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My Reviews

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Inspiring, Interesting

Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Dramatic, Adventurous
Looking Out For #1

Has there ever been such a life? You have to love Moll! She's a survivor!

 
Book Club Recommended
Boring, Difficult, Insightful

"ON A FIELD, SABLE, THE LETTER A, GULES." Sin can be not only all consuming, but eternal! WOW!!! A psychological masterpiece.

 
Poorly Written, Unconvincing

The story is preposterous and so is virtually every character in the book. The over use of metaphors and similes (there seems to be hundreds and hundreds) is nauseating. The author's simplistic moralizing is condescending. After 600+ pages one learns that it's good to be compassionate and value human life. Also, that it's bad to play the role of God with others and take pleasure in their suffering.

 
Book Club Recommended
Gloomy, Insightful, Fantastic

A mesmerizing tale of how a man can adapt to a Hell like existence.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dark, Dramatic

A great sociological study of how humans react when propaganda, power, love, self-preservation and freedom collide.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Epic

Interesting family saga of how three generations are affected by a sudden change in social status, the disillusionment of finding their guiding principle is propped by falsehoods, and living through the collapse of that guiding principle.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Boring, Insightful

An insightful view of the slow, gradual death of an American industrial town and how it impacts the lives of its inhabitants.

Tinkers by Paul Harding
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Slow, Difficult

Some of the book was tedious. I really liked the ending though. George is reunited with his father at the moment of his death and Howard reunites with his son long after he's died. When does a life truly end?

The Girls by Emma Cline
 
Book Club Recommended
Graphic, Dark, Insightful

What I found most gripping about the book was Evie's contemplation of her pent up hate as compared to the hate acted out by Suzanne. Evie was in thrall to Suzanne just as Suzanne was in thrall to Russell. At the end of the book Evie comes to realize that she probably would of done anything Suzanne told her to do, even cold blooded murder.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Epic

Wild journey down Mount Olympus, across the Atlantic, to the ups and down of 20th century Detroit. I truly enjoyed the ride!

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Gloomy

Sadly and ironically Brother Juniper's fate disproved what he hoped to find, that God is fair and just. He was unjustly martyrized by the Church for showing the unjustness of God.

 
Interesting, Boring, Informative

This book just wasn't my cup of tea. It was obvious that "The American" would be the one responsible for the explosion from the start. The only surprising thing about him was that he was not just a zealot, but an homicidal madman. The characters seemed to be superficially drawn. They felt like shallow descriptions (the stewardess, the cabin boy, the navigator, etc.). I couldn't feel the drama.

High-Rise: A Novel by J. G. Ballard
 
Book Club Recommended
Scary, Dark, Graphic

Although it took years and years for man to evolve, devolution may come in the blink of an eye. Scary stuff!

The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Optimistic, Inspiring

A morality play with an encouraging outcome of Man's inherent goodness triumphing against the evil's brought on by lust and greed.

The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Fantastic, Insightful

The most insightful thing about the book to me was gaining knowledge as to how ineffectual it is in overcoming oppression to only react to it and have no better thought out plan to take its place. By merely vanishing the current oppressor with no other plan, a new oppressor will take his place and a vicious cycle will created. It takes a well thought out revolution for a society to defeat oppression and thereby achieve progress.

 
Optimistic, Romantic

This literary cup of tea has about dozen scoops of sugar in it. The book was sappy and predictable. I prefer my tea unsweetened.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Brilliant, Fun

Rick's hilarious stories within the story alone are worth the price of admission. Caveat emptor: I read some of this book on a plane and looked like a fool laughing out loud! Reading this book has spurred me on to try and tackle "Infinite Jest".

The Crime of Father Amaro by Jose Maria Eca De Queiros, Margaret Jull Costa
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic

An insightful look at religious hypocrisy in the 1870's. Since then, religious hypocrisy has kept an even keel and made steady progress. It's amazing that the book was published in 1875 in a Catholic country. A film based on the book was banned in Mexico in 2002.

 
Informative, Interesting, Slow

Erik Larson is not an historian but a speculator. He writes as fact what no one alive witnessed. Also, the story of a 19th century psychopath is a subject matter that doesn't interest me. We have plenty of current day sickos who's lives don't interest me either of whom I could have not enjoyed reading about instead! I prefer fiction, but also enjoy non-fiction written by real historians. There's so many great books and so little time. To read this book is to squander precious time.

Love's Labour's Lost in Plain and Simple English by William Shakespeare, BookCaps
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Romantic

Funny scenarios that should be a riot on stage. I'm seeing a staged production of the play next month. I'm looking forward to it.

Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Insightful

Insightful play about a nihilistic malcontent who uses people as pawns to gain power and control in the game that is her life. Can she handle life when it takes control of the game?

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Romantic, Epic

Epic tale of love, power, and pride.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dark

Insightful play about the death (in essence) of a family by its horrid and hidden sins.

A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
 
Fun, Insightful, Beautiful

A big heaping spoonful of banal, predictable treacle. (e.g. Big hearts often come disguised. e.g. To have a purpose and to feel needed are essential to a life that's worth living.) The author tries so hard to make you feel good it causes pain. Ove would have hated this book!

 
Book Club Recommended
Brilliant, Insightful, Graphic
A Precious Monstrosity

This is THE MOTHER OF ALL BOOKS. A literary monster simultaneously nonsensical and right on the mark! After years of putting off reading it, it's now my ultimate desert island book.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Dark

The book is in many ways absurd and illogical. e.g. The fire scene was preposterous. Why did Miss Winter bother replacing the baby with a bolster? She already knew that Adeline was capable of burning the baby. Why let her start a fire in the library that she knows is full of cans of petrol? Miss Winter hid the cans of petrol there herself (this is stupid in itself). I did like the gothic ambiance of the book and the character Margaret. I too would shoot away at the idiot that's burning all the great book. Idiots are much easier to replace!

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Inspiring, Life Changing

"The Other Side of the Picture" is a brutally honest tale about the horrors of war and the whims of fate. Eva (*Full Disclosure: Eva Szabo is a dear friend) reveals all the good, the bad, and the ugly of her amazing life during the advent of Hitler, through the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, until her eventual immigration to the U.S.A. in 1951. I find the book reminiscent of "The Diary of Anne Frank" (Eva is about the same age). Like Anne Frank, Eva's story is of a coming of age during a time of horror where fate is as fickle as a roulette wheel and most of the numbers are losers. What fate had in store for Eva's friend Susi is heartbreaking. Despite all the misery and sorrow she experienced, Eva ends her book on an uplifting note. Eva encourages us to release ourselves from a particular social environment and become Citizens of the World. "How beautiful and marvelous it appears as we observe it from the vantage point of satellites: the Earth, our planet, an integrated whole, with no arbitrary visible borders."

His Family by Ernest Poole
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Insightful

An insightful look at the lives of three sisters with completely different priorities. The oldest sister's priority is her family, the middle sister's is society, and youngest one is herself. Each sister is too extreme about what she finds most important. The father sees parts himself in each of his daughters, but through time, these characteristics have been mellowed and amalgamated and he has become a truly admirable person. Hopefully his daughters can do the same and pass on his legacy.

A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott
 
Pointless, Boring, Slow
Gone With a Puff

This is a corny love story lacking any insight into the many serious issues (e.g.anti-Semitism, racial discrimination against blacks, unconscionable wartime greed and hypocrisy) it glosses over. "A Touch of Stardust" is feather light book. Any substance gleaned in from its reading is soon gone with a puff. The use of the filming of "Gone with the Wind" as backdrop is ironic because if you juxtapose the literary value of the two books, one star for "A Touch of Stardust" is one star too many.

Animal crackers (French's Musical Library) by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun

The script is really funny but it's the brilliant talents of the Marx Brothers that make the script hilarious. The movie is better.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Fun, Confusing

Although the Nicholas/Marlee scheme is implausible, the book is riddled with countless hooks that keep you turning the pages.Until the very end I thought the book portrayed both sides of the tobacco liability issue pretty evenhandedly. The ending was completely slanted anti-tobacco. The tobacco executives and the lawyers on both sides of the issue were all characterized as sleazebags. Do we really want an ambulance chaser as our next governor? "Morgan & Morgan, for the people." Are insurance adjusters not people too? :-)

 
Book Club Recommended
Difficult, Insightful, Brilliant
Jumping Jacks For The Mind

If you enjoy mental calisthenics I highly recommend this book. If you like to avoid the cerebral gym and prefer to gorge on mind candy, skip it. From the book I gleaned that there is two sides to everything and it's possible to be on both sides at once (which might be really where you should be). One can be loyal while betraying. Everyone is right, and at the same time everyone is wrong. Black and White issues are all really Gray but are portrayed as either Black or White (in living color mainly) depending on who's making the movie. Nothing is more important than freedom and independence while at the same time NOTHING IS more important than freedom and independence (cost and viability are factors).

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Persuasive

"The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is chock full of insightful nuggets on human nature, personal happiness, eternal life (or lack there of), love, and Man's exploitive use of the Bible to justify it's abusive treatment of animals: "Perhaps a man hitched to the cart of a Martian or roasted on the spit by inhabitants of the Milky Way will recall the veal cutlet he used to slice on his dinner plate and apologize (belatedly!) to the cow." '...man is as much a parasite on the cow as the tapeworm is on man: We have sucked their udders like leeches. "Man the cow parasite" is probably how non-man defines man in his zoology books.' The book is not a literary masterpiece but offers a lot of food for thought.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic

Peel away the layers of pretension and illusion until you reach the very marrow of your true self and are you ready to bravely face the Big Bad Virginia Woolf (reality)? "We all peel labels, sweetie; and when you get through the skin, all three layers, through the muscle, slosh aside the organs and get down to bone...you know what you do then? When you get down to bone, you haven't got all the way, yet. There's something inside the bone...the marrow...and that's what you gotta get at." The play is packed with eye opening insights and intensity from start to finish.

The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic

A good sociological study of how complacency, stagnation, and a sense of superiority and entitlement get their comeuppance in a capitalistic world that is constantly progressing. I was disappointed by the farfetched happy ending. It felt contrived.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Informative
Man In The Middle

Torn between east and west; secular atheism and Islamic religious fanaticism; personal happiness and being true to one's convictions, Ka is truly stuck in the middle. Ka has entered a world where no common ground exists and any directions he takes is the wrong way. The fact that either the putting on or taking off of a head scarf is considered a radical act depending on one's perspective exemplifies the wide gulf between the factions.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Interesting, Insightful

As a Cuban coffee aficionado I can appreciate Ms. See's extensive crash course in all that is the world of tea (then, now, and in the future). Ms. See researched her tea quite thoroughly. As much as I appreciated the tea lesson, the part of the book I found most compelling was its delving into the impact of an inter-racial adoption on all parties involved (including their extended families) and society's reaction to it. The book's ending took the aphorism "no coincidence, no story" a bit too far though.

 
Book Club Recommended
Brilliant, Graphic, Fantastic
SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL

Because of my lack of a visceral connection to and extensive knowledge of life in Stalinist Russia, I'm sure I missed many of Bulgakov's barbs and their impact. Nevertheless, I found it to be brilliantly ironic that Satan and his outrageous retinue are portrayed as the champions against hypocrisy and the advocates for the existence of God against atheist beliefs.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Informative

I read this book for my book club. I generally read fiction. I enjoy escaping into imaginary and theoretical worlds rather than confronting the one that is actual and real. If you're looking for insight into the racial issues facing America and Detroit specifically, this book is an excellent source. The fact that's so reconfirms my reading preference. An imaginary world is a safer place to be in.

Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful

A wonderful look at life in a rural fictional town in central Minnesota. The book is not nostalgic. The many charms and limitations of small town life are equally and beautifully described in a myriad of short stories. What's of real importance to us as human beings is made clear in the closing paragraph of the book, "...But what a lucky man. Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known. He takes deep breaths and the cold air goes to his brain and makes him more sensible. He starts out on the short walk to the house where people love him and will be happy to see his face."

 
Book Club Recommended
Romantic, Insightful, Dramatic
I LOVE YOU ELINOR!!!

"Sense and Sensibility" is an excellent morality play. Lesson #1: The true test of integrity is doing the right thing even when doing so is financially devastating to you. Lesson #2: The true test of class is how one acts in adverse situations. Elinor is the classiest lady I've ever met (in a novel or elsewhere). I'm madly in love with a fictional character! Elinor is not a robot. She has "sensibility" also. She just doesn't wear it on her sleeve.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark, Insightful

A collection of eerie psychological tales reminiscent of "Twilight Zone" episodes.

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Optimistic
Little Orphan Judy

Our spunky, optimistic, bright, charming, pretty heroine "Little Orphan Judy" is an inspiration to all kids from 9 to 99! I'm seeing a stage musical performance based on the novel next weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing it more now having read the book.

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Fantastic, Brilliant
The Logic of Implausibility

Flann O'Brien is a virtuoso with the English language. "The Third Policeman" is a surreal trip to an absurd place where everything is bizarrely logical. You get two pleasures for the price of one with this book. The wordplay on it's own is equally as enjoyable as the fantastic tale told!

The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dark

Under what conditions will a community sell it's moral soul? "The Visit" takes a dark look into this question.

The Physicists by Friedrich Durrenmatt
 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Dark, Insightful

"The Physicists" takes a satiric look into whether mankind can be trusted to not misuse its own scientific discoveries.

Crimes Against a Book Club by Kathy Cooperman
 
Unconvincing, Pointless
Cerebral Rat Poison

This is the first book of the year for our book club. I hope it's not an omen! I could palpably feel my brain getting stupider with every page of idiocy. The nonsense reached its crescendo with its uber-happy ending. It would be a crime for other book clubs to make this one of their selections.

The Plague by Albert Camus
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Difficult

Lessons learned: It is up to all of us to band together as humans and fight whenever plagues threaten our existence and cause widespread suffering. A disbelief in a benevolent God makes us fight harder because it puts the onus on us collectively. If God had any compassion for humanity, it would be His duty to fight plagues. Non-appearance and non-existence are pretty much the same thing at a time of crisis. Mankind has always been plagued and will continue to be plagued. We're on our own. Deliverance is up to us.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Fantastic, Epic
Creative History

India's first 30 years of independence told in magic realism! Pretty cool way to teach history! Salman Rushdie is an amazing writer!

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Insightful, Interesting

"The Trial" is a 5 star book no doubt. It's the one to choose if you're to read only one Kafka work.

 
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Romantic
He Loves Me, She Loves Me Not...

One of Shakespeare's funniest comedies. See it on stage. It's a riot!

Arcadia: A Play by Tom Stoppard
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Brilliant
A Comedy For Geeks Masterpiece

An erudite, thought provoking play with a lot of humor. Playwriting at its best! I saw it performed on stage last week and was so fascinated that I went to see it again two nights later.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Beautiful, Fantastic
A Literary Acid Trip

Lack of cold logic and coherence are more than compensated for by this beautifully written, fascinating, mind trip of a novel.

The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca
 
Book Club Recommended
Gloomy, Insightful, Dramatic
The Price of Pretenses

A sad tale of when appearances are judged to be of paramount importance. P.S. I'm looking forward to seeing the play on stage for the first time in a few days. A live performance should make this emotional script even more palpable.

Blood Wedding: A Play by Federico García Lorca
 
Book Club Recommended
Gloomy, Dramatic, Interesting
Instant Karma

One for the record books. The Bride takes off with a former lover during the wedding reception. Moral of the story: Utter lack of self-restraint might lead to an instant courtship with karma.

Yerma (Student Editions) by Federico Garcia Lorca
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Gloomy, Dramatic

A tragic tale of when a woman's only possible source of personal fulfillment and sole opportunity to be of value to society is denied.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Inspiring, Dramatic
The Chaos Theory of Child Rearing

An amazing memoir about being raised by parents that march to the beat of a different drummer. Ms. Walls' parents are not only not in the mainstream, they are a stream of their own. It's the chaos theory of child rearing. Judging by the success of the author, maybe there was some inexplicable order to her parents apparently random behavior after all.

Voss (Penguin Classics) by Patrick White
 
Book Club Recommended
Graphic, Insightful, Difficult
The Making Of A Legend

Although at times I found "Voss" to be turgid and involuted, at other times its starkness was jaw dropping. Lesson learned: A mere man cannot become a legend. He must resemble God, Satan, or both.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Slow, Pointless
ARE OUR MEMORIES FAKE NEWS?

Having just finished the book the two most striking thoughts that resonate are: 1) How our deep philosophical ideas are trumped by banal human predicaments. 2) How we mask our memories and see them through rose colored glasses for personal peace of mind. What do we see when the mask is torn off and the glasses are shattered? In the end Tony finds out that the answer is a lot of questions like, "what else have I done wrong"?

 
Pointless, Boring
My Most Loathed Book To Date

This is the most worthless book I've ever read. It's about two guys taking a bunch of drugs, drinking a lot, and behaving like idiots. Hardy har har!!!!! This book isn't dated. It could never have been funny.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
 
Informative, Interesting, Fun
An Historically Fakey Novel

How do you turn history into fake news? You make up a fakey story, fill it with fakey characters and call it an historical novel. Also, the perfectly perfect ending was telegraphed half way through the book. The one irony is that the "Ugly American" character is a very handsome man.

 
Book Club Recommended
Life Changing, Insightful, Dramatic
An 1879 Feminist Masterpiece

The anachronistic protagonist Nora, is a modern woman breaking free from a superficial and meaningless marriage where she's coddled like a play "doll" and admired like a trophy in 1879! This play is amazingly ahead of its time! The ending is profound still today and was absolutely shocking when the play was first published.

The Sea by John Banville
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Brilliant, Insightful
A LITERARY TRANSPORT

Mr. Banville's magnificently hypnotic poetic-prose transports one to another place, the profoundly palpable atmosphere that are the thoughts and memories of Max Mordem. While ruminating on the death of his wife and on his own life, Max Mordem reflects on a moment when he had gone swimming alone as a child, "As I stood there suddenly, no, not suddenly, but in a sort of driving heave, the whole sea surged, it was not a wave, but a smooth rolling swell that seemed to come up from the deeps, as if something vast down there had stirred itself, and I was lifted briefly and carried a little way toward the shore and then was set down on my feet as before, as if nothing had happened. And indeed nothing had happened, a momentous nothing, just another of the great world's shrugs of indifference." I am in awe of Mr. Banville's command of the English language. A translator will have his or her hands full to do "The Sea" justice.

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
 
Dramatic, Addictive, Interesting
Literary Pap

Lightweight, low-cal fare that leaves the brain unexercised (and unnourished) with it's predictable, clichéd plot.

 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Beautiful, Informative
SUPER FRIEND

Sammy Clay is the real superhero of this amazing novel teeming with caped crusaders. After years of self immurement for the sake of friendship and love, in the end Sammy performs the books greatest escape of all.

Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Insightful, Gloomy
The Heart of a Blazing Darkness

Three expatriated Americans slow, arduous travels deep into the heart of a blazing darkness, beyond the protection of "The Sheltering Sky",where all is foreign and exotically morbid.

On Chesil Beach by Ian Mcewan
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Brilliant
If Only I'd...

"On Chesil Beach" is a brilliantly insightful novel that slowly crescendos to a denouement that is brutally heart-wrenching. Powerful, powerful stuff about how our irrevocable fate often rests on a razor's edge awaiting heedless actions or inactions.The movie version opens this weekend and I plan to see it. If the movie is half as good as the book I'm in for a treat!

 
Poorly Written, Unconvincing
A Dangerously Bad Book

I believe the collective I.Q. of our book club has been diminished for having read this idiotic garbage.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Optimistic, Beautiful
Survival After The "Blow-Up"

"...when you're young your opponent is the future; but when you're not young, your opponent is the past and everything you've done in it and the problem of getting away from it." In his post "blow-up" "Existence Period" Frank Bascombe has found a temporary refuge from the unalterable past. Having survived an atomic blow-up myself, I can very much relate, and find that Frank's attitude is one worthy of emulation. Continuity is vital when the "Permanent Period" is not practicable, or is undesirable. Keep the flux!

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
 
Book Club Recommended
Persuasive, Insightful, Interesting
Two Steps Forward and One Step Back

"God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!" An ominous warning from above! This book stands preeminent in addressing the issue of race in America. Barack Obama's election in 2008 is concrete proof that the nation has made great strides forward in eradicating racism since the Emancipation Proclamation over 150 years ago. On the other hand, Trump's election in 2016 is equally palpable proof that the extinction of the Neanderthals is blatantly "fake news". Unfortunately, cave man mentality can not be transformed. My hope is that it will dilute, until one day it ceases to exist. Slowly, like the lazy Mississippi, the progress of mankind flows in the right direction in my opinion.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
 
Insightful, Informative, Interesting
Excellent Essay, Poor Novel

Although Ms. Adichie makes many salient observations, the book in the most part is a lecture posing as literature. To me it seems stilted and lacking in art.

 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Interesting, Insightful
The Agonies of Faith

Is it heroic or idiotic to commit a mortal sin out of pity for ones wife, mistress, and God Himself when one knows ones soul might suffer eternal damnation for it? Is Scobie's ultimate sacrifice Christ-like or a foolish? Does Scobie wish that he had no faith and that he was not Catholic? Would that provide him with the peace of mind he so desperately seeks? These are some of the questions addressed in this gripping book about a spiritually tormented soul.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Life Changing, Inspiring
Kumbaya In America

The problems of prejudice in our country pale when juxtaposed with India's caste system. We're all singing Kumbaya in America by comparison. This book is a shockingly graphic account of humans nearing the pinnacle of inhumanity.

In a Free State: A Novel by V. S. Naipaul
 
Book Club Recommended
Dark, Insightful, Gloomy
Mixing Oil and Vinegar

The three tales in the book give an insightful look at the troubles that occur when the lives of expatriates clash with those of the local population.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
 
Book Club Recommended
Brilliant, Interesting, Insightful
In Hopes of a Lower Thermostat Setting

This is not a great novel. The story, the characters, and the future world Mr. Bradbury created are lacking in depth. "Fahrenheit 451" would have been better as an allegorical short story. Nevertheless, the book is prescient in many ways. It is also a shocking example of a world where restrictions on freedom of expression have spiraled out of control. Today, school versions of classics are being edited to remove anything that might be offensive to anyone. This as good as putting a match to them and burning them. Censorship of language that some find offensive is the torching of the ability to think freely. Political correctness is a form of mind control. Societal pressure to be inoffensive to everyone will lead to a world of numb brained people that all think alike. Individuality and conflicting points of view will cease to exist for fear of hurting anyone's feelings.

 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Brilliant, Fantastic
Literary LSD

Who cares where Murakami is taking us, enjoy the wild and crazy trip! This book should be prescribed at rehab centers as a substitute to those with a psychedelic drug addiction. Not since I discovered Vonnegut a century or two ago have I found an author so fascinatingly weird. Murakami has me hooked and entranced. I ordered six more of his books half way through reading this one. The hell with rehab! I'll keep the Murakami monkey on my back!

 
Adventurous, Insightful, Beautiful
When The Magic Strings Go Out Of Tune

...you get a silly book with a ridiculous ending. If it wasn't our book club's selection for this month I never would have finished it. I read "Tuesdays with Morrie" years ago and I thought it was very good. This is the first fiction book I've read by Mitch Albom. If this one is indicative of his other fictional works maybe he should stick to non-fiction. Hopefully there's a seventh blue string that will make this book magically disappear from your reading list.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
 
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Addictive
News Is In The Eyes Of The Beholder

What struck me as most true about the book is how reporting has become so blatantly political. The facts of a story are twisted, and skewed in a way that supports a news agency's particular political position. If a positive spin is not feasible with this tactic, a story is given very little coverage or ignored all together.

 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Dramatic, Graphic
Palpable Fiction

"A Brief History of Seven Killings" is a historical fictional account of post-colonial Jamaica. Spanning a 30 year time period it centers around the 1976 assassination attempt of Bob Marley prior to the Smile Jamaica concert. Much of the book is written in Jamaican patois, much of the language is filthy, and the violence is outrageous. It is these factors though which make the story seem so real you can feel it. Truly gripping, visceral prose that's not for the faint of heart.

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Persuasive, Interesting
Contentment Makes Moral Behavior A Breeze

An important question to ask oneself is,"what makes you content?" Much of society has tossed morality out the window in quest for status and riches. Once these are obtained, life becomes balmier and moral behavior comes much easier. Win the rat race and righteousness is a piece of cake.
Steinbeck's comment at the beginning of the book is right on the mark: "Readers seeking to identify the fictional people and places here described would do better to inspect their own communities and search their own hearts, for this book is about a large part of America today."

The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
 
Book Club Recommended
Informative, Adventurous, Insightful
A Top-Notch Historical Fiction Novel

What I love about good historical fiction is that you learn history while being entertained with an interesting story. The Poisonwood Bible did not disappoint and had the added bonus of being insightful.

 
Beautiful, Interesting, Addictive
Mushy Love In The Marshes

Amazingly, this young adult romance novel with a cliched plot has been swamped with attention. The most unique thing about the plot is the mushy setting for mushy love. I'm sure Ms. Owens is an excellent nonfiction nature writer. Her descriptions of the North Carolina marshlands' ecosystem are informative. Her hackneyed fiction is not so good.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Beautiful
Third Class Citizenship

An African-American woman in the 20s and 30s suffered not only from racism from white society, but also from sexism from the whole male society (primarily from black males themselves). In Africa (as Nettie can vouch), sexism was even more extreme. Female genital mutilation being the most shocking sexist practice. Relegated to a third class existence, how Celie turns her lemon of a life into lemonade is inspiring.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Fantastic
Quotidian Fantasia

In typical Murakami fashion, in these short stories, mundane day to day life meets Bizzaro World. "On Seeing The 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning", "Sleep", and "Barn Burning" are short story masterpieces!

 
Book Club Recommended
Unconvincing, Boring, Pointless
Can You Run Away From Heartbreak?

Our hero Arthur takes a wild, round-the-world romp in hopes of eluding heartbreak. Is a detour to Serendip in the cards?

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Brilliant
Is Memory More Real Than Reality?

This excellent English translation of Marcel Proust's first novel of his masterpiece series, "In Search of Lost Time" ( a.k.a. "Remembrance of Things Past") is truly great literature. In a word, WOW!

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Dark, Insightful
The Indian Sapper

This could well have been the title of this lyrical novel. To me, Kip is the most compelling character in the book. His realization of the unbridgeable gulf that exists between colonialists and their subjects; whites and people of color; East and West; etc. is disheartening and unfortunately more than likely accurate.

Quichotte: A Novel by Salman Rushdie
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Fantastic, Adventurous
Is The Impossible Dream Still Possible?

"Quichotte" takes us on the wild romp of a modern day Don Quixote. We join him on his mad quest for true love across an equally crazy America, that's not so ideal.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Insightful, Romantic
Musical Writing

Like the song, this book is a beautifully sad, poignant melody, full of insight into life, death, and areas in between. Murakami's writing is so good you can actually hear it. Give him the Nobel Prize already!

Macbeth (No Fear Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Epic
Neo- Shakespeare

I love the theater and I always make a point of re-reading the No Fear Shakespeare translation of the play I plan to see beforehand. I find it helps in making Shakespeare's original language more comprehensible thus increasing my enjoyment of the performances tremendously. Macbeth is a masterpiece that provides an acute insight into human hunger for power and ambition.

2666: A Novel by Roberto Bolano
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Interesting, Epic
An Epic Journey To Uncertainty

This sprawling, 900 page epic, gives insight to a wide range of interesting topics. This book is all about the journey. It's ending is nebulous. If you like books that are wrapped up neatly, and tied with a pretty little bow at the end, don't even start "2666".

 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Graphic, Dark
The Incomprehensibility of Madness

If sanity is sensible, madness is incomprehensible. Peter Handke's disturbing short novel delves deep into the indecipherable thoughts of a sheer lunatic.

 
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Beautiful, Optimistic
Little Red Dynamo

Next month I'm seeing a staged version of "Anne of Green Gables" and decided to re-read the book. Despite a vast interval between readings, I must be going through some kind of second childhood because I really liked it! Our little red dynamo has to be one of the most endearing characters in all children's literature. The author's Robert Browning quote describing Anne is right on:

The good stars met in your horoscope,
Made you of spirit and fire and dew.

State of Wonder: A Novel by Ann Patchett
 
Book Club Recommended
Adventurous, Interesting, Dramatic
Into Darkness to Find Light

What should be the endgame of pharmaceutical research, humanitarianism or profit? This fascinating book takes us on a voyage deep into the heart of darkness (Amazon version) to shed light on this issue.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Insightful, Dramatic
Shakespearean English Made Easy

I go to several Shakespeare plays a year. I make a point to read the corresponding "No Fear" version prior to attending each play. The original text and a modern translation are placed side by side. It really helps my comprehension of the language. P.S. Nobody does soaps better than Willie!

 
Book Club Recommended
Beautiful, Optimistic, Inspiring
The Pow, Pow, Pow, Power of a Positive Perspective

I love this story of how a change in one's perspective can make lemonade out of the lemons of a miserable existence.

 
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dramatic, Epic
The Crazy Party Boy That Would Be KIng

I think this is the weakest work in the Shakespeare Henriad Tetralogy. It's a must read though if you've read the other three plays since Henry V is the last.

 
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Interesting, Fantastic
When The Mundane Meets The Bizarre

When the mundane life of an "Average Haruki" encounters the bizarre, we are spellbound by Murakami's writing and led trance like into a fascinating weirdness.

L. N. Tolstoy - The Death of Ivan Ilych by Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Brilliant, Inspiring
Filling The Void

An alternate title for this book might have been, "The Fulfillment of a Hollow Man". Ivan's story is a tale of the importance of having a rich inner life to give purpose and comfort to an otherwise meaningless, fleeting outer existence. Inner contentment is the death knell of death. Death is transformed into light and in that light there is joy. Whether or not that joy persists, it was worth taking the ride because it was with you all the way riding shotgun!

Austerlitz (Modern Library Paperbacks) by Winfried Georg Sebald, Anthea Bell
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Gloomy, Dark
Heritage Lost

"Austerlitz" is a heartrending novel about the awakening of nightmarish memories. When remembrance of things past tear down the protective mental walls confining Austerlitz's childhood terrors, his mind is thrown for a loop. A desperate search to find and retrieve his stolen identity becomes a lifelong quest.

Sputnik Sweetheart: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
 
Book Club Recommended
Gloomy, Beautiful, Fantastic
Extreme Social Distancing

"Sputnik Sweetheart" put me in lyrical trance. I was sedated by a prose seeped in melancholy and the mundane. This allowed me to not freak out when Murakami's sad love triangle of unrequited love encounters a bizarre parallel world.

Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy
 
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dark, Dramatic
A Train Ride to Repentance

Tolstoy takes us on a long train ride where we enter the mind of Pozdnyshev. Embittered, confused, in turmoil about love, hate, marriage, sexuality, gender roles, jealousy, lust, disgust, Pozdnyshev's disquietude crescendos into a vividly violent rage that leads to murder and a comprehension that comes way too late. Pozdnyshev's horrible tale is passionate and riveting.

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