Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Don't worry.  This is going to be short.  I came across two author events that will be of interest to at least some of you.

First of all, I have been going on and on about the luncheon with Ann Patchett for Wednesday, June 15, at Book Passage.  Well, it turns out that she will be at Keplers that same evening at 7:00.  I have no idea if she's interesting, but she sure can write.  I'm still glad I'm going to the luncheon so I can kiss ass, but it's a great alternative for the rest of youse guys.

The second event is also sponsored by Keplers but will take place at the Fox Theater in Redwood City (where Meredith had her bat mitvah almost 20 years ago!).  It's scheduled for Wednesday, July 27, at 7:00.  It's George R.R. Martin, who has written a fantasy series called A Song Of Ice And Fire.  His first book in the series, Game of Thrones, is the subject of an HBO miniseries that's airing now (every Sunday at 9:00).  I read book 1.  I made a deal with Jeffrey that I would read it.  So I did (I forgot what he agreed to read in exchange).  Would I read beyond book 1?  Possibly.  I'm not a huge fantasy fan, although I really enjoyed the Landover series, by Terry Brooks.  Having said that, I still want to see Martin.  He definitely has a cult following.  In fact, they're selling tickets to the event - $42 per person, including his latest book in the series, #5, or $48 for 2 people, including one book.  Hope to see you all there (I just threw that in there for effect).

Two other quick notes.  I finished the Erik Larson book, In The Garden Of Beasts.  It was really good.  When I told you that he was appearing at Booksmith in SF, I forgot to mention that Joni and I saw him (with John and Sue) quite a few years ago when he was promoting Thunderstruck.  He was a bit pompous.  I'm hoping that it was due to the venue - Montalvo.  Maybe he'll be more modest in a modest bookstore like Booksmith.  Oh wait, I've never been to this bookstore.  We'll have to wait and see.

Got an email today from the owner of of "M."  He's 81, and he announced he's going into semi-retirement.  He was an attorney for 41 years with the same law firm!  So he retired at 70 and bought a book store.  Pretty cool.

I lied about this post being short.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Non-Fiction Reads (this is not an misprint)

As many of you know, I'm not a big reader of non-fiction.  I think it's because I don't want to think any more than I have to.  I do typically 2-4 non-fictions per year.  Usually, they're recommended to me or someone hands me the book.  If the latter happens, then I'm too guilt-ridden to ignore it.  So, with that preamble, here are some that I would recommend and some not so much.

There are 2 (and only 2) that are in my top 25 all-time.  They are:

The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls
My Losing Season, Pat Conroy

They are both amazing books.  The first is written by a woman in her 30's who chronicles her childhood.  It's unbelievable.  After you read it, you will swear that it's fiction.  The second is about Conroy's senior year in college at The Citadel as the captain of the basketball team.  As much as I love all of Conroy's work, this one is right near the top.  I think everybody would like both of these.  Don't worry about the basketball theme, non-sports fans.  It's only a small part of the story.

Here are some others of varying value (says me):

Ghost Soldiers, Hampton Sides - about a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippines during WWII - tough to read due to graphic descriptions but an excellent book
Three Weeks With My Brother - Nicholas Sparks - this was surprisingly good - Sparks and his brother travel around the world for 3 weeks - these chapters are interspersed with stories about their childhood - I really enjoyed it
Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert - everybody knows about this one - I liked it okay - I couldn't quite put it in my Chick Lit for the Macho Man post, but it was decent
Garlic and Sapphire - Ruth Reichl - she was the food critic for the NY Times - she described going to restaurants in disguise and always had a recipe at the end of each chapter - I enjoyed it - I'm not falling all over myself, but I would recommend it
Tuesdays with Morrie & Have a Little Faith - Mitch Albom - everybody knows the first one and fewer people the second - they're both good - they're short and fast reads, but still interesting - the second one is about Albom's relationship to a minister in a poor part of Detroit and an old and failing rabbi on the East Coast
Lute!  The Season of My Life - Lute Olson - I typically don't do biographies - I did this one because Josh went to school there and gave it to me - I liked it a lot - if you like sports, then I would definitely say yes to reading about a coach who is considered one of the best of all time
War - Sebastian Junger - the guy who wrote The Perfect Storm this time writes about being attached to an army unit in the middle of Afghanistan - very interesting - it's not fun, but it's informative
End of America - Naomi Wolf - this is almost a Thomas Paine-like treatise (see, I'm not a cultural troglodyte) in which she compares the Bush administration to Nazi Germany - Joni and I saw her at a book-signing event - whatever your politics, she and her book are pretty interesting
Devil in the White City & In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson - The first one is about the World's Fair in Chicago in 1896 - it's pretty well known - the second one, which I'm reading now (I'm about 60% through it) is about the ambassador to Germany in 1933, his family, and the start of Hitler's regime - it's really good and gives great insight, through diaries, dispatches, and opinion papers, of what actually happened and how it happened - even though I'm not done, I would recommend this to anybody who likes history

As for upcoming events, besides Ann Patchett (which I'm sure you're tired of hearing about), Larson will be in the Bay Area on Tuesday, June 7.  He will be at Book Passage in Corte Madera at 1:30 and at Booksmith in SF at 7:30.  Joni and I are going to the evening event.  By the way, this is the first time I've ever heard about Booksmith.  In going on their website, it turns out that they host a lot of author events.  I am now on their mailing list.  Cool!

Finally, I read my final (her second) Ann Patchett novel - Taft.  I'm now ready for her new one, which we'll get when we see her on June 15 (I mentioned it again even when I said I had already mentioned it too much).  For those of you who have read Coming Soon, the Honk and Holler, by Billie Letts, Taft is very similar.  The year that Honk and Holler came out, Bob and I basically considered it either our top novel of the year or close to the top.  It's a good one, and Taft has the same feel to it.  All of Patchett's novels are very good.

I have one other author event to report.  Alex Kava, with Maggie O'Dell, FBI profiler, as her protagonist is coming back to "M."  We saw her last year too.  It was a really small crowd, so this time they're pairing her with a second author - Bobbie O'Keefe (never heard of her).  The event is July 13 at 7:00.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nesbo (author event), Patterson (not James), Berry

For just the third time, I went to see an author that I haven't read.  His name is Jo Nesbo, and he is Norwegian.  He was great - affable, informative, and, most importantly, he didn't read from his book!  He said a number of very interesting things:

1.  He was a stockbroker and a rock singer before he became an author.
2.  He writes a series about a detective named Harry Hole (pronounced "hula" in Norwegian).
3.  He wrote a standalone, called The Headhunters, that was made into a movie and that just showed at Cannes.  It was picked up by a US distributor and will be shown in the USA.
4.  Norway has the highest percentage of readers than any other country in the world (according to him).
5.  He is so big in Norway that his publisher provides him with a team of 7 people to work on editing the book with him.  This contradicts what other authors have said; namely that they have had to personally hire their own editors because their publisher can't afford to do it any more.  John Lescroart said he has hired his own team of 3 editors!
6.  He's even written a series of children's books.  I bought one for Haley that's called Dr. Proctor's Fart Machine.  Joni said I should have bought it for Josh.

Nesbo told a story about how he came up with the title for his latest book, The Snowman.  Friends of his asked him to help them pick a title for their horror movie.  Nesbo came up with The Snowman.  They said it was a good title, but there was no snowman in the movie.  So thanks but no thanks.  Nesbo liked the title so much that he used it for new book, and wrote the first scene, before he even had a plot for the book itself.  He said he always writes the book and then gives it a title.  He did a 360 this time.

He also said that Stieg Larsson was a door-opener for many of the Scandinavian mystery writers of today but that Larsson had his own door-openers from the '70's and '80's, including Henning Mankel, who you can find in any American bookstore.

I'm looking forward to reading one of Nesbo's books. I'll report back.

I just finished the latest Richard North Patterson, The Devil's Light.  It's another book about a government-sponsored special agent who has to stop an Arab terrorist.  It didn't grab me that much.  It might be the glut of Arab terrorist books that it seems I have read recently.  What's most interesting about the book, though, is the level of research that Patterson puts in.  A few days after I finished the book, I was reading the paper and saw an article about Hezbollah, the Palestinians, and the Iranians, and it was exactly what Patterson wrote.  He really knows his stuff.

Now, having said that it didn't grab me, I found myself, surprisingly, tearing up in several spots.  So, maybe it grabbed me more than I thought it did.  I would definitely recommend it - if for no other reason than what he writes seems to be an accurate depiction of what's happening no matter where his story takes place.  P.S.  My kids like to point out, repeatedly, that I once cried during a Buffy, The Vampire Slayer episode.  So, perhaps the tearing up doesn't mean that much.

I also just finished the latest Steve Berry/Cotton Malone episode.  Once again, Berry has come up with a very fast, entertaining, and well-written book - for a B-Lister.  I would definitely recommend him.  You just need to know that his stuff is not memorable.  They're good airport/swimming pool/barcalounger reads.

Finally, I just started my last Ann Patchett novel.  This is #5.  Now I'll be ready to start #6 when Joni and I see her on June 15.  I can't wait!  She's definitely one of my favorites as you all know by now.  Sorry, I get to write what I want, even if it bores the crap out of my reading audience.

There are no new events to tell you about.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I just finished another Ann Patchett.  This was the very first novel she wrote.  It's called The Patron Saint of Liars.  It was really good.  She's in my Chick Lit for the Macho Man post.  After reading this one (my 4th), it reaffirms her quality writing.  Again, it's a story about relationships with very little (or no) action.  I can say, though, that even those who prefer mysteries will like her stuff.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Joni and I (and probably 100-200 others) are going to have lunch with her on June 15.  I can't wait.  I hope to read another 1-2 of her books between now and then - just so I can kiss up more effectively.

I had another surprise recently:  Baldacci's latest - The Sixth Man.  This is another one in the  Sean King/Michelle Maxwell series.  This is a series that I almost dumped a couple of books ago.  One that I read was so poorly written that I vowed to try one more and see if it was worth saving.  The next one was better but not real good.  This one, I'm happy to report, was very good.  It even came close to the quality of The Camel Club series, which all of us mystery readers like a lot.  I can actually recommend this one highly!

I also recently completed a book by Lisa See, called Peony in Love.  I started it late last year and finally got around to finishing it.  I would read a few pages and then move on to something else.  This book is about China in the 1600's (or was it the 1700's? - I've already forgotten).  I recognize the research that went into it.  I also recognize the quality of the writing.  Despite those upsides, I thought I was being punished by the publishing gods and made to read a book I was guaranteed not to enjoy.  This obviously points out my culturelessness(?).  I have to say I embrace my neanderthal approach to reading.  Sorry Laur, I know you liked it.

Finally, I want to, once again, point out how good Anna Quindlen is.  I know I've got her in the same post as Patchett, but I didn't spend much time touting her.  With one exception (Rise and Shine, about a Katie Couric-like character - it was okay), her books are excellent.  Give one of them a try.  I think you will be happy you did.  If you try one and don't like it, keep it to yourself.  Her other novels are:  Blessings, Black and Blue (which was a movie with William Hurt, Meryl Streep, and a young Rene Zellweger), Object Lessons, and One True Thing.

One final note:  Jen was recently reading a David Sedaris book and thought it was really funny.  I have not read any of his stuff, so I'll base my recommendation on Jen.

I don't have any new events to report.