Category Archives: Books I enjoy!

Time for a Book – The Adventures of a “Random” Button

Who shall enter? Naomi’s Photos

If someone came up to me today and said “I’d like to buy you a few books, which would you like?” I wouldn’t know how to answer.

In fact, I would get a bit stressed by the question.

In recent months I have had no idea which books would suit my mood. I would hate for money to be wasted on a book that I dislike and abandon quickly!

Yet I absolutely NEED to read.

The “Libby” library system harbors no ill will towards me even if  I return a book the next day and immediately take another.

No murmured complaint even when I quickly return the next book as well.

More importantly, “Libby has a  RANDOM search option!

Now that I’ve been experimenting with reading books I have never heard of (for the most part) using the random search option for quite a while, I’d like to share some “lows” and “highs” of my reading adventure.

Perhaps you might be interested in some of the books!

A surprise inside each one, all connected…
Naomi’s Photos
“Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President” by Candice Millard

I was a bit dubious about the chances of me finding a book about President Garfield interesting when I saw the option that popped up on my results page.. I have to admit that the only thing I knew about Garfield was that he was assassinated. However, it seemed somewhat encouraging that Alexander Graham Bell was a character in the story as well, so I clicked on the “BORROW” button.

The book was fascinating!

Did you know that President Garfield didn’t even run for the presidency when he was nominated by the party?

Or that Bell nearly returned home from the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 without anyone noticing that invention in the dark far corner of an upper floor we know as the telephone?

Perhaps you knew that The White House in 1880 was a sagging, damp, rat-infested building that was making its residents ill, but I certainly didn’t.

And that the United States had THREE presidents assassinated before realizing they had to protect their presidents?

Though President Garfield didn’t actually die because of the assassin’s bullet…

I should stop here – elaborating would mean spoilers.

The book is a readable, engaging, and fascinating description of a period, with revelations related to medicine, politics, and law.

Who is the star? Naomi’s Photos

“Robin” by Dave Itzkoff  vs. “I Was Better Last Night” By Harvey Fierstein

I adored the actor Robin Williams and can remember how shocked and saddened I was by his untimely death. As I knew nothing about his life, I was quite pleased when this biography popped up as a suggestion written by a serious author.

Too serious.

I stopped reading when Robin Williams was in his mid-twenties. I was very interested in his childhood but beyond that period in William’s life, I found the writing uninspiring and sagging under the weight of too many details.

I also realized I didn’t want to see his life dissected by another in such a clinical manner. I’ll always remember him as Mork!

On the other hand, I found Harvey Fierstein’s autobiography to be quite interesting even though the name meant nothing to me when I began the book. A kid from Brooklyn that went far…

Fierstein narrates the audiobook itself which adds to the interest! He knows how to tell a story!

I hadn’t known that Robin Williams chose Fierstein to play his brother in “Mrs. Doubtfire” after seeing him “bomb” one night at an event!

When nature sends you some LOVE Naomi’s Photos
“The Authenticity Project” by Claire Pooley

This is a “feel-good” book that is well written, with relatable characters. It was both amusing and touching. While it is no spoiler if I tell you there will be a happy ending, there are lots of unexpected turns along the way.  I enjoyed it!

” Choose Your Own Autobiography” by Neil Patrick Harris

I tried this on as an audiobook, narrated by the author, and returned it very quickly. The concept sounded intriguing but I found it distracting and uninteresting.

Harris IS a good narrator though, and I believe he has narrated several books.

Listen, can you hear it? Naomi’s Photos
“Nettle & Bone” T. Kingfisher

A clever fantasy book which I quite enjoyed, particularly as I listened to it as an audiobook, read by someone who could “do the voices” really well.

The author takes familiar elements from fairy tales and creates something entirely different and unexpected with these elements. The story is at times rather dark, other times amusing, always emphasizing a woman’s point of view, women’s various roles in society, and their power.

“Dear Prudence” by Daniel Lavery

Skip this one.

I thought reading about the unusual questions people sent to a newspaper “Advice Column” might be amusing so I hit the BORROW button.

However, beyond the opening one, I never made it to any more readers’ questions. The author embarked on a long autobiography which I was not interested in at all. Didn’t the editor tell him that it would be better to share his life story in bits, between the letters, perhaps related to them?

“EARLY RETURN” for that title!

Look carefully, things are not what they seem… Naomi’s Photostry
“This Time Tomorrow” by Emma Straub

This is a “What If” story of a 40-year-old daughter trying to come to terms with the impending death of her beloved father.

“What if” as in a form of “time travel” that allows her to go back in time and try different things which might lead to a different outcome, for her father and herself.

While I was less interested in the detailed descriptions of time spent as her 16-year-old self, and real life doesn’t give you chances to try out alternative realities, I could relate to the way she thought about and examined her relationship with her father, and how the death of a parent is inevitable at some point.

 “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami

I’m currently reading this one and it’s really good, I find it difficult to stop.

Things are not what they seem, unexpected twists at every turn. More “fast-paced” than what I remember of the previous Murakami books and very well written.

Thanks, Libby for suggesting this one – I’m hooked!

Let me know if you have read any of these titles!


Time for a BOOK: “North Woods” by Daniel Mason+ 2 mentions

Different points of view / Naomi’s Photos

I went through a “reading crisis” in the last three months. I had no patience for fictional characters and their fictional angst and read less than I usually do.

The only two books I read were  both non-fiction:

“Unraveling – What I Learned About Life While Shearing Sheep, Dyeing Wool, and Making the World’s Ugliest Sweater” by Peggy Orenstein 

Who knew thread and cloth played such an important part in the history of humankind? I didn’t… I also related to her struggles to deal with her parents aging and ultimately passing away. The author and I are more or less the same age.

“Creativity Inc.” by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull

It was interesting to learn how Pixar came to be. I was particularly interested in the part about keeping the spark of creativity, actually high-quality creative work, alive. I abandoned the book when it became focused on the merger with Disney. I don’t run a business. I’m just a person who tries to be creative.

The land / People
Naomi’s Photos

“North Woods” by Daniel Mason has brought the joy of well-written fiction back into my life.

What a talented writer!

What a clever way to build a story!

Historical fiction with a twist.

The “constant” in the book is a place. A small house, land, woods and a river in Massachusetts.

The same place, beginning with the first white settlers in the region and then progressing in time.

Telling the story of the people who came and went, lived and died.

Telling the story of the land as it was shaped by the people AND how the land influenced the people’s lives.

You might think that having such a parade of characters would be repetitive and become tiresome.

You would be mistaken.

Mason’s characters are so vivid and convincing that I’m drawn to every single character at each phase of the historical progression toward the present.

A great book!

Visualising Books – The Not-Quite Travel Books

So, you’re awake too? Naomi’s Photos

I wasn’t sleeping well the last few nights before setting off on our big adventure –  a 17-day trip to South Africa! I was too excited/nervous/stressed – I’m sure you know what I mean.

I barely slept on the flights either way.

I also tend to wake up very early on trips (not at home!) so I read quite a bit before the trip, on the trip, and upon returning.

Since arriving home, I have mainly been listening to audiobooks and reading print a bit less – when I have free time I go over my “gazillion” photos! After which I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow…

So, some quick comments on some books:

Oops… Naomi’s Photos

“Meet Me in Another Life” by Silvey

I wanted a light read for a sleepless night flight and it started off just right. Engaging without demanding too much concentration. Two young people meet over and over again in different versions of their lives.

However, somewhere around the middle, the book became incredibly repetitive and even boring. I didn’t like the ending at all. I don’t even know why I bothered to finish it…

Dramatic! Naomi’s Photos

“Lawrence and the Arabs” by Robert Graves

“Lawrence of Arabia”, the film from 1962 was actually one of the options of the in-flight movies. Not only hadn’t I seen it, but had completed the book about him by Graves just a few days before we flew out. I thought it was a stroke of luck!

Well, reading the book made me find the movie sorely lacking and I gave up on it at some point. Now the book, that’s where it’s at. It is FASCINATING!

Just to be clear, I had no particular prior interest in “Lawrence”. But when I saw that the book was by ROBERT GRAVES I knew I had to read it. Graves’ “I Claudius”, which I read years ago, left a big impression on me. His writing is engaging, clear, and down to earth while being informative and well-researched.


Unlike the Roman emperors, Graves actually KNEW the person he was writing about this time, and personally interviewed many of those whose lives crossed paths with Lawrence, including Lawrence’s mother!

Did I say it was FASCINATING?

Tropical! Naomi’s Photos

“Euphoria” by Lily King

This was a good choice as a travel book. It’s engaging and interesting. Three young anthropologists are caught in a love triangle amongst themselves in New Guinea, in the 1930s. Their own lives influence how they live and interact with the native tribes they are studying. while studying /entangling themselves in the cultures of the tribes they are studying. The story is loosely based on Margaret Mead’s character and from what is known about an incident that she was involved in.

The ending was quite dramatic.

A good book but not amazing – not the kind I think about for some time after I have read it.

You have to find your way… Naomi’s Photos

“Record of a Spaceborn Few” by Becky Chambers

Comfort food!

I listened to this as an audiobook (the reader is excellent, it feels like a play).

Chamber’s books are so comforting – yes there are real hardships when living in space and angst, but the overall vibe is optimism. A better society, a more inclusive society can be attained, a better world is possible.

Comfort food.

I enjoyed every minute

The book was written by a primatologist. Naomi’s Photos

“Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” by Frans de Waal

I can tell you right away – the answer is NO WE ARE NOT!

Absolutely not!

It’s mind-boggling to read of the assumptions people made in an effort to prove, no matter what, that humans are always better and smarter than animals.  I’m not a scientist and certainly am no animal expert, but some tales caused me to say “Really? Someone thought that? Someone lectured about it without even observing the animals in the wild”?

I read this after returning (after seeing so many animals it seemed a good choice).  The writing is very engaging and accessible to the non-academic public. I found it very interesting yet only read about 75% of the book. The point was very clear and I found that there was a limit to the number of examples of intelligent animal behavior I could take in.

I was convinced!

More books to come in a new post!

Happy Reading!




Wow! The Book “How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water” by Cruz Could be about My Grandmother!

A long journey… Naomi’s Photos


My grandmother always said that someone could (and should!) write a book about her.

In a way, I think Angie Cruz did!

It’s such a cleverly written, well-told book and I was so fortunate to have chosen it as an audiobook – if you can, that’s the way to go!  Listening to the manner in which Cara Romero answered questions the way SHE wanted to answer them, getting to the point via 100 other stops along the way, stopping to emphasize that no one could do it /understand it the way she could – it felt so very familiar!

No, my grandmother wasn’t Dominican, though she did speak Spanish. She was from Brest – today’s Belarus, part of Poland and Russia in the past. Along with the Yiddish, Polish, and Russian of her childhood, she spoke Hebrew, and Spanish learned during her 7 years living in Cuba.

Both women immigrated to New York from a Spanish-speaking island.

But that’s just the beginning.


Where will this path lead us? Naomi’s Photos

Cara Romero always had to fend for herself and look after others, a resilient woman who had to struggle without the support of a husband. A woman who made some bad choices, managed to fall out with a lot of people, yet still retained a zest for life, and the energy to start over. Yet again. Then again.

Both women craved approval for their effort, for being who they were, and for the life they managed to create despite all odds, as both of them never got any such approval at home. Cara Romero of the book had a mother, who did not want to have children and was not interested in them. My grandmother was orphaned at the age of two and had the classic evil stepmother. Both Cara Romero and my grandmother stated repeatedly that they never had a childhood.

The desperate plea for approval shows up so clearly in those repeated statements (I’m not quoting verbatim, it was an audiobook!): Write this down. Everyone knows that Cara Romero does it better – if it is quieting the baby, being the one everyone turned to at work for advice, cooking, you name it…

Stubborn… Naomi’s Photos

I’m sure Cara Romero and my grandmother would have hated each other vehemently – two strong-willed women like them would have clashed within five minutes of being introduced…

Thank you, Angie Cruz! I loved the book!



Time for a Book: “A Psalm for the Wild-Built” By Chambers

Evening In the City / Naomi's Pictures

Timing is everything, right?

In light of all that has been going on recently, listening to the audiobook “A Psalm for the Wild-Built” by Becky Chambers was just what I needed.

I really enjoyed putting on my headphones and spending four hours (it’s a short book!) in a world where:

  • people and nature live in harmony.  I don’t care if it’s a naive or unrealistic vision. It’s nice to “spend” some time in such a world. A world in which “going green” doesn’t mean living as people did in medieval times.
  • drinking tea is important. It’s a world in which it is acknowledged that people need to take some time out and drink tea.
  •  a young person taking a journey into the wild to find themselves (plural is used in the book)  is 29, not 18, which makes a lot of sense nowadays. In addition, it’s no spoiler to say that the young person in the wilderness does not die.
  • there is a super cute robot!
Going its own way / Naomi’s Photos


I enjoyed the style of writing. In fact, I have placed a hold on the next book (it’s a duology, a two-part series) on Libby. I don’t mind waiting a while – I prefer not to read two books in a row by the same author.

Oh! One last thing:

Having a friend is always a good thing – that takeaway is absolutely true!


Time for a Book! “An Unnecessary Woman” by R. Alameddine

Recording the passing of time… Naomi’s Photos  (Taken in the Beyer Watch & Clock Museum)

Do you know the genre of books in which a troubled/sad/lonely person’s life improves dramatically, as you read, mainly because he/she began reading books?

This isn’t that kind of book.

The narrator of this book has read voraciously for most of her 72 years. These books, their characters, and authors (not to mention some composers) have become the lenses through which she views life, struggles to make sense of life, or perhaps escapes from it.

This comes with a price.

And Aaliya, the narrator knows it well. Immersing herself in literature from around the world does not make her any less “an unnecessary woman” – a point she examines, perhaps “discusses” with her literary world.

Aaliya not only reads books but is a “closet translator” (completed translations are boxed away) – there are fascinating commentaries on translations and the process of translating.

But that’s not all there is in this book.

What you see on the clock depends on your perspective… Naomi’s Photos (Taken in the Beyer Watch & Clock Museum)

A life unfolds.

In a city.

Books and the City – that could be a subtitle.

Aaliya has spent all of her life in Beirut. Since she was born in the late 30s, she has lived through a great many very turbulent times. She watches the changes in her city, noticing, commenting, and often criticizing.

In fact, every element of life in the city, along with her colorful neighbors her relatives, and every character in Aaliya’s life, quite literally, comes under scrutiny using an amazing variety of literary characters.

The ending surprised me, in a good way.

I really enjoyed reading this book!

The unique style of writing drew me in immediately!

I’m not going to give you any more details – the author does it so much better than I, so why spoil the experience for yourself?




A Book for Our Times – “The Bone Fire” by Gyorgy Dragoman

I had already read more than half of THE BONE FIRE when the war in Ukraine began.

It was certainly a timely book to read.

The story doesn’t take place during a war. It’s a book about the generation/two generations after a war. About generations who not only have grown up dealing with the war scars of their parents/grandparents but have spent their lives behind the iron curtain.

The story takes place in an unnamed Eastern European country that has very recently been freed from life behind “the iron curtain”.  Those who know claim that it’s Romania.

The book is a combination of a coming of age story of 13-year-old Emma, recently orphaned, living with her mystical grandmother. While dealing with typical teenage angst (first menstruation, clothes, first crush, etc…) she must also deal with the harshness of an educational system scarred by the unforgiving brutality of a communist regime and the ghosts of war haunting her grandmother.

Yet her grandmother has special gifts and wisdom to pass down to Emma, gifts that become her own.

Learning to spread your wings… Naomi’s Photos

Beyond everything, the writing is unique and absolutely captivating.  Except for one part in the middle when I felt the author got too bogged down in details of teenage angst for too long, I was very taken by how the story is told and the manner in which the plot progresses. I can’t analyze the storytelling technique the way the New York Times Reviewer does (a review I read after reading the book!) but I don’t feel I need to. What matters is how it made me feel.

Fortunately, my son purchased the book following the New York Times review and suggested I read it as well.

I’m so glad I did.

I only wish that war in an area that had experienced life behind the iron curtain wasn’t taking place as I was reading the book…

Time for a Book: “The Library Book” by Orlean

Celebrating books / Naomi’s Photos

This is a very engaging non-fiction book about A specific library and about libraries in general. While highlighting the role of libraries in our lives, Orlean takes us through different time periods, to different countries and cultures, to times of war, of book censorship, to the surprising connection between billionaires and the advent of women librarians and to beloved writers whom we never would have heard about if they hadn’t had a library in their lives.

And so much more…

The book’s framework is investigative journalism, researching the unsolved mystery of who set fire to the Los Angeles Central Library in 1986, and why. Not only were more than 400,000 precious books lost, it became a mythic fire in its proportions and unique characteristics, the kind most firefighters, thankfully, have never seen. How does a library recover from such a devastating event?

Naomi’s Photos

The answer to the question of why most of us have never heard of this incredible fire is interesting too!

The author also discusses the role of public libraries in homeless people’s lives. This was new to me as it is not something I have encountered here.

The book could have been a bit shorter, but otherwise, I really enjoyed it!

Time for a Book: “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead” Olga  Tokarczuk 

Natural harmony… Naomi’s Photos

I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to read this book as the title is rather off-putting. However, after seeing both my husband and our younger son get excited about the book, I decided to give it a try.

I’m so glad I did.

What a unique book!

The style of writing captured my interest right away – I was hooked within minutes.

The book is written so cleverly that the story is, at the same time, all of these things and more:

  •  a vivid personal account of thoughts and events as seen through the eyes of an unusual woman who lives on a fairly secluded mountain top.
  • a murder mystery full of action and suspense.
  • a relentless cry to respect and protect animals and nature
  • keen observations on human nature, society, and bureaucracy.
  • humorous moments
  • a homage to William Blake
  • a fascinating window into the joys and complexities of translating poetry
  • a delightful use of language.

There, I haven’t spoiled anything for you – give the book a chance!

I’m looking forward to reading other books by Tokarczuk.

Books about Nature: The End of Nature, It’s Calming Effect & Human Nature

We’re ignoring you…
“The Children’s Bible” by Lydia Millet


This is certainly a clever book that packs a punch.

Remember when Greta Thunberg thundered:

“My message is that we’ll be watching you. This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Yet I am one of the lucky ones. People are suffering.”

In case you were wondering how exactly ignoring climate change/not protecting the planet steals children’s futures, Lydia Millet spells it out for you in a very clever way, using the familiar framework of well-known stories from the Bible, as told by children.  You know there’s no happy ending here but you can’t stop reading…

Gripping, clever, and so scary as it is all too real for comfort.

Is the coast clear? Naomi’s Photos
The Second Sleep by Robert Harris

After the previous book, I was looking for something different to read next. When I saw this book by Harris I knew I would get a fast-paced tale, full of suspense, all told within a historical framework. So I just began it without knowing a thing about the book.

While the book is certainly all of that, the history part is actually set in the future, 800 years after the apocalypse!

This time Nature recovers and survives, but the human race is having a much harder time bouncing back. Not many people survived because (as the author is wont to remind us) people who cannot produce food are only 6 meals away from starvation when technology collapses completely…

800 years later finds Britain back in the Middle Ages with an all-powerful Church who has outlawed science and technology – that brought about the end of the world, so it’s obviously evil, right?

Our heroes are, naturally, a very curious bunch who are looking for answers the Church won’t provide.

Sailing, without a boat! Naomi’s Photos
The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson

There is some calming magic in Youngson’s writing style, I began to feel it by page two!

Here nature is relaxing. When you navigate a narrowboat through Britain’s canals and locks, you must adjust to a slower pace of life, with plenty of time for contemplating and looking at your surroundings. Spending time outdoors isn’t some event you plan for once a month.

No one is rejecting technology in this book or even complaining about it. Rather the necessity of making nature a part of your daily life in some way or another is emphasized as having a strong connection to well-being.

If you haven’t read anything by Anne Youngson, start with “Meet Me at the Museum”. That one is much better but I still enjoyed reading this one too.

Naomi’s Photos
168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam

The title is great clickbait but resist temptation.

Don’t read this book.

While the author only lets the word “lazy” slip once, it resonates pretty loudly in the book. It’s not clear whether she studied human nature or Mr. Spok’s Vulcan character.

While I do agree with certain very specific points Vanderkam makes, I reject her overall attitude completely. Not everything you do is about excelling. You do not have to focus only on the hobby you are good at and hone it to perfection – it’s perfectly fine to enjoy dancing or playing the guitar even if you are truly bad at it. Or just dabble in photography…

Your volunteer work is worthwhile even if you happily remain the one who carries the boxes of donated clothes for years and don’t even think about joining the board of trustees.

Worse, Vanderkam floored me when she was talking about children and the home. Was she living in a different world from mine? To be fair, she truly emphasizes the importance of parents spending time with their children. No argument there.


How can she discuss managing to stick to your rigid schedule dividing work time and parent/child time, while ignoring the mornings when your mind is mush because you were up half the night with a teething baby, a sick child, or one who just has nightmares?  Sleepless nights for so many parents are more than twice-yearly events that playing catch up over the weekend can solve all issues.

Then there’s the part about food.

I am truly respectful of anyone who makes a conscious decision to rely heavily on ready-made frozen or tinned food as meals.  Everyone has to balance his/her life choices, I can understand that.  However, calling such food healthy and nutritious is beyond my comprehension.

In short – skip this one and read the next one.

Small but meaningful
Naomi’s Photos
Atomic Habits by James Clear

Unlike the previous book, I felt that this book was very relatable.

No wonder so many people recommend it, particularly to teachers! I see many quotes referring to it.

James Clear presents his methods for creating habits (or breaking bad ones) in small steps with realistic examples. Not only does he not expect you to constantly have lofty goals, but he also emphasizes the process. I had never realized how much focusing on the process (as opposed to just the final goal ) could serve as a motivating factor.

Throughout the book Clear repeats and summarizes his four principles, again and again, highlighting how they fit together. I found this to be helpful.

I haven’t had a chance to try out anything in class yet. Or actually, perhaps I have, at least to some degree.  While Clear focuses on what you do for yourself,  the book “Switch” by Heath and Heath discusses some of the same points from the perspective of making the habit/ behavior you hope your employees/students do be the easiest choice available. In that respect, I think the books complement each other.

I also enjoy Clear’s brief weekly newsletter – reminds me of what I have read.

I have no shiny new habits to share.


But I’m blogging more regularly again!