Law and Conversation

September 24, 2014

Let’s get this blog restarted!

Filed under: Books and writing — Helen Gunnarsson @ 9:45 pm

I’ve been keeping track of the books I read for several years. I just reviewed what I’ve read so far in 2014 and counted 31. OK, one’s a picture book, but still that’s a pretty respectable total for 2/3 of the way through the year. I don’t think there is any way I will make it to 52–a nice number that would mean I’d averaged one book per week–but we will see how many more I can get in. It’s always quality, not quantity, that matters, of course.

Here’s my 2014 list to date:

Villette—Charlotte Bronte (reread)
My Stroke of Insight—Jill Bolte Taylor
Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt—Amanda Mackenzie Stuart
Barnaby vol. 1—Crockett Johnson (comic collection—Philip Nel, ed.)
The Cuckoo’s Calling—Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling pseud.)
The Hare With Amber Eyes—Edmund de Waal
Two Lives—Vikram Seth
Art Lover: a Biography of Peggy Guggenheim—Anton Gill
The Joke—Milan Kundera
Closely Watched Trains—Bohumil Hrabal
O’Keefe & Stieglitz: An American Romance—Benita Eisler
I Served the King of England—Bohumil Hrabal
The Good Soldier (reread)—Ford Madox Ford
The Smartest Guys in the Room—Bethany McLean & Peter Elkind
The Peabody Sisters—Megan Marshall
The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon—Alexander McCall Smith
The Story of a New Name—Elena Ferrante (Europa)
The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine—Alina Bronsky (Europa)
Jane, The Fox, and Me—Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault (picture book)
The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds—Alexander McCall Smith
Jane Eyre—Charlotte Bronte (reread)
Small Island—Andrea Levy
Brick Lane—Monica Ali
Time Present and Time Past—Deirdre Madden (Europa)
Over Easy—Mimi Pond (graphic novel)
The Late George Apley—John P. Marquand
For Grace Received—Valeria Parrella (Europa) (short stories)
The Leftovers—Tom Perrotta
The Buddha of Suburbia—Hanif Kureishi
Mark Twain’s Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years—Laura Skandera Trombley

I always look back at the end of the year to see whether there’s one book that stands out as the best. As I review this list, I find several that were really, really good, all very different. “Barnaby” had me laughing out loud; it’s an absolutely brilliant comic strip collection that might be used to good effect in high school U.S. history or social studies classes. Elena Ferrante’s “The Story of a New Name” is the 2nd volume in a trilogy published by Europa Editions, a publisher whose selections I’ve found are of such consistently high quality that I joined a fan blog and post reviews over there now and then. John Marquand’s “The Late George Apley” was a best seller when it was published in the 1930s and deserves to be resurrected. And Ford Madox Ford’s “The Good Soldier” is an absolute gem of a story about some absolutely dreadful people.

Why would you WANT to read a book about dreadful people, a friend asked me a few years ago? At the time I wasn’t able to articulate a good answer very well, but I recently found a wonderful essay addressing that very question, Lee Kofman’s “Let me count the ways in which I dislike you, my beloved character,” published by the Australian website Writers Victoria.

Have you read any of the books on my list? What did you think? And did you find any interesting legal issues in the story? Please feel free to leave a comment if you’d like.

Blog at