a blog by Ellen Davies

What I’m reading in May

What I’m reading in May

Hello readers! It’s been a few months since I updated my reading list. What are you reading these days? Leave me a suggestion in the comments section!


A Gentleman in Moscow


A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. When the Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to a life inside the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, he didn’t expect that it would be an excellent vantage point for observing the radical changes in his country. This book takes us from the day he is sentenced in 1922 through 1954, and along the way we learn all about how a gentleman conducts himself: “If a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.”


The hotel functions as a microcosm of the city. Rostov makes friends with the staff and the guests, and one of the youngest, Nina, takes an interest in him. In time he takes on the job of head waiter of the restaurant, which, as a gentleman, he is extremely well-suited for. When Nina asks him to look after her daughter, Sofia, he rises to the task after a bumpy start. As the story progresses, we hear from the guests and the staff about the changes happening outside the hotel. Rostov also sees much (and overhears) as he waits on banquet tables where Khrushchev and others jockey for position.


But it is Sofia and her future that finally spur him to action. And the book is so well-written that you don’t really see what he’s doing until it’s done. I had to go back and read it again, happily, in order to take it all in. Because almost all his friends help him out in the end, whether by conveniently “losing” a hat and coat, or riding a train to the border and back. In the end, Rostov refuses to let Sofia’s circumstances master her.


A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership


A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey. A well-written, honest book about Jim Comey’s career, and his view of what it means to be a good leader. And he demonstrates what it takes to be a good leader by describing how he conducted himself as head of the FBI, the U.S. Attorney of New York, and the U.S. Deputy Attorney General. This is a fascinating read about recent history, from the dramatic hospital confrontation between John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, to Martha Stewart’s prosecution, to Hillary’s emails, and more. 


When we lived in Richmond, we went to church with the Comeys, and our daughters were in the church nursery together. I knew him enough to say hello, and I always got the impression that he was a good guy. I still think that. He’s honest and not afraid to stand up for what is right. We need more leaders like him.


Tiger Woods


Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict. Wow. Just wow. I couldn’t put this book down. Like everyone else, I marveled at Tiger’s talent when he first burst onto the golf scene. He actually made me pay attention to the PGA, which I usually find a real snooze-fest. But this book reveals the other side of him, and how his father basically created both a champion and a monster. Here’s a guy who never learned to do anything for himself. He never learned to pick up the check at a restaurant. He never learned empathy or emotional intelligence. Why should he, when he’s raised to believe he’s The Chosen One? And once he gets to the top of his game, what does he do? He is never satisfied. He trains with the Navy SEALs, developing injuries that impede his golf game. Then there is the sexual addiction. Sheesh. This book is a primer on How NOT To Raise Your Kids.


After Anna


After Anna by Lisa Scottolini. A fun mystery, but a frustrating read. Using a courtroom cross-examination to advance the plot is incredibly tedious, especially when listening to this book on Audible. “This is your cell phone, is it not?” “Yes, it is.” Not exactly riveting prose. I was also frustrated with the main character, Maggie, because she was so gullible. And I’m angry at her friend Kathy for not saying, “You just let a complete stranger into your house! Maybe be a little cautious!” Come on, Kathy, we’re counting on you to be the voice of reason and you let us down. 


The author also managed to bring in (and subtly comment on) several Issues of the Day, including: postpartum psychosis; childhood speech problems; sex trafficking; teenage runaways; the dangers of bee-stings; the dangers of red-headed pharmaceutical saleswomen; and finally prison violence and corruption.


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