Discovering a heretofore unpublished (in English) Wallander story is like coming home from a vacation and crawling into your favorite reading chair wi Discovering a heretofore unpublished (in English) Wallander story is like coming home from a vacation and crawling into your favorite reading chair with coffee and a snack.
Written originally as part of a book giveaway contest in Denmark, this short novel sits right before the last one in the Wallander series. The detective is living in his apartment with daughter Linda, now a young officer on his police force. They have their usual contentious relationship, but their love is apparent nonetheless.
Wallander has been thinking about buying a home in the country, and his colleague Martinson suddenly presents him with the opportunity, a relative's old farmhouse. When Wallander visits for a look-see, all goes smoothly until he realizes that the protrusion he stumbled over in the back garden is a skeletal human hand and arm.
That turns the story into a cold case mystery, one that Wallander eventually solves, but not without risk to his life.
As always, the slushy, cold fall landscape of southern Sweden, Wallander's self doubts and tendency toward moroseness, and his dogged persistence in following his leads make this the comfort food of my mystery reading life.
I knew Ursula Le Guin's name from my early scifi reading days, but hadn't actually read much of her work. Then Margaret Atwood named this 1968 novel t I knew Ursula Le Guin's name from my early scifi reading days, but hadn't actually read much of her work. Then Margaret Atwood named this 1968 novel to the WSJ Book Club as a wellspring of fantasy writing, a story that paved the way for later works like the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones.
This initial Earthsea book focuses on the young wizard Ged, who grows up on the island of Gont, one of many different islands in this watery world. He is taken under the wing of an older mage, but decides he is not learning enough to suit his ambition and goes off to another island to train at a wizard school. There his hubris and competitiveness pit him against another talented student, and ultimately, cause him to cast a spell that will dominate and haunt him for the rest of the story.
Wiser and scarred, both physically and spiritually, Ged at first flees from the shadowy evil that he has created, and then, relying on his original master's advice, he decides he must pursue the shadow to whatever end it takes him.
As Atwood points out in the WSJ, the beauty of this book is that it isn't just an adventure tale and it isn't consumed with warring groups, a la Lord of the Rings. Ged's struggle is a personal one, and the enemy he seeks out is a symbol of the darkness within all of us that we must overcome if we are to face the future with any hope.
One other interesting side note. Le Guin deliberately made most of her characters dark or copper skinned, and the only white group in the book is a raiding people similar to the Vikings. But after the first edition came out, she said, she could never get other publishers to put a dark skinned wizard on the cover.
I must have bought this after the rave reviews following its original publication, but it didn't come back to my consciousness until my wife picked it I must have bought this after the rave reviews following its original publication, but it didn't come back to my consciousness until my wife picked it up and highly recommended it.
It was good advice. J.R. Moehringer, an award winning journalist, grew up without a father in his life, surrounded by a household of dysfunctional men, and so his memoir, while ostensibly about a bar in Manhasset, Long Island, that became his second home, is really an exploration of all the ways that the young J.R. sought for some kind of male role model to make sense out of how he should be a man.
In the process, he became a denizen of a bar called Dickens (and later Publicans) in a town already famous for its boozing. His Uncle Charlie, a Humphrey Bogart clone, was one of the bartenders, the charismatic Steve owned the place, and he was surrounded by colorful characters, all with nicknames.
In the course of growing up there from the time he was a boy, J.R. learned not only how to drink (something he had to confront later in his adulthood), but how sports betting worked, what relationships with women were about (another issue he struggled with),how to handle a bar fight, and most of all, in terms of his future profession, how to tell a story.
This memoir is brilliantly written, but it also has that odd feel in the end that you have come to know the bar's denizens -- Smelly the cook, Fast Eddy, Bob the Cop, Cager, Colt -- very well, without really knowing them at all. Only Bob the Cop, with his tale of a tragic mistake he made when he was young and his deadpan stories of fishing bodies out of the river, seems to be a whole human being. It signifies something both magical and deficient at the Tender Bar -- it was its own world, and the life these men led outside it was for the most part little known.
This is a must-read if you love memoirs with truth, heart, and humility....more
Quentin has been kicked out of the magical kingdom of Fillory. His girlfriend Alice has turned into a blue-flamed floating zombie called a niffin. Jan Quentin has been kicked out of the magical kingdom of Fillory. His girlfriend Alice has turned into a blue-flamed floating zombie called a niffin. Janet and Eliot, along with Josh and Poppy, are now the kings and queens of Fillory.
So what will happen to this realm that most people think is just a plotline in children's storybooks, and what will happen when all these characters grow up?
Those are the themes Grossman ties a bow on with this conclusion of his trilogy, and I think it is probably the best written book of the three, partly because he can deal with many of his characters now as adults, albeit some pretty strange adults.
Quentin has made his way back to the Hogwartsian Brakebills as a teacher, where he encounters a brilliant young magic student, Plum, who is descended from the Chatwins, the original children who stepped into Fillory Narnia-style.
But soon, an incident at the school causes them to be booted, and then they are hired on by a talking crow and his seemingly human assistant to steal on old suitcase that once belonged to one of the Chatwin children.
The caper ends in semi-disaster, but it gives Quentin a chance to possibly create a new world, and in the process, to once again encounter Alice, who is -- small hiccup here -- a demon who would literally kill him as soon as look at him.
Meanwhile, things in Fillory are deteriorating. Its fabric is beginning to fray, and it's not at all clear what is going on.
It will be up to Quentin and his friends to reunite and figure out the future. I won't give away the ending, except to say that all the main characters survive, although much else will die off.
A brilliant and extremely well written finale....more
I haven't read all of Alan Furst's work, but this one seems to fall squarely into the approach he has made famous: create an appealing character who i I haven't read all of Alan Furst's work, but this one seems to fall squarely into the approach he has made famous: create an appealing character who is trying in his own small way to make a difference in the fight against fascism or other tyrannies, put him in several tense and life threatening situations, and don't create any false hopes for a happy ending.
In this novel, Parisian lawyer and Spaniard Cristian Farrar is enlisted to help the Spanish Republic in its doomed efforts to defeat the forces of Francisco Franco. Working with a an experienced spy, he arranges the purchase of arms and ammunition for the beleaguered Republican forces, including the centerpiece of the book -- a harrowing journey to Odessa to steal shells desperately needed for a final assault in Spain.
Along the way, Cristian struggles with what to do with his grandmother and other relatives if war should come to France; starts a smoldering affair with a Spanish marquesa; tries to deal with a Hungarian family's dispute over a private bank; and stops in at various Parisian restaurants whose brief menu descriptions made my mouth water.
Furst is so skillful at constructing what feels like real life -- the shifting, complex, morally ambiguous world of prewar Europe -- that it is a privilege to read his novels.
The standard history of the Civil War is that America fought a bloody war to abolish slavery and the South lost.
As Nicholas Lemann makes so clear in t The standard history of the Civil War is that America fought a bloody war to abolish slavery and the South lost.
As Nicholas Lemann makes so clear in this compelling book, it was hardly that simple. Ten years after the end of the war, with Ulysses Grant in the Oval Office, the fate of political and social freedom for southern blacks was still very much undecided, and in this sad story, Lemann shows how the battle for full rights was essentially lost for decades because of the events of this period.
He focuses particularly on Mississippi, which like many other states in the Reconstruction South, had white northerners as political leaders alongside newly enfranchised blacks. He puts a particular focus on Adelbert Ames, a former Union general who became governor of the state and married Blanche Butler, the daughter of an influential Massachusetts congressman.
In the elections of 1875 and 1876, armed bands of former Confederate soldiers waged an outright reign of terrorism in deep southern states, disrupting Republican political rallies, picking fights with blacks in attendance and then using that as an excuse to roam the countryside and kill innocent black families with impunity.
This campaign, carried out by groups known as the White Line, caused blacks to avoid the voting booth and put the Democrats back in power, leading in just a few years to the Jim Crow laws that separated blacks and whites in public life for decades to come.
It also led white historians of the early 1900s to create a narrative in which Reconstruction failed because of rapacious, corrupt white Northerners looting the postwar South. In addition, these historians blatantly put forth the idea that blacks would never be the moral or intellectual equals of whites and thus the idea of giving them full political power was a folly from the start.
Lemann has used the work of later historians and his own exacting research to show how untrue that narrative was, and how the end of Reconstruction was quite bluntly due to murderous terrorism by southern whites and Grant's unwillingness to send federal troops in to ensure fair and open voting.
Adelbert Ames, ambitious and energetic, was put in the position of governing a state he had no control over. With no real help from federal troops and fearing that formation of an active black state militia would lead to even greater slaughter of innocent civilians, he eventually lost his position, moved north and got out of politics.
This is a powerful, disturbing book about a time in American history when the values that we went to a bloody war over were abandoned under the sway of a general attitude in North and South of black inferiority and not valuing their lives as much as those of whites.
Besides being a well-written social psychology book, this spoke to an increasingly deep yearning in my life: to do a better job connecting with real p Besides being a well-written social psychology book, this spoke to an increasingly deep yearning in my life: to do a better job connecting with real people, face to face, who are part of my broader circle of friends.
Has the Internet given me unprecedented reach to others and ways of connecting with old friends I had lost touch with? Of course. But as Susan Pinker demonstrates, study after study have shown that meaningful personal contact can lengthen lifespan, increase children's ability to read and learn, make dating and marriage real and lasting, and make businesses more profitable and better places to work.
She spans many of the studies that have been done, from Sandy Pentland's work with personal monitors showing how people interact in the workplace, to Robin Dunbar's brilliant work demonstrating how 150 is a magic number for the number of personal, closer relationships a human being can have.
She ends with commonsense recommendations on how to increase the meaningful and healthy personal relationships in our lives, and she writes gracefully and straightforwardly throughout....more