wOw’s Question of the Week


What book (or books) are you reading this summer? What would you recommend?

Candice Bergen: First of all, NOT a book but a movie. Woody’s “Midnight in Paris.” Magic.

Books: David McCullough’s “The Greater Journey” about Americans in Paris in the 1920s and turn of last century which dovetails very nicely with Woody’s movie. I just started.

“The Hare With Amber Eyes” by Edmund de Waal, which my friend Henry tells me is a masterpiece.

I like “Swamplandia” by Karen Russell very much, but prefer nonfiction. Also a book on what the future holds fifty to a hundred years from — “The Physics of the Future” by Michio Kaku. Very accessible and interesting. We’ll be dead.

Mary Wells Lawrence: I am moving boxes and suitcases onto my boat in the cold Pacific rain so it is not reading time for me. However,  I started  “A Visit from the Goon Squad” before I left New York and am enjoying it enough to sit up late into the night to finish it. It is luxurious to sit up in bed and to read with New York lights dancing outside my window, but at the moment I see nothing but black Pacific rain out there. (Not a bad atmosphere for “Goon Squad,” I suppose.)

I have stacks of books piled high in the boat for summer reading. Lots of thrillers for the fellas. Although I tend to go for all those books by scientist-futurists these days,  I have just been given “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris” by David McCullough and it looks good. The book that follows me around is “In the Psychiatrist’s Chair” by Anthony Clare. I was seriously mad about Anthony Clare, as many were. A highly regarded professor and head of psychological medicine in a medical school,  he was a smash hit interviewer of celebrities on radio in England  and wrote books you wanted to read over and over again. I keep him alive through his books – they are hard to find but worth it.

As for movies — “Somewhere,” Sofia Coppola’s film, is on DVD now and is the perfect hideaway movie for a night when you need to cool your brain and your psyche.

Joan Ganz Cooney: I have no recommendations because I have just started Lawrence Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet.” What’s interesting is that I think I read “Justine” many years ago — but like Nora Ephron, I remember nothing. I also find that reading magazine articles slows down the book reading pace. I remember years ago that Michael Korda announced he was giving up reading magazines because it took time away from reading books. I just don’t have his discipline because I love good articles. I’m reading a great one right now that was published months ago in the New Yorker titled “Letting Go” by Atul Gawande on end of life care. It sounds depressing, but if one is interested in the even more depressing cost of medical care in this country, it is thrilling.

Judith Martin: The chic reply would be “I’m re-reading Proust,” but I really am. I talked my book group into it, over their dead bodies, and now they’re up to “The Guermantes Way” and apologizing for those unseemly protests. They’re even getting ahead of me, which is embarrassing, because I forgot from my last run-through (perhaps twenty years ago) that it is like eating a rich dessert, and I can’t digest too much at once.

Joan Juliet Buck: Advance proofs of Patti Bosworth’s riveting, wonderful biography of Jane Fonda — at last! Ten years in the writing, it reads like a dream.
Owen Matthews’s memoir “Stalin’s Children” about his parent’s love affair in Moscow during the cold war. The Newsweek Bureau chief in Moscow (who prefers to live on an island off Istanbul), Matthews is a masterful writer with a great and horrifying story to tell.
Sarah Kernochan’s “Jane Was Here”, a terrific reincarnation thriller.
“The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness” by Lila Azam Zanganeh— a playful meditation on Nabokov.

8 Responses so far.

  1. avatar KarenR says:

    Working part time in a library provides excellent browsing opportunities, though our patrons usually get first shot at the newest titles. I’m also not much of a fiction reader.

    Eagerly anticipated is the Bob Lutz smackdown due out this Thursday about what was really wrong at GM (and still is in much of the rest of the business world) – “Car Guys vs Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business.”

    Already sitting on my desk are:

    “A Secret Gift” by Ted Gup wherein Gup explores letters sent to a Canton, Ohio newspaper in response to an ad placed during the Great Depression by his pseudonymous, philanthropic grandfather.

    “Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World” by John Szwed – a biography of the great compiler
    (Alan Lomax Collection @ the Library of Congress: )

    “Walt Before Mickey: Disney’s Early Years, 1919-1928” by Timothy S. Susanin

    “Amish Grace” by Donald B. Kraybill. How well I remember the guys I worked with at the time could absolutely NOT fathom (nor easily tolerate) the Amish community’s response to such a violent attack on their schoolchildren.

    “The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict” by Jonathon Schneer

  2. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Sometimes I Feel Like A Nut – Essays & Observations by Jill Kargman. H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S!

  3. avatar Maizie James says:

    Thank you ladies for sharing your reading lists! 

    Ms Bergen, I’m thrilled you mentioned, The Hare With Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal.  Two friends suggested I read it, and with your recommendation, I now plan to purchase it to add to my summer reading list.  I just finished reading two books: The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, and A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby – the first I recommend, the second is just ok.

    Presently, I just began reading The Red Garden, by Alice Hoffman; a selection for a book club I belong to.  The setting is in the late 1700’s.  I’m not too far in the book, however so far it’s mediocre at best.  After I get through it, I will read Red Sorguhm, by Mo Yan.  I’m very interested in the history of [rural] China during the first three decades of the 20th century.  Most are familiar with Amy Tan’s novels, however I highly recommend Lisa See if you want to know more about life in China at the turn of the century, and during WWII.

    My recommendation for those of you who enjoy historical fiction novels set in New York is a series of books written by Beverly Swerling.  First, I want to mention that I read Edward Rutherford’s New York.  I enjoy Rutherford because of his expertise with historical details.  However, in New York, he lacks the ‘spice’, pulse, and excitment of Swerling’s writing style.  Also, Rutherford omitted major historical events such as the fire of 1850, which Swerling vividly included in her exciting first NY novel: City Of Dreams:A Novel of Nieuw Amsterdam And Early Manhattan.

    Once you begin The City of Dreams, you will not want to put this book down.  It is great for summer reading because it’s a fun read, taking you back to the days of the early Dutch settlers arriving in New Amsterdam in the area which will become Manhattan.  Best of all, the facinating characters come alive through Swerlings writing style.  And soon you will be pulled into calamity, chaos, adultury, and corruption as two families emerge to become adversaries – rivials and lovers as they stake claim to establish fortune in the lowerer district of New York City. 

    City Of Dreams has it all: adventure, greed, prejudice, and betrayal set in the bustling early days of New York.  The second book in the series is, Shadowbrook: A Novel of Love, War, and the Birth of America, covering the years 1754–1760 in New York history.  Next, is City Of Glory, then the last is City of God.

    I’m sure you will hurry to read these three follow-up novels after reading City of Dreams.
      And for all of you who either call New York City home, or are lovers of New York, you won’t be disappointed in Beverly Swerlings New York [saga] novels. 

    *I should mention that  there are a few passages in City of Dreams that were a bit too explicit [‘bawdy’] for my taste.  Yet, she avoids this in the three novels that follows. 

  4. avatar D C says:

    I’m going to copy this page and email it to myself for future reference. 

    What am I reading?  WOW.  I don’t even have a book on the nightstand.  How sad is that?  The last books I read were The Best Kind of Different by Shonda Shilling (we have something in common and it’s not baseball) and Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, at my daughters insistence.  I bought some books my brother-in-law the English teacher recommended — one is coming out as a movie soon I think… Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, but I couldn’t get past the first five pages because it felt like I was listening to my son talking and that’s really what I’d like to escape when I do take the time to cuddle up with a book. 

    I need a good easy read.  I’ll check out all these recommendations. 

  5. avatar KarenR says:

    There’s one book I love that’s an easy read and especially nice on hot summer days. It often gets lumped in with young adult books because that’s what the author usually writes, but it isn’t just a kids’ book. If you love dogs, sports, adventure, personal narrative, or a good laugh check out “Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod” by Gary Paulsen.

  6. avatar J Holmes says:

    Yesterday went to see Midnight in Paris which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I forgot it was Wed (senior citizen day at the cinema) and the theater was crowded with Woody Allen fans; after the show the audience applauded and everyone came out smiling.  I am now anxious (like Candice Bergen) to read David McCullough’s most recent, The Greater Journey.  So many books to read, so little time!

  7. avatar Lonnie Stump says:

    Anything by ‘Elin Hilderbrand’.  Great for anytime of the year.

  8. avatar Elder Geek says:

    “What book (or books) are you reading this summer?”

    Oh my lord, that’s an impossible question to answer for someone like me. I read so many books my wife thinks I inhale them. If Amazon offered frequent flyer miles I would be planning an around-the-world vacation for my family of four right now.

    I’m currently in the midst of “The Merchant Princes” series by Charles Stross, and Winston Churchill’s six volume “The Second World War” will follow (will be my 3rd reading; I read it every 10 years or so). I recently finished John Feinstein’s “A Good Walk Spoiled”, and laughed my way through Vicki Iovine’s “The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy” and her followup “The Girlfriends’ Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood” because I purchased copies for a younger couple expecting their first child.

    I have so many “real” books they are stacked in boxes (we ran out of bookshelf space years ago), and I also have a Kindle and an iPad 2 for consuming words while on the go. So what am I reading this summer?

    Ask me again tomorrow, ’cause the answer changes almost daily!