I am looking for a fun novel. Any suggestions?
You might try Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold (2001). A pseudo-mystery, accurately set in 1920s San Francisco. Carter, by the way, is a magician.
Or The Yiddish Policemens' Union, by Michal Chabon (2007).
Or, for that matter, Famous Father Girl, by Jamie Bernstein (yes, that Bernstein, only his daughter). 2019, "coincidentally" just in time for Lenny's 100th birthday. It's about growing up privileged and being hopelessly overshadowed by your parent. Even though it's not a novel, more a biography once-removed.
What do you consider fun, Kalleh?
I read a description of a book and it made it sound like a comedy. I laughed once in the book. It was a Pulitzer Price winner, too. The book was titled Less by Andrew Sean Greer. I liked it. It was about a gay man who was turning 50, and whose ex-lover was getting married. He went on a world trip to avoid going to the wedding, and to have a different kind of birthday.
I liked for laughs, Visions of Sugar Plums by Janet Evanovich. It is silly. I don't know what the word count is, but it is closer to a novella than a regular-sized novel. The audio version read by Lorelei King is really good. Yes, Christmas figures significantly in the story, but Stephanie Plum can't seem to get a tree, presents, or Christmas cards mailed. There is a guy that pops into her kitchen who claims to be the "Frickin Spirit of Christmas or could be. I heard there is a vacancy." There is a Sandy Claws who our bounty hunter, Stephanie, is trying to catch, a sister that keeps throwing up, a niece that thinks she is a horse, a grandma that has a new stud muffin, and a toy factory that is hiring little people to pose as elves.
All of the books in the Stephanie Plum series have humor in them, but I come back to this one on a fairly regular basis because I enjoy it so much, --- adolescent humor most probably by me. I am 65 and still growing up.This message has been edited. Last edited by: sattva,
Now that I think of it, one of very few books that made me push back my chair and laugh out loud was The Mysterious Mickey Finn, a murder mystery from the 1920's by Elliott Paul. I think I may have mentioned it here before. (I should go back and read it again now, and see if it still strikes me as being so funny!)
Somehow, I missed this when you posted it. Are these books (If you haven't found homes for them, yet.), audio books? It's a very kind offer. Thank you.
Hab, I am getting it! Sounds wonderful.
Bethree, I mean a book that makes me laugh from time to time. It doesn't have to be totally silly, but funny. For example, while I think Anne Tyler's day-to-day characters are funny, others describe her books as "dark." So - I suppose it's a bit of perspective.
Well I've been reading a collection of Damon Runyan stories. The occasionally racist and always sexist language can be a bit jarring but its a product of its time and he certainly knew how to tell a story.
Yes sattva these are CD audio books-- harder & harder to find these days but I live for them on long car trips & am too low-tech for MP3. Glad to know you are interested. Right now my recent ones are in disarray in the car, but we are coming to end of school yr when I clean out the "traveling classroom." You can PM me your email address: that will remind me to PM you mine, & we can exchange home addresses.
Hey Kalleh, right after you posted this I think I found just the thing for you. For April meeting, my book club read "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" by Maria Semple. She was a standup who became an SNL writer, then a writer for the series "Arrested Development," then a novelist (this is her 2nd). I found it laugh-out-loud hilarious in many passages, but also with interesting characters & poignant in spots. It is partly a send-up of Silicon Valley types, focuses on a mother-daughter relationship, & has interesting art/ architecture & Antarctica info along the way. Caveat: the format is like a modern-day version of an epistolatory novel (emails etc), which was off-putting at first but I adapted quickly-- & the format turns out to be part of the plot.
I found the reading so pleasurable, I immediately ordered her 1st & 3rd [latest] novels. Enjoyed the latest "Today I Will Be Better" very much, tho I think "Bernadette" is better. Haven't started her 1st yet.
I would be happy to put the 2 I've read into the post to you. Just PM me your address.
The Bernadette one is on hold, but I started listening to the Today, I Will Do Better one, and realized that it seemed familiar. Yes, I had listened to it, previously.
I will read it!
I heard about a book about why the rich get richer, which I think is an interesting topic. Unfortunately, I can't remember the title. I'll find out.
I haven't read it, but I am told “Winners Take All” by Anand Giridharadas is an excellent book about the rich in the U.S. Have any of you read it?
Sounds interesting, Kalleh.
Right now I am reading an edition of The Complete Sonnets and Poems of Shakespeare which, very unusual in a work like this, includes a long section on all the poems sometimes attributed to him that he probably didn't write.
I am also dipping in and out of a collection of Damon Runyon stories which are exceedingly well written but contain a lot of casual sexism and racism that is a product of when they were written but does accasionally grate.
I am stalled a little on the translation of Outlaws of the Marsh but hope to get back to it shortly and gave up completely on Paul Theroux's Figures In A Landscape as, while I enjoy his travel writing, I was finding this decidedly hard going.
I also have a pile of books that someone leaving China gave me but I haven't started any of them yet.
And shouldn't forget that for the last week I have read virtually nothing other than old wordcraft threads.
I haven't found anything really appealing to read recently. This is often when I go back and re-read something I liked in the past. However, I, for some reason, started remembering the old black and white movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I watched it for free on Internet Archive. Then, I spent days watching the old tv series on youtube.com. Sometimes, you just want to visit the past.
Sattva, I can relate. I am always recording the PBS "Noir Alley" films to watch at leisure. They were all filmed between a few yrs before I was born & when I was about9yo. I love looking into the past, how everything felt, what the cars & houses and styles were. Most recently I watched "Kansas City Confidential": what a great plot!
I read "Jewel in the Crown" by Paul Scott in April - thought I'd already been there-done that from the '80's mini-series but boy was I wrong. Fascinating read. The prose style is challenging, a bit Henry Jamesian but I enjoy that. There's so much history there that could never be squeezed into film drama. And the whole novel has a real shape/ direction to it. I suppose I will just have to read the rest of the Raj Quartet one day- I'm told the other 3 are equally well-done.
Just finishing up "The Great Trials of Clarence Darrow" (Leopold & Loeb, Scopes "monkey", & Ossian Sweet) by Donald McRae, another great read. I usually have a tough time with non-fiction but this was a page-turner (for me anyway). Amazing how we are currently dealing w/the same cultural schisms 95 yrs later!
I'm looking for a new book. I, too, have trouble with non-fiction, but maybe I'll try the Clarence Darrow book.
This thread is three years old and I'm just now reading it for the first time, so I've got a considerable amount of catching up to do. In order:
Halfway to Hollywood -- Excellent autobiography and apparently the second of a series. I'm looking forward to finding the first one, which covers the pre-movie Monty Python years.
Stranger in a Strange Land -- I totally grokked this novel when I was a teenager and recently added it to my list of books I had to reread.
Multiple books read at the same time? Of course! Some serve different purposes. I read when I eat, but a dinner table book would not serve as a just-before-lights-out bedtime book. And while it may be taking this specialization a bit far, I have another book I only read in my local laundromat while doing my laundry roughly every other week. If any of the other patrons are at all observant, they must think I'm an awfully dim bulb seeing as how I've been working my way through this one book for almost a year now.
One in five Americans can't find the US on a map? As geographically ignorant as the average Yank is, I simply can't believe this. Maybe that figure would be correct if a specific European or Asian country was the one being searched for. Make it South American and the figure would likely jump to three out of five, and Africa four or more.
Janet Evanovich Stephanie Plum books -- A guilty pleasure. Not exactly great literature, and I get the feeling that they're written more for women than for men (dare I use the term "chick lit"?), but you just gotta love the grandmother. I've read the first eight in the series and recently picked up #17 or so to see if, as I fear, they will be getting "same-y" as time goes on.
P. G. Wodehouse Yes, absolutely yes! I dearly love P.G. and as for "I know this will be contentious if our membership includes many of his ardent admirers but how precisely did P.G. Wodehouse get away with writing what amounts to exactly the same story over and over again?" possibly because it's such a great story.
Flashman novels -- Read a couple ages ago but couldn't tell you anything about them today aside from the fact that I enjoyed them. They also should probably be added to my reread list.
To Kill a Mockingbird -- Rightly called one of the greatest novels ever written. More than this, I would say that it is also on a very short list of titles where the movie made from it was as good as the book.
The Help -- I have a copy and it's been on my must-read list for over a year and may be up to around #20 now. I understand that it was recently cited, and not in a favorable way, in our on-going debate over race relations, political correctness, and all that, all of which may serve to bump it up to #12 or higher. I'll get to it eventually.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln -- Read it recently and not only loved it but will say that it changed my opinion of Lincoln very much for the better. I'm not ashamed to say that I have never agreed with the common view that he was one of our top two greatest presidents (historians consistently list him and Washington as either in first or second place). Yes, he held the Union together, but it took him five years to do it. And was this such a great idea in the first place? Had I been alive back in those days, I would have been one of those Northerners (I was born in Connecticut) in favor of a peaceful separation of the two countries. In fact, I'm STILL in favor of it! The red states and the blue states are so dissimilar that we very likely might all be better off after an amicable divorce. Hell, it worked great for Czechoslovakia!
Sattva, your hidden money story hit home but in a good way. I once bought a secondhand hardback book that contained an envelope holding one of those gift cards that when you open them show the face of the president (or whomever) on the bill enclosed in the card. In this case, it was a $100 bill and the recipient had apparently used it for a bookmark! There wasn't enough info to trace either party ("To James from Aunt Mary" or some such) so I spent the $100 (partly on more books, I'm sure) and kept the card tacked up on a bulletin board at home as a reminder that 1. sometimes good things unexpectedly come your way, 2. accidents happen, and 3. stupid people are their own worst punishments.
1984 -- I am proud to be able to say that I was one of the great community theatre Winston Smiths, though our production was not without its flaws. In the scene where I was to be tortured by having a cage full of hungry rats placed over my head, I had pushed for real rats to be used since enough pet rats, all very tame and docile, were available, but I was outvoted. Instead, the director came up with what I thought was an excellent alternative. The cage would contain three large black rubber rats secured to the cage floor and two live hamsters. The scene was dimly lit, so when the cage was placed on my head, the plan was for the lighting man to hit it with a single baby spotlight burst of no more than half a second to startle the hamsters. Combined with my scream, this would get them running around the cage but in the brief time the spotlight was on, all the audience would see would be movement and those three rubber rats. Clever, no? It might have been if the lighting guy hadn't left the light on for two or three seconds. You could almost hear the entire audience saying at one time: "Ha! Hamsters!" Even though they were not at fault, the animals were cut from future performances and, after the show closed, I was awarded the rubber rats.
Oh, and the book was pretty good, too.
A Confederacy of Dunces I hated this book, not because it wasn't well written (it was) but rather that it wasn't nearly as good as the similar, yet tremendously better The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle (who also wrote Doctor Rat, another excellent read) featuring the memorable Horse Badorties. It seems that people who have read both books invariably prefer A Confederacy of Dunces and for the life of me I have never understood why. The Fan Man is one beautiful read.
Well, that's it for today. I'll be back in a day or two with my own recommendations.
CJS, I have listened to all of the Stephanie Plum books. One dialysis nurse and I would always let the other one know when a new book was being released, so we could get on the waiting list for it on our state's digital library. She had a thing for Ranger. I kind of liked the between the number series with Diesel, especially Visions of Sugar Plums. I believe that Janet Evanovich started out writing romances, so there is an element of that in her books.
I love the characters, though. My favorite is also Grandma Mazur. She features prominently in the book mentioned above. I highly recommend the audio version of that one. A few of the early ones were narrated by voices I didn't enjoy. The later ones use Lorelei King as the narrator. I really like her voices. I can recall Grandma Mazur's voice right now as she talks about a man kissing her. Hilarious!
Stephanie Plum and the Agatha Raisin (by M.C. Beaton) series are my go to books when I want something light to read. Both Stephanie and Agatha are flawed. Perhaps, that's part of the appeal.This message has been edited. Last edited by: sattva,
Speaking of her between-the-numbers books, I made it maybe a third of the way through Plum Spooky before putting it down as being not worth my time. If I were a book reviewer known for a sense of cynicism, I might say, "Janet Evanovich's latest novel is plum stupid," and then move on to a more worth-while effort. One of the main sources of comedy, such as it was, involved of a monkey that would repeatedly give folks the finger, over and over. And over! (Such mirth! Such merriment!) Please!
I have, however, added Visions of Sugar Plums to my must-read-when-I-get-around-to-it list.
I love some of your favorites, CJ: Team of Rivals, 1984, The Help and To Kill a Mockingbird. I also loved your story about the $100 bill! It reminded me of the hotel where we stayed in French Lick, IN. It had a library, and people have left notes in the books for others to read - for years. It was so fun reading them.
Will come back to peruse your list & comment soon CJ I promise. At the moment I just have to trumpet the book I just read, "The Story of a Brief Marriage," by Anuk Arudpragasam. Under 200pp and a real winner. Could not possibly compress it here, so read my review at goodreads.com
Wow,CJ, thanks for taking the time to do this!
“Stranger in a Strange Land” – I thought sure I read that in 1970, but a review of plot (wiki) says maybe not? Looks like a great ride; it’s on my list. (Back then I also enjoyed “Andromeda Strain” and the “Dune” series.) Meanwhile, have you read Ursula K LeGuin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness”? I recently re-read it w/my book club [1st time since early ‘70’s], which re-cemented it as my fave ever sci-fi. (Now I have grown-up reasons for liking it!) My fave recent scifi novels are: “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro, and “Station Eleven” by Emily St John Mandel.
I am also a multiple-books-at-one-time reader, &have been since late ‘80’s. Before that, I insisted on finishing every book I started, reading 1 at a time, & had a lot of other strong opinions, e.g., frowned on multiple viewpoints. What changed? Childbirth! My mind was so scattered w/the constant interruptions of 3 kids in 4 yrs, that this onetime bookworm hadn’t been able to read crap. I picked up a book left at curb outside my Bkln brownstone: Joyce Carol Oates’ “Bellefleur.” I had abandoned Oates—my fave for 15 yrs—when she left hard-core realism for new-agey stuff and gothic. Well, “Bellefleur” was gothic, and multiple viewpoints. But the chapters were only 2-3pp long: I put the giant hardcover on the toilet tank, & found I could follow just fine by reading a mini-chapter every time I peed. Realized hormonal changes had gifted me w/permanent ADD, & could thenceforth cover many books at once.
It comes in very handy now, as I like to have books in Spanish & French ongoing to keep up fluency for teaching, plus there’s the monthly club book, plus must have regular diet of mysteries, plus do try to read a non-fiction of topical interest a couple times a year.
Last weekend, I listened to The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I thought I had read it when I was young, but I don't think I did. I did see the 1960 movie. I watched the movie last weekend, too.
Of course, there are problems with the novella and the movie. For instance, can we really believe that a time machine can be built when they don't even have electric lights? In spite of situations that don't seem plausible, I found it chilling. I find it hard to explain why I found it so. Maybe, it was the decline in human civilization/society which seems to be happening all around us (Just think Trump).
It was also interesting to see how the novella and movie differed. I also remember something else that wasn't in either the movie or novella, which makes me wonder if I saw another version of the movie or if they cut something out from the movie I saw, or if it is something someone said to me while watching the movie. It had to do with the 3 books that he was suppose to take back with him into the future to start civilization, again. They mused about what books he might have chosen. When I watched the video last weekend, there was no such discussion. Does anyone remember this?
I saw an ad yesterday for a Bernadette movie. It looks like it is based on the book.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette?This message has been edited. Last edited by: sattva,
Buying books in China is difficult which is one of the reasons for my recent visit to Beijing where there are some bookshops that have books that I actually want to read rather than books that I have no interest in but buy and read because they are all I can get in English. Here is the list of books purchased last week in Beijing, with a couple of explanatory notes.
John Lennon - Skywriting By Word of Mouth
(assorted psychedelic and surreal ramblings)
Akira Yamashita - Sherlock Holmes In Japan
(always up for a new Holmes pastiche)
Ben Elton - Past Mortem
(A decent comedy thriller writer... also wrote Black Adder among other TV)
Sue Townsend - Number Ten
(Another non-Harry Potter by Sue Townsend)
Alex Boese - Elephants On Acid
Alex Boese - Electrified Sheep
(two books about some of the crazier things scientists get up to)
Dick and Felix Francis - silk
(Thriller in the world of horse racing)
Michael Dobbs - To Play The King
(Read House of cards last year and have the third volume, have been looking for this second volume for some time)
Kate Westbrook - The Moneypenny Diaries:Final Fling
(Seems to be a James Bond spin-off, was cheap)
Stephen Donaldson - Against All Things Ending
Alex Bellos - Alex Through The Looking Glass (A maths textbook)
Stephen Fry - More Fool Me
(Volume three of national treasure, Fry's autobiography)
Robin Ince - Bad Books Club
(a book about bad books by a comedian I listen to on Infinite Monkey Cage)
Agatha Christie - The Mysterious Mister Quin
(One of Agatha Christie's lesser known works)
Should keep me going for a while.This message has been edited. Last edited by: BobHale,
Your list of books looks interesting, Bob. I try to find for free where I can, audio books of the ones people mention here that look interesting to me.
I just completed a book by the late Nina Riggs, titled The Bright Hour. It made me laugh and it made me cry. I have read a few books lately that weren't very good, but this one surprised me. It was moving.
As they say, this contains spoilers, specifically forBenElton’s Past Morten which I have just finished. I didn’t care much for it. The basic serial killer plot was ok and a bit reminiscent of the movie Seven but there are multiple problems. The killer is so easy to spot that you wish the detective would go to watch a few episodes of Murder She Wrote. And given that the killer hardly figures in it at all you have to wonder where the detective’s out of the blue solving of the case has come from. I read the chapter where he works it out three times and still couldn’t see what had finally caused him to realize what I had guessed about 200 pages earlier. For me though the most irritating thing was a bit of a throw away element. A rich man supporting a charity said that he would give a million pounds to the billionth pledge. Either the rich man is also a stingy one or the author is bad at maths because if they have 10000 pledges a day, EVERY DAY, they will hit a billion after about 275 years. Even a remarkable 100,000 a day would take more than 27 years. Still bits of it were entertaining so I will give it a generous 4/10
Ps - yes I know there are typos. I am useless typing on a phone
Forgot to mention that I finished the Stephen Fry. The first half is excellent but then he switches to just quoting his old diaries and the rest is terrible. It definitely looks like he was seeking an easy way to reach the word count
The memoir I wrote about in my previous post recommended the book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. I think it is an important book and an interesting read, though I wish somewhere, maybe towards the end or in an appendix, he had put his ideas and thoughts into a more organized plan. Still, it's a book, especially for us older folks, to consider and ponder the material and questions posed.
Well, my Cape Cod reading was true to form: pure fun!
Lee Child: two more Jack Reachers: hubby & I have been reading the series from start to finish. This time it was “The Affair,” and “A Wanted Man.” We are now all the way up to his most recent 3!
Nelson Demille: this author writes mystery thrillers which are well-researched historically. A couple of them have been eerily prescient on matters of terrorism, & a couple are fictionalizations or what-if versions of actual events. I strongly recommend the Jack Corey series (about 5 books, starting with Plum Island). I keep reading more Demille even tho they’re LONG, & protagonists never quite up to the New-Yorky flippancy of Corey [a longtime NYPD detective placed on the NYC terrorism task force post-9/11]. This summer it was “The Charm School” (1988): really good! A ‘what-if?’ spy thriller set in Soviet Union.
And a BUNCH of Scandinavian noirs. “The Chestnut Man” (new) by Soren Sveistrup is not one I’d choose gladly [way too graphic], yet well-plotted. I picked it because there was a Spanish translation available called “El Caso Hartung” to keep up my fluency. Finished off the 5-book Henning Juul series (by Thomas Enger), very well done. Tried out the first two of Ragnar Jonasson’s “Dark Iceland” series – definitely “dark” (tho not gory) police procedurals, & the scenery is incredible: these take place in little villages of the farthest northern glacier-bound area of the country. Hakan Nesser is a terrific writer & I highly recommend his Det Van Veeteren series. I’d read all of those, so embarked on the newer Insp Barbarotti series: not bad. Lars Kepler is another longtime award-winner, & his Joona Linna series is great. But warning: I’d skip “The Stalker” – really over-the-top suspense & gore. Only read it cuz, well, just had to find out how things turned out for Linna.
Our new fave is much easier-going than those Scandinavian detectives; you may know him from the BBC series: Det Alan Banks. Setting is usually prominent & lovely (the Dales, Yorkshire area). Peter Robinson has written tons of these, w/novels published nearly every year from 1987 to 2017.