WHIRL (What Have I Read Lately) Books is a site for readers to find books for themselves and their book clubs. Liz at Literary Masters runs book groups and literary salons where we "dig deep" into literary treasures.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


My goodness, I haven't WHIRLed in ages! It isn't for lack of reading, I assure you. Hmm...shall I blame World Cup Fever, still rampaging through my house? Yes, that must be it.

So, here I WHIRL, but you may be disappointed for the moment, because I have read so many wonderful books, books that I have on my shortlist for this season's book groups, so I can't tell you those titles yet.

For instance, there's a book by one of my favorite American authors that I just loved, loved, loved! That will definitely be on my list.

Then the book by the author from Zimbabwe--I picked it up and read for two days straight without putting it down. Or so it seemed, anyway. You know, one of those great novels that you can't pull yourself away from. I may be putting that one on my list.

Tinkers by Paul Harding. This novel won the Pulitzer Prize this year, so I was excited to read it. Hmm...not loving it. And this is the second time I have picked it up--I am somewhat determined to get through it. Somewhat. We'll see.

The Appointment by Herta Muller. She was born in Romania and won the Nobel Prize, so I was really excited to read her. I am enjoying, not loving, this book, but I just don't think I will subject my book groups to it. I think I'd meet too much resistance.

Another novel by a Man Booker Prize winner--an English author whom I had never read before. Glad I picked this one up--I think it will end up on my list.

Chronicle in Stone by Ismail Kadare. Kadare is an Albanian author who has received numerous awards, one of which is the International Man Booker Prize, awarded every other year. Although I won't be putting this book on my list, I am really enjoying it. The story is narrated by a young Albanian boy who is chronicling what is happening to his village during WWII. What I love about this book is the boy's imagination, which of course hasn't been squashed by any adult logic. It's making me look at everything--stones and all--with a new eye.

I have never read any Joyce Carol Oates and I feel like I should! So I picked up Blackwater but got distracted, and then picked up another one, can't remember the title right now, but then got distracted. Oates is seriously prolific and I know she is loved, but I need some guidance here. Have you read her and can you recommend a title I should read?

What about YOU? Are you ready to WHIRL?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sporting Advice

It's World Cup fever in my house. As I blog, New Zealand is on its way to a huge upset of Italy. Hard not to root for the underdog. Right, I may have to rethink this--as I glanced up from my laptop to the TV, the shot was on the crowd--about a dozen bare-chested, overweight New Zealand men, waving their shirts in the air. Not a pretty sight.

But I digress.

For a while we had basketball fever in my house as well. But then the Lakers wrapped it all up in the seventh (rather exciting) game against the Boston Celtics. With all the in-your-face technology available these days, the TV viewer was able to hear what the coaches were saying to the players at time-outs.

Doc Rivers told his team at one critical point that he didn't want any heroes. That they should play together. As a team.

For some reason that resonated with me. I got to thinking about the question from Elyse, one of my book group members, our very first meeting. What makes a really good discussion?

Well, one thing that helps is when the group converses as a team. That sounds sort of strange, but if you think about it, it's true. If someone shows up with the mindset of being a hero--of dominating the discussion with her opinion, of being "right" in her interpretation of the book, in short--if someone shows up with an open gob but a closed mind--then the conversation will suffer.

So arrive at your next meeting with an open and curious mind. Really listen to what others say before responding, and try to remark upon--and dig deeper into--what they are saying. This sounds simple but takes some practice. Many members just want to speak what's on their minds rather than engage with what has been said by someone else. However, following one topic to it's conclusion before moving on to another can result in a much more fruitful conversation for everyone.

So thanks, Coach Rivers, for the tip. The Lakers, coached by Phil Jackson, went on to take the championship, so let's give a nod to Coach Jackson also. He has coached more championship teams than any other coach in sports. So, he must be doing something right. To find out more, log onto www.amazon.com and see the books he's written. And if you read any of them, don't forget to WHIRL!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Literary Masters of the Future

There's an interesting article in the New York Times today about The New Yorker's upcoming issue in which twenty fiction writers under the age of forty are named as "ones to watch."

Here's the link:


According to the NY Times article, this is a big deal because it's been over ten years since The New Yorker last named any "writers to watch." So, looking at that list is pretty interesting. Jhumpa Lahiri was on it, one of my favorite authors. Have you read Interpreter of Maladies or The Namesake? How about Unaccustomed Earth? I have a very funny story about calling into NPR when Michael Krasny was interviewing Jhumpa on Forum. Remind me to tell it to you sometime.

Another fave on that list: Junot Diaz. We all loved The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, but how about his collection of short stories, Drown? Have you read that?

Jeffrey Eugenides was on it (loved Middlesex!), as was Nathan Englander, one of my favorite short story authors.

I am going to take a close look at this year's list--if the last list is anything to go by, The New Yorker knows what it's talking about. Perhaps we'll all read these "writers to watch" in our future Literary Masters book groups!