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Light Eaters by Zoë Schlanger

I heard Zoë Schlanger, a long time science writer, interviewed on Fresh Air and found her an unusually appealing speaker. Her writing is equally appealing; she explains unfamiliar concepts clearly and in an entertaining way. In the last 15 years there has been a revival of plant behavior research that has brought revelations about the attributes of plants that could be called “intelligence...

The Portrait by Antoine Laurain

I am a fan of this author and have read four of his books that I find very clever and quite fun. My favorite was the first one I read, The President’s Hat, that tells a tale of François Mitterrand’s hat changing the lives of the people who happened to have it for a time. I read this one because I discovered it is in the public library. The Portrait is narrated by a man who works as an...

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

It was the review in Reading Matters that took me to this book and the author’s focus on the importance of precise language that kept me reading. The main character is a translator at “the Court” in the Hague, an unnamed international court that brings charges against those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes. She had left New York after her father died...

Long Island by Colm Toibín

I was happy to learn about this book, a follow-up to Brooklyn, 20 years later. Not only do we get to revisit Enniscorthy, Ireland and learn what’s happening with Eilis and others, there is a casual mention of Nora Webster, the main character in the book of that name. Brooklyn is set in the 1950s, Nora Webster in the mid- to late 1960s, and Long Island in the early 1970s. I truly love...

Knife by Salmon Rushdie

I greatly admired Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton about his life during the threat against his life by the fatwah in 1989. This one tells about the attack he suffered in 2022 at Chautauqua that nearly killed him. I found both his memoirs irresistible. He tells in detail about his injuries and what was required to heal from them. I was surprised to find myself thinking of my mother’s...

James by Percival Everett

After Percival Everett’s visit to the book festival here in Charlottesville, I heard from Laura that she she was moved to read this book and liked it very much. Knowing that it was a retelling of Huckleberry Finn, I decided reacquaint myself with that story especially after she added that there was a notable surprise change in the story. What I did was less reading than skimming. It was as...

The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham

My friend Molly mentioned listening to this book and was wowed by the beautiful language. I had recently told her about the book by Tan Twan Eng, The House of Doors, that both reminded me of Somerset Maugham books and had him as a character. So I  listened to it myself and once again fell in love with Somerset Maugham. The mother of the beautiful Kitty, the main character, has hopes that her...

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Although I had reservations about the previous book I read by Banana Yoshimoto, I wanted to try this one, her most well-known and loved. The main character, Mikage, begins by telling us how much she loves kitchens of all types. She is happy when she is in one and in her grief at losing her grandmother, she can only sleep in the kitchen. Her grandmother, along with her grandfather, had raised her...

Alice by Stacy A. Cordery

The Alice in question is Alice Roosevelt Longworth, who became known as a White House Princess and then a Washington Power Broker, as the subtitle has it. Her life began inauspiciously:  her mother died within two days of her birth, leaving her father Teddy Roosevelt bereft, especially so, as his mother died that same day. She was born in 1880, had her debutant ball in the White House in 1902...

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis

Jeanne Theoharis is a professor at Brooklyn College and has written eleven books on the topics of civil rights and Black Power movements. This one was written in 2013 and is the first definitive political biography of Rosa Parks. The audiobook I listened to was recorded in 2024 and has a substantial introduction, occasioned by newly available papers, photographs, and other materials of Rosa Parks...

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