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john hamilton  book journal #23 − Winters – January 3 to May 20, 2015
     other Winters journals: #24 - #25 - #26 - #27

Let me just say, it takes me awhile to get my thoughts about the books I've read, from my physical book journals, to these virtual pages. Also, some entries are just a few lines of my impressions of the reading experience, some are more involved, and some are more like conventional book reviews ... hope you enjoy.

    more book journals
what's John reading NOW?      Vicky's Page

let me judge:
crowing- a book to crow about     - not great, not bad     p - toad of a book     special type of book - great book design


crowing Being Dead by Jim Crace (F/208p) paperback - Picador - (REREAD) finished 5.20.15
   This was rereading experience, one easy to chalk up to a thrilling one, even better than the thrill of the first and second readings. I love the twisted story of the two older people's dead bodies decomposing on the shoreline, as the author retells the story of their relationship.

The Brink by Austin Bunn (F/240p) paperback - Harper - finished 5.17.15

Mark Twain's Notebooks edited by Carlo Devito (NF/356p) paperback - Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers - finished 5.15.15
   Here is a perfect blend of a little historical education, a great deal of the man's own words, and some artwork and photographs of Twain from throughout his life and works. 
special type of book

Days Like These edited by Samatha Schoech (NF/194p) paperback - California Bookstore Day Pulishers - finished 5.14.15

Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson (F/288p) paperback - Back Bay Books - finished 5.9.15

American Innovations by Rivka Galchen (F/192p) paperback - Picador - finished 5.6.15

my strugglehoff

My Struggle: Book Four by Karl Ove Knausgaard (F/485p) hardcover - Archipelago Books - finished 5.3.15
   After having to wait for this fourth volume to be translated and published for over a year, to say I was anxious would be wildly understated. It's hard to imagine waiting for two more years for the last two volumes, but I'll be chomping at the bit for each one. Though this wasn't one of my favorite volumes of the "work"  I still love the experience of being surrounded by Knausgaard's words and style. This volume was a different sort of an animal style-wise, but it's all special to me. No doubt about it, I'm a fan/groupie.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (NF/288p) hardcover - Grove Press - finished 4.28.15

Off Course by Michelle Huneven (F/304p) paperback - Picador - finished 4.20.15
I will admit it, it was that great cover – a strange photo of a woman and a bear sitting on a bed, by Gregori Maiofis – that got the book in my hand, and then as I sampled her writing, I was sold. Turns out that Vicky has read a couple of her books, and she loved them.

A Philosophy of Walking by Federic Gros (NF/240p) paperback - Vero - finished 4.17.15
   How many ways can one person choose to write about the simple process of walking? Well, probably more than are contained in this book, but surely not more interestingly described than in Gros's book.

crowing About Grace by Anthony Doerr (F/416p) paperback - Penguin - finished 4.13.15
   After three books by Doerr, I am definitely sold on his talent. His characters are well-made, the plotlines are always interesting and clever, and his interest in science and nature are a constant fascination for me. You can tell what he is excited about, and what he wants to share with the reader. And, as a born northern Vermonter, featuring on the photography of "Snowflake" Bentley, was a thrill. Check out that
website, come on, you know you should.

The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr (F/240p) paperback - Simon & Schuster - finished 4.7.15

girl fireburied giant

crowing The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (F/352p) hardcover - Knopf - finished 4.2.15
   This is a powerhouse of a book that tells of a group of Australian POWs working and dying under the brutal Japanese as they built the Burma-Siam railway line during WW II, as well as several related stories of some of the main characters. It was a very moving book and one that brought many of the lives involved to their varied conclusions. Love, hate, duty, humanity, brutality, faith, futility, hope, and despair are all given exposure in a story that I'm sure will stay with me for a long time. 

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis (F/736p) paperback - Grove Press - finished 3.29.15
   What can I say, this really blazed with great writing at times, but I was rather disappointed overall.

Foundation: The History of England ... by Peter Ackroyd (NF/496p) paperback - Thomas Dunne Books - finished 3.25.15
   What a treat. Mr. Ackroyd doesn't just floor the reader with so many facts in this, the beginning segment of his English history project (his project including several books, with each covering a particular period of England's history) but our kind and knowing author also does asides and smaller chapters that inform us about how the people lived, thought, loved, and perceived what was happening around and to them.
is the first book in the series and is subtitled The History of England From the Earliest Beginnings to the Tudors. Personally I loved the basic evolution of society from moving huge rocks hundreds of miles to Stonehenge, to royal families interbreeding, crossbreeding, intra-breeding, until the gene pool of Europe's royals was very frightfully shallow. This time period also includes the many invasions of England by the Vikings, Saxons, Scots, French, and so many other groups, that have had so many lasting influences on the English and their culture.
  Ackroyd is very clear in showing time and time again how a king's people only felt he was a strong leader if he lead his armies in battle after battle, at home and abroad, most often bleeding the kingdom's coffers dry and then demanding huge taxes from the people. If you just want to treat people fairly and avoid going to war, a king was seen as weak ten times over.
   The coalitions that were formed among a king and his advisors, lords, and knights were often second fiddle to bonds created by marrying off a son or daughter to another king's offspring.
   This book is a fine example of what a strange and bizarre trip history is in every land. Now, I'm absolutely sure that the other Ackroyd books in this series will show up in these journals in the not too distant future.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson (F/832p) paperback - Vintage - finished 3.21.15
   The trilogy comes to an end. The future does hold an entirely different author penning a fourth volume, but will that be the same?

The Girl Who Played With Fire
by Stieg Larsson (F/752p) paperback - Vintage - finished 3.14.15
   Because of circumstances, this was the first book I've read in some time that was done without the benefit, or, in my case, my crutch, of highlighting plot twists and beautiful language with a large number of Post-its stuck to so many of the book's pages. It was a freeing experience as I was reading, but I felt somewhat cheated when it came time to write about the book in my book journal.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (F/336p) hardcover - Knopf - finished 3.8.15
   special type of book You just have to love the textured paper used for the dust jacket, the black-edged pages, the cover illustration, and even the font for the text. It reminds me of how great a finely crafted book can feel ... what a pleasure to read. This is the very best tactile experience one can have reading a hardcover book ... the only thing that could make it any better would be to add the creak and smell of a fine, old leather cover. Oh, and this fine specimen is autographed. 

dead wake10:04dragonmr mac and mekimvirgil

Dead Wake by Erik Larson (NF/448p) ARC - Crown - finished 3.6.15
   Larson can make anything come to life, but this story seemed to not be as exciting or as clever as his last few books. Yet, I still stayed with it late into the night and enjoyed the thrill of his words.

10:04 by Ben Lerner (F/356p) hardcover - Faber & Faber - finished 3.1.15
   Oh my, I completely missed the boat as far as appreciating this novel ... I stepped off the dock and fell into the drink. I understand that through the stories we were looking at other things and people to inform of about our writer – and while I liked some of the descriptions and plot twists – I didn't care enough about the uniqueness of the structure of the book to fine anything to be engaged with.
   After all those reviews and ads saying how clever Lerner was with this book, it all seemed to be so very forgettable. In short, this was a book to sell back to a used bookstore ... that cash or credit would be the most enjoyment I could ever hope to gain from with this book. A regrettable experience.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (F/672p) paperback - Black Lizard - finished 2.27.15
   Here's another one of those titles that I sold countless copies of in my bookstores, but I never read a single word of beyond the cover. Now I have altered that state of affairs and it was a thrill.
   My disclaimer, of sorts, about this book is that I have seen all three of the Swedish movies in the series, and the American movie of Dragon Tattoo with Daniel Craig ... many, many times. For this first book there were, understandably, very few surprises, but it is always a fascinating trip to read the story of a movie your most familiar with.
   When the visual depiction of a story comes before the written word, it's interesting to step back (in your mind) and realize how your mind still creates images of those same words and stories. Yet, your mind's eye can easily yield to the images from the film, but then you read a passage in the book that was skipped in the movie, and where's your mind go? (In fact, I often wonder where my mind goes.)
   I don't think these books are great literature by any means, but, much as Stephen King said about his own books, he knows how to push people's buttons. And, oh yes, Larsson knew well how to push people's buttons throughout his books. He created fairly good characters and settings, brought in lots of juicy details, and was very good at moving a story along, and was well-versed in keeping so many balls (characters, plots, settings) in the air and working well together. Never did I find myself confused about who or what was involved – which is very impressive with fairly long books that are very full of details.
   So after so many years, I've joined his many fans in wishing so much that he had had time to create more of these books.    

crowing Mr. Mac and Me by Esther Freud (F/304p) paperback - Bloomsbury - finished 2.22.15
   I would love to be able to carry the world that this novel created around in my mind, each and every day ... what an endorsement for a reread in my near future.

crowing A Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer (NF/368p) ARC - Flatiron Books - finished 2.20.15
   What a fascinating piece of nonfiction. It's a timely work, about a time and place that we living anywhere other than North Korea, know very, very little about. Well, in truth, those living in North Korea are kept in the dark about most everything happening there as well. Remember, in many places, ignorance is power.

Percival Everett by Virgil Russell by Percival Everett (F/256p) paperback - Graywolf Press - finished 2.12.15

transcriptionistour only worldblack-haired deathoutlinetolstoys

crowing The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland (F/272p) paperback - Algonquin Books - finished 2.7.15

crowing Our Only World by Wendell Berry (NF/199p) hardcover - Counterpoint - finished 2.6.15

Death of the Black-Haired Girl by Robert Stone (F/281p) paperback - Mariner - finished 2.2.15

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy (F/64p) paperback - Vintage - finished 1.29.15

Outline by Rachel Cusk (F/256p) hardcover - FS&G - finished 1.28.15
   Hey, is it me? Here's another book getting good reviews and up for book awards, that didn't click for me.

Tolstoy's False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov by Alexandra Popoff (NF/259p) paperback - Pegasus - finished 1.26.15

how o sitbigwaitallloiteringdog

crowing How to Sit by Thich Nhat Hanh (F/120p) paperback -  Parallax Press - finished 1.23.15
This is one great little book on a very clear and simple approach to meditation. Over the years I have read a fair number of books on meditation and many by Thich Nhat Hanh -- this was one of the best from both groups. I can still feel the pleasure of the sun on my face from this morning's meditation session in the backyard, as I paid attention to my breathe in and my breathe out. This book needed to be no longer, and was the perfect book to lead me into a very pleasant place to be.

The Big Seven by Jim Harrison (F/352p) hardcover -  Grove - finished 1.19.15
Jim Harrison writes as good as any American writer out there. It's a guarantee that whatever he gets published, will have me eager to read it.

Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson(F198/p) hardcover -  Random - finished 1.14.15
The only thing that could be better than a collection of short stories from the special world of Walt Longmire would be to have more of it. I have become such a huge fan of these characters that it's wonderful to have them come to life again and again.

crowing All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (F/480p) hardcover -  Scribner - finished 1.13.15
   special type of book  There was nothing special about the design of this book, but for a wonderful cover photo and a special paper finish that made the light on the water's surface and the sky shine and glisten in a very special and beautiful way.

Loitering by Charles D'Ambrosio (NF/368p) paperback -  Tin House Books - finished 1.9.15
One great review in the NYT Book Review set me up to grab this off the shelf as soon as I came near it. What a fine collection of essays. The best ones are very special, and very good.

The Dog by Joseph O'Neill (F/256p) hardcover -  Harper - finished 1.3.15

 other Winters journals: #23 - #25 - #26 - #27 & many other book journals

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