Emotional wrecks collide on this “Train”

the girl on the trainMarch is National Reading Month. To that end, I will read so much and post so often you will be sick of me by April 1.

I know what you’re thinking. “Someone has hacked Shelf Improvement.” How else to explain this post about a book you’ve actually heard of while it’s on the bestseller’s lists?

Fret not, I’ve not gone commercial on you. Every now and then I like to climb out of my ivory tower and pull from the common reader’s bookshelf.

“The Girl on the Train” is this year’s answer to “Gone Girl,” the huge selling thriller of last year. That’s how it’s being marketed, at least. Continue reading “Emotional wrecks collide on this “Train””

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The funny side of Russian Existentialism

March is National Reading Month. To that end, I will read so much and post so often you will be sick of me by April 1.

My last excursion into Russian literature wasn’t great, but I don’t write off a whole genre based on one book. I was drawn back because this author has such a good story (personal) and, to be honest, I couldn’t pass up the title.

death and the penguinAndrey Kurkov, according to his bio in the back of “Death and the Penguin,” is a Ukrainian writer who graduated from the Kiev Foreign Languages Institute. I’ll quote the rest because I find what it doesn’t say intriguing (the italics are mine).”After graduating from the Kiev Foreign Languages Institute, he resisted pressure (from who?) to become a military translator for his military service and instead opted to serve as a prison warder (a what?) in Odessa. Afterwards, he worked as a journalist and film cameraman, then borrowed money to self-publish his first books, which he sold himself on the sidewalks of Kiev. (Seriously?) He is now one of the most popular and critically acclaimed writers in Ukrainian history (not to diminish his accomplishments, but name just one other Ukrainian author), and his books have been translated into 25 languages.” Continue reading “The funny side of Russian Existentialism”

The sun sets on F. Scott Fitzgerald in a disappointing novel

March is National Reading Month. To that end, I will read so much and post so often you will be sick of me by April 1.

A new book by Stewart O’Nan is generally reason to celebrate. For my money, he’s one of the best chroniclers of the lives of regular people trying to muddle through when life doesn’t go as planned.

West of sunsetSometimes it’s big things that go wrong: In “Songs for the Missing” a family copes with the disappearance and probable murder of their teenage daughter, In “The Good Wife,” a woman passes decades waiting for her husband to get out of prison. In other novels, it’s smaller things: “Last Night at the Lobster,” shows the effects of the closing of a Red Lobster on its employees and regular customers. (This is one of my favorite novels, check it out.) Continue reading “The sun sets on F. Scott Fitzgerald in a disappointing novel”

Classics Challengers: It’s time for little gems

March is National Reading Month. To that end, I will read so much and post so often you will be sick of me by April 1.

If I’m not there already, I’m quickly becoming a crotchety old man. Or maybe I’m just a discerning old man.

fikryAnyway, I picked up “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin because I had seen it everywhere, my wife listened to it on CD, and it was compared to “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” which I loved.

I’m glad I listened to it on CD because I wouldn’t have been able to read it and roll my eyes at the same time. Continue reading “Classics Challengers: It’s time for little gems”

Noticing the small things

March is National Reading Month. To that end, I will read so much and post so often you will be sick of me by April 1.

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

imagesI came across that quote by Mark Twain again recently and it resonated with me because I had been marveling at and ruminating on one particular word in a book I recently finished. Continue reading “Noticing the small things”

The reader who came in from the cold

Hey, Classics Challengers, long time no post. But I’m back.

Let’s see, we’ve read a novel by a woman and for the second book of this challenge, I said, let’s read a Russian novel. And let’s read it during winter, so we get the real feel of St. Petersburg or Moscow or wherever the novel may lead you.

idiotWell, I read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1869 novel “The Idiot” for reasons explained here. And for reasons explained here, you’ll see why I haven’t posted about this challenge for nearly a month. Continue reading “The reader who came in from the cold”