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02 July 2018 @ 02:46 pm
Second Quarter 2018 Books  

  1. Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein. I suggested this to my book club and it got enough votes to end up as one of our selections. This is a mixture of information about memory techniques and Foer’s personal story of his attempt to win the U.S. Memory Championship. I found this thoroughly fascinating. Given that the women of the book club are all in an age group where we do worry about losing our memories, we had a good discussion about it, too.

  2. Susan Feldman (editor), African Myths & Tales. On the plus side, this book identifies the tribal origins of the stories included. It very usefully includes several variants of the same story (from different tribes), allowing one to compare them. But I could have used more background on the tribal groups and their histories. At the very least, a map would have been helpful. As for the stories themselves, there are only a few I have any interest in telling, but that is typical of folktale collections.

  3. Maisie Mosco, From the Bitter Lands. I believe this has also been published under the title Almonds and Raisins. It has to do with a Jewish family who have emigrated from Russia (really, modern day Latvia – they are from Dvinsk) to England and their struggles to settle into life in early 20th century Manchester. Sarah, the matriarch of the Sandberg family is a strong character, holding the family together through World War I and the Depression. Her eldest son, David, has to sacrifice his own ambitions for the good of the family, which leads to other types of tension. I found this an interesting book, though some of the transliterations of Yiddish words were bizarre.

  4. Ann Hood, The Obituary Writer. This was another book club book. It’s a novel involving two women – one in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake; the other in the northeast in 1960. The former story was more interesting because, even though the woman involved has put her life on hold until she finds out the fate of her lover, at least she is less whiny than the 1960 woman who I thought had gotten what she deserved by manipulating a powerful man into marrying her. I figured out fairly easily how the two stories were going to connect. That did not, alas, make me like the characters any better.

  5. Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I read this at the recommendation of a friend who compared it to A Man Called Ove and The Rosie Project, both of which I had enjoyed. I’m pleased to say it was a good recommendation. Eleanor Oliphant is a socially awkward woman who tries to change her life when she falls for a rock star. In the meantime, she’s become friendly with a nerdy guy she works with. There are a lot of amusing incidents, but there are also serious undertones. I was also surprised at part of the ending. Overall, I absolutely loved this book and recommend it highly.

  6. Margaret Atwood, The Journals of Susanna Moodie. Atwood based a poetry collection on the journals of a woman who came to rural Canada in the 19th century. She ties the poems about isolation and struggling to belong to modern life, imagining Moodie at the end as an elderly woman on a Toronto bus. Interesting, but I prefer Atwood's prose to her poetry.

  7. Maisie Mosco, Scattered Seed. This is the second book in the trilogy that started with From the Bitter Lands. I’m not sure if I have the third book. (These were out of the Mom collection.) This one focused on the next generation of the Sandberg family and is somewhat focused on how involved with Judaism they want to be. That includes a couple of people marrying out. There are particularly interesting female characters. I enjoyed reading this, though I am not sure how interesting it would be to non-Jews.

  8. Meryl Gordon, The Phantom of Fifth Avenue. This was another book club book, and, actually, another one I had suggested. It has to do with Huguette Clark, the heiress to a copper fortune, and the complicated dispute over her estate. She spent the last 20 or so years of her life living in a hospital, despite not having any physical health problems. During that period she gave away a lot of money, including $31 million in cash and property to her primary nurse. There are a lot of characters to try to keep track of, which made this book a bit of a slog at times, but it was still worth reading. We had a good discussion about how other people should live their lives. There is, by the way, at least one other book out about Huguette Clark and I may decide to pick it up someday.

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