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JPH  book journal #27 - Winters − September 9 to December 30, 2016   

         bk other Winters journals: #23
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Here are the books I've been reading lately. I put the covers up here, then it takes me a little time to get my thoughts together about the books. I have many notebooks filled with my first reactions to these books.
ARC stands for advanced reading copy - released by publishers before publication to create buzz about a new book)

     what's John reading NOW?  |  Vicky's Page
let me judge:
       crow - to crow about          p - toad of a book          special - special design          VT- Vermont related

today  visiting  pond  waves  moonglow  how

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
fiction - 272p - hardcover - Little Brown - finished 12-31-16

The Visiting Privilege by Joy Williams crow
short stories - 512p - paperback - Vintage - finished 12-29-16

Pond by Claire-Loiuse Bennett crow
short stories - 208p - hardcover - Riverhead Books - finished REREADING 12-23-16

The Waves by Virginia Woolf
fiction - 240p - paperback - Vintage - finished 12-21-16

Moonglow by Michael Chabon crow
fiction - 448p - hardcover - Harper - finished 12-20-16

How to Sit by Thich Nhat Hanh crow
nonfiction - 120p - paperback - Parallax Press - finished REREADING 12-18-16

lost  human  h  a  t  f

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston crow
fiction - 448p - hardcover (ARC) - Grand Central Pub - finished 12-15-16

Human Acts
by Han Kang
fiction - 224p - paperback (ARC) - Hogarth - finished 12-14-16

The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock
fiction - 384p - hardcover - Doubleday - finished 12-10-16  

Am I Alone Here: Notes on Living to Read, Reading to Live by Peter Orner crow
essay - 276p - paperback - Catapult - finished 12-3-16

This Too Will Pass by Milena Busquets
fiction - 176p - paperback (ARC) - Hogarth - finished 12-1-16  

A Fugitive in Walden Woods by Norman Lock crow
fiction - 240p - paperback (ARC) - Bellevue Library Press - finished 11-30-16

 sleeping  born  our  eileen  know  road

Sleeping Mask by Peter LaSalle crow
fiction - 256p - paperback (ARC) - Bellevue Library Press - finished 11-28-16  

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah crow
biography - 304p - paperback (ARC) - Random - finished 11-26-16  
Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In by Bernie Sanders crow VT
biography/politics - 464p - hardcover - St. Martin's Press - finished 11-13-16

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
fiction - 272p - paperback - Penguin - finished 11-17-16  

Know Your Beholder by Adam Rapp crow
fiction - 352p - paperback - Little Brown - finished 11-14-16

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson
travel/essay - 400p - paperback - Anchor Books - finished 11-6-16

half  nutshell  road  glorious  rough  what

Half Wild: Stories by Robin MacArthur crow
short stories - 224p - hardcover - Ecco - finished 10-29-16

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
fiction - 208p - hardcover - Doubleday - finished 10-27-16

The Road Home: A Contemporary Exploration of the Buddhist Path by Ethan Nichtern
spiritual - 288p - paperback - North Point Press - finished 10-19-16

Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
fiction - 400p - paperback (ARC) - Crown - finished 10-13-16

Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry
essay - 240p - paperback (ARC) - Wisconsin Historical Society Press - finished 10-11-16

What is Not Yours is Not Yours
by Helen Oyeyemi
short stories - 336p - hardback - Riverhead Books - finished 10-1-16
   I'm unimpressed, is it something I missed or just some problem of communication between author and reader? Whatever, I won't return to this collection.

  ashes  paper  blue
  vegetarian  hillbilly
Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett crow
short stories - 208p - hardback - Riverhead Books - finished REREADING
   These stories have such a very special quality, one that I still, even after my second reading of the book, don't know how to explain. The stories are peaceful and closely related to each other. They seem like reflective diary entries, but they are so much more. The wording is short and simple, often are depictions of a slow-paced everyday life in an old stone house in the countryside, but there is a wonderfully human mind behind them.
   I'm still pondering them.

Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes Per Petterson crow
short stories - 128p - paperback - Graywolf - finished REREADING
   Here's a collection, his first published work, that tells of a young boy coming to grips with his life, while surrounded by the varied people who formed his family. The innocence and confusion often remind me of my youth amongst my own relatives.

Paper: Paging Trough History by Mark Kurlansky
history - 416p - hardcover - Norton - finished 9-24-16
   Hey, the history of the development and use of paper, and this book's not a chance to snooze. Sure, as a long-time bookseller, I'm a good friend of books and paper, but this book is written by a man who has wonderful talents when it comes to doing vast amounts of research and making dry subjects come to life ... for all.

The Blue Guitar by John Banville crow
fiction - 272p - paperback - Vintage - finished reading 9-18-16
   Reading Banville is always a special experience, one that is filled with spectacular writing and interesting characters. He reminds me of the joy of Cormac McCarthy's writing - I find myself rereading sections over and over again, just to see just how he accomplishes what he does with so few words, it's almost magical.
    This book just seemed right. I have to admit that I'm always drawn to books with blue covers, with clouds or water on the cover. I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover, but nobody said anything about being attracted to them. I may have claimed to be a sensitive-ponytailed-man, but I've never claimed to be deep.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang crow
fiction - 208p - paperback (
ARC) - Hogarth - finished reading 9-14-16
    Dark and creepy. Clever and different. Well-written and quite original.
    Who could have guested where this book was headed from it start? If you'd been told what the book's journey was, I think many would not have chosen to take the trip. This slim novel is told in three parts that give the reader several different perspectives of the same events and may make some readers uncomfortable, but I found this novel fascinating.
   The author is from South Korea and has won the Man Booker International Prize, yet this is her first novel published in this country ... which will be soon followed by another novel, Human Acts, in January of 2017.
   The book's first line is: "Before my wife turned vegetarian, I'd always thought of her as completely unremarkable in every way." This line becomes more and more significant, and revealing, as you get further and further into the story. Beyond that, I don't want to reveal much more about the story because this is a very short book that's long on creativity. Take this book for a read, if it doesn't do much for you, well, you won't have spent much reading time. But, if it hits you like it did me, it's an original ride that is very impressive.

 Hillbilly Elegy
by J.D. Vance
bio - 272p - hardback - Harper - finished reading 9-13-16
    Here's a book that seemed to be mentioned on every Sunday morning "talking head" show a few Sundays back, and that was enough to peak my interest. It's structured as a biography, but it also works as an excellent look at how the poor white segment of the population thinks, functions, and dysfunctions in modern America.
   The author is very open about this problems and pain of his early life as a hillbilly ou
t of Kentucky and then Ohio, only to then catch a few breaks, work very hard, enlist in the Marines, and end up a graduate of Yale Law School. Growing up, his grandparents made a major difference to him, because his mother wasn't a source of much stability for him our his older sister, with her constantly changing husbands and companions, and a serious addiction problem. The breaks and the networking (a word he never heard growing up) that made all the difference in his life, were something that the poorer folks in our culture know little of. He gives a lot of credit to the Marines for giving many of the life skills that helped him to begin to figure out how progress can be achieved.
   Overall, the book was very interesting and was told from a viewpoint that our culture doesn't hear, or listen to often. A different perspective on life is most always worth a listen ... grasshopper.     

mend  half wild  the Harvest Man  one   eternal   man

Mendocino Fire by Elizabeth Tallent
short stories - 272p - paperback - Harper - finished reading 9-8-16    
   This could be a perfect example of a book that my mind wasn't in the right place to read, right now. But I did, and the result wasn't good. There was maybe only one short story in the whole collection that I enjoyed the last half as much as the beginning. In other words, I wish I hadn't continued all the rest. Sometimes, as much as you try, a book just doesn't connect.

Half Wild: Stories by Robin MacArthur crow VT
short stories - 224p - hardback - Ecco - finished reading 9-3-16    
   I loved these stories, and, no, it wasn't just because they were about Vermont. I had been circling this book on the shelf of a East Bay bookstore for several weeks, before I took the plunge. Boy, she can write. I'm still thinking about these stories. (more to come)

The Harvest Man by Alex Grecian crow
fiction - 416p - paperback - Putnam - finished reading 8-28-16    
   Grecian's Scotland Yard Murder Squad series have an extreme goriness to them, as they traverse the dark foggy streets and the labyrinth of tunnels and catacombs under the streets of London. Jack the Ripper is the "name" criminal that is the focus of Scotland Yard's search, but the many surrogates, imitators, and other murderers who go about their "business" in these page-turners, make it harder and harder for me to continue to say I don't read mysteries. This whole period of London crime stories have always pulled me in, ever since I read my first Sherlock Holmes stories, while puffing on my meerschaum pipe, those many years ago, in a small Vermont apartment that was painted bright red.  

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak crow
short stories - 288p - paperback - Vintage - finished reading 8-24-16   
   Clever, funny, and most entertaining. Some of these stories were very short, as in two lines, some were much longer, but just about every one was a good time in the reading.

The Eternal Ones of the Dream by James Tate crow
poetry - 272p - paperback - HarperCollins - finished reading 8-21-16   
   Finally, I have found another book of Tate's poetry. This is a collection of the best prose poems from many of his earlier books and they are so good, be it his sly humor, painful angst, or his clever and strange writing. Now that I'm two for two in loving his poetry, I will continue my search for even more. It hard to explain why his bizarre style appeals to me so much, but even when I'm not really sure what he's driving at with his prose, I so appreciate the attempt. I'm sure hat he's not for everyone, no poetry is, but everybody should read a little and see what they think.

The Man From Beijing by Henning Mankell
fiction - 464p - paperback - Vintage - finished reading 8-17-16   
   I started this book thinking that Vicky had told me so much about it and how she had loved it, but that it was still new to me. Then, I discovered, as started it, that I had read it years ago, but, what the hell, I read it all over again. He does a fine job bringing in so much information and his fascinating fictional characters from around the world and keeping the reader so entertained and educated ... what more can you ask for?

mess  ashes  devils  pond  dome  book

Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act by Barry Yourgrau     
nonfiction - 288p - paperback - W.W. Norton - finished reading 8-8-16          
   I love Yourgrau's fiction, his writing is so wonderfully and truly strange, but this nonfiction work was just too straight forward a book about dealing with hoarding and collecting and all that. My hopes had been for something more than the cover copy promised, my mistake. So, if you're looking for an odd book about how a strange man came to grips with his obsessively cluttered apartment, here it is. But, do yourself a favor and pick up Wearing Dad's Hat or The Sadness of Sex, which are both a great examples of some very odd writing.

Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes by Per Petterson crow      
short stories - 128p - paperback - Graywolf Press - finished reading 8-4-16       
   Perfection in a small book. This could very well be my very favorite work by this most talented writer. This was his very first published work. It is all from the viewpoint of a young boy and consists of a collection of closely-related short stories. The voice in the stories is just so perfect for an insecure young boy having to deal with the small things that came his way every day, as well as the huge events of his childhood.  

The Devil's Workshop by Alex Grecian crow      
fiction - 400p - paperback - Berkeley - finished reading 8-3-16       
   This is easily one of the more gruesome books I've read in quite some time. It was gory enough that I race through the book, both running away from and towards more twisted violece. The mental image of human tongues nailed to a mantel - thanks to Jack the Ripper - will stay with me for some time. I've read several other books of Grecian from his series about Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad, and they are all well done. The scenes of house disappearing into the ground in his book The Black Country was spot on. Since I loved the foggy and dangerous nights of all the Sherlock Holmes stories, it only makes sense that Grecian's series fulfills a need of mine. Arthur Conan Doyle never got this graphic in his more well-mannered stories of Sherlock, but these newer books work. 

Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett crow      
fiction - 208p - hardcover - Riverhead Books - finished reading 8-1-16       
   A most imaginary and clever book that I'm going to be rereading very shortly ...  for my enjoyment, but also to try and figure out just how she is pulling this incredibly original book off. I will have more to say once I'm on more solid ground, critically.

Dome of the Hidden Pavilion by James Tate crow     
poetry - 160p - paperback - Ecco - finished reading 7-29-16 and REREADing 7-30-16   
   I started this book a virgin to the prose poetry of James Tate, and I came away from it as a huge fan. While looking for more of this major award-winning poet's work, I have come up against the brutal fact that poetry is not stocked in much of any quantity in most bookstores ... such a pity. Not to brag, well, maybe a little, but the bookstores we owned had poetry sections far superior to many that I'm searching through, both independent and chain. I continue to search. Do yourself a favor and read some Tate. His poetry is sometimes very funny, or very dark, but always full of some very unexpected and bizarre twists and turns.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler      
fiction - 384p - paperback - St. Martins - finished reading 7-28-16
   This showed great promise, delivered on some of that promise, but didn't pull it all together in the end. As an author, it fascinated me that she decided to learn bookbinding, how to make and age paper, and made fifteen or sixteen copies of her book to bring it more notice among reviewers and publishing people - that's marketing. I'm still reflecting on this book, maybe it will grow on me, in my mind.

house   winter  how  summerlong  news  lions

The House of Silk
by Anthony Horowitz crow     
fiction - 296p - paperback - Little Brown - finished reading 7-18-16       
   For those readers graving more Sherlock Holmes, Anthony Horowitz is a godsend. His writing does take me back to that whole period when I sat up late a night smoking my meerschaum pipe and reading and reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories and adventures of Sherlock.  

Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Postcards to Jim Harrison by Ted Kooser crow     
poetry - 120p - paperback - Carnegie Mellon U. - finished REREADing 7-15-16       
   I sat at a small table under a tree in San Luis Obispo, reading and listening to the birds, and thoroughly fell in love with this wonderful book ... all over again. Kooser has a wonderful talent and I have returned to this slim volume on many different occasions. This was a project that involved writing a poem on a postcard each and every day, to the late, great author Jim Harrison. The two of them were very close, and, as I have always loved Harrison's work, and he died a while ago, it was time to enjoy it all over again. Reading this special book in a beautiful little spot, was heavenly. 

How to Sit by Thich Nhat Hanh crow     
nonfiction - 120p - paperback - Parralax Press - finished REREADing 7-15-16         
   Every time I return to his small book, I am more impressed about how well done it is. It is part of a whole series of small books by Thich Nhat Hanh, but it's the only one I've read ... and read and read and read. I don't have any serious or formal meditation practice, but this book always recharges my batteries and makes me aware of the small bits of meditational times where I'm keenly aware of everything around me and enjoying the heightened sense of being.  

Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos      
fiction - 368p - paperback - Ecco - finished reading 7-15-16     
   This book showed such promise, but by the end I wasn't very excited about it.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles crow     
fiction - 224p - paperback (ARC) - William Morrow - finished reading 7-7-16       
   What a deal, request an ARC, get an ARC, really like said ARC. This a fine new western that reminds readers that really fine writing can powerfully tell any story, in any setting. It's got everything you'd want in a good story: guns, horses, Native Americans, seventy-plus old western story tellers, kidnapped children, and lots of heart.

Lions by Bonnie Nadzam      
fiction - 288p - paperback - Black Cat - finished reading 7-3-16      
   I loved her previous novel Lamb, but I missed the point here. Wrong book in the right time or right book in the wrong time.

jesus  bernie  as  spool  eup  hein

The Jesus Cow
by Michael Perry      
fiction - 320p - paperback - Harper - finished reading 6-29-16      
   I have loved all of Perry's nonfiction work, so I came along to this book, his first novel. It was very funny, but not completely satisfying. Yet, this was one very funny book and could make a great movie with all of its highly visual scenes.  

Bernie by Ted Rall crow VT  
graphic book - 208p - paperback - Seven Stories - finished reading 6-20-16   
   A big benefit of having a thoughtful step-daughter is that she knows what I like to read when Father's Day rolls around. I have not been a fan of many graphic books since I was a kid and buying comic books at the pharmacy in Newport, Vermont. But this book really worked. The text was intelligent, informative, and a little funny, and the artwork was clever and a perfect fit. The overview of how the Democratic Party was dragged towards the center, and then further to the right end of the political spectrum, was especially well done, and much appreciated by this reader. I think any thinking political being would be well-served to read this book and get a fine overview of how the people end up being ignored more and more by the mainstream political parties.   
   This election year I felt that there was a chance with Bernie, that when it came down to the final vote, it wouldn't be another of those choices between the lesser of two evils, I would be able to vote for someone who I believed in and had been following for decades. It turns out that I was wrong, Bernie is on the side trying to see how he can keep some sort of a revolution moving forward, while the presidential voting ballot will disappoint most by offering a lame choice between Clinton and Trump. It was a thrill while it lasted.   
special This is a good combination of word and art that amused and informed me.

As Good As Gone by Larry Watson crow  
fiction - 352p - hardcover - Algonquin - finished reading 6-20-16   
   This book answers the question of what happens to old cowboys. Sometimes it is not pretty combining myths and present day realities, but it can be very interesting. Always answering challenges and confrontations with a fist or other violence may not be the acceptable way in today's well-mannered society, but it's honestly heat felt in this novel. Watson always creates memorable characters who are trying to cope with life the best they can ... he doesn't disappoint here.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler crow  
fiction - 284p - paperback - Random - finished reading 6-17-16   
   Many a year has gone by since I have read an Anne Tyler. After enjoying this one as much as I did, I realize that I have been missing out and need more Tyler in my life. Quirky characters are what I always think about when I think of her books, and this one delivered on that in a more subdued style. I found myself wondering if her writing style had changed that much, but then the story built up some speed like a round book speeding down a steep hill. As one of my favorite publisher reps used to say: "It's a kick!"

Euphoria by Lily King p   
fiction - 288p - paperback - Grove - finished reading 6-15-16   
   Sometimes you find a big reward between a book's covers, and other times you find words and a plot that you simply don't connect with in any way. Euphoria has always caught my eye because of that great and colorful cover. I should have left it at that, and not decided to read beyond its cover. It's always especially hard to resist a book that you're curious about, when it's just sitting on a shelf at a vacation rental ... hell, it's free for the reading. Not much of anything about this book drew me in ... maybe the science, but still that was not much of an attraction. It was a trip I wish I hadn't started. 

The Search for Heinrich Schlögel by Martha Baillie crow   
fiction - 352p - paperback - Tin House - finished REREADing 6-14-16   
   Every time I reread this book my enjoyment of this very special book grows. The plot of a man hiking alone on a glacier who returns to civilization, only to find that what he thought was a couple of weeks, was really thirty years ... always seems so real, yet, at the same time, so extremely surreal. This novel just plays with your mind in a very special way. I love it, I love it, I love it.

very  essays  dead  troubled

The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip
by George Saunders & illustrated by Lane Smith   
fiction - 96p - hardback - Random - finished reading 6-14-16   
   This book seemed oddly familiar, but I felt that though it was more than fifteen years old, I needed it. It's a sweet package deal, I trippy little story that is combined with some great artwork. It was only after buying it that I realized that Vicky and I had bought it several years ago for our granddaughter, so it appeals to all ages.    
special The artwork and size of this narrow and thin hardback book are special and the art is very nicely drawn.

Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall crow VT  
essay - 144p - hardback - HMH - finished REREADing 6-14-16   
   This is one of those books that I return to periodically, and I'm always glad I did. With the aches and pains from years of hard work and hard tennis, I sometimes feel closer to Donald Halls eighty years plus, but it's his humanity that is my touchstone with this collection. He has had a lot of heartache as the years have moved him along, but he keeps his sense of humor and knows what his limitations are. I need my Donald Hall, and realize that because of his age, it's wonderful that I experience him through words on the pages of books, something that I will always have ... books are forever.

Dead Man's Float by Jim Harrison    
poetry - 156p - hardback - Cooper Canyon - finished
REREADing 6-13-16   
   This poetry collection turned out to be the last collection published before the big man's dead. While it's not my favorite collection of his, it still includes many thought-provoking words. I read this on the edge of a field at Sea Ranch, one that was filled with all types of songbirds and ravens, with hawks and turkey vultures flying above them. I felt a strong connection to the place and the poetry.

The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell crow  
fiction - 496p - paperback - Vintage - finished reading 6-13-16   
   For years I have been a Mankell virgin, but I have now taken the plunge and I came up for air with a big smile on my face. My reading motivation was that I had just seen the Masterpiece version of the book on PBS ... several times. Because I was so familiar with that version of the story, it was a real treat to be able to read the original story with all of its additional scenes and story differences. It a firm certainty that I will be reading more Mankell, I simply have to decide where to start my next Mankell plunge.

  other Winters journals: #23 - #24
- #25 - #26 - #28 & many other book journals   househouse
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