Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Kiko's House Book Club

Will the third meeting of the Kiko’s House Book Club come to order. Thank you.

We have for your perusing pleasure today five books recommended by visitors to Kiko’s House and yours truly. The books marked with an asterisk (*) are available in paperback.

The books at our first meeting tended toward the spiritual, while they ranged from the earthy to the feminine at our second meeting. What to say about these five? Satire. History. War. Peace. Naked bodies. I guess I'd call that a mixed lot.
Candide: Or Optimism
By Voltaire (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2005)

Penguin has repackaged this classic satire in a clever new paperback edition replete with marvelous stick figure cartoons of the major characters and a map of Candide's travels by Chris Ware.

The story itself seems more relevant than ever. Candide, who like a certain U.S. president always believes that "all is for the best" even in the face of injustice and suffering, sets out on a series of outrageous and often hilarious adventures. And, of course, lives to tell the tale.

Falling Through the Earth: A Memoir
By Danielle Trussoni (Henry Holt, 2006)

More than 30 years after her father returned home from Vietnam, Danielle Trussoni set out to discover who the man was whose career as a soldier and self destructive behavior destroyed his marriage and ultimately his relationship with her.

Daniel Trussoni was a tunnel rat in Vietnam, an awful assignment that required him to crawl through sweltering and clausterphobic passages cut by the North Vietnamese beneath the jungle floor. Daughter Danielle went to Vietnam to verify her father's fantastic stories and see some of the tunnels for herself before writing this complex but moving story of what happened to the man her father had been before the war.

Grand Days
By Frank Moorhouse (Picador, 1994) (*)

This Australian novel is set in 1920s Geneva in the surroundings of the League of Nations at a time when mankind still believed such international quasi-governments would insure the world against conflicts like the recently-ended First World War.

The chief protagonist is a young Australian woman, born and bred in a country town, hitting her intellectual straps in cultivated Europe. The theme has been exploited many times by such Australian writers as Clive James and Barrie Humphries, who found Australia too small and insular to contain them and sought to stretch themselves in older, more sophisticated societies with great success.

"Grand Days" is intelligent, funny and sexy and a treasure-trove of arcana about the League and some of the obscure characters who worked there, free of cynicism or doubt even as the name National Socialist Party was starting to be heard in Europe.

In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing
'The Second World War'
By David Reynolds (Random House: 2005) (*)

Winston Churchill comes off in a less than a flattering light in this terrific book about a book, or rather six books -- his epic "The Second World War."

The Great Man is portrayed as seldom admitting a mistake and playing loose and fast with the historic record to bolster his already considerable reputation, but Reynolds (a Cambridge University historian) ultimately comes to praise and not bury him. Reynolds also explains how Churchill and his lawyers crafted a clever series of financial moves that protected him from harsh British taxes and earned him perhaps $40 million in today's dollars for his Nobel Prize winning series.

The Playmate Book: Six Decades of Centerfolds
By Gretchen Edgren (Taschen, 2006)

Playboy founder Hugh Henfer always said that his ideal for the magazine's Playmate of the Month was "the girl next door with her clothes off."

Some 613 centerfolds, including the very first in 1953 (Marilyn Monroe, who actually posed for the above photo in 1949) are represented in this book by a Playboy contributing editor. They show that Hef has pretty much stayed true to his vision even as sexual mores have relaxed and his playmates reveal more and more.


Whenever you read a good book or may have read one in the past that you'd recommend to your fellow visitors, e-mail me at

Include in the body of the e-mail the book's title, author and type (fiction, nonfiction, bio, advice, etc.) and a few words about why you enjoyed and would recommend it. I'll post your recommendations at the next Book Club meeting.


The Assassin’s Gate: American In Iraq By George Packer (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2005)

The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror By Nathan Sharansky with Ron Dermer (Public Affairs, 2004)

The Fall of Lucifer (Chronicles of Brothers) By Wendy Alec (Realms, 2005)

The First Emancipator: The Forgotten Story of Robert Carter, The Founding Father Who Freed His Slaves By Andrew Levy (Random House, 2005)

I Am Charlotte Simons By Tom Wolff (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2004)

In the Company of the Courtesan By Sarah Dunant (Random House, 2006)

The Life of Pi: A Novel By Yann Martel (Canongate, 2001)

Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality By Richard Slotkin (Henry Holt and Co., 2005)

Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel By Arthur Golden (Vintage, 1997)

The Seashell on the Mountaintop: A Story of Science, Sainthood and the Humble Genius Who Discovered a New History of the Earth By Alan Cutler (Dutton, 2003)

The Second World War By Winston Churchill (Houghton Mifflin, 1948-53)

What Is Life Worth? The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11 By Kenneth R. Feinberg (Public Affairs, 2005)

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