Reads and re-reads

Like everyone these days, I’ve had more time to read than usual. I normally stick to nonfiction, but I did read a few fiction books, reread some old favourites, and enjoyed several new titles. Here’s part of my list, with brief comments.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is well told, full of twists and turns and the “marsh girl” is a compelling central character. Why are so many of the best fiction writers all from the Deep South? Another good read was one I should have already read long ago: In the Skin of a Lion. Michael Ondaatje spins a glorious tale that only disappoints at the very end.

Second, some re-readings of books I read twenty-five years ago. Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon, lived up to my recollections as he tours America for a year taking the roads less travelled, the secondary ones that show up blue on maps. His descriptions, exchanges with people, and voyage of self-discovery is a triumph. The Old Patagonian Express by Paul Theroux was less so. Theroux leaves Boston to travel only by train to the tip of South America. Trouble is, the trains are grotty and the cities decrepit. He seems to be going to places just to leave them. I gave up when he was in Ecuador. I can’t imagine why I previously liked this book.

Who-dun-its belong on every list and I’ve read two excellent tales: Bad Blood by John Carreyrou and The Billionaire Murders, by Kevin Donovan. The first is about a Silicon Valley scam that fooled even the high and mighty; the second details the still-unsolved killing in 2017 of Torontonians Barry and Honey Sherman. Another investigative work that kept my attention was Blood in the Water by Shirley Anne Thompson about the 1971 uprising at Attica prison.

Two other rereads stood the the test of time. First, is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. To my mind, Meany is simply the best fictional character ever created. And Gentlemen, Players and Politicians by Dalton Camp, covering his career to 1957, remains the best Canadian political memoir. In conclusion, two quick recommendations: Ronald Reagan by Bob Spitz, and The Education of an Idealist, by Samantha Power, a foreign journalist in the former Yugoslavia who worked in the Obama White House and became U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.

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