All novels are dreams, but this one reads like one. We’re given rich glimpses into these characters’ deep interior lives, the most touching being the friendship between an older man in the autumn of his years, and a girl, then woman, who forms a deep bond with him. Some of the passages are surreal, as in a dream, but always compelling. There’s wisdom in these pages.
YOUR IN TRUTH: A PERSONAL PORTRAIT OF BEN BRADLEE, LEGENDARY EDITOR OF THE WASHINGTON POST Jeff Himmelman
Himmelman had Bradlee’s full cooperation while writing this book. In fact, Bradlee instructed Himmelman to follow any leads, however unflattering. The result is a touching tribute to an old-fashioned, hard-nosed newspaper editor, who put country and first amendment freedoms ahead of personal concerns. Usually. He did have a soft spot for his buddy, JFK, which may have skewed a story or two in the president’s favor. Given today’s news, this biography is especially relevant.
AND THESE ARE THE GOOD TIMES Patricia McNair
McNair is a Chicago gal: fearless, funny, honest, street smart—and one hell of a writer. These consistently engaging essays range from universal themes, such as sex and death, to coffee and booze and shopping. And the essays are inhabited by larger than life characters, not the least of whom are McNair’s own mom and dad. This is a touching, wise, and heartfelt collection. This will be one of those books I return to often.
THE PERFECT MAN Naeem Murr
The author, Murr, was born and raised in London, but attended Stanford and worked as a writer-in-residence at the University of Missouri, and now resides in Chicago. The only reason I mention all this is because this fine novel takes us from London to Missouri, spanning many years, and centers on a boy displaced from India and “adopted” by a small town writer, who becomes a sort of mother to the boy. This novel, painted with a broad brush, reads like a saga, full of keen insights and lovely writing.
NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF Julian Barnes
Barnes is one of my favorite novelists, but this time, he offers to the world a sort of memoir, not so much about his life, but about death, his and his mother’s and father’s…and the terror of death. This book is not for the faint of heart. But Barnes is precise and wonderfully offbeat with his musings, his British sensibility on full display, which make this book well worth reading.
WHY BOB DYLAN MATTERS Richard F. Thomas
Thomas is a Harvard professor. Once in a while, you forget that because he’s such a fan. But mostly you don’t. Which is fine. He offers a scholarly analysis of how Dylan uses Roman literature and folk music and blues to inform his own work. Thomas calls this “intertexuality.” Dylan’s “borrowing” often seems pretty specific. Apparently, the reason this is never plagiarism is because Dylan borrows so well that he makes the sources into something new, into something he owns. Which is fascinating. When others try to build on Dylan, however, Dylan doesn’t take too kindly to this. You’ll have to read this for yourself to see who you side with. I do wish Thomas would be more objective at times, as he often fawns over Dylan’s genius.
ANNA KARENINA Leo Tolstoy
There are hundreds and hundreds of books I have never read, that I feel I should read, and this is one of them. I’m not very far into this Russian classic—Anna is just arriving by train—but it is charming. Even though the characters are mainly of the nobility, they suffer the same anguish and insecurities as the rest of us. I’m not quite sure what “beach read” entails, but this seems like a good, breezy, summer book that has been keeping me warm during these cold and snowy February days.