Recent Blog Posts

Book # 13 in 2018: “Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts” by Christopher de Hamel

Posted April 13th, 2018
Book # 13 in 2018: “Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts” by Christopher de Hamel

At the time I was about halfway through this wonderful book, my Dear One and I were watching an episode of Homeland, a political thriller starring Mandy Patinkin and Clare Danes. I’ll admit it—it’s the seventh season and we’re into it. At that particular moment (the Russians are the current bad guys which seems very…

Book # 12 in 2018: “The Good Good Pig” by Sy Montgomery

Posted April 9th, 2018
Book # 12 in 2018: “The Good Good Pig” by Sy Montgomery

I read Sy Montgomery’s Soul of an Octopus (2016) and it permanently decreased my options on the sushi menu. The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood (Ballantine/Random House, 2006) may not permanently put me off pork, but it will make me consider the nature of each life that ends up on my dinner…

Black Jelly Beans

Posted April 7th, 2018
Black Jelly Beans

What is it with making ordinary treats seasonal? I already went cuckoo when I nearly couldn’t find peppermint stick ice cream for my Christmas dinner menu—and I don’t see why the flavor should be available only from late November to late December. When I was a child and subject to terrible carsickness—okay, I’m an adult…

Book # 11 in 2018: “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben

Posted April 2nd, 2018
Book # 11 in 2018: “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben

My maternal great-grandfather, Elwyn Greeley Preston Sr., established for his family a summer retreat on Squam Lake in Holderness, New Hampshire. He acquired several contiguous parcels of land on Mooney Point and filled in a number of marshy areas to create firm ground on which to build camps for himself and for his four sons…

Book # 10 in 2018: “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls” by David Sedaris

Posted April 2nd, 2018
Book # 10 in 2018: “Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls" by David Sedaris

I normally read Sedaris in places like New Yorker magazine; my husband buys the published collections for me at Christmas or on my birthday, and each piece is a cupcake I can take to bed and not leave crumbs. If I spent more time in the car, maybe I’d listen instead. His style is so…

Book #9 in 2018: “You Must Change Your Life” by Rachel Corbett

Posted March 3rd, 2018
Book #9 in 2018: “You Must Change Your Life” by Rachel Corbett

It’s been a big year for the sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) in museums. Sadly, I missed Séraphin Soudbinine: From Rodin’s Assistant to Ceramic Artist and Klimt & Rodin: An Artistic Encounter, both of which were at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Kiefer – Rodin closes at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia in a…

Book #8 in 2018: “Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve” by Ben Blatt

Posted February 26th, 2018
Book #8 in 2018: “Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve” by Ben Blatt

May I have a moment to whinge before I applaud? This book is about good writing and the writer demonstrates two bad habits that happen to drive me mad. Blatt splits infinitives and he seems not to grasp the difference between “fewer” and “less.” Now I know that it is fine to boldly go wherever one…

Book #7 in 2018: “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff

Posted February 22nd, 2018
Book #7 in 2018: “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff

For a book that has a signal presence within the critique of the Donald Trump presidency, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff (Henry Holt and Company, 2018) is an abysmal piece of writing. I watched a few televised interviews and found the author arrogant and obnoxious, not a personality that…

Guns and Mental Health: Just Who Is Crazy?

Posted February 22nd, 2018
Guns and Mental Health: Just Who Is Crazy?

On Valentine’s Day 2018, Nikolas Cruz packed up the AR-15 type rifle he bought just after his eighteenth birthday, and countless rounds of ammunition loaded into large capacity magazines, into a carrying case. He called an Uber and headed over to Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (a town recently voted “safest” in…

Portraits of a Presidency

Posted February 15th, 2018
Portraits of a Presidency

On February 12, 2018, the portraits of the 44th President and First Lady of the United States were unveiled. How do I like them? Let me, as it were, count the ways. The paintings are modern. The artists who made them (Kehinde Wiley, b. 1977, and Amy Sherald, b. 1973) are young-ish. Both are figurative…

Book #6 in 2018: “City of Endless Night” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Posted February 9th, 2018
Book #6 in 2018: "City of Endless Night" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

No genetically engineered monsters, no exotic locations, no time-travel: #17 of the Pendergast series, The City of Endless Night by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central Publishing, 2018),  is a good, old-fashioned thriller. Truth be told, Doug Preston is my cousin. I adore him and I think he is a wonderful writer in any genre. I would…

Book #5 in 2018: A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford

Posted February 4th, 2018
Book #5 in 2018: A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford

My sister used to drive me crazy—well she still does in many ways—for her interactions with her daughters. One of the worst things was her flat assertion about her younger daughter’s problems with math. “She can’t do math,” Sister said. “She get’s it from me.” Then a few years ago we were at lunch with…

Book # 4 in 2018: “Leonardo da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson

Posted January 17th, 2018
Book # 4 in 2018: “Leonardo da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson

My brother the Boston Lawyer mentioned a couple months ago that he was reading Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, 2017). I thought that was an interesting choice for him, a little off-road considering his normal preferences.  When My Dear One gave me a copy for Christmas, I emailed a question: “Why…

Book #3 in 2018: “How To Bake π” by Eugenia Cheng

Posted January 14th, 2018
Book #3 in 2018: “How To Bake π” by Eugenia Cheng

How To Bake π: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics, by Eugenia Cheng. (Basic Books, 2015) is a disappointment. Cheng is, I am sure, a fine mathematician and probably an excellent teacher, but she needs help writing, especially the help of a copyeditor. The jacket cover features lavish praise from five professors of…

Book #2 in 2018: Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Posted January 4th, 2018
Book #2 in 2018: Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

I had read David Grann’s article in The New Yorker, “The Marked Woman,” last March so the outlines of this appalling story were familiar to me.  The completed book, however, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (Doubleday, 2017), includes a dark coda that reminds us that all…