Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Nevermore: Coates, Rogers, Winspear, Molteno, Wiltz, Brookhiser, Pace, Klein, Scalzi


Reported by Garry

Our first reader spoke about Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, published in 2015.  The book is set in Baltimore, a city which a number of our readers are familiar with and is presented as a letter from the author to his son about what it means to be a black man in America While our reader enjoyed the book, and felt it was very informative, she felt that if she were to read it a second and/or third time, she would understand it better. 


Our reader also reviewed Gone Tomorrow – The Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers, published in 2006.  Trash.  (The book isn’t trash, it is about trash!)  In the early days of New York, trash collection was part of the mob.  In the years before automobiles, horses were the main form of transportation in New York, but each horse released 20 pounds of manure and 2 gallons of urine per day onto the streets.   This book also goes into the problems of recycling.  While a great idea, recycling has never really paid because it costs more to recycle than to build new materials.  Our reader definitely recommended this book.


Our next reader reviewed Jacqueline Winspear’s Among the Mad, the sixth in the Maisie Dobbs series.  Set in 1931, this mystery thriller involves a woman who is sent to an asylum, and a madman who plans to poison thousands.  Investigator Maisie Dobbs is the main character in this easy reading book series.


Next up was Journeys without a Map by Marion Molteno, a collection of stories and reflections on the writing life.  Raised in South Africa, the author lived in Zambia and became an international aid worker with Save the Children before moving to London as a political refugee.  This autobiographical book looks at how the author’s life experiences influenced her novels, such as Uncertain Light about international aid workers.  The author also wrote If You Can Walk, You Can Dance, about a young woman fleeing South Africa after she participated in the anti-apartheid movement.  Our reader praised this book and said that Molteno is an interesting author.


Next came The Last Madam by Christine Wiltz, a non-fiction historical biography which examines life in the New Orleans underworld through the life of Norma Wallace, a powerful and well-connected madam.  Wallace started her business in the 1940s and operated it up until the late 1960s.  She started out as a street prostitute in New Orleans, and quickly parlayed her natural business skills into running one of the most successful houses of prostitution in New Orleans.  Our reader states that this book is not written in a salacious way at all, and is fascinating.  Wallace was not forced into prostitution at all, despite a pretty seedy upbringing.  She decided early on that that is how she could support herself, and for years was wildly successful.


Our next reader is a member of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society and read Alexander Hamilton, American by Richard Brookhiser.  Initially published in 1999, our reader praised says “This is such a good book – lots of information and details.”    


The same reader also re-read a childhood favorite Old Bones the Wonder Horse written by Mildred Mastin Pace and illustrated by Wesley Dennis.  This is the true story of Exterminator, a horse that won the 1918 Kentucky Derby despite his lack of training.  After unexpectedly winning the Derby, Exterminator went on to an extraordinary career, running over 100 races and winning many.  Our reader loved this true story – it brought back many fond memories for her. 


Our next reader took on Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein.  This novel, while based on history, is the fictional account weaves together the lives of two young ladies, separated over time.  Our reader liked the idea of a late teenager building a relationship with a widow and compared this novel to Anne of Green Gables.  

Last up was A Very Scalzi Christmas by John Scalzi.  This Christmas themed collection of short stories was “kind of goofy,” but fun and thoroughly enjoyable. 

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