Sunday, May 30, 2010


One classic, one seminal 1960s novel, from France to Cuba, it is all a great reading adventure.

Adult Discussion Group
Telex From Cuba, Rachel Kushner
Tuesday, June 8; 7:30 pm

Sunland/Tujunga One Book at a Time
Meets at Mi Casita, Sunland, Ca
Contact for Reservation: Lisa
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
Thursday, June 17; 7:30 pm

My Life in France, Julia Child
Monday, June 21; 7:00pm
(private gathering this month, contact bookstore for more info)

Mystery Reading Group w/ tea & scones
Knots and Crosses, Ian Rankin
Wednesday, June 23; 8:30 am

Bookie Babes
Barnes & Noble, Burbank, CA
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Wednesday, June 23; 7:30 pm

What are your reading groups doing this month? According to the New York Times Book Review, Memorial Day is the official start of the summer reading season, also known as the Beach Book Season. Plan accordingly, eh?

Friday, May 28, 2010


The Quiet American, Graham Greene, The Viking Press, 1956, 180 pp

 As I read through the years of 20th century literature in My Big Fat Reading Project, The Quiet American will turn out to be the first of countless Vietnam novels. It is not to be confused with a bestseller from 1959, The Ugly American, though they share the themes of arrogant Americans and a failure to understand Vietnamese culture. Of course that is a common failure of any country that practices imperialism.

  Graham Greene has created one of his typical disillusioned cynics; in this case Thomas Fowler, a British newspaper correspondent with a wife back in England, a Vietnamese mistress and an opium habit. When Alden Pyle, the ironically eponymous "quiet American" enters the scene in Saigon and noisily steals Fowler's mistress, he creates a love triangle which also becomes political.

  In an elegantly structured novel and rich but economical prose, Greene explicates the complex scene in 1950s Vietnam, as the French fight a losing war against the communist Viet Minh, complicated by various Vietnamese political factions and the recently arrived American's plans to create a "Third Force", designed to be anti-French, anticommunist and pro-American. Alden Pyle turns up dead and Thomas Fowler has to solve the murder for his own protection and peace of mind.

  What I found most intriguing is that while Greene is clearly railing against the destructive "innocence' of Americans, by which he really means ignorance, no single character comes off as innocent in the end.

(The Quiet American is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


This is post # 600 here at Keep The Wisdom. (Applause, applause.) Thank you so much and especially thanks to my readers. Contrary to the prophets of doom, the book is NOT dead.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann, Random House Inc, 2009, 349 pp

 I was completely blown away by Colum McCann's 2003 novel Dancer, a fictional account of Rudolf Nureyev's life. Let the Great World Spin won the National Book Award in 2009 and got scads of glowing reviews, so I was excited to read it. And it was good, with some of the strengths of Dancer. McCann makes you love his characters because he finds the spirit beneath each one's faults and troubles. He clearly exults in New York City and has discovered its essence though he was raised in Ireland.

 One of my issues with this "novel" is that it is in fact a collection of short stories tied together by a time period and a group of characters. The book opens in August, 1974, when Phillippe Petit made his famous balletic tightrope crossing between the Twin Towers. The event is used as a symbol throughout the book and as a unifying device between a large group of characters who range from an unorthdox street priest to a few prostitutes to a Park Avenue woman. I am not a fan of short fiction and throughout my reading I was aware of the author's method of construction; he was too much there.

  Which brings me to my other issue: novels about 9/11. Though it has been almost a decade and though it must be an irresistible subject for authors who live in New York, for some reason almost every novel I have read with 9/11 as the central idea has made me just a tad queasy. Maybe it is just too soon to put that debacle of human insanity into art; maybe it is the relentless news coverage, the images from which still pop up uninvited in my consciousness; I just don't know. It all makes me squirm.

 Now that I have gotten all that off my chest, I can say that I did find myself drawn in to these characters' lives and their interactions. In fact by the end I cared quite deeply for the priest and the three generations of prostitutes. Unfortunately I did not like the final scene at all. I don't even like the review I have written here. It feels clunky, just as the book did. Worst of all, the reading group where I could have discussed all this did not meet, ostensibly because too many members were ill or out of town, but possibly because no one finished the book. Ah well. It is just one book among thousands.

(Let the Great World Spin is available in paperback on the shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


The Color Curtain, Richard Wright, World Publishing Company, 1956, 175 pp

 I almost skipped this book from my 1956 reading list. Fortunately I tracked it down in a Harper Perennial Modern Classics reprint that also includes Black Power (1954) and White Man Listen (1957). The Color Curtain records a probably little known or remembered event in 20th century world history, while it predicts much about our early 21st century globalized society.

  At a time when the Iron Curtain dominated the news, a conference was held in Bandung, Indonesia, where delegates from twenty-nine free and independent nations of Asia and Africa met and discussed "racialism and colonialism." Richard Wright, then living in Paris and pursuing a life of intellectual journalism, heard about the conference and decided to attend. He recognized the startling importance of an event that would begin a conversation between the colored peoples of the world, who had just then freed themselves of Western colonialism and imperialism.

  Wright's method was to interview people of many of these nations and to attend all the events of the conference. Through the interviews he "found that many Asians hated the West with an absoluteness that no American Negro could ever muster." A Pakistani man told Wright, "The Asian-African Conference will be a great thing. In the past, the West always took the lead; now it is time for Asia and Africa to lead mankind. We have been objects; now we can be subjects."

  The Color Curtain examines the left and right politics of the day; the exotic blend of race and religion among Asian and African peoples; and the presence and role of communism as represented by China. He then makes predictions about the futures of Asia, Africa, and the West that are chillingly accurate. 

  So I learned that my growing perception of the 1950s as a pivotal decade in the history of the modern world was correct. Underneath the seeming banality and boredom of American life in that decade, the seeds had been sown and in fact were germinating towards a whole new world. I can't imagine a course in world history that would not include this book, yet I doubt that any of today's high school or college students have heard of it. (If you have, let me know!)

(The Harper Perennial Modern Classics volume, Black Power, which contains The Color Curtain is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The Mind-Body Problem, Rebecca Goldstein, Random House Inc, 1983, 275 pp

 I was so impressed by Rebecca Goldstein's recent 36 Arugments for the Existence of God, which I reviewed for BookBrowse, that I wanted to read her earlier novels. (She has five of them.) The Mind-Body Problem is her first and I found it great.

  Goldstein has a PhD in philosophy and is a professor of the subject. In this novel, as in her latest, she uses a story to demonstrate various philosophical views, which might not please a majority of readers but makes me very happy. I tried to take philosophy in college but gave up, finding the texts assigned incomprehensible. Forty years later, due to hard work on building my vocabulary, reading Will Durant's The Story of Philosophy and just living life, I am finally getting a clue about this huge subject.

 I am not sure a person could get much out of philosophy at age 20 and indeed Renee, the heroine of this novel, finds that to be so. She has been both brainy and beautiful in her young years but arrives at Princeton University in the 1980s for graduate work in philosophy and falls on her face. Her solution? She marries a math genius twenty-eight years her senior.

  That also goes badly but at least provides her  with a real life laboratory in which to work out her issues and her thesis: the mind-body problem. She is actually a fairly troubled young woman, due to her Jewish upbringing and her need for recognition and praise in order to feel like she matters. Luckily she is young and the sexual playing field is quite free and loose, being after the sexual revolution and before AIDS.

 Having grown up in Princeton, in awe of the university scene while I was in high school, having visited The Advanced Institute as a child, meeting Robert Oppenheimer and hearing tales about Albert Einstein, it was pure pleasure to be in that locale while reading the book. Goldstein describes it all so well, including the faculty parties, wives and rivalries. I also love stories about geniuses and the challenges of living with them.

  Somehow, even though Renee is hopelessly self-centered and stupidly reckless in many ways, I never disliked her as a character. I trusted that she would figure it out because she was so smart and actually did know her philosophy, if only intellectually. Living with a genius is tough as well as humorous. Renee suffers, grows up, and in a surprising climax, acquits herself well.

(The Mind-Body Problem is available in paperback, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God in hardcover, and The Story of Philosophy in mass market paperback, all by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

Sunday, May 23, 2010


A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes, Harper and Brothers, 1929, 279 pp

 Today is Sunday, the day I like to post a review of what we call a "family read" at Once Upon A Time. I am not convinced that this book qualifies, but you decide.

  I had never heard of this book until one of my reading groups picked it. Even more surprising, I found it shelved as Young Adult in the library. I don't know. Seems to me there are mostly adult concepts here but since the story is about children ages 3 to 11, I guess that makes it Young Adult?

 The reading group members' opinions ranged from "hated it" to ho hum, except for me. I found it a great read, totally entertaining and full of interesting questions about child rearing and the uses of children in the legal system.

  An English family lives in a decayed plantation house in late 19th century Jamaica, post emancipation. Their five children are fed, put to bed at night after being read to, but otherwise are left to roam about having adventures in the great outdoors.

     "It was a kind of paradise for English children to come to, whatever it might be for their parents: especially at that time, when no one lived in at all a wild way at home. Here one had to be a little ahead of the times or decadent, whichever you like to call it. The difference between boys and girls, for instance, had to be left to look after itself. Long hair would have made the evening search for grass-ticks and nits interminable. Emily and Rachel had their hair cut short and were allowed to do everything the boys did--to climb trees, swim and trap animals and birds; they even had two pockets in their frocks."

  Feral children then, who also read books. Cool; reminded me of my hippie days when the kids ran wild. But then, after a ferocious hurricane nearly levels their house, the parents suddenly decide that their children need a proper education. They put them all on a ship bound for England, entrusting these children to the care of the ship's captain. Now we are really far removed from the present day where children (at least the ones above the poverty line) are guarded from kidnappers and worse.

  Well, the ship is boarded by pirates before it has even left the Caribbean Sea, the children taken on to the pirate ship and then their adventures truly begin. From horrific to heartwarming, from dangerous to delightful and everything in between, they learn to climb the rigging, sleep in a hold, tame the ship's monkey and relate to the pirates.

  The journey to England on the pirate ship takes up most of the book. That is enough of a spoiler right there because, while reading, you wonder if they will make it. Not one child escapes being marked by the experience, some more deeply than others. My dad used to tell me that a person could get used to anything, which I did not believe as a child, but truly children can adapt to their circumstances, make do and figure out how to survive in about the same proportion as adults.

  In the end, I found the story frightful on top of entertaining and interesting; as if Patricia Highsmith got to rewrite Harry Potter. I am still not sure I would classify it as Young Adult, though it is some of the best writing about the minds of children I have ever come across.

(A High Wind in Jamaica is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

Friday, May 21, 2010


Shanghai Girls, Lisa See, Random House Inc, 2009, 309 pp

Here in Los Angeles, readers, especially female readers, have a possessive love for Lisa See. We feel she belongs to us, we come out in droves to her readings and book signings, and we buy her books so we can read and discuss them. In my various reading groups, w have discussed On Gold Mountain (1995); Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005) and Peony in Love (2007). Last month two of these groups discussed Shanghai Girls. It was generally loved.

Two main themes run through her writing: Chinese history and the plight of women in that history. So her books generate long, lively, sometimes passionate discussion. Shanghai Girls was no exception. It is blatantly a historical novel with two sisters taking center stage in the story.

 Pearl Chin is twenty-one when the story opens in 1937 Shanghai and her younger sister May is her closest dearest companion. They are non-traditional Chinese daughters of a successful businessman and Mahjong playing mother, having the time of their lives as models for the Beautiful Girl calendars. They move about the city in stylish clothes and party late into the night.

 When disaster strikes they lose just about everything except each other and though they disagree and fight against the arranged marriages they've been sold into by a father who gambled and lost his fortune, eventually they are forced by a vicious gangster and the Japanese invasion to sail for America.

  Several gripping episodes make for intense reading: the escape from Shanghai and Japanese soldiers which fixes their relationship to each other; the many months of detention and interrogation at immigration in San Francisco during which they make a secret deal that will forever haunt them; and a devastating culmination to further oppression later in Los Angeles.

  In her themes of sisterhood and the conflict between duty and desire, Lisa See has produced some of her deepest and most affecting emotional writing yet. I grew to care about the sisters, especially Pearl, even realizing how my role of eldest sister in my family marked my life and influenced some of my worst decisions. Despite some sections where the history took precedence over the characters, I was both enlightened and entertained.

(Shanghai Girls is available in paperback at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Mama I Love You, William Saroyan, Little Brown and Company, 1956, 245 pp

 I am pretty much over Saroyan. I have read all of his novels in publishing date order since My Name is Aram. I learned in the biography I read about him that he had big alimony payments, so had to keep writing books for the income. The dedication of this one is to his daughter Lucy and the story is autobiographical. A young girl named Twink and her divorced mother go to New York in search of a part in a play for the mother. In fact, they each land a part in the same play, with ten-year-old Twink playing a young girl.

  The story covers all the steps of producing and opening a play which I found interesting. Although Saroyan's writing is as mundane as ever, I stayed interested and the pages went quickly. 1955 and 1956 must have been the top years about kids living in posh New York hotels and apartments: Eloise at the Plaza, Patrick Dennis with his Auntie Mame at Beekman Place and now Twink at the Pierre. I was turning nine in 1956 and I did grow up thinking that the ultimate lifestyle would be to live in New York in a posh hotel.

 Twink had that lifestyle at the age of ten and after many months decided to move on. If I had read Mama I Love You instead of Eloise, I could have gotten over my hotel obsession sooner. Ah well, now we have Priceline, so it is all good.

(Mama I Love You is out of print, available at libraries and used booksellers.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Christine Falls, Benjamin Black, Henry Holt and Company, 2006, 340 pp

 In his first mystery, Benjamin Black (pen name for literary author John Banville) introduces Quirke, a pathologist in 1950s Dublin who falls into a mysterious circumstance and unwittingly becomes an amateur investigator. Quirke is an orphan, a heavy drinker, a loner. The weather is gray and rainy. His adoptive family has dirty secrets, involving pregnant women, babies, paternity and the Catholic Church. It is all very Irish, dark and hopeless.

 I love dark and hopeless Irish stories but I didn't love this one. I may change my mind later but I felt that Banville/Black went slumming and his literary habits are too strong for him to really tear it up in crime fiction. Of course, I am at this point just being opinionated because I have never read a John Banville novel. He is lauded, wins prizes; readers I respect heap him with praise. Graham Greene successfully alternated between what he called serious fiction and "entertainments" and was brilliant in both. Banville/Black has not convinced me. He is no Graham Greene.

 Now that I have that out of the way, I can say that I read Christine Falls quickly, was engaged on every page and found the twists and turns surprising and gripping. I even had a soft spot for Quirke by the end. I suppose I should read at least one of his John Banville novels. If you have, please let me know.

(Christine Falls is available in paperback on the mystery shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

Monday, May 17, 2010


The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman, Random House Inc, 2000, 465 pp

I missed posting my usual children's book review yesterday, so today I will combine a Young Adult/Adult book in one post. I am still not sure that Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is truly Young Adult literature, though I concede that it can work on different levels for different readers.

I guess I had no idea how the trilogy would end. In fact, I had no idea throughout this third volume. Well, I was getting clues but Pullman's excellent plotting did keep me wondering.

 The Amber Spyglass moves at a different pace than the earlier two novels; not at that breathtaking speed. I was aware of all the threads of the story being pulled to the conclusion. I wasn't sure I liked it. The story got thick and a bit turgid, more thoughtful, despite continuous action. Then I realized that Lyra, Will, Lord Asriel and even Mrs Coulter were all changing in unpredictable ways.

 Obviously Lyra would have to come of age, so to speak, because the whole dust thing hinged on that. So she does and it is a little sad to see her feisty, fearless, reckless childhood self evolve into something new. But when I thought about it, who would want the females of the world to always be eleven years old.

 I won't say more because I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't finished the series. Not everyone agrees with Philip Pullman's thesis and conclusion but in my opinion he accomplished a wonderful feat of imagination, storytelling and philosophy.

(The Amber Spyglass is available in paperback on the science fiction/fantasy shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010


A Wreath For Udomo, Peter Abrahams, Alfred A Knopf, 1956

This is the South African Peter Abrahams. There is also an American Peter Abrahams who writes mystery thrillers and young adult mystery novels. Back when I used to read by the alphabet system, trying to read my way through the entire fiction section at the library, I came across both authors and was quite confused for a while because they are not at all similar. The South African Peter Abrahams wrote about racism, colonialism, and independence in African nations. He was responsible, in my reading life, for introducing me to this subject long before I was even aware of books like Cry, The Beloved Country by Paton or the early works of Doris Lessing, etc. In fact, until recently he was one of the only Black African novelists to have his works published in English.

I read A Wreath For Udomo way back in 1991. In those days, I had already started writing notes about the books I read but they were usually brief in the extreme. Here is what I had to say about the book:

Excellent book. Udomo is a liberator of an African country, educated in England. He is competent, intelligent, and a true leader. He has faults also and feels he must hurt others, including close friends, in a just cause. In the end he is killed but has achieved enough to ensure his goal for his country will come to pass.

Now I have also read the 1956 bestseller, The Tribe That Lost Its Head by Nicholas Monsarrat. So there in the same year are two contrasting looks at an African country reaching for freedom from colonial masters: one from the colonialists point of view and one from the native African. The rising up of Africans was a new development in the 1950s and shows up fairly often in the fiction of the decade. For me these novels fill in my woeful gaps in world history.

(A Wreath for Udomo is out of print. I found it in my local library. The cover shown above is a 1977 reprint from Faber and Faber, only available through used book sellers.)

Friday, May 14, 2010


The Surrendered, Chang-rae Lee, Riverhead Books, 2010, 467 pp

My review of Chang-rae Lee's amazing new novel is now up at BookBrowse. It begins thus:

"When I was about five years old, I saw on the front page of the New York Times a grainy black and white photo of sad, dirty, hopeless looking people. I asked my dad about it and he told me there was a war going on in a faraway country called Korea. I have been against war since that day. No matter how urbane he appears in his interviews, it is clear to me that Chang-rae Lee has written his anti-war manifesto in The Surrendered...[read the full review here.] If this link requires you to become a subscriber, please let me know in the comments. I think it should work for anyone.)

(The Surrendered is currently on the shelf in hardcover at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


A Single Pebble, John Hersey, Alfred A Knopf, 1956, 181 pp

John Hersey is a good writer. He creates characters well, his stories move along with great energy and he makes a reader care deeply about what goes on. But sometimes, despite all those qualities, he just misses. This is one of those times.

 A young American engineer has been sent to China in the 1920s to inspect the Yangtze River for possible locations on which to build a dam. He travels up that unpredictable and powerful river on a junk, through gorges, rapids and whirlpools. Surrounded by the junk's owner and his young wife, the cook and a large crew of trackers, who literally pull the junk, the young man tries to reconcile his American belief in progress with the legends and ways of a primitive culture. He becomes obsessed with understanding Old Pebble, the head tracker, who takes on the personality of almost a river god.

The story of the journey is gripping as the extreme adventure of prevailing over all the river's dangers is told. Hersey excels in writing the detail and realism of such a foreign location and people. Obviously the theme is east meets west, a theme which is shown by the events of the story contrasted with the young American's reactions.

Unfortunately we are rather hammered over the head by the engineer's attempt to come to grips with the contrasts, which feels like being lectured to instead of being allowed as a reader to draw one's own conclusions. Possibly such a tone was needed in the mid 1950s, but reading the book in the 21st century, knowing that the dam got built, puts it in a different light.

(A Single Pebble is out of print at this time, so is best found in a library or from a used book seller.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Tunnel Vision, Sara Paretsky, Delacorte Press, 1994, 432 pp

Sara Paretsky's eighth novel is the one I like best so far. Private investigator V I Warshawski is almost 40 years old now and though she is as fearless and head-headed as always, she is aware of a slight slowing down physically. That does not prevent her from breaking into buildings, rescuing people from flooded tunnels under Chicago or suffering her third concussion.

I remember the high numbers of homeless people on Colorado Blvd in Pasadena when I first moved to Los Angeles in 1991. I have often wondered where they all came from so suddenly and where they have gone now. Was it the backlash from Reagonomics or the emptying of mental institutions? Do we have better social services now?

In any case, Tunnel Vision takes place in 1992. It features a homeless woman and her three children, includes human trafficking of workers from Romania and, as usual, government corruption mixed with financial crime.

Paretsky has always been strong on plot but here she scales down on her cast of characters and I found it easier to follow the story. Not that I figured it all out before Vic did, but I was tracking with her and felt I had a prayer of understanding how she worked it out.

I am now over halfway through Paretsky's books and the next one is a stand alone without Warshawski, though Ghost Country is set in Chicago and in the author's words is a story of "the sacred and the dispossessed meeting on the streets." Sounds fabulous to me.

I have enjoyed the journey of Sara Paretsky's writing. The tough-talking PI has matured, along with her creator, into a fully realized, complex character who delves into both her social and personal issues with equal intensity. Underneath the action/adventure heroine's fast-paced heroics is some of the best feminist fiction around.

(Tunnel Vision is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

Friday, May 07, 2010


The Flight From the Enchanter, Iris Murdoch, The Viking Press, 1956, 316 pp

I don't personally know anyone who has read Iris Murdoch's novels. This is her second novel and only the second one I have read. I find her books so far, to be refreshingly unique. In this one she explores the hold a strong personality can have over other people, denying them the freedom to live by their own determinism.

Only gradually does the reader realize which character in the story is the enchanter and by then you are so invested in several of his victims' lives, that you fear for them and thus are happy for each one's efforts at flight. As in her first novel, Under the Net, the characters are beyond the ordinary with quirks and bizarre behaviors, though many are portrayed with a dark humor. She pits the laughable characters against the admirable ones, so it is the tensions between characters rather than the somewhat thin plot that moves the story and compels the reader.

The novel takes place in 1950s London amidst literary people, early feminists, government bureaucrats and immigrants, but the moral theme of how much power any individual should concede to another over one's life is universal. I found the book moving and enjoyable.

(The Flight From the Enchanter is out of print, as far as I can tell. Once again, libraries and used book sellers are your best source.)

Monday, May 03, 2010


The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick Press, 2003, 270 pp

I found this to be a very odd story. A mouse who is "different" in that he is smaller than the rest and would rather listen to music and read than hunt for food, who falls in love with a human princess, develops ideas about honor but gets banished by the "Mouse Council" for endangering his community, is certainly a stand-in for humans and their troubles. So, allegory, right? In the spirit of Stuart Little. Truly Stuart, as a mouse, did stretch my credibility a bit, but the story was endearing.

I think it was mostly the writing that bothered me. I wasn't convinced about any of it, the characters, the plot, not even the ending. Plus that pseudo Victorian thing of addressing the reader all the time, as in "Reader, ...", became so annoying.

This book flies off the shelf at Once Upon A Time. It may be our most continuous bestseller for 8-12 year old readers after The Wimpy Kid series. I would have to ask some kids what they like about it. I have not yet seen the movie.

I am hoping I will get some comments here that will enlighten me.

(Yes, this book is always in stock on the Newbery Winners shelf at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

Saturday, May 01, 2010


I read 14 books in April which brought me to 62 books read for the year so far. That is not as many as I planned but you know, I actually spent some time with people doing social activities. I guess that is good for me.

Here is a list of books I read. The reviews will be posted soon if they haven't been already:

Tunnel Vision, Sara Paretsky. Her eighth novel and one of my favorites. I have been reading through her books in the order she wrote them.

Christine Falls, Benjamin Black. The pen name for literary novelist John Banville, who started writing mystery novels in 2006. This is the first one. Good, not great.

Justine, Lawrence Durrell. From my list of 1957 books. The first of his Alexandria Quartet. Great.

Shanghai Girls, Lisa See. Her latest book, read for two of my reading groups this month. Excellent.

The Mind-Body Problem, Rebecca Goldstein. I reviewed her latest novel, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, for my paid reviewing job at BookBrowse. This is her first novel. She is great. Writes about philosophy embedded in fiction.

The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman. The final volume of His Dark Materials trilogy. I loved them all. Not for mainstream Christians but great for people like me.

Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann. Another reading group read which won the National Book Award for 2009. I had mixed feelings about this one.

A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes. Somewhat of a classic which was also a reading group read. Children, pirates, 19th century. I thought it was fantastic.

The Floating Opera, John Barth. Also from the 1957 list. He is one of the original post-modern, meta-fiction writers. This was his first novel. I was a little afraid, but I liked it.

Deep Water, Patricia Highsmith. 1957 list again. She makes you so nervous!

Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout. Pulitzer Prize winner for 2009 and a reading group book. I am still deciding whether I liked it or not.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett. Still on the bestseller list after more than a year. My sister and niece MADE me read it. It was actually quite good.

The White Negro, Norman Mailer. Hardly a book at only 27 pages, but Mailer in 1957 put his mind to figuring out what it meant to be a hipster in the mid 50s. Do you remember TheBonfire of the Vanities? It made me think of that.

The Door Into Summer, Robert A Heinlein. One more from the 1957 list. (I only have 6 more to read.) This one is about time travel from 1970 into 2000, as well as cryogenics, and takes place in LA. Fun!

That is the list. What did you read this month?