31 July 2010

Books, Books, Books...

I’ve picked up and put down a surprising number of books this summer.

Some I read all the way through and enjoyed, but so far they haven’t made it into this show. Others trailed off at various places... the book was disappointing, not what I wanted at the moment. Or simply not engaging enough to compete with all the other books clamoring for attention.

I had high hopes for the latest Alan Furst novel, “Spies of the Balkans.” Furst has supplied many hours of intensely enjoyable reading in his previous works, all set in Europe in the years before World War II.

“Spies of the Balkans” resembles these, but it’s as if Furst took this one off, as the great composer Beethoven was known to do. Someone once pointed out that Beethoven’s even-numbered symphonies tend to be less fraught and majestic than the odd-numbered ones.

In this latest Furst, set in Salonika, Greece in 1940, Costa Zannis, policeman in charge of “special” cases too delicate for ordinary police treatment, gets involved with a woman helping Jews escape from Berlin. This leads to fear and suspense, good vs. evil, and the usual assembly of flawed characters.

It adds up to... well, an interesting book. But I’ve come to expect more from Alan Furst – novels crafted so intriguingly well they equal the best of the genre, from John LeCarre to Graham Greene.

“The Cello Suites, J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, & the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece” will interest a broad range of music lovers. Eric Siblin has done original research on the history of these Suites for Solo Cello, and discovered a world known previously mostly to scholars. If this book is for you, you’ll know it the moment you spot the beautiful cello embossed on a black jacket.

I tried, I really tried, to get through “The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,” a novel set in coastal Japan, 1799, as seen through the adventurous eyes of a Dutch trader. It’s well written, dense. Fans of highly literate historical novels will spend many happy hours diving into this nearly 500-page book, even if I didn’t.

“Seaside Dream Home Besieged” is the combative personal story of how a new home on a bluff near the town of Elk in Mendocino county came finally to be constructed. Author Ted Berlincourt and his wife Margie fought six years through county and state agencies and stiff local opposition for the right to build. It’s a necessarily one-sided view of a struggle that years later still has people not talking to each other. Those who opposed the construction have yet to write their side of the story as convincingly. In the meantime, “Seaside Dream Home Besieged” is compelling documentation of convoluted coastal politics.

That leaves a tasty pile of books I can’t wait to dive into. Jonathan Franzen, author of “The Corrections” will publish his novel “Freedom” in September. Then there’s another large one, “The Passage” by Justin Cronin, which appears to be just the kind of thriller I’m looking for this summer.

“A Truth Universally Acknowledged, 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen,” edited by Susannah Carson, is the perfect accompaniment to “Pride & Prejudice” which I’m currently reading at the rate of one short email a week, provided by Daily Lit dot com.

Right now I am reading “The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge” by Patricia Duncker. Others awaiting their turn include “In the Shadow of the Cypress” by Thomas Steinbeck,“A Life Worth Breathing, A Yoga Master’s Handbook of Strength, Grace, and Healing” by Max Strom, and “The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing” by Tarquin Hall.

Not to mention some used books I picked up recently: Michael Chabon’s “The Final Solution,” “HarperCollins College Outline: Music Theory” and “Wagstaffe the Wind-up Boy” given to me in person by English writer and friend, Jan Needle.

Need I say more? It’s time to read a book!


“Spies of the Balkans” by Alan Furst. Random House hard cover $26. ISBN 9781400066032.

“The Cello Suites” by Eric Siblin. Atlantic Monthly Press hard cover $24. ISBN 9780802119292.

“The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet” by David Mitchell. Random House hard cover $26. ISBN 9781400065455.

“Seaside Dream Home Besieged” by T. G. Berlincourt. Trafford Publishing paperback $19.99.
ISBN 9781426904783.

“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen. Farrar, Straus & Giroux hard cover $28. ISBN 9780374158460. Publication date September, 2010.

“The Passage” by Justin Cronin. Ballantine Books hard cover $27. ISBN 9782345504968.

“A Truth Universally Acknowledged, 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen” edited by Susannah Carson. Random House hard cover $25. ISBN 9781400068050.

Daily Lit   “Minutes a day of great reading in your inbox-100% free!”

“In the Shadow of the Cypress, A Novel” by Thomas Steinbeck. Simon & Schuster hard cover $25. ISBN 9781439168257.

“The Strange Case of the Composer and His Judge” by Patricia Duncker. Bloomsbury USA paperback $15. ISBN 9781608192038.

“A Life Worth Breathing, A Yoga Master’s Handbook of Strength, Grace, and Healing” by Max Strom. Skyhorse Publishing hard cover $24.95. ISBN 9781602399808.

“The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing” by Tarquin Hall. Simon & Schuster hard cover $24. ISBN 9781416583691.

“Wagstaff the Wind-up Boy” by Jan Needle, illustrated by Roy Bently. Back to Front paperback $12.99. ISBN  9781904529415.

One of the best sources to search used book titles and purchase them is ADDall  (“Book Search and Price Comparison – Be smart: don't buy any book without comparing the price.”   You also can also use them to search for new books.

The used books mentioned above were purchased at Eureka Books in Old Town, Eureka, California.   “...one of the last classic antiquarian bookstores on the West Coast, offering books and ephemera in all fields and price ranges.”

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