Thursday, June 17, 2010


The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis. "Very good reportage on the financial meltdown from the viewpoint of several people who 'shorted' the housing market and made a killing while the banks imploded." "For those who want a quick read (except the middle) of what happened in the CDO market between 2007 and 2009." (NB: latter comment from contributor who is extremely well versed in financial services – she found a chunk of the book to be extremely technical, but said it not vital to understand everything to get the gist of/enjoy the book. I'm thinking it might be like the philosophical riffs in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, some of which I found pretentious, and great chunks of which I skimmed).

The Charm School by Nelson Demille. Okay, I cheated and added this NOT NEW book after the list was published. Until this Russian spy story emerged, this book might have seemed a little dated. But hey! Cold War intrigue is BACK, baby, and suddenly this novel is not only timely, but seems weirdly prescient. If you haven't had the pleasure of reading this great old (v beachy) book, I highly recommend it. I remember when I got to the end of this book, I absolutely HAD to be somewhere, but I absolutely COULD NOT put it down. DeMille's best, I think. Maybe now that fear of Russian spies is once again in vogue, they'll finally make a movie of it.

Cutting for Stone (Vintage) by Abraham Verghese. This appeared on last year’s list, and it got rave reviews from those of you (us) who read it. In fact, I am not sure I know anyone who didn’t love this book. It’s about identical twins born to a beautiful Indian nun in Ethiopia. (Yes, really.) She dies in childbirth, leaving them to be raised by one of the most wonderful couples I’ve ever encountered in literature. I'm not going to say how long it is … read it on the Kindle, as I did, and find out AFTER you’ve finished it. Comments: "Gorgeous writing style and story." "The book opened so many windows -- allowing a rare glimpse into Ethiopia, into surgery (NEVER thought I'd want to read all of that!), then crossing the pond with our protagonist to his life at a hospital in the Bronx."

(Speaking of the
Kindle - Please see my June 13 post on this blog about why I love the thing so much. If you want one, click on the hyperlink and order from here, and support your friendly local book review and recommendation aggregator!)

The Imperfectionists: A Novel by Tom Rachman. I gather this book is like Olive Kitteridge – a bunch of stories loosely woven together. It’s gotten mixed reviews on Goodreads, but friends gave it raves: "I've been reviewing some of the books I read on Amazon and will be giving this one 5 stars once I think of a review that is worthy. Don’t read the summary on Amazon, just read the book!" and: "I raced through this book in a day, devouring the vignettes of characters who work for an American newspaper headquartered in Rome. Each chapter tells the story of a different employee at the paper. .. Between each chapter/character study is the ongoing back story of the paper's history and its founder, an American business man who leaves his wife and family in Atlanta to move to Rome and create the paper as a way to connect again with an old flame. There is nothing new about building a novel out of a series of connected short stories and the newspaper world creates a microcosm that works will with this technique. Rachman writes with a warmth and humor and an obvious affection for these ‘imperfect’ characters - his style elevates what could have been a fairly average book to something more substantial." (Ed: Just read that Brad Pitt acquired the movie rights.)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson. "I listened to this on audiobook, which was excellent." "What a terrific first novel. It's about a widower in a small English town who falls for a Pakistani widow who runs a shop. The writing is lovely, as is the story. This is an author who knows and plays to her strengths. Yeah, it's a little neat, but who cares? It was a delight to read, a feast for Anglophiles. Like this bit of dialogue:

'But he already has a title,' said Jasmina.
'A Scottish title isn't really the same thing at all,' the Major said.
'Especially when you buy it on the Internet,' added Roger.

There were times I wasn't sure if I shared the author's sensibilities -- intentional perhaps. In the end, all who deserved my compassion had it." (Ed: I think *I* want to buy the movie rights to this one).

Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy Bundle: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest I imagine this recommendation is not exactly a revelation – It seems that half of you have read the series, and are insisting that the other half of us must.

First some general comments: "I devoured them. Inhaled them. They are page-turners for sure, but with a social conscience. Mind you, a few of the scenes are very troubling and difficult to read. But there is nothing gratuitous about them. The characters are some of the best I’ve read in a long time, I think of them often." and "Hands down MUST read is the girl with the dragon tattoo trilogy. Just finished all and now will spend the rest of the summer with end of book blues. I dare you to find something better...amazing character development. Makes you want to go get some piercings and kick some a**." (Ed: UNCLE! Alright already … I will read them! Sheesh.)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage). “The first in the trilogy, this Sweden-set thriller warms up after the first third with great characters and a fascinating plot. Warning: a subplot is violence against women and some of the descriptions are quite graphic.” “It took a few chapters to get into the story, but then I was hooked! A total page turner.” “scary, but a page turner. Don't read if you're home alone!” The Girl Who Played with Fire. "The second book in the trilogy - more exciting and polished than the first. Larsson, who died shortly before publication, was a master." "Double wow! I liked this one even better than the first." "It's as intense as the first book with a cliff-hanger ending." The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. "I haven’t read it yet, but only because I’m saving it for a trip to BVI later this month. Hear it’s fantastic!"

Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I wouldn’t ordinarily peg this as summer reading, but it got SO many positive reviews, and one of you even gave me a copy. (From Amazon): "In this novel, the author, a Harvard neuropsychologist, tells the story of a Harvard neuropsychologist who realizes she is suffering from early onset Alzheimers. A claustrophobic first hand account of her world as it grows ever smaller." Comments: "The most accurate account of what it feels like to be inside the mind of an Alzheimer's patient I've ever read. Beautifully written and very illuminating." "A very interesting book about a female professor who has Alzheimers. It and decribes what is happing to her as she becomes more and more disoriented. It is a fictional book, but the author went to great lengths to learn what Alzheimers patients go through as they slowly lose their memory."

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield. Synopsis from Amazon: Margaret Lea, a London bookseller's daughter, has written an obscure biography that suggests deep understanding of siblings. She is contacted by renowned aging author Vida Winter, who finally wishes to tell her own, long-hidden, life story. Margaret travels to Yorkshire, where she interviews the dying writer, walks the remains of her estate at Angelfield and tries to verify the old woman's tale of a governess, a ghost and more than one abandoned baby. Comments: "I LOVED this book." and "I wish I'd saved this wonderful, entertaining gothic novel for vacation. The author was artful in how she built to the revelations, much in the style of 19th century gothic novels mentioned throughout." "Very entertaining."

This Is Where I Leave You: A Novel by Jonathan Tropper. "Think back to the early days of chick lit... when it was good. Now, imagine it from a male perspective. Jonathan Tropper writes fiction from a guy's perspective that, I think, appeals to women (at least it did to me). The book opens with the main character's wife cheating on him, then leads to him joining his family in their childhood home while they all sit shiva for his dead father (who was an atheist). Forced to be in a room with four brothers and sisters day in and day out, stories unfold, hilarity ensues, and some sexual secrets are laid bare... all the chick-lit cliches, but written in a way that doesn't make you want to barf or stab someone." "Laugh out loud funny but tragic at the same time. Read it before they make the movie." "Jonathan Trooper writes compulsively readable, laugh-out-loud funny novels, and his fifth book, This Is Where I Leave You is his best yet." "I laughed out loud with this one and some things are over the top, but a delightful read."

No comments: