The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle is a good time. If I say that it’s just a good read, does that do it a disservice? Do you think I mean to say that it’s not really a great book with something to say? Is calling a book simply a good read marking it down a bit in your estimation? In mine? I don’t mean … Continue reading The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor Lavalle

Sunday Salon: Why the Booker Short List Ruins my Reading and Other Bookish Items

I’m one of those people who get excited over the Man Booker Prize.  Almost every year, once the long list is announced, I head over the my local library to get as many of the nominated books as I can.  Typically, there are a few not yet available in America, and there are a couple my library doesn’t have yet. So I check out two … Continue reading Sunday Salon: Why the Booker Short List Ruins my Reading and Other Bookish Items

Role Models by John Waters.

I heard about this book on an episode of A Good Read my favorite book related podcast from BBC 4. The host and both of her guests loved it, went on and on about how good it was, with a few caveats, it is the BBC after all. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Waters’ work since I first saw Pink Flamingoes, with my hands over my eyes … Continue reading Role Models by John Waters.

Nothing to Envy: Love, Life and Death in North Korea by Babara Demick

While I enjoyed Babara Demick’s book, and found the stories in it compelling and enlightening, a picture she features on page one tells so much that it remains the single starkest image I take from reading Nothing to Envy.  I’ve included it towards the bottom of this review.  You might want to scroll down and take a look before reading further. Reading Nothing to Envy … Continue reading Nothing to Envy: Love, Life and Death in North Korea by Babara Demick

The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsk

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsk’s novel, The Letter Killers Club, opens when an un-named narrator informs us he has been invited to attend  the weekly meeting of seven well-respected authors.  The author’s have come to the conclusion, most of them late in their careers, that by writing down their ideas they  prevent others from having them.  So instead of writing, they now meet once a week to tell … Continue reading The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsk

How to Teach The Old Man and the Sea to 7th Graders

I teach two sets of 7th grade English to GATE students this year, so when I found a partial class set of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea in the back of the book room, I thought why not give it a go.  See what happens.   What follows is my advice for anyone considering using The Old Man and the Sea with … Continue reading How to Teach The Old Man and the Sea to 7th Graders

Autumn by Ali Smith

This is a troublesome book. Ultimately, I enjoyed it, I was moved by it, I came to see its excellence. But it was a bumpy road getting there. I’ve been reading the Booker Long List blind for the most part.  I got as many of the books as my local library allows without reading anything about them, or much about them. (There are a few … Continue reading Autumn by Ali Smith

New Favorite Book/Old Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This is at least the third time I’ve read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, maybe the fourth.  So I can’t really say it’s a “New Favorite Book” but I can say that it certainly holds up to re-reading. So that’s what I’m going to discuss here, the pleasures and perils of re-reading. There are some books that can be correctly understood in completely different fashions each time you read … Continue reading New Favorite Book/Old Favorite Book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen Read A-Long: Pride and Prejudice

How is everyone doing so far? I should be completing Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice late this evening or tomorrow night.  My reading time has been limited this week by the start of school.  As the old prostitute said, it’s not the work, it’s the commute.  Mine was made worse when the district I work for decided to start school later. Something about improved learning for high … Continue reading Jane Austen Read A-Long: Pride and Prejudice

HHhH by Laurent Binet

Is it insulting to turn a real person into a character in a book? The nature of historical fiction and the inherent trustworthiness of it is foregrounded in HHhH by Laurent Binet.  Mr. Binet wants to tell the story of two men, Jan Kubiš and Jozef Gabčík,  who carried out an assassination attempt on the life of Reinhard Heydrich, second in command of the Nazi SS … Continue reading HHhH by Laurent Binet

My New Favorite Book: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

I confess–I thought this books was going to be about Lincoln in France or in a French hotel or neighborhood, maybe in New Orleans. So I wasn’t all that anxious to read it.  Plus, it’s historical fiction which I’m frankly a bit biased against. But it looked like a quick read and since I needed something I could finish before Monday when I planned on … Continue reading My New Favorite Book: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

My New Favorite Book: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

The story opens with a corpse. A soldier’s body being prepared for burial in the then frontier state of Missouri circa 1855. So I should not have been surprised by how violent the rest of the book was. But I had never really considered just how much violence was involved in the beginning years of the United States.  Not systematically. And I had just finished … Continue reading My New Favorite Book: Days Without End by Sebastian Barry