Author, Author: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to This Blog

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With the temperatures dropping and the leaves starting their fall in the Northeast, I thought it would be a good idea to recommend some books to cozy up with as the weather changes. I sent out an email to 20 women friends and 6 men.

All 6 men, 100 percent, responded within a day. Two women, 10% got back to me – and that was later on. I would have lost a bet on the odds of that response, but I will bet that the following recommendations are on the money. So here you are, in the words of hard-reading men I love and respect, some suggestions for your own reading or holiday gift lists.

From Joe of Ames, Iowa, The Lost City of Z by David Gann

Grann, a staff writer for The New Yorker, tells his wife he’s taking out an extra life insurance policy before setting off in search of Percy Fawcett, the famous explorer who vanished eight decades ago while trying to reach a Lost City deep in the Amazon.  Cannibals!  Anacondas! Parasites that mass by the pound under living skin!  Piranha and little teeny-weenie hook-nosed fish that follow warmth directly into the … let’s say “plumbing” … of wading humans.  And the humidity, ohhh the humidity!   The author, who admits to being an “indoors man,” pudgy, with poor eyesight and a bad sense of direction, can really tell a story, while he shows us a thing or two about solving age-old mysteries.

From Bernie of Brewster, NY, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I find myself commenting on a novel I did not expect to read, did not expect to like, and certainly did not expect to think about several months after reading.  If you have, or have had, a dog in your life, not just as a pet, but as a true friend-companion-partner-love, then this is a special tome. (It also doesn’t hurt if your friend was a Lab). Stein captures the soul of Enzo, a special story teller, as he wanders through the lives of Denny, Eve, and their daughter Zoe, his humans. Their everyday triumphs and tragedies in the human world help the narrator grow as he learns to understand the emotions, the whys, and the hows of the human condition. The story is told so convincingly by Enzo, I caught myself time and again pausing, thinking of my Cagney who years before had passed. Now that I know how her very intelligent, very mischievous, very affectionate mind and thoughts worked, I wonder why our race couldn’t be as nice.

From Lawrence of Visalia, CA, The Uncommon Reader by Allen Bennett

What a surprise to venture into the literary realm with Queen Elizabeth II in Alan Bennett’s novella. The character of the queen is most believable as she approaches this unknown venture, reading, even reading for pleasure, although her new love of literature does become suspect. It is not without humor that her first mentor is a kitchen worker whose literary interests coincide with his sexual preferences.  The queen does, however, manage to read broadly, attempt literary criticism, and consider the impossible.  A literary background will help with the allusions, but anyone could enjoy the very British humor along the way.    

From Arthur of Oyster Bay, NY, Altar of Eden by James Rollins

This somewhat futuristic thriller has a Jurassic Park theme. It is well written, touches on a current topic of extreme importance, genetic engineering, and gets a 4 in my rating system of all books I read, with 1 being the worst and 4 being the best. What I remember about reading this book the first time is that I kept getting distracted and couldn’t seem to focus. The second time I read it, I was totally absorbed from start to finish. This book was better the second time around.

From Jim of Norwalk, CN, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Much will be written about this novel – in fact, a lot already has. And depending on your politics, you may see an entirely different book from what your neighbor sees. What cannot be disputed is that this book is a national anthem to our times, our society, our culture and the pains of friendship and family. It is humorous, heart-wrenching and sensitive, with such well-developed characters experiencing the full spectrum of issue and emotion  — and in many instances, through their offbeat personalities, to the absolute extreme – that it would be hard for anyone not to identify with or be moved by a small segment if not the entire substance of this work.

From Michael of NYC, Big Short by Michael Lewis
Big Short, Inside the Doomsday Machine is the brilliant new book from Michael Lewis (Liars Poker), tracks the Wall St. fiscal disaster that has brought the national economy to its knees. His simple explanation of complicated concepts coupled with his breezy style will help this pill about a tough subject go down easily even for those of are not financially sophisticated. His main characters are not the usual suspects who claimed the lion’s share of press, but a handful of out-of-the-public-eye hedge fund managers who made massive bets against the subprime. A must read for anyone with the slightest interest in how this all happened.

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