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December 30, 2013


Hope you will consider reading Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Greatly appreciate your list. Toibin is among my favorites.

You are such a systematic person. My reading has been haphazard this year: some fiction, some non-fiction, lots of lit crit. My favorite read was a completely odd novel by Margaret Drabble, The Pure Gold Baby.

You are focused and organized.Some books I am not sure whether I read them this year or last plus some books are elsewhere so I couldn't do a comprehensive list.But some books that I liked this past year.I dipped into two poetry books 'A thousand mornings' by Mary Oliver and 'Refusing heaven' by the late Jack Gilbert.Nonfiction which is mostly what I read includes 'The Swerve" by Stephen Greenblatt.It starts off with an Italian riding through the woods of Germany in 1417 looking for old manuscripts in remote Monasteries in a chapter entitled 'The book Hunter'He finds a now famous poem thought lost by the ancient Roman Poet Lucretius 'On the nature of things'.'The killing of Crazy Horse' by Thomas Powers.Since Crazy Horse doesn't get killed until after page 400 somewhere its about much else regarding the plains Indians.I think the introduction entitled 'we will come for you another time' is brilliant.A couple of new writers this year.I read parts of Julian Barnes book of essays 'Through the window' and Colin Thubron's "To a Mountain
In Tibet"I will read more from these writers in the future.I am a big fan of Roger Ebert's Memoirs 'Life Itself'Very well written I think.Near death when he finished it I think, his concluding chapter 'go gently' is especially moving.Read The late Tony Judt's book 'Thinking the 20th century and especially good was Karl Marlantes 'What is it like to go to War' the best book I have read about Vietnam since Tim O'Brien's majestic 'The things they carried'.Also liked 'The Story Telling animal" by Jonathan Gottschall a lot.For one, it pointed out some symbolism in Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' that I had missed.I liked two novels I read Cormac McCarhty's 'No country for old Men and a thriller 'Shake Off' by Mischa Hiller.
From your list Beth is looks very eclectic as always and some books to follow up and look into.I too have an interest in Mexico and I have heard of Carlos Fuentes. In fact I heard a quote where he is supposed to have said that one may no longer be a Christian but you cannot be a Mexican if you do not believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe

You remind me how much I used to love to devour books. If I only make one resolution this year it will be to read and be aware of my reading (which for me would include journalling). So next year I'll check in with you around this time .....

Judith, of course I'll consider Transatlantic. Thanks for the recommendation.

Hattie, I appear more systematic than I really am! Disciplined, yes, I suppose so. Please tell me about the Drabble book -- I saw it on some lists and reviewed in The New Yorker and was intrigued. Happy New Year!

John -- Happy New Year, and thank you for continuing to read my scribblings here.​ I'm delighted that you sent your own list. "The Swerve" is on my to-read list for next year and I think I need to go back to Cormac McCarthy. Thanks, too, for the recommendations about books on Vietnam - an area of reading I should pursue.​ The Fuentes quote is funny and reminds me of my Christian Syrian father-in-law's wry comment that "if you speak Arabic, you're a Muslim." He didn't really mean it, but knew there was some truth to it! Best wishes for 2014.

Vivian, maybe just make a book page in your journal and jot down the titles? My reading is dependent on free time in the evenings, and greatly affected by work, tv-watching, and socializing. This fall I barely read anything: too much work, and after dinner all I wanted to do was watch a movie or episode of some serialized drama, and fall asleep. It helps me to have books on my phone or tablet and to carry them with me wherever I go and have a some free minutes. Yes, we'll stay in touch about this topic!

A very generous comment on my novel.

And I'm in your debt for other things: musical

insights, behind-the-scenes with a first-rate

choir, a stream of fresh new paintings, the

hard-nosed essay on Ulysses, serious but never

earnest discourse, the walk down Broadway,

tales about your grandparents. And if gardening

doesn't thrill me I'm astounded you can

somehow fit it all in. If I'm allowed a Biblical

reference you're certainly no kin to the one

who buried his talents. It's good to know you,


PS: I tried an earlier comment on more or less

the above lines but I fear it disappeared. Just

like the old days. Never mind. Try again.

Inspired in part by you, I started logging the books I was reading this year, with an intention to be more systematic, serious, productive etc. I got to about June. Then three things happened in a fairly short space which set these well-laid plans in disarray:

1)urged by Heather Dohollau, who had, I realised, become almost over-dominant as a reading mentor - and a little by Joe H and teased into it a bit by Robbie (Roderick) too - I started reading 'The Golden Bowl'.
2)Heather died;
3)I got on a compulsive knitting jag.

The repercussions of the two last of these are still with me, and I haven't quite sorted out what it's all about and where to go from here, and perhaps that's really matter for a blog post of my own. But I finally finished The Golden Bowl!

Anyway, I'm really glad you liked White Egrets, and hated The Sea, as I concur with both sentiments! And whatever my excuses for myself, I salute and am in awe of your application, commitment and general serious-mindedness in this matter, and all others that you turn your hand to.

Happy New Year to you and Jonathan!

It seems that my longer comment of this morning never came through. Never mind. Just want to wish you and J a very Happy New Year, from us both.
(Tell J I miss his blog!)

I guess I'm going to have to get an e-reader just so I can read Gorgon Times

We intersect with The Cat's Table, Falling Upward (this year, even, as you mentioned), Lifelines, and Life of Pi. I'm with you about Life of Pi's movie, which may well be excellent. It's the ambiguity at the end of the novel I don't want a movie resolving, or helping to resolve, for me.

As far as the Sargent watercolors catalog, I do like the essays in a well-done catalog. I spent a couple of hours in an art museum's library this summer looking through old catalogs that I could order used online. There's something about an art historian's good writing that can succinctly describe something that otherwise would be close to ineffable. I think this is one of the things I most enjoy about art historian Teju Cole's novel Open City, which you've also written about here.

And I've just downloaded Gorgon Times. Thanks for the review!

Dear Beth,

This is the fifth book list I've shared on your blog and it's always a pleasant fixed point in the year. Do keep going!

Looking at 2009 I wish I could come to Shirley Hazzard fresh again. And I'm still understanding how great the Russians are: then it was Solzhenitsyn, now Dostoevesky. My highlights this year were Mr Weston's Good Wine, an incredible fable ("a religious (or anti-religious?) masterpiece" as AN Wilson called it); Kim, which I read after visiting Bateman's, Kipling's grand house in East Sussex, on a lovely summer's day; Native Speaker, which restored my faith in contemporary fiction; Siddartha, which we've talked about; and the affecting and profound Things Fall Apart which shifted my understanding of the world.

The most disappointing was Light because it didn't quite make the leap out of genre SF.

From your list I have The Cat's Table waiting to be read. And Singer Sargent's 'Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose' is one my favourite paintings and should be seen if you're ever in London. It is luminous and ineffable! I'm impressed by your methodical approach to Hesse; do think this approach has benefited his work?

Beginnings and Endings, Maggi Dawn
How to Eat Out, Giles Coren
Mr Weston's Good Wine, T.F. Powys
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami
Nowhere Better Than This, Anthony Wilson
Watching the English, Kate Fox
The Soul of a Chef, Michael Ruhlman
Bad Cook, Esther Walker
Patrick Leigh Fermor, Artemis Cooper
The Server, Tim Parks
Leaving Alexandria, Richard Holloway
On the Natural History of Destruction, W.G. Sebald
Light, M. John Harrison
Babette's Feast, Isak Dinsen
Wrong About Japan, Peter Carey
When the Machine Stops & The Celestial Omnibus, E.M. Forster
Kim, Rudyard Kipling
Walking Home, Simon Armitage
Native Speaker, Chang-Rae Lee
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver
On the Map, Simon Garfield
Holloway, Robert Macfarlane, Stanley Donwood, Dan Richards
Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Reach of a Chef, Michael Ruhlman
Siddartha, Herman Hesse
Salsa for People Who Probably Shouldn't, Matt Rendell
Daily Rituals, Mason Currey
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe

Happy New Year!

What a great list! I've bookmarked it to come back to for reading inspiration. Getting 'round to posting my own soon (far more light reading -- mystery novels, particularly -- than on yours). Austerlitz was on my list as well last year and was one of the highlights. . .
Happy New Year!

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.