Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday Salon

So two busy weeks are behind me, and I've got one quiet one before my birthday week. Hooray! Quiet week! This week I accomplished several things. I basted two quilts, one for hand quilting and one for machine quilting. I attended two book club meetings- one for The Prophets of Eternal Fjord at the Scandinavia House, and one for The Galton Case at the Center for Fiction. People had mixed opinions about Prophets- some folks didn't finish it- but overall it was a great meeting and I really liked the people there. I think I'll continue to attend that one for sure. The discussion of Galton was fuller- that club has more attendees- but it's only an 8 week course/club/group whatever, so it will end in April no matter what.

Two big disappointments came down this week. The first is that I was too late in applying to get into a certification program I wanted to do at NYU so I have to wait till the fall. The second is that I found out the Center for Fiction is moving from its midtown Manhattan location to Brooklyn. This basically means that I will never go there again, because half of the reason I joined was to have a place to rest my feet in Manhattan. Honestly I would not have joined had I known this was going to happen, and nobody told me when I signed up.

But! It's not all gloom. My husband and I went to see Misery on Broadway starring Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf, and really enjoyed it. The reviews were not kind to Willis's performance and I can understand why. He kind of looked like he was suppressing smiles throughout and you didn't get a sense of desperation from him, although I had never seen or read it before and didn't know how it would end. Metfcalf was great though and it was a fun night out.

Then we got to see two rounds of Oscar-nominated short films at the IFC Center in the West Village, the animated and live-action nominees. So fun. I love that things like this are available here. I just found out they show these in Boston too-what rock have I been under?  The variety of movies you can see in New York is a real perk of living here and I love going to the movies. As for the shorts, they were mostly good, and some of them were very good. I can't wait to see who wins.

That's it for me. What are you up to today? Happy Sunday!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie Review: The Treasure (2015)

The Treasure (Comoara) (2015). Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu. Starring Toma Cuzin, Adrian Purcarescu, Corneliu Cozmei. 

The Treasure is one of those low-key foreign films you might watch on a quiet Saturday or a lazy Sunday morning, basically a quiet comedy and feel-good movie about people doing the right thing under very strange circumstances. 

The plot revolves around two friends searching for buried treasure in modern day Romania. Adrian has lost his money and approaches his friend Costi for help; Adrian needs 800 euros to rent a metal detector to search his property for treasure he believes his grandfather buried. Costi, a government worker and father to a troubled son, doesn't have it on him but he agrees and negotiates for someone to come out and search. They find something, and it ends up changing at least one life.

What I loved about this movie is that it's shot through with quiet and consistent suspense, but there's this wonderful moment when you realize you have nothing to worry about. It's also very funny. If this movie ends up in your town I really encourage you to see it, or check it out if it comes to streaming or rental. It's short- barely an hour and a half- and really worth your time. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

American Idol Rant

Do you watch American Idol? I've been a regular viewer for the run of the show and I'm definitely sad to see it end. It's boring sometimes, predictable sometimes, and just dumb sometimes, but it also can be very entertaining and I enjoy the crash course in popular music I get every season.

Last week American Idol concluded its audition rounds and as everyone constantly reminds us, this is the last season of Idol and thus the last audition rounds. Like the past couple of years the producers have reduced the number of "bad" auditions they show, taking the time to build up characters and audience recognition of the singers who will go to Hollywood and presumably also those who will make it to the live show. Because in real time, those decisions have already been made and thus the makers of Idol know whom they want to showcase and promote.  So you know for example when they have footage of a contestant's home town that that contestant is going to make it to Hollywood, and if they don't, if they only have convention-center footage, or no footage, it's less likely he or she will make it through.

There's a lot you can complain about about American Idol, but the thing that bothers me about this season is the number of what used to be called "plants." In 2004 during Idol's third season a great American Idol blog launched, called Vote for the Worst, VFTW for short.  Its writers encouraged the public to vote for the "worst" singers, to call out the show as a mockery of a talent competition. The site ran for almost ten years, closing in 2013.

Over time VFTW expanded to cover other talent shows and became a forum for reporting on them alongside the snark. Its writers exposed a number of competitors who had had prior professional relationships with judges or others associated with the show, and whose presence on the show were therefore thought to be contrived or planned as opposed to having been based on talent. This year we have seen a few contestants, miraculously all making it through initial auditions, who were either related to former contestants, related to celebrities, or former contestants themselves. And these weren't people who had only appeared on the early phase of auditions. I really wonder why Idol needs to insult us by not just acknowledging that they decided to bring someone back, or decided to feature the child of an 80s one-hit-wonder, or what have you. I mean, these people all walk into the room knowing they're going through. The drama of "will he or she make it" becomes so boring and pointless. But they need to maintain the illusion that there is something democratic about the show. Because anyone can be an American Idol, right?

So we'll see what this season holds. I've watched at least some of every season, and I'll watch some of this season too. I don't know yet how much! But there are some really great singers in this year's competition, so I'll stay tuned for now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review: CITIES OF SALT, by Abdelrahman Munif

Cities of Salt, by Abdelrahman Munif. Published 1989 by Vintage. Literary Fiction. Translated from the Arabic by Peter Theroux.

Cities of Salt takes place in the 1930s, in a nameless Persian Gulf state, and examines the impact of the discovery of oil on a small town, its inhabitants and its diaspora. Wadi Al-Uyoun is a backwater, a stopover for caravans and a place where it seems like life has changed little in a long time. Then oil is discovered, but nobody tells the locals what's going on. People go on the move, form a new community based on the priorities of the foreigners, an Arab one and an American one, separate and different and each mysterious to the other.

The novel seemed to me to be written as a series of episodes moving forward in time, with different sets of characters spotlighted as different conflicts erupt and subside. A mother who has been keening for her lost son who left Wadi Al-Uyoun a long time ago becomes further distraught as the chaos sets in and her plight becomes emblematic. Another man becomes a ghost haunting the wadi. Further in, as the new town is set up and divided between the Americans and the Arabs, more conflicts come up. A man working for the company dies in an accident and the consequences will ripple for years to come. The Americans are a faceless horde, aliens and regarded with suspicion, derision, humor and indifference by the Arab characters who are just trying to adapt and stay afloat.

People from all walks of life come in and out of the story- doctors, travelers, workers, hapless bystanders. Munif portrays them with compassion, except for emir and his handler, who are portrayed as a bumbling idiot and a conniver respectively. The emir, a fool enamored with anything shiny and new, leaves everything up to the Americans and his handlers are too busy currying his favor to step in. I get the sense that this might be a bigger problem in the sequels (Cities of Salt is first in a quintet). Here it feels like a counterpoint to the stress and tension building among the rest of the characters.

Did I like it? I liked it enough to keep reading, but I'm probably not going to read the sequels. It was honestly hard for me to keep track of everything that was going on, and none of the narratives seemed really compelling or powerful enough to hold my interest for too long. I get the point about the culture clash, the alienness of the Americans, the mix of fascination and fear with which the Arab characters viewed them, especially the women. Cities of Salt is a very immersive book and will find admirers among fans of historical fiction but the drama is low-key and quiet.

This is book #2 for the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge.


FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I finished Fates & Furies, which I may or may not review here. I can't decide. Part of the problem is I can't decide if I liked it or not.
Last week I started reading The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson, but DNF'd it by Saturday. It just wasn't holding my attention.  So yesterday I started Amara Lahous's Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet. Lakhous is one of my favorite light-crime/social-commentary writers and I know he's got a new one soon so I need to play catch-up.
Then after Wednesday I have to start Ripley Under Ground, by Patricia Highsmith, for my crime novel reading group.
And I'm still reading and enjoying Maxim D. Shrayer's memoir Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story. I have probably 2-3 weeks or so to go on that book at the rate I'm reading it.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Salon: Snow Days

A snowy, lazy weekend. We got socked in yesterday but I'm hoping we'll make it outside today. The last time NYC got a "big" snowstorm it was 6 inches and my husband and I practically had midtown to ourselves, everyone was so panicked. This time we got our grocery delivery in early and just sat out the blustery stuff.

So I'm spending this weekend watching American Idol episodes on Hulu and movies on Netflix and reading my books.

In NYC news, I had a busy week and I'm gearing up for a very busy week. Last week I had acupuncture volunteering and a treatment, saw a fun movie and had a great dinner out, visited Alice's Tea Cup and the Center for Fiction, sold some books at the Strand and then spent a nice afternoon sewing after some at-home Pilates. Not bad all in all.

I want to write a full review of the movie so for now I'll move on to the highlight of my week, my first visit to Chelsea Market, a shopping center/food hall in Manhattan's Meatpacking district.

OMG as the kids say, where have you been all my life, Chelsea Market?

It's this wonderland of food and food-related shopping. I mostly just browsed, although I did buy some flavored sugar from Italy and a necklace. Next time I'll come hungry and eat! There were so many great choices, I hardly know where to begin. Crepes, seafood, sushi, tacos, a huge Italian market, more than one place to buy gelato, coffee shops, bagels, "Japanese inspired Mexican," ramen, doughnuts, bakeries galore, Cambodian sandwiches, the list goes on.

I am a sucker for Italian food though and I know I'll be back for some of the tasties I saw. Of course I already have two favorite other places to buy Italian specialties but it never hurts to add to the list.

There was even a bookstore, an outlet of the NYC chain Posman's. There used to be a Posman's in Grand Central Station but it closed at the end of 2014. I've been too depressed about that to go back to Grand Central since, but I've found another! And it's great, with a good general-interest selection and a beautiful cookbook section, as you would expect from a bookstore in the middle of a food hall.

I'm still seeking specific recommendations as to what I should go back and check out, so if you've been there and you have a favorite, let me know in the comments!

This week I've got two book club meetings, a Broadway show and a haircut. Plus all the usuals. On the blog I'll review the movie I saw, talk about American Idol and review at least one book.  What do you have going on today and this week? Have a happy Sunday!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: A MAN'S HEAD, by Georges Simenon

A Man's Head, by Georges Simenon. Published 2015 by Penguin. Originally published 1931. Crime fiction. Translated from the French by David Coward.

Georges Simenon's novel A Man's Head falls somewhere midway in his Inspector Maigret series, that moody and taciturn detective who haunts the streets of 1930s Paris. In this installment, he's helped a convicted murderer escape the gallows in the hopes that the man will lead Maigret to the real killer of a society lady found dead in her boudoir. The killer plays a game of cat and mouse with Maigret, leading the detective up and down and around again through high society and low, until it all ends where it began.

A Man's Head was my first Maigret and though it may not be my last, it will be for a while. I read the book in conjunction with a reading group I joined, an 8-week program at NYC's Center for Fiction focusing on classic crime fiction. I was kind of bored by the book, but the discussion we had was fascinating and I learned a lot about Simenon's craft and art with respect to the Maigret series. I have read Simenon before, his dark Tropic Moon, a stand-alone suspenser, but that novel was very different from this one and I get the feeling that the Maigret novels are a like a loaf of bread, a whole split up into slices.

The plot has some holes and the main appeal is the portrait of Paris and the different people inhabiting it. But this story takes place far from the glamour and instead is colored in grays, with a sense of doom and hopelessness pervading. Nobody is happy in Simenon's little world. And while justice is served at the end, there is no satisfaction to be had, no sense of relief or release, just the animal comfort of burning coals warming a solitary room, which may yet offer some kind of hope. My opinion of A Man's Head did not represent the majority but the discussion did leave me with an appreciation of Simenon and his creation if not exactly a love for the book itself. Maigret is probably required reading for crime aficionados and while A Man's Head is considered a classic, it wasn't quite the right book for me.

Rating: BORROW

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive a copy for review.

Monday, January 18, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Last week I finished a bunch of things. I finally finished Cities of Salt, the first volume in Abdulrachman Munif's trilogy about the effects of the discovery of oil on a Persian Gulf community and its diaspora. I also finished two crime novels for a reading group I'm a part of, Georges Simenon's A Man's Head and Ross Macdonald's The Galton Case. I liked the latter more than the former, and I liked Cities of Salt but not enough to read the sequels. I'll try to get some reviews up soon.

Moving on, I'm reading Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies, her latest novel about the problems of trust-fund babies. So far I'm not exactly loving it but I'll stay with it for the time being. A bunch of friends of mine loved it, and I loved her last book, Arcadia, so I'm willing to hang in there.

I started Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story, by Boston-area author Maxim D. Shrayer, last week as well. I interviewed Shrayer for the Association of Jewish Libraries a while back, and I've known him casually on social media ever since, so I was happy to get a copy of his memoir about a year ago and I've finally picked it up. I'm enjoying it. It's about his family's struggle to leave the former Soviet Union and make a new life in the United States, and about growing up as a refusenik.  I'm only in the early chapters so far.
Still working my way through A Man of Good Hope, by Jonny Steinberg, which is a terrific and engaging and really thought-provoking study of a man's life amidst crazy conditions and chaos, not terribly unlike Shrayer's in some ways. Steinberg, a journalist, writes with verve and keeps the pages turning.

That's it for me this week! What are you reading?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Jewish Book Carnival!

I'm excited to be hosting the Jewish Book Carnival this month. The Jewish Book Carnival was started in 2008 when then-AJL Vice President Heidi Estrin wanted a community-building regular activity to help bloggers who wrote about Jewish books to come together, share posts and get to know each other, while promoting Jewish literature and authors on the web.

So that said, here are this month's links.

Barbara Krasner and The Whole Megillah start off 2016 with a three-in-one interview with the author, illustrator, and editor of Shmulik Paints the Town

Over on the Jewish Book Review, Rivka Levy explores 'Miriam's Song', the true story of a woman who lost two sons in combat in IDF, in one of the most uplifting, inspiring and real books to come out of the Israeli Literary Scene for years.

At Life Is Like a Library, Chava Pinchuck chronicles her day at the National Library of Israel, where she viewed several collections and learned about the resources available in English.

Deborah Kalb interviews a wide variety of authors on her blog, She recently spoke with Dawn Lerman, author of the new memoir My Fat Dad: A Memoir of Food, Love, and Family, with Recipes.

The Book of Life offers this interview with Jim Aylesworth (author), Barbara McClintock (illustrator) and Dianne Hess (editor) of My Grandfather’s Coat, picture book winner of the 2015 Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Younger Readers’ Category. The podcast recording includes a bonus track of Jim Aylesworth’s conference session about storytelling!

The Fig Tree Books blog offers a dispatch from the recent Jewish Book Council Jewish Writers' Seminar, with a focus on memoirist Shulem Deen's keynote address.

On My Machberet, Erika Dreifus provides U.S. readers with an sneak peek of Leah Kaminsky's debut novel The Waiting Room, which was published in Australia in September and will be coming to America later in 2016.

Lorri M. Writings brings us a review of The Marriage of Opposites, by Alice Hoffman.

The 2016 Sydney Taylor Book Awards are announced! The award recognizes the best Jewish literature for children and teens. A Blog Tour with the winners will take place February 7-12, 2106!

Batya Medad at A Jewish Grandmother says, I sincerely recommend For Better and For Worse: An Israel Odyssey no matter where you live and no matter what your religion. It gives a very necessary view into the lives and feelings of real Israelis in Judea-Samaria, especially when the international and even local media paint us so badly. And more than that, it is a wonderful story of how idealistic young Jews cope with the reality of life in a very turbulent world. 

Thanks to everyone who participated this month!! Please visit as many as you can and leave comments to let the bloggers know you stopped by.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: FELINES OF NEW YORK, by Jim Tews

Felines of New York: A Glimpse Into the Lives of New York's Feline Inhabitants, by Jim Tews. Published 2015 by Simon & Schuster. Cats. Humor.

Kind of does what it says on the label, this parody of the much-lauded Humans of New York. You get pictures of cats with names and what neighborhood they live in, along with a line or two about their lives.

I think if you live in New York you get enough humans in your life to last you awhile and there is no real need to disturb the peace of your apartment by bringing them in to it, since the whole reason you have your quiet apartment is to get away from them. So this book is perfect for New Yorkers who feel like they have a little too much in the way of other New Yorkers in their life sometimes, and maybe not enough cats.

I have two cats who immigrated with me and and we enjoy learning the perspective of New Yorker cats. Sam the cat from Williamsburg says "I used to be an indoor cat but the kid left the door open and I got out. I was just waiting for the right moment. That kid was kind of a jerk, a real whisker-puller." If my cats were in this book, they would say something like, "We moved here from a big house and I think I like having less space. I have more control over my environment. It's noisier though." Or maybe "New Yorkers are either really nice or crazy. We haven't met any though. We don't go outside." Tews imagines vivid interior lives for his feline subjects and conjures up their moods and personalities in quick quips. As a reader you get to both look at cute pictures of cats and share in the fantasy of their imagined lives.  It's kind of irresistible.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review: THE MOUNTAIN AND THE WALL, by Alisa Ganieva

The Mountain and The Wall, by Alisa Ganieva. Published 2015 by Deep Vellum. Literary Fiction. Translated from Russian by Carol Apollonio.

Alisa Ganieva's first book is also the first book to come to us in English from Dagestan, an ex-Soviet republic in the Caucasus Mountains with a diverse population representing many languages and ethnic groups. The reader gets a strong sense of this diversity in The Mountain and The Wall, a novel about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the capital of Makhachkala once a rumor spreads that the Russians are building a wall to separate itself frog Dagestan.

Ganieva tells the story mostly through the eyes of Shamil, a young man with a lot of time on his hands and some personal issues to muddle through. There's the state of his love life now that his fiancee has taken up with a would-be mujaheddin, and what's going on with his friends, and more. Then there are the other misfits in town- Asya, a young woman whose family is convinced will never marry, and who may not even want to marry. And there's the writer who's finally finished his book. What's going to become of these people, and others, now that "the beards" are taking things over?

There's a lively wedding, which may be the last for a while, and more rumors flying around on all sides, and very little is known for sure. Ganieva weaves stories and more stories into her tale- Soviet propaganda, religious texts, poems, excerpts from novels, folk tales and more- which help create a sense of depth and richness, a sense of shared traditions and also of traditions that are very different from each other and struggling to coexist. Whether they'll be able to is the thing we're waiting to find out.

I hope we see more writing from the Caucasus and I liked this book but I can't say I loved it. It was kind of slow and drawn-out, a matter of taste more than judgement since I like plot-driven books and the pacing was a little jittery for me. Ganieva does a wonderful job bringing this community to life particularly at the beginning with a town meeting that is both hilarious and dark and foreboding. She eviscerates just about everyone at one time or another, except the star-crossed lovers at the center of her story, who are just trying to find their way through the chaos.


Read My Own Damn Books Challenge: 1

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive my copy for review.

Monday, January 11, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I finished The Mountain and The Wall last week and I'll have a review up tomorrow. It was okay.

This week I'm reading A Man's Head by Georges Simenon, for a class I'm taking on crime fiction. I have to finish by Wednesday but it's short so it won't be a problem. I'm enjoying it. I've read Simenon before but not any Inspector Maigret novels, so this is fun. He's an interesting detective- cranky and stuff. I want to read more.

On my nightstand I'm within days of finishing Cities of Salt; I should finish it this week no problem. It reads like a series of stories. I'm liking it more as I go along.

At the gym I'm still enjoying A Man of Good Hope very much. It's making me want to read more nonfiction and I think when I do finish Cities of Salt I'm going to replace it with some nonfiction, maybe Going Clear. We'll see.

I need to make a trip to the used bookstore this week to drop off some things I'm done with. If I have ten titles in my pile I get to buy something new!

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Sunday Salon

Another Sunday, and it's raining in NYC, rainy and cold, the perfect stay-inside-and-read day. We had a busy-for-us week last week and the restful, quiet weekend has been a blessing.

I've already broken my pledge to read or weed 10 books before buying my next one, but the book I did buy was for a reading group/class I'm taking on crime fiction, so I'm giving myself a pass.  The book is A Man's Head by Georges Simenon, a short book I'll probably finish tomorrow, and I will be borrowing the next book in the class. After that I'll be borrowing as many of the remaining titles as I can, but with less than a week to read the first book I didn't have time to scrounge up a borrowed copy from this place or that, and the book was easy to find and inexpensive, so there.

I also bought a travel book as my husband and I are in the early stages of planning some time on the west coast later this year. That doesn't count either.

I had kind of a busy-for-me week, with my husband's work outing (dinner and a Broadway show) and a weeknight movie, and acupuncture volunteering and other things. Just being back in NYC from a week in Boston takes adjustment! And I started putting away Christmas decorations. We have a fake tree so there is never a hurry to put that away, but I do a lot of decorating. It takes time to put it all away!

This week should be quieter and I'm looking forward to spending some nice time with my books!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


I don't normally do reading challenges like Pop Sugar's or Book Riot's or what have you, because I tend to be a very self-directed reader and I just read what I feel like reading. I don't like checking off lists or someone telling me I need to read more of this or that. If I want to read a book, I read it. Simple as that.

But I want to do a blogging-community activity and this is one that fits me to a T. Estella's Revenge, one of my favorite blog, is running the Read Your Own Damn Books Challenge.

The Rules?
You make up your own damn rules.
  • Read my own books
  • Try to knock off 50 in 2016 that I read, and drop off discards at the used bookstore once a month.
  • Only buy a new book when I've read and/or weeded 10.
  • Use the library if I'm desperate.
Realistically I will still buy books from time to time, of course; I can't help myself. But this year I want to make a real dent in my bookshelves and I resolve to buy only one book for every ten that I read or weed. Of course I can't control what I receive from publishers unsolicited, but I would include requests in my equation. 
I don't have a list of books that I'm choosing from-just whatever is on the shelf! You can see my library on LibraryThing; anything that's not rated is unread. Let's get started!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


The Prophets of Eternal Fjord, by Kim Leine. Published 2015 by Liveright. Literary Fiction. Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken.

This is one of the strangest and most compelling books I've read in a while. I started it in December finished it on January 1, so it counts as my first book read in 2016. I really didn't want it to end.

The story is about Morten Falck, a priest and missionary in 1700s Greenland. The book opens with a startling death; a woman, "the widow," puts on her best clothes and goes to meet a fate she understands and accepts. We don't know exactly who delivers her to her fate. Then we jump back several years, to the end of Morten's education and the period just before his departure to Greenland, where he is to preach to the indigenous people there. The book jumps around in time more, and jumps between characters, and I needed to flip back and forth some to understand the narrative, but the pieces do come together eventually, in a disturbing but very coherent story.

I picked this book up more or less just to try it, for a book club I'm going to try later this month, and though it started slow it picked up quickly and I soon found myself lost in a very vivid world. Prophets reminds me of nothing so much as Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace, with its shifting rules and edgy mores- and its edgy and explicit sexual content. Leine has written a world that is very hard on women, and not easy on the priesthood either. Morten's greatest professional challenge is a breakaway cult that's formed on the outskirts of his village, Eternal Fjord, and taming or understanding its charismatic leaders. But his heart presents its own challenges, and he may not be able to conquer those.

I really enjoyed this book, maybe even loved it, but it's a tricky one to recommend. I would say it's immersive, character-driven and heavy on setting and description- you really feel like you're in the mix with Morten, eating what he's eating, living under the same conditions, smelling the wet wool of his clothing and feeling the lice in his hair. I would definitely encourage anyone whose interest has been piqued to give it a chance. I'm really glad I found it and will long remember it as one of the best things I read in 2015 and 2016.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

Monday, January 4, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I finished The Prophets of Eternal Fjord (review tomorrow) on New Year's Day, and while I have a few things in mind I'm going to focus on one thing at a time, even though that means I'm reading three books right now.
Alisa Ganieva's The Mountain and the Wall is the only book that has come to us in English from Dagestan, about a young man finding his way through upheavals as his home experiences a resurgence of fundamentalist Islam. He lives in Makhachkala, Dagestan's capital, when people start saying that Russia is building a wall to separate itself from the republics of the Caucasus. Tensions mount and factions form.

Meanwhile my bedside book remains Abdelrahman Munif's Cities of Salt, about the discovery of oil and the changes it brings to a nameless Persian town and its residents.

Finally I'm reading A Man of Good Hope at the gym, Jonny Steinberg's reportage about an African man whose life reflects the tumult, chaos and hope of a continent's worth of upheaval and history.

So lots going on. Reading folks' best-of-2015 lists over the last few days has made me want to pick some things off my shelves to read next, but I'm going to finish what I have going before I get too excited about what's next. It's hard to contain that enthusiasm sometimes!

What are you reading in the New Year?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Sunday Salon

Happy Sunday! If you celebrate Christmas I hope you had a great one, and in any case I hope you had a nice New Year's but that week between Christmas and New Year's is special and now we're at the tail end. I went back to Boston for the holiday and a had a nice visit.

Now I'm back in NYC and settling back in. For the first time in forever I didn't ask for any books for Christmas but I did buy a few here and there; one of my favorite used bookstores, Raven Used Books in Harvard Square, changed locations from a dim basement to a sunny street-level shop and business was brisk when we visited. I picked up an Everyman's Library edition of J.G. Farrell's Troubles and The Siege of Krishnapur in a single volume, and Happy People in Tears, by Joao de Melo, about a large Portuguese family.

I don't know what today holds. I don't even know if I'm having coffee or a cappuccino with my breakfast. But I'll probably be reading. What about you?

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016 Reads I'm Anticipating

I've collected a few 2016 galleys here and there, and then there is that one "big book" I don't have yet. Here is what I'm looking forward to reading in the new year.

Hunters in the Dark, by Lawrence Osborne. I don't know what it's about, but if Lawrence Osborne wrote it I want to read it. His last two books The Forgiven and The Ballad of a Small Player were mesmerizing, hypnotic reads. January.

Howard Jacobson's Shylock is My Name is the second of the Hogarth Shakespeare series. He tackles "The Merchant of Venice" and it's sure to be a great read. I'm loving this series, which debuted with Jeanette Winterson's The Gap of Time and will continue with titles by Margaret Atwood, Edward St. Aubyn, Gillian Flynn and others. February.

Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favorite modern writers and always comes out with excellent books. Eligible is her retelling of Pride and Prejudice; I'm reading it now and enjoying it. April.

The Big Book I don't have yet is Justin Cronin's City of Mirrors, last book in The Passage Trilogy.

I guess advance copies must be available, because 50+ people already have it on LibraryThing, but I haven't come across one yet and I've been tapping my sources so to speak. But if I don't get an ARC I will get it on pub day for sure! May.

What are you looking forward to in 2016?