Books

2017 National Book Awards for Fiction

Here are the finalists for the NBA fiction: “Dark at the Crossing” by Elliot Ackerman, “The Leavers” by Lisa Ko, “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee, “Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado, and “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn …Read More

Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

Never read Kafka? my literary friends said. One who has read Proust, Joyce, Mann and Musil may think he has a handle on 20th century literature, but if he hasn’t read Kafka, he’s nowhere. Thus shamed, I acquired Kafka’s “Collected …Read More

Americana

“Americana” by Bhu Srinivasan is a fun and thorough review of capitalism in America. Who knew the Mayflower was backed by English financiers? I thought the Puritans were fleeing religious prosecution and had no idea they were borrowing from their …Read More

The Whitney Women

I had the pleasure of reading “The Whitney Women” by Flora Miller Biddle a few weeks ago. It is a marvelous story of her family’s commitment to American art. Her grandmother, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, came up with the novel idea …Read More

Sebald – On the Natural History of Destruction (1999)

Very likely most or even all of the VDP constituency are acquainted with the works of W. G. Sebald (1944-2001), author of “Austerlitz,” “Vertigo,” “The Rings of Saturn,” and other books celebrated for their unique style. The literary critic James …Read More

Works of Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

My belletrist wife (Sheila Bosworth, author of two published novels) was working on a paper for her literary club on the subject of The Lost Generation, which involved a good deal of Hemingway and his coterie; I had never read …Read More

The Golden House

Perhaps it takes the US becoming as dysfunctional, confusing, chaotic and in crisis as India or Pakistan to inspire Rushdie do deliver his best. Although I am a huge Rushdie fan, and adored “Satanic Verses,” “Midnight’s Children” and “The Moor’s …Read More

No Ordinary Time

This Pulitzer Prize winner, a fascinating addition to the existing Franklin Roosevelt biographies, is a page-turner, a fresh and intimate look into the private lives of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, one of history’s more complex and important partnerships. It combines …Read More

Works of Max Frisch

Works of Max Frisch (1911-1991), a Swiss avant-garde novelist whose works have been widely translated; reviewed here are “I’m not Stiller” (1954), “Homo Faber” (1957) and “Man in the Holocene” (1979). A fourth work called “A Wilderness of Mirrors” (1974) …Read More

Leonardo da Vinci

One thing I really liked about Walter Isaacson’s “Leonardo da Vinci” is that Isaacson explains why there are not more finished paintings. There are only 15 works, fully or mainly attributed to Leonardo, comprising a smaller body of work than …Read More

Ratfucked

David Daley’s “Ratfucked” is a frightening review of how the GOP’s gerrymandering has redrawn the American political map. Gerrymandering has been around since the early 1800s when Elbridge Gerry, the governor of Massachusetts, redrew a state map, redistricting to favor …Read More

A Stranger in Spain

H.V. Morton was described by The Times years ago as “One of the world’s great travel writers.” He has written “The stranger who wishes to approach Spain with sympathy and appreciation must do so through its history.” Following his pronouncement, …Read More

Democracy in Chains

A few months ago, Donna suggested I read “Democracy in Chains” by Nancy MacLean, which turned out to be the best nonfiction I read all summer and a wonderful recommendation. It is an important and timely book to read especially …Read More

Magpie Murders

If I were to suggest that you read this whodunit because it’s written by Anthony Horowitz, you’d probably say, “Never heard of him.” But if I were to tell you that the author is also the creator and writer of …Read More

Last Hope Island

Fans of Lynne Olson books (“Citizens of London,” among others) will devour her latest, “Last Hope Island,” on how London became a refuge for the governments and armed forces of seven occupied nations that were overrun by the Nazi blitzkrieg …Read More

Origin

Like Dan Brown’s past books, “Angels & Demons” and “The De Vinci Code”, “Origin” is a fast-paced thriller that sets science against religion, and uses codes and symbols to best advantage. Halfway through, I wrote a note to my son …Read More

Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings

“Thomas Jefferson Dreams of Sally Hemings” is one of the best novels I have read in a while. It is written in beautiful English by Stephen O’Connor, and it is a story that never ceases to fascinate. It is a …Read More

The Great Derangement

The great writer Amitav Ghosh spent two months at the University of Chicago, courtesy of the prestigious Berlin Lectures Award. He dedicated his time there to the study of climate change. The result of his research are these lectures and …Read More

A Stranger in Spain

H.V. Morton is a scholarly writer unequaled in his ability to meld travel and history. The story of his long and leisurely journey through Spain more than sixty years ago, is crammed with delicious morsels of Spanish history dating back …Read More

The End of the Asian Century

In “The End of the Asian Century,” Michael Auslin makes a good point that worrying about Asia taking over the world was less frightening than the more plausible present concern of instability in the region or an Asia in decline. …Read More

The Door

Far from new, “The Door” by Magda Szabó is the most exciting fiction I’ve read in months. It was reissued in 2015 (originally published in Hungary in 1987). If Szabó had not died in 2007, she would be on my …Read More

Homo Deus

Yuval Noah Harari’s “Sapiens” is an entertaining account of human evolution. In “Sapiens,” Hariari highlights the use of fiction and collective myths, like money and religion, to conquer the world. “The ability to speak about fictions is the unique feature …Read More

Grief is the Thing With Feathers

“Grief is the Thing With Feathers” by Max Porter is a beautifully written small book. It is a treasure. The story of two children and their father who have lost their mother and wife and share their life as they …Read More

Prisoners of Geography

In “Prisoners of Geography,” Tim Marshall explores ten different regions around the globe to reveal how geography explains global politics. Political realities are shaped by physical strengths and vulnerabilities and Marshall provides numerous examples of how geography dictates needs. The …Read More

Exit West

What I loved most about Moshin Hamid’s novel “Exit West” was the limning of humanity, by which I mean that even under dire circumstances Hamid describes how people are people and act on impulses, feelings, thoughts and emotions. In Hamid’s …Read More

Testosterone Rex

Cordelia Fine’s “Testosterone Rex” is a book about the role testosterone plays in gender development. It’s an interesting investigation of how the mythology surrounding huge differences between the sexes greatly contributes to inequality but has little basis in science. She …Read More

South and West

Short but deep, light but profound, Joan Didion’s “South and West” is mainly comprised of notes Didion made on a a trip through the South in 1970 and on the Patty Hearst trial. In the introduction Nathaniel Rich says, “Didion …Read More

Economism

We all know this stuff, and unless you are Paul Ryan, his Tea Party friends or a Koch brother, weep. The US has the lowest minimum wage (as a proportion of its average wage) of any advanced economy. The soulless …Read More

News of the World

“News of the World” is a charming, often moving picaresque Western, with an echo of “True Grit,” but with an authentic plot twist. A 70-year-old retired army captain, Jefferson Kidd, makes his living in the 1870s traveling from town to …Read More

Pushkin – Eugene Onegin (1833)

Having recently read Tasso and Ariosto in prose translations, I was keen to find this classic — Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin” (1833), translation by Roger Clarke — also in prose; but that wasn’t easy. Most of the translations are in verse; a …Read More

Attack on Nantucket

In Thad Dupper’s debut techno-thriller “Attack on Nantucket,” terrorists target the family of the US President, who likes to vacation in the jewel of the northeast, Nantucket Island. As a worthy successor to Tom Clancy, Thad has the Mach-2 pace …Read More

Lincoln in the Bardo

I greatly respect George Saunders even if he is not in my contemporary writer pantheon. Like with all his work, his first novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo” is wonderfully crafted and contains some amazing passages. This is a work of …Read More

Age of Anger

I absolutely love historical face-offs, such as Delacroix vs. Ingres, Corbu vs. Frank Lloyd Wright, Keynes vs. Hayek. Over time, historians oscillate on crowning the winners. Recently, it is apparent that Hamilton has an edge over TJ (“Hamilton”) and, Burke …Read More

4321

I always thought Paul Auster wanted to be Don Delillo or Thomas Pynchon, but reading “4321,” his latest novel, I’m thinking maybe he has wanted to be Philip Roth all along. There is an epic quality to “4321” and this …Read More

The Warburgs

“Tsundoku” is the Japanese word for buying books and subsequently allowing piles to form, instead of immediately reading them. I like to think of it as a necessary step in the reading process, similar to fermentation in wine production. Thus …Read More