Monthly Archives: January 2016

I’ll Finish It On My Next Trip

…Dear Committee Members, Over the past twenty-odd years I’ve recommended god only knows how many talented candidates for the Bentham January residency – that enviable literary oasis in the woods south of Skowhegan: the solitude, the pristine cabins, the artistic camaraderie, and those exquisite hand-delivered satchels of apples and cheese… Well, you can scratch all prior nominees and pretenders from your mailing lists, because none is as provocative or as promising as Darren Bowles.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

From the book flap:

“…this droll and inventive novel uses to tell (the) tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that he is endlessly called upon by this students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.”

As a fan of ‘inventive’ story-telling, I had to pick this up, and I’m betting it is as good as all the reviews say but I can’t say yet if that is true. This isn’t a book to be read slowly and savored, a chapter (or a letter) a night; it should be read in one sitting or, at most, over one weekend.

I read the first 5 letters with great enjoyment, but then it was a few days before I had time to read again and starting with the 6th letter after even that short period of time, wasn’t working. Therefore, I am considering this book for 2017 Brooklyn Book Group recommendation as well as a top choice for my next flight.


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Filed under Book Club Book Ideas, Books to Read on Planes

History As It Should Be Taught

On the evening of May 19, 1903, in the University Club in San Francisco, a group of well-to-do men were sharing drinks and conversation. The talk centered on President Theodore Roosevelt’s political fortunes, recent flooding along the Mississippi River, and the changes that the Boston Pilgrims might take the pennant in the brand-new American league. Then the discussion turned to another topic: the future of a new machine that only recently had been showing up on the streets of major American cities – the automobile.

Horatio’s Drive America’s First Road Trip by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns

This is the companion book to the documentary film of the same name. Thanks to Netflix and Amazon prime, I am able to indulge my love of documentaries on almost any topic and that is how I ended up watching the film and then reading the book.

I thought I would end up just skimming the book, after all I had already seen the documentary, but both the story and the writing grabbed my attention and I read every word of it.

Horatio’s Drive took me back 113 years with the adventures of the two men, Horatio Nelson Jackson and Sewall Crocker (Horatio’s mechanic), along with a bulldog named Bud that they picked up early on the trip. Much of the story is told from Jackson’s letters to his wife, which, because I did see the documentary, I read in Tom Hanks’ voice.

A fun and easy read, I only wish all history could be learned with books like this!


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Filed under Educational, See The Movie, Read The Book

The Risk For The Girl On The Train

She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I had forgotten about the first two pages; if you had asked before I looked back at the beginning of the book, I would have told you the first sentences were these:

There is a pile of clothing on the side of the train tracks. Light-blue cloth – a shirt, perhaps – jumbled up with something dirty white.

Reading the real first sentence, even a week after I finished the book, reminds me that, damn, that was a good book!

There is always a danger to reading a book that “everyone” is saying is great, just as there is in seeing the movie or eating at the restaurant that “everyone” is talking about, anything placed on a pedestal is in danger of falling, of failing to live up to expectations.

Perhaps I was saved from this disappointment by a celebrity comment that she thought the book was just ok?

Or, more likely, I wasn’t disappointed because the story really is that good, and because it had my all-time favorite type of ending: I didn’t see it coming but it made perfect sense.

I expect to see this made into a movie, and I hope they do a really good job of it because it’s going to be really easy to be disappointed if it isn’t great!


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Filed under This Book Would Make A Great Movie