Book Club Mom’s Books of 2021

I’m a little late in sharing this, but if you’d like to see what I read in 2021, here they are!

The Searcher by Tana French – 4 stars

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn – 5 stars

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders – 3 stars

Cary Grant – A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman – 5 stars

The Perfect Wife by Blake Pierce – 3 stars

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – 4 stars

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane – 4 stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – 4 stars

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – 4.5 stars

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – 4 stars

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – 5 stars

Rabbit, Run by John Updike – 5 stars

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – 3 stars

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison – 5 stars

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – 3 stars

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – 4.5 stars

The Last Flight by Julie Clark – 3.5 stars

The Home Place by J. Drew Lanham – 4.5 stars

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth – 4 stars

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner – 3 stars

Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland – 3.5 stars

The Bone Hunger by Carrie Rubin – 4.5 stars

My Brief History by Stephen Hawking – 4 stars

The Early Stories of Truman Capote – 5 stars

The Lost Man by Jane Harper – 4 stars

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – 4.5 stars

“The Casual Car Pool” by Katherine Bell – 4 stars

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – 3 stars

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – 3.5 stars

The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine – 3 stars

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet – 3.5 stars

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel – 4 stars

The Lying Room by Nicci French – 3.5 stars

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – 3 stars

The Address by Fiona Davis – 4 stars

Furious Hours by Casey Cep – 5 stars

The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford – 3.5 stars

There There by Tommy Orange – 5 stars

Elizabeth and Monty by Charles Casillo – 3.5 stars

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell – 5 stars

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie – 4 stars

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – 5 stars

Defending Jacob by William Landay – 3.5 stars

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway – 5 stars

Capote’s Women by Laurence Leamer – 3 stars

Date with Death by Julia Chapman – 3.5 stars

The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen – 4.5 stars

If you’d like to see what I’ve read in other years, you can follow these links which are also in tabs at the top of the page:

Books of 2013

Books of 2014

Books of 2015

Books of 2016

Books of 2017

Books of 2018

Books of 2019

Books of 2020

I didn’t read as many books this year, but some of them were long ones! I feel like I’d gotten away from reading longer books, so reading these reminded me of the nice feeling of really sinking into a story like The Thorn Birds.

Stay tuned for an updated list of my all-time top reads. I went from Top 10 to Top 15 a few years ago. I’m probably going to have to up it to 20 because I read some great books in 2021. Do you have lists of all-time favorite books? What’s your number one favorite? If you don’t know by now, my all-time favorite book is Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk. That’s a long one too!

Leave a comment and tell me your favorites 🙂

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Nonfiction books on my radar – my TBR grows!

The older I get, the more interested I am in nonfiction. I especially like biographies and memoirs and narrative nonfiction. I also like an occasional gossipy book (I confess!). Here are five nonfiction books I’d like to read this year. All descriptions are from Amazon.

Greed in the Gilded Age: The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick by William Elliott Hazelgrove (Feb 15)

‘Millionaire’ had just entered the American lexicon and Cassie Chadwick was front page news, becoming a media sensation before mass media, even eclipsing President Roosevelt’s inauguration. Using these newspaper articles, Hazelgrove tells the story of one of the greatest cons in American history.

Combining the sexuality and helplessness her gender implied, Chadwick conned at least 2 million dollars, equivalent to about 60 million today, simply by claiming to be the illegitimate daughter and heir of steel titan, Andrew Carnegie. Playing to their greed, she was able to convince highly educated financiers to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars, on nothing more than a rumor and her word.

She was a product of her time and painting her as a criminal is only one way to look at it. Those times rewarded someone who was smart, inventive, bold, and aggressive. She was able to break through boundaries of class, education, and gender, to beat the men of the one percent at their own game.

Hedged Out: Inequality and Insecurity on Wall Street by Megan Tobias Neely (Jan 25)

Who do you think of when you imagine a hedge fund manager? A greedy fraudster, a visionary entrepreneur, a wolf of Wall Street? These tropes capture the public imagination of a successful hedge fund manager. But behind the designer suits, helicopter commutes, and illicit pursuits are the everyday stories of people who work in the hedge fund industry—many of whom don’t realize they fall within the 1 percent that drives the divide between the richest and the rest. With Hedged Out, sociologist and former hedge fund analyst Megan Tobias Neely gives readers an outsider’s insider perspective on Wall Street and its enduring culture of inequality.

Hedged Out dives into the upper echelons of Wall Street, where elite white masculinity is the standard measure for the capacity to manage risk and insecurity. Facing an unpredictable and risky stock market, hedge fund workers protect their interests by working long hours and building tight-knit networks with people who look and behave like them. Using ethnographic vignettes and her own industry experience, Neely showcases the voices of managers and other workers to illustrate how this industry of politically mobilized elites excludes people on the basis of race, class, and gender. Neely shows how this system of elite power and privilege not only sustains itself but builds over time as the beneficiaries concentrate their resources. Hedged Out explains why the hedge fund industry generates extreme wealth, why mostly white men benefit, and why reforming Wall Street will create a more equal society.

Heiresses: The Lives of the Million Dollar Babies by Laura Thompson (Feb 15)

Heiresses: surely they are among the luckiest women on earth. Are they not to be envied, with their private jets and Chanel wardrobes and endless funds? Yet all too often those gilded lives have been beset with trauma and despair. Before the 20th century a wife’s inheritance was the property of her husband, making her vulnerable to kidnap, forced marriages, even confinement in an asylum. And in modern times, heiresses fell victim to fortune-hunters who squandered their millions.

Heiresses tells the stories of these million dollar babies: Mary Davies, who inherited London’s most valuable real estate, and was bartered from the age of twelve; Consuelo Vanderbilt, the original American “Dollar Heiress”, forced into a loveless marriage; Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress who married seven times and died almost penniless; and Patty Hearst, heiress to a newspaper fortune who was arrested for terrorism. However, there are also stories of independence and achievement: Angela Burdett-Coutts, who became one of the greatest philanthropists of Victorian England; Nancy Cunard, who lived off her mother’s fortune and became a pioneer of the civil rights movement; and Daisy Fellowes, elegant linchpin of interwar high society and noted fashion editor.

Sentence: Ten Years and a Thousand Books in Prison by Daniel Genis (Feb 22)

In 2003 Daniel Genis, the son of a famous Soviet émigré writer, broadcaster, and culture critic, was fresh out of NYU when he faced a serious heroin addiction that led him into debt and ultimately crime. After he was arrested for robbing people at knifepoint, he was nicknamed the “apologetic bandit” in the press, given his habit of expressing his regret to his victims as he took their cash. He was sentenced to twelve years—ten with good behavior, a decade he survived by reading 1,046 books, taking up weightlifting, having philosophical discussions with his fellow inmates, working at a series of prison jobs, and in general observing an existence for which nothing in his life had prepared him.

Genis describes in unsparing and vivid detail the realities of daily life in the New York penal system. In his journey from Rikers Island and through a series of upstate institutions he encounters violence on an almost daily basis, while learning about the social strata of gangs, the “court” system that sets geographic boundaries in prison yards, how sex was obtained, the workings of the black market in drugs and more practical goods, the inventiveness required for everyday tasks such as cooking, and how debilitating solitary confinement actually is—all while trying to preserve his relationship with his recently married wife.

Shackleton by Ranulph Fiennes (Jan 4)

An enthralling new biography of Ernest Shackleton by the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

In 1915, Sir Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to traverse the Antarctic was cut short when his ship, Endurance, became trapped in ice. The disaster left Shackleton and his men alone at the frozen South Pole, fighting for their lives. Their survival and escape is the most famous adventure in history.

Shackleton is a captivating new account of the adventurer, his life and his incredible leadership under the most extreme of circumstances. Written by polar adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes who followed in Shackleton’s footsteps, he brings his own unique insights to bear on these infamous expeditions. Shackleton is both re-appraisal and a valediction, separating Shackleton from the myth he has become.

Do any of these look good to you? What nonfiction books are you looking forward to reading in 2022? Leave a comment!

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Book Review: Elizabeth and Monty: the Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship by Charles Casillo

Elizabeth and Monty: the Untold Story of Their Intimate Friendship
by
Charles Casillo

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’ve always been interested in Hollywood glamour during the 1940s and 1950s, so when I saw this book at our library, I grabbed it. Most everyone knows about Elizabeth Taylor, her legendary beauty and her eight marriages. I’d heard of Montgomery Clift, remembered him as handsome and that the two costarred in some films, but I was curious about their relationship.

Elizabeth and Monty is a well-researched biography of Taylor and Clift and a history of their friendship. Although at times repetitive and a little cheesy, I enjoyed reading about their backgrounds and relationship.

They developed an intense emotional frienship and, even during gaps when they didn’t see each other, they were closely bound. Over time, Elizabeth became more of a protector, as Monty struggled.

Elizabeth and Monty first met in 1951, on the set of A Place in the Sun. Elizabeth was already a beauty at seventeen and Monty, thirty-one, was an established and handsome star. Despite the age difference, the two were drawn to each other emotionally. And Monty, one of the first method actors, helped Elizabeth understand her character in the film. They were a gorgeous couple and Hollywood loved promoting them as one, but Monty was gay. Elizabeth fell in love with him anyway and hoped for more.

Casillo does a good job explaining how, during this time, homosexuality was mostly closeted and especially taboo in Hollywood. Many gay men married women and kept the image of being husbands and family men, forced to hide their sexuality. Elizabeth’s father was a closeted gay man and perhaps this experience made her more sensitive to Monty’s situation. In addition, both Elizabeth and Monty had sheltered childhoods and domineering mothers.

Monty developed an early dependency on alcohol and drugs and, after a devastating car crash in 1956 altered his appearance, he descended into alcoholism and addiction. Monty never fully recovered physically or emotionally and struggled to find work, but Elizabeth helped get him roles. He began acting strangely in public and with friends and was unreliable on the sets of new films, often arriving late and drinking all day. He died in 1966 at forty-five.

During this time, Elizabeth continued to make films, including Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer and Cleopatra. And she married, a lot! First to Conrad Hilton, Jr., then Michael Wilding, Mike Todd, Eddie Fisher (big scandal!), Richard Burton, John Warner and Larry Fortensky. Elizabeth had many health issues, including alcoholism and drug addiction and was constantly featured in gossip magazines. In her later years, she was an HIV/AIDS activist, had her own fragrance and jewelry brands and supported Jewish and Zionist causes. She had four children and died in 2011 at seventy-nine.

If you’re looking for an easy, fast and fun read about Hollywood and a couple famous actors from the 40s and 50s, I think you’ll like Elizabeth and Monty.

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Book Club Mom’s recommended biographies and memoirs

Here are twelve fascinating biographies and memoirs of important historical and influential figures, and some regular people too. I like reading all kinds of life stories and recommend these:


Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb – an excellent collection of mini biographies of twelve famous personalities, explaining their known or likely battles with mental illness.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – a remarkable and amusing record of Franklin’s life in America during the mid- to late 1700s.

Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover – Westover’s account of breaking out of an isolated and abusive childhood, with a violent sibling, a controlling and paranoid father and a mother who deferred to her husband.

Helen Keller – The Story of My Life – the story of an American girl from Alabama who lost her sight and hearing as a baby and determinedly overcame these obstacles to become a writer, a social activist and an advocate for the blind and deaf.


Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske – the story of a dashing billionaire inventor, pilot, and a filmmaker who used money to and control his business and personal life.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – I avoided Lab Girl at first because I am not a science person. But this memoir is for all readers. Jahren writes beautifully about her lonely childhood in Minnesota, college life and early years trying to make it as a scientist.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – a great story about being different and making it anyway. In some ways, it is a classic success story about perseverance, but mostly, it’s a shout-out to anyone who’s not mainstream.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Using notes stored away for nearly thirty years, Hemingway began working on a memoir of his days in Paris, where he was part of the expatriate community of writers, artists and creative minds, known now as the “Lost Generation.” He died leaving the book unfinished, but his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, edited the manuscript and the first edition was published in 1964.


Night by Elie Wiesel – Elie Wiesel’s memoir about being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II. The New York Times calls it “a slim volume of terrifying power” and I couldn’t agree more.

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore – an in-depth look at the lives of two young men with the same name, who grew up on the same streets in Baltimore, Maryland and took two divergent paths.

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman – a young woman from West Virginia dreams of becoming a concert violinist and gets a job playing in a prestigious touring orchestra, only to discover that the microphones are turned off. Listeners instead hear music that sounds suspiciously like the score of the popular 1997 film, Titanic.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – a young doctor at the crest of a brilliant career as a neurosurgeon and scientist, Kalanithi was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. During the short time he had left, he was determined to live a life with personal meaning, so he continued working, fathered a baby girl and wrote this book.

What biographies and memoirs have you read? What do you recommend?

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Short reviews from 2013: Twisted, The Shoemaker’s Wife and Steve Jobs

In celebration of my 7-year blogging anniversary, here are three short reviews of books I read in 2013.


Twisted
by
Laurie Halse Anderson

This book is a little bit like a modern Catcher in the Rye and I liked it for that reason. Twisted was on our school district’s summer reading list for rising ninth graders a couple years ago. There is some mature language and content, but I think it is realistic. I think kids want to read something contemporary that has an edge to it and Anderson understands how to incorporate this element into quality writing.

In Twisted, Tyler returns to his senior year of high school, after being punished during the summer for vandalizing the school. He struggles with a poor self-image and how others, most importantly his father, perceive him. Tyler navigates through adolescence and important relationships and, like many coming-of-age stories, learns the true meaning of family and friendship.

Final scenes with his family are raw and emotional and show Anderson at her best.


The Shoemaker’s Wife
by
Adriana Trigiani

I liked this family saga of immigration, near-misses in love and brushes with greatness, with the appropriate doses of disappointment and sadness. It is a light and entertaining read. I enjoyed reading about Italy at the turn of the century and life in the Italian Alps. The author does a nice job bringing the main characters to life.

I think the author’s strengths lie in the story’s initial setting and characters. Her early descriptions of Ciro, Eduardo and their mother are moving. In addition, Trigiani’s descriptions of the Ravanelli family show warmth and devotion. It is the foundation of a really great story.

Ciro’s success as a shoemaker and his assimilation into New York life move at a believable pace. I enjoyed this part of the story much more. Despite the unlikely nature of meeting Enza on her wedding day, we all know it is coming and accept the feel-good moment.

Some other parts I like include Ciro’s relationship with Sister Teresa at the San Nicola Convent. I also like how Ciro is accepted for who he is at the convent, and how the nuns do not force him to be a believer.

An entertaining read and a great way to escape to another time and place!


Steve Jobs
by
Walter Isaacson

This biography gives us the full picture of Steve Jobs, good and bad. It is a detailed history of Jobs, his life and his creations at Apple, NeXT, Pixar and Apple again. And it’s a look at the impatient frustrations of a perfectionist who, with the genius of vision and presentation, liked to distort reality, had poor people skills and thought no rules applied to him.

I don’t know what to think of Steve Jobs. He derived his happiness from creating and was driven to do so. Isaacson shows a man who manipulated people, berated them, and often ignored his wife and children. He regularly took credit for ideas that came from his creative team and rearranged facts to benefit his point, all with no regrets. But time and again he enabled people to achieve the impossible by refusing to believe that something could not be done.  The combination of persistence and genius made him a remarkable man.

AND…Steve Jobs gave us the Mac, fonts, graphics and desktop publishing. Then he gave us the iPhone, the iPod, iTunes and music. He allowed us to re-experience the feelings we used to have in record stores as we excitedly flipped through albums and heard new music on the store speakers. Then he gave us the iPad, movies and books all with a touchscreen. He knew what we wanted, just as he said, before we knew what we wanted.

This was a very interesting read. My only negative comment is that it was sometimes repetitive, particularly on the subjects of distorted reality and Jobs’ belief in closed-end product design. I also thought the author often portrayed Jobs as too much of a beloved hero in the second half of the book, once Jobs returned to Apple. But then again, that’s when we got all these great products. And I don’t think I could live without them.

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Book Review: Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske

Howard Hughes: The Untold Story
by
Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske

Rating:

I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know much about Howard Hughes when I opened this biography. Most of it happened before I was born and I was too young to understand what happened later in his life. But I knew his name and I had a vague knowledge of his involvement in aircraft and the movies. That was it.

Hughes had a lot going on in his life. He was a dashing billionaire inventor and pilot, ran two giant corporations, built a major airline, was a filmmaker and used his money to get and control whatever he wanted, including a shockingly long list of glamourous women.

Born in Texas in 1905, Hughes grew up an only child, smothered by his mother’s obsessive attention and fear of germs. Already different and uncomfortable around other children, he preferred to play alone in the workshop his father built for him, where he tinkered with many inventions. He became a millionaire at nineteen, when his father died and left behind a successful oil drill bit business (Hughes Tool Company). The timing of his life, his engineering genius and business instinct resulted in decades of profits in the tool, aircraft and government contract businesses. With all this going on, he plunged into movie-making and made many successful films.

But there were many things askew in Howard Hughes. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that was less understood at the time and often untreated or self-treated, affected all aspects of his life. More than a dozen head injuries, a syphilis infection and an alarming drug habit no doubt contributed to an increasingly bizarre and reclusive life.

He surrounded himself with staff and security who would do anything he asked, including hunting down beautiful stars and starlets, some of them in their teens, setting them up in bugged apartments, with detectives reporting on their every move. He seduced hundreds of famous women, including Jean Harlow, Kathryn Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Lana Turner, married twice, and was engaged to multiple young women and girls at the same time. He declared his love to all of them and some of them bought it. Hughes’s behavior with women was glamorized at the time, but from a modern reader’s perspective, it is disturbingly predatory.

Despite these conditions, he continued to negotiate huge deals for Hughes Tool Company, Hughes Aircraft, RKO Pictures and Trans World Airlines. He was also a political contributor, sometimes to both parties and had ties to President Richard Nixon’s adversary, Democratic National Committee Chairman Larry O’Brien. It’s believed that Nixon’s interest in knowing more about O’Brien’s relationship with Hughes was one of the reasons for the Watergate break-in.

In his prime, Howard Hughes was deemed an American hero, but in his final years, he was barely lucid. And it turns out, his loyal staff had their sights on his riches and pumped him with shocking amounts of codeine and painkillers. He died at age seventy in 1976.

There is much more in this book, too much to mention and better to read first-hand. There is no question that Hughes’s unbelievable life story fits Mark Twain’s observation that “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

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Books for football fans, and anyone who likes a good story

Image: Pixabay

Football season is almost upon us and there are lots of great football books out there for kids and adults. I’ve added to a previous list to include several biographies and one of the best feel-good stories out there, a memoir by Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles.

You don’t have to be an avid football fan to appreciate these stories, so take a look and see what I mean!


Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds by Nick Foles: a first-person account of the journey that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles experienced in the 2017 season, which culminated in the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory. After entering the season as the backup, he was thrust into the starting role after the starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, tore his ACL. Foles embraced his faith in God and overcame countless odds to achieve the greatest feat in an NFL season—winning a championship.


Football for a Buck by Jeff Pearlman:  This book highlights the rise and fall of the United States Football League (USFL), which lasted for three seasons in the 1980s. It dives into the incredible highs that the league experienced, such as enticing the talents of Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Reggie White to play in the league. But it also goes into detail on the laundry list of reasons why the league failed so quickly, as well as its ties to current US President, Donald Trump, who was one of the league’s team owners.


Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger:  Excellent account of the Permian Panthers high school football team in Odessa, Texas, the “winningest team in Texas history.” Bissinger chronicles the 1988 season and tells the story of the small town that revolves around Friday night games and elevates its players to hero status. If you like to know the real story behind ultra-competitive high school football programs, check out the book and the movie. And for those who like the relationship drama behind any story, the television series is a good choice.


Gunslinger by Jeff Pearlman:  Excellent biography of Brett Favre, one of the most famous NFL quarterbacks to play the game. Favre’s career lasted nearly two decades, playing for the Green Bay Packers and later, the New York Jets and Packers’ rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. Pearlman provides an in-depth look at the ups and downs of Favre’s career and the complex character behind the football legend.


Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica:  Great young adult book. A story of 13-year-old Nate, star quarterback for his 8th grade football team. Nate gets a chance to win a million dollars if he throws a thirty-yard pass through a target during half-time at a New England Patriots game. The companion story is about Nate and his best friend Abby who are struggling with health and family issues. Nate’s parents are under financial stress and Abby is losing her eyesight due to a rare condition. These pressures affect Nate’s performance on the football field and, what seemed like a fun contest suddenly becomes too much.


QB1 by Mike Lupica:  a feel-good read geared towards the middle school or early high school reader. Two Texas quarterback brothers, four years apart and sons to a famous quarterback whose NFL career was cut short, Wyatt and Jake Cullen have different challenges. Wyatt is a freshman quarterback for the Texas Longhorns and is living his father’s dream. Younger brother Jake has lived in Wyatt’s shadow for as long as he can remember. The story begins when Jake enters ninth grade as the third-string quarterback, for a coach and team that are still celebrating big brother Wyatt’s leadership the season before.


Sweetness by Jeff Pearlmana post by Austin Vitelli about the life of NFL legend Walter Payton. He wrote it after reading Sweetness by Jeff Pearlman, a biography about Payton. If you’re not a football fan, you may not know the name, but Walter Payton is the namesake of the annual NFL Man of the Year award.

Vitelli writes, “One thing I struggled with throughout the book was weighing the good and bad in Payton’s life. Payton was likely one of the nicest and most genuinely caring NFL players ever. But he also made lots of questionable decisions that seemingly get left out in many people’s stories of him.”


Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow:  Interesting memoir about Tim Tebow’s high school, college and professional football careers. Written during a period of Tebow mania, this book has few surprises, but fills in the details about the famous quarterback’s early life and explains his personal religious beliefs and message. Not all professional athletes want to be viewed as role models, but they are in the public eye anyway and stories about the bad role models make headlines regularly. Tim Tebow wants to be out there in a positive way. He wants to be noticed and, besides sending his religious message, his biggest goal, a kid himself, is to reach out to kids. If you can take the rest of it, then he’s your man.


Check out a comprehensive Amazon list of football books here.

Click here for an Amazon list of children’s football books.

What football books can you add to this list?

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What’s That Book? The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

TitleThe Other Wes Moore – One Name, Two Fates

Author:  Wes Moore

Genre:  Memoir/Biography

Rating:  4 stars

What’s it about?  An in-depth look at the lives of two young men with the same name, who grew up on the same streets in Baltimore, Maryland. One is serving a life sentence for murder, the other (the author of this book) graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University, is a Rhodes Scholar, earned a Master’s at Oxford, was a White House Fellow under Secretary Condoleezza Rice and is a combat veteran.

The author learned about the other Wes Moore after a series of articles in the Baltimore Sun about a jewelry robbery that went bad. The store’s security guard was killed and the other Wes Moore was one of the men convicted of murder.

The author was haunted by this story and determined to make sense of how two people who had very similar childhoods could go in such different directions. He writes, “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.” He wrote to the other Wes in prison and the two men began a years-long correspondence. This book is the result of their unusual relationship.

How did you hear about it?  One of my kids read it for his summer reading assignment about eight years ago. It looked interesting to me so I also read it.

Coincidently, we were at another son’s college graduation last week and the speaker was Wes Moore. Moore is now the CEO of Robin Hood, one of the largest anti-poverty forces in the nation. After hearing him speak about his experiences and listening to his simple and down-to-earth advice to the class, I knew I wanted to talk about the book.

Closing comments: I was glad to be reminded of this book and hear Moore speak. I recommend The Other Wes Moore to readers of all ages. You can read more about Wes Moore and Robin Hood here.

Contributor:  Ginette 😉


Have you read something good?  Want to talk about it?
Consider being a contributor to What’s That Book.

Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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Best nonfiction reads of 2018

Image: Pixabay

Holiday shopping can be stressful and books are good options, but only if you know they’re good! Here are five of my favorite nonfiction reads of 2018. Maybe one of these will be just right for your friends or family.


Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb – Charles Darwin was a worrier, Fyodor Dostoevsky was a compulsive gambler, and Howard Hughes had OCD. Was Andy Warhol a hoarder or simply a collector? Was Albert Einstein autistic or just focused? In this excellent collection of mini biographies, Claudia Kalb looks at twelve famous personalities and explains their known or likely battles with mental illness.


David Bowie – A Life by Dylan Jones – The story of rock legend David Bowie, who hit the scene in the 1960s and for decades delivered music, art, film and stage performances through ever-changing personas. A compilation of interviews and quotes from nearly two hundred people describing Bowie’s career. It is a terrific view into a complicated and private person.


Educated – A Memoir by Tara Westover – a young woman’s fascinating memoir about being raised in isolation by survivalist parents, tolerating her father’s mental illness and a brother’s abuse, and ultimately breaking free. Westover taught herself enough math and grammar to take the SATs and go to college, first at Brigham Young University. She later studied at Cambridge University and earned her PhD at Harvard.


Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann – a true-crime account of a shameful period of American history in which members of the Osage tribe were murdered for the headrights to oil-rich land on their reservation in Oklahoma. David Grann tells this shocking story, including the investigation of the murders led by J. Edgar Hoover’s newly-formed Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – Excellent memoir about being different. Through a rambling, often irreverent and always hilarious “where is this story going?” narration, with plenty of colorful vocabulary, Lawson tells you about her childhood, depression, anxiety and illness, her family, early jobs, marriage, motherhood and how she became a blogger and writer.


What are your favorite nonfiction reads of 2018?

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My NetGalley hauls

Hey readers! You probably already know about NetGalley because I was a late joiner. Not really a trendsetter here! But I signed up about a year ago and it has been great. Since I already write book reviews, having an early look at new titles is a lot of fun, with not too much of an extra commitment. I wasn’t sure how well I would do with turnaround, though, so I limited the number of books I requested and held off on new requests until I read the ones NetGalley approved.

I finally finished the last book from my first haul so this week I went on a NetGalley binge and loaded my digital shelf with some new ones!


Here’s what I picked:

      

   

The Last Cruise by Kate Christensen (pub. 7/10/18)
No Place Like Home by Rebecca Muddiman (pub. 8/6/2019)
Be Still the Water by Karen Emilson (pub. 7/28/2016)
The Space Within the Silence by Bre Woods (pub. 7/24/2018)
Tap: A Love Story by Tracy Ewens (pub. 7/10/2018)

Just like everyone else, I have a huge TBR pile, so I’ll be mixing these in with books already in the queue.


And here are the NetGalley books I’ve already read and reviewed:

      

      

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian – suspense – 4 bookmarks
The Surrogate by Louise Jensen – suspense – 3 bookmarks
Bunny Mellon by Meryl Gordon – biography – 4 bookmarks
Last Stop in Brooklyn by Lawrence H. Levy – mystery – 4 bookmarks
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage – suspense – 3.5 bookmarks
The Bone Curse by Carrie Rubin – science thriller – 4 bookmarks
David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones – biography – 4 bookmarks


And if you’re wondering about my bookmark system, here’s a quick run-down:

5 bookmarks – best of the best
4 bookmarks – excellent
3 bookmarks – very good
2 bookmarks – okay
1 bookmark- didn’t enjoy it


For more information about NetGalley, visit their website at netgalley.com. Are you already on NetGalley? How many books on your shelf?

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