The meetings are on hiatus but the blog carries on

One of the nice things about a blog is that since we don’t all have to be any place at the same time, it can continue through the summer.  But let’s change the focus since we don’t have a subject until October.  Let’s just talk about what we’re reading.

This week I read two books and am starting another one.

ImageThe first is a mystery by Peter Lovesey The Tooth Tattoo.  He has a list of awards a page long and a widely varied set of titles and themes.  This one – while there are bodies around – is set in Bath England and most of the book centers on a chamber music quartet and the music being played.  Not being a musician, I have no idea whether he got it right (if there are musicians out there, let me know) but it sounds authentic and I enjoyed the book.

Also read Claire Messud’s latest – The Woman Upstairs.  In spite of her great reviews, this is an author I don’t seem to get.  I was disappointed in her previous title – The Emperor’s Children and I didn’t love this one although it has an interesting  theme – how much of another person’s life is an artist entitled to use to make their art and is it possible to be a great artist without being totally self centered.  But – if you have read this and really liked it, tell me what I am missing.Image

ImageJust starting Elizabeth Berg’s latest – Tapestry of Fortunes.  When I was at the book store and she lived in Natick, we had several delightful events with her.  Haven’t read her latest few but since Elizabeth has always written from her life, early pages of this one make it appear that she is in a more spiritual mood.

So what’s on your nightstand?

CHANGE IN PLANS – we are putting Bagels and Books on vacation until October

We are bowing to the inevitability of a beautiful day in the spring and canceling the final session of Bagels and Books that was planned for June.  We will begin the group again in October when we will be talking about books on travel (and I think there are enough of them to circle the globe).  You will have all summer to read.  Right now, we think that following our beginning session on Travel books, we will be focusing on books from specific countries.  Haven’t decided on any countries yet so you have time to lobby for your favorites. Below are a few travel titles – again just suggestions to get you thinking of how vast the subject might be:

To Say Nothing of the DogConnie Willis – From Connie Willis, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards, comes a comedic romp through an unpredictable world of mystery, love, and time travel…

Three men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome – Three Men in a Boat is the hilarious story of three Victorian men’s boating journey up the Thames River to Oxford, England–from the time they pack suitcases to their encounters with locals along the way. Set in London during the 1880s, the tale draws striking contrasts between the middle and upper classes, and is one of the greatest children’s stories of all time.

The Bean TreesBarbara Kingsolver – Clear-eyed and spirited, Taylor Greer grew up poor in rural Kentucky with the goals of avoiding pregnancy and getting away. But when she heads west with high hopes and a barely functional car, she meets the human condition head-on.

Novel Destinations: Literary landmarks from Jane Austen’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West – Shannon Mckenna Schmidt – a guide for bibliophiles to more than 500 literary sites across the United States and Europe.

Holidays in Hell: In which our intrepid reporter travels to the world’s worse places and asks “What’s Funny About This?” P. J. O’Rourke – America’s bestselling political humorist finds humor in some of the world’s most unlikely places.

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?  Thomas Kohnstamm – For those who think that travel guidebooks are the gospel truth.

The Worst Journey in the World Apsley Gerry-Garrard – In 1910, hoping that the study of penguin eggs would provide an evolutionary link between birds and reptiles, a group of explorers left Cardiff by boat on Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to Antarctica. Not all of them would return.

Travels with Charley: In Search of America John Steinbeck – To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the tress, to see the colors and the light—these were John Steinbeck’s goals as he set out, at the age of fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.

With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. And he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, on a particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and on the unexpected kindness of strangers that is also a very real part of our national identity.

My Love Affair with EnglandSusan Allen Toth – A traveler’s memoir as personal as it is inviting, this modern odyssey explores what happens when the vital imagination of a writer from the American Midwest meets the many-layered legacy that is Great Britain. As a twenty-year-old student, Ms. Toth first went to London for a single summer, but she has returned again and again to the land of Shakespeare, sheepdog trials, royalty, and trifle. Exploring the countryside, traveling both second-class and in luxury, theatre-hopping, ghost-hunting, spending her doomed first honeymoon, or shepherding students through a touring seminar, Ms. Toth brings her special England vividly to life in essays that are by turns humorous, bittersweet, and wonderfully eccentric.

Travels in West AfricaMary Kingsley – Upon her sudden freedom from family obligations, a sheltered Victorian spinster traded her stifling middle-class existence for an incredible expedition in the Congo. Mary Kingsley traversed uncharted regions of West Africa alone, on foot, collecting specimens of local fauna and trading with natives–a remarkable feat in any era, but particularly for a woman of the 1890s. After hacking her way through jungles, being fired upon by hostile tribesmen and attacked by wild animals, Kingsley emerged with no complaint more serious than a pair of tired feet.

Into the WildJohn Krakauer – In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.  How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

The Complete Travels of Mark TwainMark Twain – Includes Life on the Mississippi, Roughing It, The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, Following the Equator, Some Rambling Notes of an Idle Excursion

Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift – GULLIVER’S TRAVELS INTO SEVERAL REMOTE NATIONS OF THE WORLD is a satire on human nature and a parody of the “travelers’ tales” literary genre, popular during the lifetime of Jonathan Swift. GULLIVER’S TRAVELS is widely considered Swift’s greatest work as well as one of the indisputable classics of English literature.

The OdysseyHomer  – The ODYSSEY is in part a sequel to the ILIAD, and tells of the adventures of the Greek hero Odysseus as he seeks his homeland after the end of the Trojan War.

The Uncommercial Traveller Charles Dickens – The Uncommercial Traveller is a collection of literary sketches and reminiscences written by Charles Dickens. He seems to have chosen the title and persona of the Uncommercial Traveller as a result of a speech he gave on the 22 December 1859 to the Commercial Travellers’ School London in his role as honorary chairman and treasurer. The persona sits well with a writer who liked to travel, not only as a tourist, but also to research and report what he found; visiting Europe, America and giving book readings throughout Britain.

SuperJim Lehrer – In the tradition of Murder on the Orient Express, Jim Lehrer brings together a cast of characters as fascinating as the historic train that will carry them from Chicago to Los Angeles. In its heyday, the Santa Fe railroad’s famous Super Chief was so replete with wealth and celebrity that it became known as “The Train of the Stars.” And so we find it in April of 1956, embarking from the Windy City for its trip across the Plains to the West Coast.

Parrot and Olivier in America Peter Carey – From the two-time Booker Prize–winning author comes an irrepressibly funny new novel set in early nineteenth-century America.  Olivier—an improvisation on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville—is the traumatized child of aristocratic survivors of the French Revolution. Parrot is the motherless son of an itinerant English printer. They are born on different sides of history, but their lives will be connected by an enigmatic one-armed marquis.

1,000 Places to See Before You DiePatricia Schultz – A #1 New York Times bestseller, 1,000 Places reinvented the idea of travel book as both wish list and practical guide. As Newsweek wrote, it “tells you what’s beautiful, what’s fun, and what’s just unforgettable— everywhere on earth.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams – Seconds before the Earth is demolished for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is saved by Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised Guide. Together they stick out their thumbs to the stars and begin a wild journey through time and space.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce – Harold, a retired man who feels every element of his life has been a failure, receives a letter from a woman he betrayed years ago saying goodbye as she is dying of cancer.  He leaves the house to mail her a letter and just keeps walking, deciding that if he can walk to see her – 500 miles – she will continue to stay alive.  It is a book about second chances, about accepting responsibility for your choices, about connecting to the rest of the world – and, unlikely as it seems, it is something of a coming of age book, if you define that as finally figuring out who you are.  Beautiful descriptions of the English countryside he walks through.  Shortlisted for the Booker.

As much as I love the library (and use it) I sometimes just want to own a book.

Maybe I need to write in the margins or turn down the pages or pass it on to someone else to read.  For this reason, I am especially delighted that we have a new bookstore in town.  Kilby Books and Video Signals moved from Stow to Maynard last week – located on  Nason Street at the former location of The Movie House.  They have a terrific collection of books and DVD’s (and they are even going to be offering pottery painting)

But here’s the important thing – I checked out their sections on nature books (for this month) and travel writing (for June) and they have some great choices.  

Here are a few titles (I only bought one for each month)

Game Wars: The Undercover Pursuit of Wildlife Poachers by Marc Reisnet

The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery

An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore

Rising from the Plains by John McPhee

Millions of Monarch, Bunches of Beetles – Gilbert Waldbauer

The Lobster Chronicles – Linda Greenlaw

Onward and Upward in the Garden – Katherine S. White (of the New Yorker) – always wanted a copy of this

and looking ahead to June

Venice is a Fish – Tiziano Scarpa

Bella Tuscany – Frances Mayes

Italian Neighbors – Tim Parks

Following the Sun – John Hanson Mitchell

Going Back to Brisbee – Shelton

Best American Travel Writing (2000 and 2006 available)

Honeymoon with my Brother – Franz Wisner (OK – that title sold me)

Got a great recommendation

Description of an interesting website – lists best books by decade . 

And the recommendation also included a description of a book that sounds great. 

“I happened upon it when looking for information about LeGrand Cannon, Jr. I just read his book Look To The Mountain, published in 1942, and wanted to know more about the author. 
 I loved this book! It gives a view of what was going on in the early settlement of NH while the Revolution was cooking in the Bay Colony. In the first few pages I had a list of unknown or guessed at words to look up!  Have a hot cup of tea nearby…the mountain and winter weather descriptions are wicked.”Image