Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Kiko's House Book Club Meeting for July

Timothy Leary: 1966
Will the July 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, three of them coincidentally focusing on events in the 1960s, although from different perspectives. The books marked with an asterisk (*) means they are available in paperback.
American Pastoral
By Philip Roth (Houghton Mifflin, 1997) (*)

"American Pastoral" was recently named one of the best American novels of the last 25 years in a New York Times survey of writers and other literary types.

It's hard to argue with that assessment after reading this beautifully written exposition on the turbulent 1960s written in the voice of Nathan Zuckerman, Roth's literary alter ego. Zuckerman acquaints us with Seymour "The Swede" Levov, who sees the America he loves grow crazier and crzier, culminating in his daughter Merry protesting against the Vietnam War.

Political Fictions
By Joan Didion (Knopf, 2001) (*)

This is the second book in as many Book Club meetings by this American woman of letters and a timely choice with mid-term elections approaching in the U.S. of A.

While Didion brings a novelist's touch to the eight essays on American politics circa 2000 that make up this fine little book, the quackery of the system that gave us George Bush the Younger is not fiction but fact. She is especially scathing in discussing the incestuous relationship between the news media and political establishment.

The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson
By Roger Knight (Basic Books, 2005)

There have been hundreds of biographies written about Horatio Nelson, the great British naval hero who smashed Napoleon's fleet in the 1798 Battle of the Nile and lost his life at Trafalgar in 1805, but most have been based on secondary sources.

Not so with this meticulously researched tome. Author Knight went back and examined primary source material and the result is a sprawling book that debunks many Nelson myths while embellishing his reputation as a born leader who inspired fierce loyalty from his crews.

The Things They Carried: A Work of Fiction
By Tim O'Brien (Houghton Mifflin, 1990) (*)

Tim O'Brien, who was a combat infantryman in Vietnam, is the preeminent writer of fiction from that war and this book, along with his "Waiting For Caciato" and "If I Die in a Combat Zone" make up an extraordinary triad.

If it weren't for the subtitle, you'd think that "They Things They Carried" was a memoir, albeit a somewhat hallucinatory one because of the blurring between reality and fantasy. But then that's what Vietnam was all about. (For a taste of O'Brien's writing, click here for an excerpt from the book.)

Timothy Leary
By Robert Greenfield (James L. Silberman, 2006)

Greenfield, who wrote terrific biographies of Jerry Garcia and Bill Graham, has hit a grand slam in this scathing account of Timothy Leary, the 1960's counterculture hero and LSD guru.

He contrasts the public Leary with the private Leary, a profoundly selfish and narcissistic man who preached inner growth to his disciples but was unable to liberate himself from his own demons in a wild ride of a life that included lecturing at Harvard, hanging out with Allen Ginsberg and Abbie Hoffman to escaping from a California penitentiary escapee and sucking up to Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver in Algeria.

Whenever you read a good book or may have read one in the past that you'd recommend, e-mail me at kikokimba@gmail.com

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.


America at the Crossroads by Francis Fukuyama (Yale University Press, 2005)

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

Ava Gardner: Love Is Nothing by Lee Server (St. Martin's Press, 2006)

Candide: Or Optimism by Voltaire (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2005)

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

A Dance To the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (Mandarin, 1997)

Daniel Martin by John Fowles (Jonathan Cape, 1997)

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

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)

Freedom at Midnight: The Epic Drama of India's Struggle for Independence by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre (Simon & Schuster, 1975)

Grand Days by Frank Moorhouse (Picador, 1994)

Guests of the Ayatollah: America's First War Against Militant Islam by Mark Bowden (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006)

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

Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins (Henry Holt, 2005)

In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences
by Truman Capote (Vintage, 1994)

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

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)

The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr (Random House, 2005)

The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman (Hyperion, 1998)

The Man Who Would Be King: The First American in Afghanistan by Ben Macintyre (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005)

Margot Fonteyn by Meredith Daneman (Viking, 2o04)

Middlemarch By George Eliot (Oxford University Press, 1997)

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

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

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)

Tokyo Station by Martin Cruz Smith (Macmillan, 2002)

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

Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1983)

The Year of Imaginary Thinking by Hoan Didion (Random House, 2005)

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