Art is long, commutes are longer (What I’ve been reading, 1)

February 2016

  • Gore Vidal, Burr: A Novel. Read it for the second in my series of posts on Hamilton: An American Musical. Vidal is a great storyteller, and who tells your story really does matter a hell of a lot. Since Vidal is a novelist, I also read the American National Biography entry on Burr to find out how much of Burr: A Novel was real. … Hmm, I’ve been looking for another novel to read: perhaps I’ll move on to the second in Vidal’s Narratives of Empire series, Lincoln.
  • Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project. Prompted me to think anew about what I’d call (but Rubin doesn’t) my hierarchy of values, and made me aware of the benefits of changing small habits.
  • Alexandre Dumas pere, Vicomte de Bragelonne: the second sequel to The Three Musketeers. Entertaining, but not as compelling as Musketeers; still, for plot, characterization, style, and sense of life, better than a whole lot of modern prose. I keep this on my phone as a back-up for when I run out of other books in the middle of a subway ride.
  • Paul Johnson, George Washington (Eminent Lives series). Far more concise than Flexner’s Washington: The Indispensable Man, Ellis’s His Excellency, and McCullough’s 1776but interesting because, as I’ve come to expect from Johnson, it’s Big Picture: the world (or at least European) view of events in America.
  • Paul Johnson, Stalin. For years I’ve been thinking that I should read something on Stalin, but couldn’t commit myself to read a hefty tome on such a horror. Johnson’s bio is brief, but focused on essentials.

March 2016

  • Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman. Reading it, I realized I had never read To Kill a Mockingbird, so I read that, then reread Go Set a Watchman. I don’t disrecommend Watchman (especially to my friends who don’t mind long discussions), but my favorite is definitely Mockingbird, for the way the sequence of vignettes builds up to a climax and the pitch-perfect narration from a highly intelligent 10-year-old’s point of view. The Amazon link above promises an audiobook if you buy both works: that’s a lie.
  • Laurie R. King, The Marriage of Mary Russell, a short story. I’ve read all King’s Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series, many more than once. I started reading latest novel in the series, The Murder of Mary Russellas soon as it came out: didn’t know I wanted to hear Mrs. Hudson’s backstory until King gave it to me. That said, my husband, whose tastes overlap mine in mysteries, read the first two in the Russell/Holmes series and then gave up.
  • Ruth Reichl, Delicious! Light entertainment for foodies, but I prefer her biographical volumes (Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples), and I’m especially fond of Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise.
  • Marguerite Holloway, The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career & Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr. I read this after having seen a mention of the only bronze marker left from Randel’s survey of New York, done in conjunction with the 1811 Commissioners’ Plan that set out the street grid of Manhattan. Didn’t finish this one: too much jumping about, and the central character wasn’t appealing to me.
  • G.A. Mudge, Alice in Central Park – Statues in Wonderland. A subject dear to my heart: a chronological survey of sculptures in Central Park, with excellent black-and-white pics of every one. I purchased this one at a book signing at the Lotos Club, which is the New York club I’d be a member of, if I had the money to join a club and the time to spend there.
  • J.D. Robb, Glory in Death (In Death series, 2). I love this series: NYPD cop and a universe-class businessman, set ca. 2050. Finally got my husband hooked on the Audible versions, so I’m listening to them now.
  • J. Aaron Sanders, Speakers of the Dead (Audible). The first in a planned series of mysteries with Walt Whitman as the detective. I was very interested in the setting (NYC ca. 1850), but didn’t love the characters; ended up listening at 1.5 speed. Perhaps there are in jokes that I missed, since I haven’t read much Whitman.

April 2016

  • Thomas Perry, Forty Thieves. I prefer his caper books to the Jane Whitfield series. This isn’t my favorite (Island is still The One), but as always, Perry tells a good story involving characters who are unique, vivid, and often funny – a combination that always makes me eager to read the next in the series.


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About Dianne L. Durante

I constantly seek out art that's inspiring, thought-provoking, skillfully executed, and/or beautiful so I can share it (in jargon-free language) with others who need and enjoy such art, but don't have time to search for it themselves. As an independent scholar, writer, and lecturer, I focus on art history and history, with forays into food, history, politics, and publishing. My most recent projects are three volumes on Alexander Hamilton, From Portraits to Puddles, Central Park: The Early Years, Innovators in Sculpture (a survey of 5,000 years of art in 2 hours), and videoguide apps by Guides Who Know. Click on the Books & Essays tab for a list of all books. For upcoming projects, see my Patreon page.

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