Monday, February 22, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, In the depths of winter, my thoughts turn to summer, sunny beach days and – yes - a good beach read.  I’m thinking of something quick, with colorful characters, a familiar setting, and fun to read. Any thoughts?   A Devoted Beach Book Reader

Dear Devoted Beach Book Reader, No need to wait for summer - a good beach read is a treasure any time of year and here’s one you might enjoy: COBBLE HILL by Cecily von Ziegesar.  Cobble Hill is a neighborhood in downtown Brooklyn and home to the four families highlighted in this novel. They include a former rock star and his wife who pretends to be gravely ill; a flirtatious school nurse and her struggling musician husband; a mysterious performance artist and her inventor husband; and a bestselling British author struggling with a bad case of writer’s block and his high-power executive wife who is about to lose her job.  We follow these four couples and their children through a tumultuous year marked by arson, infidelities, cyber mischief, and multiple romances - all set against a Brooklyn Brownstone backdrop. The lives of all these characters intersect in complicated and humorous ways. But in the end, we realize the most endearing and enduring character is the quirky, picturesque  neighborhood of Cobble Hill


Monday, February 15, 2021

Dear Great Book Guru, We have just had an interesting week of holidays: Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, and Mardi Gras. Yes… all in one week!  Now that the festivities are winding down, I am looking for a novel - one with a good story line, generations of characters, and a lovely setting.  Any ideas?   Happy Holiday Enthusiast

Dear Happy Holiday Enthusiast, A long time ago I read a book that I enjoyed immensely and meets all your criteria: FAMILY ALBUM by Penelope Lively. The story opens in the present time as a young couple drive up to Allersmeade - a lovely somewhat shabby Edwardian family home outside London. They are greeted by Alison and Charles - parents of six grown children, each with an interesting story. Always present, always in the background is the family au pair/housekeeper, Ingrid. The story line swings back from present to past and back again many times.  We are there when Alison and Charles meet and decide to marry. We are present at the many elegant family parties Alison orchestrates, and we are there when the secrets that color the family ‘s history are finally revealed.  Throughout, we have Allersmeade - and Alison’s dream of a perfect home for the perfect family – obviously, the recipe for the perfect nightmare.  This is a fast weekend read, but a story you will find hard to forget. Highly recommended!



Dear Great Book Guru, I was with friends at a virtual Super Bowl party last week and a few people jokingly brought up a book they had read. They told me it takes places almost totally at a Super Bowl party set some time in the future and it was very disturbing.  Do you know the book and - if so - would you recommend it?   Super Bowl Partygoer

Dear Super Bowl Partygoer, I finished Don DeLillo’s THE SILENCE just as the game was ending.  While not a football fan, I did enjoy the irony of my timing. This short novel (117 pages) tells the story of five people gathering in an Upper Westside apartment to watch Super Bowl LVI in 2022.  Jim and Tessa have flown in from Paris and just arrived at the party. The flight had been tumultuous with strange electrical and mechanical problems. Jim is bandaged and shaken from the chaotic landing.  Max - host of the party - is a heavy gambler and totally focused on the outcome of the game. His wife Diane is a retired physics professor with no interest in the game. The other guest is Martin - a young high school science teacher who is fixated on the writings of Albert Einstein.  Shortly into the game, the screen goes blank, and everyone soon realizes that this is not an ordinary outage. People crowd the streets as the world slowly becomes aware of some widespread calamity.  Our five characters remain eerily calm as they discuss what it means to be human. A highly unusual book with many questions and answers to ponder…. recommended!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021


Dear Great Book Guru, My friends and I have decided to alternate fiction and non-fiction books for 2021.  We read your suggestion LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND for January so now we are looking for our February book.  Any thoughts?  February Book Searchers


Dear February Book Searchers, I just finished a rather controversial book:  WAR - How Conflict
Shaped Us, by Margaret MacMillan.  The author describes the many ways war has influenced human society, looking into how geography, politics, and ideology have impacted how and why we fight.  MacMillan asks the questions: when did the first war break out, are humans destined to wage war against each other, why is it warriors are almost always men, have there been peaceful cultures, are there any benefits to war?  The author insists that war is part of civilization, bringing death and destruction, but also educational advances, innovations in medicine, science, and technology.  In many ways this is a frightening book in that it sees strong warlike impulses as part of the human condition -from the games that young children play like “capture the flag” to video games such as the very popular “Call of Duty” to the many sporting events that mirror war with uniforms, awards, national anthems, and fierce partisan competition.  Crossing back and forth between centuries of wars, she paints a pessimistic portrait of humans engaging in a never-ending battle.  The final chapter hints that world peace is not unattainable but very unlikely.  A fascinating and ultimately tragic history of humankind’s greatest scourge - highly recommended!