Doug’s Book Club II

July – December, 2021

What I read in the last half of the year:

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr, the author of All The Light We Cannot See, which won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2015 and was a massive hit and one of my all-time favorites. This new book requires some patience and trust for the first 100 or so pages, but once you’re invested in the characters, it becomes a magical, deeply compassionate and emotional journey into the past and the future. I loved it!

MADHOUSE AT THE END OF THE EARTH by Julian Sancton. It’s harrowing, it feels desperate, and it’s all true!

THE BLACK COUNT: GLORY, REVOLUTION, BETRAYAL AND THE REAL COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Tom Reiss. It won the Pulitzer in 2013 but I just found it. It’s about the father of Alexandre DUMAS, showing the real life hero behind the books, THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Great read!

I ALONE CAN FIX IT: DONALD J. TRUMP’S CATASTROPHIC FINAL YEAR by Carol Leonnig & Philip Rucker. It’s not a mystery subject but I wondered how they got this incredible access to behind-the-scene history.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT by Erich Maria Remarque. I hadn’t read this since high school in Singapore. It is even better than I recalled.

REMEMBER ME LIKE THIS by Bret Anthony Johnston. I was in the mood for an easy read after so much history and this book was perfect! Great story and a wonderful heroine.

THE SON by Jo Nesbo. An easy read, even translated into English. It has the feel of a TV limited series about corruption and redemption. I really liked it.

A PERFECT SPY by John le Carré. Like all the other le Carré novels I’ve read, this tale is filled with moral ambiguity. Not my favorite, but still a good read.

SUM: 40 TALES FROM THE AFTERLIVES by David Eagleman. This subject is always interesting to me. What exactly are these people experiencing?

WATERCOLOR MEMORIES: THE STORY OF LAUREN by Brian Wilson. Full disclosure: Brian is a friend but I think I would’ve loved this even if he were not.

TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH: HOW MY FAMILY CREATED THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS MAN by Mary Trump. She shares lots of interesting details about growing up as a Trump, but much of it came across as whining. I can’t recommend it.

SHOULD WE STAY OR SHOULD WE GO by Lionel Shriver. Those who know me well will understand why a good friend suggested I read it. It’s very British, very funny, and not at all what I expected. Read the reviews if you must, but then read the book. It’s wonderful.

PERIL by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. This one I can recommend. It’s gripping, and with Woodward’s access and quotes, you know it’s real, which makes it all the more frightening.

THE UNTETHERED SOUL: THE JOURNEY BEYOND YOURSELF by Michael Singer. This book is not for everyone. Dealing with consciousness, metaphysics and the search for unconditional happiness.

INTIMACIES: A NOVEL by Katie Kitamura. It’s a small book but it’s one that sticks with you. She’s very skilled at creating this sense of unease, of dread, that permeates the book. It takes a couple of chapters to become comfortable with the punctuation and style of the author, but it’s difficult to put down once you begin. A NY Times Top 10 Book of the Year.

I’LL TAKE YOUR QUESTIONS NOW: WHAT I SAW AT THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE by Stephanie Grisham. My least-favorite book of the year. Self-serving and “catty,” it left me feeling disdain for just about everyone mentioned in this book, but especially the author herself.

SEVEN BRIEF LESSONS ON PHYSICS by Carlo Rovelli. One of my favorites this year, it’s an easy read, considering the complexity of the subject, and helps you understand concepts that are intimidating to most. Here’s a sample:

I believe that our species will not last long. It does not seem to be made of the stuff that has allowed the turtle, for example, to continue to exist more or less unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, for hundreds of times longer, that is, than we have even been in existence. We belong to a short-lived genus of species. All of our cousins are already extinct. What’s more, we do damage. The brutal climate and environmental changes that we have triggered are unlikely to spare us. For Earth they may turn out to be a small irrelevant blip, but I do not think that we will outlast them unscathed – especially since public and political opinion prefers to ignore the dangers that we are running, hiding our heads in the sand. We are perhaps the only species on Earth to be conscious of the inevitability of our individual mortality. I fear that soon we shall also have to become the only species that will knowingly watch the coming of its own collective demise, or at least the demise of its civilization.”

I highly recommend it!

OH WILLIAM! by Elizabeth Strout. I loved this book because I love the characters Strout has created.

THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE by Erik Larson. One of my favorites, it follows Winston Churchill and his family in that first year of what would become World War 2. He has just been appointed Prime Minister. Germany has forced France to surrender, along with Poland, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands — most of Europe. The small island of Britain, and the determination and courage of Winston Churchill and the people of England, are all that stand between Hitler and the end of western democracy. London, and all the other major British cities, are being bombed nightly. Their defiance in the face of what seemed inevitable, their determination and spirit of shared sacrifice are especially inspiring to me today. Highly recommended.

THE STRANGER IN THE LIFEBOAT by Mitch Albom. No one likes Albom’s book except readers. It’s not literature. It’s not even that original (think THE LIFE OF PI) but in the end it is deeply satisfying and emotional. It’s one to read on your next 3-hour flight.