archive for the ‘books’ Category

A first rate tale, second rate prose

February 22nd, 2017
A first rate tale, second rate prose

The Fall of Giants, by Ken Follet

I love the ambition of this book, and it seems that Follett achieved his goal: the grand tale of the political upheavals of the early 20th Century Europe, and then the unfathomable horror that was the Great War. I really like how meticulously detailed and carefully researched the book is. He spins a fascinating plot, even if it is implausible.…

Steve Mumford’s Baghdad Journal

September 21st, 2012
Steve Mumford's Baghdad Journal

This is my brother Steve’s book, published in 2005. I still think its a stunning achievement. Why my brother felt a need to go to Iraq during wartime and draw pictures I can’t understand, but nevertheless he was called to this project, studied Arabic, grew a mustache, and went off armed with pen and paper and watercolors. That’s commitment.

View from an Abrams Tank, Sadr City

Of course I’m biased but I think these drawings are very strong.…

Number 9 Dream

September 20th, 2012
Number 9 Dream
By David Mitchell

The cover is a Japanese bullet train curled into the shape of a 9.

I’m not sure what the title refers to—maybe I need to read it again?  But this is an exquisite coming of age novel, set in contemporary Tokyo.

The protagonist is a very lost and confused teenage boy who habitually retreats into fantasy.  The narration drifts seamlessly into and out of his fantasy world, until he finds it possible to deal with the reality around him.…

The Wreck of the Mary Deare

September 19th, 2012
The Wreck of the Mary Deare
by Hammond Innes

Who remembers Hammon Innes, a prolific and popular writer of thrillers from Britain in the mid 20th Century?

This is the most well known of Hammond Innes’ 30 odd adventure novels. Published in 1956, and worth a good price for the cover art alone, its a fine and nuanced tale.  Unusual for nautical fiction, it describes both good sailing adventure with operation of a huge, derelict freighter.…

Cloud Atlas

September 7th, 2010
Cloud Atlas

by David Mitchell

David Mitchell is by far my favorite author these days. I’ve read all his books and every one is awesome, but the very best is Cloud Atlas. Mitchell has a very intense way of writing. He can create a character in a particular time and place, seemingly any time and place, from the 18th Century to the 1970s California, to contemporary Japan to science fiction far into the future.…

Trek

September 7th, 2010
Trek
by Mary Hunt Jentsch

Trek is the memoir of world war II written by my grandmother, Mary Hunt.  She was american, and a Radcliffe college girl when she fell in love with my grandfather, a German man studying at Harvard. After they graduated they married and went to live in Switzerland, and then Germany. They had two children: my mother, Erika, and my uncle Jerry.  Trek recounts the story of the nearly idyllic pastoral life of my grandfather’s family In rural Eastern Germany.…

Master and Commander

September 7th, 2010
Master and Commander
by Patrick O’Brien

For any reader who has a soft spot for 18th Century historical fiction, the Aubrey-Maturin series, by Patrick O’Brien, are essential. These are written with vivid detail combined with a curiously modern sense of plot: the plots seem to meander in a realistically random way.…

Weegee’s Naked City

September 7th, 2010
Children sleeping on a balcony

Children sleeping on a balcony

This is a masterful photo book, by a photojournalist who worked for newspapers in the 1930s and 1940s. He shot with a hand-held 4×5 and flashbulbs. I don’t know if he thought of himself as an artist, but he was a true outsider artist. He roamed New York at night, processed his film in a darkroom built into the trunk of his car and delivered his prints to his editor at Picture News by day.…

The Complete Walker

August 26th, 2010
The Complete Walker

by Colin Fletcher

The hiker’s handbook of the 70s

This was my hiking handbook in the 70s and 80s. In the 70s I didn’t actually have this book, and all my hiking was done with friends family. I was just a teenager and wasn’t planning my own trips. But I found this book somewhere–on the bookshelf at summer camp? At my best friend’s house?

In any case, Fletcher was not nearly so gear oriented as current writers.…