2010 booklist (so far)

2010 Book List

Caleb Carr. The lessons of terror : a history of warfare against civilians : why it has always failed, and why it will fail again
Henry James : a life in letters Ed Philip Horne,
Leonard Maltin 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen (on my kindle)
A passion for books (ed Dale Salwak)(1999)
A passion for books : a book lover’s treasury of stories, essays, humor, lore, and lists on collecting, reading, borrowing, lending, caring for, and appreciating books.
(1999) Eds Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan.
Amy Stewart (2001)Flower confidential. The good, the bad and the beautiful in the business of flowers. (2009) Wicked Plants
Donald Worster A Passion for Nature: the life of John Muir. (2008) \
Donald Worster Rivers of Empire : Water, aridity and the growth of the American west. (1985).
TS Eliot Four quartets

Mysteries, Fiction
Emily Arsenault (2009) The Broken Teaglass
Stephanie Barons. A flaw in the blood. The White Garden
Martin Davies. The conjurer’s bird. Mrs. Hudson and the Malabar rose.
Gerald Elias. (2009)Devil’s Trill.
Quintin Jardine (2009) Fatal Last Words.
Elizabeth Kostova. 2010. The swan thieves.
Hilary Mantel. 2009. Wolf Hall
CJ Ransom. Dark fire, Sovereign
Olen Steinhauer (2009) The Tourist
Andrew Taylor (2009) Bleeding Heart Square.
Roth Trilogy (four last things, Judgement of Strangers, Office of the Dead), the Lyndmouth Series, Blaines Trilogy and Dougal Series.
A stain in the silence, The Barred Window, Raven in the water, The American Boy.

Edna O’Brien Byron in love: a short daring life

Science Fiction
Richard Morgan (1995) The Steel Remains,13 thirteen, Altered carbon “ the Future isn’t what it used to be since Morgan arrived on the scene.”

Barbara Cleverly (2006) Tug of War.
Ali Shaw The Girl with Glass Feet (2009)

Sandor Marai Casanova in Bolzano (1940, translated 2004)

MI-5 (season 7)
Big Ban Theory (season one)

2010 Book List

Henry James : a life in letters Ed Philip Horne, who is a James scholar in England. I loved reading such articulate letters, starting with those to people I knew (RL Stevenson, Edith Wharton etc) , then went to the letters that mentioned people I knew (Hopper, etc) then just read them for the sake of the sentence construction, argument, sense of time and historical value, then for the human insights.
Caleb Carr. The lessons of terror : a history of warfare against civilians : why it has always failed, and why it will fail again. I had had no idea that he was so involved in military history, various journal articles/editor. Perhaps that was why there were only four novels, but I sincerely hope he continues with Sherlock Holmes!

A passion for books (ed Dale Salwak)(1999) 19 essays on books – the future of books, a celebration of the value and importance of reading, role of collectors in the preservation of books. Salwak also has a long list of books ‘reference guides’ to other authors (e.g. Kingsley Amis, Braine and Wain), Cronin, Pym, Carl Sandburg, and others). There are enough book quotes in here to last me a decade. “People find the books they need, writes Lance Morrow: (he could have stopped there, but went on) ‘to escape, to edify and impress, to keep sane, to touch other intelligences, to absorb a litte grace.’ Well said.
I need to buy this book. (Kindle?) Ruined by Reading (Lynne Sharon Schwartz) Literature without Books? Laurence Lerner The Sad Demise of the Personal Library (James Shapiro) The Pleasures of Reading Joseph Epstein, Other Worlds to Inhabit John Bayley. Books in my life G Thomas Tanselle.
Anatole Broyard, life in Greenwich Village: ‘it was as if we didn’t know where we ended and books began. Books were our weather, our environment, our clothing. We didn’t simply read books; we became them. We took them into ourselves and made them into our histories….books gave us balance….books steadied us….they gave us gravity.’
(this title was from Lawrence Clark Powell’s 1958 volume; Rabinowitz/Kaplan have also used it 1999).
Old books like old friends are always the best of companions Michael Korda.

A passion for books : a book lover’s treasury of stories, essays, humor, lore, and lists on collecting, reading, borrowing, lending, caring for, and appreciating books.
(1999) Eds Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan.
It is always nice to meet people for whom buying a book is a necessity not a luxury.
60 essays on various books and authors, by authors themselves, telling their stories of creating the book/plot/story. I love that Ray Bradbury wants to be buried with books “Sharkespeare as a pillow, Pope at one elbow, Yeats at the other and Shaw to warm my toes. Good company for far travelling.” Onward we go. Fellow sufferers of bibliomania (?)! suffering?? Robertson Davies!! ‘my real admiration is reserved for people who collect books because they love them.’ But he loved to talk about the people who were ‘weak’ and stole the books they coveted! I was intrigued by his transportation back to the time of the book – how valuable, important that was as he was reading ancient texts. (this essay was from his Enthusiasms). “There are 10,000 books in my library, and it will keep growing until I die. This has exasperated my daughters, amused my friends, and baffled my accountant. If I had not picked up this habit in the library long ago, I would have more money in the bank today; I would not be richer.’ Pete Hamill, D’Artagnan on Ninth Street.

Amy Stewart (2001)Flower confidential. The good, the bad and the beautiful in the business of flowers. (noted columnist and author) narrative style, easy to read, very informative – feel her love of plants, which only falters a few times in the industrial wasteland of the business. Disillusioning to say the least. Loved the history of her flowers and people, interspersed with her flower bix.
CA has 60% of all American Roses, but Valentines Day has 110 million roses imported from South America over this three day buyout.
5% of farm workers in CA were born in America, and 95%rest only 5% have health insurance.
Visiting a flower farm is like visitng a chocolate factory. In many ways, it’s the most ordinary run of the mill operation, with warehouses and machinery and people…looking forward to their coffeebreaks. But the products itself is magical, transcendent and utterly distracting. A lot of her writing needs editing ‘like’ is everywhere.
Wicked Plants (2009) “200 plants that have damaged, killed, intoxicated, with menacing botanical illustrations and splendidly ghastly drawings” – how could you not read this? Quite entertaining, but mostly just snippets (short book) – history, medicine, science and legend about a page a piece.

Donald Worster Rivers of Empire : Water, aridity and the growth of the American west. (1985). I can’t believe I missed this book 25 years ago. I have since learned all of its contents in various other journals, magazines, etc. But he wrote this, not just as history or a retelling of events, but as a warning. Unheeded, drastically so. Appallingly so. Water is the commodity of the 21st century – but always has been beyond the 100th meridian of the USA. The politics are appalling, the wealth and greed, the local struggle, the inhumane arguments are all categorized here. We aren’t going to listen to the global warming cry now (Fox news says let’s wait 25 years! We have in this book and it is so much worse. He says let us assume that the nest stage is not a mere continuation of the present…. well, that didn’t happen…. Water or oil, the results seem the same. Inevitable? I begin to understand why old people aren’t afraid to die, you can’t take any more of what we do to the planet. Hope yes, but it will never be the planet it was, especially in our lifetime. I wish (almost) that I couldn’t remember the ancient stands of trees and the smell of fresh air, or the peace of a quiet plain or forest or ocean.) I am just depressed. Well researched, as are all his books.

TS Eliot Four quartets I loved the Burnt Norton. “time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future. ….only through time time is conquered…. Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel History is now and England.” In the Week, this was recommended by Ian Rankin, and one of the best 10 books he was reading. Poetry can be so short/thin book, and so profound, moving, absorbing, challenging. Deep thoughts for days on passages, images and comparisons in my life. I need to live more.

Mysteries, Fiction
CJ Ransom. Dark fire, Sovereign I so continue to enjoy the story of Tudor England and the hunchback lawyer. Intrigue, mystery, history, and human fraility is to…. Unpleasant too.

Stephanie Barons. A flaw in the blood.
This is a very interesting account of ‘what if’ – It is an extremely unflattering portrait of Queen Victoria, but full of British/Royal/Aristocracy pretension. Lovely portrait of the youngest son, Leopold, who was also hemophiliac. The story races between several of Victoria’s children with insight, affection, …. Based on an idea that Alfred committed suicide (not typhoid, tho possibly stomach cancer or perforated ulcer). He was aghast at the genetics of the disease (wonderful description of the first woman doctor!) that possibly meant Victoria’s hereditary rights belonged to someone else and his family would have to abdicate. She could never tolerate that, her ‘peculiar childhood to the role she must fulfill/her only purpose in life’ driving her to be a ruthless ruler, and then deceptively lead a ‘sad life’ waiting for her children to take their ‘rightful places among the kingdoms of the world…holding sway for centuries to come’…. Interesting picture, and completely believable!
Martin Davies. The conjurer’s bird. I just loved this picture. Joseph Banks, great name of my botanical history, plus a modern day piece of a puzzle together to create a new story. I liked that it was a story well known within one family, but of course not available to history. It is only by connecting dots, and seeing some coincidences, that a possible truth is discovered. And what a lovely story. I liked all of the characters (although the back and forth between centuries is not always the best venue for readability).
Reminded me somewhat of Andrea Barrett’s short story of Linneaus. Both tragic, both romantic, both atmospheric. And such beautiful prose or turn of phrase.
Mrs. Hudson and the Malabar rose He is writing Sherlock Holmes, with the housekeeper as crime solver! I loved the time frame – these are light, fast reads, not meant to be Holmesian. Delightful. She isn’t flustered by anything (of course not, she’d have to be intelligent to put up with Holmes or to be kept by him).
Gerald Elias. (2009)Devil’s trill This was a debut novel, written by an amazing violinist, who is also an avid mystery writer! Concert Master for Utah Symphony, Music Professor, Violinist with the BSO. Graduate of Yale. The first, but will be a series. Almost a bit formulaic in having the tragic antihero, the twisted plot, the race to prove innocence, the locked room of course! the florid writing that nearly gushes at some of the musical passages (but I loved it-imagine other music lovers will also like the descriptions), with all the history, the revelatory insiders view of musical exploitation of children (like beauty pageants)… lurid musical underworld, shady violin dealers, venal patrons, backstabbing teachers and parents.
The writing is thoroughly engaging – you know he (author) is setting you up too.
Daniel Jacobus, blind, young, bitter, chainsmoking, reclusive violin teacher (went blind at pinacle of career when offered concertmaster to BSO but rare genetic eye disease permanently blinded him.) But many of his students ‘love’ him, and eventually go on to become amazing musicians. Every description of playing, notes, scores is both instructive and moving (I would close my eyes and listen to the words/music). Jacobus attends the Grimsley Competition held every 13 years at Carnegie Hall to children/prodigies younger than 13; the winner gets cash, symphonic appearance and use of the world’s only ¾ size stradivarious legendary Piccolino. And the plot begins. After the winner plays it the violin goes missing, the teacher is murdered and the finger points to Jacobus of course.
Quintin Jardine (2009) Fatal Last Words. Edinburgh Book Festival in August, with fantastic descriptions. I have always wanted to return to this event (only went once when I lived there). Murder of an author, the 19th Skinner novel; not my favourite character anymore, but the detail was important to me. Pity I didn’t like the people who live there in his world.

Elizabeth Kostova. 2010. The swan thieves.

Hilary Mantel. 2009. Wolf Hall [compact disc : a novel] Booker Prize I enjoyed the novel, but liked listening to it more. Perhaps because it was SO graphic on the page. I could distract myself visually with the everyday life while still listening to the story. I can see where it won the awards, and was glad of the dense numerous pages to keep me in winter reading. A perfect escapist book, but a brutal portrayal of English life. It dragged in places, she is extremely descriptive. I read it twice.

Olen Steinhauer (2009) The Tourist. Previously nominated (finalist) for Edgars, (as well as all sorts of other awards) so have to find the rest of his Eastern European crime series/ books! He was raised in Va now lives in Budapest. What a find. Complex, fast paced, classic espionage. Great plotting, dark unusual intelligent characters. Very reminiscent of LeCarre but totally modern/ contemporary in Eastern Europe. Milo Weaver is an undercover agent CIA, now retired from the ‘field’ to a NYC desk. So many intricacies, and unexpected twists, I still wonder if he really knew who is father was. I for one will never understand his mother! Clever portraits of previous life, current state, and what could have been. Not pleasant upon thinking through the plot, actual story (e.g. our governments, global politics and general spying!). Absolutely compelling read. George Clooney has options the film rights!

Andrew Taylor (2009) Bleeding Heart Square. 1934 England. Mrs Lydia Lanstone seeks refuge in 7 Bleeding Heart Sq, London because her father lives there and she is fleeing her husband. But a story that seems decades older begins to unravel (only four years) with her arrival. We know of the next war, the fascist/Nazis and the hardships that are about to come. We see the loss of class structure and the thin veneer of aristocracy, as well as human decency. This book is enveloped in historical detail, quite convoluted plot, presence of true evil in the world. Yet. Yet, we have the future hope and we are living in the present. The story is more about Rory Wentwood too = his struggle to get a job, after returning from India, without an anchor in a country he doesn’t recognise. The writing is compelling and the first account is horrifying (esp as he writes of mobs, the changes in england, and begins to find his vocation). Society isn’t pretty. This reminds me of PDJames (not quite as well written, but historical atmosphere, intricate people, decisions have far reaching consequences). His first novel won the John Creasey Award, shortlisted for the Gold Dagger and Edgar. He is the only author to receive CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award twice. Lives in England and has so many more books published:: Roth Trilogy (four last things, Judgement of Strangers, Office of the Dead), the Lyndmouth Series, Blaines Trilogy and Dougal Series. Can’t wait!!
A stain in the silence, The Barred Window, Raven in the water, The American Boy.

Emily Arsenault (2009) The Broken Teaglass
This reminded me of the Secret History – (Donna Tartt’s first book) This is also a first book, but that might prejudice the reading of this novel. Set in New England, and the old NE façade, but also an academic façade. 2 recent college graduates work in a dictionary company as lexicographers, with a dry sense of humour and budding romance. Numerous dark twists to each character, some completely out of place or unnecessary (you can tell it is a first novel). Oh, to have a job looking for new expressions, new words, same words but new meanings, and just write them on chits, to pile up the number of chits, to eventually put it into the dictionary. Paid to read newspapers, magazines, etc. Not at all sure I would recognise the words/phrases if I saw them, but then, they are solving a mystery, hunting for the clues hidden in the chits – citations from a book that doesn’t exist. Billy Webb seemed too young, esp with the Billy, not Bill, not Will, and it didn’t fit at all with his run in with mortality; so unusual with teenagers. Off beat mystery cum coming of age novel. ‘Sweet and charming’ – not really my description of it. I found myself laughing, but also shaking my head feeling old. These kids have no concept of what they need to do to survive, live and thrive. Wake up!

Edna O’Brien Byron in love: a short daring life I am still surprised I can write about this short book. I was hoping for fewer of the lurid details and perhaps a greater understanding of why he did some things. She was extremely fair and concise, but I learned more of Byron then I ever wanted to know, and I already knew too much. Worse that it was all true. (I was hoping for some exaggerations). It has been one of the reasons I don’t read a lot of biography – I would rather lead a full life than have too many details (which I hope no one ever wonders or reads about my life!). I am appalled at how much detail some people find necessary to write about/discuss a person. It feels like dirty laundry of the literary type. Was it necessary to know to read his literature? Hunger for love; manic depressive, stage show. Died in the Greek fight for independence of malaria, helped by supposed medical care (bleeding). Still, her writing was astonishing: ‘fierce intelligence trapped in child’s magic and malice’ a destructive genius. ‘Embodiment of everyman, human, ambitious, erratic, generous, destructive, dazzling, dark and dissonant’ ‘ something that eludes us they buried a poet and resurrected a legend’.
‘the other guests were frightful, facetious, and frivolous’. So many lines with wonderful alliteration.
Donald Worster A Passion for Nature: the life of John Muir. (2008) This was a prize winning nonfiction last year (09), which is how I noticed it. This was a great bio, analytical, detailed, interesting, riveting in places, providing a good perspective, informative for our age and well researched. Captures some of the essence of what must have made this man – he was so well liked, so well known, although only later in life. He dedicated his life to making people see the beauty of nature and the absolute desperation to preserve/conserve the natural environment, against huge odds even then. I read this book with a sigh, a what if, all the time….think of what places would look like, if we had saved them, if we had started water conservation back then, if we had NOT put the automobile in so many places, if we had educated more people…. He was also truly a scotsman and made things up to suit him. I liked his daughter Helen 😉
Yes, I will now start, and read all that Worster had written. How did I miss him? Prof of American History at Univ Kansas. A River Running West, The wealth of Nature: Environmental history and the ecological imagination, Dust Bowls: the southern plains in the 1930s (won Bancroft Prize).

Science Fiction
Richard Morgan Altered carbon
Richard Morgan (1995) The Steel Remains – stunning re-invention of the fantasy that ‘a dark lord will rise’ – Ringil Eskiath (Gil), one time war hero or washed up mercenary, definitely cynic/world weary, with quick temper and quicker/swifter sword (ravensfriend), squabbles with his aristocratic family, but inevitably / honourably does the right thing and helps. Has two sidekicks Egar and Archeth (female) almost the three muskateers 😉 But these are people I know, would like to know.
Reminded me of Dave Duncan; perhaps faster, more violent. Incredibly graphic, but fascinating imagination.
I laughed when the corpse mites attacked and one particularly got to his jerkin ‘that was clean on today you little shit’ as he kills it. An odd sense of humour throughout. I would like to read more about the author, especially ‘brooding excesses and antisocial abandon of Morgan the Barbarian’ as he described himself.
Richard K Morgan
13 (thirteen) “ the Future isn’t what it used to be since Morgan arrived on the scene.” How true that is; all-purpose anti-hero Takeshi Kovacs (Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, Woken Furies; won Philip K Dick Award). Market Forces introduced Chris Faulkner, ‘war for profit’ and wasn’t that a bite into our times? Won the John Campbell Award). 13, however, combines all the previous books/concepts. Genetic engineering (taking the primal survival skills civilisation has supposedly erased; softer maybe but I haven’t noticed a nicer generation(s). 13s the ultimate military fighting force; of course exiled, but then wanted when things get out of hand. It was kind of hard to think that they were ‘the last true humans, not a variant’. I liked the space shuttle details (need to tell Scott). So many sentences I laugh, enjoy the detail, love the wit/satire. In any world, this works.

Barbara Cleverly (2006) Tug of War. 1926 in Britain and France. Wonderful story of French woman who husband goes to war and she takes on the vineyard – and has to make a go of it when he goes missing (presumed dead for 10 years). I liked Scotland Yard Joe Sandilands too (traveling with his niece this time) – my first introduction to him although he has many other novels that take place in India (and won Historical Dagger awards).
Reminded me of the recent Anne Perry novel, plus the Charles Todd. Women coming into their own, against historical expectations. I loved that it was Reims, one of my favourite places and champagne! Full of intrigue, detailed places and a long lost morality (?) that sense of time and place. It was him afterall, ‘he smiled a smile worth waiting for.’
Couldn’t believe that Gail had recommended this to me the day before, and I opened my box from Daedulous Books and there is was (the 99cent trade ppk).

Ali Shaw The Girl with Glass Feet (2009)
I loved this book. It reminded me so much of the Elegance of the Hedgehog. I was captured at the first chapter with the photographer who understands that he is chasing light to capture image. Midas, then Ida, then the real and imagined world. You believe in the fairies that changed her life – killing her by degrees, changing her to glass. A race against time, ending tragically, yet unbelievably hopeful. So destined for tragedy, yet transformed by it. So sudden an end, yet a possibility.
For a first novel, this was amazing. Absolutely breathtaking, magical descriptions. I kept thinking it must be in the Hebrides because of the island isolation, the local superstitions, but it is so very English.

Sandor Marai Casanova in Bolzano (1940, translated 2004) library book
Another rediscovered masterpiece from the author of Embers: an erotically charged novel; written within the framework of historical reality -about Casanova ‘s fateful encounter with the woman who finally defeats him. In 1756 Giacomo Casanova escaped from the dreaded cells of Venice’s most infamous jail. The Lead, from the lead roof ducal Palace.
Stopping to rest at the Italian village of Bolzano, Casanova secures (extorts 6 gold pieces!) a loan to rebuild his life, and resumes his art of seduction. But there is another reason he has come to this particular village: the memory of a duel he fought long ago with the duke of Parma over a girl named Francesca. Casanova lost the fight; Francesca became the duke’s wife; and the duke spared Casanova’s life on condition that he never set eyes on her again. Now an old man, the duke arrives at the inn with a love letter he has intercepted from his wife to Casanova. He could kill Casanova on the spot but instead makes him an irresistible offer, one that will ultimately be the downfall of the notorious lover. Brimming with the richness and psychological tension
October 31, 1756: the incorrigible playboy and roving gambler Giacomo Casanova escapes from a pestilent Venetian prison. Aiming for Munich, he stops near the Austrian border at an inn in Bolzano. The imperious septuagenarian duke of Parma, Casanova’s victorious former rival for the hand of Francesca then a teenager, now the duchess of Parma, and still in love with Casanova just happens to live nearby. To prevent another duel, the duke blackmails the legendary womanizer: either he seduces Francesca, breaks her heart and leaves, thereby curing her of the “infection” that is Casanova, or he risks being killed or turned in to the authorities. The fervent colloquy echoes the centerpiece that structures Embers, Marai’s only other novel to be translated into English. Unlike Embers, however, this book fizzles out; an austere and poignant exposition on the inexorability of fate that has been building for over 200 pages collapses into an intolerably tedious, long-winded rant by Francesca as she tries to persuade Casanova to run away with her. The harangue makes it hard to believe that anyone would fight over her and makes the reader wonder why another Marai (1900 -1989) work was not translated before this one.
151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen (on my kindle)
By Leonard Maltin
Film critic, historian and USC film-studies Professor Leonard Maltin has published his famous Movie Guide annually since 1969, but it isn’t a place to go for selectivity. So now Maltin has written Leonard Maltin’s 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen. In this new book, Maltin unearths 151 films that he thinks have been unfairly under-rated, and he explains why. Reading this book will inspire you to see all of the films described here and you won’t be disappointed in any of them.
Maltin’s still king of the succinct review, making this book a handy reference for cineasts who think they’ve seen it all.
I have his 2008 movie guide (for the dvds) but it is SO dense. I truly need the 100 best, or the 10 best in each genre, or the 10 best per year! This is a perfect book for Kindle, a reference book that you can bookmark, put on your phone (e.g. when buying access!) and also just look up when you are ‘wasting time’. I also sampled a couple of others – e.g. for the best extras on dvds etc. I await digital downloads, but I love the extras too.


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