I’m not boasting, but so far I’ve read 73 books this year not including a good 20 I didn’t finish. There are just too many great reads to feel compelled to complete one that’s not all that compelling. Chalk it up to hearing loss since you don’t need ears to see.
I’m always sending books as gifts, in the hopes it will ignite the gene gestating in all of us. So many people don’t read in this cyber world we live in. Facebook, Twitter, the E Channel take up so much time, who has any left to kick back with a good book. Me, that’s who. I’d rather spend it with David McCullough or Christopher Anderson than even the most esteemed Tweeter. Hey, that’s just me, but maybe I can encourage you to switch channels.
To paraphrase John Adams…when you have a book, you always have a friend.
1) My Life In France, Julia Child. For someone who doesn’t eat much, I love reading about food and let’s face it, it all starts and ends with Julia. Chefs intrigue me in general, at least in print. I dated one once who instead of roses brought me bouquets of thyme and dill I can still smell…sigh.
2) Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain. I’ve read it three times, and like his pal Gabrielle Hamilton said in the New York Times Book Review’s, By The Book, ‘it’s both the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem of all line cooks throughout the world.’ He’s uncomfortably candid with so much humor diced in you can’t help but be dazzled. This book, though he apologizes for it, put this handsome chef who now has his own show (No Reservations), on the map (also on my summer reading list, a book for all seasons).
3) Blood Bones and Butter, Gabrielle Hamilton. Bourdain urged her to write a memoir and thank goodness she did. The owner of the popular restaurant Prune in New York’s East Village (54 East 1st Street), who very deservedly came into her own, writes with such heart and honesty you’ll want to go sit at one of her tables.
4) Killing Kennedy, Bill O’Reilly. I loathe the man (sorry O’Reilly fans), when I see him on TV, vomiting venom toward anyone and everyone, but I have to say, this book written with Martin Dugard had me by the short hair. I give all the credit to Dugard however because it’s hard to believe O’Reilly is that engaging a writer.
5) Jack and Jackie, Christopher Anderson. I never tire reading about the Kennedys, especially if the writer is Mr. Anderson. He’s Truman Capote if he were working for the National Inquirer. In other words, it’s gossip and sordid detail written well. Also check out, The Day John Died about JFK Jr…riveting, and here comes one more of his…
6) Citizen Jane…If you have any curiosity pertaining to Jane Fonda, this is the book for you. I was amazed how much I didn’t know…the Vietnam years especially. I came away feeling differently about the famous actress/exercise guru, not in a bad way, but more versed in her many layers. Again, Anderson lets you peek, in a way, where you don’t feel as if you’re snooping.
7) The Diana Chronicles, Tina Brown. Ms Brown, former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker is no slouch writer. I couldn’t put this book down, neither could my pal Ed, not only about Diana, but all The Royals who, with the exception of her sons, William and Harry, don’t come off smelling like an English garden. Diana however, will glean your sympathies having to endure such a family that has done everything to erase her from the public’s memory.
8) Final Days, Barbara Olson. Her recap of the end of the Clinton presidency is more than fascinating. But what tails you as you read her final book with its prescient title planned for publication September 12, 2001, is she was killed on 9/11, a passenger on the plane crashing into the Pentagon.
9) The Heart, Cross and Flag, Peggy Noonan. Before I picked this up, another throng of September 11 stories, I knew she was a consultant on The West Wing, my favorite series to date. An avid George Bush lover, she still comes across somewhat Democratic making you like her, respecting the candor she presents as a true patriot on the page.
10) Rewrites, Neil Simon. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t enjoyed a Neil Simon play or film, so the first of his two part memoir is very moving (also on summer reading list). His first wife, Joan, mother to his two daughters bearing an uncanny resemblance to actress Ali MacGraw, dies very young of breast cancer. A candid testimony from a man admitting his faults facing life without a woman who did everything but tie his shoes.
11) The Play Goes On, Neil Simon. The sequel to Rewrites, what his life was like after widowhood, jumping into a marriage with actress Marsha Mason, a woman who loved him madly, but also had a career. A stirring account honestly told by one of the finest playwrights of our time.
12) Wasted…The Preppie Murder, Linda Wolfe. It was summer, 1986, when Robert Chambers, 20, during what appeared to be a late night round of rough sex, killed 18 year-old Jennifer Levin behind the Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan’s Central Park. I actually went to the sight beneath the tree where her body, exposed and left by a cold-hearted Chambers, was discovered by a runner early the next morning. Time travel is truly a phenomenon transporting me back 29 years. A great, though grisly read I’m a bit ashamed to say I inhaled. Chambers by the way, served 15 years for Levin’s murder only to be released then arrested on a drug charge putting him back where he belongs.
13) Double Lives, Linda Wolfe. Yes, I was on a macabre mission alright, murder as a true enticement. My library has three packed shelves of crimes I knew nothing about. This one, about a married public figure tangled with a sexy socialite he begins to stalk, will scare the shit out of you. Another mystery that had its way with me escorted by Wolfe, a stellar storyteller.
14) Mrs. Astor Regrets, Meryl Gordon. The disturbing facts about Brooke Astor’s only son, and his 20 years his junior money hungry wife who, in the grand lady’s final days sinking into dementia, treated her as if she were already dead. He was sentenced to a lengthy prison term, but was let out due to illness, dying soon after. But the mean, merry widow inherited her mother-in-law’s great wealth still living like a queen to this day. A read that will piss you off beyond all understanding.
15) Unbroken, Laura Hildenbrand. The author of Seabiscuit, another great read, will educate and enlighten while slamming your heart with what it was like to be in a Japanese Internment camp during World War II. A biography of the late war hero, Louis Zamperini, is not an easy read but give it a whirl anyway, Hildenbrand’s writing is positively jaw-dropping.
16) The Great Bridge, David McCullough. When the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883, it was often called the Eighth Wonder of the World. I can attest, its graceful majesty when viewed, can still drop you to your very knees. Mr. McCullough, the John Lennon of historians, brings you back watching from the shoreline as its towers rise resplendently over New York harbor.
17) Posterity, Dorie McCullough Lawson. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…Lawson compiled letters famous individuals wrote to their children that are so moving, you don’t need to be a parent to appreciate them. I was lucky enough to hear some of them read at the New York Historical Society by her dad, the late Frank McCourt and actress Blair Brown. I highly recommend them, a gift I often give on Father’s and Mother’s Day.
18) Nicole Brown Simpson…The Private Diary of a Life, Faye A. Resnick. A short but interesting assessment on whether OJ killed his wife or not from one of her best friends. I came away thinking, yes…he must have, considering how many times he beat her, while showing what slick lawyers can do twisting our legal system into knots, or slippery gloves if you will. Resnick is no Doris Kearns, but she definitely has her say.
19) The Alienist, Caleb Carr. I’m always stunned how many people have never read this quintessential, noir, New York novel starting in 1919 with Theodore Roosevelt’s funeral in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Teddy, as Carr recaps his story, is pivotal as Manhattan’s most famous Police Commissioner, if you don’t count Tom Selleck on Blue Bloods that is. I’ve read it three times and am about to go for my fourth.
20) Can I Go Now? The Life of Sue Mengers, Hollywood’s First Superagent, Brian Kellow. My present read and a true spellbinder. Mengers was a real character holding no prisoners, punches or truths about herself that endears you to her twenty pages in. As I devour each word, feeling as if I know her, all set to sit down to one of her legendary dinner parties on Dawnridge Drive, I might find myself next to a famous director who will give me that big break…or Warren Beatty I could very well go home with. Names like Nicholson, Streisand and Hoffman wink from the page amid bowls of cocaine actor Michael Caine, at one point, thought was sugar for his coffee.
And as a bonus read….
Stuart Little, E.B. White. Sometimes a kid’s story is just what the doctor ordered. Mr. White was a genius. Need I say more? For a chaser, pick up Charlotte’s Web, but be prepared for a weepy finish no matter what age you happen to be.
Reading verses Tweeting…sigh