Thursday, July 3, 2014

BOOK CLUB:  Our extended holiday weekend provides a good opportunity for our regular catch-up, so, what are you reading these days?

I'm finishing up Mark Harris' Five Came Back, which is yet another fascinating Hollywood history of his, this time on the directors (Capra, Ford, Huston, Stevens, and Wyler) who served the nation during World War II, and the amazing films and documentaries they made both during the war and afterwards. It's an absolute must for film buffs. You?


  1. Christy in Philly10:56 AM

    Ooh, I love these posts!

    The last thing I finished was The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved it, especially the parts set in Philadelphia.

    I'm currently reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Both this and Signature took me a while to get in to but once I got into the story, I didn't want to put either book down.

    I'm looking forward to reading Rainbow Rowell's newest book, Landline, when I'm down the shore in a few weeks.

  2. Joseph Finn11:04 AM

    Adam, I read Five Came Back a few weeks back and am recommending that as well. Especially the Stevens story; I had no idea about his connection to the Nuremberg trials.

    Also reading:

    Rat Queens, volume 1: A hilarious collection of a relatively new comic book skewering pretty much every role playing and fantasy trope you might like, from dwarf beads to lady armor to street brawls.

    Jacob's Folly, by Rebecca Miller, a very good (so far) split-time story about a Jewish peddler in 18th century Paris reborn as a fly in 2012 New Jersey..

  3. Maret Orliss11:31 AM

    Oh I've been meaning to read Five Came Back...I loved his first book. I'm staycationing for the next several days and have a Jodi Picoult book, Emma Straub's The Vacationers, and Edan Lepucki's California. Super shout-out to Edan who is in today's NYT about her boost from Colbert in the whole Amazon/Hachette battle is getting great reviews as well. She's a friend and deserves all the good stuff coming her way...everyone order her book from an indie and see her in tour...she's going everywhere!

  4. Lots of stuff for work that no one else would be interested in, but am currently finishing Brendan Koerner's The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking. Entertaining - it's absolutely insane how there used to be one or more airplane hijackings each week, and passengers weren't particularly fazed at quick diversions to Cuba. It's a quick read.

    And highly recommend Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine, about a young woman who decides to adopt the principles of Stevenson's Treasure Island in her daily life.

  5. I've been having a terrible book year - work, moving, and whatever else - but:

    -I've recently been focused on books set in, or about, England/London, in anticipation of a trip next month. On the advice of some people here (esp. Genevieve), I read 84, Charing Cross Road, which I adored, and its sequel, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, which was also excellent. Highly recommended. I am halfway through A Study in Scarlet (first Holmes novel), and just started Jo Walton's alt-history mystery novel "Farthing," set in a UK that made peace with Hitler in '41 and is "now" (1949 I think) ruled by a Reich-friendly government. Good stuff. I'd like to think I'll read Wolf Hall before I go, but that may be too ambitious.

    -I just finished "Calling Doctor Laura," a graphic memoir that has been on several "best of the genre" lists. It was ok, but nowhere close to the genre leaders (Bechdel, principally). I just started "Anya's Ghost" last night, and expect that will be a quick read. On the graphic front, I've also read Matt Fraction's "Sex Criminals Vol. 1," which I liked, and have downloaded Roz Chast's new memoir.

  6. I recently adored Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I also really liked The Skies Belong to Us, and am in the middle of The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer right now.
    Russ, it might end up being great timing to be mid-Wolf Hall when you go on your trip. I saved Bring Up The Bodies to read during a trip to London (after absolutely loving Wolf Hall), and it was such perfect bar reading after visiting the Tower, for example - I thought the atmosphere of the city added to the already wonderful reading experience.

  7. Marsha11:45 AM

    I just read The Orphan Master's Son and really enjoyed it. It's a lot slower paced than what I usually like, but the writing is beautiful, and I've never read anything about North Korea before. I'm about to finish Caleb's Crossing, which is only just ok. Not sure what's next yet...

  8. Just finished The Goldfinch (couldn't stop reading.) I've got all of the Game of Thrones books chilling on my Kindle, but can't seem to bear getting started...

  9. Josie Jones Thames12:43 PM

    I am a confessed book nerd. When I finish one, I pick up another. I have recently finished Jim Butcher's new Harry Dresden book, "Skin Game" and fellow South Carolininian Dorothea Benton Frank's "The Hurricane Sisters". Since finishing those, I have decided to reread my favorite novel from childhood, Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women".

  10. lisased1:05 PM

    I picked up "Sex Criminals" when I was in New York last week and read it that night. Very funny.

    I'm just started "Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk"; I love it so far. I finished "Frog Music," which was very different from "Room," but still good. It's set during a smallpox epidemic in San Francisco, summer of 1876 , and you can just feel the heat. I finally read "Code Name: Verity," which was fantastic.

    We're heading to the beach next week, and I promised a friend I would try Claudia Lefeve's "Parallel." I also downloaded "Grave Mercy." "Wolf Hall" is in my pile as well.

  11. I just finished Joshua Ferris's newest, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour. Odd and absurd and fascinating, but not as funny or as engaging as his earlier books.

  12. The Pathetic Earthling1:32 PM

    I liked "Farthing", thought not quite enough to pick up the two sequels.

  13. christy in nyc1:51 PM

    My book list is super weird right now. Last book I finished was a YA fantasy sequel that's coming out so far in the future there's no point even telling you about it now. Other than that, it's been comics, comics, comics. And comics-adjacent stuff like Flora & Ulysses, That One Summer, Princess Labelmaker.

    I did read Americanah and thought it was great.

    On the lookout for something that's going to knock my socks off in a pure entertainment sense, though.

  14. bristlesage2:10 PM

    I just finished up The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton; it was very good. However, it's one of those books that when I sat it down, it was hard to get back into--it's written in the style of the 1860s, when it's set, and that's maybe what was a little tough. Recommended, though.

    Before that, there was the enjoyable beach read of Crazy Rich Asians, which would absolutely be classified as "chick lit" if it weren't written by a dude. A very good example a good version of the genre.

    I also just zipped through the Mistborn trilogy by Sanderson, which was a good enough read, but I kept wanting it to be only ONE book. At only one book long, I'd be recommending it full-throatedly, but at three six-hundred pagers, not so much.

    Right now, it's The Fever by Megan Abbott (I really enjoyed her Dare Me), This Town by Mark Leibovich, and will follow them, finally, with Night Film by Marisha Pessl.

  15. I've been reading a lot of YA of late, most notably John Green's stuff and Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls books (which have an irresistible hook--Gossip Girl crossed with James Bond). I also read a very strange novel that was a zombie parody of Garrison Keillor's work.

  16. bristlesage2:14 PM

    But for those of you who liked The Goldfinch so much, please take my list with a grain of salt. I liked it well enough, but I didn't love it, and on a dumb, not-really-important-to-the-book's-meaning level, I wondered if, in fact, Tartt had ever even been to Las Vegas. I think in that section she wanted to use the setting in a certain way, but dang, it just rang super-false to me as someone born and raised there.

    You can see I still have a bee in my bonnet about it.

  17. Genevieve2:15 PM

    I'll join in the love for "Americanah"! (and was so glad to hear that Lupita Nyong'o optioned it for film) Fantastic book, and now I need to read the rest of hers.
    I greatly enjoyed "Longbourn" by Jo Baker, which is Pride and Prejudice retold from the servants' point of view, and is by no means just another Austen take-off (I enjoy those to greater or lesser extent depending on how good they are, but this was truly terrific and very different). My family gave me "The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things" for Mothers' Day, and it's a different angle on Austen, very enjoyable, and I've learned some things I hadn't known even from the excellent Claire Tomalin biography.
    Just finished the very fun "William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back" (sequel to William Shakespeare's Star Wars), by Ian Doescher. All in iambic pentameter (except for Yoda - his choice for Yoda is very cool), with AT-ATs and space slugs having dialogue too, and overall a great summer read for someone who enjoys that overlap.
    "Drama High" by Michael Sokolove was terrific for theater fans -- nonfiction about the high school in economically depressed Levittown, PA that wins national theater awards.
    YA: "We Were Liars" by E. Lockhart, and "A Spy in the House" by Y.S. Lee.
    Next on my reading list: finish "Life Itself" by Ebert, and read "Everything Leads to You" by Nina LaCoeur (YA).

  18. Genevieve2:16 PM

    So glad you liked the Hanff books! I enthusiastically recommend just about everything else she ever wrote (Underfoot in Show Business, Q's Legacy, etc.), though the rest are mainly New York focused.
    I really should read Farthing - I keep hearing about Jo Walton but haven't read any of her books yet. And Wolf Hall is still on my to-be-read-at-some-point list.

  19. "The Jedi Doth Return" is now out (or, at least, it's being sold at the B&N in Fairfax).

  20. I got a copy of Q's Legacy, and plan to read it, but after the trip. :)

  21. My daughter and I loved Flora & Ulysses. Good stuff.

  22. InertiaGirl2:53 PM

    I just finished Lydia Netzer's latest, How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky, and I'm not quite sure what to say about it. I enjoy her writing and was never sure how the novel was going to end (always a good sign for me) but the characters and plot are just so...strange, for lack of a better word. I think that only time will tell how I really feel about it.

    Now for the 100% recommendations: Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman is a different take on WWII - set during the immediate post-war period and present day, the plot is set in motion by the discovery at the end of the war by American soldiers of the Hungarian Gold Train, which contains the stolen treasures of Hungarian Jews. Heartbreaking and beautiful.

    I could not put down I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes and read it in one long binge. It's a cat and mouse espionage tale of an American secret agent and his Saudi nemesis. Very Ludlum-esque.

  23. janet3:19 PM

    On the advice of someone here previously, I read (listened to) and enjoyed Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist. Following that, I started into his newist series (Stormlight Archive). I listened to The Way of Kings (45+ hours) last summer, and then again just recently as a refresher before launching into Words of Radiance during my just concluded trip to Spain. They're long books, but I really enjoy the characters, and especially the concept of "Spren."

  24. Genevieve3:31 PM

    I liked it a lot. Very different from other E. Lockhart books, which I loved, but really good and definitely worth a read.

  25. Genevieve3:34 PM

    I didn't like Caleb's Crossing nearly as much as People of the Book, also by Geraldine Brooks.

  26. Genevieve3:36 PM

    Along the lines of the Gallagher Girls, I enjoyed Robin Benway's "Also Known As" and "Going Rogue".

  27. Adlai3:52 PM

    I must know what the zombie parody of Garrison Keillor's work is.


  29. Becca4:08 PM

    I've been using my unemployment to make my way through JD Robb's "In Death" series, since the library has been so obliging about having every single one available for quick download. I've also been reading the Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels series, which I like better, so I've been taking my time there. The In Death books are easy fluff, fun and quick to read. I also read The Scorpio Races a few weeks ago. I think I like Maggie Stiefvater's stories more than her writing. It has a lyrical, far-away quality that's compelling, but I do sometimes want her to just tell the story, dammit.

  30. InertiaGirl4:15 PM

    For pure entertainment, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes knocked my socks off. Your enjoyment will depend on your interest in spy/espionage stuff but if that's in your wheelhouse, I think you would really like it.

  31. Jenn C7:04 PM

    I've started Orphan Master's Son and am really liking it. So interesting. It spurred me to watch the documentary about a young man who escaped one of the labor camps (I can't remember the name but it's on Netflix). Really heartbreaking.

  32. Jenn C7:06 PM

    Finally read Eleanor and Park which I loved, and I enjoyed The Vacationers. Both are very quick reads though. Since I'm a PCHH devotee, I also picked up The Undertaking of Lily Chen and breezed through it pretty quickly--it is beautiful to look at, not much on plot. Just started The Lowlands.

    I absolutely HATED The One and Only (I only read it b/c it came free in one of my subscription boxes).

  33. Meghan7:13 PM

    I just read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and am getting prepared to read The Interestings by Meg Worlitzer.

    I remain hopelessly late to the reading party.

  34. victoria7:40 PM

    I'm in the middle of India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guhi. I don't read a whole lot of history but it's been really fascinating thus far.

    The last book I finished was Otis Brawley's How We Do Harm, which was stupendous. Highly recommended for anyone interested in medicine and/or health-related public policy.

    All the fiction I've read lately has been bleak as hell. I read Swamplandia! by Karen Russell and Far North by Marcel Theroux back to back. That combo was so depressing that I went to the fiction section at the library and grabbed the most frivolous-looking thing I could find -- The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days by Ian Frazier -- which was funny but with a really bleak core. Then I read I Have the Right to Destroy Myself by Young-Ha Kim. And I'm done with fiction for a little bit :).

  35. Marsha10:28 PM

    Have now finished Caleb's Crossing. I can't really recommend it - I found it supremely annoying.

  36. Tosy and Cosh8:42 AM

    I'm deep in The Goldfinch too. Had to buy it when I couldn't renew the library copy I was reading. Very good.

  37. I'm late to the thread, but in case people are still reading it:

    I finished "This is Where I Leave You" by Jonathan Tropper a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it. A great dark comedy - I actually laughed out loud a couple of times, which I rarely do at books. Then I found out there's going to be a movie this fall, which will hopefully live up to the book.

    I didn't enjoy "Eleanor and Park" as much as everyone else. A bit too goopy romance for me.

    I just started Stephen King's "Mr. Mercedes." Seemed like a good summertime detective story, but I'm only a couple of chapters in, so I can't report yet.

  38. Slowlylu11:00 PM

    I am heavily into I Am Pilgrim at the moment. So so good. The other one is Thomas Hollander's Rubicon which is the perfect contrast.