*** The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant

 

The Thoughtful Dresser: The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter is written by a woman who loves shopping especially when not directed toward buying anything, who defines the 20th century through just two people, Coco Chanel and Christian Dior, and who keeps, and adds to, her mother’s collection of handbag–in other words, a woman with a great love of fashion, utterly unlike me. That said, her book is a wonderful exploration of clothes, the relationship women have with clothes, and the difficult relationship between designers and older women. Fun, and deeper than it seems, even with the repeats that seem to stem from having recycled blog posts into a full-length book,

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* The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living by Martin Clark

 

One would think that a story that includes two murders, a robbery, an unexpected inheritance, a lottery win, a bitter divorce, and many counts of police irregularities would make for a rollickingly fun yarn. Instead, The Many Aspect of Mobile Home Living is full of boring middle-aged men who smoke a lot, drink a lot, and don’t seem to do much else. Yawn, despite the touching love between two brothers.

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** The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House follows a brother and sister from what could be a perfect childhood in the big house of a title with a doting staff, but minus a mother who disappeared mysteriously, all the way into adulthood, past the misery of an evil stepmother. I enjoyed the complicated relationship between the siblings and the portrait of their mother, a woman who is much more than the deserter of her children. I was taken by the story and wanted to know more. But it seems a little contrived, with all the family members attending elite schools and achieving great success.

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*** Good Economics for Hard Times by Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo

Written before its authors won the Nobel Prize (and occasionally funny to read after they did), Good Economics for Hard Times ambitiously tackles inequality, globalization, social programs, politics, and more. It’s a bit much! But it highlights some important themes, most importantly that markets cannot, by themselves, solve all problems, and that economic ideas should be carefully tested, and not only in the country where the generator of the idea happens to be located. We are, happily, far from the rational homo economicus and WEIRD subjects of most economics discussions.

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* Chances Are by Richard Russo

As Chances Are opens, three college friends are getting together for a weekend in the Cape Cod house of on of them, decades after a young woman disappeared mysteriously from the same house, as they were all gathered for a post-graduation ceremony. The mystery will be untangled and many memories shared, or relived. It’s all fine and comfortable and even entertaining, but a little lightweight at the same time.

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*** Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister by

The Soong sisters, whose lives are told in Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China, managed to marry Chiang Kai-shek, his finance minister, and, for the “Red” one, a famous Mainland China revolutionary. The book tells of their privates lives, but embedded as they were in the politics of China, and along the way enjoyed tremendous wealth and privilege, and access to various foreign government leaders, in part thanks to their American educations. The corruption and political intrigue are breathtaking.

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** American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

I find spy novels ridiculous and, although American Spy is elaborately staged and includes a clever family and romantic back story, I did not enjoy the spying bits, of which they are many. But you might!

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