Saturday, April 29, 2017

First Lines: March and April 2017 edition

I finished only 5 books in the past two months, and two of those were books I had read before.  It’s been insanely busy here and I got sick at the beginning of April. Plus, Passover and travel and politics.  I am also including here a lengthy book that I didn’t finish but hope to return to sometime.  

I recommend all these books.  The first lines are:

Book 1
The first time Caesar approached Cora about running north, she said no.

Book 2
Supposedly Irrelevant Factors
Early in my teaching career I managed to inadvertently get most of the students in my microeconomics class mad at me, and for once, it had nothing to do with anything I said in class. The problem was caused by a midterm exam.

Book 3
There are various ways of mending a broken heart, but perhaps going to a learned
conference is one of the more unusual.

Book 4
To take an interest in the affairs of others is entirely natural; so natural, in fact, that even a cat, lying cat-napping on top of a wall, will watch with half an eye the people walking by below.  But between such curiosity, which is permissible, and nosiness, which is not, there lies a dividing line that some people simply miss – even if it is a line that is painted red and marked by the very clearest of warning signs.

Book 5
History does not repeat, but it does instruct. As the Founding Fathers debated our Constitution, they took instruction from the history they knew. Concerned that the democratic republic they envisioned would collapse, they contemplated the descent of ancient democracies and republics into oligarchy and empire. As they knew, Aristotle warned that inequality brought instability, while Plato believed that demagogues exploited free speech to install themselves as tyrants. In founding a democratic republic upon law and establishing a system of checks and balances, the Founding Fathers sought to avoid the evil that they, like the ancient philosophers, called tyranny.

Book 6
Major Pettigrew was still upset about the phone call from his brother’s wife and so he answered the doorbell without thinking. On the damp bricks of the path stood Mrs. Ali from the village shop. She gave only the faintest of starts, the merest arch of an eyebrow.

* * * * * * * *

And here are the titles.

Book 1
The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.  Very good writing , but brutal topic.

Book 2
Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics,  by Richard Thaler.  The author explains behavioral economics by way of telling us his memoir.  I got half way through.  I enjoyed it, but ran out of time.

Book 3
No Fond Return of Love, by Barbara Pym.  This was my second time reading this book.  I love the two Barbara Pym books which I have read, but I don’t think the book club shared my thoughts on this author.

Book 4
The Right Attitude to Rain, by Alexander McCall Smith.  This is the third in the Isabel Dalhousie series.  There is an element of mystery, but not the traditional outright murder at the start of the novel.  An enjoyable read.

Book 5
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder.  I read this book because I thought I should read Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (originally published in 1951) but it is 578 pages long. Snyder’s book is much shorter, at 130 pages. 

Timothy Snyder is a Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Snyder is a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

Book 6.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson. Culture clash, generational clash, economic class clash, with a splash of British tea-time.  I enjoyed it just as much on this second go-round.

1 comment:

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

Thank you! Your book reviews are always welcome. I now have at least 3 new-to-me books to add to my list. I've read book #6 (and enjoyed it very much) but the others are all new to me. My book group has begun assigning and discussing one book every two months; the meeting that takes place in the "off" months is for further discussion of the previous book and/or sharing from other readings.
If you haven't yet read Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, I cannot recommend it highly enough. (And if you have read it, I probably picked it up at least in part due to your recommendation.)