The February House: The Story of W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee Under One Roof in Brooklyn by Sherill Tippins


Set right before American joined WWII - a glimpse into the literary and creative world of NYC at that time. These were apparently "top dogs" during those years. Some of the names I vaguely recognized but mostly not--didn't really care for any of them. It all seemed to play into the trope--if you want to be creative it pays to be tortured, an alcoholic, perhaps gay, depressed, a trifle insane and insecure--then by golly you must be a genius. What do I know I haven't read or listened to or watched or saw any of their works--nor am I likely to. But this book was very well written and gave a fascinating look at who was who at that time.

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The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim


I have wanted to read this for several years now. Glad that I finally have--plan on reading more of her books after this. Light springy and romantic. It was reminiscent of The Durrells of Corfu. If not for COVID I'm sure I would be off to the Mediterranean Sea right now.

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Extraordinary People (Enzo Files #1) by Peter May


I was experiencing difficulty in finding a book I wanted to read that featured "May" in the title and Peter May kept popping up in my various searches. So I figured why not and selected the beginning of the Enzo files simply because my husband has a cat named Enzo. I painted a watercolor of said cat this spring. The book is pretty good am I am planning on reading the second installment of the Enzo files next May.

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Three Junes by Julia Glass


I had collected this book awhile back for my Book of the Month Club category. This is one of the best fiction books I have read in 2021 so far. A story that reaches across generations and continents through the viewpoint of multiple characters, it also slides back and forth through time, revealing unexpected links between the characters. It is very well done and well worth the reading time.

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The First of July by Elizabeth Speller


I ordered this as a used book on Amazon. It came missing the first 17 pages but the seller quickly refunded my money. Still one not to want to waste a mostly intact book...I sourced out the first 17 pages for free from Google Books. Once again, Google to the rescue. A book for July and a book about WWI was just what I wanted. I really enjoyed this book, a fictional look into one of the most horrific battles of WWI. I really enjoyed this author and look forward to reading more of her books. Next August I am starting a non fiction book about the start of WWI.

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August by Judith Rossner


I had originally had another title in mind for my August book title but when I stumbled across this one I couldn't resist and changed course. It is about a young girl and her female therapist, most of it being set in the office during her analysis. It is told from perspective of the therapist and some of the chapters deal with her own personal life. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read more by this author, new to me, but apparently quite well known for writing Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

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The End Of October by Lawrence Wright


As we are living through an actual pandemic these last couple of years, I almost decided not to read this book--but once I started I couldn't stop. It wasn't the best of books but for an unusual reason. Lawrence Wright is a reporter who has won a Pulitzer Prize for one of his other books. He researched the hell out of this subject and it shows--it was a foreshadowing of COVID. But it made the "novel" a bit wooden--like a whole bunch of actual reporting was given the barest smear of fiction as an icing on top. So it was fascinating--random swirl of the universe--we have vaccines that as of December 2021 are still holding. I would glady read his non-fiction.

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November Road by Lou Berney


An interesting book set around the Kennedy assignation and the possible involvement of the Louisiana crime organization. A gangster on the run gets a brief taste of an alternative life. But no worries no cliches here...I particularly liked the portrayal of women as strong players during the progression of this tale. I will definitely be reading more Lou Berney.

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Eastern Philosophy (The Basics) by Victoria S. Harrison

A book that serves as a scholarly overview of the Eastern philosophies. I like that the author starts with the recognition that unlike Western Philosophy (which all seems to root itself in Ancient Greece) philosophy in the East can't be lumped in "eastern". The Eastern philosophies all have very different root sources. While this book is a simple dip of the toe--I walked away with new and greater understanding.

These Women by Ivy Pochoda

This was a very interesting take on writing a book about a serial killer. The perspective is written from various women who surround the killer, whose voices generally go unheard. It was very interesting and well written. I enjoyed how she wove many separate threads and many separate voices.  I will definitely be reading more from this author. 

IQ by Joe Ide

The list included Hi Five which is the fourth book in this series about the private investigator, Isaiah Quintabe, so I elected to start at the beginning with IQ #1. It was a fairly good read and a good start to the series and set up the main characters nicely. The plot depended on a lot of luck and circumstance but was cleverly done--I will be giving #2 (Righteous) a read soon.

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger

For the most part I enjoyed this book. I think I may have read other books by Lisa Unger in the past but it was years ago. She is a good writer and can pen a face paced multi-faceted thriller with mostly well developed characters. It did keep me reading. However, it did feature a lot of repetitive narrative and a lot of cliche treatment of domestic abuse. The story surrounding Pearl, Selena, and Geneva was good--that was an interesting concept but the Graham story line was pretty cliche and blah blah blah- social media is fake. 

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

A book about an English man who impulsively decides to walk 600 miles, leaving his family behind, to visit an old co-worker, convincing himself that if only she can wait for him this will cure her cancer. It is about his journey, it is about the past...but the story is also told through the perspective of his wife. Very unexpected and moving. I really enjoyed this book.

Patrick Melrose by Edward St. Aubyn

This volume contains the collected "Patrick Melrose" novels. Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother's Milk, and At Last.

The subject matter is dark, grim about addiction, abuse, and depression...but very insightful at times nonetheless and not without some very dark humour. The novels span the length of time from Patrick's early childhood throughout his adulthood...culminating in the years following the death of his mother. These works are semi-autobiographical for the attempt to process through the horrors of his childhood and later depressions and addictions. The transition through these novels is at heart uplifting if only in the sense of triumph for St. Aubyn in that he conquered his abuse and his addictions. I look forward to watch the TV adaptation on Showtime. 

Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume One 1884-1933 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Over the last couple of years I have read many a book in which Eleanor Roosevelt played a part--it made me curious to read more about her incredible life. Ms. Cook wrote a massive, pretty definitive, three volume series that chronicles her life from birth to death. This volume closes as FDR becomes president. After I was halfway through this book a new biography of Eleanor was published that tells her whole story in one book. I bought it also and plan on reading it after I finish Ms. Wise's three volumes as that author had access to new documents.

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Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent

This is a delightful memoir by Isabel Vincent, a journalist, who while going through a divorce, meets Edward, a 93 year-old widower who has just lost his wife, a couple of lost souls who become unlikely dinner companions. She comes each week to his apartment for life changing glorious meals that end up changing her life for the better. In the immortal words of M.K. Fisher a story about an unlikely friendship that can "sustain us against the hungers of the world." I really need to read M. K. Fisher.

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Tenth Of December by George Saunders


This is a book that sat on one of my shelves for many years. I needed a book for December so I decided that I would give it a go. Currently I am working a side gig as a nanny and needed something to read during nap times. I had been reading epistolary novels but thought that short stories might work as well to fill this time. 

Full disclosure, I am generally not a fan of the short story genre. This collection did not change my mind--I liked some of the stories and there is no doubt that he is a good author but... most of the stories popped out of nowhere into very dark versions of the world--starting in the middle and randomly ending well before the end of the story. In other words just as I am getting invested in the characters and the premise--the story ends. 

Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker

I had seen this book mentioned several times on Bookish Twitter and as I was collecting titles for this category at the time--it seemed a perfect fit. My mistake was thinking it would be about a girl named Cassandra going to a wedding--when in fact there barely is a wedding. Instead of a light hearted wedding themed book it is more of a deep soul searching read with more heavy themes. It was reading time well spent-- if a little darker than I had hoped.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Marie Annette Beauchamp

Marie Beauchamp is the birth name of the writhe Elizabeth von Arnim, whose is most famous for writing The Enchanted April. I loved that book and wanted to read more works by the author and this a book often mentioned on Bookish Twitter. It is okay-it took me a long while to get through it-I just couldn't quite get in sync with the sentiments of the semi-autobiographical main character. It is told in the format of journal entries and so does dual duties category wise.

The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally by Dr. Jason Fung

My mother is prediabetic, has mild neuropathy, and has borderline A1C numbers. This summer she developed yet another infection in one of her toes--she already lost one toe on that foot-now she has lost her big toe and her bunion. I didn't know enough about diabetes to give her answers to her many questions and indeed her symptoms point to something more ominous than slightly high numbers. So I read this excellent book--Dr. Fung is really good at explaining the science behind diabetes and what is actually going on in a diabetic body. It scared me off of SAD (standard American diet) carbs and sugar--I know that much.

The Road To Character by David Brooks

Philosophy, morals, and ethics. I first saw this book in a stack by the couch in the home of a family whom I served as a caregiver for several years. It intrigued me and when I spotted it again a while later at Half Priced Books I snapped it up. Finally got around to reading it this year. It was one my choices in the attempt to read on this subjet from all angles. Perhaps I simply have different definitions for what it means to have character.

The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization by Arthur Herman

This is a book that often caught my eye while browsing the shelves of many a bookstore--but up until now I had no interest in reading about Aristotle or Plato--however, I have always been fascinated with Plato's parable of the cave. It seems eerily preminiscent of humanity's love of looking away from reality--prefering to stare at flickering images projected on a cave wall, a TV screen or a smart phone. I thought this was a perfect title to round out my "Into the Light" category. 

Reviews are pretty black and white about this book--but for me it served as a perfect introduction to how the memes of Aristotle and Plato have wound their way through society from the Ancient Greece to Modern Day Western Society.

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

The Daughter of Time is one of my all time favorite books. It was one of the books that was instrumental in the beginning of my love of Royal Reading. This is a fictional tale of mystery and suspense and does not disappoint in the least. I really enjoy it--it is reading time well spent. It is my intention to eventually read all of her books.

Reversing Neuropathy by Dr. Brian Prax

My mother has neuropathy raging through her body. Over the summer of 2021 she developed a series of problems including ANOTHER infection in the foot where she has already had another toe amputated. This surgery involved amputation of her big toe, second toe, and a large bunion. These have been determined to diabetes relatated which was perplexing to me as her blood sugar is under control, her A1C is still borderline acceptable---so I read this book as part of my research.

Saving Sophie by Ronald H. Balson

This book while entertaining and a quick read is all over the place. Too many threads, too many plot lines, too many locations...over righteous good guys...stereotypical agents...typical bad guys. An enjoyable read that could have been a lot better.

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The Ape That Understood The Universe by Steve Stewart-Williams

Earlier this year I read a book, The Cave and the Light, and excellent book about how the civilised Western world has cycled between Plato and Aristotle since the days of the Ancient Greeks. It kindled an interest in my overstuffed brain--why are humans so obssessed with moral character, the right to happines, the good life...  I have always thought of virtues and morals to be constructs of the human mind-- a part of culture not a part of nature. I am doing my best to read all sides of this story--even if I already know that science based evidence will ultimately win the day.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

I have never been a fan of abusive relationships protrayed as love stories. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights being horrifying examples. I have never been a fan of older men writing out their "fictional" fantasies about their attraction to young girls. I will never read Lolita (even though it would be a perfect fit for this category). There is an abundance of "great" literature that glorifies the abuse of women and young girls by claiming  them to be romantic but tragic love stories. But I digress...

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Not usually my sort of read but it did keep me hooked. It fits into this epislatory category as it consists of a mix of emails, IM, and regular storytelling. It was hard to feel emmpathy for the main character as she whined throughout the whole book about how rough her life was as she struggled through her days as a privileged-white-rich teenaged girl going to a private school in Los Angeles- and attracting the attention of the 3 hottest guys in school. It was a bit much---the author considered this to be semi autobiographical---I'm thinking I would have preferred reading her own story.

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon

This is a book that I have wanted to read ever since I stumbled across Kathleen Norris's Acedia & Me. This book totally changed my understanding of depression and cleared up many of my miscomprehensions. A completely readable long haul door stop of a book but sadly enough still as relevant today as it was groundbreaking back in 2001 when it was first published. I am finding it an unexpected resource that is going to help me further understand my thought that --in relationship to a quiet meditative mind the gift of language seems to be a bit back handed. Always reading always learning.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Pun intended. Last year (2020) I read a very long arc of books that began with Dark Matter and slowly rose up through the shadows to the light of day and the Noon Day sun. I was naively hoping that this arc would mirror the pandemic and that it would be in the rear view mirror when I finished the category. Yes, yes...silly me. So I was in the need for  "A Tale for the Time Being" a book that had been on my TBR bedroom shelf for years. Sometimes, the universe makes a book wait until its perfect time being.

I really loved this book mostly because of the mix of quantum physics and zen buddhism. I loved the parallel story lines with Ruth reading Nao's diary. I will most likely keep this book as it deserves further reading and has encouraged me to search out and read some of the books that she recommends. Never stop learning and reading. I also enjoyed a previous book of hers--My Year of Meats.

Principles by Ray Dalio

Surprisingly I read this the whole way through even though I am self-employed and run a tiny yoga studio. While I am 1000% sure I would never get hired to work for Ray Dalio- I am equally sure that I would neither like it or make it as his employee and not just because my math skills are minimal at best. However, the principles governing a human mind are alway fascinating to read about. I will keep this on my shelf for awhile as he has an excellent suggested reading list at the end of the book.

Hi! I'm Debbie. Here at Categorically Well-Read I give an extra layer to the reading life. Learn more about me, check out my current category of books, submit your own suggestion, or check out my latest post.