Getting ready for the November start up of this year’s Bagels and Books ( Nov 15 – 11 a.m.) which focuses on WWI and that time period, I decided I wanted to read Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford.  This would be my classics choice.  I ordered a copy and it came yesterday.    836 pages

So I plan to read it anyway because it looks really interesting and I don’t read nearly enough classics.

But … 836 pages.

Do you have things you check before you decide to invest your reading time in a book?


Our first meeting will be November 15 at 11 a.m.  The subject will be WWI – and as you know we are very loose in our definition.  This can be any thing – fiction or non-fiction – related in some way to WWI.  Perhaps it just took place during that period and WWI had an impact on the plot.  As promised, I am including some recommendations if you don’t already have something you’d like to read and discuss.  And as further promised, it is limited to 4 recommendations.  I am working very hard to pare down my personal recommendations.  I have tried – in coming up with these recommendations – to provide a variety of choices.  But these are – of course – not something you need to read.  Tell us what books you have found interesting and appealing.

  • CLASSIC HISTORY:  *The Guns of August – Barbara Tuchman - Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time The Proud Tower, the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Guns of August, and The Zimmerman Telegram comprise Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic histories of the First World War era In this landmark, Pulitzer Prize–winning account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world. Beginning with the funeral of Edward VII, Tuchman traces each step that led to the inevitable clash. And inevitable it was, with all sides plotting their war for a generation. Dizzyingly comprehensive and spectacularly portrayed with her famous talent for evoking the characters of the war’s key players, Tuchman’s magnum opus is a classic for the ages.
  • NOVEL: *Regeneration – Pat Barker -  “The trilogy is trying to tell something about the parts of war that don’t get into the official accounts” Pat Barker The first book of the Regeneration Trilogy and a Booker Prize nominee.   In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified “mentally unsound” and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon’s “sanity” and sending him back to the trenches. This novel tells what happened as only a novel can. It is a war saga in which not a shot is fired. It is a story of a battle for a man’s mind in which only the reader can decide who is the victor, who the vanquished, and who the victim.
  • AUTOBIOGRAPHY: *Goodbye to all That – Robert Graves - In this autobiography, first published in 1929, poet Robert Graves traces the monumental and universal loss of innocence that occurred as a result of the First World War. Written after the war and as he was leaving his birthplace, he thought, forever, Good-Bye to All That bids farewell not only to England and his English family and friends, but also to a way of life. Tracing his upbringing from his solidly middle-class Victorian childhood through his entry into the war at age twenty-one as a patriotic captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, this dramatic, poignant, often wry autobiography goes on to depict the horrors and disillusionment of the Great War, from life in the trenches and the loss of dear friends, to the stupidity of government bureaucracy and the absurdity of English class stratification. Paul Fussell has hailed it as “”the best memoir of the First World War”” and has written the introduction to this new edition that marks the eightieth anniversary of the end of the war. An enormous success when it was first issued, it continues to find new readers in the thousands each year and has earned its designation as a true classic.  (not in Maynard library)
    • NEW NON-FICTION ASSESSMENT: *The War That Ended Peace – Margaret Macmillan – From the bestselling and award-winning author of Paris 1919 comes a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, a fascinating portrait of Europe from 1900 up to the outbreak of World War I. The century since the end of the Napoleonic wars had been the most peaceful era Europe had known since the fall of the Roman Empire. In the first years of the twentieth century, Europe believed it was marching to a golden, happy, and prosperous future. But instead, complex personalities and rivalries, colonialism and ethnic nationalisms, and shifting alliances helped to bring about the failure of the long peace and the outbreak of a war that transformed Europe and the world. Taut, suspenseful, and impossible to put down, The War That Ended Peace is also a wise cautionary reminder of how wars happen in spite of the near-universal desire to keep the peace. Destined to become a classic in the tradition of Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, The War That Ended Peace enriches our understanding of one of the defining periods and events of the twentieth century.


The Friends would like to have a day time offering for book discussion but it would be nice if we had a few more participants.  I sent a note to ask what we might do differently and we talked about it at the Friends meeting last night.  SO – here is the feedback that came out of those discussions.

1.  We will keep it  in the morning on Saturday but will slip it back a little to 11 a.m. to give people a bit more time to get their Saturday morning errands done and still join us.  We think we can still eat bagels at 11.

2.  We will hold it on the 3rd Saturday of each month and we will start in November (this is totally because I will be out of town on the 3rd Saturday in October).  We will expect to have meetings each month through April.

3.  Because we got a lot of feedback that the long list of books discussed simply overwhelmed people, we will limit the number of books anyone recommends (INCLUDING ME – big sacrifice here) to 4 each.

4.  I will pay attention to the recommendations during the discussion and try to capture some of the reasons the person talking about the book liked it/or not and put that on the list that is produced after the meeting.

5.  We will narrow the focus of the subjects to make it a little less overwhelming – so instead of HISTORY – which is a little broad- we will begin in November with books about WWI which is commemorating 100 years and there are a number of good choices – fiction and non-fiction.

6.  We will ask Jeremy if he is willing to put a display of some of the recommended books occasionally to help advertise the program. Notices of the meetings will be sent to the Beacon and Action Unlimited in addition to putting them on our Facebook page and putting signs in the library.

7. A list (NO MORE THAN 4) of possible books on the topic will be available for anyone who doesn’t have suggestions of their own a month before the discussion.  The blog will continue because it just will.


I have just read what must be the funniest book of the summer

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher is a series of recommendation letters written by a midwestern college professor of English who is having a rough time in his life and not suffering in silence and who has a penchant for telling the truth. Laugh out loud lines in many letters – but some of them are rather poignant and he isn’t the curmudgeon he wants you to think he is as you discover at the end of the book – loved this book for both its humanity and its humor.

The professor reminds me a bit of the main character in Richard Russo’s Straight Man – one of my favorite comic novels.book1