Category Archives: Books To Live Long Enough To Read

That Time of Year Again

Today we meet to select next year’s reading list. What recommendations will I bring?

How to Build a Girl: A Novel

“Vivid and full of truths…. There’s a point in midlife, when you’re already built, as it were, when the average coming-of-age story starts to feel completely uninteresting. But Moran is so lively, dazzlingly insightful and fun that “How to Build a Girl” transcends any age restrictions.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

“Witty and frequently biting … this book’s stories offer characters a chance to put their own understandings of gallantry, courage and revenge to the test, in ways both mundane and extraordinary.”
—The New York Times Book Review

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel

Lydia is dead. From the first sentence of Celeste Ng’s stunning debut, we know that the oldest daughter of the Chinese-American Lee family has died. What follows is a novel that explores alienation, achievement, race, gender, family, and identity–as the police must unravel what has happened to Lydia, the Lee family must uncover the sister and daughter that they hardly knew. There isn’t a false note in this book, and my only concern in describing my profound admiration for Everything I Never Told You is that it might raise unachievable expectations in the reader. But it’s that good. Achingly, precisely, and sensitively written. –Chris Schluep

The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel

“Alice Hoffman employs her trademark alchemy of finding the magical amid the ordinary in her mesmerizing new novel.…If you’re looking for an enchanting love story rich with history and a sense of place, step right up to The Museum of Extraordinary Things.” (USA Today)

Delicious!: A Novel

“Its title strikes me as perfectly apt. . . . The novel presents a whole passel of surprises: a puzzle to solve; a secret room; hidden letters; the legacy of James Beard; and a parallel, equally plucky heroine from the past, who also happens to be a culinary prodigy.”—The New York Times Book Review


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The Portrait in the Nursery

My fondness for Angela Lansbury lead me to the 1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray, my fascination with different interpretations of the same story took me to the 2010 movie version. Both show dark tales of beautiful men tempted by demons of one sort or the other. The more recent movie takes advantage of changing times to show Dorian’s wickedness. An interesting counterpoint to a point Ms. Lansbury made during the audio commentary for the original movie, that by alluding to the deeds that change Dorian (rather than showing in detail), they are as evil as the viewer is capable of imagining.

There are other differences between the stories shown in the two movies, differences that, for me, made Hurd Hatfield’s Dorian (1945) more easily forgiven, as though he had a lapse in judgment, and Ben Barnes’ character more tortured and less capable of saving. I wonder which Dorian Gray I would find in the original story?

And so I add to my list of Books To Read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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The Color of Water

I think I’m meant to read this book: The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

First it was mentioned as a possible book group choice for this year, and now, less than a week later, someone wrote to a magazine that this is the book that taught her an important lesson about love. I enjoy a moment of kismet, and choose to respect the story placed in my path twice in less than a week (when it’s an older book, that is!).

Of course, with the length of my Books to Read list, it may be many weeks before I actually do read it! But adding it is the first step.

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Live Long Enough to Read These Books, A Continuing Saga

When I decided to add these five books to my List, I didn’t realize there was a theme: all of them have both very poor and very good reviews on Amazon. None is universally praised. Many of the poor reviews reference the writing style not being what the reviewer is used to, that’s somehow unusual; I am always intrigued by something different in writing style. Not always a fan once I’ve read it (or tried to), but if the book captures my attention and then I find out that some people are turned off by the writing style (as opposed to quality) that just guarantees it a place on my List.

What – Gone: The Last Days of The New Yorker
Who – Renata Adler
Why – Short article in New York Magazine about the author makes her and her writing sound interesting.

What – Speedboat
See above

What – Pitch Dark
See above

What – Beautiful Day
Who – Elin Hilderbrand
Why – “Hilderbrand has lived for two decades on Nantucket, where all 12 of her novels are set, and she understands that readers turn to her mainly for glimpses of (quote) East Coast Yankee blue-blood privilege and elitism at it’s very finest (end quote).
PLUS – 12 Novels with a similar setting, and probably theme, means that if I like the first one I read, I’ll have a 11 more to enjoy.

What – Sisterland
Who – Curtis Sittenfeld
Why – Twins with psychic abilities share a devastating secret (the summary on the best seller lists) is only a bit compelling. Seeing this book as a recommended read in almost every magazine means I need to at least try it.

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New York Times Book Review (Part 1)

Last month I told my friend and neighbor Jackie that I would give her my New York Times Book Review each week. I enjoy receiving the Sunday New York Times but even recycling the paper when I’m done reading it feels like I’m a cavalier killer of trees. Sharing parts of the paper should help me feel a little better about that.


It now seems rude to tear out pages as a shortcut to add to my list of Books to Read. If I’m going to give Jackie this section, shouldn’t I leave it intact?

And this slows the entire process, resulting in today (9/8/2013) my having a stack of 6 unread New York Times Book Review sections PLUS the one that arrived on my porch this morning.

My answer? Record the books that look most interesting here. Almost every book in the New York Times Book Review sounds at least a little interesting but listing them all would be silly, so a really good book might be in there but not on this list, and that is not reflection on the book, only a reflection of my need to keep the list of Books to Read at fewer than 1,000,000. So here is an imperfect list from August 4:

From an advertisement with a headline “The Perfect modern love story. It’s that good. Read it now.” Me Before You: A Novel by Jojo Moyes. And if I end up liking that, there’s another book by the author called The Girl You Left Behind that can be added.

Memories of a Marriage by Louis Begley at least partly because of the first few words of the review “In his engrossing novel….”.

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel by David Rakoff, not because of the review but because seeing this reminds me I wanted to add this book to the list after hearing it be discussed on television.

Joyland (Hard Case Crime) by Stephen King. I will read anything by Stephen King, or at least try to. I’d say I was his number one fan, but mostly as an in-joke (though I did write him a fan-letter once, but that’s another story).

Under the Dome: A Novel by Stephen King. I read this when it first came out, but I’ve been watching the TV series and either I don’t remember it well or they’re taking way too many liberties with the plot!

Finally, I would recommend reading the essay on the last page by Amy Wilentz, One Book Out (appearing with the subtitle: Culling overcrowded shelves is never easy). Enjoyed Ms. Wilentz’ writing style, and I recognized the difficulty in actually getting rid of a book.

One down, 6 to go.

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Where’s the Spoiler Alert, Maria?

Reading a review for Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler, written by Maria Russo, I am intrigued and the narrative sounds interesting. Until the 5th paragraph when Ms. Russo gives us a key piece of information. She excuses herself in paragraph 6 by saying “I reveal this…because it’s obvious early on (I figure it out by Page 47).”

Since I haven’t read the book I can’t truly say that the information she gave was a spoiler, but it sure feels like one (which is why I’m not telling you what it is). Maybe I’m not so sharp as Ms. Russo and wouldn’t have figured it out by Page 47, or perhaps I would enjoyed figuring it out myself while reading those first 46 pages. Maybe the author would tell me to relax, that this piece of information isn’t meant to be some big secret.

Until then, however, I am asking Maria Russo to please use a spoiler warning in the future!

And I am adding this to my books to read.

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3 Days Ago I Hadn’t Heard of Her, Now I Want To Read Everything She’s Written

Catching up on newspaper reading 3 days ago I read a short interview with author Curtis Sittenfeld. Just enough to get me to add her work,including Prep and Sisterland, to my list of books to read. For good measure I also added books that she mentioned to the list:
Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel, which she describes as an intelligent page-turner about, among other things, South Florida, art, insomnia, and marriage;
Old School by Tobias Wolff;
Oh The Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey; and
Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon, about how we as a society define disability and react to differences.

And then, as so often happens, reading a different newspaper a bit later I find a review of her book Sisterland. Then I read an essay in the New York Times Magazine (July 14, 2013) that I enjoyed; you won’t be surprised to hear that the author was Ms. Sittenfeld.

One name and six new additions to the list.

Book club note: Ms. Sittenfeld suggests Far From The Tree as a “great book club pick (that would) lead to really interesting conversations.” She also recommends breaking it into three different meetings.

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