What I Read: May 2015

I read 6 books in May: 3 fiction, 3 non-fiction. 3 in print and 3 on the Kindle.

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel (2014)
A children’s chapter book full of adventure on a grand, state of the art, turn of the century train. A circus, creatures of legend, and a plot to steal a treasure all make for a fast, fun read.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower (2015)
The stories in this book were much more interesting than the writing. I really enjoyed hearing what the residence workers had to say – both about historic events (what it was like to be working in the White House on the day JFK was shot, for example) and about more mundane things (President Johnson’s obsession with having an insanely powerful shower, the logistics of how they move an entire household out and in on Inauguration Day). I found though that in her attempts to provide an overarching narrative to the individual workers stories, Brower tended toward cliche and bland generalizations.

The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison (2014)
This was an interesting read for me. I love essays and these are grouped around the idea of compassion, but they cover a number of topics – illness, pain, endurance, prison. By and large a great read, although occasionally she seemed to get so deep into philosophizing that it lost the thread (for me). Still highly enjoyable.

My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story (with Recipes) by Luisa Weiss (2012)
I have been reading Luisa Weiss’s blog the Wednesday Chef for years, and I really enjoyed this book from her. It was a perfect mix of food, honesty (about a difficult break-up and finding love), and Germany, a country I am nostalgic for these days.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively (2011)
A novel of interconnected stories set in and around London. Just meh for me. I really liked a few of the characters, but it never pulled me in.

A Dangerous Place: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear (2015)
The latest Maisie Dobbs novel finds Maisie in Gibraltar on the eve of World War II. Having been through recent tragedy, she is attempting to find her way back to herself by solving the mystery of a murdered photographer.

What I Read: May 2015

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