I just finished reading David McCullough’s Truman (1992) (1117 pages) (*****). My cousin Joe recommended Truman to me in 2006 or thereabouts after I mentioned to him how much I enjoyed McCullough’s John Adams. The reputation for folksy leadership aside, Truman was faced with unspeakable challenges as president, worked indefatibably for almost eight years, then returned to his home in Independence, Missouri in a manner reminiscent of one of his heroes, Cincinnatus. Although he left office low in public opinion, he is considered now to be one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had. Strongly recommended.
Forrest Gump (1994) meets the Lost Boys of Sudan. I was first introduced to Dave Eggers through A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius (2001) (*****). Eggers apparently polarizes his audience — you either like his writing or you don’t. His are certainly not the polished letters of Somerset Maugham. In What is the What (2006) (538 pages) (****), Eggers introduces us to Valentino Achek Deng, one of the lost boys of Sudan. Deng’s exodus from the civil wars of Sudan took him to Ethiopia, Kenya, then the United States. Deng is there — or at least the voice of Deng is there — narrating to whomever will listen. About life and the proverbial box of chocolates. Only here there is deprivation, starvation, death, pathos, savagery, and ultimately bittersweet hope. Strongly recommended.
Dunlop, Fuchsia, Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China (2008). 320 pages. They say you can get to certain people through their stomachs. In Shark’s Fin, Ms. Dunlop gets to China through its food. An autobiographical memoir, it succeeds at introducing the Westerner to the culinary history and eating habits and customs of various Chinese provinces, starting in Sichuan and ending in the city of Yangzhou in the province of Jiangsu. Recommended by my friend Lew.
Daniel Silva and Gabriel Allon and I have to mention John LeCarre
My Dad and others have recommended author Daniel Silva as a good read. Here are his books involving secret spy Gabriel Allon and a link to his website:
The Kill Artist
The English Assassin
A Death in Vienna
Prince of Fire
The Secret Servant
The Moscow Rules
When it comes to the secret spy genre, the reigning king has been in my opinion John Le Carre. His books seem to appeal more to readers who are interested in character development, morality and ambiguity, and tragedy. For anyone interested, they should start with The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and the introduction to George Smiley.
Finished. Robertson Davies’ last book. May he rest in peace.
Robertson Davies wrote The Cunning Man, which was published in 1995 or thereabouts. I’m trying to read it.
Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses (2003). Completed November 3, 2008. 258 pages. In English, a beautifully translated novel about an emotionally austere Norwegian and his dog.