Warlock by Oakley Hall

Oakley Hall populates his novel Warlock with an entire town full of characters, the way Charles Dickens does, or more apropos the way Pete Dexter did in his western Deadwood.  While there is a central plot with its handful of major characters, Mr. Hall takes the time to bring each minor player to life, enough to fill his small Arizona town of Warlock with a … Continue reading Warlock by Oakley Hall

Parititions by Amit Majmudar

It’s very difficult for me to imagine let alone understand the animus that led to the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947 following the withdrawal of British authority from the subcontinent.  The violence that accompanied partition defies understanding.  One can only ask how could this happen without the expectation of an answer. To his credit, Amit Majmudar does not seek to explain that violence … Continue reading Parititions by Amit Majmudar

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.

Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu Translated by D.C. Lau

For many years now, I have taught Daoism as part of my 7th grade history unit on China.  I wish I could call back my previous classes and correct all the mistakes and misrepresentations I have made over the years.  Fortunately, what 7th graders take away from a lesson on Daoism isn’t all that deep, so I probably haven’t done much damage. Still.  It’s symptomatic … Continue reading Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu Translated by D.C. Lau

Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson

It was a little un-nerving to be reading Blood Done Sign My Name right now.  America really should have moved beyond this issue by this point in time, the opening years of of the 21st century.  William Faulkner got it right when he said, “The past isn’t done with us; it’s not even past.” Blood Done Sign My Name is Timothy B. Tyson’s memoir/reflection on racism … Continue reading Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson

A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland

If you’re a reader but not an English major, or just anyone who’d like to fill in the holes in your knowledge of the subject, you could do worse than John Sutherland’s A Little History of Literature.  Divided into 40 short chapters, Mr. Sutherland’s book covers all the greatest hits from Beowulf to Borges and most of the main topics covered in graduate schools from What … Continue reading A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland

DNF: Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman

First off, is this not a beautiful cover? Don’t you want this to be a terrific book?  With a cover like this? It wasn’t the book, it was me. Most likely. The books two narratives are well told, it’s two lead characters interesting and three-dimensional.  I just felt I had been down this road before. In one, an 19th century American engineer has been hired … Continue reading DNF: Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman

Americans and the California Dream by Kevin Starr–Chapter I: Prophetic Patterns 1786-1850

This doesn’t count as a resolution, but on New Year’s Day I finally embarked on reading Kevin Starr’s history of California which currently stands at six volumes, last time I checked. A few years ago I read his single volume history California and loved it.  Entertaining and informative, a clear eye-ed history of the state written by a man who’s been in love with the place … Continue reading Americans and the California Dream by Kevin Starr–Chapter I: Prophetic Patterns 1786-1850

The Underground Railroad by Colsen Whitehead

Is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead as good as they say? Does it deserve all the awards and high praise it has been getting, earning the author an interview on every public television and NPR show that still interviews authors? No. There, I said it. It’s a very good book.  I had a very hard time putting it down–ended up reading nearly 200 pages … Continue reading The Underground Railroad by Colsen Whitehead

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

In Texas, during the years following the Civil War, a 75-year-0ld printer who has lost his business, a casualty of war and its aftermath, travels the western part of the state giving readings from newspapers.  He rides into town, posts notices of his performance, and collects a dime from everyone who attends in an old paint can. All he does is stand in front of … Continue reading News of the World by Paulette Jiles