The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny by Michael Wallis

I’m going to assume that you know the basic story of the Donner Party.  Just in case, here is the Wikipedia article; it’s fantastic. I also had a pretty good grasp of their story before reading Michael Wallis’s recent book about them, The Best Land Under Heaven. So, did I learn anything? Was the book worth reading? Yes, and mostly yes. The full extent of what … Continue reading The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny by Michael Wallis

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

This review contains spoilers. You’re welcome. A book about the Donner Party ought to be a page-turner.  The Wikipedia article on them is fascinating reading.  Take what is already an inherently compelling story, add in a supernatural element and you should have a very entertaining book.  That’s all I was expecting.  Something unnatural is stalking the Donner Party, an evil they cannot see, killing them … Continue reading The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

I admit it. I picked this one because it was the shortest. I’ve a pile of books by my favorite reading chair–books from the Tournament of Books’ long list. They keep arriving at my local library with worrying frequency.  So, to speed my way through the stack, I picked the shortest one… …My new favorite book, Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. I wasn’t completely sold at first.  … Continue reading Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Inez Storer: Allow Nothing to Worry You

Last week a friend of mine and I played hookey to go to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. The first Tuesday of the month is their free day.  The CJM has never disappointed.  C.J. and I typically go three or four times a year, yes on free Tuesdays, and have always been at least entertained. Sometimes we have been inspired. The current shows … Continue reading Inez Storer: Allow Nothing to Worry You

A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion

A couple of weeks ago I renewed my subscription to Netflix, just in time to catch the new documentary about American author and essayists Joan Didion.  It’s an excellent tribute, very entertaining.  C.J., who normally only watches You Tube videos about old English houses, loved it. He was even inspired to try reading some of Ms. Didion’s essays. And I was inspired to pick up … Continue reading A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion

New People by Danzy Senna

I may be the only person you know who has read all three of Danzy Senna’s novels.   There’s a memoir and a collection of short stories that I’ve not read so I can’t call myself a super-fan, but I’m a fan-boy.  I might even have to confess having something of a crush, an author-crush, on her. New People, like her previous two novels, deals with people … Continue reading New People by Danzy Senna

My New Favorite Book: Fat City by Leonard Gardner

Add Fat City by Leonard Gardner to the list of great anti-California novels. That’s a new sub-genre I’m creating.  The anti-California novel looks at the great California dream’s underbelly.  What happened to all those people who came to California and didn’t strike it rich, but stayed here anyway? Think Nathenial West’s The Day of the Locust, Charles Bukowski’s Ham and Rye, John Fante’s  Ask the Dust.  There’s a rich body of … Continue reading My New Favorite Book: Fat City by Leonard Gardner

Looking for the Next School Wide Read

Finding a book suitable for grades six, seven and eight is not easy. The difference between a seventh grader and an eighth grader is dramatic, but the difference between a sixth and an eighth grader is stunning. This year we did our first school wide read, Chew on This by Charles Wilson and Eric Schlosser, based on Mr. Schlosser’s best-selling book Fast Food Nation.  Each subject area read several … Continue reading Looking for the Next School Wide Read

Sunday Ramble: Travels, Art and Jane Austen Challenge

C.J. and I visited Los Angeles this past week to see the James Kerry Marshall retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the same show we saw last summer in Chicago.  We’ve become big fans of Mr. Marshall’s work. It was a mad-cap three-day trip–drive down, day in L.A. and drive home–but we managed to visit three bookstores while we were there.  We stayed in … Continue reading Sunday Ramble: Travels, Art and Jane Austen Challenge

Sunday Ramble and Two Books I Didn’t Like. Sorry.

Visited the local Friends of the Library book sale yesterday, in the rain, where C.J. and I managed to spend much more than we intended.  He got several art books and a couple of books full of house plans while I nearly completed my Jane Austen collection. Can you name the book I still have to find. I’ve decided it’s a good time to re-read all … Continue reading Sunday Ramble and Two Books I Didn’t Like. Sorry.

Black Wave by Michelle Tea

When I was in college, I was friends with a group of women who shared a flat on Divisidero Street in San Francisco, decades before it became a trendy neighborhood.  In the 1980’s, four college students living on four or five hundred dollars a month  each could come up with enough money to rent a flat.  As longs as no one spends all the rent … Continue reading Black Wave by Michelle Tea