Below are the books I read in April in the order I read them…
Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg (Memoir)– Written about his crack cocaine addition which is troubling enough. But the rapidity of the downward spiral from having everything (his own literary agency, gobs of money, rich and famous friends and clients) to nearly losing everything, including his life, is jarring. The Nancy Reagan and “just say no” to drug ad campaigns of the 80s about the dangers of cocaine scared the heck out of me and, it seems, for good reason. Yikes. The author haunted the Meatpacking District around the same time I was and stayed holed up in the same hotels (the Gansevoort and Maritime) where we housed comedians who were headlining at the comedy club Comix. I’ve a feeling Mr. Clegg and I crossed paths. So I enjoyed reading about the area, remembering what it was like in the early and mid-aughts. He’s definitely a privileged white male and so avoided jail even though he was openly scoring drugs on the streets and was able to get help, forgiveness and the support of his friends and family. He counts his blessings as he should. Wowzer.
Dead People Suck by Laurie Kilmartin (Memoir / Humor)-Laurie is a friend of mine and former officemate of my husband’s back when they wrote for “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn”. We sell her book at QED and had a book signing for her after a show which is a yet another wonderful bonus QED brings to the table. I was laughing then ugly crying then laughing all within the first chapter. Towards the end, my emotions stabilized and it was an honest, funny, saucy take on a difficult and personal topic. Even the chapter titles had me guffawing with a head-nodding, yep, this will happen. Gah! Example: “Are You An Old Man With Daughters? Please Shred Your Porn.” Not for the sensitive or conservative but they should read it anyway to help lighten the load.
Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg by Todd Barry (Memoir / Travelogue)– I’ve known and worked with Todd since the early aughts so, of course, I will read anything he writes. This is actually more of a travelogue with the angle of living as a road comic at some of the smaller theaters and clubs. That means a lot of commentary on local coffee shops, dining options and sights to see. If you’re familiar with his fake bravado, stylistic comedy and deadpan cadence, I think you’ll really enjoy it. It’s quick and breezy read. There’s not a tremendous amount of “inside baseball” with comedy club jargon so the average person can still read and enjoy. Nothing major happens, though, so if you’re looking for a rollicking tale of life on the road and don’t know who Todd is, you might not laugh as much as I did. But I did laugh. A lot. Once so suddenly and loudly while standing outside that a man jumped…SPRANG sideways with both feet. “Sorry!” I smiled. “Todd Barry made me do it.” #SorryNotSorry
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (Mystery)– Loved, loved, loved. I read the review in either EW or Elle magazines and decided to give it a whirl. The synopsis of the book, which I’ve pasted below, sums it up perfectly and won’t spoil it. It’s one of the better mystery / suspense novels I’ve ever read. The main character struggles with drinking much like “Girl on the Train” and that redundant struggle of “Okay, today I”m not going to drink until 5PM,” or “No drinking today, period,” can be maddening. Oh, the grip alcohol has on people. Sugar is the devil, man.Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks (Fiction / Suspense?) – Unlike “Woman in the Window,” the synopsis of this book does it a disservice. The book-flap bills as some sort of suspense, so I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And while there are some surprises throughout, I think it is mistyped. It is, however, wonderfully written and a great snapshot of how people treat each other when they’re hurting and angry. In this case the three main people are a divorced couple and the woman who came between them. Some people apparently *do* find it suspenseful. But my going into it thinking that it was some sort of big mystery like the “Woman in the Window” kind of spoiled that for me. In fact, I think I read the review in the same article as WitW as a roundup of hot mysteries or some such. I wish I’d cleansed my palate between the last book and this one with a history or comedy or hadn’t read the synopsis. Alas, I did not. Again, it’s wonderfully written prose with fully fleshed out, complex characters which makes it well worth the read.
Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Non-Fiction) Highly recommended by my friend Eileen Moushey and others. A great book about Lincoln’s genius in appointing his rivals for the Republication nomination of 1860 (William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates) and later Edwin M. Stanton as Secretary of War. This book is like a mini-biography of all five men and includes a human perspective behind all the political drama.
1776 (Non-Fiction) – It actually covers the time including some of 1775 and 1777. It’s not all encompassing about the Revolutionary War or the Declaration of Independence. Rather it’s a very detailed account of the conditions, the strategies, the battles during this specific time period. General Washington is definitely a lot more flawed and inexperienced than I had ever known about before this read. I enjoyed the British perspective and General Howe and his redcoats. I also learned more about General Nathaniel Green and Henry Knox both of whom, for whatever reason, have not really factored in to any of my prior reads. How is that? Strange. And, hot damn, now I need to read an entire book about the crossing of the Delaware.
The Cyanide Canary: A True Story of Injustice by Robert Dugoni – (True Crime / Non-Fiction) – Based on true events in the mid-90s that resulted in a 20 yr old kid being exposed to toxic levels of cyanide. These were the early days of the Environmental Protection Agency and a time when I was an AVP of a bank and collecting large sums of money owed from commercial debtors, many of whom were complaining about the new EPA laws destroying their livelihoods. It’s really a long case study, look-see into the investigation that spanned many years and the trial of a “white collar” criminal. As many trials go, there is some repetition with testimony, etc. It is well written and engaging so you’ll get a really great case study and trial recap, the history of the EPA and the push / pull between the EPA and corporations and capitalism in America.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – I’ve never read this start to finish. Given our current political climate I thought I should. Bless you, Anne.
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem – Essays originally published in ’83 with some updates provided in ’95 when it was reissued. The one main essay that takes up a large chunk of the book is about Steinem’s infamous stint of going “undercover” as a Playboy Bunny in the 60s. I’d known about it, of course, but had never read the essay in full and it’s worthy of a read as is “Ruth’s Song (Because She Could Not Sing It)” about Steinem’s mother. It covered important distinctions between pornography and erotica and, well, the whole thing felt very 2018, sadly.
American Fire: : Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (Non-fiction / true crime) – An excellent book, especially for the true crime fan. But it is so well written and engaging and the real-life characters and drama are so compelling, I’d recommend it to anyone. It makes no difference that you, dear reader, are aware of the final outcome from the onset. It is well worth the read. Hesse is a phenomenal writer and has gained a fan in me.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – (Fiction) – So, so, so good. I fell in love with Eleanor, Raymond and the whole lot. Eleanor is somewhere on the spectrum and/or has suffered some sort of childhood trauma and so has difficulties with social interactions. She lives an extraordinarily lonely life until the new I.T. guy Raymond comes along. It’s a lovely read. I found myself sobbing a few times during not particularly sad parts…just from the ache of love I felt for Eleanor and the longing of wanting her to be happy. It’s being turned into a movie which I’ll surely watch, but I’m so, so glad I read the book.
Click here to read my June Booklist
Click here to read my May Booklist
Click here to read my April Booklist
Click here to read my March Booklist
Click here to read my February Booklist
Click here to read my January Booklist