Book Review: Alpi Ribelli: Storie di montagna, resistenza e utopia

The idea behind this book is fascinating. As the subtitle suggests, the book collects stories of rebel mountaineers of all kinds. Some chose to disobey orders; others built refuges of resistance, outposts of autonomy and laboratories of social innovation. The collection is rich and varied. We go from the heretics who went with Fra Dolcino to the partisans who stopped the Nazi fascists in the mountains of Cuneo and Belluno, up to the contemporary movements against the high-speed train in the Susa Valley. »

Book Review: The Voice of the Sirens. The Greeks and the art of persuasion

According to a famous and fortunate Homeric expression, words are winged, not so much like birds but rather like arrows, which cut the air quickly to go straight to the target and break through the listener’s heart. The Greeks have always known that the word is used to convince and show truth and correctness. But they also know that it has a magical force in it: it can turn into a spell, capable of dominating and dragging the listener’s soul; to bewitch like music and to heal like medicine; but, above all, to deceive and mislead. »

Book Review: One Man Caravan

Robert Edison Fulton was the first solo round-the-world motorcycle tourer. He made his worldwide trip on a two-cylinder Douglas motorcycle between July 1932 and December 1933, more or less 90 years ago. On his way from London to the colonial Middle East, Fulton crossed Nazi Germany. Some of the countries and places he passed do not exist anymore. Most have changed dramatically; others, not so much. I suspect, for example, that his adventures in Syria, Afghanistan, or at the Indian-Pakistani borders might have been written today. »

Book Review: The Silence, A Novel

It is Super Bowl Sunday in the year 2022. Five people, dinner, an apartment on the east side of Manhattan. The retired physics professor and her husband and her former student waiting for the couple who will join them from what becomes a dramatic flight from Paris. The conversation ranges from a survey telescope in North-central Chile to a favorite brand of bourbon to Einstein’s 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity. »

The Real Book (of Jazz)

What a fascinating read. It sits right at the intersection of two of my (too many) vicious interests: Jazz music and books. Since the mid-1970s, almost every jazz musician has owned a copy of the same book. It has a peach-colored cover, a chunky, 1970s-style logo, and a black plastic binding. It’s delightfully homemade-looking—like it was printed by a bunch of teenagers at a Kinkos. And inside is the sheet music for hundreds of common jazz tunes—also known as jazz “standards”—all meticulously notated by hand. »

Book Review: In the Heart of the Sea, The Tragedy of the Waleship Essex

While reading Erebus, The Story of a Ship, my attention was caught by a brief mention of the Whaleship Essex. Being the sucker that I am for exploration and dramatic adventure stories from the early days, I researched it, only to surface with Nathaniel Philbricks’ In The Heart of the Sea in my hands. In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex - an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. »

Book Review: Materada

I am very ignorant about the Istrian Peninsula’s history, a gap I always wanted to fill. After some research, Fulvio Tomizza’s book, Materada, surfaced as a good fit to fill this gap. It’s a semi-biographic historical novel set in the Istria of the author’s youth. Fulvio Tomizza was born in Giurizzani di Materada, Istria, in 1935. He had to go through all the torments caused in that disputed area by Fascism first (forced Italianization, cultural suppression), and then by the Second World War and the terrible events that followed: the Foibe massacres and the Istrian-Dalmatian exodus. »

You Have to Write As Though Your Parents Are Dead

The Literary Hub has a great short interview with Ian McEwan. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received? When I was living in London at the start of my career in the mid-1970s, I became friends with Philip Roth, who took an avuncular interest in my work. Where many others thought my writing was wild and weird, he thought I wasn’t being wild enough. He once came to my apartment and spread the typescript of my first novel (The Cement Garden) over the floor. »

Book Review: The Library at Night

As any other bookworm worth its salt, I digested a generous amount of books on books and the history of libraries. Alberto Manguel’s The Library at Night was last, and that is a pity. It probably arrived just a little too late on my shelves. I wish I found it at the beginning of my reading journey when my enthusiasm for libraries and their contents was pristine. Manguel’s writing is mesmerizing and capable. »

Book Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

I came back to reading Shirley Jackson almost by coincidence. I had just finished watching The Haunting of Hill House, and, as I always do with stuff that tickles my curiosity, I was doing a little research on it. That’s how I learned that the TV Series is loosely based on a novel by the same name written by… Shirley Jackson. Still imbued by the TV Series’s atmospheres, now knowing about its connection with Jackson, I was ready for another dive into her literature of psychological suspense and terror. »

Book Review: The Water Dancer

The Water Dancer is the debut novel for Ta-Nehisi Coates, an author and journalist best known for his nonfiction works. Set in a slave plantation located in pre-civil war Virginia, this is a bold and ambitious story about slavery. From the editor website: Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. »

Book Review: Erebus, The Story of a Ship

I finished reading Erebus: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin, an excellent book on the dramatic adventures of the HMS Erebus with her sister ship, the HMS Terror, first in James Clark Ross’s Antarctic expedition of 1839-43, and then during Franklin’s ill-fated Arctic expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. I knew Michael Palin as a member of the Monty Python comedy group. As it turns out, since 1980, he has also made many travel documentaries and books. »

Five good books I read in 2020

Here are five books I read in 2020 that I would recommend. I read several fine books last year, so please check out my reading history if you are unsatisfied with this selection. Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, by Patrick Leigh Fermor. I love Patrick Leigh Fermor. Over the years, I read almost everything he wrote. He has been described as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Graham Greene,” and for a good reason. »