If there was ever a perfect time to read, it was during our imposed shelter-in-place, forced to be idle, no choice but sitting still.
I, thanks to Amazon, after running through the 9 books taken from the library on their final day, was in literary heaven, jumping from history to memoir, fiction to biography, like a kid loose in a pulp candy store.
I’ve listed 23, like a big, eclectic buffet, hoping there’s something for everyone to woo and tease, tantalizing those literary senses.
Is Paris Burning, Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre…1965. Compelling out of the gate, taking you back to August, 1944, right before those brave Parisians take their beloved city back, more or less intact, a miracle after Hitler’s fiery demand to have it burned to the ground. Charles de Gaulle, along with a German General with the heart of a saint, are the heroes of the story. They don’t call it the City of Light, for nothing.
T.R. The Last Romantic, H.W. Brands…1997. Sitting on my shelf, winking every time I went by, reminding me how much I loved it the first time around, launching my eternal love for Theodore Roosevelt. Brands, an esteemed History Professor at the University of Texas, in Austin, is the quintessential historian. Like Ken Burns, David McCullough and Aaron Sorkin of the West Wing, he slyly educates, while expertly entertains.
The Day Diana Died, Christopher Anderson…1998. When Diana, Princess of Wales, died at 36, on August 31st, 1997 in a fatal car crash, conspiracy theories loomed. Mr. Anderson and his reader, spend that final day with Diana until she breathes her last. His prose travels fast the way she did, making you want to stop it to keep her alive just a while longer, and how you wish, that night, she never left her suite at the Ritz.
Working With Winston; The Unsung Women Behind Britain’s Greatest Statesman, Cita Stelzer...2019. 12 women, 12 bios, one male tossed in like salt, revealing what it was like working for a man during World War II, who seemed to hold his country together with his own bare hands. My favorite Churchill anecdote…one of them had to have her appendix out and was laid up afterwards. Her beloved boss asked, “But can she still type?”
Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy Burden…2010. It’s sordid opulence, on the rocks, as the great-great-great Granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt tells you what it’s like growing up in mind-blowing wealth, laced with lust and alcohol. Ms Burden is a cross between David Sedaris, Carrie Fisher, and Poe, the way she recaps her childhood and Hitchcockian family history.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett...2009. I know what you’re about to say…I saw the film. Let me give you a tip, the book is a zillion times better than the movie, and the novel, all us writers long to pen. As readers, we get a clear glimpse of what it was like in the 60s to be living down south as a person of privilege, and one of color, who with no other means but great magnanimity, helps. I wouldn’t write it off, no pun intended.
The Nasty Bits, Anthony Bourdain; Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps and Bones…2006. 37 diverse essays, drizzled with his imitable, uncensored two cents. What I loved most? The raw, lurid language, rolling off his tongue as if he prepared each word, al dente, in his own kitchen. What I hated most? Alas, there will be no more.
In The Name of Gucci; A Memoir, Patricia Gucci…2016. Think King Lear, swaggering in leather, swapping a Shakespearean tragedy for an Italian one, by the daughter and love child of Aldo Gucci, who built one of the greatest empires of all time, only to be taken down by a greedy, ungrateful family that will make you look at that handbag, not to mention your kids, in a whole new way.
Lady in Waiting; My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown…AnneGlenconner…2020. If you have a sweet spot for English History, this memoir by a woman, now in her 88th year, will regale you with stories about growing up with Elizabeth and Margaret Windsor, until one became Queen, and the other didn’t, the latter not always taking it too well. From being a Maid of Honor at the Queen’s Coronation (see cover), and a Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret until her death in 2002, her tales, though kindly told, read like a brush fire.
Nora Ephron and Other Conversations; The Last Interview Series…2015. I lauded this series in my last list, so here I go again. I’m a HUGE Nora fan, and these four interviews she gave, including her last, are insightful, funny and poignant. It will be the most compelling 84 pages you’ll ever read.
Manhattan ’45, Jan Morris…1986. It opens on June 20th, 1945, when the British ocean liner, Queen Mary, pulls into New York Harbor bringing over 14,000 American service men and women home from fighting the war against Germany. She then recaps what the town of all towns was like in 1945, from the Battery up to Harlem, her language, so fluid, flowing like the harbor, who brought all those heroes home.
The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford….1945 and 1949. Are you romantic and just a tad naughty? Then Nancy and her two timeless novels are for you, the second a sequel to the first. An idol of mine, both for her prose and the way she lived in a time when women weren’t always so independent, her sharp wit will enthrall all who invite her in.
The Bohemians, Norman Ohler...2020. The heartfelt love story of Harro-Schulze-Boysen and Libertas Haas-Heye, two brave, young idealists who led Germany’s biggest anti-Natzi resistance group. Almost poignant to a fault, tough at times to read, but once you start, you’ll be right alongside them.
Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy…1986. Another surprise stumbled upon by accident, left abandoned on a park bench, introducing me to the Wingo family, their southern roots singing Dixie on every page. A delightful read, I couldn’t put down, wishing I could bow before the author. My only regret, is not reading it sooner.
About Alice, Calvin Trillin…2006. Another jewel of a book nesting on my shelf. Mr. Trillin’s 78 page love letter to the woman he lost to illness, will make you smile, as it breaks your heart in two. All I know is, it must be pretty swell to be loved that much.
A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut…2005. 14 essays written by one of the greatest writers of all time, with his own artwork as an added bonus. Though fifteen years old, they read as if he just wrote them, reflecting where our country stands today. I so wish Kurt were still here, to write 14 more…and so it goes.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald…1925. What’s impressive about a classic is, it never disappoints, and this one, all of 218 pages, is no exception. Based on a real life bootlegger named Max Gerlach, the charm for me is always the casual, careless opulence of Daisy Buchanan. Think Kim Kardashian, with taste.
The Thin Man, Dashiell Hammett…1933. Want to take your mind off things, bury yourself in some classic, first-rate fluff? Hammett’s your man. Nick and Nora Charles bray from another time when a man wore a sharp fedora, while a woman asked, are my seams straight sugarplum? What’s that Nick, can you have a scotch before breakfast? Comin’ right up.
When Pete Hamill died on August 5th at 85, I immediately, in tearful tribute, cracked open my Pete vault, spilling treasures like pulp pearls.
A Drinking Life…1994, Piecework…1996, Why Sinatra Matters…1998, andDowntown: My Manhattan…2004, sat beside me like old friends.
The first, a memoir of his drinking days, before he decided to stop pressing his luck, so open and honest that you too might decide to permanently, put down your glass.
An impressive collection of journalistic essays allowing you to be a fly on the wall, as he recaps everything he sees and hears, in a time when, unlike now, the truth mattered.
Next we have an unsugarcoated homage, five months after Frank, Do-Be-Do-Be-Doed his last, yet wrapped in respect as only a seasoned reporter can pen, opening at Manhattan’s legendary P.J. Clarke’s Saloon, while Sinatra, his balls the size of hubcaps, holds court.
Then last but not least, my favorite, Pete’s passionate proof of his love for a city, that might only rival my own.
On behalf of Pete and myself, we wish you a most happy read.
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 Amazon.com. Thanks.