AuthorCharlotte Self

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

I had read this book in a different century, but was moved to listen to it again because of a chat with friends about politics in Israel. Recently Netanyahu put together a coalition to regain power by including an ultra orthodox party that is truly radical. The Shas and the Haredi parties demand increased funding for their schools with no oversight that would insure that math, sciences, and...

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Having loved Urrea’s book The House of the Broken Angels, I was moved to listen to this audiobook, a good choice. It is the tale of three girls recently graduated from high school in a small town in Sinaloa, who along with their gay friend Tacho, decide to travel north to the United States to recruit seven men to to return to Mexico to repopulate their town and save it from threatening...

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

I have listened to some of Laura Lippman’s series of detective stories set in Baltimore featuring Tess Monaghan, but do not write about them here. This book is set in Baltimore and though it has some features of that detective series, its strength comes from other sources. The protagonist is Madeline Schwartz, a super efficient late-thirties Jewish matron in the mid-sixties. She tells us of...

The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

I loved Ruth Ozeki’s previous book, A Tale for the Time Being for several reasons, one of which was that it had ideas “complicated enough to make my head hurt.” Thinking about this one is best approached by talking about its various elements. But first, the framing story:  in an unnamed city in the U.S. Annabelle married the beloved Kenji Oh, a Korean-Japanese musician. When...

Beaverland by Leila Philip

It was a recommendation by James Fallows that took me to Beaverland:  How One Weird Rodent Made America. I’m not so sure about that subtitle, but there were some great tidbits to be found here. The author describes beavers as a keystone species, a species that like that block in the center of a medieval archway is vital to the archway, is key to the survival of a biological community. They...

Favorite Books for 2022

I read 46 books this year; eight were non-fiction, half as many as last year. This end-of-the year look at what I’ve written about the books reminds me that this was a year of wonderful books that have brought such joy to my life. About a month after my cataract surgery in August of 2021, I was comfortable reading again. I have found in the last year that books in print are much harder to...

Limberlost by Robbie Arnott

This book called to me because of its title. A limberlost is a swampy region and was best known to me as the title of a book both my mother and my daughter loved,  A Girl of the Limberlost, referring to a large swampy area in northeastern Indiana that has now been drained. After moving to Virginia, I was surprised to find there’s a trail near Skyline Drive called the Limberlost Trail which...

Shutter by Ramona Emerson

It was a Fresh Air interview with the author that took me to this book. Ramona Emerson is Navaho, is a documentary film maker and this is her first book. She used her own experiences to create the main character, Rita. The author was a forensic photographer for some years and had a beloved grandmother who raised her. The book opens with Rita spending hours photographing the gruesome scene of a...

The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken

This novel is hard to think about and I had to keep reminding myself that it is a novel and I never quite believed that. The narrator is an author writing about her mother who had recently died. I loved the tone. She works hard to explain she is writing fiction, although it feels like a memoir. I don’t like being the center of attention except under very specific conditions. Then I adore it...

The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid

I admire the author’s book Exit West and looked forward to this one. The audiobook read by the author captures the grimly factual, matter-of-fact tone of the book as he did for Exit West. The book opens with Anders waking to discover he has turned brown. While this book has elements of Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Jose Saramago’s Blindness, its trajectory is its own. Other...

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