The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin
Synopsis: Written from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s perspective, it tells the story of her courtship and marriage to Charles Lindbergh, and of her own accomplishments as a pilot and writer.
Review [so far]: I generally prefer to read biographies about historical figures rather than novels about them (might as well get the facts, right?), so I grumbled a bit about reading this. But it’s for a book club I’m new to — still trying to impress them with my literary prowess — and so I plopped down on the couch on Monday afternoon and gave it a try. I read 200 pages before I knew what had happened; the author moves the plot quickly, and Anne and Charles lived in a fascinating era of invention and change. I’m troubled, though, by Anne’s passivity. She’s a talented, educated woman, but she does whatever Charles asks (including writing a pro-fascism pamphlet), regardless of her own feelings. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I hope Mrs. Lindbergh summons her independence by the end.
Related Reading: Lindbergh, by A. Scott Berg; Under a Wing, by Reeve Lindbergh; Bring Me a Unicorn: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1922-1928
In the Heart of the Sea: the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick
Synopsis: In 1820, a whaling ship out of Nantucket is sunk by a sperm whale. The crew survives the sinking, but is set adrift in an isolated expanse of ocean and must find land with only a few tools and some live Galapagos tortoises (I kid you not) for sustenance. The Essex disaster was the Titanic of the 19th century; America was captivated, including some random guy named Herman Melville.
Review: Oh man, I loved this book. The story in and of itself is riveting (come on, an angry whale sinks a ship!), but Philbrick adds depth with a keen analysis of how economics, race, environmentalism, and religion tied into Nantucket’s whaling business. I can’t recommend this book enough. And bonus: no chowder chapter.
Related Reading: Moby Dick. Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand) has a similar small-boat-adrift survival situation. The Voyage of the Beagle (Charles Darwin) for more travels in that part of the world. Folks in my book club also mentioned that Erik Larson’s Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania is a good read if you’re into maritime disasters.
Mornings on Horseback, by David McCullough
Synopsis: Theodore Roosevelt: the Early Years
Review: I will forever trust David McCullough’s handling of history. His is the best kind of history writing: he wisely lets his stories spool out naturally, never misses a chance for a bit of humor, and treats his characters as if he knows them intimately (he practically does; his research is superb). I could go on, but I’ll only say instead that Mornings on Horseback is another fine McCullough work. If you find Teddy as interesting as I, you’ll enjoy this account of his childhood, his Midwest ranching days, and his early forays into politics.
Related Reading: John Adams, by David McCullough (please, please read this sometime). The Bully Pulpit, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. And, because she’s the most fascinating of them all, Crowded Hours
, by Alice Roosevelt Longworth.
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
Synopsis: Don Tillman is looking for a wife. By having women fill out questionnaires. Rosie is utterly incompatible on paper, and yet …
Review: I found this love story totally charming and frequently hilarious. The hero, Don, struggles to adhere to social rituals. His — sometimes painful — honesty gives a fresh voice to the universal struggle of Finding a Darn Life Partner, Already.
Related Reading: Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes (a favorite).