Reading Log: July 2020

Books acquired: “Extra Innings,” Tim Madigan

Books read: “Death in Venice,” Thomas Mann; “Bring Up the Bodies,” Hilary Mantel; “Written in My Soul,” Bill Flanagan; “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said,” Philip K. Dick; “Crime and Punishment,” Fyodor Dostoevsky; “The Prisoner,” “Camp Concentration,” Thomas M. Disch

We’ve entered the dog days of August, so put your cat clothes on as we discuss whatever we read in July. In my case, I finished seven books, the titles of which form almost the outlines of a narrative of death, exhumation, spirits, police and the correctional arm. Crime and punishment, you might say. I kind of wish I hadn’t read Kafka’s “The Trial” a year ago or that would have slotted right in.

In point of fact, none of these books have very much to do with each other. They comprise, in order, a book of literary short stories, a novel of historical fiction, a collection of interviews with singer-songwriters, a science fiction novel, a classic Russian novel, a TV tie-in novel and another science fiction novel.

Now, let’s hustle to the scene of the crime:

“Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories” (1903): These eight stories (ranging from 28 to 75 pages) are all at least interesting, and very good in the case of the unsettling title novella. Mann’s carefully wrought prose reminds me of Henry James, a writer who’s easier to admire than warm to, and the almost dialogue-free prose requires concentration. While some stories are borderline pretentious, there’s also “A Man and his Dog,” about just that, and as detailed a character portrait of a canine as you’re likely to find outside of Jack London.

“Bring Up the Bodies” (2012): The Cromwell saga continues, and Thomas More, whose death ended the first book, casts a moral shadow over this one, as Cromwell begins to slide into villain territory. This saga won’t end well. But the middle book is as gripping as the first, and shorter besides. As an audiobook, Simon Vance’s reading is fine but to me doesn’t have the range of Simon Slater’s work on Book 1.

“Written in My Soul: Rock’s Great Songwriters Talk About Creating Their Music” (1986): Thoughtful Q&As with singer-songwriters out of the rock (not pop or soul) tradition. Overwhelmingly male and white, true, and some of the choices (Mark Knopfler, Rickie Lee Jones, Lowell George) haven’t stood the test of time. But Flanagan gets illuminating answers from people as disparate as Carl Perkins, Elvis Costello and Joni Mitchell, and Dylan gives one of his better interviews.

“Crime and Punishment” (1866): It’s vile, it’s nonsense, I spit on it! Just kidding; those are Russian idioms that pop up frequently. I was surprised how compelling, odd and moving this intimidatingly hefty novel is. The murders take place early on and we know who did it and why. Why is there another 400 pages? Just ask police detective Porfiry Petrovich, an antecedent of Lt. Columbo, who likes to pretend to be mixed up.

“Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said” (1974): In a near-future police state America, popular TV entertainer Jason Taverner is attacked, goes to the hospital and wakes up in a shabby hotel room, soon realizing his identity cards are missing and no one has ever heard of him. The eventual explanation for what happened isn’t entirely satisfying, and the attack was a MacGuffin. But this is one of PKD’s better novels, layered and compelling. The policeman’s tears are important too.

“The Prisoner” (1969): A paperback original based on the cult TV series, this was a lark for a writer of Disch’s ambition. (It’s said he needed the quick payment.) The result is a slightly arty TV novelization, or an almost mainstream Disch novel. Fifty years on, it remains the Disch book most likely to be found at a used bookstore. The story is enjoyable, starting at the beginning of Number Six’s imprisonment (or does it?) and wrapping up in a satisfying way that reveals the identity of Number One (possibly?). Elusive and playful.

“Camp Concentration” (1967): Written as journal entries, this is about a plush prison for unwitting patients in a military experiment that boosts their intelligence (hence the title pun) but ultimately kills them. Supposedly they’re there to come up with better ways to kill the enemy, but mostly they put on plays, quote poetry and practice alchemy. Is this a great novel? Er, maybe? Erudite, mannered, Disch just leaves me cold.

Best of the month was “Crime and Punishment,” with “Bring Up the Bodies” and “Written in My Soul” both close seconds in their own disparate ways. The others were enjoyable, with “Camp Concentration” the one I didn’t care much for.

That’s a small story in itself. Confronted by nine titles by Disch in the science fiction section of an excellent used bookstore in Goleta, Paperback Alley, in 2013, I bought eight of them on faith, knowing Disch’s reputation and knowing his books are hard to find. By this point I’ve read five of the eight and candidly didn’t much like any of them. Gong! I’m keeping an unread best-of story collection but am ditching the other two (and one bought elsewhere). He’s just not the writer for me.

Where’d this month’s books originate? Mann was bought circa 1982 in Illinois somewhere, “Tears” may date to the late 1980s (but I can’t remember), “Soul” from Amoeba Music in 2002, “Crime” from Vroman’s in 2006, “Prisoner” and “Camp” from Paperback Alley in 2013, and “Bodies” was checked out from the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library in June.

How was your July, readers? Let us know in the comments. To skip this month’s comments would be…a crime.

Next month: Shakespeare, plus baseball.

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  • DebB

    I only managed one this month, but it was a pretty good one: “In Farleigh Field” by Rhys Bowen.

    During WWII, a paratrooper whose ‘chute failed to open is found dead on the grounds of Farleigh Place where his regiment is billeted. But no one is missing from his regiment and his uniform is all wrong so it’s decided that he’s a spy.

    Enter handsome neighbor, unfit for war, thought to be “something in the Home Office”, as they say. Except that he’s actually MI5 and he’s investigating a spy ring in the area.

    Also enter elder daughter of the ancestral family that owns and lives at Farleigh. Everyone thinks she’s working as a lowly secretary, but she’s actually a code-breaker at Bletchly Park and she has discovered something that might lead to said spy ring.

    Left hand not know what right hand is doing, it takes awhile for MI5 and code-breaker to get together and work to solve the puzzle. And get romantic, of course, although that really is a very minor part of the plot.

    Overall I found it engrossing and interesting, and rewarding in that I had the spy pegged before the reveal (but not early enough to ruin the story for me). As I said, just the one, but a good one!

    • davidallen909

      That’s the best time to figure out the solution — shortly before the reveal, so you feel the glow of satisfaction but haven’t spoiled anything for yourself. (I almost never figure anything out, btw.) This sounds like the opposite of a locked-room mystery: an open-field mystery!

    • Terri Shafer

      Deb, I love to learn about the things that happened at Bletchly Park! That was all so interesting. I bet that was a good book 🙂

  • Doug Evans

    I read five!

    “The Doomsters” by Ross Macdonald (1958). The seventh in the Lew Archer private eye series, and I can’t describe it any better than Wikipedia, so I’ll just quote from that: “Many sources agree that this book marked a turning point in the series, wherein Macdonald abandoned his imitations of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett and found his own voice. It also marks Lew Archer as a man more interested in understanding the criminal than in catching him.” True enough, Wikipedia!

    “The 1989 Annual World’s Best SF” edited by Donald A. Wollheim (1989). A fun impulse purchase a while back (I believe from Magic Door Used Books, but I type that every month, and I can’t have gotten every book I own from there). Of note: Wollheim was too ill to write the introduction to this one, so he had his friend Isaac Asimov step in and take his place. (Asimov spends the whole intro talking about Wollheim’s life and their friendship and devotes zero space to the stories in the book, leading me to believe he didn’t actually read any of them. It’s all good!) Wikipedia tells me that Wollheim was back for the 1990 edition but, sadly, died before he could produce a 1991 volume (and the series died with him).

    “The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay That Became the Classic Star Trek Episode” by Harlan Ellison (1996). A present from David! I read this book back when it was first published and gave it away some time after; David read this seven years ago and in a recent book-cleaning-out asked if I’d like it. So I read it again! Ellison spends the first 73 pages ranting about how Star Trek ruined his original script and his strong (as in, strongly negative) feelings about Star Trek and its creators and how he’d been treated by them. With some justification! But 73 pages is long time to type out your gripes. I saw on Goodreads that David gave this book (the very same copy I was reading!) two stars, for valid reasons. I ended up giving it four: three because it is a good script (so is the aired version that Ellison hated so much) and because Ellison’s ranting, though unfocused and honestly a bit childish, is always entertaining; and the fourth star because: Star Trek.

    David’s original Reading Log post of the same book!

    http://www.insidesocal.com/davidallen/2014/01/06/reading-log-december-2013/

    “Heart of Darkness and Tales of Unrest” by Joseph Conrad (1899/1898). Inspired both by my having read two Conrad books the previous two months and by the fact that this was a pity purchase earlier this summer from a used bookstore in Carlsbad. The owner had just recently re-opened under quarantine rules, was very angry about the fact that he’d had to close in the first place, and had plenty of hand-written signs around the place to make sure we knew it (“Bookstores are essential businesses!”). I have mixed feelings about the re-opening of businesses and how quickly we did it, but on the other hand, I don’t want to see small business owners go out of business. Anyway: there I was in the bookstore, feeling bad for the guy, so I grabbed a book and purchased it and this was it. (I was halfway through Lord Jim at the time, so Conrad was on my mind.) I have read and already own a copy of “Heart of Darkness,” but I hadn’t read it since college, so it was nice to read it again, especially without having to worry about having to write a paper about it afterward. Well, except for the Reading Log, I guess. And I hadn’t read any of the five stories in the “Tales of Unrest” portion of the book. They were good!

    “Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer” by Joseph Conrad (1899/1909). So, after reading “Heart of Darkness” in the above book, I pulled this one off my bookshelf and re-read “The Secret Sharer,” having previously read it in college times as well. I remembered really enjoying “The Secret Sharer,” and I was right. I have reached the conclusion that Conrad is most easily read in novella or short story form. The two novels that I read in May and June (“Lord Jim” and “Nostromo”) were also great, but man, it takes Conrad a long time to make a point. Everything David said above about Thomas Mann applies to Conrad when he’s writing a novel. I became a huge Conrad fan in college, although I haven’t read much by him since until this year, and my reading this month reminded me why I had felt that way.

    And, what the heck: I effectively read two novellas and a collection of short stories, but since the versions I read were published in two separate books, that’s how I’m counting them for this Log.

    I’ve read three of David’s books! “Crime and Punishment,” “Bring up the Bodies,” and “Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said,” and I own “Death in Venice” and would very much like to cross it off my to-read list someday, though the description above makes me hesitate a little. Next month: a whole bunch of books I’ve already read, but which have follow-up books I’m hoping to read, so I’m going back in time to refresh myself on what’s happened (looking at you, Hilary Mantel). Till then, stay safe and happy reading, everybody!

    • davidallen909

      Thank you for turning in your “paper,” i.e., your Reading Log comment, in a timely fashion, Doug. [places star by Doug’s name]

      I was at a Barnes & Noble on Sunday and checked out the Conrad books. One was Heart of Darkness and Secret Sharer, with bonus story Amy Foster. I considered messaging you, suggesting you rush out and buy it, read the 20-page Amy Foster and count this as a third book. Might have been pushing things. (The other Conrad books: Lord Jim, Nostromo, Secret Agent.)

      Perhaps it’s wise to hesitate over Thomas Mann, although given that my 2-star Ellison book got 4 stars from you, it would not surprise me to see my 3-star Death in Venice get 5 stars from you. Well, actually that would surprise me. But you might give it 4 stars.

      Interesting about The Doomsters, the seventh book, being in some sense a good place to start. I see via Wikipedia that the series is 18 books long, giving you 11 more to read. Hope they’re all or mostly all strong!

      • Doug Evans

        For years, I thought “The Secret Sharer” and “The Secret Agent” were the same book, so every time I saw “The Secret Agent” mentioned somewhere, I’d think, “Oh, yeah, I read that.” Turns out I haven’t. Maybe someday, but as I alluded to above, I’ll be giving Conrad’s novels a break for a while. (Haven’t read or heard of Amy Foster! At 20 pages, maybe that can be my next Conrad.)

        And now our universes come full circle: in the Dec. 2013 Reading Log I link to above, which has your comments on “The City on the Edge of Forever,” you also talk about “The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson,” late critic of Rolling Stone, compiled by Nelson’s biographer Kevin Avery. And I was just now re-reading the Wikipedia post on Ross Macdonald’s “The Doomsters,” and one of the references cited at the bottom is… well, here, take a look:

        https://www.amazon.com/Its-All-One-Case-Illustrated/dp/1606998889/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=It%27s+All+One+Case%3A+The+Illustrated+Ross+Macdonald+Archives&qid=1596585470&sr=8-1

        Note the co-writers. (And as you mention in that long-ago Log, if you hadn’t happened to read “Chronic City” by Jonathan Lethem the same month, the two books might not have had as much meaning for you. If I hadn’t clicked on that “Doomsters” article, after having read your 12/13 Log, after having read your copy of “City”… Will the December ’13 Reading Log ever stop haunting us??)

        • davidallen909

          Everything is connected! I just went back to read the section of the book about Nelson that talks about Macdonald. Said he spent the better part of a month with him but felt he couldn’t write a good piece because he was forbidden to talk about Macdonald’s daughter’s death, which Nelson thought was crucial. So he didn’t write anything until after Macdonald’s death, when he wrote an obituary for Rolling Stones, and sold his interview tapes to UC Irvine’s Macdonald archive after deciding he was incapable of putting the proper energy into a Macdonald book. Nice to see that the transcripts have been published, and by Fantagraphics, usually the publisher of comics.

    • Doug Evans

      I realize, by the way, that I talked on and on about the five books I read last month, and didn’t bother to write anything about what actually happens in any of the books. So, for the sake of future David Allen Reading Log historians:

      “The Doomsters”: a young escapee from a mental asylum hires Lew Archer to investigate the deaths of his parents, only to become the prime suspect in another murder when his older brother is killed. Archer isn’t so sure he did it.

      “The 1989 Annual World’s Best SF”: Eleven of the best short science fiction stories of that year. The first story, David Brin’s “The Giving Plague,” was about a plague, the second, Stephen Gould’s “Peaches for Mad Molly,” was about the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the third, John Shirley’s “Shaman,” was about a race war. Thank goodness that future never came to pass!

      “The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay That Became the Classic Star Trek Episode”: Kirk and Spock chase a renegade crewman to 1930s New York to prevent a disaster that will wipe out the universe. Ellison’s original script has Kirk giving up the universe to save the woman he loves; the aired version has Kirk sacrificing his lover to save the universe, which is probably a better ending if we’re supposed to tune in the next week and still respect the guy.

      “Heart of Darkness”: Conrad’s most famous story, in which our man Marlow heads upriver into the deepest Congo (never mentioned by name in the story!) to find out what has happened to company representative Kurtz. Spoiler: nothing good.

      “Tales of Unrest”: Conrad’s first book of short stories, set both on sea and at land. I liked the ones at sea, but maybe the most devastating (if wordiest) is “The Return,” in which a London businessman comes home from work to find his wife has left him, which is bad, only to have her return in an attempt to work things out, which is worse.

      “The Secret Sharer”: a favorite from my college years. A young, untried sea captain finds a stowaway wanted for killing a mutinous member of his own crew; the captain helps the stowaway evade his searchers, and the stowaway helps the captain find his strength and earn the respect of his crew. Exciting stuff!

    • Terri Shafer

      I agree with you, Doug. I think Mann and Conrad are better taken in small bites. I like the short stories, but am dragging my feet reading either of these authors’ longer writings :/

      • Doug Evans

        Yes! Like I think I said somewhere on here, I’m going to give Conrad a break for a bit, but I hope to read “Death in Venice” sometime soon, especially since David just read it. I’m sure reading more by both authors would be rewarding, but… so many books, so little time!

        • Terri Shafer

          I know!! At least Death in Venice isn’t very long (160 pgs).
          And, I wanted to mention that I’m going to try to get to Rabbit is Rich in August. I hope it goes well for me. I think you said it might have been your favorite in the series. Fingers crossed! 😉

          • davidallen909

            My copy of Death in Venice is 400 pages. It’s officially Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories.

          • Terri Shafer

            I wondered why your book looked so thick! I give you extra credit for reading all those stories after Death in Venice 😉

  • Rinaldo Darke

    Hi, David

    I read two books in July.
    Really – I read one and listened to another on Audiobook.

    “The Nature of the Beast” by Louise Penny 5*****
    is the eleventh in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. A true life character, Gerald Bull, who constructed giant guns, and a fictional serial killer from the Chief Inspector’s past meet up. And Bull’s (fictional) biggest and best giant gun is found in the woods near Three Pines, the semi-mythical town where most of the series takes place and where Gamache now lives. Louise Penny is a regular on the bestseller lists and this is another good one.

    “The Ambler Warning” by Robert Ludlum 4****
    I am not a fan of Ludlum but I got the audiobook as a hand-me-down and decided to go for it. It was surprisingly enjoyable as an audiobook, It is about a secret agent who’s memory has been messed with and who escapes from a CIA detention center for crazy ex-spies.

    • davidallen909

      I wonder why Ludlum “sounded” better than he reads? Is it you, and this time, or was it him, and something about his prose? I haven’t read him or listened to him so it’s purely an academic question, and one we’ll probably never know the answer to.

      • Rinaldo Darke

        I think it is partly a good narrator and partly (as in the movies) the go-go action takes over and doesn’t let you think about the stupid sub-plots.

        • Terri Shafer

          I think a good reader makes all the difference, Rinaldo! But a bad one can really break a book too. So I try to be careful when choosing an audio book. If I don’t like the reader, I just have to read it myself! 🙂

  • Hugh C. McBride

    I only added one book to my list in July, but it was a powerful one: HABEN: THE DEAFBLIND WOMAN WHO CONQUERED HARVARD LAW by Haben Girma.

    This memoir/autobiography traces Ms. Girma’s life from her childhood in Oakland through college & Harvard Law & into her career as a disability rights lawyer & advocate. It’s a testament to one woman’s indefatigable efforts, the power of a supportive community & adaptive technology, and the life-affirming impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

    • davidallen909

      Thank you, Hugh. I suspect most of us did not realize in 1990 just how important the Americans With Disabilities Act would prove, or how long it would take to fully implement, a process that remains ongoing. But elevators, wider aisles, ramps and more have benefited millions, including seniors.

  • Terri Shafer

    You read some good ones last month, David — and so many!
    I have read “Death in Venice” and “Crime and Punishment” but I have not tried any of Hilary Mantel yet. I may have to add her to my list. I know she’s really popular right now.

  • Terri Shafer

    I read several this month (what’s new?!) . I wasn’t going to write too much about them, but then I saw Doug’s post and I didn’t feel so bad, and I just kept writing! However, I may have gone a little overboard. Thanks, Doug! Sorry, David 😉
    I tried to organize them because I had several in each category. So…. Here we go!

    Children’s Books:
    Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judy Barrett, 1982, 32 pages, 3***s – Just a funny premise! In real life I think it would be pretty messy!

    The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall, 2015, 288 pages, 4****s – This is our One Book/One Community book this year — a middle grade book about a young boy who loses his father, but learns some important life lessons from an unlikely source, the local junk man.

    The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate, 2020, 320 pages, 4****s — So cute! This was a fun and heartwarming story narrated by a dog. What could be more enjoyable?! 😉

    Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, 2009, 278 pages, 4****s — This is very much a Chinese fairy tale with dragons and magic, and many stories put together to teach a lesson about ‘thankfulness.’ I liked it a lot!

    Classics:
    The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, 1940, 247 pages, 4****s — I had been meaning to read this one for awhile — I even started it once years ago but didn’t get very far (I think I knew enough from seeing some clips of the old Henry Fonda movie that it was not going to be a happy story!). But I’m glad I finally read it. It is a powerful book about how the influence of a “group” can manipulate individuals and how they react in a situation. Are you willing to step out from what “the group” is doing and stand up for what you think is right — even if you’re the only one? Wow, that hits hard! –and kind of goes along with some things that are happening right now.
    It is a sad book, but it really packs a punch! Yes, it is in a western setting, but I wouldn’t call it a typical cowboy western. Go into this one knowing you will come out having had to do some thinking…..

    A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe, 1722, 336 pages, 3***s — This is a “fictionalized account” of the plague 1665. It is a little like reading a history book (I read it for a Goodreads group read. I didn’t love it, but I’m sure it was good for me.). It was amazingly similar to today’s pandemic. As a people, we really haven’t changed that much :/

    The Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton, 1922, 272 pages, 4****s – I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Edith doesn’t usually write “happy” books, but, not to spoil anything, this one turned out the way I wanted it to 🙂

    Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, 1601, 272 pages, 3***s – Another Shakespeare marked off my list!

    Good Fiction:
    Straight Man by Richard Russo, 1997, 391 pages, 4****s – I recommend this one to you, David. I really enjoyed it! I liked the way it was written. I liked the humor. It is set on a college campus and the main character is the head of the English Department, and things aren’t going well. I just liked it!

    Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden, 1982, 234 pages, 3***s – I read this for my GR Bingo Challenge as a “banned book.” Very interesting. Pretty bold for 1982.

    Nonfiction:
    On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, 1999, 320 pages, 5*****s — This is an excellent book by Stephen King. He first gives a short memoir of his life and his beginnings in writing. He even talks about the accident in 1999 where he was hit by a car. This was not very long before the book was published! So it was very recent to his telling.
    Then the second half of the book is a detailed description of how to become a good writer: from how much time to spend writing each day and where to get, and how to use, ideas for stories, to how to use language and grammar, and how to get your writing out there for people to read (listing specific writers’ magazines and how to write a letter to get their attention on your work). It seemed like very helpful information for anyone who is really trying to get into the writing business!
    Now — this book was published in 1999, and I kept wishing that there was an update of some kind — well, there is. I actually listened to the audio book, which was read by Stephen King (wonderful!). It turned out that it was the “Twentieth Anniversary Edition with Contributions from Joe Hill and Owen King”! So Owen spoke a little bit about his dad and becoming a writer himself. Then there was an hour of Joe and Stephen talking in front of 800 people in 2019. It was very casual. They each read from each other’s books and then they talked of their family, their writing styles, what inspired them to become writers, and also how they inspired each other — and they ribbed each other a lot! It was so much fun to listen to them; you could tell they were having a good time!
    So…. I recommend this book to everyone, not just aspiring writers, but I highly recommend listening to the audio book. I think it adds so much to the experience. I hope you love it as much as I did!

    I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott, 2019, 288 pages, 4****s — I so enjoyed these essays on Mary Laura Philpott’s life, as she told about growing up, finding a career, getting married, having children, going through a time of depression, and working through the many complications of life. It was happy, sad, and enlightening. I enjoyed it a lot! I know she continues to write, I just hope she writes a book!! I’d love to read it.

    I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, 2012, 327, 4****s — What an amazing story! What an amazing girl!

    Themes and Variations by David Sedaris, 2020, 18 pages, 5*****s – I just love David Sedaris and his writing and humor. I’m so glad Rinaldo recommended this to me last month!

    In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson, 2000, 335 pages, 5*****s — I really enjoyed the education and the entertainment of this book! I feel as if I’ve just returned from a trip to Australia having seen all of the most interesting sights on offer, without all the time and effort to get there! The history and descriptions were wonderful. The only thing is that the book is now about 20 years old. I would like some updates as to changes and discoveries in Australia recently. It needs a sequel! 🙂
    I highly recommend this book — especially if you enjoy Bill Bryson and his style of humor. It made the book for me!

    Fluff (but very enjoyable!):
    500 Miles from You by Jenny Colgan, 2020, 432 pages, 4****s – Two nurses, and man and a woman, trade jobs in London and a small village in Scotland and then compare locations and medical scenarios. And, oh yes, there is some romance involved. It was fun and easy 🙂

    Bear Necessity by James Gould-Bourn, 8-4-20, 320 pages, 4****s – This was an early read for NetGalley. It was so much fun! It was also sad, heartwarming, hilarious, a little crazy, but in the end very satisfying. The author’s sense of humor comes through loud and clear throughout the whole book. I loved it!
    It is about Danny, whose wife died in a car accident one year ago, and about Will, Danny’s eleven-year-old son, who hasn’t spoken for one year, since his mother died.
    Danny is getting by the best that he can, being a single father, getting over his own grief, and dealing with Will who won’t speak because of his grief. There are many parts of this story including Will getting bullied at school, and Danny losing his construction job. But the fun begins when Danny, finding no other jobs available, becomes a street performer, a “dancing panda bear”! But the story becomes even more interesting when, Will, not knowing that his father has “changed” jobs, begins speaking for the first time in a year – to the panda bear! – not knowing it is his dad. And then the fun begins!

    Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, 9-8-20, 352 pages, 4****s – This was another early read for NetGalley.
    I was so excited to read Fredrik Backman’s new book, since I have read many of his and was excited to be lead into a new adventure created by his brilliant mind. And I was not disappointed!
    It is a tale of a bank robber who accidentally stumbles into an apartment viewing (while trying to avoid the police) and then accidentally takes a group of people hostage.
    What next?
    How does the bank robber handle this situation?
    How do the hostages handle this situation?
    How do the police handle this situation?
    Well…. It’s a pretty complicated, entertaining, and heartwarming story. And it was a lot of fun to read by an author that I always enjoy!

    Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern, 2018, 368 pages, 4****s — A heartwarming story about damaged people who learn that they still need other people.
    A little sad, but mostly light and sweet, and sometimes funny. I enjoyed it a lot!

    • davidallen909

      That’s…a lot of books. But thank you for taking the time to list them and comment on them!

      I enjoyed In a Sunburned Country quite a bit too. And I see you were a month ahead of me on Shakespeare. I’m finishing up his poetry and hope to get to a couple of plays as, like you, I slowly make my way through his work. I read Twelfth Night about three years ago.

      • Terri Shafer

        I’m not a big Shakespeare fan, but there are some that I think I should read. This month I’m trying to get to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I just watched the 1935 movie (with Mickey Rooney – age 15!, Jimmy Cagney, and Olivia de Havilland – who just died in July at age 104!!) and it is a hoot! Next I’m going to read a summary and then listen to Ian McKellan read it. I have to really study because I can’t always understand what’s going on with Shakespeare — wish me luck! 😉

        • davidallen909

          I’ve seen a play performed and had trouble following it, as the dialogue moved too fast. An audio version would be the same for me. I like reading them because I can pause to puzzle it out, and check the footnotes that explain some of the terms.

          • Terri Shafer

            That’s probably a good idea.
            You’re right, it really is a crazy story. The movie was nuts! You should see Mickey Rooney screaming and laughing as Puck — it was almost embarrassing. Of course, it was 1935. Their expectations of movies were probably a little different than ours 😉

          • davidallen909

            I’ve seen it, and yeah, Mickey is SO over the top. He didn’t tone it down much as an adult either.

    • Doug Evans

      Hokey smoke, 19 books? A friend of mine is proud of having read 24 so far this year, and you’ve done almost that in a month. (I made sure to modestly tell my friend that I’m up to 32.) Of yours, I’ve read “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (to my daughter), “The Ox-bow Incident” (in high school), “Twelfth Night” (in college), “On Writing,” “I am Malala,” and I own “In a Sunburned Country” but haven’t read it yet. I read “The Age of Innocence” by Edith Wharton last year, and I own a copy of “Ethan Frome,” but I hadn’t heard of “The Glimpses of the Moon” until now. Congrats on a successful month!

      • Terri Shafer

        Wow, Doug! You’ve read a lot of them!
        I also hadn’t heard of “The Glimpses of the Moon” but a friend on GR recommended it and I was pleasantly surprised.
        AND you should definitely read “In a Sunburned Country.” I thought it was very good!