Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Dinner Party

Insight. I had read in different periodicals many of the eleven short stories in the collection by Joshua Ferris titled after the opening story, The Dinner Party. What I appreciated in reading eleven stories together was the depth of insight into human behavior that Ferris uses to form his characters and frame his stories. There are great characters in these stories, and Ferris conveys their complexity with great skill and efficiency. The twists are wicked and the moral issues of modern life are presented with sensitivity and insight. I loved many of these stories, and recommend this collection to any reader who appreciates finely written literary fiction. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Dinner Party from amazon.com.

On Living

Hospice. I knew that Kerry Egan works as a hospice chaplain when I opened her book titled, On Living. I wasn’t sure what to expect as she began to present her story and the stories of people she met in hospice. Before I knew it, I noticed that each story built up my strongly positive feelings about the joy of living, and the important lessons that experience can teach us about living the best life we can live. There’s nothing preachy in the short book, just some personal stories. Readers looking to feel good about life should consider reading this inspiring book. I was surprised how moved I was by this finely written book. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase On Living from amazon.com.

Why Wall Street Matters

Reform. Many complicated issues are reduced to what can fit on a tweet, and too much explanation can’t overcome a few memorable phrases. “Break up the banks,” or “fat cats on Wall Street,” can convey sentiment, but not nuance or context. Financial writer William D. Cohan has written an easy to read, mostly jargon free book titled, Why Wall Street Matters, that provides readers without financial expertise with reasons why the demonization of Wall Street should stop. Cohan provides a history of Wall Street to create context, and explains why Wall Street should continue in its important role of allocating capital. He also calls for reform, but cautions against vitriol leading to actions with unintended consequences. He makes it plain that Wall Street compensation needs to be fixed, but that the core role of capital allocation keeps our economy strong. If you know something about finance, this book won’t teach you anything new, but it may help explain to doubters why you agree that Wall Street helps all of us. If you don’t know much about finance, this book can inform you about the role that Wall Street plays in your life and why that role should continue. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Why Wall Street Matters from amazon.com.


Next. Some of us fear what comes next. Richard Russo offers four stories in his book titled, Trajectory. The characters are tied up in knots of one form or another, in relationships, with medical issues, with ambivalence, anxiety and concern about what comes next. Russo mines that fear and shares it with readers using finely written prose that makes us love and hate different characters and want to see them progress on either their current or a different trajectory. Fans of literary fiction are those readers most likely to enjoy this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Trajectory from amazon.com.

Anything Is Possible

Depth. Sometimes after reading a novel, a reader can wonder about fictional characters, wanting to not let the character go and get to read more about a favorite protagonist. The popularity of serial fiction with recurring protagonists rarely crosses into literary fiction, but Elizabeth Strout chose to do that in her novel titled, Anything Is Possible, because she had more to say about Lucy Barton. Strout brought Lucy back in this volume of connected stories, alongside some new and old characters. Strout’s prose is constructed with great care, and the depth of character development brought me great pleasure. Things are not as they appear, and that’s the making of a fine work of fiction. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Anything Is Possible from amazon.com.

The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For

Inspiration. Readers looking for some hopeful and optimistic messages from a wise historian should consider reading David McCullough’s book titled, The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For. This volume gathers speeches that McCullough has given over the past quarter-century, many of them commencement addresses at colleges and universities. I found his spirit contagious and each of the speeches provides heavy doses of inspiration. Whether you’ve attended a commencement this year or not, as participant or observer, and no matter how much concern you have about the current divisions in American life, there’s a positive message that will match or exceed whatever has inspired you lately. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The American Spirit from amazon.com.

The Stars Are Fire

Resilience. Readers who enjoy those novels that can immerse one into a particular place and time alongside an interesting cast of characters with complicated relationships should consider reading Anita Shreve’s novel titled, The Stars Are Fire. Set on the coast of Maine in 1947, Shreve focuses on protagonist Grace Holland, a young mother of two with a third on the way. Grace’s Husband, Gene, has withdrawn from intimacy in their relationship, to Grace’s chagrin. A huge fire destroys the town, and Shreve presents the variety of ways in which the characters are resilient, and provide support for each other. Shreve multiplies the ways in which Grace’s resilience is tested, and how Grace finds ways to thrive. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Stars Are Fire from amazon.com.