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Barbara Miller has commented on (8) products.

Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman
Bettyville: A Memoir

Barbara Miller, April 25, 2015

A beautifully written book that is reminiscent of Cheryl Strayed's "Wild" in that it interweaves a description of a challenging journey (in this case the author's return to his childhood home to care for his aging mother as she copes with health and cognition issues) with a memoir of a troubled life (growing up gay in a small Midwestern town, moving to New York and being part of the gay community during the devastation of the early days of the AIDS epidemic, landing jobs at high profile publications and developing a cocaine habit, never being able to have a satisfying relationship). Hodgson's extensive experience as an editor, like Strayed's long apprenticeship as a writer, has allowed these authors to write memoirs that are skillfully structured, beautifully worded, and enlightening to the reader beyond the simple story of a painful life. I found myself laughing out loud in spots of "Bettyville" as he describes misadventures from his childhood or his mother's current outspokenness, and at other times my heart went out to him. The book was brought to my attention by a friend who, like the author, is a single gay man living with his aging mom and acting as her primary caregiver, and reading the book along with this friend has helped me understand more deeply what his life is like. I recommend the book very highly.
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City Secrets Books: The Essential Insider's Guide (City Secrets) by Mark Strand
City Secrets Books: The Essential Insider's Guide (City Secrets)

Barbara Miller, September 21, 2014

I have learned of and visited some wonderful treasures through the "City Secrets" series of guidebooks (some of the original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animals in a branch of the New York Public Library, the movement of a ray of afternoon sunlight across a painting that is still in its original situ in a chapel in Venice, one of the original copies of the Magna Carta in the British Library in London, to name a few). I happened across this book in the series by accident but it is introducing me to many fascinating books that I might never have known about otherwise (and reminding me of a few that I've enjoyed in the past). The essay about each book is at most a page or two long, written by an accomplished writer, and it's a wonderful book to dip into--I am about halfway through my copy and it is heavily marked with post-it notes for the books that I look forward to reading when I get the chance.
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Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Mysteries by Robert Goldsborough
Archie Meets Nero Wolfe: A Prequel to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Mysteries

Barbara Miller, November 14, 2013

No, this book isn't quite the same as one of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries. But, having spent the last year or so working my way through that series, I have come to enjoy the characters and setting so much that it is still a real treat to visit them again. In this book, Archie Goodwin (Wolfe's confidential secretary who narrates the mysteries) tells of coming to New York City from his home in southern Ohio during the Depression and finding his way into a group of operatives (the familiar ones from the novels) who are hired by the eccentric genius Nero Wolfe to do the legwork needed to help him solve a kidnapping and murder. It is probably most enjoyable to those who already know and like the Nero Wolfe series, but everyone and everything is introduced and the writing is skillful enough that the book can be enjoyed by anyone who likes period mysteries.
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The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
The Radetzky March

Barbara Miller, July 23, 2013

An outstanding and underappreciated twentieth-century novel that looks back to the twilight of the Austro-Hungarian empire. An ordinary soldier from the provinces saves the life of Emperor Franz Joseph at the Battle of Solferino, and the emperor gives him a noble title and takes a continuing, if vague, interest in the welfare of the next two generations of sons of the family. The novel is written with humor, irony, and compassion, and the writing itself can be achingly beautiful, particularly in its use of nature description to set off the emotional events in the lives of the characters.
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Last Friends by Jane Gardam
Last Friends

Barbara Miller, July 17, 2013

While I had enjoyed many of Jane Gardam's humorously insightful novels in the past, I had missed "Old Filth" and "The Man in the Wooden Hat" until a friend mentioned that this, the third book about those characters, had just been published, so I read all three in close sequence. This book illuminates, and is illuminated by, the two previous novels, and I think that one will enjoy it best after the others rather than on its own, but the novels are short and rewarding, so I encourage the reader to read all three. Taken together, the three novels provide a gradual unfolding of the arcs of the lives of the members of a love triangle of British outsiders (two "Raj orphans" and the son of a working-class northern woman and the husband whom she meets from a touring Russian circus), skipping back and forward in time between the far East before and during World War II, post-war London and Hong Kong, and modern-day Dorset, where the characters have retired. The author's style reads very easily, but behind the realistic details are mysteriously symbolic characters or natural figures that make the books much richer to think on than they might seem at first. Coming upon this trilogy all at once has been a reading treat for this summer for me.
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