In keeping with my resolve to write down every book I read this year, here is the next installment of “Books I Read in 2016”. For the previous one, go here.
Empty Mansions: The Myterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr. – The fascinating story of Huguette Clark – an heiress who spent the last 20 years or so of her long life living by her own choice, in a New York City hospital. She was born in 1906 to the second wife of William A. Clark, a 19th Century Industrialist (think Vanderbilts and Carnegies) and U.S. Senator who was well in his 60’s when his youngest child was born. The book covers how her father made his fortune, how she grew up in the grandest house on Fifth Avenue, spent fortunes maintaining empty mansions for decades and more.
Halfway through this book, I began to realize I’d read it before, underscoring exactly why I need to start writing down the books I read. It’s a slightly fascinating read, but not enough to read it twice.
Everything You Know by Zoe Heller – Willy Muller is a fifty-something British writer living in Hollywood, writing celebrity bios and recovering from a heart attack. As he recovers (surrounded by some rather questionable folks), he begins reading the diaries of his recently deceased daughter Sadie (who committed suicide). It’s dark and while it’s mostly well written, between the loathsome characters as well as the completely unsatisfying ending, I found the book as a whole a disappointment.
The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s by Michael Olesker – The book centers on the 1958 season which ended in what is called “The Greatest Game Ever Played” – the December 28th match up of the Colts and the New York Giants in the NFL Championship Game, the first playoff game to go into sudden death overtime and credited with making the NFL what it is today. This book is about more than just a game though, it’s a nostalgic and sentimental look back at the city and some of its characters, written by a Baltimore native and long time newspaper reporter. At one point, he goes on a small tangent of what the 14 year olds were doing, which I was absolutely fascinated by in no small part because my parents were 14 in 1958 Baltimore.
I really sort of loved this book, not because of football – which merely was the thread running through it and to be honest, I don’t care for NFL football in no small part due to how the Colts left Baltimore in the early 80’s – but for the picture it painted of Baltimore at the time. Not only do I have deep roots in that city, it is indelibly marked in my DNA, so a book about a more innocent time in the city’s history when they all came together over football? Yes, please.
Life after Life by Kate Atkinson – After the wonderfully sentimental comfort of The Colts Baltimore, I wanted another comfort read. So I re-read Life after Life. I think this was the 5th time I’ve read it – the first time I read it, I sat down and read it in a day, not moving from the sofa. When I finished it, I immediately started it over again. I’ve checked it out of the library again since, but decided I needed it on my kindle so I could read it anytime I wanted to and stay within Pat’s no net book gain rule.
Also, yes, I have the sort of husband who gets that sometimes I just need to sit and read a book all day. And then immediately read it again. He’s good like that.
If ever a book was written to be read over and over again, it’s Life after Life. It’s the story (stories) of Ursula Todd, born in 1910 England, who dies and then dies again, each life beginning the same snowy day, but each one ending in a different way, across the course of the early twentieth century. Beautifully written by one of my favorite current writers, I probably would have immediately read this book again upon finishing (I really was tempted…) had I not gotten email notifications that not one, but THREE books I had on reserve at the library were finally ready to be picked up. Onward!
M Train by Patti Smith – I feel like a woman of my age who listens to the music I listen to and subscribes to the sort of attitudes I do should be more of a Patti Smith fan than I currently am. Certainly this book made me wish I was. It’s eloquent, esoteric, poetic and just lovely in every way. I might not be her biggest fan, but I did adore this book and hated for it to end.
Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – I’d heard this was a ‘must-read’ and that if I liked Gone Girl, I should read this. I get the comparisons to Gone Girl – pretty young wife goes missing, unlikable characters, plot twists – but Girl on the Train is not nearly as well written as Gone Girl. On a lighter note, I somehow ended up with a large print version of the book from the library, which was slightly disconcerting at first, but by the end I sort of liked reading a book that didn’t require my reading glasses. Which really shouldn’t be a compelling reason to read any book, but given that I will read just about anything, there you go.