December 31, 2005


forever, by Pete Hamill. This magical tale about a man who arrives in NYC in 1740 and never leaves, is the ultimate NY love story. Hamill loves New York and so will you after reading this homage to the city. Hamill knows NY inside and out, from it's beginning to it's current stage and he imparts his knowledge in a magical tale of mystery, charactor and place. Unlike other NY novels written after 9/11, this novel is not gross or crazed, it is unforgettable drama and timeless story telling.

sweet dream baby, Sterling Watson. This isn't a new book, but it's by an author I've just started reading. It's a coming of age story trying to find the meaning of life and love in the music of the late 50's and 60's. It begins steeped in innocence and ends in Southern (central Florida) horror. Watson is not a prolific author, only 6 novels, but I'll be reading everything he writes.

The Gift, by Pete Hamill. This short novel is a true masterpiece, vintage Hamill. It tells of the coming-of-age for a young sailor. Originally published it 1973, it tells about life in Brooklyn in 1952, about re-connecting with friends and family after boot camp. To me the story seemed semi-autobiographic. It made me wonder if Hamill really did receive such a Dear John letter, if Hamill actually made a connection with his distant, undemonstrative father, Billy, in Rattigan’s, the local bar. This is another great holiday gift.

700 Sundays, by Billy Crystal. This is a poignant, hilarious, and personal portrayal of his youth. At the heart of the book is his Dad, the man who bought his little boy a tape recorder when he announced he wanted to be a comedian and didn't scold when he was 5 years old and recycled off-color borscht belt routines for family gatherings. Crystal's dad worked two jobs and died young, so they had maybe 700 Sundays together-but how dear they were. There are many memories of growing up in the Jazz Age, seeing his first motion picture sitting on Billie Holiday’s lap, how he got the nickname Face, etc. This would be a great holiday gift.

During the year I try to read some of the books that are required reading for today's high schoolers, especially the AP kids. Some of the the books stink and some are great, but none of them were required when I was in high school. I just finished The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. It's one of the great ones. O'Brien masterfully describes the Nam experience; what it was like for 18 & 19 year olds to go to war. The book is a series of stories; sometimes the same story is retold from another perspective, that reveal one truth after another about war, people and emotions. A good read.

I only read the Fantasy genre if I receive a great recommendation. Thanks Jeremy! Ananasi Boys by Neil Gaiman is a wonderfully woven tale. He combines myths from different cultures into a modern folk tale. All the plots and subplots are masterfully woven to carry the reader along without confusion, until the magical conclusion.

Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly. This is Connelly's first legal thriller. If you love Harry Bosch you'll love Mickey Haller. Mickey's an ethically challenged defense attorney, cops hate him, his two ex-wives and 8-year-old daughter love him; he can't be all bad. Oh, and his clients, strippers, bikers, druggies, they love him too. I did, too. The plot was complex and held my interest until the end. I'm hoping for more Mickey Haller from Connelly.

The English Teacher, by Lily King, is a passionate tale of a mother and son's vital bond. King doesn't write a warm-fussy depiction of hearth and home, no, it's more like being hit on the head with a brick. It's a provocative look at our notions of intimacy, honesty, loyalty, family, and the real meaning of home. Good solid writing in this her 2nd book.

I really liked An Atomic Romance by Bobby Ann Mason. She's a great author and this was a good one. It's a romance between adults, but not chick-lit. This is a good solid story.

Sky Burial, by Xinran, is worth checking out. I constantly had to remind myself that this was a work of fiction. It's a short read, 224 pages, translated from Chinese. The two translators worked hard to make it easily understood by westerners. I found it hard to believe I wasn't reading a great memoir.

A good memoir is The Tender Bar, by JR Moehringer. It's about a boy's search for male role models. Moehringer is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and this book is validation of his great writing.

Wounded by Percival Everett, is a fictional account of the "Laramie incident". Everett is teaches courses in the English Department at USC. His writing reminded my of some of my favorites, Kent Haruf, Mark Spragg, Cormac McCarthy; spare, each word considered and valuable, no wasted or filler words. Wounded is in the running, along with In the Shadows of the Sun, by Alexander Parsons, for best book I've read this year. It'll be a toss-up.
What are you reading?

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