Book Beat

THE RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor TowlesOne is one of the most enjoyable books I've read in a long time. It's one of those books that you didn't want to end and can even withstand a second reading. The writing is crisp and the characters are bright and clever and very well developed. This is a first novel set in a very different New York City at the end of the depression in 1938 This book is elegant and captivating. I Loved it.

SWAMPLANDIA! by Karen Russell came highly recommended and almost lived up to its advanced billing. The Bigtree alligator-wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park in Florida, formerly number-one in the region, is swiftly being encroached upon by a fearsome and sophisticated competitor called the World of Darkness. The mother of the family and star alligator wrestler has just passed away and the rest of the family has to cope as best they can. How each of them behaves is the basis for the story.

Dick Francis, one of my favorite writers, passed away in 2010. One of my favorite memories was my giddy delight when he came to lunch at the Grand Central Cafe, my former restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, and I had the opportunity to chat with him. I had, of course, read every one of his books since his first in 1962. His son Felix co-wrote several books with his father in recent years and has now come out with one of his own. The mysteriously titled DICK FRANCIS'S GAMBLE is son Felix's first effort and not a bad beginning. The race track world and life of the steeplechase jockeys continue to provide fodder for entertaining stories.

My other favorite writer, Donna Leon, has come out with A SEA OF TROUBLES. Enough said. For me that pretty much describes the effort. I don't recommend anyone bothering to try to navigate this watery mess. The book is more an essay on ecology, sea life, and food choices. It involves clam fishermen and some of her stock characters in new roles. I think this is her first clunker.

Have you read any good books lately?