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JPH  book journal #26 − Winters − January 5 to June 7, 2016

         bk other Winters journals: #23
- #24 - #25 - #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:
- to crow about     - not great, not bad     p - toad of a book     special type of book - special design     VT- Vermont related
barbarian  zero

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan   
memoir - 464p - hardcover - Penguin - finished reading 6-7-16   
   I'm still not going surfing tomorrow, but this was a very well-written look back at the part that surfing has occupied in Finnegan's life. His writing brought the moods of the ocean so alive and gave the reader a glimpse into one surf-loving dude. I need to ponder this book a little more before I can write more.

Zero K by Don DeLillo   
novel - 288p - hardcover - Scribner - finished reading 5-31-16   
   Zero K is a quick read, because you can't help yourself, you must keep reading. Reading this novel was a unique experience of enjoyment that still has me wondering and marveling. 

gilliamesque  wright  reading  everybody's  mr  old

Gilliamesque: A Pre-posthumous Memoir by Terry Gilliam   
memoir - 352p - hardcover - Harper - finished reading 5-30-16   
   Anyone who has seen any of Gilliam's work won't be surprised by this inside look at his bizarre mind. Sure, he will continue to make stunningly visual films, with very strange plotlines, but many of his films seem to get lost in themselves and forget where they originally wanted to take the viewers ... if he really ever had a firm structure in mind. But I do love his work. It all reminds me of my favorite phrase from college: BIZARRE. BIZARRE. BIZARRE.
special type of book This is simply a visual treat ... as one would expect from Gilliam.   

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough   
bio/history - 336p - paperback - Simon & Schuster - finished reading 5-27-16   
   I always respect McCullough's work, but I wasn't that excited about the Wright brothers as a topic. I was wrong. He brought these rather serious and laser-focused brothers to life.   

Reading For My Life by John Leonard   
essay - 400p - paperback - Penguin - finished reading 5-25-16   
   This is an excellent collection of essays and reviews. Sure, I had seen him on CBS Sunday Morning and had read his work seemingly everywhere for years, but once you sit down and read a collection of his gems, one realizes just how good he was. 

Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo    
novel - 496p - hardcover - Knopf - finished reading 5-20-16   
   You know when you've been somewhere you absolutely loved, and you get a chance to return, life can be so very GOOOOOD. Nobody's Fool was one of my all time favorite books (as well as a fine movie) and this was a splendid follow-up, even if it did take Russo so long to return to the scene.

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt   
novel - 346p - hardcover - HMH - finished reading 5-14-16   
   Well, not every book (even one by an author you've loved before) can click. There was certainly no clicking going on with this book. I found myself reading several other books after starting this ... never a good sign. 

Old Age: A Beginner's Guide by Michael Kinsley   
nonfiction - 160p - paperback (
ARC) - Crown - finished reading 5-10-16   
   As I will turn 62 this summer, this ARC seemed right up my street. It was a funny and also quite informative.

surviving  they  last  give  my  make

Surviving the Essex by David Dowling   
nonfiction - 240p - paperback (
ARC) - Foredge - finished reading 5-8-16   
   So, one doesn't have to pay for an advanced reading copy, and with this book I came out ahead, but not that far. While it was on a topic that I've read several other books about, it didn't add much to my enjoyment or knowledge. There are parts that I felt were quite interesting, but overall the book wasn't written that well and the book's organization really started to annoy me by its conclusion.

They Know Everything About You by Robert Scheer   
nonfiction - 272p - paperback - Nation Books - finished reading 5-4-16   
   We got a chance to meet Robert Scheer when he did a book signing in our bookstore and I respected and appreciated him then, and now I have a new appreciation for him, because of this book. As always, privacy in our times is a disturbing topic, but this is a pretty complete look at the world of our government's spying on its citizens, as well as a look at what the business world does to learn, and profit, off your personal data. We live in a depressing time, when people give willing up so much of their privacy to so many websites, while at the same time that information is compiled and analyzed and shared with so many addition sites, entities both business and governmental, that people have no idea have access to it.

The Last Station by Jay Parini   
novel - 304p - paperback - Anchor Books - finished reading 5-2-16   
   I first saw the excellent movie, of the same title, that was based on this book of Tolstoy's last days, yet a book almost always fleshes out so much more of a story. I'm on a bit of a Tolstoy jag and this was just what the doctor ordered ... I'm a happy man.

Give War and Peace a Chance by Andrew Kaufman   
nonfiction - 304p - paperback - Simon & Schuster - finished reading 4-30-16   
   As a new translation of War and Peace sits upon my unread bookshelf, this was only a nature for me to read. I have read it a couple of times before and will be reading the new translation soon enough, so this book served its purpose quite well. It does a great job of making one look forward to reading the book, as well as helping you appreciate it after reading ... it fit me on both bills.

My Struggle: Book Five by Karl Ove Knausgaard   
novel - 626p - hardcover - Archipelago Books - finished reading 4-26-16   
   Book five! Another long volume in Knausgaard world. I find myself living for these books and another chance to immerse myself in his writing. The last volume wasn't that strong, but this only pales in relation to the fresh and near perfect book one. Now, I'll have to wait another year for the final volume of this 3,600 page work to be published. I can only hope that some of his other work will get translated in the near future.    I find myself unable to explain to myself, or anyone else, why I'm so captivated by these long, massively detailed accounts of Knausgaard's life, but I also find myself rereading previously released volumes of this huge story, while I await the next release. This has all been a wonderful experience in my reading life.

Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread by Chuck Palahniuk   
short stories - 336p - paperback - Anchor Books - finished reading 4-24-16   
   While I always appreciate when an author can display a creative and playful bizarreness to his work, and while this was certainly one very strange collection, I was left not really connecting with so many of these short stories. Maybe it was just my state of mind. Maybe I should take it out of my free library donation stack, or maybe I should just admit defeat, and move on.

nw  grace  grandmother  resurrection  ancient  erratic

book NW by Zadie Smith   
novel - 416p - paperback - Crown - finished reading 4-16-16   
   Here's another book that I picked up with interest, only to quickly abandon for some other title that held more promise, only to pick up again with good intentions, only to drop again, and again, again. Finally, it clicked and fit my reading mind. While overall I didn't find it completely satisfying, it had a most interesting style and certainly depicted the world of this section of London wonderfully. I can never say it enough, one never knows when it's time for a book, and you just can't force it.

Grace Keepers by Kirsty Loganimon   
novel - 320p - paperback (
ARC) - Crown - finished reading 4-14-16   
   This was an ARC that I have attempted to read on several occasions ... and it just never clicked. Because I wasn't traveling with a lot of books, I decided to give it another shot, and it really clicked this time. I loved it for its originality and style.

p My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman   
novel - 400p - paperback - Simon & Schuster - finished reading 4-12-16   
   Oh, my, why didn't I go with my gut and pass on this story of a young child (eight) and his strange grandmother? Well, I really know the answer, because I truly loved the author's previous novel, The Man Called Ove. The two books have some very nice and humorous writing in them, but this book being centered on a young kid and the kingdoms and creatures that her grandmother created for her was jut too cute and nerdy for me. I think of this as a kind of D&D style story ... without the special dice. Without the humor I would never of made it to the end, but on reflection, I should have just passed on it.

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy   
novel - 403p - slip-cased hardcover - Heritage Press - finished reading 4-7-16   
   This novel isn't as well known as Anna Karenina or War and Peace, but it was a pleasure to read. I've read quite a bit about Tolstoy and know that Resurrection took him ten year to write, and, by the conclusion, he was ready for it to be over so he could move on to something else. Knowing about his desire to move on, may have flavored my thoughts about the book's ending being rushed and quickly concluded. The story involves a lower-classed woman who is sexually taken advantage of by an estate owner, like Tolstoy admitted to doing later in his life. Is this part of that old bit about writing what you know? Whatever, it was some very nice writing and touched on many of Tolstoy's favorite themes.       
 special type of book  Heritage Press did some first rate volumes and this was a pleasure to read ... except that it (a used copy) had a smell to it. The slipcase was plain, but the paper was wonderfully thick and the edition large paged and the illustrations were numerous and simply gorgeous.    

The Ancient Minstrel by Jim Harrison   
novel - 400p - hardcover - Grove - finished reading 4-2-16   

Erratic Facts by Kay Ryan   
poetry - 128p - hardcover - Grove - finished reading 3-31-16   
   Yes, it's National Poetry Month and I'm borrowing this volume from Vicky. But, when you get down to it, Ryan's poetry didn't charm me as much as it has before. I'm not saying that I wasn't touched by her talent, just that I wasn't wowed.

crow  for  billy  diary  dead  JIM  get

crow Crow Fair by Thomas McGuane   
short stories - 288p - paperback - Vintage - finished reading 3-28-16    
   As I continue my short story love affair, I snatched this collection up as soon as I saw it in paperback at Mrs. Dalloway's. Like a bag of candy in my youth, I went through it very quickly − started one day, finished the next. And, better than candy, I have no new cavities to show for it. McGuane has an excellent way around a short story. Often, the setting of his story is another character in much of his work, it participates with the humans in so many ways. That phrase "a sense of place" fits perfect.   
   I was reading these stories when I heard yesterday that Jim Harrison had died. McGuane and Harrison have had a strong attachment with each other for a long time, exchanging weekly letters for the last 45 years. Reading McGuane, Rick Bass, and Jim Harrison all so close together over the last few days, is a wonderful experience, one that I've had many times over the years. "Mysterious and illuminating .... A complex mixture of hurt, hate, shame, betrayal, admiration, resentment and loss." - The New York Times Book Review

For a Little While by Rick Bass   
short stories - 480p - paperback - Bay Back Books - finished reading 3-25-16    
   Man oh man these stories, new and old, were a great treat. I have loved the writings of Rick Bass for many years, I should say decades.

Billy Budd and Other Stories by Herman Melville   
fiction - 416p - paperback - Penguin - finished reading 3-18-16   
   Here's an example of reading choices following what one watches on TV. I just saw most of the classic 1962 movie that was directed by Peter Ustinov with:  Terence Stamp playing Billy Budd, merchant seaman Robert Ryan playing John Claggart, master of arms Peter Ustinov playing Edwin Fairfax Vere, captain Melvyn Douglas playing the Dansker, sailmaker among many others, and I loved it. Billy Budd was the best of the stories included in this collection, some of which didn't impress me much. Makes me think that it's almost time to reread Moby again.

Guantánamo Diary by  Mohamedou Ould Slahi (edited by Larry Siems)   
bio - 432p - paperback - Bay Back Books - finished reading 3-16-16    
   I was given this book as a gift and it was an outstanding read. Slahi wrote this while he was being held at Guantánamo (where he continues to be held after more than 13 years) and his writing is very intelligent and compassionate. His mind was always alert, no matter how much he was abused and tortured, and he was always aware of what was going on around him. He was also able to discuss world politics and how bad the nations of the world viewed the U.S. for its policies and our ridiculous actions and words post 9-11. I felt very ashamed of what our country is capable of doing when we violate our country's founding principles when we are scared and seeking revenge ... if only this dangerous stupidity would stop.

Dead Man's Float by Jim Harrison   
poetry - 156p - hardcover - Cooper Canyon Press - finished
REREADing 3-10-16   
   Here I return to a new poetry collection from my man Jim Harrison. I felt I needed some good words after my last toad of a book. The author's photo on the back cover has so much character, it tells many stories all by itself. Harrison's craggy old face there rivals the cover of Donald Hall's last book, Essays After Eighty.

p Get in Trouble by Kelly Link   
short stories - 368p - paperback - Random - finished reading 3-6-16   
   Something new in my lifetime of reading, here's an entire short story collection that had not one story that I liked. Maybe my head is just not in the right space. Hard to believe that there's a whole collection of stories that never, ever moved me. On to something else.

dead  booklost  can't  HT sit  winter  caribou

Dead Man's Float by Jim Harrison   
poetry - 156p - hardback - Copper Canyon Press - finished reading 2-26-16   
   While I don't feel that this collection is his best poetry − though many of them are pretty outstanding − but I'm still thrilled to have new work by Jim.

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley   
novel - 432p - hardback - Back ry/Bay Books - finished reading 2-26-16

can't and won't by Lydia Davis   
short stories - 304p - hardback - FSG - finished
REREADing 2-22-16   
   My life was without Lydia Davis for much too long. Now that I have experienced her work, I have returned to her writing several times and it's always a real thrill to go from excellent story to excellent story.

How to Sit by Thich Nhat Books   
how to - 120p - pape
rback - Parallax Press - finished REREADing 2-19-16   
   I have returned to this wonderful little book many times and they are always rewarding.

Winter Morning Walks by Ted Kooser   
poetry - 120p - paperback - Carnegie Melon U - finished
REREADing 2-14-16   
   This has become one of my vey favorite small collections of poetry ... such a joy to experience again and again.

Caribou by Charles Wright   
poetry - 96p - paperback - FSG - finished
REREADing 2-13-16

essays  letters  why  blood  your  fates

crow VT
Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall   
essay - 144p - hardback - Houghton Mifflin - finished
REREADing 2-12-16

Letters to Poseidon by Cees Nooteboom   
fiction -144p - hardback - MacLehose - finished
REREADing 2-12-16

crow Why We Write About Ourselves edited by Meredith Maran   
writing - 272p - paperback - Penguin - finished reading 2-7-16

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy   
novel - 368p - paperback - Vintage - finished reading 2-4-16   
   It took me reading countless praises for this powerful novel, over so many years, before I took the plunge into this golden book. McCarthy does not seem capable of making a literary misstep and this was a incredibly moving story. It contains some of the most gruesome details of anything I've every read. Simply put, this was one of the best reading experience of my life.  

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa   
novel - 320p - hardback - Little Brown - finished reading 1-30-16   
   This book showed promise at first, but by the book's close, I wasn't that engaged. The story follows the role of several people in the WTO demonstrations in Seattle, years back. Now, that's a pretty exciting backdrop for a book involving the Seattle chief of police and his runaway son who's demonstrating there, some of the police who are operating in close to a full-scale police riot mode, and the stories of some of the other demonstrators, but it wasn't gripping. The action scenes weren't that well-drawn and when it came to the personal relationships of the characters, the people seemed stiff and to not be showing much of any of their humanity. This novel comes down far from the exciting. Disappointment lurks in this reader's soul.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff   
novel - 400p - hardback - Riverhead Books - finished reading 1-26-16   
   I'm still pondering this most provocative novel. I found the writing very stimulating at times, and the storyline always kept my interest.

bybook  four  aquarium  england  god  memphremagog

crow By the Book edited by Pamela Paul   
writing - 336p - paperback - Picador - finished reading 1-19-16.   
   If you are familiar with the New York Times Book Review, you know the popular column that includes a short interview with a know writer or personality, and here's a book made entirely of these most intriguing pieces. As a person engrossed in literature, I always find what books familiar writers are reading, preparing to read, or regret having read, very interesting. I learned much more about many of my favorite writers and gained more of an appreciation for those writers I've not read or cared much for before.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr   
bio - 224p - paperback - Scribner - finished reading 1-17-16   
   Oh, to be me, with all my faults. I'm not that crazy about babies (to put a massive gloss on it) and this is the first book that I've not loved by Doerr, because in it he describes moving to Rome for a year with his family and it revolves constantly around dealing with the twin babies. His writing is always nicely done, but the subject of his babies, who are just a few months old, often displaces the fascinating history, culture, geography, and people of Rome. All the richness of one of the great cities of the world, simply got shorted.    So, I took pleasure from the book where I could find it, and ignored reoccurring stories of how cute total strangers found the babies, when they wouldn't sleep, and other baby thrills. Hope I don't sound bitter ... I'm just disappointed.

Aquarium by David Vann   
novel - 272p - paperback - Grove - finished reading 1-15-16   
   Readers familiar with the writings of David Vann would not be surprised to hear that his newest novel has some pretty wild and gritty plot twists that tend to keep readers like me returning time and time again. His readers might be surprised to learn that Aquarium starts out in a rather sweet way with a young teenage girl being befriended by an older man at the city's aquarium. She lives with only her mother and spends part of every day after school with the fishes.   
   Okay, I would gather that many of you would expect a child-abusing plot twist next, but Vann is much too inventive a writer to take the easy way out. He transforms this warm situation into a story with several directions involving some most interesting characters, and does − in a most Vann-like way − include some most disturbing, down right shocking scenes.   
   By the book's ending, along with the characters, you have been through a lot ... and it's very satisfying.    
special type of book special styling - The cover of this paperback original is very attractive and all through the text there are pen and ink drawings of all manner of fish. None of it distracts, it all works together to make a nice package. This is good design.

England and Other Stories by Graham Swift   
short stories - 256p - hardcover - Knopf - finished reading 1-11-16   
   I came to the finely crafted world of Swift's writing late in life − that's all I have left of life now − but I'm really loving every one of his books now. The beauty and craft of these short stories never lets me down. It had been something like thirty years since he's put out a short story collection and I recommend everyone to take the time to read these.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson   
novel - 480p - paperback - (
ARC) - Back Bay Books - finished reading 1-8-16   
   This took me a long time to finally get around to reading. It was well over a year ago that I firs t got this as an ARC (advanced reading copy) and it was very good, but it just didn't measure up to its much more satisfying closely-related Atkinson title, Life After Life. But what do I know?? A God in Ruins was just given the Costa Book Award for the Novel, as did Life After Life previously. She is one hell of a writer however one looks at her books.

VT Around Lake Memphremagog by Bea Nelson & Barbara Malloy      
history - 128p - paperback - Arcadia Publishing - finished reading 1-5-16      
   This book was a gift from my sister who still lives in Vermont near the lake we grew up near ... thus this was a great trip down memory lane for me. The name of the lake was always a challenge to visitors, but we spent so many days swimming and boating all over this lake that reaches far up into Canada. Arcadia Publishing seems to be on a quest to catalog every location in the United States. While they're not all golden − seems to depend upon the local folks that get involved in the story and photo collecting − I really like the old photos and stories of the Native Americans, explorers, settlers, outlaws, smugglers, and the like who make up the history of a place.

other Winters journals #23 - #24 - #25 - #27 & many other book journals    househousehouse

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