AuthorCharlotte Self

The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts

This book was recommended by Dorothy and it gave me hours of pleasure as I listened to it. Annie Wilkins found herself in dire straits financially in the mid-1950s, having just recovered from a serious illness, and was told by her doctor that she would no longer be physically fit to run her farm. She had no family and he suggested she give up the farm that had been in her family for three...

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

This little treat of a book opens with the arrival of a flying saucer near the Chateau Saint-Antoine vineyard in 1954 which transformed that year’s ordinary Beaujolais into an extraordinary wine. The vintner was never able to reproduce such a remarkable vintage again. Then we cut to 2017 in an old building in Paris where because of unusual circumstances four people celebrate when one finds...

Ghosts of New York by Jim Lewis

I’ve just finished a book that will be in my favorites list this year, perhaps at the very top. I found it in the NYT list of 100 notable books of 2021. The aspect of the book that I loved most was the web of connections among the characters that becomes apparent as you read the vignettes. The connections often are fleeting and not always key to the plot. For example the book begins by...

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Years ago someone told us about the wonderful JP Morgan Library and Museum in New York and we visited it several times, including once for a midday music performance. So, when I read about The Personal Librarian, a fictional book about Belle da Costa Greene, the long-time librarian hired by J.P. Morgan to help catalog and build his collection of rare manuscripts, I didn’t hesitate. The non...

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

This novella is small, but powerful and unfortunately, it’s timely as well. It is set in 1985 and though times are hard in Ireland, it’s almost Christmas and folks are in a happy mood. The central character, Bill Furlong, has quite the backstory, and is surely facing a difficult economic future. His mother became pregnant while working in the household of Mrs. Wilson, the wealthy...

A Cat, a Man, and Two Women by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

What a treat this 1936 novella is! I can’t remember where I saw a recommendation for it, but when I realized the author had written The Makioka Sisters, I knew it would be worthwhile finding it. And Interlibrary Loan came to the rescue. In only 99 pages the author creates a complicated household that focuses on a cat, Lily. There’s the slovenly Shozo, the Man of the title who loves...

The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

Having read The Buddha in the Attic I was familiar with Otsuka’s unusual and surprisingly successful method of storytelling. This one introduces a community of swimmers who are regulars at an underground pool. We get to know them by the accretion of factual characteristics: “Some of us come here because we are injured and need to heal. We suffer from bad backs, fallen arches...

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

This is my third Amor Towles book; The Rules of Civility was a treat from beginning to end and while A Gentleman in Moscow wallowed in the perfection of that gentleman, it too was irresistible. And once again, I find that when you are in the clutches of an Amor Towles book, it’s hard to resist. Set in 1954, the story unfolds in chapters told by or focusing on each character that end just as...

South to America by Imani Perry

Imani Perry has an impressive academic background: ¬†Yale undergraduate, Harvard Ph.D, LLM degree from Georgetown, and she now teaches at Princeton. Her ramble through the South is an informed and wide-ranging trek, with both familiar and new bits of information to digest. The approach to talking to people about Washington, DC used the question, “Is Washington a Southern city?” While...

The Other Madisons by Bettye Kearse

When I read about the recent action by the Montpelier Foundation board to undo their decision to share authority with descendants of the enslaved, I recalled I had purchased a book by Bettye Kearse, one of the descendants and a member of the Foundation Board. Here’s a link to the Washington Post story about it. The subtitle of her book is The Lost History of a President’s Black Family...

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