A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
In June, I shared my favorite books of the year up to that point and promised to revisit the idea in December. Here we are with the ones that earned ‘stars’ in the last half of 2012, in no particular order.
Paris in Love by Eloisa James
The author, a romance novelist and Shakespearean professor from America takes her family to Paris to live there for a year. You can imagine the challenges that she and her Italian husband and their two children find in such a different culture, but they all do their best to immerse themselves in it. Her Florentine mother-in-law sometimes joins them with her chubby chihuahua, Milo. The author conveys her appreciation of French food, fashion and architecture with humor and prose that sometimes approaches poetry. Remarkably, this book grew out of lengthy status reports on her Facebook page during their time there, so it has an immediacy that feels quite cozy. Her comments on everything from the weather to mannequins in shop windows are a delight to read and I was sorry when their trip abroad ended.
Random House 2012 260 pp. ISBN978-1-4000-6956-9
Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon
A suspense novel in the tradition of John Le Carre, but in a lower key. Set in Turkey after WW2, Leon works for a tobacco company, but also is an ‘irregular’ with the State Dept. mostly assisting in smuggling refugees out of Europe to safety. A special case, concerning a Romanian who may have helped the Nazis, goes horribly wrong and Leon is left in a situation with no obvious solution. Colleagues and friends aren’t who they seem to be and reliable help can’t be found. Leon has greater emotional depth than many protagonists in this type of book, which gives the story more layers and a less frantic feel. And Istanbul’s role as a historical crossroads is vividly scored. The grey tones of the cover photo fits the melancholy mood of the story.
Atria Books 2012 404 pp. ISBN 978-1-4391
…And His Lovely Wife by Connie Schultz
Newspaper columnist Schultz keeps a running commentary on her husband’s first campaign for the U.S. Senate. The sheer endurance a campaign requires will astonish you, as do some of the anecdotes of the people they encountered. This is no dry political tome, it’s full of laughter and tears, as well as a grown-up love story. The title is from the usual way the author was introduced at political events, often when they couldn’t remember her name.
I’ve enjoyed the author’s columns for years, whether they appear in the Cleveland Plain Dealer or Parade Magazine, so it was a treat to read a longer work. Her husband, Senator Sherrod Brown, was recently reelected to his second term in the Senate, with my vote helping out.
Random House 2008 304 pp. ISBN 978-0812976878
Vincent’s Gardens by Ralph Skea
Concentrating on a single theme in an artist’s work is appealing and often reveals fresh insights, so I was pleased to see this slim volume focusing on the many garden pictures Vincent did in various mediums and locations. From the backyard of his parent’s home in the Netherlands to allotments outside of French villages and the formal layout of the St. Remy asylum, the artist revelled in the shapes and colors of plants. With a short, but sympathetic biography and quotes from his letters, nearly every page has a color plate of Vincent’s art. Some were new to me and all of them provided a chance to study the techniques and components closely. A splendid little book.
Thames & Hudson 2011 112 pp. ISBN 978-0-500-23877-6
In between painting wildlife pictures, Jackie has managed to read nearly 160 books so far this year, so it’s hard to pick favorites.