Category Archives: The New York Times Book Review

Does That Make Her Pretentious?

A thick drizzle from the sky, like a curtain’s sudden sweeping. The seabirds stopped their tuning, the ocean went mute. Houselights over the water dimmed to gray.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Goff

It is easy to find a wide range of reactions to this book. Whether you love it, hate it, or somewhere in between, a quick look at Goodreads or Amazon reviews will take you to someone who agrees completely with you.

I moved around a lot as a child, went to a different school every 6 to 18 months. I missed large chunks of educational basics because they were being taught in different grades at the different schools (I’ve never taken a geometry class something I often mention when playing pool or parallel parking). I was a precocious reader, but never studied Shakespeare, mythology, or many literature classics.

I took a long time for me to make the connection between the title and Greek Tragedy, and while reading the book I encountered many references that I only understood as much as you can get from watching Disney’s animated Hercules a few dozen times. My reaction to this was to be reminded that you might not ever need Algebra once you’ve left school, but a good literature class can stay with you forever.

Apparently other readers encountered references they didn’t completely understand either, but their reaction was to call the writing (or even the author) pretentious. I bet there is a myth or a fable that I could use as an analogy to demonstrate why it is wrong to cast aspersions at something just because you don’t understand it – but, as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t have that base of knowledge. So I’ll just go with, I think that is a cheap shot.

Otherwise, my brief review: I thought the Fates section would never end and came close to quitting a couple of times, but once I started on Furies, I couldn’t put it down. I would like to read an edited version, I’m betting there are complete paragraphs that could be cut that would only improve the reading experience. One of these days, after I’ve got a bit of Greek Tragedy added to my reading history, I think I’ll pick it up and read it again.

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Filed under Educational, I Need To Read This Again, The New York Times Book Review, Writing

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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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.

Except.

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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Filed under Books To Live Long Enough To Read, The New York Times Book Review