Welcome to Day #24 of the April A to Z Challenge, where participants are challenged to create a post every day (except Sundays) corresponding to the appropriate letter of the alphabet. We’re in the home stretch–only 3 more days to go! If you’d like to learn more, hit the badge on my sidebar.
I’ll be posting about bookish topics each day of the challenge. Here’s today’s post on the most eXcellent books I’ve read so far this year (Hey, give me a break–“X” is a tough one!):
As I’ve discussed on this blog before, I don’t write what I consider to be formal reviews of the books I read. I do use the 5-star rating system on Goodreads–mainly as a way to remind myself about what I’ve thought about what I’ve read. So far this year I’ve read 36 books, and I’ve given three of them the highest 5-star rating. Here are those three books that I consider to be excellent:
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
If you love to escape by reading about the lives of the impossibly rich, or if you like a good investigative treatment of a modern day mystery, give this book a try—I thought it was an incredibly fascinating read! Huguette Clark was a reclusive New York heiress who was born in 1906. Her father was self-made copper industrialist W. A. Clark, who was nearly as rich as Rockefeller and Carnegie, and who was also a controversial senator, railroad builder, and one of the founders of the city of Las Vegas. Huguette grew up in incredible wealth, living in the largest house in New York City–121 rooms for a family of four. After an extremely brief marriage (she returned home alone just days into her honeymoon) she eventually owned enormously expensive homes in California, New York, and Connecticut–yet they stood vacant as she lived her last twenty years in a simple New York City hospital room, despite being in excellent health. She gave away millions of dollars in money and gifts to charities, foundations promoting the arts, and her employees–some of whom never saw her or spoke to her except via phone or through closed doors.
At her death in 2011, her estate was valued in excess of $300 million. However, she’d left TWO signed wills—one favoring her remaining family members (distant relatives from her father’s first marriage, most of whom hadn’t spoken to her in decades–she had no children of her own), and a second will leaving everything to her lawyers, long-time private nurse, and other employees. The question was, had she been in control of her decisions, or was she being controlled by the people she hired to care for her and manage her money? And why did she spend the last 20 years of her life living in a hospital, when even her doctors agreed that there was no medical reason for doing so?
When I finished this book, I immediately went online to do some research about what has happened with Huguette’s estate since the book was published—but I won’t share what I found, as I don’t want to create any spoilers for those of you who may choose to read it. So far, this is the best book I’ve read this year!
The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown
Even though I don’t like participating in sports, I love reading about them. I’ve read a lot of books about baseball and basketball, but I knew virtually nothing about the sport of rowing (or “crew”) before I started this nonfiction title. I’m now pretty fascinated by it! This book tells the story of the 1936 US rowing team who won the Gold medal at that year’s Summer Olympic Games in Hitler’s Berlin. The author paints such a vivid picture of the young men on the team as well as the skill required to excel at this sport–I had absoloutely no idea! There’s also a lot of anecdotal information about the Depression era that’s very interesting. It also created a great interest for me about the 1936 Olympic Games, and I’m in the process of trying to find some additional reading material about this event.
Penelope by Rebecca Harrington
And now, for something completely different! I’m going to say this right up front—you need to have a very particular sense of humor to enjoy this satirical novel. People seem to either love it or hate it. I’m in the former group—I adored this book! It’s the story of Penelope–an admittedly somewhat odd Harvard freshman—and how she makes her way through her first year of college. I found this novel brilliantly funny! I know that many people find the dialogue off-putting—a common comment in reviews is “Don’t those people ever use contractions when they talk???” but I thought the dialogue fit the tone of the book perfectly and matched the satirical premise of the story. Another common complaint is that Penelope doesn’t grow or change during the book—I completely disagree! Penelope was released in 2012, and I’m hoping that the author is working on a new novel as we speak—I’ll definitely be in line to read it!
How about you? Have you read any of these? What books have you read so far this year that you would consider to be excellent? Please share!