Books with writers as characters

Have you ever noticed how often the books we read include characters who (or is it that – someone please tell me the rule!) are writers? Some are novelists, poets, journalists or podcasters. Some are based on real-life writers. Many are struggling with their careers. They’ve either made it big and are losing their touch, or they’ve written one successful book, but haven’t written a second. Still others have made it big but struggle with the fame. These characters aren’t always the main part of the story, but many are.

I wonder if I’m just drawn to this kind of book? Here’s a list of what I’ve read:

The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner – children’s author

Less by Andrew Sean Greer – struggling novelist

Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor – Emily Dickinson

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway – Ernest Hemingway (nonfiction)

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout – novelist

A Murder of Magpies by Judith Flanders – novelists/publishing house

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney – one sibling is a struggling novelist

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – romance novelist who may be losing her touch

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – journalist/podcaster

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – Ernest Hemingway as he writes The Sun Also Rises

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand – popular mystery writer, past her peak

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – investigative journalist

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney – struggling novelist

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin – Truman Capote

The Tenant by Katrine Engberg – mystery writer

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple – struggling graphic memoirist

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – travel journalist

Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk – new novelist who makes it big

I’m about to start another one that will make this list: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz. It’s a hot book this summer and my hold just came in from the library.

Do you like reading books about writers? Can you add any to this list? I may have to read them next!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk – still my favorite!

One of the best things about looking back at your all-time favorite books is reliving the great feelings you had when you read them. And no matter how many new great books I read, I’ll always go back to my number one all-time favorite book, Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk.  Last year, I was excited to learn that a couple of my blogging friends (Annika Perry’s Writing Blog and Pamela Wight at RoughWighting) had added it to their 2019 reading lists. How fun to see that people are still reading this book that first hit the scene in 1962!

Youngblood Hawke is the story of a young author from the coal mines of Kentucky who arrives in New York and becomes a hugely successful and prolific novelist. Publishers, agents, Broadway producers, filmmakers, real estate developers and, of course, women, all want a piece of this larger-than-life, good-natured and ambitious personality. Hawke’s goal all along is to make enough money so that he can really get down to business and write his most serious work, something he calls his American Comedy. There are lots of ups and downs and many detours. At 800 pages, it’s not exactly a fast read, but it’s lots of fun and well worth the commitment.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who’s read Youngblood Hawke, but there are lots of fans out there. Check out these reviews and maybe you’ll add it to your list!

The average rating on Goodreads is 4.04
Amazon rates it at 4.5
This review from the LA Times says “’Youngblood Hawke’ Is No Turkey”

Are you tempted?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Click here to see Book Club Mom’s Top 15 Faves.

Book Club Mom’s May recap – books, birthdays and a graduation

I don’t know what happened to May, but here we are at the finish. It’s a big month for birthdays in my family and we squeezed in a college graduation too! It’s always nice to settle into a comfy chair during the down times and relax with a book, a show or a puzzle.

I’ve become a bit crazy with a word game I have on my ancient Kindle called Every Word: Crossings, and I have been playing it obsessively. I never look at that as a waste of time, though. Things like that always help me sort out my day.

And I went a little overboard with my Barbie doll posts (see below), but it’s been fun (for me, at least!) sharing something that I loved as a girl.


This month, I read and reviewed three regular books:

 

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd – if you like mystery series, this is the first of the Bess Crawford stories, set in England during World War I. I enjoyed both the characters and the historical setting. The author, Charles Todd, is actually a mother-son writing team.


More and more, it seems, fiction books are being co-authored and this month I wrote a post about this very thing!

Author teams and pen names – if the story’s good, does it matter? Not to me!


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – in this memoir about becoming a female scientist, Jahren writes a compelling personal story about family, love, friendship, mental health and the difficulties of earning a living as a scientist. (Jahren made it big, after a long road, and has won many awards.)


The Beneficiary – Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of my Father by Janny Scott – a biography of Robert Montgomery Scott, written by his daughter. A tale of four generations of a wealthy Main Line, Pennsylvania family and their 800-acre estate and the complicated relationships among family members.


As I mentioned above, I also started a series that celebrates books about the Barbie doll’s 60th birthday. Here are the first two posts, indulging my obsession. I’ll share my final Barbie post next week.

Dressing Barbie: A Celebration of the Clothes That Made America’s Favorite Doll and the Incredible Woman Behind Them – Carol Spencer

Look what Barbie’s wearing! Barbie Fashion 1959-1967 by Sarah Sink Eames


May was a busier indie author month. I introduced three hard-working writers:

Richard Doiron
Lucia N. Davis
Frank Prem

If you are an indie or self-published author and would like to be featured on Who’s That Indie Author, please email me at bvitelli2009@gmail.com. To shake things up, I’ve updated my interview with a new set of questions!


Next week, we’re starting a Summer Reading program at the library where I work, so I’ll be signing up for that. I plan to work these two books onto my list:

June book previews: Lot – Stories by Bryan Washington and Miracle Creek by Angie Kim


And last, I was sorry to see that American author Herman Wouk died on May 17, at age 103. I’ve enjoyed many of his books and think I will go back to some of them this summer. I had a fun time looking at these book covers – did you notice that the last two, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, fit together to make a bigger picture?

Remembering American author Herman Wouk, 1915 – 2019

I hope you had a good month, out in the world and between the pages. I’m looking forward to a good summer!

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Remembering American author Herman Wouk, 1915 – 2019

American author Herman Wouk passed away on May 17, days before his 104th birthday.

Wouk (pronounced “woke”) was an award-winning American author of fiction, non-fiction and plays, and the author of my number one favorite book, Youngblood Hawke. He may be the most famous for The Caine Mutiny, which won the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, but many readers in my age group will also remember his popular historical novels, also about World War II, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. The first book was made into the very popular 1983 television miniseries starring Robert Mitchum, Ali McGraw, Jan-Michael Vincent, John Houseman and Polly Bergen. Its sequel was released in 1988, with the return of Mitchum and Bergen and added others including Jane Seymour and Sharon Stone. You can check out the sequel’s full cast and crew here.

Another favorite, Marjorie Morningstar, was published in 1955. It’s the story of a nineteen-year-old Jewish girl from New York who dreams of becoming an actress. Warner Brothers made it into a movie in 1958, starring Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly.

Wouk had a long career. When he celebrated his 100th birthday in May 2015, he announced the January 2016 release of his autobiographical memoir, Sailor and Fiddler – Reflections of a 100-year-Old Author. He said it would be his last book, but his agent reported that he had been working on a new one at the time of his death.

Have you read any books by Herman Wouk? Click here for a full list. Do you have a favorite?

Want more Wouk? Check out these earlier posts on Book Club Mom:

Who’s That Author? Herman Wouk
Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

(Click here to read Herman Wouk’s obituary from the May 17 issue of the New York Times.)

Summer Reading Challenge – create a movie soundtrack to your favorite book

One of the fun squares on my Summer Reading Challenge BINGO card is to create a soundtrack to my favorite book if it became a movie. For those of you who don’t know, my #1 all-time favorite book is Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk.  Wouk has been writing books for decades, most notably The Caine Mutiny, which was published in 1951 and won the Pulitzer Prize, Marjorie Morningstar, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, and of course, Youngblood Hawke.

Read all about Herman Wouk in “Who’s That Author?” here. And by the way, Wouk is 102 years old and at age 100 published Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year Old Author.

So you can make sense of my soundtrack, here’s a quick summary of Youngblood Hawke:

Youngblood Hawke is the story of a young author from the coal mines of Kentucky who arrives in New York and becomes a hugely successful and prolific novelist. Publishers, agents, Broadway producers, filmmakers, real estate developers and, of course, women, all want a piece of this larger-than-life, good-natured and ambitious personality. Hawke’s goal all along is to make enough money so that he can really get down to business and write his most serious work, something he calls his American Comedy.

He has a work ethic like no other, writes all through the night, sleeps very little and spends the rest of his time trying to manage his new successful life, with many detours. Pushed to his limits, Hawke ignores recurring symptoms of a head injury from years ago. We watch and hope for the best as he works maniacally and under incredible financial pressure to complete his latest book. His dream is just ahead and we hope for the best.


Here’s my soundtrack!

  • Everyday I Write the Book – Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  • Talk of the Town – The Pretenders
  • The Book I Read – Talking Heads
  • It’s Hard To Be a Saint In The City – Bruce Springsteen
  • Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield
  • I’m So Anxious – Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes
  • Reelin’ in the Years – Steely Dan
  • Gone Hollywood – Supertramp
  • Life’ll Kill Ya – Warren Zevon

Note:  Youngblood Hawke was actually made into a movie in 1964 and starred James Franciscus, Suzanne Pleshette and Geneviève Page. My song choices are my own. You can check out the details of the film here.


I created this movie soundtrack as part of my Build a Better World Summer Reading Challenge.

What’s your favorite book? Can you make a soundtrack for it?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

What did you read in 2014?

readingavidly.com
readingavidly.com

What is it about end-of-year lists? I love making them and I love reading all the power rankings for movies, TV shows and, of course books! When the end of December rolls around, I think we have a built-in need to list, categorize, and choose our favorites before we move on to the next year.

So I made my list, sorted it and picked out the books I enjoyed the most. Here are my faves for each category.

2014 FAVES:

Best Classic: Youngblood Hawke – Herman Wouk
Best Contemporary Fiction: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells – Andrew Sean Greer
Best Young Adult: The Caged Graves – Dianne K. Salerni
Best Suspense: The Silent Wife – A. S. A. Harrison
Best Romance: Premiere – Tracy Ewens
Best Short Story: “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber” – Ernest Hemingway
Best Children’s Book: Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish – Nancy Dingman Watson
Best Nonfiction: In the Heart of the Sea – Nathaniel Philbrick

And here’s what I read in 2014:

FICTION:

The Classics

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontё
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
– Truman Capote
The Great Gatsby
– F. Scott Fitzgerald
Lord of the Flies
– William Golding
Youngblood Hawke
– Herman Wouk

Contemporary Fiction

Tell the Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt
Sea Creatures – Susanna Daniel
Stiltsville – Susanna Daniel
Billy Bathgate – E.L. Doctorow
The Round House – Louise Erdrich
The American Heiress – Daisy Goodwin
Death in a Red Canvas Chair – N. A. Granger
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells – Andrew Sean Greer
Elizabeth Is Missing – Emma Healey
We Are Water – Wally Lamb
The Pieces We Keep – Kristina McMorris
What Alice Forgot – Liane Moriarty
Me Before You – JoJo Moyes
Mary Coin – Marissa Silver
All Fall Down– Jennifer Weiner
The Interestings – Meg Wolitzer
The Book Thief
– Markus Zusak

Young Adult

The Spirit in the Stick – Neil Duffy
If I Stay
– Gayle Forman
The Eighth Day
– Dianne K. Salerni
The Caged Graves – Dianne K. Salerni

Suspense

Coma – Robin Cook
The Silent Wife – A. S. A. Harrison
Child 44 – Tom Rob Smith
Before I Go to Sleep – S. J. Watson

Romance

The Amish Midwife – Mindy Starns Clark & Leslie Gould
Premiere
– Tracy Ewens
Catalina Kiss
– Tracy Ewens

SHORT STORIES

“This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” – Sherman Alexie
Wilderness Tips
– Margaret Atwood
“Death by Landscape” – Margaret Atwood
“Gryphon” – Charles Baxter
Dear Life
– Alice Munro
“House of Flowers” – Truman Capote
“The Most Dangerous Game” – Richard Connell
“In the Gloaming” – Alice Elliott Dark
“Saint Marie” – Louise Erdrich
“The Fastest Runner on Sixty-first Street” – James T. Farrell
“A Rose for Emily” – William Faulkner
“Babylon Revisited” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The Mail Lady” – David Gates
“The Girl on the Plane” – Mary Gaitskill
“Nicodemus Bluff” – Barry Hannah
“The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber” – Ernest Hemingway
“Cold Snap” – Thom Jones
“Landscape and Dream” – Nancy Krusoe
“The Horse Dealer’s Daughter” – D. H. Lawrence
“The Necklace” – Guy de Maupassant
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” – Joyce Carole Oats
“What the Thunder Said” – Janet Peery
“Red Moccasins” – Susan Power
“The Chrysanthemums” – John Steinbeck
“Two Kinds” – Amy Tan
“First, Body” – Melanie Rae Thon
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” – James Thurber
“An Angel on the Porch” – Thomas Wolfe

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You – Joan Walsh Anglund
Home for a Bunny – Margaret Wise Brown
Calendar Bears – Kathleen and Michael Hague
Robert the Rose Horse – Joan Heilbroner
The Lion and the Little Red Bird – Elisa Kleven
Make Way for Ducklings – Robert McCloskey
The Horse Who Lived Upstairs – Phyllis McGinley
One Hundred Hungry Ants – Elinor J. Pinczes
Pete’s a Pizza
– William Steig
Tommy’s Mommy’s Fish – Nancy Dingman Watson

NONFICTION

Empty Mansions – Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace – Jeff Hobbs
In the Heart of the Sea
– Nathaniel Philbrick

What’s on your list?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk

Youngblood Hawke
by
Herman Wouk

Rating:

If you don’t know already that Youngblood Hawke is Number One on my Top Ten List, now you do! Before my review, I’m going to give you ten reasons why this book sits on top of my pile:

  • Its main character, Youngblood Hawke, is someone you instantly like, despite his flaws and weaknesses. I love his good nature.
  • The rest of the many characters are weak and strong in different ways and very realistic. A couple of them you will love to hate. Others are good and honorable, but their weaknesses often surface and cause problems.
  • The dialogue is great, and it’s not just between a few characters. There is a lot of variety in personalities and situations.
  • There are some serious themes and social and political commentary, but…
  • It’s not all serious – there are many funny parts, particularly the scenes that involve Arthur’s mother.
  • The big machine of business in New York and Hollywood is always interesting. The story takes place between 1946 and 1953 and, while times have changed in many major ways, the way people relate to each other as they negotiate these fantastic deals still seems relevant.
  • There is plenty of romantic drama, though it’s certainly subdued compared to today’s standards!
  • Youngblood Hawke’s work ethic is awesome! It certainly is his downfall, but it’s fascinating to imagine a writer who is so driven and who has such long view of what he wants to say. He always has two or three future books mapped out in his head, and beyond that a plan to get down to his serious work.
  • There is a lot of foreshadowing. I enjoy looking back on this and I think it is one of the ways to tie together a great story.
  • It has a very satisfying ending, not to be revealed here!

Youngblood Hawke is the story of a young author from the coal mines of Kentucky who arrives in New York and becomes a hugely successful and prolific novelist. Publishers, agents, Broadway producers, filmmakers, real estate developers and, of course, women, all want a piece of this larger-than-life, good-natured and ambitious personality. Hawke’s goal all along is to make enough money so that he can really get down to business and write his most serious work, something he calls his American Comedy.

He has a work ethic like no other, writes all through the night, sleeps very little and spends the rest of his time trying to manage his new successful life.

But there are many daytime detours. He’s in love with his editor, Jeanne Green, but he can’t resist the lure of Frieda Winter, an attractive older married woman, who is eager to set him up in the Plaza and manage his affairs. And Hawke can’t resist lots of other women. He also jumps right into a variety of questionable investments, including hog futures and other commodities. And unable to say no, Hawke agrees to a series of risky real estate ventures with smooth-talking Scotty Hoag, an old college friend. There are also movie rights to negotiate, screen plays to write, and plays to adapt. And of course there’s the brownstone he’s gutted and is refurbishing, a major money pit.

Almost all of these characters are pre-occupied with money and success, and also avoiding taxes. Hawke’s mother is obsessed with a lawsuit about mining rights, convinced she was bilked out of a huge sum of money by her dead husband’s unfriendly relatives. No one takes her seriously, but she has a way of sensing a con and is tenacious about getting her due. Scotty Hoag is at the center of this ongoing lawsuit and Wouk shows us how he tries to wriggle free.

Wouk also gives us a good look at the business deals, contracts and the crazy negotiations that take place on both coasts and the huge contrast between Hollywood glitz and New York’s publishing world. His story shows us the difference between money and art and gives us characters that struggle with honor.

This is a huge book and an entire section of the book shows one character’s such struggle with honor as he is forced to testify about his links to the Communist party. Karl Fry’s personal battle against pressure to name names shows the power of his resistance and the personal toll it takes. It’s a battle that brings all the key players together and sets up Hawke’s ultimate challenge.

Pushed to his limits, Hawke ignores recurring symptoms of a head injury from years ago. We watch and hope for the best as he works maniacally and under incredible financial pressure to complete his latest book. His dream is just ahead and we hope for the best.

Youngblood Hawke is 800 pages of thinking entertainment. It’s not exactly a fast read, but it’s lots of fun and well worth the commitment. So go on back to the 1940s and 50s, get to know this terrific character and see if this book makes it to the top of your list!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

 

What’s your favorite summer read?

Youngblood Hawke pic

Do you like a big story with lots of drama? Do you like a book with an overlay of social, moral and political commentary? Do you like complex characters and a bigger-than-life main character?

I say “yes” to all these things and today I finished re-reading Youngblood Hawke, by Herman Wouk. It’s a whopper of a summer read, nearly 800 pages and totally worth the effort!

Check back tomorrow for my official review. It’s #1 of my Top Ten Favorite Books!

Thanks for visiting!

Book Preview: Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk

Youngblood Hawke
by
Herman Wouk

In case you don’t know this, Youngblood Hawke is my all-time, number-one favorite book…ever. Maybe you have read The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance or Marjorie Morningstar. I’ve read a few of these too, and he’s written many more. At nearly 100 years old, Wouk is still writing! His latest book, The Lawgiver, was pubished in 2012.

Herman Wouk Still writing!
Herman Wouk
Still writing!

Youngblood Hawke is about the rise and fall of a fictional American novelist. It’s set in New York in the 1940s and 1950s and has a great cast of characters and plotlines. Wouk based the book on the life of the real novelist, Thomas Wolfe. It was published at the beginning of the summer of 1961 and my mother tells me she read this on the beach when I was a baby.

I’m not at the beach right now, but in the spirit of summer, I’m going to re-read this favorite!

Here’s a list of Wouk’s work, taken from his website, cited below:

Bibliography (Fiction and Non-Fiction)
The Lawgiver (2012)
The Language God Talks (2010)
A Hole in Texas (2004)
The Will to Live on: The Resurgence of Jewish Heritage (2000)
The Glory (1994)
The Hope (1993)
Inside, Outside (1985)
War and Remembrance (1978)
The Winds of War (1971)
The Lomokome Papers (1968)
Don’t Stop the Carnival (1965)
Youngblood Hawke (1961)
This is My God: The Jewish Way of Life (1959, revised ed. 1973)
Slattery’s Hurricane (1956)
Marjorie Morningstar (1955)
The Caine Mutiny (1951)
City Boy: The Adventures of Herbie Bookbinder (1948)
Aurora Dawn (1947)

Film & Television
War and Remembrance (1988)
The Winds of War (1983)
Marjorie Morningstar (1958)
The Caine Mutiny (1954)

Theatre
Don’t Stop The Carnival (music and lyrics by Jimmy Buffett)
Nature’s Way
The Caine Mutiny Court Martial
The Traitor

You can read Wouk’s biography on his website: http://www.hermanwouk.net/biography.html

Here are two additional links:
http://www.biography.com/people/herman-wouk-20631823
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Wouk

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!