Saturday, January 14, 2023

2022 books read

Herewith my reading in 2022.   It was more fiction than non- last year.  This list is basically alpha by author, with the occasional comment.  Works in translation listed separately.  (Non-fiction in a separate post.)


The Clerkenwell Tales, by Peter Ackroyd
The Reading List, by Sarah Nisha Adams
Black Plumes, by Margery Allingham
The Black Cap, edited by Cynthia Asquith
The Red Hat, by John Bayler
The Simple Art of Murder and The High Window, by Raymond Chandler
Sherbourne Street, by John Cornish
So Big, by Edna Ferber
Innocence, by Penelope Fitzgerald
The Appeal, by Janet Hallett
The Pages, by  Hugo Hamilton
The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett
Clark and Division, by Naomi Hirahara
Search, by Michelle Huneven  Loved this book about a Unitarian-Universalist congregation looking for a new minister.
The Kindest Lie, by Nancy Johnson
The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, by Eva Jurczyk
Riviera Gold and Castle Shade, by Laurie King
When the Angels Left the Old Country, by Sacha Lamb - probably the best fiction read of the year, I am recommending it far and wide.  
For some reason, it was marketed as a "Young Adult" book, and I'm sure young adults would enjoy it, but that's too restrictive a description.
Give Unto Others
, by Donna Leon
A Little Yellow Dog
, by Walter Mosley
and Love and Other Crimes, by Sara Paretsky
At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances
, Love in the Time of Bertie, and The Perils of Morning Coffee. by Alexander McCall Smith
A Coat of Varnish, by C.P. Snow
A Far Cry from Kensington, by Muriel Spark
Barnett Frummer is an Unbloomed Flower
, by Calvin Trillin
All Souls' Night, by Hugh Walpole
Tales from the Red Lion, edited by John Weagly and Andrea Dubnick

Works in translation 

L'Assassinio sull'Orient Express, by Agatha Christie.  Because I took the Orient Express from London to Venice this summer and what else would I read?
The Sect of Angels
, by Andrea Camilleri
A Small-town Marriage, by the Marchesa Colombi
Bread for the Bastards of Pizzofalcone, by Maurizio de Giovanni
A Sister's Story, by Donatella Di Pietrantonio (also read in the original Italian)
Portrait of an Unknown Woman, by Maria Gainza
The Old Woman with the Knife, by Byeong-Mo Gu
Egyptian Short Stories
, edited by Denys Johnson-Davies
People from my Neighborhood, by Hiromi Kawakami
Tales from the Café, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
And the Bride Closed the Door, by Ronit Matalon
Nives, by Sacha Naspini
Baltasar and Blimunda, by Jose Saramago

Monday, January 3, 2022

Non-Fiction reads of 2021

Vaguely broken down by category, but quite a few of these books could be in more than one.


Read for my "Chicago books" book club:

Chicago: City on the Make, by Nelson Algren
Campaign! the 1983 Election that Rocked Chicago, by Peter Nolan
American Warsaw: the rise, fall, and rebirth of Polish Chicago, by Dominick Pacyga

Other Chicago-related books

The Great Chicago Fire, edited by Paul M. Angle
Disposing of Modernity: the archaelogy of garbage and consumerism during Chicago's
    1893 World's Fair, by Rebecca S. Graff
The Jewel of the Gold Coast: Mrs. Potter Palmer's Chicago, by Sally Sexton Kalmbach
A Shopper's Paradise: how the ladies of Chicago claimed power and pleasure in the new
    downtown, by Emily Remus
Chicago's Great Fire: the destruction and resurrection of an iconic American city, by
    Carl Smith
Books on books:
Seven Kinds of People You find in Bookshops, by Shaun Bythell 
The Afterlife of "Little Women", by Beverly Lyon Clark
The Bookseller of Florence: the story of the manuscripts that illuminated the 
    Renaissance, by Ross King (way longer that it needed to be)
Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller, by Nadia Wassef
The Gilded Page: secret lives of medieval manuscripts, by Mary Wellesley


These Ruins are Inhabited, by Muriel Beadle
The Very Best of British, by Nicholas Courtney
Terms & Conditions: Life in girls' boarding schools: 1939-1979, by Ysenda Maxtone
Lions and Shadows: an education in the Twenties, by Christopher Isherwood
What Matters in Jane Austen: Twenty crucial puzzles solved, by John Mullan
C. F. A. Voysey: Architect, designer, individualist, by Anne Stewart O'Donnell
Behind Closed Doors: at home in Georgian England, by Amanda Vickery


Fire in the Hole: the Spirit Work of Fi-Yi-Yi and Mandingo Warriors, by Fi-Yi-Yi
The Color of Love: a story of a mixed-race Jewish girl, by Marra B. Gad
All that She Carried: the journey of Ashley's sack, a Black family keepsake, by Tiya Miles 
Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity, by
    Monica L. Miller
Caste: the origins of our discontent, by Isabel Wilkerson


The Sakura Obsession: the incredible story of the plant hunter who saved Japan's cherry
    blossoms, by Naoko Abe
Winter Pasture: one woman's journey with China's Kazakh herders, by Li Juan
African Samurai: the true story of Yasuke, a legendary black warrior in feudal Japan
       by Thomas Lockley & Geoffrey Girard
The Spirit of Japanese Poetry, by Yone Noguchi 
Sisters in Art: the biography of Margaret, Esther, and Helen Bruton, by Wendy Van Wyck        Good 
Marion Mahony and Millikin Place, by Paul Kruty & Paul E. Sprague
Dandies, by James Laver
Brolliology: a history of the umbrella in life and literature, by Marion Rankine 
Patch Work: a life amongst clothes, by Claire Wilcox
The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, love and art in Venice, by Judith Mackrell
Portrait of Dr. Gachet: the story of a Van Gogh masterpiece, by Cynthia Saltzman 


Two Memoirs of Renaissance Florence: the diaries of Buonaccorso Pitti & Gregorio Dati,         (edited by) Gene Brucker
Dante and the Early Astronomer: Science, adventure, and a Victorian woman who opened 
    the heavens, by Tracy Daugherty
'Dangerous Work': Diary of an Arctic Adventure, by Arthur Conan Doyle
Fillets of Plaice, by Gerald Durrell
Still Alive: a Holocaust girlhood remembered, by Ruth Kluger
Lear's Italy: in the footsteps of Edward Lear, by Michael Montgomery
Fred in Love, by Felice Picano
Confessions of a Cineplex Heckler, by Joe Queenan
Memories: from Moscow to the Black Sea, by Teffi
Plunder: a memoir of family property and Nazi treasure, by Menachem Kaiser 
Letters to Camondo, by Edmund de Waal  
Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean, by Edward Kritzler
Jews and Shoes, (edited by) Edna Nahshon


Elderhood: redefining aging, transforming medicine, reimagining life, by Louise Aronson
An Atlas of Extinct Countries, by Gideon Defoe
The Writing of the Gods: the race to decode the Rosetta Stone, by Edward Dolnick
The Ring of Truth and other myths of sex and jewelry, by Wendy Doniger 
Dante and the Early Astronomers, by M. A. Orr

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Books read in 2021 - Fiction

Read for my Italian book club:


Il Treno Dei Bambini, by Viola Ardone 

La Misura del Tempo, by Gianrico Carofiglio 

Cara Pace, by Lisa Ginzburg 

Vita, by Melania Mazzucco 

I Colibri, by Sandro Veronesi 


For my "Chicago books" book club:


Rose of Dutcher's Coolly, by Hamlin Garland 

Death on the Homefront, by Frances McNamara 

Into the Beautiful North, by Luis Urrea 


Mysteries, ghosts, and the like:


The Poisoned Chocolates Case, by Anthony Berkeley

Buffet for Unwelcome Guests, by Christianna Brand 

The Charing Cross Mystery, by J. S. Fletcher 

Woman in the Dark, by Dashiell Hammett 

The Talented Mr. Ripley, and Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes, by Patricia Highsmith 

The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance, by M. R. James 

Transient Desires, by Donna Leon

Pretty Monsters, by Kelly Link 

Sisters of Sorcery, edited by Seon Manley and Gogo Lewis 

Widdershins: first book of ghost stories, by Oliver Onions 

The Day of the Owl, by Leonard Sciascia 

Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall Smith 

Mrs. Mohr Goes Missing, by Marla Szymiczkowa 

No Happy Ending, by Paco Ignaicio Taibo II 

The HIdden Palace, by Helene Wecker

The City of Mist, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 

Body and Soul Food, by Abby Collette 

Tales of the South Carolina Low Country, by Nancy Rhyne 


Some British humour:


A Breath of French Air, by H. E. Bates 

Holy Deadlock, by A. P. Herbert 

The Eliza Stories, by Barry Main 

Portuguese Irregular Verbs, by Alexander McCall Smith 

Leave it to Psmith, by P. G. Wodehouse 


New (for me) books from favorite authors:


A Single Rose, by Muriel Barbery (not up to her usual standard, I'm afraid) 

French Rhapsody and The Portrait, by Antoine Laurain 

The Magician, by Colm Tóibín 

The Vicar of Bullhampton, Ralph the Heir, Castle Richmond, and The Three Clerks, by Anthony Trollope


 and a variety of others:


The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, by Alina Bronsky

God's Mountain, by Erri De Luca

The Vietri Project, by Nicola DeRobertis-Theye

Lady into Fox, by David Garnett

In a Dark Wood Wandering, by Hella S. Haasse

The Fall of a Sparrow, by Robert Hellenga

The Slaughterman's Daughter, by Yaniv Iczkovits

The Europeans, by Henry James

Einstein's Dreams, by Alan Lightman 

The Cat who saved Books, by Sosuke Natsukawa

Yours Cheerfully, by A. J. Pearce 

Bride of the Sea, by Eman Quotah

Lamberto Lamberto Lamberto, by Gianni Rodari 

The Liar's Dictionary, by Eley Williams

The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

NON-Fiction read in 2020

It was a year of "one thing leads to another", one book to another.

A good example:  I took an online course about Ashkenazi cooking, which led to cookbooks and memoirs, and why let it be all about Ashkenzim, so books on Sephardic cooking and Sephardic history, etc., etc.
Matzoh Ball Gumbo: culinary tales of the Jewish south, by Marcie Cohen Ferris
A Drizzle of Honey: the lives and recipes of Spain's secret Jews, by David M. Gitlitz and Linda     Kay Davidson 
Heretics or Daughters of Israel? the Crypto-Jewish women of Castile, by Renée Levine                Melamed 
Family Papers: a Sephardic journey through the Twentieth-century, by Sarah Abrevaya Stein
The Cooking Gene: a journey through African-American culinary history in the old South, by     Michael Twitty 
The Cooking of the Jews of Greece, by Nicholas Stavroulakis 
Donna Rifkind's biography of Salka Viertel, The Sun and her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler's Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood, led me to Viertel's own memoir, The Kindness of Strangers.
A lot of books on race in America, several for my "Chicago books" book club:
Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side, by Eve L.            Ewing
A Few Red Drops: the Chicago Race Riot of 1919, by Claire Hartfield
Another Way Home: the tangled roots of race in one Chicago family, by Ronne Hartfield 
    neighborhood, by Carlo Rotella
A Most Beautiful Thing: the true story of America's first all-Black high school rowing team,       by Arshay Cooper
Say I'm Dead: a family memoir of Races, secrets, and love, by E. Dolores Johnson
Fire Shut up in my Bones, by Charles M. Blow (and I am SO SO SO looking forward to the opera at Lyric in the spring!)

Italy, of course:

Dark Water: Art, Disaster, and Redemption in Florence, by Robert Clark
The Politics of Washing: real life in Venice, by Polly Coles
Rawdon Brown and the Anglo-Venetian relationship, edited by Ralph A. Griffiths and John E.     Law
Two Cities, by Cynthia Zarin
and the two works by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa mentioned in my previous post.

Some memoirs:

Confessions of a Bookseller, by Shaun Bythell
The White Road: Journey into an obsession, by Edmund De Waal
Moab is my Washpot, by Stephen Fry
Making the Mummies Dance: inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Thomas Hoving
Crossing: a transgender memoir, by Derdre N. McCloskey
Talking to Myself, by Studs Terkel
Night, by Elie Wiesel
St. Trinian's Story, by Kaye Webb

Literary women in interwar England:

The Mutual Admiration Society: how Dorothy L. Sayers and her Oxford circle remade the         world for women, by Mo Moulton (a good book, but a ridiculously over-the-top subtitle)
Square Haunting: five writers in London between the wars, by Francesca Wade 


Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou (though the jury is     literally, still out as I write this)
The Baker who Pretended to be King of Portugal, by Ruth MacKay

And some odds and ends:

Renaissance Invention: Stradanus' Nova Reperta, by Lia Markey (exhibition catalog)
The Ghost: a cultural history, by Susan Owens
Daemon Voices: on stories and storytelling, by Philip Pullman
Gilgamesh: the life of a poem, by Michael Schmidt
A Unified Theory of Cats on the Internet, by E. J. White

Books read in 2020

Better late than never.


Havelok the Dane and Gawain and the Green Knight were both read for a class on food in literature.


My book club , which focuses on books about Chicago and by Chicago authors, read Carol Anshaw's Right After the Weather, Willa Cather's Song of the Lark, and Sara Paretsky's Deadlock.


For my Italian class:  L'Arminuta, by Donatella Di PIetrantonio; La Vita bugiarda degli adulti, by Elena Ferrante; La mennulara, by Simonetta Agnello Hornby; Isola di Neve, by Valentina d'Urbano


I took a class about Giuseppe di Lampedusa. In class we read Steven Price's fictional biography, Lampedusa, and, of course, The Leopard (a re-read for me), but I also re-read The Professor and the Siren, as well as (for the first time) two non-fiction works by Lampedusa: Places of my Infancy: a memory, and Letters from London and Europe (1925-30) 


Due to the pandemic, theatre stopped in March.   But Court Theatre did a lot of online "deep dives" into plays they had intended to produce.  So I read Wole Soyinka's The Bacchae of Euripides: a communion rite and Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt.


Probably also due to the pandemic, I did a slew of very light reading - humor, mysteries, etc. 


This Undesirable Residence, by Miles Burton 

Give up the Ghost, by Margaret Erskine

Unpunished: a mystery, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Leavenworth Case: a lawyer's story, by Anna Katharine Green

The Second Man, by Edward Grierson 

Israel Rank: the Autobiography of  a Criminal, by Roy Horniman (this is the book on which "Kind Hearts and Coronets" was based)

The Plain Man, by Julian Symons

Whose Body?, by Dorothy L. Sayers (a re-read) 

Rear Window and four short novels, by Cornell Woolrich

Hunting Season and The Safety Net, by Andrea Camilleri 

Puppies, by Maurizio de Giovanni (one of the Bastards of Pizzofalcone series) 

Raffles, by E.W. Hornung 

Venice Noir, an anthology edited by Maxim Jakubowski 

The Thief of Venice, by Jane Langton 

Trace Elements, by Donna Leon 

Black Betty, by Walter Mosley 

Murder at the Frankfurt Book Fair, by Hubert Monteilhet 

The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes,by Jamyang Norbu 

Revenge: Short Stories by Women Writers, edited by Kate Saunders

The Lacquer Screen, by Robert van Gulik 

The Womansleuth Anthology, edited by Irene Zahava 


P.G. Wodehouse amused me with Ring for Jeeves, Ukridge, Tales of St. Austin's, The Small Bachelor, and Meet Mr. Mulliner.

Other humor included Craig Brown's The Marsh Marlowe Letters, and Alexander McCall Smith's  The Geometry of Holding Hands and The Promise of Ankles.


I found some excellent new (to me) authors this year. I binged a bit on French author Antoine Laurain, reading first The President's Hat, followed by The Red Notebook and The Reader's Room

Two excellent collections of short stories were Lost in the City, by Edward P. Jones, and  The Bus Driver who wanted to be God, by Etgar Keret. 


I also returned to old friends, such as Anthony Trollope (He Knew he was Right, The Belton Estate, Lady Anna), Wilkie Collins (No Name), Sharyn McCrumb (a re-read of Ghost Riders), and Edith Wharton (The World Over).


Other fiction reading included:

Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light, ending the story of Thomas Cromwell

Emily Danforth's Plain Bad Heroines (longer than it should have been!)

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Babylon Revisited 

Arthur Phillips' The Egyptologist

Nancy Springer's Fair Peril

Paul Theroux's The Greenest Island

Lisa Wingate's The Book of Lost Friends

E.H. Young's Miss Mole


I think I'll do a separate post for the non-fiction, and then get to 2021!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 Reading: Fiction Part 3

Okay, this should be the last of the fiction.

41.  An Elderly Lady is up to No Good, by Helene Tursten.  "No good" doesn't begin to describe it!   Maud is 88, living in a fabulous, rent-free apartment, which some no-goodniks would like to get their hands on.  Maud takes care of them, all right.  Great fun.

42.  Fiori sopra l'inferno, by Ilaria Tuti.   A thriller set in a small town in Italy, close to the Austrian border.   Teresa Battaglia is sent to Travenì to investigate a series of gruesome murders and mutilations.  She has to work with a rather arrogant, much younger cop, and contend with a village that would rather not know and would rather not have the outside world know it.   The narrative goes back and forth between the present, and events in an orphanage years earlier.   The end is heart-rending.

43.  Fox, by Dubravka Ugresic.  The fox is a trickster, a shapeshifter, and so is this book.  Hard to describe its mix of fiction and history, invented characters and real people, its story told in several section jumping to different parts of the world.  What's true and what's false?  It's not an easy book, but it's worth the effort.

44.  The Willow Pattern, by Robert van Gulik.  A Judge Dee story, with plague and murders.  
45.  Sperando che il mondo mi chiami, by Mariafrancesca Venturo.   The title is a bit of a pun.  Carolina comes from a family of teachers, and is herself what we call in the States a substitute teacher.   It's really hard to get a full-time position, and to get a temporary one, you have to be constantly on call and nearby.  (You'll learn a lot about the Italian educational system and what it's like to be a teacher there from this book.)  Carolina loves her work, and she has an amazing ability to establish rapport and understanding with her young charges, even when she's there a very short time.  Her desire to figure out what's best for them and what's best for her is what drives the plot.  Secondary characters are drawn really well.  We understand her close connection with her grandmother, for instance, and her need to help a student in distress.  The book does not appear to have translated into English (yet), which is a shame.

46.  Little Novels of Sicily, by Giovanni Verga, translated by D.H. Lawrence.  More short stories than novellas, this volume includes the story on which the opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, was based, though there's a whole lot more to it.   The stories reveal the lives of rural Sicilian peasants, corrupt clergy, and greedy landowners.   

47.  The Sole Survivor, and the Kynsard Affair, by Roy Vickers.  Two, two, two mints in one!  Okay, two stories in the same volume.   In the first, a group of men are stranded on an island following a shipwreck.  One survives.  What happened to the rest?   Some were clearly murdered, but the last might have been a suicide.  A judicial inquiry may or may not reveal the truth.  In the second, the question is, who has been killed?  A naked corpse is discovered, and there are two possible victims.  Or are the women one and the same?

48.  Cakes for Your Birthday: a criminal extravagance, by C. E. Vulliamy.  The Liquidation Committee decides to perform a public service, and rid their town of a nasty, malicious, slander-slinging biddy. The chair, a retired headmaster, and his younger accomplices, take advice from a dahlia-loving professional hit man. Things go wrong. 

49.  The Hound in the Left-Hand Corner, by Giles Waterfield.  Oh, funny!  A a satire on what goes on behind the scenes in museums, covering twenty-four hours in the run-up to the gala opening of an exhibition at "BRIT: the Museum of British History".  If you've worked in a museum, if you go to museums, if you know anything about them, you'll enjoy the romp.

50 and 51.  False Dawn and The World Over, by Edith Wharton.   

In False Dawn, Lewis Raycie's father sends him to Europe to buy "great art", which will be the nucleus of a collection that will make Raycie's name echo down the ages.   But in Italy Lewis falls under the influence of John Ruskin, and the art with which he returns is not what was expected.  His father basically disowns him, and it is not until years later, when it is too late for him or his widow financially, that the paintings are truly appreciated.   Read for a class and it engendered quite a good discussion about "what is art".   

The World Over is a collection of short stories, set in Wharton's usual worlds of Gilded Age New York and the Europe of wealthy American travelers.

52 - 56.   The Code of the Woosters; Right Ho, Jeeves; Heavy Weather; Galahad at Blandings; Aunts Aren't Gentlemen (a/k/a The Catnappers), by P. G. Wodehouse, of course.  What else needs to be said?  If you like this kind of thing, this is the kind of thing you'll like.  I do and I did.

57.  Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Golden Samovar, by Olga Wojtas.  I picked this up because I thought the concept was interesting, but it goes horribly wrong.

The protagonist, Shona McMonagle, is a librarian and a graduate of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, snitched from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  But this connection goes nowhere, so what was the point?  She finds herself on a time traveling mission to tsarist Russia, but has not been told where she's going, what year it will be (she never finds out), or what her mission is, which is a strange way to go about things. And this, naturally, contributes to her idiotic behavior, behavior that one would not expect from a theoretically intelligent woman, one who comments that being wrong was a new experience for her. She is ridiculously dense, missing things that anyone with an ounce of common sense would realize immediately.

A note at the end of the book suggests that there will be more books featuring this woman. I will not be reading them.

58.  Sorcery and Cecelia: the Enchanted Coffee Pot, by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.  An epistolary novel set in Regency England featuring Cecelia and her friend and cousin Kate.  Wrede and Stevermer alternate the writing, so Cecilia and Kate each has her own distinctive voice.  It's got fantasy, magic, wizardry, as well as a couple of feisty teen-aged girls.  I enjoyed it.

59.  A Coin in Nine Hands, by Marguerite Yourcenar.  This is a collection of short stories, culminating with an assassination plot against Mussolini, linked by the "coin" of the title. Everyday lives, isolated, lonely, are connected as the ten-lira piece changes hands.

To be continued  .  .  .  with non-fiction.


2019 Reads - Fiction Part 2

I was listing books alphabetically by author, and discovered that I missed a few!

So .  .  .  

21.  Flight of the Falcon, by Daphne du Maurier.  A rather odd book.  The protagonist is a courier for a tour company in Italy.  There's a murder of an old lady in Rome, and he might or might not know who she was.   He returns to his home town, where his brother (whom he thought was killed in the war) is organizing a pageant about a dubious Renaissance duke.  It's all very odd.

22.  Eve's Ransom, by George Gissing.  A shorter Victorian.  Maurice Hilliard, having unexpectedly come into a bit of money, goes (doesn't everyone?) to London to enjoy life, and not incidentally to track down a young woman with whose photo, shown to him by his landlady, he has fallen in love.  She is not doing well financially, and so is willing to take what she can get from him, including a trip (accompanied by a friend) to Paris - rather compromising at that time.   Things get complicated, but all works out in the end.

23.  La Ragazza con la Leica, by Helena Janaczek.  This is a fictionalized account of the life of photographer Gerda Taro (the first woman photojournalist killed covering a war - the Spanish Civil War) and various of her colleagues and friends.  It jumps back and forth in time, and is primarily other people's recollections of her.  Interesting enough that I sought out non-fiction about Taro.  

24.  The Island of the Mad, by Laurie R. King.  A Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery.  Mary is asked by an old friend to track down her aunt, who disappeared with her nurse after being furloughed from Bedlam (a mental hospital) to attend her brother's birthday celebration.   All clues lead to Venice, so Mary heads there with Holmes, whose brother Mycroft has charged with reporting on the political situation.   While there, the two also become involved with "bright young things", like Cole Porter. 

The island of the title is Poveglia, one of the lagoon islands, a place where in the late 1700s plague victims were sent, likely to die, and in 1922 a mental institution was built there.  There are all sorts of stories of an evil doctor and hauntings, and the like.  I was there once, in the dark, it's very spooky.

25.  Chicago, by David Mamet.  1920s Chicago, the mob, newspaper men.  I finished this only because my book club was reading it.  I don't think I've ever read such ridiculous, stilted, pretentious dialogue in all my life. Seriously, after half a page, I threw the book down, yelling, "No one talks like this!" And this man is a playwright (not that I've ever thought much of his plays, either)! The narrative is pretty bad, too.

26.   Compulsion, by Meyer Levin.   A novel based on the Leopold-Loeb murder case.  Not bad.  It drags a bit once we get to the trial.   There's a reason that books, films, television shows about trials are so unrealistic.   They need to be dramatic, and, let's be honest, trial (in this case, sentencing) transcripts aren't, and Levin basically just parrots the testimony.

27.  The Quiet Side of Passion, by Alexander McCall Smith.  This is one of his Isabel Dalhousie series.  Isabel is coping with now two children while editing her philosophy journal, and sticking her nose into other people's business (in fairness, usually because someone asks her to do so).  The usual secondary characters - housekeeper Grace, niece Cat - are their usual selves, and the always obnoxious Professor Lettuce also puts in an appearance.

28.  The Peppermint Tea Chronicles, by Alexander McCall Smith.   A 44 Scotland Street book.  This is my favorite series of his.   It's always a joy when a new one comes out.   Bertie and Stuart are reveling in the absence of the truly annoying Irene, who is off getting an advanced degree in Aberdeen.  Bruce the narcissist is thinking of settling down(!), but his ego trips him up badly.  Elspeth and Matthew continue to figure out how to raise triplets.  Can't wait for the next!

29.  Speedy Death, by Gladys Mitchell.  Murder at an English country house, where one of the party, Mrs. Bradley, is a psychoanalyst and amateur sleuth.  Very twisty and enjoyable.

30.  Festa di Famiglia, by Sveva Casati Modignani.   Italian chick lit.   A group of friends meets regularly for dinner, and support each other through life's trials and tribulations.

31.  Charade, by John Mortimer.   Mortimer's first novel (it shows) is based on his experience in a film unit during WWII.  The narrator is basically a "gofer" in the unit, the other people are all a bit odd, and there's a death that might be murder.   A bit weak, but, I say, it's his first, and we know he'll improve.

32.  Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata.  Keiko is definitely not leading the life expected of a young (well, not so young any more) Japanese woman.   At 36, she has been working at a convenience store, where the prescriptive, rule-bound nature of the work suits her personality very well.  Family members, though, try to get her have a more "normal" life.  A bit quirky, and with some good points made about the difficulty of fitting in.

33.  The Story of the Treasure Seekers, by E. Nesbit.   A re-read.   There are some "children's books" that I still like to read, and E. Nesbit's are among them.  When the family fortunes disappear, the children vow to restore them.  Well, you can imagine!   Fun.

34.  The Pit: a story of Chicago, by Frank Norris.  This concerns a Chicago trader's attempt to corner the market on wheat, and the financial and familial consequences.   The descriptions of trading in the old Board of Trade building are excellent, as are those of the social and business lives of the city.   This is the second in what was intended to be a trilogy, The Epic of Wheat, but Norris died before writing the third.

35.  Dear Mrs. Bird, by A. J. Pearce.  This is set during the London Blitz, and the protagonist is Emmy, a young woman who would love to become a Lady War Correspondent, but finds herself as dogsbody to an agony aunt, one who will answer only Acceptable problems. Feeling that even (or especially) the writers of Unacceptable letters need help, Emmy starts to write back.  The book has its comic moments, but it's also a very good picture of life during the Blitz, the worries and the rationing, how the folks, particularly the young ones, went on with life.

36.  The Secret Commonwealth, by Philip Pullman.   The second of "The Book of Dust" trilogy focuses more on Lyra, now an adult, than did the first.  Poor Lyra.   She and Pantaleimon are at odds.  Truly.   That's not supposed to happen with your daemon.   But, unlike just about everyone else, they can separate, and it's in part the circumstances that led to that that also caused Pantaleimon's sense of betrayal, their inability to communicate with each other in the old way.  And now each must take a dangerous journey without the other.

37 and 38.  Unnatural Death and The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers.  These are both re-reads.  In fact, I re-read Bellona Club because I'd acquired a new copy to replace one that was falling apart.   

39.  Oedipus the King, by Sophocles, translation by Nicholas Rudall.  Chicago's Court Theatre mounted a production of Oedipus this season, and will later do The Gospel at Colonus and (next season) Antigone.   They used (mostly) the Rudall translation.   In conjunction with the performance, they held a seminar about the play, facilitated by a staff member and classics professor from the University of Chicago.  I liked doing a deep dive into the play, the discussions were thought-provoking and made seeing the production so much better.  I told the artistic director that they should do this sort of thing more often!

40.  Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey.   Another re-read, for the anniversary of the murder of Richard III.