Tag Archives: George Saunders

176. Books Bought & Read, December 2018…

176. Books Bought & Read, December 2018…

Season’s readings to one and all!

December marked the end of an incredible year (in many senses), and the culmination of a fairly ridiculous few months for me and my newly enlarged family. We looked at the 3 or 4 most life-changing things you can do, and decided to do all of them, at pretty much the same time.

Pack up your entire life into precariously stuffed boxes? Check.

Move cross-country and attempt to find a place to live? Sure.

Go back to school after two decades and try to get a Masters, whilst transferring (or possibly leaving) your job? Done.

And then the minor matter of having a human…


So, this is the first blog coming to you live and direct from our new hometown, New Orleans, Louisiana, where I look forward to reading much more Percy Walker (*edit: I of course meant Walker Percy, as my father-in-law has pointed out since this blog was published, but I like both names so much I’m keeping it in!*) and Tennessee Williams, and re-reading A Confederacy Of Dunces (already a wonderful welcome gift from my extended family here).


In one final fit of New York bookstore shelf-emptying, I finished the month with a total of 27 books bought, (including one of the New York Times Top 10 books of the year, American Prison, an exposé of the penitentiary system in my new adopted home state which I am more than curious to begin), and a dozen read.


I only had time for short stories and plays for the most part, thoroughly enjoying Arthur Miller plays (who knew he’d written more than just Death Of A Salesman? And The Crucible? Oh, and View From The Bridge? Well me, I guess, although I discovered even more after learning that Penguin Plays had released a gorgeous-becovered series of them for Miller’s centenary), and getting through the stack of bedside novellas which have been piling up, (the Tolstoy wonderful, the Gaskell less so).

To continue the theme of yin and yang, I also read two highly critically acclaimed works, Jenny Offill’s ‘Dept.Of Speculation’ and Ben Loory’s collection of (very) short stories, Tales Of Falling And Flying.

The former (a birthday present for my ladywife, which I decided to pre-read for her, in the selfless tradition of royal food tasters) was short, sharp, beautiful and wonderful, despite the depressing subject matter (marital infidelity), which is merely the skeleton Offill uses to drape her sweet, simple prose upon.


Loory’s bite-size surrealism, however, had lured me in with its cover reviews boasting of his ‘whimsical, magical’ fables. Instead, I wished I’d just (re)read some George Saunders or Etgar Keret, or gone back to the source and picked up some Borges. Simplistic rather than simple, repetitive instead of thematic, I haven’t been so disappointed in a book for a while, (especially given how beautifully Penguin had packaged it).


I also felt let down by the Obama-endorsed ‘The Power,’ a parable of a world where women finally take back physical power. A great read for the first part as societies shift to accommodate the new world order, it eventually degenerated into a mess of characters I didn’t really care about having adventures which were far less interesting than the concept as a whole.

I recommend reading the first chapter or so, and making the rest up yourself from there.


Keep your eyes peeled for my now-traditional Review Of The Year In Books coming soon (or if not soon, possibly never, as I begin grad school in 2 weeks…), keep reading, and see y’all in 2019!

Doron, Rachel, and Oscar


Books Bought, December 2018

The Hueys in None The Number (Oliver Jeffers)

Five Children And It (E.Nesbitt)

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)

The Night Of Wishes: or the satanarchaeolidealcohellish notion potion (Michael Ende)

The Price (Arthur Miller)

Broken Glass (Arthur Miller)

Utopia (Thomas Moore)

The Poor Clare (Elizabeth Gaskell)

The Lemoine Affair (Marcel Proust)

The Death Of Ivan Ilyich (Leo Tolstoy)

Parnassus On Wheels (Christopher Morley)

Tales Of Falling And Flying (Ben Loory)

An Outline Of Psychoanalysis (Sigmund Freud)

The Four Loves (C.S.Lewis)

Kusamakura (Natsumei Soseki)

The Romance Of Tristran (Béroul)

Living With Music: ralph ellison’s jazz writings (Ralph Ellison)

The Great Transformation: the beginning of our religious traditions (Karen Armstrong)

The McSweeney’s Joke Book Of Book Jokes (various)

All That Is Evident Is Suspect: readings from the oulipo, 1963-2018 (various)

Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm)

On Writing (Jorge Luis Borges)

The Devil Finds Work (James Baldwin)

An Everlasting Meal (Tamar Adler)

American Prison: a reporter’s undercover journey into the business of punishment (James Bauer)

Babel (Gaston Dorren)

Daisy Miller (Henry James)

Books Read, December 2018 (highly recommended books in bold)

The Power (Naomi Alderman)

Here They Come (Yannick Murphy)

Tales Of Falling And Flying (Ben Loory)

The Tale Of Hong Gildong (anon)

The Crucible (Arthur Miller)

The Price (Arthur Miller)

Broken Glass (Arthur Miller)

The Death Of Ivan Ilyich (Leo Tolstoy)

Dept.Of Speculation (Jenny Offill)

The Poor Clare (Elizabeth Gaskell)

The One Thing: the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results (Gary Keller w/Jay Papasan)

#Sad! doonesbury in the time of trump (G.B.Trudeau)

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 8, 2019 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

156. Books Bought & Read, May 2017…

156. Books Bought & Read, May 2017…


Yipppeeeee! For the first time in quite a while I read more books than I bought this month, giving me the feeling that I have added the tiniest grain of order to an entropic universe, doing my smallest part in the fight for organisation in an uncaring, chaotic world.

It’s even better than the tally of 22 bought, 25 read seems, since several of those were presents, (or headed to the increasingly bulging Books To Gift stack), meaning I managed to get a few books ahead of myself in the past 31 days. This was almost miraculous given that I began a new job two weeks ago, and am spending much of my spare time trying to figure out the difference between computer storage and memory.

Sure, many of the books I read were (as ever) graphic novels, but when Neil Gaiman declares a work “The best graphic novel I’ve read in years” you know it’s going to be worthwhile, and it was: Scott McCloud’s ‘The Sculptor‘ was a tender, mythical look into art, life, Faustian bargains and final intentions by the writer/artist who brought us the excellent ‘Understanding Comics‘.


Many were Penguin Great Ideas, the series of beautifully bound, 100-page selections ranging across styles, centuries and themes, from Orwell on the price of books to Marco Polo on his adventures, and one each came from Penguin’s Great Journeys series (shipwrecks in the Americas) and their Great Loves collection (the slightly interminable Abelard and Heloïse), as well as the highly (and rightly) acclaimed Paul Kalinithi on turning from doctor to patient when cancer curtailed both his career and his life in ‘When Breath Becomes Air‘.

But I also found time to finally devour George Saunders‘ debut novel, ‘Lincoln In The Bardo,’ a sweet, smart sea of voices from beyond the grave commentating on life, death, politics, and everything else which makes us human, with all of Saunders’ typically tender touch.

In ever-eclectic fashion, I devoured books on feminism (after attending a talk by the excellent Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie); modern American racism (by the powerfully persuasive Michael Eric Dyson); and the history of Dungeons & Dragons in graphic novel form.

But this month’s highlights were stories: firstly from one of my favourite Young Adult authors, David Almond, who crafted a collection of childhood memories into allegorical tales so powerful one of them left me in tears.


And secondly, a first collection from The Moth story-telling events, which take place monthly at my workplace, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, and which I finally plan to attend next month.

Ranging from the famous to the everyday, from euphoric yarns to tragic tales, from universal themes to the peculiarly personal, these snapshots of life should be enough to entertain anyone, whatever you’re looking for.


And, of course, Neil gets to write the foreword.



Books Bought, May 2017

We Have Always Lived In The Castle, (Shirley Jackson)

Tasty: the art and science of what we eat (John McQuaid)

The Shadow Of The Sun (Ryszard Kapuściński)

Setting The Table: the transforming power of hospitality in business (Danny Meyer)

The Polysyllabic Spree (Nick Hornby)

Rise Of The Dungeon Master: gary gygax and the creation of d&d (David Kushner)

The Sandmeyer Reaction (Michael Chabon)

Hostage (Guy Delisle)

Wall And Piece (Banksy)

Nobody’s Fool (Yoshitomo Nara)

The Sculptor (Scott McCloud)

In Persuasion Nation (George Saunders)

Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman)

Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)

The Moth Presents – All These Wonders: true stories about facing the unknown (various)

The Book Of Cheese: the essential guide to discover chesses you’ll love (Liz Thorpe)

The Dinner Party and other stories (Joshua Ferris)

Last Night’s Reading: illustrated encounters with extraordinary authors (Kate Gavino)

A Graphic History Of Sport: an illustrated chronicle of the greatest wins, misses, and matchups from the games we love (Andrew Janik)

The Greek Myths (ed.Robert Graves)

Scribbled In The Dark (Charles Simic)

A Book Of Sleep (Il Sung Na)


Books Read, May 2017   (Recommended books in bold)

Tasty: the art and science of what we eat (John McQuaid)

Tears We Cannot Stop: a sermon to white america (Michael Eric Dyson)

Absolutely On Music: conversations with (Haruki Murakami & Seiji Ozawa)

When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

Dear Ijeawele, Or A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Occupy (Noam Chomsky)

Books vs Cigarettes (George Orwell)

Travels In The Land Of Kublai Khan (Marco Polo)

Lincoln In The Bardo (George Saunders)

Rise Of The Dungeon Master: gary gygax and the creation of d&d (David Kushner)

The Shipwrecked Men (Cabeza de Vaca)

Forbidden Fruit: from the letters of aberlard and heloïse

The Sculptor (Scott McCloud)

Half A Creature From The Sea: a life in stories (David Almond)

Setting The Table: the transforming power of hospitality in business (Danny Meyer)

The Sandmeyer Reaction (Michael Chabon)

Hostage (Guy Delisle)

Snow White (Donald Barthelme)

The Moth Presents – All These Wonders: true stories about facing the unknown (various)

Last Night’s Reading: illustrated encounters with extraordinary authors (Kate Gavino)

A Graphic History Of Sport: an illustrated chronicle of the greatest wins, misses, and matchups from the games we love (Andrew Janik)

Scribbled In The Dark (Charles Simic)

Go Tell It On The Mountain (James Baldwin)

A Book Of Sleep (Il Sung Na)

House Mother Normal (B.S.Johnson)

1 Comment

Posted by on June 2, 2017 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

138. Books Bought & Read, January 2015…

138. Books Bought & Read, January 2015…

2015 saw me begin the new year back in the UK for a wonderful New Year’s party and an even more wonderful wedding on the plains near Stonehenge, (the shape of which I read recently gives us the word for ‘hanging’ someone, which explains why it’s past tense is ‘hanged’ and not ‘hung, since it comes from a different origin. Amazing what you can learn in this blog, huh?)

As such, with no tours to distract me and some long-distance travelling to do, I managed to get through twenty of the books I in my To Read pile.


Sadly, that was the exact number of books I picked up whilst I was home, but a net average of zero books added to The Pile still goes down as a minor victory.

I also got to read some fantastic books: the latest George SaundersTenth of December‘ was as wonderful as its hyperbolic blurbs made out, and I also got through one of his earlier collections.


A second-hand bookshop in Lisbon had furnished me with some gorgeous 1940’s Penguin paperbacks which were perfect for travel, and I got to read something by Aldous Huxley which wasn’t ‘Brave New World‘ and some Camus ,whom I I hadn’t even thought about since University.


I continued my Portuguese practice and my cultural immersion by reading four fantastic compilations of interviews released weekly with a Portuguese newspaper, where I learned (among other things) that dictator António Salazar had a signed photo of Mussolini on his desk, and that Alfred Hitchcock had a passionate hatred for eggs which he managed to slip, often bizarrely, into his movies.

entrevistas-2da8 Grandes entrevistas da História - capas (2014)

It was non-fiction which really stole the show this month: I learned about the history of maps, (did you know the word ‘orientation’ comes from the fact that old European maps used to have East at the top, that being the way to The Promised Land?), the psychology of possessions, and the mentality of champions, but the best read of them all was the compilation of articles by Gene Weingarten, a journalist and proto-Malcolm Gladwell who is, apparently, the only person to ever win the Pulitzer Prize twice.


The Fiddler In The Subway‘ was an incredible look at everything from a children’s entertainer in Washington DC to the importance of context in appreciating beauty in our packed daily lives, (the famous experiment of the title).

The one that will never leave me is the chilling report into how astonishingly often parents leave babies in cars and forget about them: it was simultaneously something that I wanted everyone in the world to read, and something I would never want them to have to hear about. If you have a strong stomach, you can read it here.


Books Bought, January 2015

Tenth Of December,’ George Saunders

Alice’s Adventures Underground,’ Lewis Carroll

The Sandmanking of dreams,’ Alisa Kwitney

Fortunately, The Milk…’ Neil Gaiman

The Subtle Knife,’ Philip Pullman

The Amber Spyglass,’ Philip Pullman

Barracuda,’ Christos Tsiolkas

To Rise Again At A Decent Hour,’ Joshua Ferris

‘Don’t Point That Thing At Me,’ Kyril Bonfigliolo

The Little Prince,’ Antoine de St.Exupéry

The World Of Downton Abbey,’ Jennifer Fellowes

Barrel Fever,’ David Sedaris

After Dark,’ Haruki Murakami

Tim The Tiny Horse At Large,’ Harry Hill

The Runaway Dinner,’ Allan Ahlberg & Bruce Ingman

Mensagem,’ Fernando Pessoa x2

O Conto Do Vigário,’ (‘The Tale Of The Priest‘), Fernando Pessoa

Citações E Pensamentos De Sigmund Freud,’ (‘Quotations and Thoughts Of Sigmund Freud’), Sigmund Freud

O Zen De Steve Jobs,’ (The Zen Of Steve Jobs), Caleb Melby & Jess3

O Principe Pequeno,’ (‘The Little Prince), Antoine de St.Exupéry


Books Read, January 2015

The Loneliness Of The Long-Distance Runner,’ Alan Stilltoe

The Rule Of Law,’ Tom Bingham

Tenth Of December,’ George Saunders  borges

The Original Of Laura,’ Vladimir Nabakov

The Sandmanking of dreams,’ Alisa Kwitney

Scoop: what your stuff says about you,’ Sam Gosling

High Windows,’ Philip Larkin

Tell Me The Truth About Love,’ W.H.Auden

‘Death Of A Naturalist,‘ Seamus Heaney

On The Map,’ Simon Garfield

Territorial Rights,’ Muriel Sparks

Bounce: how champions are made,‘ Matthew Syed

To Rise Again At A Decent Hour,’ Joshua Ferris

O Massacre Dos Judeus: lisboa, 19 de abril de 1506,’ (‘The Massacre Of The Jews), Susanna Bastos Mateus

The Fiddler In The Subway,’ Gene Weingarten borges

Mortal Coils,’Aldous Huxley

Grandes Entrevistas Da História, vol.1′ (‘Great Interviews Of History, Vol.1)

Grandes Entrevistas Da História, vol.2′ (‘Great Interviews Of History, Vol.2)

Grandes Entrevistas Da História, vol.4′ (‘Great Interviews Of History, Vol.4)

Grandes Entrevistas Da História, vol.5′ (‘Great Interviews Of History, Vol.5)

The Fall,’ Albert Camus

O Conto Do Vigário,’ (‘The Tale Of The Priest‘), Fernando Pessoa

O Zen De Steve Jobs,’ (The Zen Of Steve Jobs), Caleb Melby & Jess3

Tenth-of-December Pastoralia51ouHPJ1k5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_0307389642 200px-Originaloflauraurl-4 url url-2 spark-1  ContodoVigario   url-3 url-1  41bTH4EOUvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 41OjGXkRKkL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 4e09048c2afffe7f432c856804d6c21d image rule-law-tom-bingham-paperback-cover-art41XWJ1V1J7L41+DlMX1AZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_0ff184168627bd0fbc85840be2de76e1

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 7, 2015 in BOOKS


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,