Friday, November 27, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  With all the Thanksgiving weekend festivities , I know it’s going to be hard to find time to read but winter is coming soon . So my question is- do you have a good series I can begin that will take me through the cold dark months ahead?  Thankful for a Good Book

Dear Thankful,  I have begun a great fifteen book series that Dan DiPietro introduced me to a few weeks ago: Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon .  Gabriel Allon is an Israeli art restorer who travels around the world- quite reluctantly as a spy and sometime assassin.    Each novel deals with a work of art that Gabriel is painstakingly restoring while involved in deadly subterfuge in a brutally unforgiving world.  The series’ recurring  characters are Allon’s  fellow spies all connected to  “The Office”- the Israeli secret intelligence agency. His assignments take him to the capitals of Europe,  and frequently involve Russian counter espionage and Islamic terrorism.  The most fascinating thing I have found about this series is how prescient Silva is about world politics. Events presently unfolding in   Paris, Turkey, Egypt, and Russia have all been foretold in Silva’s novels.   His first book is THE KILL ARTIST and is set in England where the brooding Allon is restoring a Renaissance masterpiece.  He is brought into a deadly fray by his spymaster who reminds him of evils that must be revenged.  A thriller but so much more-  highly recommended!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  What an exciting weekend awaits us- the Great Turkey Himself will be making a return visit to the Sea Cliff Civic Association’s annual Turkey Hunt this Sunday, November 22 at 2pm at Headless Park.  Last year close to 300 turkeys were tracked down and this year it is reported the Amazon delivery included 400 of the little birds.  Before the fun begins, I would like to read a good book that will take me through the upcoming holiday week. Any thoughts?         Great Fan of the Great Turkey

Dear Great Fan of the Great Turkey,  I just finished a truly epic work by the young author Garth Risk Hallberg:  CITY ON FIRE. From the  July 4th celebration of the Bicentennial to  the July 13, 1977 NYC Blackout, we are taken on an affectionate, obsessively  detailed journey through a gritty, crime besieged and drug ridden New York City. At its core this is an old fashioned novel of families: the wealthy Hamilton Sweeneys, the Californian- Vietnamese transplant and her journalist neighbor, the East Village anarchist study group, a punk band, the heroin addicted artist and his young lover from rural Georgia, an aging police inspector and his wife, and finally, Samantha and Charlie, teenagers from Long Island who seek excitement and enlightenment in a city literally on fire.   The story finds its focus early on when Samantha is found near death in Central Park.  The thirty nine characters we meet are all connected in some way to her and to one another and to the City- which is the most colorful and important of this novel’s characters.  Recommended!     

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I have been enjoying the beautiful weather and colorful landscape all this month, but I know winter is on its way. Do you have a book I should have on hand when cold and darkness finally arrive? So Enjoying Autumn

Dear So Enjoying Autumn,  Come every autumn, I begin looking for the latest Grisham novel and this year was no different- right on schedule appeared THE ROGUE LAWYER. Over the years, I have read the thirty or so books John Grisham has written,  and I have enjoyed them all- some more than others.  His last few have been particular favorites of mine.  This latest incorporates many of the same elements of the standard Grisham but with a new twist that works well.  Sebastian Rudd, our rogue lawyer, has no office- his was firebombed earlier so he operates out of a tank like van and his assistant is more a bodyguard than a paralegal. Many of the clients he takes on are guilty of repulsive crimes.  The change from Grisham’s earlier novels is that he presents us with a series of cases covered in short chapters; some are connected, some not- but the result is a fast paced collection of  stories focusing on different legal injustices.  Police brutality, political corruption, jury tampering are just a few of the topics Grisham takes on.  All in all- this novel is a credible entry in the Grisham canon.  Recommended!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I am looking forward to Friday night’s Chill Out event here in Sea Cliff- great music, restaurants, and shops- sounds like the perfect event!  I will have time for some serious reading, and with  the elections just over, I feel inspired to tackle a good political biography.  Any ideas? Chilling Out in Sea Cliff

Dear Chilling Out,  I recently read a fascinating biography: ONE MAN AGAINST THE WORLD –The Tragedy of Richard Nixon- by Tim Weiner.  Weiner has written award winning histories of the FBI and the CIA, and this is another well documented, well written story of paranoia, deception, and loyalty gone awry.  Using recently declassified information, Weiner paints a portrait of a man riddled with insecurities and abated by a cadre of sycophants who undermined our country in a myriad of ways.  The sabotaging of peace talks to defame Lyndon Johnson and prevent Hubert Humphrey’s election, the bombing of civilians in Hanoi, the attacks on neutral Cambodia, the sale of ambassadorships, and his original  claims that the CIA had masterminded the Watergate break-ins are all described in compelling detail and substantiated by oral recordings from the State Department, journalists, memoirists, and-  most damningly- Nixon himself.   For many, Nixon is seen as a complicated, tragic figure whose greatest crime was the botched Watergate break-in.  Weiner refutes this by showing us a man whose crimes were far, far worse than imagined. The lives ruined, the lives lost, the lasting damage to our democracy are presented here, and the lasting tragedy as it turns out  is not Nixon’s, but ours.