Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Would you look at the wave of absolutely fabulous books on the market! What’s a guy to do?
by Charlie Leck

I’ve told you here before that there’s too little time to deal with all the books that ought to be read. The books that have just recently hit the market, or are hitting it in the coming weeks, really amplify my points.

Gabriel García Márquez: A Life
by Gerald Martin
Oh, heavens! This one will go on the old reading pile. Along with Richard Russo and Mark Helprin, Gabriel García Márquez is my favorite contemporary writer. Too bad I must read him in translation; yet the great author himself has had to read most of his favorite English and American authors in the language of his own tongue. I’m going to turn very soon to Márquez’s autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale. It would make sense to follow that autobiography with this biography that sounds acceptably good in the NY Times review of it by Paul Berman. [Read the NY Times review of the Gerald Martin biography or read any of many of the NY Times reviews of the books by Gabriel García Márquez.]

Márquez is in his 80s now and he still writes for several hours a day. It’s because writing is what he is – if a verb may be a noun – and write he must. He may well be too somber for the conventional reader. I like him because, like Russo, he tells a remarkable story and, like Helprin, he constructs spectacular sentences (even in translation).

My Father’s Tears and Other Stories
by John Updike
Talk about a love for writing and an obsession to write, write, write! We’re also talking about John Updike and this sounds like it’s all there is folks. The end of the line and the last of the great man’s writing. Are these stories any good? Don’t know! I’ll just need to read through them to find out. [Read the NY Times review here.]

Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler
by Anne Nelson
I can’t wait to tell my friend, Freddy, about this one. He loves this kind of stuff; however, it will probably be a while before it comes out in audio form. Fred likes to do his reading that lazy way. That’s the way my wife reads books, too. Maybe they’re on to something rather than being on something, because they go through three times the amount of books I can consume. So, maybe I can get this read before the audio version hits the market and I can tell him whether or not it will be worth his time.

Anne Nelson, the author of Red Orchestra is a journalism professor at Columbia. She’s also a playwright. Nelson is familiar with military dictatorships. She encountered and lived under them in South America. In Red Orchestra she tells the true story of a small band of dissidents who stood against the rising Nazi regime in the 30s. They distributed literature trying to warm German citizens and foreign nations what was coming their way. They were an eclectic group that came from many social and cultural levels – Christian Protestants and Jews, theatrical bohemians and Social Democrats and Catholics. They were linked by a common fear and hatred of Hitler.

It was an awful – an atrocious – time in Germany and the holocaust was terrible; yet, but for this little group of brave souls it might have been worse. Who knows?

Gang of Four: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945
by Andrew Roberts
This is my kind of reading – a biographical account of four of the most important men of modern history (Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, George Marshall and Alan Brooke). And Andrew Roberts is a good man to tell the story. He’s a British historian and a prolific writer – and he’s damned good at both. World War II history interests me deeply and the British-American alliance has always fascinated me.

So, how’s that for a summer reading list? If you tackle any of these, let me know what you think.


  1. Glad you're intrigued by Red Orchestra. The audio book came out simultaneously from Tantor. I'd love to know what your friend makes of the story.

  2. A comment from the author herself! I'm flattered. Since I wrote those things about Red Orchestra, I have read it and I thought it was a terrific book -- fast paced and exciting and touching. Chas