Saturday, January 09, 2021


Here are the books I read in 2020. Do I think I'm showing off? Maybe a little. It's my privilege to convene a monthly book-show broadcast on WOSU 89-7 NPR News (third Friday of the month, 11 am) I can use that as an excuse for keeping track. In such a difficult years, books were more company and more of a comfort than ever.

This was the year of reading fived of the six Palliser novels by Anthony Trollope. You need to have an obsession with Victorian era politics to make your way comfortably through these. I don't have that. Somewhat tedious, but like running a seven minute mile-something I'll never do-reading this demanding series seemed like a challenge. 

I delighted to discover the Chicago based author  Brian Doyle, and dismayed to learn of his early passing. His novel' Chicago' was a rip snorting delight, God rest his soul.

I read Cleanness by Garth Greenwell on the elliptical at the gym, when we could still go to the gym. Parts of it shocked even me.

Conversations with Beethoven by Sanford Friedman was brilliant. The composer was deaf. What we have here are the written notes given to him by his inimaters, friends and enemies over twenty years  until is death in 1827. Replies are implied, often hilarious.   

In my sixties I finally read Kerouac, and the memoirs of Arthur Rubinstein and Pablo Casals. I'm not related to author James Purdy. His volume of short stories was a delight. One pundit called these, "like a box of poisoned chocolates. Closer to home I discovered Louis Bromfield.

If 2020 has exhausted and discouraged you, I found this book a wonderful balm:

Here are a few of my favorites read in 2020:  

James Purdy

An asterisk * means I really enjoyed the book. **** means hysteria.

You'll note some web addresses to cut and paste. I urge you to do so if you want to know more. I include these because I forget what I've read two days after finishing a book. Does this happen to you?


Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (fire children)

The Adversary by Edmond Carerre (Jean-Claude Romand)

The Mutations by Jorge Comensal (Ramon, cancer parrot)

Janis Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren

****Chicago by Brian Doyle

****One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder by Brian Doyle

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Cleanness by Garth Greenwell

The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson

*When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

**On the Road by Jack Kerouac

*Dear Edward Ann Napolitano

A Drink Before War by Dennis Lehane

Secret Guests by Benjamin Black

Sidney Lumet: A Life by Maura Spiegel

The Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Given Day by Denis Lehane

Dangerous Melodies: Classical Music in America from the Great War through the Cold War by Jonathan Rosenberg

The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood, by Donna Rifkind.

*’’This is Happiness’’ Niall Williams

Since We Fell  Dennis Lehane


American Dirt Jeannine Cummins

Brother and Sister: A Memoir by Diane Keaton

*Conversations with Beethoven  Sanford Friedman

Speak Peace in a World of Conflict by Marshall Rosenberg (NVC)

The Wanderers Richard Price


Tightrope Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn


-----C-19 Quarantine March 17 2020---

Anna of Kleve: The Princess in the Portrait by Alison Weir

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

Collected Stories by Ernest Hemingway

An Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Klein MacGregor

In Praise of the Useless Life by Brother Paul Quenon

The Mirror and the Light Hilary Mantel

*Broken, Novellas by Don Winslow

Victoria: A Life by A.N. Wilson

Can You Forgive Her? Anthony Trollope (Palliser I)

Queen Mary James Pope-Hennessey

*The Complete Stories of James Purdy

Pablo Casals by H.L. Kirk

My Young Years Arthur Rubinstein

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

(Back to work during Covid-19; Mayu 18)

Phineas Phinn by Anthony Trollope (Palliser 2)

Actress by Anne Enright

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe

Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century by John Loughery and Blythe Randolph

*I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

***At the Center of all Beauty:  Solitude and the Creative Life by Fenton Johnson

*The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Gather Together in My Name  by Maya Angelou

*Motion of the Body Falling Through Space by Lionel Shriver

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

*The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance during the Blitz by Erik Larson

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich


Katheryn Howard: The Scandalous Queen (Six Tudor Queens #5)

by Alison Weir

Miss Austen by Gil Hornby

This is Big: How the Founder of Weight Watchers Changed the World—and Me by Marisa Metzer

Lady in Waiting: MY Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown by Anne Glenconner

White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism by Robin DiAngelo


Living with the Monks, What turning off my Phone Taught me About Happiness, Gratitude and Focus by Jesse Itzler

The Lives of Isaac Stern by David Schoenbaum

The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love and Meaning by Scott Galloway

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Too Much and Never Enough How my Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump

*Black Boy by Richard Wright


The Silver Swan In Search of Doris Duke by Sallie Bingham

The Manson Women and Me: Monsters, Morality and Me by Nikki Meredith

*Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor               

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope  (Palliser III)

***The Planter of Modern Life: Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution by Stephen Heyman


*The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison


In Search of Queen Mary Pope-Hennessy ed. Hugo Vickers


More Than Love: An intimate portrait of my mother, Natalie Wood by Natasha Gregson Wagner  

*The Equivalents: A Story of Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s by Maggie Doherty

The House of Kennedy by James Patterson

*The Patient by Jasper DeWitt

Early Autumn by Louis Bromfield

Execution: A Giordano  Bruno Mystery by SJ Parris  (Babington Plot)

Serenade by James M. Cain

Odetta A Life in Music and Protest by Ian Zack

Those who Leave and Those who Stay Elena Ferrante (Neapolitan novel 3)

We Are Water by Wally Lamb


Raising A Rare Girl A Memoir by Lanier, Heather Kirn

    The author's daughter was born with a very rare genetic syndrome and faced a daunting prognosis: she would be a fraction of normal size, have innumerable physical and mental difficulties and likely a shortened lifespan. Now, at age eight she is attending standard public school classes. This is the story of her family's journey.

Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Nicholas A. Basbanes

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Neapolitan novel 1)

The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe

Dean Dixon: Negro and Conductor by Rufus Jones

*Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

A Star in Bored by Byron Lane (Carrie Fisher)

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell



*Squeeze Me by Carl Hiassen


*The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes


Phineas Redux by Anthony Trollope (Palliser 4)


The Queen’s Secret by Karen Harper (Queen Mum WWII)

Rage Bob Woodward

The Evening and the Morning Ken Follett

Mantel Pieces Hilary Mantel

Chasing the Light by Oliver Stone

Mephisto by Klaus Mann

*The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow


The Beauty in Breaking by Michelle Harper

*Jesus: A Life by A.N. Wilson

****The Volunteer by Salvatore Scibona


The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian

*We Germans by Alexander Starritt


A Time for Mercy by John Grisham

*A Saint From Texas by Edmund White

The Eyes of the Queen by Oliver Clements

Messiah: The Composition and Afterlife of Handel’s Masterpiece by Jonathan Keates

The Guest List by Lucy Foley


The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope (Palliser 5)

Shelter in Place by David Leavitt

This is not my memoir by Andre Gregory



Missionaries by Phil Klay

Five for Sorrow Ten for Joy by Rumer Godden

*Deacon King Kong by James McBride