Susannah’s Fall, Winter Reading list…2019-2020

Unknown.jpeg If writing is rewriting, than it makes sense that reading is rereading, finding myself guilty as charged.

Whether it’s Hemingway’s, Movable Feast, or Daphne du Maurier’s, Rebecca, you’ll often find me swooning on a familiar page.

To name a few:

Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign June-July 1863…Shelby Foote (1994). Lifted from his Volume II of the American Civil War, its 290 pages make you feel as if you’ve donned a uniform, blue or gray. Screenwriter Horton Foote (To Kill a Mockingbird, Tender Mercies) was his brother, so poetic prose ran in this lofty, southern family.

Grant and Twain…Mark Perry (2004). A great chaser to the above, a surprise friendship between a famous Civil War General who became President, and a great author who published his war memoirs still praised today, the first American publication to ever reap royalties.

Mornings on Horseback…David McCullough (1981). Boy, is this a treat again and again. Theodore Roosevelt’s early life captivates his audience, especially with the John Lennon of Historians at the helm. Thee, as he was called by his beloved dad, had managed to overcome so much, making perfect sense why he became the force that he was. By the way, Teddy was known to read one book a day.

Portraits and Observations…Truman Capote (2013). A collection of essays and short stories that never lose their luster. At 5’3, only 60 when he died in 1984 more or less from the effects of drugs and alcohol, Capote, like Twain before him, was one of the greatest writers of our time.

Meet You In Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America….Les Standiford (2005). I love these two guys for their strengths, weaknesses and most of all, inability to play nice. While Carnegie lay dying at his upper Fifth Avenue mansion, after twenty years of not speaking, sent a servant to request Frick’s presence at his deathbed to make peace. Frick’s response? Tell him, that I’ll meet him in hell. Now now Henry, was that necessary?

Of course, new books caught my eye, like Mr. Know it All…John Waters (2019). I’ll admit, John is an acquired taste like pastrami or clams on the half shell, but he rarely disappoints, always candid and funny, right down to his penciled on Maybelline mustache.

Role Models…John Waters (2010). One new book often leads to an old one, like a friend you haven’t seen in a while. My all time favorite Water’s essay is about Leslie Van Houten and his 30 year friendship with the youngest Manson girl nobly serving her life sentence, repeatedly being denied parole, despite John’s recommendation otherwise. He’s very convincing, until you remember why she’s in jail to begin with.

Hollywood’s Eve…Lili Anolik (2019). Wow, did this blow the doors off of my reading life introducing me to none other than cult writer, Eve Babitz who knows what candor can do to a girl. Eve’s books were mostly out of print, but this kick ass, overdue salute to her, at 77, brought them all back. Every writer needs a Lili.

Slow Days Fast Company, Tales from Eve Babitz (1974). John Waters, move over. You want to know about Hollywood in the glory days of sex, drugs & rock & roll, take Eve as your personal tour guide. Not only is she outrageous, but writes the way we all long to, seamlessly without effort, like she popped from the womb with pen and paper in hand.

Sex and Rage…Eve Babitz (1979). More of the above dropping names, admitting bad behavior, coming clean chanting, what you think of me assholes, is not of my business. We love her.

The Little Sister…Raymond Chandler (1949).  Talk about holding its own, this 70 year-old natty, plucky noir by the King of sultry murder mysteries, is a great companion for Eve since his Hollywood days, sexy and sinister, sets up hers rather snugly. Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, is a great guy to spend the weekend with. Just imagine Bogart at your breakfast table.

Less…Andrew Sean Greer (2017). Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, about a gay author who’s turning 50 on a wacky literary tour. Funny, sweet, poignant and just a tad naughty…a short, fun read by a great writer.

Save Me The Plums…Ruth Reichl (2019). A delightful memoir from the Queen of Cuisine and her ten year reign as editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine before it went belly up in 2009. She’s a favorite of mine, quirky, funny with an honest point of view and well, there is that amazing hair of hers you’d never catch in a hairnet.

Julie and Julia…Julie Powell (2005). A restless girl in a panic turning 30, starts a blog on cooking all 524 of Julia Child’s recipes from her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in 365 days. The late Nora Ephron knew good copy when she saw it, making a brilliant film, alas, her last, with Meryl Streep playing Julia, and Amy Adams, Julie. Here’s a tip, read it then watch it while you have a stuffed, trussed duck roasting in the oven.

Kitchen Confidential…Anthony Bourdain (2000). A favorite of mine, that since his sad death at 62 in June, 2018, couldn’t bring myself to reopen, is a classic tell-all behind the scenes of the restaurant world. Irreverent, insightful, forgiving in its meanness, there will never be another Anthony Bourdain. Your body is not a temple…it’s an amusement park. A.B.

Hotbox…Matt Lee & Ted Lee (2019). These two brothers do to high end catering what Anthony did to restaurant kitchens. It’s like being a fly on the wall at some of Manhattan’s glitziest affairs, not really sure you wanted to know what goes on beneath that Chicken Paillard before the starting bell goes off.

The Kennedy Heirs: John, Caroline, and the New Generation – A Legacy of Triumph and Tragedy…J. Randy Taraborelli (2019). How could I possibly compile a list without a Kennedy book, and this one is a page-turner since their alleged curse still seems in full swing. When you think Joseph Patrick Kennedy Jr. went down in a plane in 1915, and his nephew, John, 84 years later, it does make you wonder. Our author, referring to himself as a Kennedy historian, leaves nothing out, leaving you up at all hours not able to put it down.

Unbroken…Laura Hillenbrand (2010). The story of Olympic runner and World War II veteran, Louis  Zamperini (1917-2014), and his two long years as a Japanese prisoner of war, will leave you awed, astonished and tremendously humbled. I had no idea the cruelties POWs endured so bravely, by men who felt it honorable torturing them. Prepare to inhale every word and salute when it’s over.

The Queen & Di: The Untold Story…Ingrid Seward…(2000). I’ll always be a big Diana, Princess of Wales fan, and reading about her and her mother-in-law, who at least in the beginning may have been her biggest fan, left me wistful. It’s sad when you witness in words the downfall of the Windsor’s marriage, and how the Queen of England may have taken its failing the hardest.

Working, Researching, Interviewing, Writing…Robert Caro (2019). A little gem of a read from a great historian reminding you of the work that goes into tracking down your subject to its bare bones. His four volumes on Lyndon Johnson, the 5th he admits, at 83, he may not get to finish, is a life’s work, Caro deserving his own place in American History.

My model kicked up devouring Avedon: Something Personal…Norma Stevens and M.L. Aronson (2017). If you’ve ever seen the film Funny Face with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire who plays him, Richard Avedon was the most gifted fashion and portrait photographer of his time, before dying at 81, in 2014. At its conclusion, I went to his old carriage house to pay a heartfelt homage. I may have even kneeled.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement…Dave Cullen (2019). On February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a man opened fire with an AR 15 style semi-automatic weapon killing 17 people. Cullen, who also wrote the book, Columbine (2009), recaps poignantly, along with the tragic day, what the students did to honor their fallen comrades. If nothing else, it will surely make you rethink gun control.

American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center…William Langewieschie (2002). The only journalist allowed amid the ruins as first responders dug out the remains of the fallen from what was left of the Twin Towers. It educated me why they and those who worked tirelessly on the cleanup, got sick, deserving lifetime compensation they shouldn’t have to beg for. A tough, but very compelling read.

The Day That Went Missing: A Family Tragedy…Richard Beard (2017). In Cornwall, England in 1978, on a family holiday, Nicholas and his brother Richard are happily swimming, until alas, Nicholas, disappearing beneath the waves, is no more. Erased by their parents the pain so great, as an adult, Richard goes back to learn all he can about his baby brother. One incredible story.

I’ll end the way I started, with a three timer that stays warm upon my shelf.  Seabiscuit…Laura Hillenbrand (2001). You don’t have to be into race horsing, or even a horse lover for that matter, to relish this read. It’s the story of three disheartened men, and a horse, that changed their lives, along with filling hearts with hope across our broken country during the Great Depression.

“In 1938… the year’s #1 newsmaker was not FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. Nor was it Lou Gehrig or Clark Gable. The subject of the most newspaper column inches in 1938 wasn’t even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse named Seabiscuit.” Laura Hillenbrand

We could sure use a hero like him now, wouldn’t ya say? So if I were you, I’d run to my nearest library or bookstore, and get myself a Biscuit.

All in favor? ↓


About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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36 Responses to Susannah’s Fall, Winter Reading list…2019-2020

  1. skinnyuz2b says:

    I love returning to old favorites too. I always find pieces I missed before. I have a cousin who reads as much as you and I, but said she will never reread a book. To each their own.
    I love the Hamish MacBeth series by M.C.Beaton. By the end of the series (30+) the cast felt like family. I’ll begin rereading in another couple of years. And I’ve read and reread all of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate that you’re a fellow bibliophile Skinny since we seem to be a dying breed. I’ve just discovered Winston Graham who in the 50s, penned the Poldark series that’s the closest to Jane Austen I’ve even read. One could say I’m in Victorian heaven.

      My semi-annual book lists don’t do well, but I so enjoy writing them and that’s what’s all about, isn’t it, to revel in one’s art?
      Thank you so much, as always. Susannah

      Liked by 1 person

  2. aFrankAngle says:

    You enjoy your share of history! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dale says:

    I am in awe of your lists, Susannah. There are not many books I have reread mainly because there are so many out there I want to read! I am hoping the end of the golf season will remove my exhaustion and inability to read more than 15 minutes before bed. And I am also hoping I shall get more organised as I settle into this house and make it mine, allowing more “me” time!

    There are a few on your list that I have actually read. Woot! And some I shall be looking into as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • May I make a suggestion, one that Ed had made to me? Always have a book with you. Shove it in your bag or on the backseat. You’ll be surprised how many opportunities will unveil for a page or two. You love it, so you’re ahead of most. Thanks by the way, for perusing. Like I told Skinny? Don’t recall, but my lists are not widely read.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dale says:

        Kinda hard to read whilst driving; can’t read whilst at work – coz if I do get a break, it’s a short ‘un – mind you, I do have a Kindle that is small enough it could be kept in my apron and I could read while I eat – I am currently beta-reading a friend’s book – which is in Word format so I’m reading it on my older-than-God iPad and I am also reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine on my Kindle 😉


      • Yay…all sounds good. 🙂


  4. I enjoy reading, but would never get that many books read in, what?, a year? No way and you probably read them in 3-4 months?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorryless says:

    Keepers all, SB.

    I am intrigued by the Waters books most of all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Vasca Beall says:

    This is a great list, Susannah! I love to read as I also love to write. Aspire to Inspire…yes, yes! Also love biographies…and history fascinates me. My husband is no longer able to read or follow the story threads even w/audio books. Sad to lose the ability to read such awesome books! Thanks for your list…I’m going to read and read and read!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Patricia says:

    I read a few hours every day now that I am retired. Almost always fiction. I love thrillers and mysteries. Rarely read nonfiction. Guess I like make believe more than real life. 😼

    Liked by 1 person

    • There nothing wrong with that. I’m at moment on my 4th volume of a series that’s fiction written in the 1950s. I’m totally entranced in the late 1700s in Cornwall, England. I feel as if I’m there, so I get it. Thanks for reading my list. 🙂


  8. I haven’t read most of these, but I do have the Queen and Di on my shelf since Leah bought it before, so that is on my list anyway. I’ll see how many I can read of these.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your taste in literature differs from mine. You’d probably enjoy Mornings on Horseback since you love Teddy too. And the Grant and Twain also. Some of the others, I don’t know. I see I should have chosen differently but at the time they felt right. Oh well. Thanks a lot. As always. 🙏


  9. Vasca Beall says:

    Susannah, been thinking seriously about your list (I don’t go by Oprah’s, yours sound much more interesting). I’ve decided I’m going to put yours on my ‘to read’ list and see how many I can read. Challenging myself…thanks to you, my friend. Bravo!


    • Reading is very personal so I suggest you comb through it carefully. The Waters and Mr. Bourdain along with the Hollywood Hellion might be a little raw for you, so beware.

      Seabiscuit is a universally great read, Laura H. more than a little engaging. Yes, I’d choose the Biscuit if I were you. Thanks for showing such an interest.


  10. Your comment about the reading list post prompted me to come here and look. Terrific list. It makes me want more time for just reading. Also, I feel like I’m standing at an ice cream counter and trying to make a decision on which to choose. I’ll get there eventually. Thanks for the great descriptions you sold them all.


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