January 2020 books read

  • The Genius of Birds – Jennifer Ackerman, 2016 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia – Laura Miller, 2008. The rare book where my reaction was “I wish I had written this,” because Miller explores so much of what pulls me to re-read these books. I didn’t pull quotes but there’s more I want to explore on a second read. Someday!
  • Milkman – Anna Burns, 2018 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing – Robert Caro, 2019 – Couldn’t put it down! I actually haven’t read any of Caro’s biographies but now I want to. My favorite bits were these two heart-warming incidents:

I was still in the first year of research [on The Power Broker] when friends and acquaintances began to ask if I was “still doing that book.” Later I would be asked, “How long have you been working on it now?” When I said three years, or four, or five, they would quickly disguise their look of incredulity, but not quickly enough to keep me from seeing it. I came to dread that question.

Then one day, I looked up and James Flexner was standing over me. The expression on his face was friendly, but after he had asked what I was writing about, the next question was the question I had come to dread: “How long have you been working on it?” This time, however, when I replied, “Five years,” the response was not an incredulous stare.
“Oh,” Jim Flexner said, “that’s not so long. I’ve been working on my Washington for nine years.”
I could have jumped up and kissed him, whiskers and all—as, the next day, I could have jumped up and kissed Joe Lash, big beard and all, when he asked me the same question, and, after hearing my answer, said in his quiet way, “Eleanor and Franklin took me seven years.” In a couple of sentences, these two men—idols of mine—had wiped away five years of doubt.

Lynn [Nesbit] had read my manuscript, and said, “I’d like to represent you, but you have to tell me something first. Why do you look so worried?”
I didn’t know I looked worried. But of course I was. I told her, “I’m worried that I won’t have enough money to finish the book.” My editor had left me feeling that few people would read a book on Robert Moses, and that therefore no publisher would give me the money I needed to finish it.
She asked how much money I was talking about. I told her I needed enough so I could spend two more years on the book. I thought it would take me two years. I don’t remember the exact amount I specified, but I know it was not that large. And all of a sudden there were other sentences that I’ll never forget. She said, “Is that what you’re worried about? Then you can stop worrying right now. I can get you that by just picking up the phone. Everybody in New York knows about this book.”
Then she said, “You can stop worrying about money. But I’ve read this manuscript. What you care about is writing. My job is to find you an editor you can work with for the rest of your life.”

  • Don Quixote (El ingenioso caballero don Quijote de la Mancha) – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1615 (tr Edith Grossman, 2005) – quotes pulled, TBD