What to Read (Listen to) Next

51M04zBndRL._SL150_  After reading Sam Anderson’s teaser in the New York Times Sunday magazine – New Sentences from Dan Brown’s Origin: A Novel – I ordered the book on line from my library, but I am number 297 on the waiting list.  Although I read Brown’s The Da Vinci Code years ago, I steered away from his other books when Tom Hanks became the image of Robert Langdon – I had imagined Pierce Brosnan as the professor/adventurer.

Origin is number five in the series with Robert Langdon,  and this one promises the secrets of the universe with predictions for the future.  Anderson actually makes the case for not reading the book, but Peter Conrad for The Observer says it may the antidote to the real world –  ” a specimen of phoney fiction, expertly designed to confuse the credulous…{Dan Brown’s} deranged fantasy increasingly looks like our daily reality…”

Sounds like fun and I have too many credits on Audible – maybe I’ll just listen to the abridged version, or maybe instead –

download Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied Sing.51C0X7VufEL._SL150_

What are you listening to?

 

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College Freshman Reading

unknownWhen the Sunday New York Times offered a short summary of books on the summer reading list for freshman, I wondered what my alma maters and those of my friends has assigned for stirring the synapses of the new generation of college entrants.  Aside from requiring a book as an assignment for a class (usually freshman comp), college administrators are no more successful at guaranteeing the book will be read than are book clubs (unless the host threatens a quiz with strips of questions to be publicly answered).  For someone to read the book, it must be engaging.

Topics for required freshman reading range from diversity and tolerance to best sellers.  Sometimes the nature of the institution reflects the choice, for example, “A Few Good Men” has been a popular choice over the years for The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina.  Berkeley’s 2017 summer reading list includes “What Can We Change in a Single Generation?” and the score from Hamilton, while this year a number of colleges, including one of my alma mater’s, picked “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson – the memoir of an attorney representing poor clients in the South, as he follows  a client on death row for killing a young white woman in Alabama.

9781101947135_p0_v5_s192x300   I was happy to see one of my favorites on the Stanford Three Books List as well as the pick for Connecticut College – Homegoing  by Yaa Ghasi.   I have yet to read Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, but the University of Wisconsin has identified it for its freshmen – a strange pick for a liberal university.

Tufts University is asking its freshmen to read “The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility” by Tufts political science professors Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah Sobieraj.  Mount Holyoke College has chosen “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine as the 2017 Common Read. The incoming Penn State class will join MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynsey Addario in exploring her passion for photography and how it shaped her personal and professional life by reading “It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.”  The 2017 University of Pennsylvania freshman read is Walter Isaacson’s “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”

What about the classics? Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was the only one I could find – for Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota.

Do you remember the book(s) you were required to read as an entering freshman?  For me, it was Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” – and I doubt I understood its implications until I read again many years later.

For More Freshman Read Titles, check:

Celebrating the Authors

As the official bookseller at the Literary Orange conference, The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore of San Diego had a ballroom of books for purchase. How could I not buy a book? Although I limited myself to two easy reading paperbacks for my plane ride ( I always need one book and a backup if I finish the first), I have a new list of titles to find in the library.

Why did I buy Julia Claiborne Johnson’s “Be Frank With Me”? She made me laugh in person and her book sounds funny, confirmed by Joanna Rakoff’s New York Times review. When asked how she finds inspiration for her books, Johnson said she just – “takes a nap.” I could relate.
As for my other purchase – “One True Loves” – Taylor Jenkins Reid’s description of the novel as Helen Hunt’s side of the story from Castaway sold me. I couldn’t help thinking of Irene Dunne and Cary Grant in the classic movie My Favorite Wife. If I like this one, I may get her new book – “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” – to be published in June

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Christina Baker Kline

 Books I plan to look for include Fannie Flagg’s winning short story that turned into her first novel, “Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man,” and Christina Baker Kline’s “Bird in Hand” because she disclosed she liked her own title better – “Four Way Stop” – before it was changed in editing. 

The best quote from an author was Steven Rowley’s “elevator line” – that one line pitch when someone asks “what is your book about?” Rowley summed up his “Lily and the Octopus” as a cross between “A Year of Magical Thinking” and “Moby Dick.” I may have to wait awhile to read this one, but it jumped onto my list.

In attendance were authors of mysteries, romance, nonfiction, memoirs, young adult fiction, family drama, historical fiction, cookbooks, and ghost writers with NDA’s (Nondisclosure Agreements) – an amazing range. I wish I could have met them all but maybe I can read all their books.

The Sleepwalker

9780385542555_p0_v1_s192x300Chris Bohjalian’s The Sleepwalker had me reading until I found out whodunnit.  Unfortunately, I read until I went to bed – and then had trouble going to sleep.  I resisted googling “sleepwalking” – better not to now how factual the references were.

Bohjalian’s sleepwalker is a beautiful architect with an English professor husband and two  girls, one a college senior, the other nine years younger; she suffers from a sleepwalking condition that may have caused her death.  Her history reveals a night when she almost jumped off a bridge and another when she spray-painted the hydrangea in the front yard – remembering neither event.

When Annalee’s sleepwalking seems to be in remission, her husband leaves for an out of town conference, despite the possibility she might walk into the night without him nearby in bed.   The next morning, her daughter discovers her missing, and as the search continues, possible perpetrators emerge until finally the body is found – only to restart the investigation and the story in a different direction.

Throughout the plot, red herrings draw the reader into fake paths, highlighting character flaws and revealing salacious possibilities. Bohajlian builds the suspense with background on each of the suspects – the husband, of course; the detective who shared coffee and her condition; possible unknown lovers.  But I never guessed who really did it and how, despite the killer’s short ramblings of anonymous notes between the chapters. No spoilers here.

A fast-paced thriller with Bohjalian’s trademark surprise ending, The Sleepwalker is a mystery with Gothic tones and Alfred Hitchcock intrigue.

 

Liane Moriarty

With a mix of Sophie Kinsella, Maria Semple, and a little Sherlock Homes (with a nod to the Professor Moriarty), Liane Moriarty always delivers a satisfying story.  She is on the list of authors whose next books I anticipate as soon as the last is read.

Currently, the new HBO series – Big Little Lies – has a cast of well-known women, including Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, telling the tale of murder and ambition, with a sprinkling of self-doubt, and a large dose of bullying.  Thankfully, I forget most of the details of a book after I’ve read it – clearing my synapses for the next round of fiction – yet, watching the story unfold, I am grateful for having read the book first.  The vague flashbacks and inner thoughts in the televised version seem to make more sense.  I remember enough of the action and characters to be familiar but I do not remember the ending.   Like all her books, this one will be a surprise – again.

Happily, I found one of Moriarty’s earlier books on my shelf.  The Last Anniversary has all those familiar qualities  – romance and adventure, women working through issues, and a cliff-hanging mystery.  Two women, Connie and Rose, find a surprise when they accept an invitation to tea at the Munro house.  In addition to the warm marble cake on the table and the bloodstains on the floor, they find a baby girl.  They decide to name her Enigma and raise her as their own in their small town of Scribbly Gum Island.

The story revolves around the Munro Baby mystery and Sophie, a thirty-nine year ex-girlfriend who unexpectedly inherits the house from Connie; Enigma is now a grandmother, and the town mystery has become a tourist attraction.  Secrets are important in Moriarty’s books and every character in this story seems to have one.  Like all her books, The Last Anniversary is a page turner, and just when all the secrets seem to have been revealed, Moriarty adds one more on the last page.

Have you read Moriarty’s books?  Here is a list of my reviews: