • Amish grace. How forgiveness transcended tragedy, by Donald Kraybill et al. The recent Nickel Mines tragedy in Pennsylvania, and the Amish community's response of forgiveness to the gunman's surviving family. (1/2008)

  • Angelica, a novel by Arthur Phillips. A Victorian couple's domestic difficulties and the appearance of supernatural spectres ***+ (01/2008)

  • Board and table games from many civilizations by R.C. Bell. A thorough and interesting survey and classification of many board games ancient through modern. Games are classified into families (eg. "circle race games"). Includes board layouts, play instructions, and hints on crafting game equipment. (12/2007)

  • Sacred games by Vikram Chandra. Well written, entertaining and interesting exotic subject matter.. best to set aside several months and don't push yourself to rush thru it. I was a little dismayed upon encountering "insets" (chapters containing self-contained stories that are apparently unrelated to the main thread or its characters) at around page 800. (11/2007)

  • Around the world in eleven years by Patience, Richard, and John Abbe. Random selection from the shelf of old books up at camp. A freelance photographer's family lives for several years at a time in 30's France, Russia, Germany, New York, and Wyoming, and this is told from a child's perspective in a childlike way. Some interesting parts. (9/2007)

  • The overcoat and other stories by Nikolai Gogol (7/2007) ****

  • First love and other stories by Ivan Turgenev (6/2007) ****

  • Best American short stories: 1951 (anthology) (5/2007) ****

  • Torrents of spring by Ivan Turgenev (4/2007) ****+

  • Jude the obscure by Thomas Hardy (3/2007) ****

  • The moon and sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham (2/2007) ***+

  • Then and now by W. Somerset Maugham. Somewhat interesting insights to early 1500's Italian city states, dukes, romantic intrigue etc. but bailed with 30% to go.

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot / Mary Anne Evans. Amazing, especially as everything comes together during book's last 1/3.

  • A walk in the woods by Bill Bryson. A pretty funny account of two flabby middle-aged guys deciding to hike the Appalachian Trail.

  • The plot against America by Philip Roth. Plausible and thought-provoking premise but kind of falls apart in the latter portions.

  • A burnt-out case by Graham Greene. ****

  • The heart of the matter by Graham Greene. ****

  • The mother tongue. English and how it got that way by Bill Bryson. Fascinating.

  • The quiet American by Graham Greene. ****

  • Out of America by Keith Richburg. A black American reporter for the Washington Post on assignment at the Africa desk in Nairobi. The many terrible things he witnesses, as well as the conclusions he reaches, are tragic.

  • Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier. ****

  • The treasure of pleasant valley by Frank Yerby. A random pick from the shelves of old forgotten novels at the camp up the lake. Pre-political-correctness, not bad, enjoyable if formulaic '49ers gold rush tale. (9/06)

  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Not my favorite style of writing and "icky" in places, but he did have some interesting things to say.

  • Of human bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. Excellent, gave me that nice "Buddenbrooks" feeling.

  • Lady Chatterley's lover by D. H. Lawrence. *****

  • The lobster gangs of Maine by James M. Acheson. Fascinating study written in mid 1980's of the Maine lobster industry.

  • Wal-Mart. The face of twenty-first century capitalism. Edited by Nelson Lichtenstein. The ruthless side of free market economies.

  • Gone tomorrow. The hidden life of garbage by Heather Rogers. The dark, toxic underbelly of comsumerist culture, and guess what, recycling isn't really helping that much.

  • The Beatles: the biography by Bob Spitz. A comprehensive, interesting treatment of their spectacular rise, the opportunists and vultures that surrounded them, their various individual excursions off the deep end, and their eventual falling apart.

  • Only the strong survive: the odyssey of Allen Iverson by Larry Platt. Allen is able to convert frustration and heartache into excellence on the court-- the worse things get for him, the better he plays.

  • Four short stories:
  • Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Claustrophobic but has its moments. There must be a profound message locked in here somewhere, trying to get out.

  • Paris to the moon by Adam Gopnik. Liked the Parisian cultural insights; skipped some of the side-discussions.

  • The brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Rich, intricate, portions are uplifting and profound, others sad and dismal.

  • The battle of Brazil by Jack Mathews. The making of Terry Gilliam's film "Brazil", one of my favorites. Watching the film is more fun than this book.. and the layout/typeface is hard on the eyes.

  • The short stories of Anton Tchekov (Modern Library). ****

  • Ivan Ilyitch and other stories by Leo Tolstoi (1887, Dole tr.) *****

  • The darling by Russell Banks. Darkly fascinating but sometimes implausible yarn set mostly in the hellish chaos of Liberia, West Africa over recent years. Underdeveloped ending.

  • Moutains beyond mountains by Tracy Kidder. Paul Farmer, poverty, and community health. Set in Haiti, the Andes, and the Russian prison system (battling TB). Inspiring but quite daunting once you realize the day-to-day decisions that have to be made, and the scope of what he's taking on.

  • Don't think of an elephant by G Lakoff. An entertaining and illuminating analysis of the American right wing and the battle to frame current issues in a skewed way.

  • Ralph Stanley: tales of a Maine boatbuilder by CS Milner and Ralph Stanley. Downeasters who built wooden vessels "by feel".. true artists. A few still do. Ralph lives near us and is a presence in the community here.

  • Death in venice and 7 other stories by Thomas Mann. The featured story is interesting and haunting. Some of the other stories more laborous to get through.

  • Death in the afternoon by E Hemmingway. Nonfiction look at bullfighting in Spain was generally fun to read.

  • Ragtime by EL Docterow. Liked it.

  • Rudin by IS Turgenev. Liked it.

  • Wired: the short life and fast times of John Belushi by Bob Woodward. The rise and fall of a self-centered guy who got sudden fame and riches.

  • Crime and punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Engaging, dark.

  • Tale of two cities by Charles Dickens. I like the Russians better.

  • Dead souls by Nikolai Gogol. Fascinating, quite old, sort of unfinished.

  • Billy Bathgate by E.L. Docterow. Celebrated well-written yarn of a rough and ready boy takes up with gangsters in early 20th c. New York City. Or am I getting this mixed up with "Ragtime"?

  • Lobster chronicles by Linda Greenlaw. Interesting observations of a professional female Maine lobsterman.

  • Gas station by Joseph Torra. Grabbed this one off the 50c book table.. different.

  • A consumers' republic: the politics of mass consumption in postwar America by Lizabeth Cohen

  • Angle of repose by Wallace Stegner. The title is an actual mining/engineering term meaning the maximum steepness that an embankment or dirt pile can have and still hold together.

  • Against the machine: the hidden Luddite tradition in literature art and individual lives by Nicols Fox

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoi *****

  • Shopgirl a novella by Steve Martin. Liked it.

  • Poisonwood bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Liked it.

  • Shotoku teahouse by Richard Mumford. A Delaware man goes overseas in the service during the 1950s, meets, courts, marries, and brings home a Japanese woman, in spite of a lot of cross-cultural confusion and prejudice.

  • Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann. Excellent epic of a family in old Germany over several generations, gradually dissipating.

  • A suitable boy, by Vikram Seth. Follows several well-to-do Indian clans over a couple of generations. Hated when it ended.

  • Death comes for the archbishop, by Willa Cather. Warm glow. Want to revisit this one.

  • The magic mountain (Lowe-Porter translation), by Thomas Mann. Brilliant- may have missed a lot on first reading - want to revisit. Escaping the cold, weary world at a TB sanitarium in the Swiss Alps, where one is well taken care of. At the romantic climax (borrowing the pencil) it suddenly switches into French for several pages. Skimmed some of the philosophical discourses in the second half. Took a peak at a more modern translation and didn't like it as much.

  • American pastoral by Phillip Roth. Newark history, crazy terrorism, and glove manufacturing.



  • Need more ideas? Here's somebody else's reading list