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What are we reading in December?

Annie Deighnaugh
December 1, 2018

I'm about half way through Ghost Map which is nonfiction about the 1850s cholera epidemic in London. Very interesting and the descriptions of life and the smells of living in that time where they averaged 5 people living in a room...stunning. Author used a number of quotes from Dickens to help describe the living conditions. Man, I'm glad I'm living here and now and not there and then!

Comments (85)

  • Bunny

    I loved News of the World.

    One of my favorites, Circe, is on the Goodreads Bests of 2018. If you haven't yet read it, get it. Also Song of Achilles, which comes before Circe, but it's not necessary to read them in that order.

  • Marlene Two007

    I also really liked An American Marriage. I read Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of A Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow for last month's book club. It was a good albeit disturbing book for me.


    I needed a break so I read Liane Moriarty's Nine Perfect Strangers. It was just ok...but definitely a much lighter read. Next up: The Weight of Ink.

  • Olychick

    I am giving up on Beartown. It's due back at the library soon and I doubt I could finish it, even if I was interested. I didn't know it was about small town ice hockey, which is about as interesting to me as football, meaning not one iota. I think it's probably a good book, but I have to be at least the tiny bit interested in the overall subject matter, too. This wasn't it.

  • 4kids4us

    I just finished listening to Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carryrou. It was fascinating! I found myself making excuses to take the dog for a walk just so I could put my headphones in and listen longer. She is obviously a sociopath and now, looking at pictures of her, she does seem to have that blank look in her eyes you often see with sociopaths. Apparently, she would look at people without blinking which is also a bit odd. One thing mentioned in the book by one of the company's former employees is that she spoke with a very deep voice that was a bit startling at first. He said he actually thought it was part of her "act" and that one time, he actually heard her speaking in a more normal pitched voice. I didn't really understand what he was getting at until I watched an interview with her - she does have a very low voice but I can't imagine how she could constantly talk like that if it was not her real voice. Anyway, I found the book riveting. And was shocked at one point when some of the board of directors were named and one was someone dh worked with years ago! I cannot believe he was duped but then again, so were Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Mattis as well as numerous wealthy investors.

  • Funkyart

    I am glad to see that a few of you have read Bad Blood and given it good reviews. I am fascinated by Elizabeth Holmes. I downloaded it some time ago and haven't yet read it-- I will when the time is right!

  • nutsaboutplants

    Reading An American Marriage and not particularly enjoying it. The first 30-40 pages felt fresh, but when the letters between the couple from and to the county jail started, the writing got too banal. I will continue to read it though, I guess.

  • salonva

    I am going to my book club today for An American Marriage and will report back. I was underwhelmed by it but I have a feeling I am in the minority. I know my sister just read it and was really taken with it.

    I just finished Out of the Easy and I really thought it was well done. It came highly recommended so I expected it to be good but guess what -- it really was!

    I am going to start on As Bright As Heaven later today hopefully.


  • blfenton

    @Runninginplace - I am so glad someone else was underwhelmed by The Nightingale. My bookclub read it as well and everyone except me loved it. We have read other books about women in WWI and WWII that were better. One of my favourites was In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MaCcoll. It's based on a true story of a group of women who ran a field hospital on the outskirts of Paris during WWI.

    @olychick - We read Beartown (I loved A Man called Ove) and while I enjoyed the story, the value of small town hockey teams and how integrated the players become into those small towns really hit home with the bus accident that occurred in Humboldt, Saskatchewan last spring where 16 of the team died. We had read the book just the month prior and it put a different light on the story. The story doesn't take place in Canada but I think it's the same where ever junior hockey teams exist.

  • Olychick

    blfenton, yes, it's apparent from the story how important hockey is in those towns, but I guess, based on just what I read in the first part of the book, is it really GOOD for kids? And adults? And what about girls?

  • blfenton

    The kids who are on the level of teams that those kids play on are headed for either their national teams, NHL or are looking for hockey scholarships to colleges. The coaches are looking to move up to coach at higher levels as are the trainers, the announcers etc. The announcers that you hear calling the play-by-play for the NHL or radio stations started in these little towns riding these buses from town to town.

    Now if you're talking about kids in general who are playing any sports at the rep level (hockey, soccer, football, basketball, baseball) or other sports where they are competing at the state/provincial level and up then I would hope the parents would keep an eye on their child. (Gymnastics controversy ring a bell, or the abuse of college football players at Penn State).

    When we were discussing Beartown the points that you raised were part of our discussion.

  • beaglesdoitbetter

    Finished and enjoyed Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen

  • Rudebekia

    I've just discovered Tana French. After loving Broken Harbour I'm now on In the Woods. Really well done mysteries set in Ireland!

  • salonva

    My book club mostly loved an American Marriage. ( not me though).

    Today I finished As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner. She writes some really engaging historical fiction. I enjoyed it quite a bit- very good read and very good feel for what it must have been like. It is in the time period of the Spanish Flu Epidemic and prohibition. Very interesting and I would recommend it.


    I think I am going to try Killers of the August Moon next.

  • beaglesdoitbetter

    Tried The Dry and couldn't get into it. Gave up at 46%. It was well-reviewed but I didn't find it very compelling.

  • writersblock

    I'm about half way through Ghost Map which is nonfiction about the 1850s cholera epidemic in London

    I was interested in this until I happened to listen to the Audible sample, which begins with a wrong date for London Labor and the London Poor. That a random sample begins with an error is not a good sign to me. BTW, London Labor is a very fascinating compilation, well worth a browse if you can find a copy. It was reproduced in a Dover edition back in the 80s or 90s. It's amazingly full of detail about the daily lives of all sorts of people who lived in London at the time, and makes one aware of how badly that era is usually presented onscreen.

  • salonva

    ok well I know you're all busy but seriously someone must be reading. I will pick up the slack from last Friday and let you know that I am almost done with Killers of the Flower Moon. It is an incredible non fiction book, about which I knew nothing.

    It is similar in a way to the Radium Girls in that it's beyond comprehension that things like this can go on ,and most people are totally unaware. Very worth reading.

  • rosesstink

    Me. Me. I've been reading, salonva! I finished The Promise of the Grand Canyon by John F. Ross earlier this week. Pretty good. John Wesley Powell's first trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers was pretty harrowing. Amazing to think he managed it with only one hand. Reading accounts like his always make me wish I could see the Colorado/Grand Canyon in its natural state. So many amazing geological features are now underwater due to damming. The politics of his life after that were pretty harrowing too.

    I'm currently reading Fidelity by Wendell Berry. I like his sense of humor and the ironic so I periodically pick up one of his books. This one is 5 short(ish) stories. So far, so good.

  • 4kids4us

    I haven't been doing much reading at all this month. Christmas preparation aside, my youngest has been applying to private high schools and those were due last Friday. My older son is in the midst of college applications getting recruited for a sport at the same time. And dh has been overseas quite a bit, including all of last week when all this was happening. In the middle of the week, I found out that a friend who has cancer was just recommended to enter hospice - completely threw me (and her/her family!) as she had been responding well to treatment. She is the mother of my youngest dd's best friend so it is very heartbreaking. So very little downtime for me - I've been falling into bed exhausted.

    However, audiobooks! I started up Killers of the Flower Moon in the midst of all of this and finished it earlier this week. I agree with Salonva - hard to believe how greed could be responsible for so many senseless deaths. After finishing that, I started The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. Several friends highly recommended it. It's a mystery/thriller. I'm about 1/3 of the way through but haven't had enough opportunity to listen to it. Of course, a book I've been waiting for forever finally came into the library, so I have tried to make time to read it but haven't gotten too far into it - The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton. It's about an innocent man who spent 30 years on death row until he won his freedom. I don't recall where I heard about the book but it must be on a best-seller list b/c I've been waiting for months for the book. Of course it comes at a time when I have limited time to read so I must get through it before it's due!

  • rosesstink

    Wow! A lot on your plate, 4kids. So sorry about your friend. My niece went from "cured" to hospice in a matter of weeks. It is indeed heartbreaking. I wish you the best of holidays. Don't stress about finishing that book. It won't disappear if you have to send it back unfinished. Just get back in line for it.

  • runninginplace

    I've also not been reading as much as usual, but have been enjoying the latest Cork O'Connor mystery. Desolation Mountain continues the trend that the author has shown in the last few books of the series, delving deeper into the Indian culture and Native American religious and historical nuances.

    Next up for me will be Dark Sacred Night, the latest Michael Connelly Harry Bosch mystery. I have to say the Bosch series is one of the finest in the hardboiled cop/suspense genre I've ever read. As the years have passed the author has truly written the character's arc of life and now in his 'twilight' phase Harry Bosch is if anything more fascinating than ever. If you haven't read these books I strongly advise starting with the first and then just sail on through, you'll be glad you did.

    I"m also eager to start 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, which has an intriguing structure of episodic chapters and is about pretty much what the title says LOL.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    writersblock...impressive that you found that error in Ghost Map. I checked the book's bibliography and he cites the Penguin edition from 1985. I do hope the fact-checking was better in the rest of the book!

  • OutsidePlaying

    After reading Eleanor Oliphant I took a break and read the newest Stephanie Plum adventure by Janet Evanovich, Look Alive Twenty-five. I have now started Next Year in Havana, by Chanel Cleeton. It is a Reese Witherspoon book club recommendation and so far I just love it. The author paints very vivid descriptions of old and current Havana. The story is about a young woman who returns to Havana to spread her grandmother’s ashes. Her grandmother fled Cuba with her family as a young woman and the granddaughter grew up hearing stories told of the country she loved.

  • Bestyears

    We are reading Next Year in Havana for book club too. The hostess next month is a Cuban emigree -she came here as an infant with her family when Fidel Castro came to power. My best friend also came to this country as an infant Cuban emigree at that time, so on a personal level, I'm looking forward to this book.

  • writersblock

    Hi, Annie. After I posted that I saw a copy on the shelf in our library, so I've been reading it. It's a very interesting book, but I would have to say that to me, it's kind of like watching a livestream from someone snorkeling with a go-pro. When he dives down and shows what's happening on the reef (i.e. 1854), so to speak, it's absolutely fascinating, but you can tell he's not comfortable staying down there for any length of time and has to come back up to the breathable 21st-century surface air right away, and that I find just wearisome, to be honest.

    I wouldn't say I don't recommend the book--if you don't know anything about life during that era it does paint an effective picture (although I think that if you can stand it, you're better off browsing through Mayhew if you really want to know.) And his writing style can be very compelling.

    But on the whole, I think he must have read Dickens and some of his other sources while listening to music and texting, because he sure doesn't get a lot of things. For instance, the way he keeps on about the quote about Jo the crossing sweeper from Bleak House being "alive--that is to say he has not died" being a reference to infant mortality, when Dickens returns to that motif over and over and over in the book to make it clear that he means Jo is less well-educated than a good dog, lacking any kind of higher life whatsoever. I don't really know how you could plow through all of Bleak House and not get that--it's shoved down the reader's throat without any pretense of subtlety often enough.

    Also, like a lot of modern authors--Erik Larson, for instance--he confuses being mistaken about as-yet-unknown things with being a champion of superstition and fraught with hubris. And he projects a lot.

    But I'm glad to see that John Snow is given the credit he deserves.

  • Bunny

    I just finished Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) which I'd never read before. I was listening to a podcast and someone much younger than I had listed it as one of her three favorite books. I found a free copy on iBooks and read it pretty much nonstop, which surprised me, given the over the top florid prose. I know she was only 18 or 19 when she wrote it, but I think she used every word in the dictionary. Eventually I settled into it, as one does reading Shakespeare.

    Spoilers:

    The story was different than I'd expected. Nothing about how one creates a living being capable of thought, emotion, and vile acts. I kept thinking "kill it, kill it" but poor Victor and his loved ones seemed incapable of defensive action and were doomed.

    I wondered, why am I reading this? And yet, I couldn't put it down.

  • salonva

    After finishing Killers of the Flower Moon yesterday, I just started Eleanor Oliphant. I am just at the beginning, but can see how it is an unsettling story-----but an effortless read. Thankfully- I am quite "enjoying" it.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    Bunny that's on my list to read as I've never read it...I'm gradually working my way through the Great American Read list...I know I won't read them all but am throwing some of them in, in between my other reading. In fact, now I'm reading The Shack which is from that list.

  • salonva

    Annie, I had started The Shack several years ago and first was liking it but then just gave up on it. Maybe there were too many references that did not have meaning for me? Really not sure but I did like it a lot at first and then just could not continue.

    I devoured Eleanor Oliphant - I thought it was amazing and it blew me away. So now I understand why everyone seems to be mentioning it. So worth reading. And if I read correctly it is the author's first book???

    On another forum someone recommended My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveria so I just started it. Historical fiction, set in Civil War times but for the first 20 pages it seems to be about a midwife.:). So far so good.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    I just finished The Shack and I think I have to think about it before I can even rate it. It's one of those books that will have more/less/or no meaning for you depending on where your head is at and how open you are to the premise. It was written as a long parable so you're not going to find yourself enamored with the writing...more of a "da vinci code" of its ilk. But as I was reading it, I could imagine it being made into a wonderful animated flick which would probably be well loved.

    Next up, I'm thinking I'll try to get a copy of Frankenstein.

  • Bunny

    Annie, if you don't mind reading on an iPad, iBooks has a free version of Frankenstein.

    I read The Shack about 9 years ago. As a Christian, I was on board with the device of the Trinity. I think I got the ending, or at least I could relate to it and found some comfort in it. I don't think it's a book for everyone.

  • writersblock

    You can also find a lot of public domain epubs (so mostly classics and older books) at Project Gutenberg: gutenberg.org


  • Bunny

    writersblock, thanks for that tip. I think there's a typo in your link, and it should be: https://www.gutenberg.org/. Frankenstein is there!

  • writersblock

    Yes, Bunny, thanks for catching that. I thought I fixed it earlier, but no matter what I do it goes to the same bad link. (ETA finally working, I think)

  • roxanna7

    writersblock -- many years ago, I discovered Mayhew's London Labour etc. and promptly bought the four-volume set from Dover. (I am a total Anglophile.) I have dipped into it over the years, but have yet to "finish" the whole thing (IS it possible to do so, I wonder??). I ought to haul it out again for my winter reading, esp. if we get snowed in. Fascinating stuff! May need now to read it with a magnifying glass, as my eyesight ain't what it used to be, lol. But then, neither is the rest of me.

    =)

  • writersblock

    Well, the only thing I can say, roxanna, is that the Dover edition has much bigger type than the Penguin version (which I believe is abridged), but it's been a long time since I saw that version.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    Thanks for the tip on Project Gutenberg. I have used them before, esp for downloading books to read when I travel. But I'm an old-fashioned gal and prefer to cozy in my chair with pages between the covers.

    If anyone is looking for books to read that are wonderfully gentle mental vacations that are available for download at gutenberg, look for books by David Grayson...Adventures in Contentment...Adventures in Friendship et al. I enjoy them.

  • writersblock

    But I'm an old-fashioned gal and prefer to cozy in my chair with pages between the covers.


    Yes, but that only works if you live where there are libraries or have a large book budget. Our local library has a collection fully worthy of the book section at CVS, so I've been very, very grateful to sites like gutenberg and archive.org.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    I get it writersblock. I'm fortunate to live not only where there are many libraries, but they've electronically linked their catalogs so I can search across many of them for a book. While I enjoy fetching them as I love libraries, they will also deliver them and collect them from your local library if you wish.

    For electronic versions, our library now has a deal with hoopla where you can download a book for a couple of weeks to read, no waiting. When it's due it will automatically disappear.

  • writersblock

    Yes, I use inter-library loan a fair amount, but it takes a surprisingly long time when your local library has nothing to offer the system in return, you know. I have to expect a wait of at least 3 weeks for any book ordered that way, plus (and this isn't unique to our little library here--I used to get it when I lived in a city with a library that at the time was consistently voted best in country for the size) it's tedious to deal with all the "why do you want that?"


    ETA Overdrive doesn't matter that much to me, because frankly, most of the writers I like are dead, or at least died spiritually a couple of decades ago when publishing became a commodity.

  • Bunny

    I think both forms of book (virtual and electronic) have their plusses and minuses. I'm glad I have those options available to me. I live in a city of about 150K and my local branch is 5 minutes from my house. There seems to be a deal with neighboring counties. The online search is excellent. I really like going in and out of a real library. While I appreciate the speed and convenience of the checkout kiosk, I miss chatting with the librarians ("Oh, I loved this! Have your read.....?").

  • Mimou-GW

    Thanks for the recommendation for The Weight of Ink. I have enjoyed it from the very first sentence.

  • rosesstink

    I prefer paper books too although I have downloaded some from guttenberg. At my "home" library, which is near where I work not near my house, I think volunteers man the check out desk. The librarians work in other areas. I use the scanner unless I need to ask a question. A book reserved from another library in the system can take anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks to get to my home library. Makes it tough to time book ordering.

    On the have read front: Finished Fidelity by Wendell Berry. Enjoyed it very much. Am about half way through Dear Life by Alice Munro. Her stories never disappoint.

  • Funkyart

    It doesn't matter what I prefer to read-- I need the high contrast, high resolution screen on my ipad. I do support my library and local bookstores --but I don't use them for my own reading.

    Truthfully, I just like to see people read-- magazines, papers, books, whatever. I don't care how they do it.

  • Annie Deighnaugh

    I hit an area library today and got 2 longmire books that I haven't yet read, I got Frankenstein and Tales of the City.

  • nini804

    Not fiction, and certainly not a serious book...but I received WHISKEY IN A TEACUP by Reese Witherspoon for Christmas from a friend. I just love RW, and the book is sweet and delightful. I loved reading about her childhood years in TN, and her strong family ties. She shares recipies, entertaining, and decorating advice as well as general information about growing up southern. As a southerner, there really wasn’t anything in the book that I didn’t already know...no great flashes of insight, lol. I do think it would be very interesting for someone from another region to read it and get a bit of insight regarding life in the South.

  • 4kids4us

    Yesterday I finished The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton. Not exactly a well written book, the message is important. I found myself in tears at times reading how many times our judicial system failed him, as well as the fact that racism and hatred is what led him to be arrested and charged in the first place. Yet for 30 years he never gave up hope and his words of how he managed to make it through are inspiring.

    Today I was planning to start Force of Nature by Jane Harper. However I think I really need a lighthearted, feel good book. My last three reads were nonfiction, and all left me saddened by all the hatred, greed, etc that dwell in people.

    Any suggestions for a light read?

  • Olychick

    I just finished A Piece of the World, which I read because of recommendations here. It's a novel about Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth's painting, Christina's World. I really, really loved this book!

    4kids, I simply adored The Whole Town is Talking by Fannie Flagg. Might be a good choice.Or maybe The Rosie Project.

  • runninginplace

    I just finished a great light read, the latest Andy Carpenter book by David Rosenfelt. Deck the Hounds is a loosely holiday themed caper installment in a series about a wealthy lawyer who takes on occasional seemingly un-winnable cases, assisted by the usual assortment of zany/funny side kicks.

    The books are pretty formulaic but very funny, warmly written and have a subtext of taking care of pets, especially dogs. So much fun, if anyone's looking for light reading this is a wonderful series to dip into.

    Then I was ready to tackle Michael Connelly's latest Harry Bosch book which is as always predictably wonderful :).

  • rosesstink

    Finishing out the month, and the year, by (finally) completing Dear Life. The last four stories are, as Ms. Munro says, "autobiographical in feeling, though not, sometimes, entirely so in fact." That will get you thinking as you read.

    Will start the new year with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I've never read it.

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