The Last American Man

The Last American Man

A+S loves Elizabeth Gilbert (check out Kyra’s review of The Signature of All Things and mine of Stern Men about Maine lobstermen that I read while in Maine eating lobster). I also love stories about men in the American West, riding horses and living in teepees. The Last American Man is about Eustace Conway, a man who lives in the Virginia woods and makes it his life’s mission to teach others about wild animals and plants and being respectful of the natural world. At first, I swooned over Eustace; he seemed so peaceful and simple and capable. Well, so did a lot of women. Eustace is those things, but he is also very, very exacting, demanding, and difficult. The …. I don’t want to say hypocrisy… maybe dichotomy? That’s it. The dichotomy of Eustace is his perpetual internal struggle: being one with wild, untouched land and truly at home in nature, but also being completely relentless and impatient with other human beings when they cannot or do not think and act exactly as he does.

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An Unfinished Woman

An Unfinished WomanIn the collected works of Nora Ephron (review here of The Most of Nora Ephron), she mentioned that Lillian Hellman’s autobiography was an excellent read.  As usual, Nora was right. An Unfinished Woman is filled with Hemingway-esque simple sentences that make truly strange and unique experiences seem old hat. Her mentions of the McCarthy era trials were sharp but without malice; her complicated relationships with Dorothy Parker and Dashiell Hammett were described with love, but very matter-of-fact practicality. I traveled with her as she ran away to live in a New Orleans fig tree as a young girl to a life-threatening airplane journey to Communist Russia.

But I am not yet old enough to like the past better than the present, although there are night when I have a passing sadness for the unnecessary pains, the self-made foolishness that was, is, and will be. I do regret that I have spent too much of my life trying to find what I called “truth,” trying to find what I called “sense.” I never knew what I meant by truth, never made the sense I hoped for. All I mean is that I left too much of me unfinished because I wasted too much time. However.




Giving Up The Ghost

Hilary Mantel Autobio

Hilary Mantel sure has managed to continue to generate buzz after buzz for herself with her Thomas Cromwell/Wolf Hall trilogy series, but before I embarked on that in-depth reading dive, I thought I’d first see who the author was as a person. As told from her own perspective in her memoir. . . Continue Reading

Hot Dudes Reading: It’s Bananas!


You know about Hot Dudes Reading on Instagram (included in one of our 5 for Friday roundups) – a feed of sneaky pics taken of good-looking guys on the subway with some very coy hashtags. Now, Hot Dudes Reading is encouraging followers to make small donations to First Book, a childhood literacy foundation that gifts books to kids in need all over the world. (The success stories will bring you to tears without fail.)

Hot Dudes Reading 1

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Ann Patchett + Elizabeth Gilbert Podcast

Gilbert Patchett

It was an entire year ago when I visited the New York Public Library for a discussion between Elizabeth Gilbert (who was promoting The Signature of All Things) and Ann Patchett (who was promoting This is the Story of a Happy Marriage). And the live recording of the event is finally available! Ann and Liz are good friends of many years, so instead of utilizing a moderator they interviewed each other. They discussed their mutual love of science; their superpowers – Ann being invisible, and Liz being able to fly; their work ethic; and how their beautiful books came into being. I highly recommend a listen, as they are so comfortable with each other and the audience, and weave stories that are just a beautiful live and orally as they are in writing.

P.S. Check out Kyra’s review of The Signature of All Things. Both of us devoured every word! And while eating lobster in Maine, I read her fabulous book about, what else, lobstering in Maine. Stern Men

Victoria: A Life

Victoria at Gansevoort Market

While perusing 192 Books, I came across a serious biography of Queen Victoria that looked so enticing. I love the Victorian era – so uptight that it was practically designed for me. Victoria is a challenge for biographers because she was stubborn and sedentary, spending much of her year away from London in her heavily decorated Balmoral Castle. She was also incredibly short and as time went on, more and more obese. (She loved her milk with whisky, or quite often whisky with some milk.) So when writing about Victoria, the biography tends to be less about her works and politics, and more about her personality and her life. Except that, a good 700 pages into A.N. Wilson’s book, I just don’t feel that I know Victoria at all. I get the basics – she loved her husband Albert, she had nine children who she didn’t really enjoy (particularly poor Bertie, who became King Edward VII and was a disappointment through and through to his parents), and then she had a long-term relationship with her Scottish servant John Brown. And she was obsessed with death and funerals and collecting locks of dead rulers’ hair. Plus she had absolutely no verbal filter. But after putting in the better part of a month to this book, I’m left feeling like I should have picked a different biography altogether.

Plenty of people disagree with me – viable sources who are in the know, like the book reviewer at the Telegraph. So in the words of Reading Rainbow, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” Why Queen Victoria was the Diana of Her Day

The photo above was taken at Gansevoort Market, where I love to spend a weekend morning reading underneath the domed sunroof with a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with sour cherry jam from Yiaourti and a cup of Champion coffee.



The Other Language: Short Stories


Short stories often times fall by the way side when it comes to publicity for books in general and publishing houses. Continue Reading

Elena Ferrante: Neapolitan Novels

elena ferrante

What you see stacked before you is a wonderful sandwich of Italian fiction work by Elena Ferrante, and what has also become my book drug of choice over the past couple of months. Continue Reading

The God of Small Things

The God of Small ThingsThe humid, muggy, brooding air of Kerala, India is oppressive in The God of Small Things. As was the humid, muggy, brooding air inside Paradise Pickles & Preserves, the business of the middle class Indian family around which The God of Small Things takes place. Written from the point of view of two young twins, one boy with a carefully combed Elvis pouf, and one girl with no concern about her friendships with Untouchables, The God of Small Things shares stories about racism, unjust classicism, physical love between men and women of all ages, and the nonverbal mystical connection of twins. I read this book with a pencil in hand, so that I could underline all the incredibly lush descriptions and funny, innocent comments from the children. Turning the last page was a hardship, and I’ll come back to this book again – there is so much more to learn and love.

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Dear Sugar: Podcast Power

Dear Sugar

Sometimes when you’re facing life’s trials and tribulations and you’re searching for a new path or feeling just “stuck in life,” it can be helpful to hear that millions of others are also facing quite possibly even greater tests of faith and loss and just trying their darndest like you. Continue Reading

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