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Cod by Mark Kurlansky

The subtitle is A Biography of a Fish that Changed the World, staking out a big claim for a bit of food, but the author makes a good case. By giving them a preservable food source, the cod enabled the Vikings to leave home for distant shores. Its abundance off the Newfoundland and Massachusetts shores was a rich resource that changed behavior. And there are countless other instances of the...

Florida by Lauren Groff

The author’s great strength, evident in both this book and in Fates and Furies, is her brilliant use of descriptive language. In “Ghosts and Empties,” the first story, a woman recounts the walks she takes each night while her husband puts their two boys to bed. She is dismayed to have become “a woman who yells,” and she hopes her walks will counter that. Some of my...

Books to Read

Inland by Téa Obreht. The Street Sweeper by Elliott Perlman. Public Library. The Light & the Mirror by Hilary Mantel comes out March 10. The Imperfect Union by Steve Inskeep. About Fremont. The Bridge of Little Jeremy by Indrajit Garai. Rec by Tony’s Book World. Prairie Fever by Michael Parker. Jeff-Mad new books. Fest. of the book Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman...

Hare’s Fur by Trevor Shearston

A book about a 70-year-old potter in mourning for his wife who encounters three kids living in the wild to avoid being taken in by the child protective bureaucracy, well, that story could have some pitfalls. This one successfully avoids them. The book is set on the outskirts of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Russell has a few good friends who live nearby, but his life is largely solitary now...

Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips

This remarkable novel on the NYT list of the ten best novels of 2019 is the author’s first. It is set on Kamchatka, a remote peninsula in the east of Russia, much closer to Alaska than to Moscow. It takes place over the course of a year, a chapter for each month. The first chapter describes a terrible event, the kidnapping of two young girls, that was very difficult for me to read. Each...

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

I loved listening to the author who, when this was written in 1998, was restaurant critic for the New York Times. Here, she tells how she came to love good food. I had read her laugh-out-loud book Garlic and Sapphires more than 10 years ago, so I was not surprised to find this one, too, has many funny stories. I’ll start with one of the best about her mother, who was a terrible–and...

Favorite Books for 2019

As I have in recent years, I read 50 books this year. Here are my favorites: The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay. This is an impressively told story demonstrating that privilege can give a person the power to harm others while intending to help them. The setting is Bangalore and Kashmir; I came away with the knowledge that understanding what has happened in that region is hard to come by. An American...

Love Unknown: The Life and Works of Elizabeth Bishop by Thomas Travisano

Over the years we have known that our friend Jim’s brother has written books about Elizabeth Bishop; this one is surely his most ambitious. It is an eminently readable telling of her life and for me, an appealing recounting of her poetry. Her father died when she was eight months old and when she was five, her mother had a breakdown and was hospitalized for the rest of her life. Bishop...

Yellow Notebook by Helen Garner

Because I loved her book of essays Everywhere I Look so much, I didn’t hesitate to read this book of Helen Garner’s diaries from 1978 to 1987. Many of the personal stories were pretty mysterious to me; everyone is referred to by a single initial. While she records her emotional reactions the end of her second marriage, F didn’t become much more than an initial to me. M was...

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I had been hesitant to read a book about a topic I lived with for many years, but two recent recommendations and a book loan later, well, what choice did I have? The great fear is that facts or the tone would be wrong, but that didn’t happen with this book. And I should say that I am only a patron of public libraries as my work experience was with academic libraries. At the outset the...

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