Schmerguls's Comments (member since Aug 15, 2010)

Schmerguls's comments from the Book Nook Cafe group.

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Jan 31, 2013 08:08PM

10252 What I Read in January 2013

4988. Sister Queens The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile, by Julia Fox (read 4 Jan 2013) This is a 2011 book about Katharine of Aragon and her sister Juana. They were daughters of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. The book appears to be carefully researched, though the references to sources are jumbled simply as references by chapter, no footnotes as such. The book spends more time on Katharine, since she had a much more exciting life. Juana is often called "the Mad" which she was not though she did have some eccentricities. She was the wife of Philip of Burgundy, who died in 1506, and she became Queen of Castile when her father, Ferdinand, died in 1516. But her son Charles kept her in effect imprisoned while he ran things till Juana died in 1557. (Charles V died in 1558; I read a biography of him on Aug 31, 1945.) The book is very affirmative as to Katharine and shows Henry VIII as the evil person he was. And I tend to agree that Juana was not "mad" and she got a rotten deal from her father and her son. The book is easy to read and tells the stories of these two monarchs well.

4989. The Generals American Military Command from World War II to Today, by Thomas E. Ricks (read 8 Jan 2013) This is a study of American generals and how they performed over the past 70 years. It is the third book by Ricks I've read, Making the Corps (read 5 Dec 1999) and Fiasco (read 13 Sep 2006) being the other two. I found the discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the generals of World War II (Marshall, Eisenhower, Patton, Mark Clark, MacArthur) and of Korea and of Vietnam the most worth reading. The author in effect says Marshall was the greatest but gives high marks to Eisenhower and Patton also. As to Korea , he says good things about Ridgeway and bad things about MacArthur. He says much bad about Vietnam generals, especially Westmoreland. There is a devastating chapter on My Lai and the way it was covered up for over a year. There is extensive discussion of Iraq, both in 1991 and in 2003-2011, and little good is said of Tommy Franks and Ricardo Sanchez. The author is pretty hard on lots of generals whether he is right about them is the question. Certainly they had rough times in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. An informative and often distressing book.

4990. Unequal Protection How Corporations Became "People"--and You Can Fight Back, 2nd Edition, Revised and Expanded, by Thom Hartmann (read 13 Jan 2013) I never heard of this author though he apparently is big in talk radio as a liberal voice. He makes a pretty good case for the proposition that corporations are not people and that not till 1886 did anyone claim they were--and that in that year it was indicated by an editor of the U. S. Reports that the United States Supreme Court believed that corporations were entitled to the same rights as people, and put that in a headnote to Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific R. Co., 118 U.S. 394. The author is not a lawyer and sometimes he gets lost, as on page 163 , where he has a case going from state court to the Federal Court of Appeals and back to state court. He says a lot of good things and much he says makes sense. Corporations should not have the same rights as people, since the 14th Amendment does not mention corporations.

4991. Breakfast at Tiffany's A Short Novel and Three Stories, by Truman Capote (read 14 Jan 2013) The title novel is an elegantly written work, telling of Holly Golightly and her madcap life in New York. She is 20, was married at 14 in Texas, but the narrator of the story, who seems like Capote himself, is attracted to her as she lives her wild extravagant life, with many men-friends, and escapes to South America at the end. The three short stories each was pretty good, with my favorite of them being "A Christmas Memory" which tells of a 7 year old boy and his 60 year old cousin and their prodigious preparations for Christmas, making 30 fruit cakes, finding a tree, and giving presents. Really a poignant story, I thought.

4992. A Godly Hero The Life of William Jennings Bryan, by Michael Kazin (read 17 Jan 2013) Although I read Bryan, by Louis W. Koenig on June 15, 1980 and in the summer of 2005 read the three volume biography of Bryan by Paolo Coletta, I decided to read this 2006 biography, written by a Georgetown history professor. I found it an absorbing book, and every page in it was full of interest. The story, so filled with fascinating political history, seemed very fresh and the author's view of Bryan is surely right--Bryan was supportive of many good things and really changed the Democratic Party so that, while Bryan himself lost three times, Wilson and FDR could triumph and enact many of the things Bryan favored. And now, with the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen our entry into World War One was not a good thing, so Bryan's attitude to such was right--though he of course fully supported the war after we entered. The study of Bryan after the war is full of wise insight into Bryan's thinking--and he gives Bryan credit for being against the foul eugenics tendency of the 1920's, shown to be a great evil by Hitler. This has been just so much fun to read and anyone interested in U.S. political history cannot help but find this a very enlightening and perceptive book

4993. The Master Butchers Singing Club, by Louise Erdrich (read 21 Jan 2013) This is a 2002 novel, laid in North Dakota. Its protagonist is a German butcher who was a sniper in the World War One German army, who marries his Jewish dead buddy's pregnant fiancee and then moves to North Dakota, goes through the dread days of drought, as he runs his butcher shop, raises his children, loses his wife. Two of his children go back to Germany (where they end up in the Nazi Army). There are incredibly poignant parts in the novel (especially the rescue of a son from a cave). But there are also objectionable things (whatever excuse is there for telling that a man goes to the rest room and using crude language to tell what he does there, as if the word 'urinate' were too technical for readers to understand?). There are things disturbing to read about, and I did not, often, have a happy feeling about events in the novel.

4994. The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett (read 22 Jan 2013) I happened to notice that a huge number of people on LibraryThing listed this novel, which I had never heard of even as I had never heard of its author, an English playwright. It was published in 2007 and is a spoof which has the queen, Elizabeth II, taking up reading books. It is really very funny, and I presume devotees of the British monarchy might be offended by some of the things in it. I enjoyed it--it is only 120 pages--and often laughed out loud.

4995. Forrest Gump The Novel by Winston Groom (read 23 Jan 2013) I read this because it is famous and I thought I should. It is nothing like the movie. It starts out very funny, as Forrest plays football for Alabama and then is drafted and goes to Vietnam, where he wins the Congressional Medal of Honor. Then things soon degenerate into farce, and he and an ape and a woman officer are put in a space capsule and all pretense to reality ceases as they end up in Borneo for four years and come back to the U.S. where Forrest becomes a pro wrestler ("The Dunce") and goes to Hollywood and plays championship chess and starts a shrimp business. So it is really fantasy and fantasy has never been a favorite of mine and while this is readable it is also silly and impossible. The movie is much better. (How seldom can such be said!)

4996. My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor (read 26 Jan 2013) This is an autobiography just published by Justice Sotomayor. She was born June 25, 1954 in the Bronx to parents both of whom were born and grew up in Puerto Rico and came to New York in the 1940's. I found the account of her parents and her in the Puerto Rican life in the Bronx really compelling--a life I have never known described and extremely different from the life of most Supreme Court justices. She tells of her time in Catholic schools in the Bronx and how she managed to go to Princeton and to Yale Law School, with great success in her studies. Then she was a prosecutor in state court in Manhattan and then practiced law for a few years in New York before she was appointed a Federal District Court Judge at age 36, elevated to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, and in 2009 moved to the US Supreme Court. Except when she is dwelling on her personal character and tendencies the story is intriguing and inspiring. It is certainly a story unlike that of most Supreme Court justices.

4997. New Hope, by Ruth Suckow (read 28 Jan 2013) I've heard of Ruth Suckow since I was sin high school, knew she was an Iowa author (she was born in Hawarden) but had never read anything by her. I try to read something by most Iowa authors (there aren't huge numbers of them). I've read books by Herbert Quick, Max Allen Collins, Curtis Harnack, Paul Corey, Josephine Herbst, Richard Bissell, Josephine Donovan, Marilynne Robinson, and many others. So I thought I should read something by Ruth Suckow. This book by her was published about 1942 and is probably the most unexciting book I've ever read. It tells of a new town, located near the Big Sioux River in Iowa--as is Hawarden--and two years in the 1890's when a new minister comes to the town. Most of the book tells of Clarence, age 6, and his infatuation with the minister's 6-year-old daughter. The story is so bland--nothing even approaching heightened interest occurs in the first 200 pages. The children have lots of introspective thinking unlike any child their age I've ever known. There are no cars nor telephones and there are lots of noninteresting goings on. I was glad to finish the book, and now I've read something by Ruth Suckow but it is unlikely I'll ever read any other book by her.
Oct 11, 2012 10:19AM

10252 To no surprise of mine, I had never heard of Mo Yan, the winner of this year's Nobel prize for literature. I checked our local library to see if it had any work by him, and did find one book--but it was in Vietnamesse! So I guess I'll have to wait till they get something by him readable by me.
Oct 02, 2012 04:50AM

10252 Connie wrote: "Schmerguls wrote: "What I Read in September 2012

4953. The Rise of American Democracy Jefferson to Lincoln, by Sean Wilentz (read 7 Sep 2012) (Bancroft Prize in 2006) This massive volume (796 ..."

Were you in the Navy during the Korean War?

Yes, I was but I went to the Mediterranean --nowhere near Korea. I was discharged the day after the Korean War ended, the country apparently knowing that then I was no longer needed.
Oct 01, 2012 10:33AM

10252 What I Read in September 2012

4953. The Rise of American Democracy Jefferson to Lincoln, by Sean Wilentz (read 7 Sep 2012) (Bancroft Prize in 2006) This massive volume (796 pages of text, 156 pages of notes, 94 pages of index) was published in 2005 and won a Bancroft Prize in 2006--it is the 35th Bancroft winner I've read. It is basically a political history of the U.S. from 1800 to 1861, proceeding in good chronological order and telling of the advance of democratic ideas during that time. It does an exemplary job of telling of each presidential election and of the political events in each administration, showing how democratic ideas became more acceptable. Slavery was a major obstacle to the advance of democratic concepts, and the book ends with the firing on Fort Sumter. It is hard to see how the story could be told more carefully or more completely--in fact, confessedly, the detailed discussions of events seemed at times excessive. But one feels that what was going on politically in those years has seldom been better told. It is an excellent study, brimming with really excellent research. I'm glad I read it.

4954. A Short History of Nineteenth-Century England, by John W. Derry (read 9 Sep 2012) This was published in 1963. I found it an exceptionally good exposition of English history during the years from 1793 to 1868--years filled with interesting events. The war with revolutionary France and Napoleon, and with the U.S., Peterloo, Catholic Emancipation, the Reform Bill of 1832, Chartism, Peel, Palmerston, and the Reform Bill of 1868 are all discussed ably and succinctly. The author tends to be pretty conservative and some things I did not agree with, but all the things are discussed with a sure touch and I found the book an excellent refresher of the so interesting things that occurred in those exciting times.

4955. Atlantic Fury, by Hammond Innes (read 12 Sep 2012) I read the author's The Wreck of the Mary Deere on 31 May 1998 and liked it so much that on 12 Jan 2010 I read his North Star, which I liked less. Atlantic Fury is a 1962 book and is mainly concerned with a fictional island, Laerg, in the Outer Hebrides. Laerg is very similar to an actual island there, St Kilda, which was inhabited till 1930, when the people living there asked to be evacuated. The story is told by Donald Ross, whose grandfather was the only resident to vote against leaving the island in 1930 and died in 1936 but told Donald and his brother Iain much about the island. There is a military facility which is to evacuated but the fearsome weather poses great problems. Iain Ross has assumed the name of Braddock. a guy who died when Iain was being transported to Britain as a prisoner. Much of the book details the fierce storms causing huge problems in the evacuation of the island. There is a carefully plotted story, which becomes more exciting in the latter part of the book. The earlier part of the book had so much technical weather talk that I did not appreciate but the book becomes pretty gripping as Donald makes his way alone to Laerg. where his brother is. And I liked the ending, which allowed one to hope his brother did not commit suicide. A very good book which would have been better for me if I had read the excellent Wikipedia article on St Kilda before I read the book.

4956. War Trash, by Ha Jin (read 15 Sep 2012) (PEN/Faulkner winner for 2005) Back on Apr 16, 2010, I saw a list of "The Ten Best Books of the Decade" and this was one of them. I read the author's book Waiting on 30 Jan 2000 because it won the 1999 National Book Award for fiction and liked it so I decided to read this, which reads like a war memoir but isn't. It tells of a Chinese man who is sent to fight in Korea in 1951. He is captured and remains in POW camps till 1953. The account is full of dramatic incidents, told in the first person (Ha Jin was born in China on 21 Feb 1956 , studied in the U.S. and after the incident in 1989 in the Peking square decided not to return to China). I have read lots of POW accounts, but never one of a Chinese. The account of brutality is riveting and I suspect is based on truth. The narrator of the story wants to return to China because his mother and fiancee are there. though he never hears from them. One sympathizes with the POWs at times but also is infuriated by all the trouble they caused the Americans who ran the huge POW camps in Korea. The book tells of the capture of an American general by the POWs, and such did happen though in the book a different name is given the general. The narrator has a huge difficulty trying to decide what to do, disliking as he does the Communists but wanting to go back to his mother and fiancee. What happens is a matter of suspense all through the latter part of the novel. I found the book full of thought-provoking situations and an engrossing read.

4957. The Royal Stuart's A History of the Family That Shaped Britain, by Allan Massie (read 17 Sep 2012) This is a 2010 book by a Scottish writer which tells, in non-academic way, of the Stuarts, including the five King Jameses who were kings of Scotland , and then of Mary,Queen of Scots, her son, James I of Britain, Charles I (who had his head chopped off), Charles II, James II, and the descendants of James I. It is very easy reading (the author is primarily a novelist, but he has done some research--though not in primary sources). He takes a reasonably favorable view of Mary though clearly she made mistakes. I have read a lot more detailed stuff on the English Civil War, such as C. V. Wedgwood's three great books thereon and individual biographies of Stuart kings, but not of the Scottish kings. I found this enjoyable reading, though sad of course. The author says 90% of English people are descended from King Edward III, which seems hard to believe, and that there were over 700 people with a better claim to the English throne than Queen Victoria, looking to blood line alone.

4958. the art of racing in the rain A Novel, by Garth Stein (read 19 Sep 2012) This is a 2008 novel in which Enzo, a dog, is the perceptive narrator. His master, Denny, drives race cars and lives in Seattle and has a wife, Eve, and a daughter, Zoe. For the first part of the book I was non-enamored of the book but when the plot thickened and Denny was threatened with losing custody of his daughter to the child's rich maternal grandparents after his wife died the book became totally engrossing and absolutely heart-wrenching. I have not been so overcome by a story in a long time. I sometimes think of what rating I will give a book while I am reading. At one time I thought I'd give this book 2 and a half, then decided 4, then 4 and a half, and finally I knew I had to give it 5 (the top rating, which I don't often give). It was for me a sweepingly overpowering book. And I think to dog enthusiasts would be even more so.

4959. The War Walk A Journey Along the Western Front, by Nigel Jones (read 21 Sep 2012) This is an account of a walking tour of the Western Front published first in 1983, when the English author was 22. He tells a lot about World War I and of what he sees as he visited the sites of WW I battles. The author's father was in the War, and though the author was not born till 1961, but his father took him to France as a boy and showed him where he had served and where his father's brother was killed. The took of course reminded me of Back to the Front by Stephen O'Shea which I read 23 Feb 1998 and of that other superlative book Before Endeavours Fade, which I read May 4, 1991 This book by Jones is a very good book though if one knows a lot about WW I he tells more about the War than necessary. But his description of what he saw is consistently full of interest. Most of his visits were to fields where Britons fought though he does do an excellent chapter on his visit to Verdun. He quotes a lot from accounts of people who were in the War. This is an excellent book to recall the awful trauma which World War I was for the world.

4960. Joining the United States Navy A Handbook, by Snow Wildsmith (read 22 Sep 2012) I was in the Navy sixty years ago and I thought it might be fun to read this 2012 book designed for kids thinking of joining the Navy. The first thing that startled me was that a seaman recruit gets $1357.60 a month. I forget what I got as a seaman recruit, but I know my brother when he was drafted in 1941 got $21 a month and my pay was a lot closer to that than what a recruit gets now. I also leaned that men and women are trained together in boot camp, which surprised me. Are they in the same barracks? The book doesn't say. The book is full of good advice for anyone thinking about joining the Navy--and tells things I never gave a second thought to when some of my friends induced me to sign up in the Navy Reserve when I was in college in 1949. It was a simpler world, I guess.

4961. Exorcising Hitler The Occupation and Denazification of Germany, by Frederick Taylor (read 25 Sep 2012) This is a 2011 book by a British historian which tells of the occupation of Germany in 1945 and then of the trials and tribulations in the years 1945 to 1947 of the occupying powers as they struggled to run things in Germany and denazify the country. The account of the time before May 8, 1945, telling of the occupation to the country is well-told even though trodding well-known events. Then there are many chapters about the efforts of the occupying powers to get the collaborators of the Nazis out of running the country. Those chapters did not seem well-organized to me, often reciting mere anecdotal evidence and jumping around chronologically and also, sadly, showing the occupiers did not do a very good job handling the huge job they had--millions of German soldiers to be fed and processed, and trying to have the country operate while getting the Nazis out of running the country. But the final chapter, showing the course of events in Germany from 1947 on, is fun to read, as Germany became prosperous and democratic and then, in 1990, reunited. That is a heart-warming story and makes up for the rather turgid and meandering account of the first years of the occupation. The book makes me want to read a fuller account of Germany in the years since 1945.

4962. The Long Walk The True Story of a Trek to Freedom, by Slavomir Rawicz (read 27 Sep 2012) Ever since, on 26 Aug 199, I read We Die Alone, by David Howarth, I have wanted to read this book. It is by a Polish soldier who was arrested by the Russians in 1939, after the Poles were defeated by the Nazis and Russians, and sent to a labor camp in Siberia. According to this book, he and six others escaped from the labor camp and made their way to Mongolia and China, crossed the Gobi desert on foot, their only food for many days being snakes they caught, traveled through Tibet, and arrived in India. The story of this tremendous feat is hard to believe, and there is evidence that it is not true--records supposedly show the author was released by the Russians. The book was ghost-written by an Englishman and published in 1956. The edition I read was published in 2010. The author died in 2004, at age 88. It is a fantastic story and there are things about it that make it unlikely to be true. But it is an amazing account and one is very relieved that they surmounted such fierce obstacles--only four reached India, and apparently the other three have never been heard from. I am glad I finally was able to read the book, though it probably is not as good a book as We Die Alone.
Mar 07, 2011 10:30AM

10252 I remember reading Crime and Punishment back in November 1948 and being fascinated by the central character's name: Rodion Romanovitch Raskolnikov. (I did not check the spelling so that might be off a little.) And have never forgotten the name. I have read these books by Dostevsky:

351. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky (read 22 Nov 1948)
492. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky translated by Constance Garnett (read 18 Mar 1956)
1530. The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky translated by David Magarschack (read 3 Aug 1979)

Of the three Crime and Punishment is by far the one I appreciated the most.
Feb 28, 2011 08:14PM

10252 What I Read in February 2011

4797. Henry Clay The Essential American, by David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler (read 5 Feb 2011) Even though I read a biography of Henry Clay, by Glyndon Van Deusen, on 12 July 1969, and another one, by Robert Remini. on 30 June 1993 and Merrill Patterson's study of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun, on 29 March 2002, when I saw this new biography I wanted to read it, the ante bellum period of American history being one of the most fascinating times thereof. And I was not wrong. Clay had an amazing life--a Senator before he was 30 (they just ignored the constitutional requirement that a Senator be 30 years old), Speaker of the House in his first term there, part of the team which obtained the Treaty of Ghent--a great treaty for us, since we mostly lost all the land battles of the War of 1812--a presidential candidate in 1824. 1832, 1836. 1840, 1844, and 1848--coming closet to victory in 1844--though personally I am glad he was not elected in 1844 since our history would have been very different if he had been and so would the shape of the country. This is a very detailed book but unfailingly interesting. It is sympathetic to Clay but does not hesitate to show when he was wrong. The only error I found in the book is on page 472 where it is stated that President Zachary Taylor died June 9, 1850, whereas we know he died July 9, 1850 after eating iced strawberries after a hot 4th of July appearance. There is not a bad page in this great book, though unless the politics of the time interests you as much as it does me you might think it is too detailed.
4798. The Crisis, by David Poyer (read 8 Feb 2011) This is a 2009 novel by an author I never heard of but my brother said this book was, I think, the best book he read in 2010. The book is laid in a fictional northeast African country about as dysfunctional as Somalia. The U.S. comes in to prevent mass starvation and fanatic Moslems carry out terrorist activities to try to evict the U.S. forces. SEALS carry out fantastic things to overcome the terrorists--and particularly towards the end there are lots of exciting things going on. I disliked the fact that a chapter would end excitingly--like old time serial movies--and then the next chapter would talk about something else. There are lots of undeleted expletives, which adds nothing to the story, and some of the goings on are pretty incredible, which is I suppose a trademark of this thriller type fiction.

4799. No Surrender My Thirty-Year War, by Hiroo Onoda Translated by Charles S. Terry (read 10 Feb 2011) The author was a Japanese officer sent to Labang Island in the Philippines in 1944 and stayed there till 1974. not believing the war was over. I found this a super-interesting account, annoying though it was that he could not believe the war was over. He started out with three other Japanese soldiers. At the end he was alone. He had a radio and got many messages the war was over but refused to believe them. He reminded me of Robinson Crusoe. One had to admire his resourcefulness in living all that time, finding food, putting up with jungle life, etc. A most interesting book, never dull even though the life he lived seemed like it had to be monotonous. According to Wikipedia he is still alive--he will be 89 on March 19, 2011.
4800. Lincoln and the Decision for War The Northern Response to Secession, by Russell McClintock (read 15 Feb 2011) Even though on 25 Nov 1990 I read W. A. Swanberg's First Blood: The Story of
Fort Sumter and on 5 Aug 2008 I read Maury Klein's Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession and the Coming of the Civil War I read this book, which tells the story of the road to secession after Lincoln's election in 1860 and of the response thereto. There was a lot of controversy as to what the North's response should be. This book deals in great detail with Lincoln's course after the election and what he did not do--and what he did after he was inaugurated. I have gotten the idea that Lincoln wavered on what the North should do--but this book makes clear that he would never agree to anything which would permit slavery to be extended to places where it did not exist--and so the South would not give up secession. This is a well-researched book, and very detailed (too much so to hold my interest high at times) but it is very well done--it was deemed the best Civil War book published in 2008. Scholarly and very clearly written, making its points in good detail.

4801. Fiorello H. LaGuardia and the Making of Modern New York, by Thomas Kessner (read 23 Feb 2011)
This is a 1989 book. LaGuardia was born in New York on Dec 11, 1882. His father joined the U.S. Army in 1887 and he and his family spent time in Arizona and other places. Fiorello was in the Army during the Spanish-American War but never got to Cuba. He spent time in Italy and in Budapest working for the American consulate. He began service in Congress in 1917 and served there, in disharmony with his Republican cohorts, and his career in the House is of great interest, he making himself heard as a progressive--but lost in the Democratic landslide in 1932, since he was on the Republican ticket. He was elected Mayor of New York in 1933 and re-elected in 1937 and 1941. He was an excellent mayor in the early years but in later years became autocratic and had some illiberal ideas. The account of his early years as mayor is full of praise for him, but not so in the years after 1940. He did not seek re-election in 1945, and died at 7:22 AM on Sept 20, 1947, of pancreatic cancer. The book is too long and not as chronological as good biographies should be, but it is a sweeping story and tells the story of a fantastic life well. It is well worth reading and is impressive in the depiction of the hugeness of the character of LaGuardia. I was caught up in the many aspects of his stupendous life, despite his flaws in the years after 1940.
4802. Summer of Shadows A Murder, a Pennant Race, and the Twilight of the Best Location in the Nation, by Jonathan Knight (read 26 Feb 2011) This is an advance copy of a book to be published next month, and tells the story of 1954 in Cleveland, weaving together the Indians' season (easily winning the American league pennant (111 wins!) and then losing in four games in the World Series to the Giants, and the Sheppard murder case. The account of the crime and the trial of Dr. Sheppard is of high interest. The U.S. Supreme Court held in 1966,in Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333.the trial was unfair and ordered a new trial. He was being represented by F. Lee Bailey then and was acquitted in the 1966 trail--after spending 11 years in prison. This book details the baseball season and relates the events of the murder in detail, showing the press campaign against Sheppard--really sickening that papers could whip up hysteria as they did. I found the book getting better and better as I read, even though I never cared about the Indians except I was glad they beat the Yankees that year. The book also shows the decline so Cleveland as a city, and all in all the research is quite good . The way Sheppard was harassed in those awful days before Miranda and the right to remain silent was meaningful is stark--one can see that Miranda and its progeny were good things.
Jan 31, 2011 01:23PM

10252 I read Little Dorrit on July 20, 2008, and my comment on it was as follows:

This is the 14th volume by Dickens I've read, leaving only Our Mutual Friend and Edwin Drood as unread Dickens novels. I have read a Dickens novel each year since 2004. This one is long and often not attention-holding. I think the plot creaked and was fairly absurd, even more so than the usual Dickens plot. Some of the characters were so dislikable it was annoying to read about them: Little Dorrit's sister Fanny, e.g. Some of the eccentricities (e.g., those of Flora, Arthur's youthful love) were such one was glad when those possessing such were not on stage. I think this is one of the least enjoyable of Dickens' novels.
Jan 31, 2011 01:20PM

10252 I think, JoAnn, I thought it would be a book something like: Hutterite Society, of which I said:
I found this book, which is carefully researched and open-minded, surprisingly interesting. There are Hutterite colonies not too far from where I live, and I was at one once briefly, and my sister-in-law was a public school teacher at one for years. This book is a 1974 book and I wondered how much had changed since then.

When I started Mennonite in a Little Black Dress I at once saw it was not that type of book but I usually finish what I start so I finished it.
Jan 31, 2011 06:16AM

10252 What I Read in January 2011

4788. Tap Roots. by James Street (read 2 Jan 2011) This is a 1942 novel and is the second book of a pentalogy on the Dabney family. This volume opens with the death of Sam Dabney and relates the effort of his supposed son, Hoab Dabney, in Mississippi at the time of the Civil War, to resist secession. There is a tangled love affair involving two of Hoab's daughters and Clay, who becomes an officer in the Confederate Army and eventually leads a force against Hoab's forces after marrying Hoab's daughter. The book is a bit slow-moving but is not bad reading though one is bothered by the irrational actions of some of the characters. I would not mind reading the next volume in the series, entitled By Valor and Arms, since at the close of this volume the Civil war is not yet over. It is kind of old-fashioned fiction, but I have read less exciting fiction so I kind of liked it.

4789. Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand (read 7 Jan 2011) The author of this book wrote Seabiscuit which I read 25 Sept 2003 and which is such a good book, so I was glad to read this. It is the story of Louie Zamperini, who ran at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 and was noticed by Hitler! He went into the Army Air Force when the war came, crashed in the Pacific, and spent 47 days on a raft (reminding me of the book The Raft, by Robert Trumbull,which I read 25 Nov 1944) before reaching land and falling into the hands of the Japanese. Much of the book is an account of the horrific treatment by Japanese prison guards. I was disturbed by Zamperini's youth--he was a thief and abandoned his religion. The account of the raft ordeal is super-attention-holding. The time in Japan is searing and unpleasant reading. When he finally goes home he is converted by Billy Graham! Excellent reading but a character who was a Catholic and then becomes a Protestant is not high on my list of heroes--Tim Pawlenty take note.

4790. The Wild Man from Sugar Creek The Political Career of Eugene Talmadge, by William Anderson (read 10 Jan 2011) Talmadge was born in 1889, went to college (Phi Beta Kappa!) and law school, but was never much of a lawyer. He was elected Georgia Agriculture Commissioner in 1926 and re-elected twice. In 1932 he was elected Governor and re-elected in 1934. He ran in 1936 against Dick Russell for U.S. Senator and lost and in 1938 he ran against Walter George for the Senate and lost again. He was elected Governor in 1940 but lost in 1942 to Ellis Arnall. He won the Governor race in 1946 but died before beginning what would have been his fourth term as Governor. This is a fascinating book and is based on lots of oral interviews, and even though much concerns local Georgia politics it is good reading. Talmadge was a stubborn and obnoxious person, and a real demagogue. The book is balanced and points out Arnall was a racist too--he had to be to win in 1942 Georgia--but was liberal compared to the others in the race. This was a fun book to read and to rejoice that things are so much better race-wise today, even though the politics of Georgia is not better since it is now Republican.

4791. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Linda Brent [Harriet Jacobs], Edited by L. Maria Child, with New Introduction and Notes by Walter Teller (read 14 Jan 2011) This is the story of Linda Brent (real name Harriet Jacobs) and her time as a slave in Edenton, NC Her master sexually harassed her, but the father of her two children was Samuel Sawyer, who went on to serve a term in Congress from 1837 to 1839--Strom
Thurmond, in fathering a child with the black maid at his home, was just following an old Southern custom, apparently. In order to avoid her master's attentions when she was a teenager she spent nearly seven years hiding from him in a garret before finally escaping to the North, where she was afraid she'd be caught as a fugitive slave and taken back to the South, but she avoided capture and eventually a friend bought her freedom for $300--without her knowledge. The book is written with 19th century sentimentality, and not as well as Uncle Tom's Cabin (read by me in 1941 or 1942) but is true whereas Uncle Tom's Cabin is fiction.

4792. Sea Cobra Admiral Halsey's Task Force and the Great Pacific Typhoon, by Buckner F. Melton, Jr. (read 17 Jan 2011) This exceptional book tells of Halsey's role in the Battle of Leyte Gulf (covered more fully in The Last Stand of e the The Can Sailors (read 22 Nov 2007) and in Evan Thomas's book Sea of
Thunder (read 18 Aug 2008) but its main focus is on the typhoon of Oct 18, 1944, wherein three destroyers (Hull, Spence, and Monaghan) were sunk. It is true I read Down to the Sea on 2 Feb 2008, which tells the typhoon story very well, but this is also an excellent telling of it, with full coverage of the court of inquiry which criticized Halsey somewhat. But this book goes on to tell of the typhoon in June 1945 when again Halsey sent his task force right into a typhoon--for which he was more pointedly criticized by the Navy, though not court-martialed . The account of the ordeal of the few survivors of the sunk destroyers is a most gripping one.. The book is based on heaps of original research in Navy records and interviews with survivors.

4793. The Emperor of All Maladies A Biography of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee (read 21 Jan 2011) This is a 2010 book, touted by The New York Times and by Time as one of the ten best books of 2010. Its opening chapters are intensely interesting (and appalling) as they relate how breast cancer was "treated" in past years. Then the book goes into all the work of the last 50 years, and is so heavy on the technical aspects of the hunt for medicine to treat cancer that I found it a drag to a non-scientist like me. Occasionally, when the author, an oncologist, of course, tells of successes in the hunt for effective treatment, the book becomes more attention-holding. It ends optimistically, indicating cancer is, more and more, being successfully treated . This book was a difficult read for me.

4794. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress a memoir of going home, by Rhoda Janzen (read 22 Jan 2011) This is a 2009 memoir by a 43-year-old woman who was raised a Mennonite. She was married 21 years to an atheist who was a real loser, and who finally left her for a gay guy named Bob, as she tells us about 50 times during the book. Particularly at the beginning the book it is funny although too crude at times to be really enjoyable. Her mother is funny and the author is one of the four children--the two boys are good Mennonites, but the girls are not. The author pokes fun at the Mennonites and they deserve it, I guess, but she appears to reject all religion except for a belief in God.

4795. A Month in the Country, by J. L. Carr (read 23 Jan 2011) This work, first published in 1980, is fiction, though supposedly based on the author's youth in the north of England. A veteran of World War One in 1920 goes to a small village to restore a painting in the village church. He lives in the church and various people in the village come to know him. The minister of the church is an unpleasant guy but his much younger wife is a beauty. The painting restorer falls in love with her, but he is married to an unfaithful wife. It is a beautifully written book, and makes the summer in the village seem idyllic--helping the veteran to put the horrors of Passchendaele into the past. A finely wrought book.

4796. Winner-Take-All Politics How Washington Made the Rich Richer - And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson (read 27 Jan 2011) This is a most timely book.. It shows that the people now running the GOP want the richest people to get richer--which was proved by the fact that in December 2010 they were willing to have no tax cuts no tax cuts for anyone if the super-rich did not get such. I found the book pretty depressing but the authors do show that with effort the enthusiasts for the super-rich can be overcome. The book relates the history politically of the last 30 years showing how the GOP has been taken over by those devoted to the welfare of the richest 1% of the country, and how the middle class has been abandoned by the Republican establishment. The authors do point out that some Democrats also served the richest, but when it comes to a choice between the parties the Democratic party is always the better choice, all the good Republicans having been purged from the power structure of the GOP.
Jan 02, 2011 04:36AM

10252 When my TBR list gets too big I go to Amazon and read the one-star reviews. This helps to keep my list down. I did this with The Girl Who books and so they are not on my list
Dec 31, 2010 05:55PM

10252 What I Read in December 2010

4781 Masters and Commanders How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945, by Andrew Roberts (read 3 Dec 2010) This book, which I had heard nothing about till I saw it on the new books shelf at the library, proved to be an extremely fascinating and absorbing book! The author is a British historian and the book was published in Britain in 2008. The book tells of the meetings and interactions in World War II of what he describes as "four titans": Churchill, FDR, George Marshall and Sir Alan Brooke. (Brooke was the top general in Britain during the time considered, 1941-1945.) Using newly discovered records of the meetings in which these men were involved during the period, we get a very frank view of what they had to say and of the fierce conflicts they had. Though the author is British, he often faults Churchill and Brooke and shows they were often wrong. A big dispute was over when France should be invaded. The author feels Marshall was wrong to urge invasion in 1942 and 1943, and Brooke and Churchill were wrong to oppose the 1944 invasion. I felt Brooke was wrong usually, though Admiral King was a very tough character (he was at many meetings and was very anti-British). The book is totally absorbing, and tells of the war meetings in fascinating detail Any student of World War II cannot help but be caught up by this absorbing well-composed book.

4782 Scorpions The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices, by Noah Feldman (read 7 Dec 2010) This is a facile study of the Supreme Court in the days of Justices Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, and Jackson, and gives mini-biographies of each, and sets out the tensions which divided these men, all appointed by FDR. The book uses well secondary sources, and collects stories and gossip to make a very lively account. It does a good job, I thought, in its discussion of the legal issues although its main thrust is to show the divisions among the justices--often very bitter. The 12-page bibliography is full of books I've read or would like to read. Douglas is the longest-serving justice in history, although Clarence Thomas, appointed at age 42, will no doubt break his record, more the pity.

4783 The Lawman's Redemption, by Pam Crooks (read 8 Dec 2010) This is a Harlequin book! I think the first I have ever read. I read it because it was written by a daughter of a first cousin of mine. It is a fast-moving story laid in 1884 in Montana. The lead female character has a Kodak camera, and such did exist in 1884. There is a lot of action in the story, both gun and romantic. I was surprised by the almost pornographic sex scenes, which I did not expect to find in Harlequin books. The author's picture is in the book, and she is pretty and looks like her mother, my cousin. I just thought I should read something by her, since I don't have many first cousins once removed who have been published. She has published ten novels. I wrote an Amazon review and gave the book five stars, though I did disclose that I was a relative.

4784 Clear the Bridge! The War Patrols of the U.S.S. Tang, by Richard H. O'Kane Rear Admiral, U.S.N. (Ret.) (read 15 Dec 2010) This is a 1977 book by the Captain of the submarine Tang. It tells of the five patrols of that submarine in the Pacific War. It is full of technical discussion of the submarine and of its operations. This made for not fun reading, and while one gloried in the successes the sub had, it was kind of repetitious and not as exciting as other submarine-related books I've read. The end of the book is sad since the sub was sunk by its own torpedo and most of the crew died and the survivors were subjected to awful Japanese treatment. The story is a great one, but told in sort of official officer talk. O'Kane was a smart officer who was dedicated to his job and his ship.

4785 A Journey My Political Life, by Tony Blair (read 20 Dec 2010) Blair entered Parliament 8 June 1083, became leader of the Labour Party 21 July 1994, and became Prime Minister 2 May 1997 and served as such till 27 June 2007. The book tells very little of his life before he entered politics and concentrates on his political life. I found it very good reading indeed, as I have books by other prime ministers, e.g., Margaret Thatcher's two volumes which I read 5 Feb 1994 and 11 Oct 1995, and Harold Wilson's memorable A Personal Record read 19 May 1987. I enjoyed reading the account even though I have not paid as much attention to British politics as I used to. Much he says makes good sense. Even his justification for joining the Iraq War, even if not convincing, makes a strong argument--mainly because Saddam Hussein was so evil. One cans see why Britain would want to be supportive of the U.S. There is a lot of discussion of internal British issues, soma of which was not super-interesting but much was. He is at times even funny and he is persuasive in his argument that "New Labour" was the way to go. He was at odds with Gordon Brown a lot and seeks to show that he did not give way to him till he was persuaded Brown would follow "New Labour" policies--but he knew he wouldn't. And Blair says that is why Brown lost in 2010.

4786 Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon (read 23 Dec 2010) (National Book Award fiction prize for 2010) This is an awful book, and never elicited my interest. It is laid at a West Virginia race track, and tells the story of four horse races, and a cast of characters interested in some of the horses in those races. It is one of those books that has lots of dialogue but no quotation marks. So there is a lot of bad English, either being thought by the characters or being said by them. I found the book utterly without Interest in any way.

4787 A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle (read 26 Dec 2010) This is a book which sometimes shows up in '100 best books' lists. It won a Newbery Medal in 1963 It tells of three kids going to another planet where the father of two of them has been for a long time, It is a place of total conformity, and the ones who run it seek to ensnare the kids. It is all fantastic and to draw a meaningful moral is impossible for me. I was glad to finish the book and now I know it was not worth reading for an old guy such as me.
Sep 30, 2010 08:45PM

10252 What I Read in September 2010

4746 The Simple Truth, by David Baldacci (read 1 Sep 2010) On 11 Mar 2002 I read the author's first novel, Absolute Power, and said I did not think I need read anything more by him. But this volume was said by Bill Clinton to be the best book he read in 1999 so I thought I would read it. It came out in 1998 and tells of a black man in the Army 25 years ago who killed a little girl while under the influence of drugs injected into him by the Army as an experiment. When he learns of what was done to him he causes a filing with the Supreme Court. A law clerk intercepts the filing and goes to see him in prison.The law clerk's brother seeks to find out what happened to his brother. The writing is often banal, and the conversation is jejune, but the story told is fast-moving and one is eager to see what happens, though much that happens is incredible. I cannot say reading this was not fun and exciting to read, but it is not great writing and one is appalled by the non-subtlety of it all. Nor did the main characters inspire admiration even though one was "for" them. I really need not read anything more by Baldacci since he has nothing to really say.

4747 A Man in Full, by Tom Wolfe (read 7 Sep 2010) When I read Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities on 2 July 2004 with much appreciation I did not intend to read anything more by him. But this 1998 novel came into my hands so I read it. It is laid mainly in Atlanta, but partially in or near Oakland, Cal., and in Baker County, Ga.and tells a story involving Atlanta's super-rich and the black community in Atlanta. I found it fascinating and compelling reading, even though a main character, Charlie Croker, age 60, is an obnoxious person designed to be disliked. Reading of Conrad Hensley's troubles which cause him to be jailed was uncomfortable and even more so was reading about his time in jail--from which an earthquake frees him. He goes to Atlanta and comes in contact with Charlie Croker. It is an involved story, and works out in a surprising way, though that Charlie Croker is turned on by Stoicism and Epictetus is pretty incredible and strikes a false note but overall this book is a novel I found great reading, with memorable scenes and events.

4748 Matterhorn A Novel of the Vietnam War, by Karl Marlantes (read 10 sep 2010) This was published earlier this year and there was considerable hype, some comparing it to The Naked and the Dead. War and Peace was THE novel the 1812 invasion of Russia, Gone With the Wind was the novel of the Civil War, all Quiet on the Western Front or A Farewell to Arms was the novel of World War I. This novel is a dark and heavy story, entirely laid in fighting in Vietnam. Mellas is a Marine 2nd Lt--as was the author--and there are really exciting combat scenes. There is much bitching and every expletive is undeleted--enough to cure one one would think of ever wanting to hear another. There is a lot of resentment of higher officers, who are portrayed as utterly insensitive to the horrors the fighting men are ordered to carry out. I am sure there is a lot of authenticity in the fictional account, but one does kind of lose sympathy for some of the dumb behavior of the characters. The book was not as good as I had hoped it would be. I prefer a more high-minded outlook, even if it not as realistic as this book.

4749 The Manner Is Ordinary, by John LaFarge, S. J. (read 12 Sep 2010) This 1954 autobiography is by a Jesuit priest who was in parish work in St. Mary's County, Maryland, for some years and then was with America magazine for 25 years. He was interested in rural Catholicism and has a few paragraphs on Shelby County, Iowa, and mentions Earling and priests I knew there. I liked this somewhat old-fashioned book, with its emphasis on Catholic life, very much, and Father LaFarge was a great man and I am glad I read it.

4750 Disraeli A Picture of the Victorian Age, by Andre Maurois Translated from the French by Hamish Miles (read 14 Sep 2010) Even though I read Robert Blake's biography of Disraeli on 23 Aug 1971 and Sarah Bradford's on Jan 1, 2005, I decided to read this one. The author writes novel-like old-fashioned biography but I found his treatment of interest and easy to read. Certainly Disraeli was an able man and more competent than Gladstone even though Disraeli too had his eccentricities. But his story was pleasant to read and 19th century British history is a delight to ponder.

4751 Ariel The Life of Shelley, by Andre Maurois Translated by Ella D'Arcy (read 15 Sep 2010) This book spends all its time tracing Shelley's tangled life with Harriet, his first wife, and then with Mary Godwin, who he finally married after Harriet died and after he had two kids with Mary, and also his possible connection with Mary's sister Jane--who bore Byron's child. All this was of interest, but no attention was paid to Shelley's writings at all! I thought of the great Keats biographies I read (on Jan 13, 1964, Oct 5, 1968, and 25 June 1983), which spent most of their time on his writing--what a contrast this book was to those great books. I appreciated this comment in the book: "no matter how real or how beautiful the actual landscape may be, it vanishes into smoke in the mind when one thinks of more familiar forms of scenery, commonplace perhaps in themselves, but over which old memories throw a delightful hue." How true. This was not a bad book.

4752 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave, Written by Himself (read 17 Sep 2010) This book was published first in 1845 and tells of the author's life as a slave--he was born in about 1818 in Easton, Maryland--which account is pretty much what one'd expect--much cruelty and unbelievable brutality by some of their slaves (one'd not treat his horse as some masters treated slaves). The most interesting was his telling of his escape--but details are not related for the good reason it might lead masters to greater vigilance--and his reaction to freedom. A good though short book all should read.

4753 Samuel J. Tilden and the Stolen Election, by Bill Severn (read 17 Sep 2010) This book for younger readers is a very clear account of Tilden's life and since I have never read a biography of him it was quite a bit new and I liked the book a lot. His life is full of interest, and his fight against Tweed is vividly told. Of course the big thing is the election of 1876, which was stolen from him by Republican connivers. Tilden was born at New Lebanon, N. Y. 9 Feb 1814 and died 4 Aug 1886 at his mansion at Graystone, N. Y. He was not a flamboyant figure, but did a lot of things right. I was surprised by how good I thought this simple book was.

4754 Pride Runs Deep, by R. Cameron Cooke (read 19 Sep 2010) This is a 2005 novel telling of an American (fictional) submarine, the Mackerel, in 1943 in the Pacific. Captain Tremaine is a heroic figure who gets the sub's crew shaped up and accomplishes great feats, including dealing with a Japanese super-battleship. It is kind of pulp fiction, but some of it is very exciting, though the plot line is very contrived.and a lot of the dialog is not very realistic. But the detail as to submarines is probably at least possible and it provides easy and often exciting reading.

4755 How Rome Fell Death of a Superpower, by Adrian Goldsworthy (read 22 Sep 2010) I read a book by this author on 27 Aug 2003 and remember how "dry" I thought it was. Despite that I read this 2009 book of his. It too was mighty dry at times. It is the history of the Roman Empire from the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.) to 640, when the Arabs conquered Egypt. This includes examination of the fall of the western Roman Empire in 476, and the concluding chapters are pretty good, as he explores the reason the Empire fell. I think the western Empire fell because of the many civil wars combined with the "barbarians" taking over western Europe. And I think the autocratic nature of the government, and the lack of the people having a voice, caused the fall. The author spends a lot of time on subjects like the nature of the Army, which was boring. There were good things in the book, but the boring parts outweighed them.

4756 The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler (read 24 Sep 2010) This novel was published in 1953 and is the 4th Chandler book I have read. I was not overly enthused by the others, nor was I by this one. Philip Marlowe, for no discernible reason, befriends a guy whose wife is killed and the guy assumes he'll be charged with murder, so Marlowe takes him to Mexico. Marlowe is given a hard time by the cops, and there are a couple more deaths. The big surprise at the end was expected by me. Marlowe is not a likeable guy--I dislike central characters who are adulterers--but of course he comes out OK. The book was readable but did not strike me as memorable, even though it is a famous book.

4757 No Way Down Life and Death on K2, by Graham Bowley (read 26 Sep 2010) My sister Colette recommended this book about mountaineering, which has long been a subject of interest to me. It tells of the climbing in August 2008 of K2, the second highest mountain in the world. It was a mass climbing and 42 people got to the summit. But 11 people died on the way down. There are a lot of people and at first the book seems confusing, but the accounts of the descent are grippingly exciting. The author did a lot of research--he was given the story to write up by his editor at the New York Times, and really did a lot of work to tell what happened. One always wonders how people can think it worthwhile to go into such frightful danger, but there it is. Just thinking of doing what these people did is mighty scary to me. .

4758 Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion, by Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel (read 30 Sep 2010) This is really well-done biography. Brennan was born Apr 25, 1906, served on the Supreme Court almost 34 years, and died July 24, 1997. This is well-put-together biography, told in chronological order, as good biographies should be told, and with good source notes (92 pages of them). While the authors look favorably on his work, they do not hesitate to criticize him for the things he did wrong, such as harsh dissents which alienated justices he could have possibly gotten to agree with him, Brennan was a leading light of the Warren court, and did good work even when the Court ideologically grew more conservative. The book covers the court work well, but also tells much of Brennan's private life. I don't think there will be a better biography of Brennan, a giant of the 20th century on the Court.
Sep 10, 2010 08:41AM

10252 Alias Reader, yo are right. I have read all the Pulitzer fiction winners. Here is the record of when I read each one:

The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder (read Nov or Dec 1943) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1928)
The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck (read 15 June 1946) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1932)
So Big, by Edna Ferber (read 2 Sept 1946) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1925)
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (read 17 Mar 1949) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1940)
Arrowsmith, by Sinclair Lewis (read 16 July 1949) (Pulitzer fiction prize for 1926)
The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (read 31 July 1949) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1939)
The Caine Mutiny: A Novel of World War II, by Herman Wouk (read 31 Jan 1954) (Book of the Year) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1952)
A Fable, by William Faulkner (read 3 June 1956) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1955) (National Book Award fiction prize for 1955)
The Late George Apley: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir, by John P. Marquand (read 29 Oct 1957) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1938)
Journey in the Dark, by Martin Flavin (read 7 Apr 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1944)
The Magnificent Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington (read 13 Apr 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1919)
The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton (read 20 Apr 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1921)
Alice Adams, by Booth Tarkington (read 24 Apr 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1922)
His Family, by Ernest Poole (read 27 Apr 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1918)
The Able McLaughlins, by Margaret Wilson (read 2 May 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1924)
One of Ours, by Willa Cather (read 11 May 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1923)
Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady, by Louis Bromfield (read 17 May 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1927)
Scarlet Sister Mary, by Julia Peterkin (read __ May 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1929)
Laughing Boy, by Oliver LaFarge (read 27 May 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1930)
Years of Grace, by Margaret Ayer Barnes (read 31 May 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1931)
The Store, by T. S. Stribling (read 14 June 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1933)
Lamb in His Bosom, by Caroline Miller (read 24 June 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1934)
Now in November, by Josephine Johnson (read 29 June 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1935)
Honey in the Horn, by H. L. Davis (read 19 July 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1936)
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (read 6 Aug 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1937)
In This Our Life, by Ellen Glasgow (read 12 Aug 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1942)
Dragon's Teeth, by Upton Sinclair (read 13 Sept 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1943)
A Bell for Adano, by John Hersey (read 16 Sept 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1945)
All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren (read 21 Sept 1958) (Book of the Year) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1947)
Tales of the South Pacific, by James A. Michener (read 30 Sept 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1948)
Guard of Honor, by James Gould Cozzens (read 12 Oct 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1949)
The Way West, by A. B. Guthrie, Jr. (read 18 Oct 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1950)
The Town, by Conrad Richter (read 14 Dec 1958) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1951)
Andersonville, by MacKinlay Kantor (read 27 Dec 1958) Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1956)
A Death in the Family, by James Agee (read 4 Jan 1959) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1958)
The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway (read 15 May 1959) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1953)
The Travels of Jamie McPheeters, by Robert Lewis Taylor (read 25 June 1959) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 1959)
Advise and Consent, by Allen Drury (read 9 June 1960) (Book of the Year) (Pulitzer Fiction prize 1960)
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (read 8 May 1961) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1961)
The Edge of Sadness, by Edwin O'Connor (read 4 June 1962) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1962)
The Confessions of Nat Turner, by William Styron (read 27 Nov 1968) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1968)
The Reivers A Reminiscence, by William Faulkner (read 30 Nov 1968) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1963)
The Keepers of the House, by Shirley Ann Grau (read 1 Dec 1968) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1965)
The Fixer, by Bernard Malamud (read 5 Dec 1968) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1967) (National Book Award fiction prize for 1967)
The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter (read 8 Dec 1968) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1966) (National Book Award fiction prize for 1966)
House Made of Dawn, by N. Scott Momaday (read 27 Nov 1970) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1969)
The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford (read 24 Jan 1971) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1970)
Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner (read 27 May 1972) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1972)
A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole (read 21 May 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1981)
The Optimist's Daughter, by Eudora Welty (read 22 May 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1973)
The Killer Angels A Novel, by Michael Shaara (read 29 May 1981) (Book of the Year) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1975)
Humboldt's Gift, by Saul Bellow (read 8 July 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1976)
Elbow Room: Stories by James Alan McPherson (read 8 Aug 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1978)
The Stories of John Cheever (read 17 Aug 1981) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1979) (National Book Award fiction prize in 1981) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 1978)
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker (read 28 Jan 1984) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1983) (National Book Award fiction prize for 1983)
Foreign Affairs, by Alison Lurie (read 26 Feb 1986) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1985)
Ironweed, by William Kennedy (read 9 Mar 1986) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1984) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 1983)
Lonesome Dove a novel by Larry McMurtry (read 17 Jan 1987) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1986)
The Executioner's Song, by Norman Mailer (read 20 Jun 1987) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1980)
A Summons to Memphis, by Peter Taylor (read 1 Nov 1987) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1987)
Beloved A Novel, by Toni Morrison (read 11 Feb 1989) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1988)
Breathing Lessons, by Anne Tyler (read 5 May 1990) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1989)
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, by Oscar Hijuelos (read 19 Feb 1991) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1990)
Rabbit Is Rich, by John Updike (read 17 May 1991) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1982) (National Book Award fiction prize in 1982) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 1981)
Rabbit at Rest, by John Updike (read 22 Jun 1991) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1991) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 1990)
A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley (read 8 Aug 1993) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1992) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 1991)
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain Stories by Robert Olen Butler (read 15 Jan 1994) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1993)
The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx (read 19 Jul 1994) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1994) (National Book Award fiction prize in 1993)
The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields (read 2 May 1995) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1995) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 1994)
Independence Day, by Richard Ford (read 1 Oct 1996) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1996)
Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer, by Steven Millhauser (read 18 Oct 1997) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1997)
American Pastoral, by Philip Roth (read 10 May 1998) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1998)
The Hours, by Michael Cunningham (read 30 May 1999) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 1999)
Interpreter of Maladies Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri (read 8 Mar 2001) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 2000)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay A Novel by Michael Chabon (read 24 Apr 2001) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 2001)
Empire Falls, by Richard Russo (read 12 Apr 2002) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 2002)
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (read 11 May 2003) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 2003)
The Known World, by Edward P. Jones (read 1 Jan 2004) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 2004) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 2003)
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson (read 26 Apr 2005) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 2005) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 2004)
March A Novel, by Geraldine Brooks (read 24 Aug 2006) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 2006)
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (read 13 May 2007) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 2007)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz (read 23 Mar 2008) (Pulitzer Fiction prize in 2008) (National Book Critics Circle fiction award for 2007)
Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (read 23 Apr 2009) (Pulitzer Fiction prize for 2008)
tinkers, by Paul Harding (read 25 May 2010) (Pulitzer fiction prize in 2010)
Sep 07, 2010 10:36AM

10252 Julie, you did not tell us what you thought of Four Spirits. I knew I had read it but forgot what I thought of it till I went back and read my comment on the book:
4224 Four Spirits a novel by Sena Jeter Naslund (read 1 Nov 2006) This is a 2003 novel by a woman who is from Birmingham, AL. Because of books like Carry Me Home Birmingham, Alabama The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, by Diane McWhorter (read 16 Nov 2002) (Pulitzer Nonfiction prize in 2002) which I enjoyed greatly, I thought this might be good to read. It details an account involving a few whites and some blacks in Birmingham in the years 1963 and 1964, with the four spirits being the four black girls killed in the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham on Sept 15, 1963. It tells several stories involving different characters, and is quite diffused and toward the end seems rather pointless. Some characters die due to racist hatred, but the story line meanders. For a while it held my interest but toward the end it was, frankly, boring and I was glad when it limped to an end.
Sep 07, 2010 04:29AM

10252 I went back and looked at my comment on The God of Small Things:

3260. The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy (read Oct 24, 1999) This won the Booker Prize in 1997 and I am sort of "doing" those winners, so I read it. This is a powerful book I did not enjoy much. The book has much to be said for it, but of course I have objections to it--what 1990s fiction do I not have some objection to? The author's use of scatology is jarring because it is relatively rare and so unnecessary. The sex scene is more explicit than it needed to be. But all in all one has to admit this book is an absorbing work taken as a whole. I still have 21 Booker prizewinners I haven't read, and I don't suppose I'll get them all read unless I concentrate on them.
Aug 31, 2010 07:43PM

10252 What I Read in August 2010

4734 Over the Cliff How Obama's Election Drove the American Right Insane, by John Amato and David Neiwert (read 1 Aug 2010) This is a book detailing much of the nutty things the Far Right has indulged in since Obama was elected. It is a funny book at times when it tells what guys one hears on Fox News spout, and it is hard to understand how any thinking person can believe what they sometimes dish out. It is disquieting to think that the Republican party has been so intimidated by people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, et al.,that most Republicans seem scared to disagree with them, If they have their way someone like Sarah Palin will be nominated in 2012. I can't believe the Republicans could be so dumb, but whoever they nominate will be scared to disagree with those nuts, I suppose.

4735 A Study in Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle (read 1 Aug 2010) This was published in 1887 and is the first novel in which Sherlock Holmes is a character. The only other book by Doyle I've read is The Hound of the Baskervilles, which I would guess I read in 1943. This novel's first half is of some interest, as we are introduced to Sherlock Holmes--not a very pleasant guy, apparently a user of cocaine and much addicted to love of flattery. The murders turn out to be a revenge against evil Mormons who had caused the death in Utah of a beautiful girl and her father. The Mormons, including Brigham Young, are depicted as thoroughly evil and super-controlling. The same view of Mormons was evidenced in Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage, which I read 12 Jan 2001.

4736 The Hunters and the Hunted, by Jochen Brennecke Translated by R. H. Stevens (read 3 Aug 2010) This is a 1958 book by a German author telling about German submarines in World War II. It does not pretend to be a history, but tells of various events involving German submarines--all too often of their successes. It makes the German submariners out as noble and courageous--and also says only good things about the behavior of the British and U.S. men who had occasion to rescue or capture Germans. There are no footnotes and no attempt to tell where the accounts come from. The most amazing thing about the book is that there is utterly no recognition that the cause the Germans fought for was evil, and that defeat was necessary for right to survive in the world. Not a good book, but of interest nevertheless.

4737 A Bright Shining Lie John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam, by Neil Sheehan (read 10 Aug 2010) (Pulitzer Nonfiction prize in 1989) (National Book Award nonfiction prize in 1988) I have been intending to read this for years. It is the 29th Pulitzer nonfiction winner I've read and the 27th National Book Award nonfiction winner I've read. It is the biography of John Paul Vann (born July 2, 1924, died in helicopter crash in Vietnam June 7, 1972), who did momentous things in Vietnam,often at odds with the policy being pursued. He was not a dove, but believed killing Vietnamese was not the way to win. His story tells so much about Vietnam, and one is appalled by so much that went on in Vietnam. The author is very much against the war but tells the story of Vann very well. During much of the time I was reading this I was convinced we should never have fought in Vietnam, and I was sad when I remembered that I supported the war for years before finally turning against it in 1968. This is a big book (790 pages of text, a 12-page bibliography, 25 pages of source notes) and some of the account of the fighting is not real interesting, but great gobs of the book are very good reading.

4738 The First Casualty From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker, by Phillip Knightley (read 14 Aug 2010) This is a 1975 book on war correspondents in the wars beginning with the Crimean War. The author does a good job telling how tough doing a good job as a war correspondent is, what with censorship and the wish for the government to have people only hear good news about the war. He concludes Vietnam was the best reported war--but points out that correspondents also stumbled there, e.g., how long it took for American atrocities to be written about. This book covers a lot of ground and is consistently interesting and often tells things one did not hear about when the war was going on.

4739 A Dangerous Friend, by Ward Just (read 16 Aug 2010) The author was a war correspondent in Vietnam. Since then he has written 15 novels and I decided to read this one, published in 1999, because it is about Vietnam. Sydney Parade goes to Vietnam employed by a civilian outfit aiming to help win the "hearts and minds" of Vietnamese to our side. It paints what I am confident is an authentic picture of wartime Vietnam--the impact of the U.S. on life there, the waste, and such. Syd comes to know a Frenchman and his American wife, and eventually gets information from them about a captured American, who is thus rescued, but the Army heavy-handedly inflicts disaster on the innocent place where he was held--entirely missing the enemy. The story line picked up towards the end this made the book good reading, as well as the book telling of wartime Vietnam. Sad story but well-done and worth reading.

4740 Road To Resistance An Autobiography, by George Millar (read 19 Aug 2010) This is a 1979 autobiography , covering his life from birth in 1910 in Scotland to 1945, when he married and took a yacht to Greece. The first part of the book covering his life prior to 1936 when he began work with a British newspaper, the Express, is not too interesting, at least compared to the years from 1936 to 1944. He enlisted in 1939, went to Egypt, was captured in Libya, was taken to Italy, tried to escape, was taken to Germany, where he did escape, managed to get to Spain and back to England, and on June 1, 1944, parachuted into northeast France to work with the French Resistance. It makes for quite a story, and was well worth reading. He lived till 2005, dying at age 94. A very able fellow, eager for doing daring things, and lucky not to have been killed. His youth was spent in fox hunting and the like, reminding me of the youth of Siegfried Sassoon, whose excellent biography by Max Egremont I read 30 July 2008.

4741 The Course of Empire, by Bernard DeVoto (read 22 Aug 2010) (National Book Award Nonfiction prize for 1953) This is the 28th National Book Award nonfiction winner I've read. It is carefully researched and has lots of esoteric notes which did not interest me often. The book relates explorations in North America from the early 1500's and concludes with a detailed account of Lewis & Clark's triumphant trek in 1804-1806. Some of these accounts were of interest but I admit many pages were not. The last chapters, on Lewis & Clark, were probably the most interesting. One marvels how lucky the U.S. was to acquire the Louisiana Purchase as effortlessly as it did. DeVoto points out, e.g., that Napoleon's treaty with Spain by which he acquired Louisiana provided that if France tried to sell Louiisana the transfer of it to France would be null and void. So really the U.S. title was deficient--but nobody paid any attention to that, probably because napoleon was such a dominant figure at the time he sold Louisiana.

4742 The Arnheiter Affair, by Neil Sheehan (read 24 Aug 2010) Marcs Aurelius Arnheiter was captain of the Vance (DE 387) for 99 days , till he was removed as such on March 31, 1966. He was a much-hated captain, and did some really stupid things, including ordering the location of his ship to be falsely reported off Vietnam so that he would appear not to be where he wasn't supposed to be. This is a true story, but reminds me of the novel The Caine Mutiny (read 31 Jan 1954). In this case superior officers ordered the removal based on what they were told by people on the ship. Arnheiter put up a fierce fight, supported by some admirals and at least one Congressman. The Navy was right to remove him, but mishandled the way they did it. The book is very interesting, but not overly well-written. The book was removed from print when Arnheiter sued the publisher for libel and slander. Comments on Amazon re the book from crew members indicate the book is accurate.

4743 Tour of Duty, by John Dos Passos (read 26 Aug 2010) This 1946 book tells of Dos Passos' time as a war correspondent in 1945 in the Pacific--at various islands,including Saipan and Guam and in the Philippines, where he was when Manila was liberated. Then he tells of his time in Germany in 1945, including a bit about the Nuremberg war trials. He is pretty pessimistic about Europe and Russia--a pessimism that seems overblown 65 years later. Dos Passos can paint well what he saw and heard so I did not think reading this was entirely pointless.

4744 Money to Burn, by James Zagel (read 28 Aug 2010) When I learned that James Zagel, the Federal judge who presided over the Blagojevich trial in Chicago, had written a novel I found it and read it. It is an account of Paul Devine, a fictional Federal judge in Chicago, who devises a scheme to steal money which the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago is to burn as damaged money. The elaborate planning to carry out the scheme drags some but the account of the actual theft and events thereafter are engrossing and enjoyable, far-fetched. though the scheme is. In the last 100 pages or so the story line descends to farce and I did not like the way it came out. The evil judge goes through bad times, but ends up still a judge! While much in this book was fun to read I can nol but decide the book is a failure.

4745 America and the Progressive Era 1900-1919, by Fon W. Boardman, Jr. (read 29 Aug 2010) This is a 1970 book written for juveniles but it neatly summarizes the years 1900 to 1917, years which are full of nostalgia for me since they are the years of my parents' youth. It is a balanced book and written with the assumption that the reader knows nothing of the time. Any kid interested in the time would enjoy it, as I did.

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