Sunday, May 16, 2010

Best of 2010, Update 18

The last few days seem to have flown by even quicker than they usually do. I took Thursday afternoon off to drive about 35 miles northwest of where I live to attend a rare bluegrass music event. I say "rare" because it is highly unusual for one of the nationally-touring bluegrass bands to include Houston on its schedule. Frankly, the Houston area is not a hotbed of bluegrass fans and, consequently, those of us who are here suffer the neglect of the traveling bands.

So, when a band the caliber of The Grascals comes anywhere near here, you will find me there. And what a show it was: one hour and fifteen minutes from some of the best bluegrass musicians and singers in the business today. These guys keep it fresh and fun while managing to give a respectful nod to some of the bluegrass classics from yesterday.

Friday was spent cleaning out the garage at my dad's house, the last step I needed to complete before the cleaners came in on Saturday to give the house a thorough going over - now, all I need is to get the carpet cleaners in - and we are done! The house will be ready to be officially put up for sale and the hard part will be over.

The good news is that I've had enough "sitting around" time during the last three days that I've managed to read a couple of interesting books and finish up a third: John Harvey's Far Cry and Jane Smiley's Private Life, plus an amazing memoir on the utter destructiveness of the hip hop life style by Thomas Chatterton Williams called Losing My Cool. The Smiley book left me cold (and more than a bit depressed) but I am adding the Harvey book to the fiction list at number six and the Williams book to the nonfiction list at number three. Now I just need to find some time to get my thoughts about these three down on paper.

So this is what the fiction list looks like after 35 fiction books read:

1. Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese (novel)
2. Matterhorn - Karl Marlantes (Vietnam War novel)
3. The Calligrapher's Daughter - Eugenia Kim (novel)
4. Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier (historical fiction)
5. Drood - Dan Simmons (historical fiction)
6. Far Cry - John Harvey (police procedural)
7. A Fair Maiden - Joyce Carol Oates (novel)
8. The Samaritan's Secret - Matt Beynon Rees (detective fiction)
9. Homer & Langley - E.L. Doctorow (novel)
10. The Man from Saigon - Marti Leimbach (Vietnam War novel)

And the nonfiction list from a total of 13 read so far this year:
1. Lies My Mother Never Told Me - Kaylie Jones (memoir)
2. Man of Constant Sorrow - Ralph Stanley & Eddie Dean (biography)
3. Losing My Cool - Thomas Chatterton Williams (memoir)
4. Jane's Fame - Claire Harman (on the evolution of Jane Austen's reputation)
5. The Opposite Field - Jesse Katz - (memoir)
6. The Tennis Partner - Abraham Verghese (1998 memoir)
7. Game Change - John Heilemann & Mark Halperin (political nonfiction)
8. Top of the Order - Sean Manning, Ed. (baseball essays)
9. A Time to Betray - Reza Kahlili (memoir of Iranian CIA agent)
10. Goosetown: Reconstructing an Akron Neighborhood - Joyce Dyer (memoir)


  1. Here's some more for your list:

    Nothing to envy : ordinary lives in North Korea, Barbara Demick.

    Gang of One, by Fan Wu

  2. I so enjoy your blog and particularly the way you update your "favorites list" as you progress. A dynamic list (as it should be). Very, very clever and I must admit, you steer me to many a book I would otherwise not consider. Thanks!

  3. I had to smile a little at that name, Thomas Chatterton Williams. Is that his real name? Was his mom a big poetry fan?

    I want to read Nothing To Envy also.

  4. Thanks for the recommendations, Factotum...had my eye on the Demick book for a while now.

  5. Kate, your kind words made my afternoon. Thank you.

  6. Bybee, it was his father who tagged him with that poetic middle name. His father was a self-educated man who never stopped reading and studying even for a day. Great book.

  7. I still think about the Grascals' performance at ROMP. It was a fantastic show! Of course, in retrospect, the event after the show was also the first indication of things about to go wrong, so it's kind of a sad memory too.

    Anywho, glad you enjoyed the show - they're a great band!

  8. They are better than ever, Annie...Larry Stephenson's girl banjo player is now part of the group. She's very quiet still but she is amazing on the instrument.