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john hamilton  book journal #24 − Winters  – May 20, 2015 to September 9, 2015
other Winters journals: #23 - #25 - #26 - #27

All these books have been written up in my personal book journals, and now I just need to polish them and post them to this page. Some of these entries are just a few lines of my impressions of a book, some are more involved, and some are more like conventional book reviews ... hope you enjoy.

   my other book journals
what's I'm reading NOW?      Vicky's Page

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


cleaning vt2vttoltzarwind


lil A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

   F/432p - hardcover - FSG - finished 9.19.15

   Here's a collection of fine short stories by a writer that I had no familiarity with. Now my life is much richer, but sadly her life, and writing career, is more than a decade over.


bk Vermont Wild: Volume 2 by Megan Price

   NF/299 - paperback - Pine Marten Press - finished 9.17.15


bkVermont Wild: Volume 1 by Megan Price

    NF/271p - paperback - Pine Marten Press - finished 9.15.15


bk Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett

   NF/560p - hardcover - HMH - finished 9.8.15

   I have a newer translation of War and Peace and an older slip-cased version of Resurrection awaiting me on my to-read shelf, so it seemed a good time to learn more about Tolstoy. What I learned was that he was a seriously strange man who lived in a very interesting time of change, some change that he worked for, other changes that he resisted.

   It was fascinating to read this account of Tolstoy's later life after having reading Tolstoy's False Disciple: The Untold Story of Leo Tolstoy and Vladimir Chertkov by Alexandra Popoff that gave a much different slant to that key relationship in the elder writer's life. I can clearly see myself reading the Tolstoy bio by A.N. Wilson sometime in my future.


bk The Tzar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

   F/352p - ARC - Hogarth- finished 8.25.15


lil Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami

   F/256p - hardcover - Knopf- finished 8.22.15


wegreen behindphardbees

lil We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

   F/656p - paperback - Simon & Schuster- finished 8.20.15

  This was a very special read for me, one that I have been waiting on for some time. It came out right around when All The Light We Cannot See, and I choose that hardcover and left this one until it hit paperback. With hindsight, I now realize I should have gone for both excellent hardcovers.


bk The Green Road by Anne Enright

   F/304p - hardcover - Norton- finished 8.12.15


bk Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson

   F/332p - paperback - Picador - finished 8.7.15


bk The Prank by Anton Chekhov

   F/144p - paperback - NYBR - finished 7.29.15

   Here's the very first book that I have ordered from the internet (from the publisher not the assholes at Amazon), and while they ARE Chekhov 


bk The Harder They Come by T.C. Boyle

    F/400p - hardcover - Ecco - finished 7.28.15
   Here's a superb example of no book before its time. I have picked this book up four or five times before, started reading, but it just wasn't clicking for me ... so it was back into the future reads pile. This time, I started over from page one, and I really liked it from the very beginning. Go figure. The book does focus on some characters that aren't much fun to spend time with, but the plot line rolls along quickly pulling the reader with it.


lil The Bees by Laline Paull

    F/352p - paperback - Ecco - finished 7.25.15
   Clever, clever, clever. When you know that you're stepping into a novel that's totally from a hive full of bees point of view, it's impossible to not wonder just how well any writer can pull this off, to say nothing of a writer going this route for their very first book. Paull is definitely up to the challenge, this was a most engaging read. She pulled in so many different types of organizations and social structures to create her bee world, I was always eager to turn the page and learn what new thing as coming my way.



lil The Lost Carving by David Esterly

    NF/288p - hardcover - Viking - finished 7.21.15
   Here's a nonfiction book that tells the story of a master carver who is called in to help replace some fantastical carvings from a grand and royal home that was burned in a fire. This may sound like a yawner to many, but it was fascinating to me ... a sawdust maker for many decades.  


lil Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall

    NF/144p - hardcover - Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - finished 7.17.15
   I have loved Donald Hall's work for so long. He doesn't write poetry much anymore, but his essays haven't lost anything, as this slim volume boldly shows. He wrote this collection when he was 85 and his essays still have bite. Understandably, these essays are most often focused on aging and looking back on his past, but he's still pondering the big questions of life and he can't resist talking about the women and companions that make up his life.
   I've been reading about old people and aging since I was a teenager, I love a story with a cranky old man in it. Hall does admit that his world is narrowing in range as his physical state ages and wears. In all honesty, I would have bought this book just for the cover (what a great wrinkled face), but reading it was a wonderful few hours to share the view from Hall's eyes.


bk There's Something I Want You To Do by Charles Baxter

    F/240p - hardcover - Henry Holt - finished 7.15.15
   This collection of short stories was just a wee tiny bit shy of getting a crow for a rating, but Baxter is a master at the short form.


bk Funny Once by Antonya Nelson

    F/304p - paperback - Bloomsbury - finished 7.12.15


lil A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

    F/368p - paperback - Simon & Schuster - finished 7.6.15
   Backman is a Swede and he has created a fabulous character in the ultimate fifty-nine year old curmudgeon. I find myself crouching and looking around for fear of those who know me having a great deal to say about me loving such a charming, feel-good book ... it's not my style. Sure, I'm a curmudgeon, but in all those years selling books, I most dreaded whenever anyone asked for a feel-good story. Depression and death are more my story. Reading this book often involved seeing the words ALL YOU NEED IS OVE written on the back cover, and it always made me smile.
   The fact that I've read three books in a row that I'm crowing about, does make me wonder about myself, but damn they are all very good in very different ways. My trip from Nixon, through competitive chess, to the superb curmudgeon, Ove, was my best trifecta in recent memory, and these last two novels would definitely go on my reread shelf ... if I had one.


lil The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis

   F/243p - paperback - Vintage - finished 7.1.15   

   I took off from the first page and never looked back, as I sped through this great and chess-obsessed novel. Personally I was quite taken with the game for more than a decade, and this story of a young girl's quick rise through international competition was done just right. Reading the author's words of the character's thoughts during all these games, took me back to those years, when I was getting a better and better grasp of the game. The person who handed me the book is not a chess player, but she really enjoyed the book as well ... so an obsession is obviously required. This was a real treat.  



crow One Man Against the World by Tim Weiner

   NF/384p - hardcover - Henry Holt - finished 6.29.15   

   I'm quick to admit I have an unusual, and unhealthy, fascination with the evil that was Dick Nixon, but this was truly a superb book on the mental disorder, the black hole of a person, the evil fuck, that was our president for those many long, dark years. As a "follower" of this warthog of a president, I have read many a volume on the disaster that was this commander-in-chief, but this book gained hugely with all that has followed the other earlier books on Nixon, transcripts and summaries of all his presidential tapes and papers, those nearly countless tell-all books and memoirs of his aides, secretaries, cabinet officials, co-conspirators, and fellow crooks. Where others wrote of what some said the Evil Dick had done, this book give you the damning facts in Nixon's own colorful language from the tapes, or where some others related what they heard second-hand about illegal plans being hatched in the Oval Office, here we hear about these plans from the people who where in the room at the time ... and have since spilled the beans. As time moves on, there's always more meat to flesh out the bare facts, people just can't resist telling what they know, history becomes richer.   

  I guarantee that you will feel dirty after reading this book, but you will also have so many more facts about how low the presidency and his advisors took the country ... they had no shame.


crow Problems with People by David Guterson

   F/176p - paperback - Vintage - finished 6.22.15   

   It had been a long time since I had dipped my toes in Guterson's work, and it turned out to be a stream of short stories that were just the right temperature. These aren't stories that depend on an author's ability to shock the reader, or to suddenly grab a plot and throw it into another entirely unexpected direction, he simply (yeah, sure, simply), can write about characters that draws the reader in and make you care. Characters relate to other characters in ways that seem natural, and while certainly not always predictable, he keeps his tales very entertaining.


Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr

   F/288p - paperback - Simon & Schuster - finished 6.16.15   

   For the very first time, Anthony Doerr didn't please me on all fronts. There were several short stories in this collection that didn't wow me ... it was bound to happen sometime. It came as a surprise, I started to second think myself, maybe it was me reading from the wrong place – which I always think is a possibility, because at another time and in another mindset, I could well find them wonderful – but on first reading, not all was right. This is not to say that most of these stories weren't very enjoyable, just that a few dipped. I do so very much enjoy his writing, the places and information that he shares with his readers makes for a special time spent with this author's words.


Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun

   F/288p - paperback - Hogarth - finished 6.14.15


The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham

   F/272p - paperback - Picador - finished 6.10.15   

   I held great promise for this novel, but, while it was very special at time – there were phrases and sections that truly blew me away – overall, I was disappointed with the book.


lil Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

   F/192p - hardcover - Knopf - finished 6.5.15      

   Imagine you're a well-known writer ... and you know that your death is coming fairly soon. Kent Haruf knew that, and he took on the task of writing one last book, a book that utilized a very sparse language – even for a writer who has always dispensed with anything extra in his writing style – to tell the story of two lonely people who find themselves widowed late in life.      

   The incredibly simple style actually distracted me at times, it felt a little otherworldly, maybe like something plain for young adult readers, but that was just some little mind trip of my own. The utterly simple and practicable nature of the story, lonely people seeking friends and companionship, seemed to fit like a glove. Here were two elderly people who knew how life worked, and they wanted more of the good stuff.      

   Our Souls at Night was a pleasure. I find myself very thankful to a dying man who gave one more gift to the literary world.



crow  In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

    NF/480p - paperback - Anchor Books - finished 6.4.15
   This was a bizarre tale of an artic exploration in the 1870s, in the fact that they were following so many quickly disprovied theories of the mysterious artic. Many of those theories were shown to already be wrong before the ship sailed, but news moved a different speed then. It's rather ironic that the money behind the expedition came from a very wealthy man – third richest in the country – who owned a huge newspaper, but it was the lack of the most timely information that put these people at massive risk.
   The writing was superb and I will always be ready to read anything else by him, on any subject. In a fascinating bit of timing that he had the cover story of the latest National Geographic, at the same time that I was reading his book. It was a finely written piece on the ever-changing world of marijuana ... making him two for two on subjects that I'm most interested in.


Daydreams for Night by John Southworth

    F/48p - hardcover - Simply Read Books - finished 6.2.15
   Hey, would you call this a kid's book, or an illustrated poetry book for adults? Mrs. Dalloway's chose to feature it out with the adult and gift books. It doesn't really matter to me, it's so completely charming in word and illustration that it is fine time to be had between two covers. The artwork is done in black and white. The words are sparse. Everything combines to charm and amuse ... that's enough for me.
sp Talk about a book with great artwork, all with a mood.


Billie by Anna Gavalda

   F/192p - paperback - Europa - finished 5.29.15

   Nothing really moved me in this book ... sad to say, but true. 


crow All the Wild That Remains by David Gessner

   NF/368p - hardcover - Norton - finished 5.28.15


crow Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

    F/416p - paperback - Hogarth - finished 5.23.15
   All of his work seems to always have a real edge — some people just don't like his stuff because of this — but I really find this troubling nature very comfortable ... as odd as that sounds. 


crowHow to Sit by Thich Nhat Hanh

   NF/120p - paperback - Parallax Press - (REREAD) finished 5.20.15
   I can see myself returning to this book time and time again. This is a wonderfully simple approach to meditation. 

sp The physical state of the book alters a little each time I read it, as I can' resist using colored pencils to perform my own little color improvement on its artwork.


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

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