Holy Cow this book taught me so much. And the biggest thing it taught me is how important telling the truth in the beginning is. How important it is for government and science to gain and retain the public’s trust and be truthful. The truth was held back in the 1918 Influenza and it certainly was held back in 2020.
Fascinating in scope and presentation, Barry manages to present a hugely difficult topic in a way that any lay person can understand. The vast research done for this book, the amount of detail and insight is truly remarkable. Barry starts at the beginning and takes the reader (or listener in my case as I did this one on Audible) week by week as the virus spread from the United States around the world. Killing in the end at least 100 million people.
The 1918 epidemic was the first clash of science and a virus, at a time of war, a time of burgeoning medical science and a time of very poor leadership in the Whitehouse.
The what ifs are in the hundreds. But did we learn anything from this fatal time in our history? Apparently not.
Read it. It will truly help you understand what we are dealing with in the world today. Five stars for John Barry’s The Great Influenza.
I am torn about this book. That doesn’t happen to me often. I usually know right away if I am going to love a book. Or if I am going to endure it. Or if, it’s just not worth my time.
During the course of reading Fifty Words for Rain I had all three sensations. I kept reading and here is what I thought, my book review of Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie
Japan 1948. A time of upheaval and rebirth in Japan but also a time where holding tight to the old customs, pedigree and aristocratic ways was epidemic. This is when we are introduced to eight-year-old Nori when she is abandoned by her mother on the front door of her grandparents mansion.
Nori, a “bastard” child, product of Japanese royal blood mother and a black American GI. Nori is a stain on the family name. She is hidden in the attic and does not leave the house for years. Until her half brother arrives and her life finally begins.
But her skin color, her hair and how she came into the world will scar her, and taint every aspect of her life, despite her brilliance both as a student and a musician. Her grandmother will torture her and shame her until the final pages of this book.
But despite her struggles and triumphs, love and loss, and deep tragedies that change her forever, Nori still returns to Japan and to her hateful grandmother.
And it’s the final chapter of this book that has me torn. Her final choices made me crazy. How could she? I felt she was weak in the end, despite her enormous strength throughout the book.
So, I read it through, enjoyed much of it, endured some of it, and hated the end.
***Three stars for Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie.
A year end review of reading. I did it. I set a goal last July to read 75 books in a year. And I did it, I read 83 books. Nearly all these books I read on Kindle while we were traveling. A couple were on Audible and a few were good old fashioned paperbacks. I enjoy books in all three applications.
Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve found it a bit difficult to stay focused on a book. My mind wanders a lot. But I still was able to meet my goal, and I also wrote one book review blog a week over the past year.
I don’t think I’ll set a goal for next year. I’m just gonna read for the love of reading. We can see a year from now how that turned out.
I love that our Reading Wednesday feature on this blog is one of the most popular things about My Fab Fifties Life. If I can inspire you to get lost in a book, my job is done here. And hopefully a year end review of reading can do just that.
Although I gave five stars to many of the books I read, below is a list of my most favorite of the 83. In fact in the list below are five that I can say are some of the best books I have ever read…and that is saying a lot.
For a year end review of reading I’ve put those five at the top, and then below that the rest are listed randomly. I hope you can find a favorite of your own amongst this list and I thank you for your continuing support of Reading Wednesday and My Fab Fifties Life.
The Immoralists by Chloe Benjamen – if you were told when you were a child the exact day you would die, how might it affect everything about your life? So is the question Benjamen explores in the brilliant and unique novel The Immoralists. I loved this story.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – Just after the end of WWII a young, unmarried and pregnant Charlie goes in search of her missing cousin in Europe. Her search will lead her to horror stories of the war and eventually to her true family and friends. I loved this book.
11/22/63 by Stephen King – I never read Stephen King so I was shocked to find that this story became one of my favorite reads ever. Not just about the assassination of JFK on 11/22/63, but an unequaled time travel book about the choices we might consider if we could go back and change history – would we do it and what would the consequences be. I loved this book.
The Testaments – by Margaret Atwood – Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale continues to rank as one of my favorite books of all time, even after 30 years. So it was with both excitement and trepidation that I waited for the release of the sequel (finally). It was worth the wait. Every bit as compelling and incomparable, even pulling in some subtle nods to the politics of the USA in 2020. I loved this book.
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd – Kidd’s bold re-telling of the story of Jesus once again shows her chutzpa as a writer, her creative ability and incomparable talent to take the reader on a well-worn journey with an absolutely fascinating new twist. I love Kidd’s work and The Book of Longings did not dissapoint. I loved this book.
It was hard for me to only choose five for the list above. Because there were so many good ones this year. Here are 14 more of the very best from the 83 books I finished this year.
Absolutely astonishing. I loved this non-fiction book about mental illness in America. I listened to this one on Audible, it was brilliantly read, but I suspect reading it would be just as compelling as Kolker’s empathy towards the material and the family was first rate.
Hidden Valley Road is the story of the Galvin Family of Colorado Springs Colorado and begins when Don and Mimi Galvin are teens in the 1950’s and continues through 2017. During this span of time, Don and Mimi Galvin will have 12 children and become important in genetic research due to the fact that six of those children will be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The book includes a great deal of medical detail and information, but Kolker’s writing makes it very easy for the lay person to understand. Combined with his brilliant approach to telling the story of this remarkable American family, the complicated relationships between each of them, as well as the astounding family history, Kolker creates an unforgettable read.
The book has received critcal acclaim and has been “praised for it’s astounding depth and empathy”. It was highly commended by Ophra’s Book Club and debuted number one on the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction.
Few American’s have not been touched in some way by mental illness in their families or their acquaintances, and I believe anyone can identify and appreciate this memorable multigenerational story of one American families heartbreak.
*****Five Stars for Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
Well. I had high hopes for this book. Hmmmm. It got great reviews but for me it just fell short of spectacular and I was left going “meh”.
Touted as the next “Gone Girl” (big shoes) and “destined for the big screen” (maybe better as a movie?) I just couldn’t find the love for this book.
I figured out the plot twist pretty early on, and although there were some surprising turns, there were also some gaping holes.
We are introduced to a psychotherapist, a famous artist, and a famous photographer. Difficult family backgrounds and childhoods, insecurities and infidelity will play a big role in the development of these characters and how their lives and deaths come together.
Who loves who? Who is the real villain? Who is really the crazy one? And in the end will we be satisfied with the wrapping up of this “thriller”? Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Movie coming! “Meh”.
⭐️⭐️⭐️Three stars for The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Gates, co-founder of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a talented writer and her eloquently told stories of people she has met through her work around the globe is an inspiring read.
As a world traveler myself, I have witnessed stark poverty, extreme sexism, lack of education and powerful caste systems. I look upon these things and feel helpless at what I can do.
Gates looks upon them and develops data and brings the issues to our attention, in her determined and candid narrative.
Through the inspiring stories she tells, including many personal stories of her own background and marriage, the overall message is clear – if you want to lift up a society you must start by supporting and lifting the women and girls.
Ann Patchett is definitely one of my favorite authors. I have loved several of her books; State of Wonder, Bel Canto, Commonwealth and now The Dutch House.
I really love how the story is told by Danny, and his point of view of his sister Maeve and how their lives unfolds. The tight bond of the siblings and their exile from their childhood home defines everything about their lives and is the premise of the book.
Maeve, the older and protective sister lacks initiative although she is brilliant. She deals constantly with poor health. Danny, the younger looks to Maeve throughout his life, and has difficulty finding his own peace from the events of their past.
The story unfolds over five decades, wrapping around one house, and how that house and decisions made by people associated with it define the lives of Maeve and Danny – for better and for worse.
A central character, the evil step-mother, I found downright chilling. Patchett’s development of that women reminding of someone I used to know. Frightening. Another character, the real mother, I found less believable and not as plausible.
Patchett is a wonderful storyteller and I enjoyed this book as much as all her other novels I have read.
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