Susannah’s Fall, Winter Reading list…2020-2021

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.

Unknown.jpeg 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.

images-1.jpeg 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?”

Unknown-2.jpeg 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.

Unknown.jpeg Lady in Waiting; My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown…Anne Glenconner…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.

Unknown-4.jpeg 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.

Unknown-1.jpeg 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.

Unknown-5.jpegA 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, and Downtown: My Manhattan…2004, sat beside me like old friends.

Unknown.jpeg 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.

Unknown.jpeg 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.

Unknown.jpeg 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.

Unknown-1.jpeg 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.     images.jpeg


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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75 Responses to Susannah’s Fall, Winter Reading list…2020-2021

  1. A terrific selection, Susannah. Makes me want to take some time off from writing to just read. We both enjoyed Prince of Tides and if you want more Conroy read his first The Great Santini. (Which you may have done) Loved Gatsby and The Thin Man so that leaves a bunch to go get. Thanks for your insights into some pretty great sounding books.


  2. This is a great list. You always have such interesting books to share. I’ve read a few of them, just about to start Prince of Tides now. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a marvelous list! I didn’t see the movie, but “The Help” had the best Southern dialect in writing that I have ever seen.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dale says:

    Always an eye-opening list which makes my to-read list ever longer! I love your quick synopses which really grab and capture our interest. When I read lists like this, I just want to drop my blog and sit with a book.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. kingmidget says:

    I’d get started on this list right now if only I could finish Truman – sheesh, it’s a tome of epic proportions. I may finish before I’m 80.

    And then I have Woodward’s book — it’s the first, and only, book about Trump I’m going to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My friend Ed is reading the new one and can’t put it down. I had read FEAR, and it’s what you’d expect.
      Hang in there with Harry, but that was why I thought you’d do better with McCullough’s essays. Don’t ya just love to read Mark? That’s all that really matters. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • kingmidget says:

        I’ll never stop reading. Never.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Me either. I just read a chapter of Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa. It’s my, next to the bed book. I read a chapter before falling asleep and one when I wake up. My day book which is AMAZING is, The Woman Who Smashed Codes. I’m trying not to gulp, to quote my friend Ed, so I can savor it but, it’s like downhill skiing. An amazing story about breaking codes during World War II. I’m not doing it justice with my pithy review…but…I’m elated by it. I LOVE TO READ MIDGET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. skinnyuz2b says:

    Perfect timing, Susannah. I’m almost finished with my last physical book. Although I plan to read Pookie’s historical stack when he’s done. I need fluff right now, so I can’t wait to start on the Thin Man series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t include, The Maltese Falcon, and The Glass Key, since…23 selections seemed enough, but they’re great too. The Thin Man movies with Dick Powell and Myrna Loy are also pretty spectacular. They play Nick and Nora to the hilt, plus we mustn’t forget Asta, the dog. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Sorryless says:

    I’ve gone back to the classics, because I feel as if writing has been hijacked by impostors. It’s all about branding and self professed experts.

    That said, I’ve read a good few of these. Not the Bourdain selection. Truth be told, it scares me to go inside his head. I feel like I know how he felt about life and living, and man, when you get to that point where you go, “Nope, this ain’t working,”. It happens.

    Then again, Mary Shelley ain’t exactly been offering me up a hopeful counterpoint. Even if her prose is brilliance.

    Liked by 1 person

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