Thursday, March 12, 2009

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2006

(photo right: Wedding Day, 2 September 1989)

SPECIAL BOOKS

LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE

WHAT WE DO FOR LOVE

MAKEOVERS AT THE BEAUTY
COUNTER OF HAPPINESS

MOTHER OF THE BRIDE:
THE DREAM, THE REALITY,
AND THE SEARCH FOR
THE PERFECT DRESS

All four by Ilene Beckerman -- incredibly clever and full of wisdom! They may appear to be slight gift / cartoon - books, but don't be fooled! Lots of humor and sadness and sage advice here. For example, “If you have to stand on your head to make somebody happy, all you can expect is a big headache.” I ordered all of mine from amazon used, and guess what -- one of them is inscribed by the author! Lucky me!

Update ~ Summer 2014
just read the latest installment
THE SMARTEST WOMAN I KNOW

SILLY BOOKS

WE'RE JUST LIKE YOU ONLY PRETTIER: CONFESSIONS OF A TARNISHED SOUTHERN BELLE Celia Rivenbark: I can't say it any better than Haven Kimmel (see below, in 2004: A GIRL NAMED ZIPPY): "I laughed so hard reading this book, I began snorting in an unbecoming fashion." Yuk yuk yuk.

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Lauren Weisberger: fast & fun in a totally disgusting way, but then that's the point, isn't it? A good airplane book and the movie is great -- we rented it recently and watched it all the way through twice (and with the help of my hairdresser, I did my best to emulate that hairstyle of Meryl Streep).

SERIOUS BOOKS

JESUS LAND Julia Scheeres: She is so brave it will break your heart. I had to keep reminding myself that the events of her childhood were taking place in 1984 -- not 1964. To think these terrible things were happening to her when I was living in Indiana myself, just a few miles up the road at Notre Dame. I was reminded somewhat of ZIPPY's childhood descriptions, many of which were more like the 50s or the 60s than the 70s -- even though she is 10 years or so younger (not older!) than I am. Maybe life in rural Indiana is just more backward than we guessed. Certainly I was no city kid or worldly in any way; my parents may have even been a bit old - fashioned for the times . . . and yet even in St. Charles County, we were raised to understand contemporary politics and popular culture. We knew about Barbie & the Civil Rights Movement.

Warning: to be placed in the proper context this book requires an encompassing view of religious practice in America. Despite the title, JESUS LAND is NOT at all about the weirdness of Christianity or even about the weirdness of fundamentalist / evangelical / conservative / backward / Midwestern / etc. etc. etc. / Christianity. It is simply about how WEIRD the author's parents were and how their skewed way of being in the world deeply hurt their children.

In this way, JESUS LAND is similar to Barbara Kingsolver’s POISONWOOD BIBLE. If you read that one awhile back, you'll remember that it wasn't really about Christian missionary work being hurtful in itself -- it is about how the mother & daughters in the family were damaged by the way the father implemented his own peculiar notions of practicing religion.

Back to JESUS LAND, if you're from West Lafayette, Indiana, I think you'll like it for all the local references, e.g. how the author just wants to go shopping at Tippecanoe Mall, like a 'normal' person'; how she goes swimming at the 'Kingston' Pool [Happy Hollow] and rides her bike around Grand View Cemetery (there on Salisbury) with her brother; how hard it was to transfer from Lafayette Christian Academy to Harrison High, and so forth. You do have to pinch yourself occasionally to remember that she's writing about the mid - 80s and not the mid - 60s . . . but then maybe Indiana has always existed in a bit of a time warp!

THE ASSAULT Harry Mulisch: a heart - breaking Holocaust memoir, set in Amsterdam. I think this is the first time that Ben, Sam, Gerry, and I have all read the same grown - up book!

GILEAD Marilynne Robinson: Despite all the acclaim for HOUSEKEEPING a few years back, I really loathed that novel, so I was prejudiced against GILEAD from the start but glad in the end that I opened my mind to it. Deeply introspective on the big issues, life death family generations and so forth, and informative on the abolitionist movement in Kansas, of which I knew nothing.

WE ARE ALL FINE HERE Mary Guterson: The cover photo (check on amazon) is the perfect metaphor – the elegant tea scene – the tea going all over the table. A short, sweet novel about finally growing up, turning away from the past, and giving birth to one’s self. Also, some clever allusions to WIZARD OF OZ. Which brings me to . . .

WICKED Gregory Maguire: I did pick this one up and put it down a few times for the first 50 pages or so, but after that it just got better & better until I couldn't wait to finish! His imaginary worlds and vocab are very clever, not to mention his philosophical / psychological discourse of Good vs Evil -- very thought - provoking! Then went to see the musical -- good (especially the costumes!) but not great. The show focuses on the fun side of the book with merely a nod to the philosophical side.

I do hope to read Maguire’s sequel SON OF A WITCH, but not sure when. Some of his earlier novel titles look great also -- MIRROR, MIRROR. CONFESSIONS OF A STEPSISTER, and so forth. As you can tell, they are all based on the re-writing of well - known fairy tales and children's stories. He's actually done a lot of kid - lit & juvenile fiction; but I'd say that his "grown - up" fairy tale books are really meant for either audience. WICKED is similar to HARRY POTTER, particularly in the middle section of the book when the main characters are all students at a magical medieval kind of college in manner of Hogwarts, where they take classes in sorcery, etc.

Also, have on hand the original WIZARD OF OZ (an illustrated copy -- but full text -- that we bought for Ben when he was little). I remember trying to read it back when I was in Junior High and discovering that it was quite different from the movie -- which was by that time firmly embedded in my mind. I know I had an elaborate plan to read the entire series (I seem to recall that L. Frank Baum wrote a dozen or so "OZ" books). But to tell the truth, I can't recall if I ever even finished the very first book. I am now 50 pages into it, and I must confess that it doesn't ring any old bells in my brain -- so it's probably time that I give it its due!

DOGS OF BABEL Carolyn Parkhurst: a very sad serious intriguing mystery, with a very sensitive subplot on the issue on depression. Even though it's fiction, it reads like true crime -- not only the mystery of the main character's death, but also a distressing subplot about organized criminal animal abuse. While reading this novel, I couldn’t stop thinking of that sentimental old song “Honey (I Miss You)" that Bobby Goldsboro sang on the radio in 1968.

It's almost as if the main character of the novel, Lexy, and Honey are the same heroine. In addition to Honey's delight in simple pleasures and her imploring personality, both of which made me think of Lexy, there is also the Christmas Eve puppy (in the song) and Lorelei (Lexy's big dog); Honey sits up late watching sad, silly things on TV (and crying by herself), something Lexy also does (as we know, because of her call to the psychic).

The biggest similarity is what I now feel free to interpret as Honey's depression. In the 60s, of course, we thought this was a song about a woman dying young of cancer. I always assumed that when the narrator "came home unexpectedly and found her crying needlessly in middle of the day," she had just received a bad diagnosis; but now I'm thinking that she was suffering from depression. The very next line is about her death (maybe suicide rather than cancer?). And it happens one day when he "was not at home. Maybe Honey jumped out of a tree, the way Lexy did when her husband was at work.

MY FATHER HAD A DAUGHTER Grace Tiffany: I knew Grace at Notre Dame, and her novel beats SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE any day, plus it's brimming with insightful critical analysis, woven right into the plot and the text! She's written a few others -- you can check on amazon.

ALL OVER CREATION Ruth Ozeki: not as good as MY YEAR OF MEATS (one of my all - time favs), but a good look at the issue of potato farming and chemical pesticides. You won't feel much fondness for the characters, but a lot of the back – to – the – land description will surely stay in your mind.

SIT UP AND PAY ATTENTION BOOKS

RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT
LYING LIARS AND THE LIARS WHO TELL THEM
THE TRUTH

All by Al Franken
All I can say is "Al Franken for President."
His campaign slogan -- "I'm serious!" -- is the best!

FREAKONOMICS Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: a very uneven collection of essays, some quite good; others struck me as slap - dash. Same with Malcolm Gladwell's BLINK.

Monday, March 9, 2009

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2005

AN INNOCENT A BROAD Ann Leary: so wonderful, I had to read it twice! Perfect if you're married to a Brit or have ever tried to understand what the heck is going on over there! (e.g., above photo taken at Wimbledon, 4 July 2006)

LIFE AMONG THE SAVAGES Shirley Jackson: My friend Vickie says, "You MUST become the new Shirley Jackson and write about your life among the savages![i.e., Ben, Sam, and Gerry – haha].

A BURNT - OUT CASE Graham Greene: a throw - back to grad school days but one I'd never read before. Deary and cynical, but excellent! Made me remember why I always wanted to specialize in Modern British.

THE KITE RUNNER Khaled Hosseini: my first ever book on tape. You'd swear it's a memoir though the cover says fiction. Too true and very sad, but hopeful in the end.

WEEPING Shelly Reuben: a firefighter mystery, recommended to me by the Philadelphia attorney who worked on the real – life case and knows the author (whose late husband was a fire inspector), so Shelly and I were able to exchange a few e- mails -- fun!

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (#V): as expected. No doubt, it would have been more meaningful had I re-read I, II, III & IV before picking up where I left off back in 2000 . . . but who has the time? Well, Ben does! He's read them all at least a dozen times!

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF - BLOOD PRINCE (#VI): hey, please don't tell me that evil is greater than good; I can't bear the thought!

Same thing goes for THE CHOCOLATE WAR by Robert Cormier; he even says so himself: "Carter disguised his disgust. Archie repelled him in many ways but most of all by the way he made everybody feel dirty, contaminated, polluted. As if there was no goodness at all in the world." Yet that's precisely the world that Cormier shows us, the world in which evil is greater than good. Creepy.

ACROSS THE NIGHTINGALE FLOOR Lian Hearn, magical mystical oriental.

THE ALPHABET VERSUS THE GODDESS: THE CONFLICT BETWEEN WORD AND IMAGE Leonard Shlain: in which he gives a very convincing explanation for how the feminine principal got squeezed out of all the major world religions. Talk about well - researched -- this book is packed with history. Truly, Shlain is a genius and a prophet, and his work has changed my life. Reading the entire book is a major undertaking, but well worth it if you could possible allot the time.

SEX, TIME, AND POWER: HOW WOMEN'S SEXUALITY SHAPED HUMAN EVOLUTION Leonard Shlain: His view is that our species has the wherewithal to evolve out of misogyny and patriarchy, but not in our lifetime. We're talking a hundred thousand years or so. So what's the consolation prize? Elevated consciousness & awareness. Gee, thanks. Maybe I could have done without that. After all, we've known for ages that in much knowledge is much sorrow. Sigh. Still, an incredible book. (To read next, Shlain's first book -- ART & PHYSICS: PARALLEL VISIONS IN SPACE, TIME, AND LIGHT)

THE NEW WOMAN'S BROKEN HEART (short fiction) & HEARTBREAK (non - fiction, autobiography) Andrea Dworkin

When I finished ALPHABET VS GODDESS, I took a couple of hours to reread one of my old favorites from the 80s -- THE NEW WOMAN'S BROKEN HEART. Dworkin died in April 2006, and I read some very insightful and touching obituaries, one in the NEW YORK TIMES and one in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (that Gerry's parents happened to bring over). She tried so hard to change the world and make it better for women; and I feel the same way about Shlain -- he may be a man, but he's such an earnests feminist, and I appreciate his opening references to his mother, wife, and daughters. So many of Dworkin's thoughts run parallel to what Shlain says in ALPHABET VS GODDESS. So much sadness and exclusion. No wonder our hearts are broken!

Well, onward into the fray! I want to be as smart and brave as Shlain and make the world better for women -- especially since we hold up half the sky.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2004

A GIRL NAMED ZIPPY: GROWING UP SMALL IN MOORELAND, INDIANA by Haven Kimmel. It's only a coincidence that I read it just after moving to Indiana (above homestead, built 1895). I did find it somewhat surprising that the author / narrator was born in 1965, since a number of the descriptions seem to be from a 50s childhood rather than a 70s childhood. Apparently, she grew up in an odd little town that seems to have completely missed the 60s, so that when the rest of America was struggling through the 70s, it was still like the 50's for these folks. And after all, the narrator DOES say that people in Mooreland were "not so much behind the times as they were confused about the times." I loved that! Her voice is utterly charming, so critically astute yet nonjudgmental. You can read it quickly for sheer enjoyment. I promise!

MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides. Gerry read this one too. It gets better & better as the book goes on, very informative and horizon – stretching, as the term “Middlesex” expands in meaning to encompass any number of aspects of the narrator’s conflicted life. For anyone who hasn't yet, please try reading this very informative novel, which explains with near - scientific accuracy that life is NOT all XX / XY. There ARE other combinations, that come with varying degrees of physical and emotional complications. (Further info.)

DA VINCI CODE and ANGELS & DEMONS, which--no matter what people are saying-- is neither sequel nor prequel to DA VINCI but just another Robert Langdon mystery in a series. I did enjoy these Dan Brown novels because of all the art history and religious speculation. Brown writes that "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in the novel are accurate." And he says the same thing at the beginning of ANGELS & DEMONS. When I pointed this out to Gerry, he rather skeptically replied, "Maybe so, but I believe that on the back of the book it says FICTION." Spoilsport! Still I was convinced and became an instant convert. For awhile I kept the GOSPEL OF MARY MAGDALENE beside my bed, hoping that it would help me sort out fact from fiction but alas found no real clues hidden there.

BUSH WORLD Maureen Dowd: Can she be trusted? Why does she give me such an uneasy feeling? Give me Anna Quindlen any day.

A FEW RE - READS: What can I say? All better than ever!

TAO OF POOH Benjamin Hoff
ICE AGE Margaret Drabble
SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE Kurt Vonnegut
JOY LUCK CLUB Amy Tan
HEARTBURN Nora Ephron

KIDS' FICTION: To coincide with Ben & Sam's reading.

WRINKLE IN TIME Madeline L'Engle: about time I finally read this! One great line near the end: "And on their earth, as they call it, they never communicate with other planets. They revolve about all alone in space" (191). Reminds me of the entry for Earth in HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: "Mostly harmless."

DETECTIVES IN TOGAS Henry Winterfield: Hardy Boys meet Julius Caesar; Sam and I had fun with this one.

STAR GIRL & LOSER by Jerry Spinnelli: Ben met Spinnelli in Philadelphia, so we try to read all of his titles.

I AM THE CHEESE & RAG AND BONE SHOP Robert Courmier: Ben loves this author; very soul - searching and sinister.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2003

HIGH MAINTENANCE Jennifer Belle: I have now read this one twice and loved it both times, especially after going to New York City (June 2003) and eating dinner at the main character's (and surely the author's) favorite restaurant in Greenwich Village -- The Olive Tree on MacDougal Street, pictured above! The street and the restaurant were exactly as she described, and our waitress informed us that Belle is often there in the afternoons working away on her laptop. Too bad I didn't catch a glimpse of her and get an autograph -- maybe next time!

A FALSE SENSE OF WELL BEING Jeanne Braselton: Good but not great; however, the title itself is truly inspired!

ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE: From my perpetual reading list. I'm glad to have given this novel a try at last; however, nothing beats his short story "The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother." I finally started ONE HUNDRED YEARS out of sheer guilt for never having read it in college, despite having carried it around with me for what seems like a Hundred Years (ha!). I read the first 100 pages and the final 100, skipping out a couple hundred in the middle. I think I got the idea. It's like the expanded version of the kids' book HOLES (Louis Sacher), complete with curse, ruined generations, ultimate resolution. We all (me, Gerry, Ben, Sam) enjoyed HOLES a few years ago but haven't seen the movie version yet.

OVER SEA, UNDER STONE Susan Cooper: very highly praised by CHINABERRY (Book Catalogue for Kids). But I found it to be a disappointingly average rendition of all the other fantasy quest books that there are to choose from.

BALZAC AND THE LITTLE CHINESE SEAMSTRESS Dai Sijie: very charming and clever, full of little surprises; a touching and ironic look at the so-called cultural revolution.

FALLING ANGELS Tracy Chevalier: a lot of good ideas and obviously tons of research, but what a soap opera! And again I was left the same feeling I had after PEARL EARRING that somehow the book should have been better than it was . . . maybe in this case, better organized.

SECRET LIFE OF BEES Sue Monk Kidd: excellent story of Bee Keeping and the Virgin Mary. I laughed and cried all the way through. I thought it just got better and better. I shared so many of Lily's thoughts and her realization that you have to look into your heart and be your own saviour, your own redeemer -- and you have to keep on doing it repeatedly, not just as a one-time gesture. If only you could just once and for all axe out all the bad old memories and hurtful negative thoughts; but, no! It's such a struggle having to force all of the old useless and inappropriate baggage back into perspective time and time again. Sigh. Definitely worth re-reading. (But don't bother with her nonfiction: DANCE OF THE DISSIDENT DAUGHTER, a few eye – opening moments but mostly behind the times.)

THE LEMON JELLY CAKE Madeline Babcock Smith: short & sweet & All-American; a good one to read on Memorial Day or Independence Day! I thoroughly enjoyed the old-timey setting and all the food descriptions, though I was a bit scandalized by the hints of adultery! I guess just because they were the "good” ol day's doesn't mean they were steeped in innocence . . . that's just a post-modern fantasy that it comforts us to believe in.

FRIENDSHIP CAKE, for awhile there, I mistakenly merged this title with LEMON JELLY CAKE -- but, no, they are two different novels! After reading one, I felt I just had to read the other!

GOLD COAST Nelson De Mille: macho thriller -- not usually my type, but Gerry recommended this one. It's a 1990's Mafia look at the world of the GREAT GATSBY and all the decaying mansions on Long Island that are being replaced by contemporary subdivisions. I enjoyed all the GATSBY parallels and the descriptions of the big old houses, and the social commentary on rich vs poor.

HOW TO BE GOOD Nick Hornsby: Charmless, humorless novel with incredibly unlikable characters who are very self-involved despite their so-called "good works" (for the wife Katie, being a national health family doctor; for the husband David, having a spiritual conversion and giving away his family's worldly goods). They are both almost completely negligent of their children's needs and unbelievably immature; and even worse is David's so-called spiritual healer named "Good News," if you can believe that! Difficult to imagine characters any more obnoxious than these. A far cry from ABOUT A BOY (which was tres charmant!).

PATRON SAINT OF LIARS Ann Patchett: Just wish I'd read BEL CANTO first. These characters are so dead - pan, I don't feel much inspired to read anything else by her.

JUNO & JULIET Julian Gough: took me right back to all those seminars in Irish Lit!

THE MAMMY Brendan O'Carroll: what a touching story. Gerry read all three volumes of the trilogy and so did his dad. I'm still hoping to pick up 2 & 3, at my leisure one day. The movie version, entitled AGNES BROWNE, starring Anjelica Houston, is wonderful, as is the soundtrack CD -- perfect for the car.

POLLY Mrs. L.T. Meade & MRS. WIGGS OF THE CABBAGE PATCH Alice Hegan Rice: Two vintage classics that made their way into my life for the first time.

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Misc. by genre from 2003, 2004 & 2005

KIDS' FICTION, includng many recommendations from my nephew Daniel, who is an expert in this genre); these were all new for me -- no re-reads!

TIME CAT Lloyd Alexander: flying cat teaches world history -- cute!

DON'T YOU DARE READ THIS, MRS. DUNPHREY Margaret Peterson Haddix: Kind of a GO ASK ALICE for Junior High readers but without the tragic substance abuse.

GO ASK ALICE: Okay, this one was a re - read, but I'm including it here in this section of the list to go along with DON'T YOU DARE. Ben was reading it for the second time, so I took an afternoon to re-read for the first time in a million ages. It was as sad and scary as ever but seemed less like a "real diary" than I remember and more like cautionary advice from a worried adult author.

LITTLE WOMEN NEXT DOOR Sheila Solomon Klass: historical fiction RE the Alcott Family.

THEN THERE WERE FIVE & SPIDER WEB FOR TWO: A MELENDY MAZE Elizabeth Enright: these novels follow up THE SATURDAYS & THE FOUR STORY MISTAKE, big childhood favorites of mine, which I read aloud to the boys back in Philly. We all love them, but Sam is the one who forged ahead to finish the quartet and inspire me to read them as well.

THIMBLE SUMMER Elizabeth Enright: her prize winning title (I had never read before) but not as good, if you ask me, as the MELENDY series.

GONE AWAY LAKE & RETURN TO GONE AWAY: more resourceful kids and big house renovation. Fun.

CARRIE'S WAR Nina Bawden, a British evacuee story of a displaced brother and sister; contains a mysterious Jane Eyre kind of subplot.

RACHAEL FIELD'S HITTY: HER FIRST HUNDRED YEARS, condensed by Rosemary Wells & beautifully illustrated by Susan Jeffers. The circle of life -- doll continually lost, continually adopted by new, loving owner. In a similar vein, see THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE Kate DiCamillo

MOLLY'S MIRACLE Linell Nash Smith: this one was a re-read, but I include it here with the vintage titles. I fell in love with this book (about time travel and a miniature Eohippus who comes to live in the 20th C) when I was in the 4th grade and have been trying to track down a copy ever since. Finally succeeded with the help of amazon used books. Turns out the author is the daughter of Ogden Nash. Who knew?

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Re - Reads

NANNY DIARIES Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus
PLEASE TRY TO SPEAK AS WE DO Marjorie Leet Ford

For some reason, felt compelled to re- read PLEASE TRY TO SPEAK. It seemed quite different this time, after reading NANNY DIARIES (twice) and PERFECT ARRANGEMENT, yet another nanny novel (once). Melissa (PLEASE TRY) is like Nanny -- but way moreso -- in her utter fascination with and idolization of Mr. H - E. Please! How good can he be, in relation to his wife's wickedness? Also, I can see that despite Mrs. H - E's hatefulness, Melissa really wants to be liked by her . . . just as Nanny wants Mrs. X. to "choose her." Somehow I had remembered PLEASE TRY as being better written than I found it the second time around. I distinctly recall comparing it to NANNY DIARIES and saying that PLEASE TRY was the better written of the two . . . but this time I'm finding them both to be of a similarly average quality. In fact, I think I'd say that even more than NANNY DIARIES, PLEASE TRY feels like the author's rough draft . . . with various memorable (to her, anyway) events and comments pulled out of journals and letters from her year abroad and meshed -- not at all seamlessly -- into the semblance of a novel. Maybe I'm just being hard on Marjorie Leet Ford as a way of torturing myself with my own long - harbored fear that if I wrote a novel, this is what it would seem like. Have yet to re-read PERFECT ARRANGEMENT but have a funny feeling that Suzanne Bern is the most accomplished writer of these three.

I'm wondering if Leet Ford has been a linguist or special language teacher, considering her in-depth focus on Claire's speaking issues . . . the various shapes of the lips, tongue, etc. required for pronounciation? Also, I keep thinking of the PERFECT ARRANGEMENT nanny (Randy?) and her obsession with being the ONLY ONE who could get through to the little autistic boy (Jacob) . . . similar to Melissa's certainty that she's the best thing that has ever happened to Claire. In PLEASE TRY, I had forgotten about old Nanny and what a piece of work she is.

GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE Susan Vreeland
GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING Tracy Chevalier

Two things inspired me to re-read these titles: first was visiting the Metropolitan Museum and also the Frick Collection (where I had never been before) to view eight different Vermeers (5 at the Metropolitan, 3 at the Frick) and bow down in homage. Although I didn't feel that PEARL EARRING & HYACINTH BLUE were the greatest books ever written, they did lead me to a much greater appreciation of these paintings than I would have had otherwise. I will say that upon first reading, I was impatient with HYACINTH BLUE because it turned out to be a series of related stories, whereas I had been expecting a novel proper; but the second time through I was much better able to appreciate the singular loveliness of each story as well as the way in which they weave into each other.

Second was watching the movie version of both novels. (HYACINTH BLUE was re-titled BRUSH WITH FATE, starring Glenn Close, who directed / produced or whatever and gave herself the part of the opening narrator, who, in the book is a man.) Remember Scarlett Johansson starred in GIRL WITH PEARL EARRING, also going to star in NANNY DIARIES!

MAMMA MAKES UP HER MIND & SLEEPING AT THE STARLIGHT MOTEL Bailey White: wacky travel essays and off – beat observations, easy to pick up and put down whenever time allows for a wry moment.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: I'm so glad that I re - read the book last spring when Ben was reading it. I had forgotten . . . or maybe had never realized . . . just how excellent it is. Can you believe . . . it was Harper Lee's first and only novel? Sigh. I also read THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER around the same time that I first read MOCKINGBIRD (1974 - 75) and maybe once again in college, but it would be good for me to read it again now (and get Gerry and Ben to read it).

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History: American, British, European, World

SIXPENCE HOUSE
BANVARD'S FOLLY
NOT EVEN WRONG
THE TROUBLE WITH TOM

all by Paul Collins: These will stretch your mind. When it comes to historical research, Collins runs neck in neck with Bryson!

WASHINGTON SCHLEPPED HERE: WALKING IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL by Christopher Buckley: perfect for airplane reading if you're on your way to Wash DC, or perhaps as a follow - up to your trip. I read it in just a couple days and learned a lot of U.S. history, even though Buckley couldn't resist bragging about being a Republican (after all, he is the son of the late Wm F Buckley, Jr.), plus the occasional sexist innuendo that I could have done without.