Friday, September 22, 2023

Books Read in August 2023

I read nine books in August and completed all of the books on my 20 Books of Summer list. I did not review them all, but did better than usual in that area. I read four nonfiction books, although three of them were shorter books. All of the books I read in August were very good.

Graphic Nonfiction 

Number One is Walking: My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions (2022) 

by Steve Martin, Drawings by Harry Bliss

This is a short and entertaining graphic memoir, in which Steve Martin, star of many films and currently starring in the TV series Only Murders in the Building, tells selected stories about his career in the movies. That portion of the book is supplemented by cartoons drawn by Harry Bliss. This book was his second collaboration with Harry Bliss; the first was A Wealth of Pigeons: A Cartoon Collection.

A Fire Story (2019) by Brian Fies

Brian Flies tells the story of his and his wife's escape from the Tubbs fire that engulfed their home in Santa Rosa, and their experiences following the fire, with all their possessions gone. My review here.

Nonfiction / Letters 

84, Charing Cross Road (1970) by Helene Hanff

I loved reading this very brief book of letters between Helene Hanff in New York City and Frank Doel in London, starting in October 1949. My review here.

Nonfiction / History

Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory (2010) 

by Ben Macintyre

This is an extremely well-written history telling the story of Operation Mincemeat, a plan to deceive the Germans related to the next target that the Allies planned to attack. Sicily was the most obvious target, but intelligence agents wanted to convince the enemy that the attack would be on Greece or Sardinia. My review here.

Science Fiction

The Last Colony (2007) by John Scalzi

This book is the third in the Old Man's War series; the first two books are military science fiction, which I did not think I would like, but I did. This entry in the series was an interesting combination of a story about the colonization of a planet and the resulting effort to protect the planet from a group that wants to annihilate it. I rated The Last Colony higher than the other two, but I read the first two books ten years ago. Maybe I am a more generous grader of books now (which I would just as soon not do anyway), or maybe I liked the emphasis on people and relationships in this one.

Crime Fiction

The Mulberry Bush (2015) by Charles McCarry

This is the last novel that Charles McCarry published before his death in 2019. It is a standalone spy story about a man whose main focus is getting revenge for his father, a spy for the CIA whose career ended in disgrace. Now the son has succeeded in getting a job with the CIA and is bent on avenging the wrong that Headquarters did to his father. My review here.

Sleep and His Brother (1971) by Peter Dickinson

This is the fourth in a series about Jimmy Pibble. In the first two books, he was a Scotland Yard detective; now he has been forced into retirement. His wife is a volunteer for a charitable institution and asks him to look into a problem they are having. There are vague supernatural elements, which is not surprising since Dickenson was a well-known author of fantasy books. The book is very short, around 200 pages, but very dense, not an easy read at all. I loved the story and the writing.

The Doomsday Carrier (1976) by Victor Canning

This was another short book, under 200 pages, and the fourth book in a loose series called the Birdcage books. They all revolve around a covert security group in the UK, a branch of the Ministry of Defense. A chimpanzee has escaped from the facility where it had been infected with plague bacillus, with the goal of creating an infectious carrier of the disease after a three week incubation period. The story follows the chimpanzee as it continues to elude capture, and two people who hope to catch it and return it to the facility before it becomes contagious. Concerns are addressed about the ethics of doing this kind of research and the dishonesty of government officials in trying to keep the truth from the public.

A Man's Head (1931) by Georges Simenon

There are 75 novels featuring Inspector Maigret, and each of those that I have read is different. Maigret often behaves strangely, at least for a policeman of his rank. In this case, Maigret arranges the escape of a condemned murderer from prison. The man, Joseph Heurtin, was convicted of having killed a rich American woman and her French maid. Maigret is sure that Huertin could not have done the crime, even though the proof of his guilt is strong. He plans to have the man followed once he escapes, and see if he will lead the police to the real culprit. Maigret gets very personally involved in this one. An alternate title for this book is A Battle of Nerves, which is definitely an accurate description. The Maigret novels are always good reads, brief, and usually with some humor.

Currently reading

For my Classics List, I am reading I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith; I have read about half the book. This book is the starting book for Six Degrees of Separation in October, and is on my Classics List. 

The annual Planned Parenthood Book Sale started on September 15th. We have been to the book sale several times since it started, and will go again on Sunday, the last day of the sale. I have bought way too many books, so maybe I won't find too many more to buy.

The photos at the top of this post are of the Silver-leafed Princess Flower plants in our front flower beds. Last month's photos showed the first purple blooms on the plants. The photos in this post show the plant in full bloom. 

The photo immediately above is a flower on our Butterfly bush. The plant has done very well and gotten taller than we expected.

Photos taken and processed by my husband. Click on the images for the best viewing quality.


Cath said...

I love your butterfly bush, the colour is so vivid when you click on it. Ours are more of a mauve colour. I do love their scent.

I read I Capture the Castle a few years ago and quite liked it but can't remember much about it now apart from that iconic first sentence.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have read SLEEP AND HIS BROTHER but none of the others. Nice job in covering it for us.

TracyK said...

Cath, I am enjoying the butterfly bush, I just have problems with pruning it. It is getting so tall.

I am still not sure what I think of I Capture the Castle, and I am close to the end now.

TracyK said...

Patti, I love Peter Dickinson's writing. I have a few more of his books around to read.

Margot Kinberg said...

Your flowers are beautiful, Tracy! I'm happy for you that you met the reading goal you set. I'm impressed, too, by how much variety there is in what you've read. There are a few there that interest me. I haven't read much of Canning, but I should. And the Dickenson interests me, too. I hope October is a good month for you!

Lark said...

I love that August was such a good month for reading for you. I read a lot of good books in August, too. And that Steve Martin graphic novel/memoir sounds so fun. I definitely have to check that one out. :D

TracyK said...

Margot, it is lovely that we have plants that are blooming in September.

This year I was lucky to have picked 20 books for the 20 books of Summer list that I really wanted to read, and still had time to get a few others in too. Canning is a wonderful writer, but I have only read his mystery / thrillers.

TracyK said...

August was a good reading month for me, Lark, and I am glad about that. The Steve Martin book was interesting and fun; I did not know he was in so many movies, although he doesn't cover all of them here. And the illustrated format is very good.

CLM said...

I'd love a butterfly bush! So pretty!

I haven't read any of Peter Dickinson's adult books but thought his juvenile Eva was very powerful. He was married to Robin McKinley (much younger) who is one of my favorite authors.

That booksale sounds awesome. I went to a very mediocre one this morning and I swear I only bought two books out of pity.

Mary R. said...

Great job finishing your 20 Books of Summer! You really can't buy too many books when they are from a sale for a good cause! Think of it like putting up summer produce to enjoy in the depths of winter.

Sam said...

Wow, you covered a lot of ground in August. That's a pretty diversified reading list with lots of interesting stuff. I've only read a couple of them, but you jogged my memory about two or three others I've wanted to get back to.

TracyK said...

Constance, The butterfly bush is doing well, but I just no good at trimming plants. Lovely flowers, and they just keep coming.

I have heard of Eva by Peter Dickinson and I should find a copy of that. I did know he was married to Robin McKinley, but I haven't read anything by her yet.

We were at the booksale for a couple of hours this morning. I found a lot of really good books still there on the last day, and at half price.

TracyK said...

Mary, This is only the second time that I actually finished my list of 20 books.

I agree, I always go to the Planned Parenthood book sale knowing I will buy lots of books, and we donate books to the sale all year. I bought a lot of general fiction by authors I have never read, and some Canadian books too.

TracyK said...

Sam, I was happy to read more mysteries published before 2000 in August, and some very good books by my favorite authors. In September I have been reading more new-to-me authors, so far.

Kathy's Corner said...

Hi Tracy, I must get myself a copy of 84 Charing Cross Road. I have read it but it's a book that every book lover schildhood. have in their bookshelf so they can reread it from time to time which is what I want to do. I am curious about I Capture the Castle. Never read it but there are many for whom it was a treasured book from their childhood so I am curious.

TracyK said...

Kathy, I agree with you about 84 Charing Cross Road. I am holding on to my copy so I can read it again when I feel like it.

I finished I Capture the Castle on Saturday and I was neutral about it. I can see why many people love it but it was too long and I kept waiting for it to improve. I am still glad I read it, though.