Back in May, I posted my current 2019 reading list, which included the following gems:
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
- All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Since then I finished Ove, as well as Five Presidents, Rules of Civility, and A Gentleman in Moscow. Last year, I proclaimed that The Nightingale was one of the best book I had ever read, and was in my top 10 list. The good news is, while it is still one of the best, I have another to add to the Top 10 List. Below are some quick reviews of these 3 books.
This was not a book club pick, but came highly recommended by my sister, so I decided to give it a whirl, and I’m so glad I did. The main character is a grouchy old man, but his grouchiness is so over the top, it is comical. His demeanor is not without reason, and the reader soon learns of a long life of struggles and loss that have left an lasting imprint on the man, who we find out actually has a very big heart. The book takes place in Sweden and has a small cast of memorable characters, each weaving their way into Ove’s life (whether he likes it or not). I think the best description for this book is “charming.” It made me cry towards the end, but it wasn’t dark or depressing – rather a story of triumph in the face of adversity, not only for Ove, but for several other characters in this easy-to-read novel.
Occasionally our book club picks a non-fiction book to read; we read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance a couple years ago as well as Boomerang by Michael Lewis and Stolen Village by Des Ekin. This year, we agreed on Five Presidents. For me, this was the first time I purchased an Audible book, so I could listen to it while I was commuting and doing chores around the house. The author, Clint Hill, is a former Secret Service agent, not a writer by trade, and I found this to be evident in his style of writing. Where I enjoy a lyrical and well constructed book with interesting characters and language that paint pictures, Mr. Hill tells his story like he’s writing a report for a superior; I found it dry and somewhat repetitive. However, I really did enjoy the history and the anecdotes about the presidents that you don’t get in a history book.
If you recall the famous footage of the Kennedy assassination in which a secret service agent is scrambling onto the back of the motorcade, reaching out to Mrs. Kennedy, that agent is Clint Hill. He relays some fascinating stories (in a not so fascinating style).
This. Book. Where do I start? With this: I absolutely loved this book! Amor Towles has a magnificent command of the English language. The writing is superb, the story is captivating, and the time period makes this story destined for the big screen. Even if it isn’t, when I recall scenes from the book, I remember them as if I had watched them unfold in a movie. The story takes place in New York in the late 1930’s. A couple of young women who live in a boarding house meet a gorgeous rich man by the name of Tinker Gray. The story follows their fast forming friendship and adventures with the high society folks. There is so much to enjoy about the book, like the names of the characters (Katey Kontent, Tinker Gray, Eve Ross, Bitsy Houghton, etc.), the clubs, restaurants, and parties, and Katey’s role as an independent, self assured young woman during a time when women were expected to find husbands and start families, not careers.
I couldn’t get over how well written this book is. One of my pet peeves is over-description and use of flowery language; it comes across as trying too hard. Towles has the amazing ability to uniquely describe a scene in detail without going overboard. You’ll feel like you’re there, and what’s really important is it comes across as believable. Here’s on of my favorite passages (there were many):
“As a quick aside, let me observe that in moments of high emotion – whether they’re triggered by anger or envy, humiliation or resentment – if the next thing you’re going to say makes you feel better, then it’s probably the wrong thing to say.”
The Book Club Gals like Rules so much, we decided to go ahead and read another Towles book. Every bit as good, well written, clever, witty, and full of colorful characters as his first book, A Gentleman in Moscow gives us a glimpse into Russian history. This story takes place in Moscow over the span of 30 years, from the 20’s to the 50’s. It’s the story of Count Rostov who lives under house arrest at the Metropol Hotel, stripped of his standing in society after the Russian Revolution. The Count is such a likable character, I think I may have even referred to him as “Distinguished yet adorable.”
This one had a bit of a slow start, but as the other characters in the novel come into play, it picks up color and and becomes more engaging – so much so that by the end it’s impossible to put down. I have to admit that while I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am now a huge fan of Towles, I liked Rules of Civility better. I found the story more interesting, though I found the snippets of Russian history sprinkled throughout this book absolutely fascinating.
I keep hearing terrific things about Educated, but it sounds intense and I’m not sure if that’s what I want to read right now, heading into the holiday season (if that makes sense). These are also on my list of potentials:
How to Walk Away
The Footprints of God
Everything Here is Beautiful
The Life and Death of Sophie Start
What recommendations do you have for winter reading?