Book 37 – City Boy, by Herman Wouk
Was meant as a sort of Tom Sawyer for urban kids. Herbie Bookbinder is the chubby, smart, teacher’s pet of a kid. Aged..11ish, living in the Bronx in the 1920’s. The story goes from the end of the school year through a summer at overnight camp. The adventures are rather far-fetched, but suppose that was also true of Tom Sawyer. It was a pleasant enough read.
Book 38 – Little Bee, by Chris Cleave
The book that doesn’t want you to know what it is about before you start reading. A couple and their young son are on a vacation in Africa – trying to save their marriage – when something really bad happens. Told alternatively from the point of view of the wife and the teenaged girl that was also caught in the really bad. So we have First World Problems colliding with actual Third World Problems and the choices that people make. Sometimes it was a bit much. For example, what kind of lunatic would go back to the scene of the really bad thing? But I was so caught in the tension that I stopped the audio book and picked up my real copy so I could read faster. That always says something.
Book 39 – The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
I heard somewhere that this was supposed to be a sort of Harry Potter for an older crowd.
Well. The characters are in college. Our hero is never entirely convinced of his own talent, and so neither was I. The twist was another world..sort of like Narnia. A series of children’s fantasy novels that happened to exist. It was an interesting premise, but it seemed to take forever to get there. It felt like..the Origin Novel and the first adventure were crammed into the same book. I liked it, but it took an awful lot of investment.
Book 40 – Revolutionary Characters, by Gordon Wood
I am pretty sure I heard of this book during that Academic Earth course on the American Revolution. The subtitle was, “What made the Founding Fathers different?” The answer, if I remember correctly, was that they did such a good job of creating an egalitarian republic of merit or whatever that they ensured another Revolutionary Generation would never happen again. The “Revolutionaries” being the very small, very elite and hyper-educated ruling class. Obviously, we could argue this one.
It is written in a series of profiles of the usual suspects, and includes Thomas Paine and Aaron Burr, which I particularly enjoyed.
Book 41 – The Marriage Plot – A Novel, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Dude that wrote Middlesex. The title comes from the study of 18th century English novels that our heroine takes on in college. I remember thinking, while reading, that I must be over the college-age novel because I didn’t love this or The Magicians or I am Charlotte Simmons, which were so popular with the book club types. I give this one some points for portraying bi-polar disorder in (what I understand to be) a realistic way. That is by far the best reason to read this book.
Book 42 – Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, by Dorothy Wickenden
The author wrote a charming history of her grandmother – a New York society girl of the 1910s – who went to Colorado with her best friend to teach rural kids in a two room schoolhouse.
It was my souvenir book from Jackson Hole. I found it in Local section of the little book shop on the town square, so I just pretended that it took place in Wyoming.
Book 43 – In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson
The family is that of Ambassador Dodd, an academic that really just wants to write his book on the Old South or whatever but took the assignment anyway. I really liked the side stories of the people whose paths crossed the Dodds, but the Dodds themselves were tiresome at best and downright unlikable at worst. So I felt like I was slogging through what I thought would be a page-turner. However, Larson sets the scene of tension increasing to terror extremely well, which makes the book worth reading.