home | blog | site map | reviews | bookstore travelers | book awards
john hamilton  book journal #25 − Winters − September 9 to December 30, 2015

other Winters journals: #23 - #24 - #26 - #27 & many other book journals

Here are the books I've been reading lately. I put the covers up here and then it takes me some time to get my thoughts together about the books. I have many physical journals filled with my first reactions to these books. Then I rework them for inclusion online.

      what's John reading NOW?  Vicky's Page
let me judge:
- a book to crow about     - not great, not bad     p - toad of a book, warts & all     special type of book - great book design

small BLUEBook totals for 2015: 91 books read, 64 fiction works and 27 nonfiction works, 29,655 pages, average book length of 326 pages

black  nick  redeploy  cam  13  car

book Black Glass by Karen Joy Fowler
   F/304p - hardcover - Putnam - finished reading 12.30.15

book Nick Bollettieri Tennis Handbook - Second Edition by Nick Bolettieri
   NF/400p - paperback - Human Kinetics - finished reading 12.28.15

crow Redeployment by Phil Klay
   F/304p - paperback - Random - finished reading 12.26.15

book Camouflage by Murray Bail
   F/160p - hardcover - FSG - finished reading 12.23.15

book Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
   F/256p - hardcover - Random - finished reading 12.19.15

book Caribou by Charles Wright
   F/96p - paperback - FSG - finished REREADING 12.15.15

Mtrain  car  saints myhat  domo

book M Train by Patti Smith
   NF/272p - hardcover - Knopf - finished reading 12.13.15
   This memoir of an artist was uneven, with great and insightful observations, and other other thoughts that didn't seem entirely thought through. In my mind, that unevenness only seems right, when you're dealing with an artist. My eyes never read her first book, Just Kids, but judging by most of the reviews, the two books are quite different, with M Train not being so structured and chronological...feels like I chose the right one.

book Caribou by Charles Wright
   F/96p - paperback - FSG - finished reading 12.12.15
   It took a bit of looking to finally locate this book...then it showed up on the shelves of two different East Bay bookstores in the same week.

crow Saints at the River by Ron Rash
   F/256p - paperback - Picador - finished reading 12.11.15
   What an excellent book.

crow My Struggle: Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard
   F/441p - paperback - FSG - finished REREADING 12.7.15
   I came back because I was missing his writing AND I am so glad I did. It's easy to see myself reading all of them again, long before the fifth volume comes out.

crow The President's Hat by Antoine Laurain
   F/208p - paperback - Gallic Books - finished 12.4.15
   A story from Paris ─ about something other than the recent terrorist attacks ─ about the hat of President Franҫois Mitterrand. So, maybe that doesn't sound too exciting, but this novel has a real charm, told with a fine bit of writing. The time is the 1980s, when Mitterrand was in power, and his group entered a brasserie and sits down at the next table over from our first character, Daniel Mercier. Daniel is thrilled, as he instantly recognizes the dashing figure, and finds himself listening in on his conversation. When the president's group breaks up and leaves, the fine hat of the republic's leader is left behind. Our character decided that he would simply pick it up and leave with it.
   Now, this hat, while it is quite attractive, also seems to give every wearer of it a new-found confidence, soon to be followed by new successes. Every one of the subsequent lives of the people under the hat seems to improve.
   It maybe familiar to you, it certainly is to me, when someone who's not used to wearing a hat takes to wearing one, forgetting it ... often follows. Thus the hat goes from person to person, and the story is a treat as it unfolds, and then coils back on itself.
   Another pleasing aspect of the book is that the author purposely chose the 1980s as a simpler time, one that didn't offer (or force) the electronic devices and lifestyle upon its characters. In the back of the book the author tells how many readers have contacted him about how much they enjoyed the different culture and pace of life it depicted. I'm right there with them. Pleasure abounds between these covers, and the fable-like story also touches on a tiny bit of politics, history, and some philosophy.

crow Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt
   F/336p - hardcover - Ecco - finished 11.28.15
   DeWitt was the author of the truly remarkable The Sisters Brothers, and he has done it again. This is a clever, well-written novel that had only one hiccup in this reader's mind. Possibly, I'm becoming a prude, because there I was really enjoying the reading experience, loving the book's vibe and rhythm, when I came to one violent/sex scene that was just too jarring, and it put me off. Once the book moved on, I was right back to loving it again and overall I really recommend it. The author made this book an even more interesting experience. Thank you Mr. deWitt.

irving  bob  seven  laugh  art  spider

book Avenue of Mysteries by John Irving
   F/480p - hardcover - Simon & Schuster - finished 11.24.15
   Here was a novel by one of my very favorite authors, but it was a book that didn't work as well for me. Maybe I'm just not comfortable with Irving's work out of a New England setting. As I was writing this book up in my personal book journal, I was remembering it in a better and better light, his writing really shines brightly at times, and he includes many of the touches that he's know for, the things that shock, catch the reader off-guard, and keep the writing interesting, but Avenue goes down as not a favorite Irving for me.

crow Bob Dylan: All the Songs by Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon
   NF/704p - hardcover - Black Dog & Leventhal - finished 11.21.15
   For anyone who's fixated on Dylan (that's me!) this is a pure treat that includes more than 700 pages of: hundreds of photos, production notes, musician lists, who has covered what songs, and so much more, for the 525 songs that Dylan has recorded and released from his very first album to 2015's Shadows in the Night. I cannot remember when the last time was when I got so immersed in something as when I was reading the text and listening to the songs on my laptop headphones. What a fantastic overview of my very favorite musician!

book A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
   F/704p - paperback - Riverhead Press - finished 11.14.15
   This book won the Man Booker and has a very distinctive style. At the same time as I was impressed by the style, language, and the wonderful (and numerous) characters, it didn't totally work for me. The use of some very heavy street language could use with a dictionary of Jamaican street slang. And even though I wasn't won over by the whole package, I find myself missing many of those characters.

book The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson
   F/240p - paperback - Picador - finished 11.13.15
   Johnson is such a fine writer, and he has redeemed himself in my book, after having last struggled through his National Book Award winning novel, Tree of Smoke, which was not a fun time for me. While, with Smoke, I was in the wrong book at the the wrong time, with Monsters, I was thrilled with his writing.

crow The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer
   NF/96p - hardcover - TED Books - finished 11.8.15
   Such a prize of a book this truly is.

         el  el2

 special  The artwork of the cover is no big whoop, but the photographs that separate the chapters are spectacular. Her name is Eydís Einarsdóttir, and she is from Iceland and Canada. Her pictures are just a perfect pairing with Iyer's text. See much more at this website.

crow The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
   F/416p - hardcover - Knopf - finished 11.2.15
   The cast returns with a new storyteller and things are still keeping this reader turning the pages quickly all the way to the the end. It seemed that the language is maybe a touch simpler, but the originals were pretty sparse. The main two characters are back with style and several new faces are introduced to keep the plot fresh. I'm not in general a mystery or action novel fan, but this fourth novel of the Tattoo series has some very nice pacing to it, the excitement kept my reading going late into the night. Lagercrantz does an excellent job of delivering the same style of bringing a character's story up to speed and with plenty of excitement, and then just abruptly dropping it, to bring another character into the spotlight, only to drop them for another. It's not as frustrating as it sounds, because you know it's all going to come together, he's just making sure to deliver enough adrenaline.
In the end, I was thrilled with the book and am glad to hear that Langercrantz will be writing two more Tattoo books.

sven  cleese  purity  what  mor  gods

crow Changing the Subject by Sven Birkerts
   NF/256p - paperback - Graywolf Press - finished 10.27.15
   It's always a thrill when an author can put words on paper that put the reader's mind in gear. Birkerts has been able to do this with every article or book of his that I've read. Here he does it again. An essay that stimulates my thoughts is heaven, Thanks Sven.

book So, Anyway... by John Cleese
   NF/400p - paperback - Three Rivers Press - finished 10.24.15
   One learns a great deal about where Cleese went in his earlier (pre-Monty) career ... and you also get to laugh a lot while learning, unlike most learning experiences. It is just in the last thirty or forty pages that Monty Python is explored, but Cleese's mind is a kick whatever he's writing about ... and the world is already pretty full of Python books.

book Purity by Jonathan Franzen
   F/576 pages - hardcover - FSG - finished 10.16.15
   My gut reaction to Franzen's newest novel is that it didn't "hit the mark" for me. While the writing wowed me at times, all together it disappointed me and I found myself looking forward to another book. In fact, I read three or four books between starting Purity up and finishing it ... never a good sign.

book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
   F/192 pages - paperback - Vintage - finished 10.1.15
   Murakami makes the point many times throughout this book that he runs so that he can write. What? He tells his readers that he is a person who needs to have plenty of alone time, all by himself, to recharge his batteries, so he can then spend time alone writing.
   People who know much about Murakami are familiar with the fact that he and his wife owned and ran a bar in Japan for around three years. He attributes that forced-social time with his talents as a writer, but he prefers to live his life as a singular person, running and writing by himself.
   The book tells of a pattern he has established of running about six miles six days every week, as well as running one marathon each year. The clear mind of a long-distance runner, has also became mixed in with his new habit of taking part in triathlons, though he really seems to strongly dislike riding a bicycle.

crow Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
   F/384 pages - paperback - Harper - finished reading 9.26.15
   This was a thrilling bit of good writing for people like me who loved the whole world of Sherlock Holmes. After enjoying this so much, I'm now sure to be looking for his previous Sherlock book, The House of Silk. My only spoiler about this novel would be that there is a big reveal in the last fifty pages ... which is not anything of a spoiler for those familiar with things Sherlock. For me, a wimp when it comes to damage by knives, this was a tense and bloody red read at times. As he lays out the story, he cleverly plays with the reader about what's known, obvious, and surprising.
   This took me back to when I was reading those two thick volumes of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tales, while puffing on my meerschaum pipe, in a small apartment in Burlington, Vermont. Horowitz captured the feel, style and pace of those stories spot on.

book God's Kingdom by Frank Howard Mosher
   F/240 pages - paperback - St. Martin's Press - finished reading 9.25.15
   Being from Vermont's great Northeast Kingdom (the sparsely-populated northeast section of the state that Mosher labels God's Kingdom) I was a natural for this book. Mosher is an excellent writer and It's always a kick to have familiar places playing a role in his books. Some times locations in his books go by their real names, other times he takes literary license to rename them. The attitudes and personalities of his characters often seem quite familiar.
   He has a great ear for the way Kingdom folks communicate and how the Canadian border brings together two different cultures. The historical underpinning of the area are right up front in this book and I found it a very good read.


  househousehouse        other Winters journals #23 - #24 - #26 - #27 & many other book journals    househousehouse

home | blog | site map | reviews | bookstore travelers | book awards | to the top