The Last Best Book — Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann

On a single day in 1974, New Yorkers were brought together by a startling sight: a man walking a tightrope between the not-quite-finished Twin Towers. Colum McCann’s 2009 novel, Let the Great World Spin, is the story of a dozen or so New Yorkers, most connected in other ways they don’t yet know, or may never know–an Irishman who belongs to an unnamed religious order and serves the prostitutes and the elderly, his brother who comes in search of something and returns to Ireland with a wife–an American artist, a mother and daughter prostitute, two women united by the loss of their sons in Vietnam, and more.

Just a few pages in, I felt green with envy and raw with admiration for McCann’s writing. So accomplished. Such stunning sentences, filled with such surprise. The acrobat’s stunt is a brilliant device, turning the novel not into a historical — if 1974 can be a historical — but into a haunting meditation on a magnificent, wounded city. What tightropes do we all walk? What stairs do we all climb? What happens when we fall? I can hardly wait to read this book again in a few months.

A bonus connection to the topic of this blog: Judge Soderberg’s account of a day in arraignment court, and how he came to the bench.

I found this book when a young friend pressed it into my hands, insisting I read it. You should, too.

(As always, no free review copies on this blog. I borrowed a copy from a brilliant and beautiful 17 year old. Thank you, Hana.)

The Last Best Book — Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

Any questions about what readers and reviewers mean by voice in a book? Read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (Penguin Books, 2011, now out in paper), and all will be revealed.

The premise of this stunning book is that in many lives, there is a particular year that changes everything. That sets the course for who one will be. For Katey Kontent, a 23-year-old orphan, American-born of Russian immigrant parents, it’s 1938 in Manhattan–the year she meets four extraordinary people also in their 20s: Tinker Grey, rags to riches and back; Eve Ross, opportunistic, ambitious, daring; the charming Dickie Vanderwhile; and the unforgettable sweet, solid Wallace Wolcott. And two influential older people as well: the devious and insightful Anne Grandyn and the exacting Mason Tate.

Take a wild ride back in time. It won’t take long–the book’s a page-turner–and you’ll have a grand time. Warning: even if, like me, you don’t like gin, you may crave a martini while you read. But Katey won’t mind if you pour champagne instead.

Amor Towles’ website — which looks like a drawing of the Manhattan skyline — includes an excerpt and a reading guide.

(And by the way, I bought this book with my own money — no free review copies here — at Bookworks in Kalispell, Montana.)

The Last Best Book — The Other Woman, by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Occasionally — meaning, when I remember — I tell you about the last best book I read. (Montanans will recognize the echo of an unofficial state slogan, “the last best place.”)

This one, I gotta tell you about. I’ll remember it for a long time–and I’m sure you will, too.

Hank Phillippi Ryan’s new book, The Other Woman, is the perfect read for campaign season.  TV reporter Jane Ryland finds herself disgraced and dismissed–and sued for a million bucks–after refusing to reveal her source for a story.  In her new job as a newspaper reporter, covering a hotly contested Massachusetts Senate race, she uncovers an even bigger story. Are the two related? Is there a “Bridge Killer,” killing young women and leaving their bodies near Boston bridges, or is Detective Jake Brogan right when he insists otherwise? Will Jake solve the killings? Will Jake and Jane get together? And what about her intriguing new boss?

The only question I’ll answer here is “Should I read this book?” You bet. Pour a glass of wine and sink into a comfy chair, because this is a fast-paced thriller you won’t want to put down. 


Plus, it’s more fun than any old political debate!





(P.S. — no free review copies here. I checked this book out of the Flathead County, Montana Library.)



The Last Best Book

The Last Best Book I read:

The Last Time I Saw Paris, by Lynn Sheene. American Claire Harris Stone escapes a disastrous marriage by fleeing to Paris, expecting the open arms of a lover — only to find herself caught in war, intrigue, betrayal, and unexpected redemption. The best kind of armchair travel – no guns, no rationing, but you can smell the roses at La Vie en Fleurs, and taste the champagne, especially if you read with a chilled glass at hand!

And no, this has nothing to do with writing about the law. I just loved the book and want to share it. I expect to do this on occasion.

(And by the way, I bought this book with my own money — no free review copies here!)