Friday 5 February 2016

Happy to See This Post Back Again

The Broke and the Bookish (here) used to regularly post a cocktail hour.  Book bloggers and others interested in books answer a Thursday Query while sipping a cocktail. Virtual of course. As she says, it is always 5:00 somewhere in the world.

Here is today's question and I will attempt to answer it with what comes first to my mind. I don't want to think about it too much as I think the books in the world would run rampant over my brain. That happens enough already.

 What is one book you recommend pretty much across the board -- regardless of genre or what the person normally reads?

Quickly without thinking these are the three books I would recommend to anyone.

1.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Maggie Smith (1943)
I have read this book several times and it tells a story of Francie amongst the poor immigrants in New York City. She is a young girl, age 12 who deals with not only the poverty of her family and others who enter her world but has a yearning to be educated and read as much as she can.  She is a wonderful character and it is interesting to see this world from her eyes. 

2.  87 Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff  (1970)
I had read this book perhaps more than any other book except Black Beauty. The wonderful relationship between the book shop owner in London and the woman in New York is wonderful. The discussions through the mail, long before email, Facebook and mobile phones is wonderfully told and it is probably my biggest comfort read of all books. 

I might add the film with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins is just as good and one I  have seen dozens of times. Just love it.

3.  Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin (2003)
The story of a young boy from poverty like we have never known in rural China. He rises through the dance world eventually ending up in The United States. I  think the best part of this book is when he first visits America and discovers the materialism of the country, that he could not ever have imagined. It was quite embarrassing to this American/Australian and made me realise what an absolutely wasteful society the west really is. 

I MUST add, these are the three books that popped into my mind TODAY.  You could ask me the same question and I would probably strongly recommend other books like Grapes of Wrath or Olive Kitteridge or All the Light We Could Not See.  There are just so many really excellent books that have been written over the years and three recommendations are never enough but for today this is what you get.

What book pops into your mind, RIGHT NOW, without thinking more than 5 seconds? I'd love to know. 

I'll talk to all of you again next week. This weekend I am going with 27 members of Ulysses motorbike club to the northwest of the state on my big Italian scooter. More than a 1000 km return so I probably won't be able to do much next week except lie in bed and type.  And I imagine at the rate the Penguin is going with those cocktails he may be there too.


  1. helen hanff's book was truly a delight. she wrote at least one sequel, maybe two and i'm pretty sure i read them both. the succeeding two were interesting but didn't have quite the tone of the first book.
    the book that popped into mind, for some reason, was michener's "the source"; i just can't explain how or why this book is always present to mind, i read it when i was about 23, i think, it just has taken on a life of it's own inside my head; i must have been powerfully impressed with it at the time. i still think michener understood the writing game better than about anyone; i've enjoyed all his books over the years...

    1. I know of one sequel which I have read. . The copy of the book I own has both novels in it. I love both of them. I have often good things about James Michener.

  2. The first cherished book that came to mind: The Road to Wigan Pier... "As we moved slowly through the outskirts of the town we passed row after row of little grey slum houses running at right angles to the embankment. At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her – her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye. She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that ‘It isn’t the same for them as it would be for us’, and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her – understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe"....

    1. I love Orwell. I will have to pull the Penguin copy I have off the shelf.

  3. Well spotted Pam.
    I've jumped in with Big Little Lies by Liane Moriary.

    I really must read 84 Charing Cross Rd - it sounds like my kind of book.

  4. I'm not familiar with this feature, so must check it out. Completely agree with your first three choices, I loved them all! Olive Kitteridge is an all-time favorite, too, and I've been meaning to reread The Grapes of Wrath for years - don't remember much from high school! Still haven't read All the Light We Cannot See :(

  5. Off the top of my head:

    The hare with amber eyes(Edmund de Waal)

    Daughter of Time (Josephine Tey)

    The false Inspector Dew (Peter Lovesey)

    All three are strikingly original and even better on re reading.

  6. I have heard of the first two but not the last one.My friend just finished the Hare with Amber Eyes and she also really loved it.

  7. Hmm. Good question: Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro; Atonement by Ian McEwan; and Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

  8. I have Out of Africa but have never read it. I must. I am familiar with Atonement but not Never Let Me Go though I have heard of it. So many good books out there. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. I recently read Mao's Last Dancer for a local book club. Humorously(?) I am frequently reminded of Maoist China here at my office job, where we have what I consider the equivalent of his little red book and employees are counted on to "tell on ourselves" when we discover errors, etc., similar to what we hear of in that book. Yes, I love it here. ;-)

    I heartily agree regarding A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. All who I've recommended to me have had no complaints.

    THis is the second time this week that 84 Charing Cross Road has popped up this week. It comes highly recommended to me by many who I trust so maybe the time has come to finally read it. :-)


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