Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nonfiction November, Week 3: Books About Books

Nonfiction November moves into to Week 3 with Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert and our host is Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

My topic is ... Books about Books. Here are some of my favorites, but I'd also really appreciate your recommendations. As far as I'm concerned, you can never  read too many books about books.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
"This charming classic love story, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, at the time, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London at 84, Charing Cross Road."

In this book, "a former bookseller and sales representative, celebrates the unique experience of the bookstore--the smell and touch of books, getting lost in the deep canyons of shelves, and the silent community of readers.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe 
"A profoundly moving testament to the power of love between a child and parent, and the power of reading in our lives."

"A Gen-X librarian's snarky, laugh-out-loud funny, deeply moving collection of love letters and break-up notes to the books in her life."

"This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language."

Have you enjoyed any of these? What are your favorite books about books?

Monday, November 13, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

What a week... brutal, bone-chilling cold (the kind usually reserved for the dead of winter) and snow. Perfect weather to stay indoors and read - especially good timing since it's Nonfiction November!

Finished this week//

by Anne Bogel

You might know Anne Bogel from her blog (Modern Mrs. Darcy) or podcast, but I was a little slow making that association. Personality typing and theories of personality have always interested me, so I literally devoured this short book... and, of course, took another free online typing in the process. Highly recommended, especially if you're into reading about psychology, interpersonal relations, and the like.

by Annie Spence
I loved this book! The audio version, narrated by Stephanie Spicer, is amazing. Review coming soon.

Current reading//

by Jessica Bruder
At the halfway mark, this is not what I was expecting... but it is completely fascinating, and a little scary, too.

Listening to//

Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

I picked this up because Tina recommended it...and because I love wine. So far I'm enjoying the conversational tone and have already learned a thing or two. The audio version is read by the author.

Up next//
It's hard to say... Nonfiction November is adding to my tbr list by the hour!

On the blog//
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Nonfiction November, Week 2: Book Pairings
The Sunday Salon: Hello, November

How was your week? What are you reading?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading?  hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles
narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith
Penguin Audio, 2016
17 hours and 52 minutes

Publisher's summary:
A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

A bit of background:

I'd been eagerly anticipating Amor Towles second novel since the moment I finished Rules of Civility back in 2012. (my review) When I learned he quit his day job to write full time, I was overjoyed. The day A Gentleman in Moscow was released, I was among the first patrons at the bookstore. But then the book sat on my shelf... for months. I brought it to Sanibel, where it sat on my nightstand all winter. After I lugged it north again in the spring, the reading slump hit. Weeks passed, then a month. I couldn't finish a novel. Eventually I did finish a long classic (Trollope, of course) but was still leery of contemporary fiction. Last month I decided to try a Gentleman in Moscow...

My thoughts:

As with Rules of Civility, Towles' prose is gorgeous. Within pages I was immersed in another time and place. It was glorious.

Count Alexander Rostov is a captivating character, one who will stay with me for a very long time. I loved the count - his intelligence, refined nature, the manner in which he came to accept his circumstances, and his interactions with other characters, especially Sophia.

The Metropol hotel is practically a character, too. Towles brought it to life as I formed detailed images of various salons, dining rooms, stairways, and even the roof and basement.


The plot builds slowly. Very slowly. I found myself wishing things would just. move. along. As I'm not generally a reader who requires much in the way plot, this might be the lingering effects of the worst reading slump ever. Eventually, I did reach a point where I couldn't put the novel down. The ending is among the best I have ever read.

Every single sentence of a Gentleman in Moscow is a work of art. I marked quotes too numerous to share. It is, undoubtedly, the most beautifully written novel I've read this year.

A note on the audio production:

As I struggled with the print edition, I turned to the audio to pull me through. Nicholas Guy Smith, a new-to-me narrator, was absolutely mesmerizing. His voice was perfect for the count - so elegant and refined. If you are an audiobook fan, be sure to consider this option.

My rating:
The writing and audio production certainly deserve 5 stars, but A Gentleman in Moscow was a 4 star read for me.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Nonfiction November, Week 2: Book Pairings

It's Week 2 of  Nonfiction November. Our host this week is Sarah from Sarah's Book Shelves  and we're talking about book pairings:

It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Middlemarch by George Eliot
My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

My literary pairing this year combines a beloved classic with a modern blend of memoir, author biography, and literary criticism.

When I first read Middlemarch  in 2014, my intention was to follow up immediately with My Life in Middlemarch. In actuality, nearly three years passed before I began listening to Mead's book... and it might have been even longer without added incentive from an audible BOGO sale.

My Life in Middlemarch is a wonderful, well-written book. I learned a lot about George Eliot, thoroughly enjoyed Mead's discussion of the great novel, and found her personal story interesting, too.

For Middlemarch fans, My Life in Middlemarch is truly a must read!


Nonfiction November is hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Lory at Emerald City Book Review, Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, Julz at Julz Reads, and  Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

Visit Sarah's Book Shelves for more book pairing posts.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Sunday Salon: Hello, November

November has arrived. Early sunsets, Thanksgiving, family gatherings, birthdays, our anniversary. Increased activity in the kitchen, quiet evenings with a book, holiday preparations begin, and Nonfiction November...the highlight of my blogging year. Here we go!

Finished this week//

by Amor Towles, narrated by Nicholas Guy Smith

Elegant, beautifully written, but slow... at times, painfully so. Review coming this week.

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier

More about obsession than love, this was a perfect book for Halloween week reading. DuMaurier's delightfully Gothic story, filled with ambiguity and tension, kept me up late turning the pages.

Current reading//

I was able to get both the audio and ebook version from my library via hoopla. It's interesting so far and, as an added bonus, short.

Likely to read next//

by Jessica Bruder

From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they’re hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or “workampers.”

On the blog//

Nonfiction November, Week #1: My Year in Nonfiction
The Classics Club: My Second List

At home//

We're in the process of replacing four windows. Contractors were around most of last week and I'm hoping they finish up on Monday. We cleaned the gutters Saturday, but still have several more outdoor fall clean-up chores ahead. Fingers crossed the weather cooperates!

How was your week? What have you been reading?

This post will link to It's Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Nonfiction November, Week #1: My Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November is here! This annual event is always a favorite. What's not to love about a whole month of bookish topics devoted entirely to nonfiction? Our hosts this year are:

Katie at Doing Dewey
Lory at Emerald City Book Review
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves
Julz at Julz Reads
Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness


2017 hasn't been the greatest year as far as reading is concerned... too many distractions, both personal and political. While my overall numbers are down, I've actually read more nonfiction. In fact, I read almost exclusively nonfiction in April, June, and August. As of today, nonfiction accounts for 40% of my reading this year.

What have I read about? Books about food and books about books appear most frequently on this year's list. Among other titles, I've read a couple of books with a feminist theme, several memoirs, a fascinating book about North Korea, a history of Bellevue, NYC's most famous (or infamous?) public hospital. Overall, an eclectic mix.

How do I consume nonfiction? Of course I read it, but I also love listening to nonfiction. It's even better to have both an audio and print copy. That way I never miss out on photographs, charts, or maps, and am also able to review passages or double check names and spelling. The read/listen combination allows me to listen in the car or on my morning walk, then pick up the book at home in the evening.


by Barbara Demick, narrated by Karen White
This is also title I have recommended most often throughout the year. Originally published in 2009, it provides a basic overview of life/culture in North Korea. A read/listen combination.

by Rebecca Mead, narrated by Kate Reading
 If you've read Middlemarch, you really owe it to yourself to read (or listen to) this book.

By Michael Ruhlman, narrated By Jonathan Todd Ross
If you're at all interested in grocery stores and how they operate, this is the book for you. Click here for the link to my mini-review.

by David M. Oshinsky
What an interesting read... the combination of history and medicine gets me every time. Oshinsky's history of NYC's most famous public hospital begins before the Civil War and takes us through AIDS, Superstorm Sandy, and the ebola virus. That is a lot of history and a lot of medicine! It's almost unfathomable to contemplate an era before anesthesia and antiseptic procedures. This book was completely fascinating, but the amount of information presented is vast and, at times, dense. Alternating between the print and audio versions was helpful.

by Barry Estabrook
Ever wonder why those perfectly red, round tomatoes you see in the grocery store, especially during the winter months, have no taste? Or how about the tomatoes on your fast food burgers and subs? Chances are they were grown in Florida, picked green, and gas ripened. This book is an eye-opening look at the tomato industry, especially in Florida. Another read/listen combination for me, the audio is skillfully narrated by Pete Larkin.

by Pamela Paul
A wonderful book about books and life from the editor of The New York Times Book Review.

My hopes for Nonfiction November are simple... I want to hear about all the books! And read them before next year ;-)

Visit JulzReads for links to more My Year in Nonfiction posts.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Classics Club: My Second List

The Classics Club - List #2

With the first challenge complete, it's time to move on to round 2. The goal once again is to read 50 classics in 5 years... November 1, 2022?? The date seems unreal, but here we go.

I prefer reading from an evolving list, so there are more than 50 books here.

My Evolving List #2

Atwood, Margaret - The Handmaid's Tale (reread)
Austen, Jane - Persuasion (reread)
Balzac, Honore - Cousin Bete
Beston, Henry - The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod
Braddon, Mary Elizabeth - Lady Audley's Secret
Brittain, Vera - Testament of Youth
Bronte, Charlotte - Villette
Cather, Willa - A Lost Lady
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Cather, Willa - The Professor's House

Christie, Agatha - Murder On the Orient Express
Collins, Wilkie - No Name
Collins, Wilkie  - Jezebel's Daughter
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
Dickens, Charles - David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment (Pevear and Volokhonsky translation)
Dumas, Alexandre - The Black Tulip
DuMaurier, Daphne - My Cousin Rachel
Faulkner, William - A Light in August
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - Tender is the Night (reread)

Fitzgerald, F.Scott  - The Beautiful and the Damned
Fontane, Theodor - Effi Briest
Forster, E.M. - Howards End (reread)
Galsworthy, John - The Forsyte Saga (reread first 3, finish series)
Gaskell, Elizabeth - Wives and Daughters
Gaskell, Elizabeth - Life of Charlotte Bronte
Gissing, George - The Odd Women
Hardy, Thomas  - The Return of the Native
Hemingway, Ernest - The Sun Also Rises
Ishiguro, Kazuo - The Remains of the Day

James, Henry - Portrit of a Lady (reread)
Keyes, Daniel - Flowers for Algernon (reread)
Larsen, Nella - Quicksand
Mann, Thomas, The Magic Mountain
Mann, Thomas - Buddenbrooks
Mitford, Nancy - The Pursuit of Love
Morrison, Toni - Sula
Oates, Joyce Carol - Them
Oliphant, Margaret  -  Miss Marjoribanks
Orwell, George - 1984

Powell, Anthony - A Dance to the Music of Time (first movement)
Pym, Barbara - A Few Green Leaves
Rølvaag, O. E. - Giants in the Earth
Stegner, Wallace - Crossing to Safety (reread)
Stegner, Wallace - The Spectator Bird
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath (reread)
Tan, Amy - The Joy Luck Club
Tanizaki, Junichiro - Naomi
Tanizaki, Junichiro - Some Prefer Nettles
Thirkell, Angela  - Wild Strawberries, Barsetshire #2

Trollope, Anthony - Phineas Redux (Palliser #4)
Trollope, Anthony - The Prime Minister (Palliser #5)
Trollope, Anthony - The Duke's Children (Palliser #6)
Trollope, Anthony - Rachel Ray
Trollope, Anthony - The Way We Live Now
Trollope, Anthony - Miss Mackenzie
Taylor, Elizabeth - A Game of Hide and Seek
Updike, John - Rabbit, Run
Welty, Eudora - Delta Wedding
Wharton, Edith - The Bunner Sisters

Whipple, Dorothy - The Priory
Woolf, Virginia - A Room of Ones Own
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Woolf, Virginia - Night and Day
Zola, Emile - The Fortune of the Rougons (Les Rougon-Macquart #1)


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