Six Degrees of Separation: Memoirs of a Geisha


Memoirs of a Geisha is one of my all-time favorite novels. A rare 5 star book! So, it was joy to remember reading it and think of this month’s chain of books. I also remembered my feelings of amazement that a man could write a book that was so inside the head of a woman–and a woman in a very different culture. I think this is part of what makes the books so fabulous.


My first three choices also concern Japan in different ways.

The Makioka Sisters, which I have been reading slowly for years, is about Japan at the beginning of its modernization.

Midnight in Broad Daylight is a non-fiction account of a Japanese family divided by war. The children were all born in the U.S.A. but after their father’s death they returned to Hiroshima with their mother. Two returned later to the USA. You can see why the war was a problem. You can read my review here.

The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is, first of all, one of the best coming-of-age stories ever written, and second is about the Japenese-American community in Seattle when World War II begins.


While I did not enjoy the style of this author’s writing, she did do an excellent job wiith it. I prefer a more traditional narrative. Both of these books explore the Japanese experience in America. [I am counting these two books as one–both are very short novellas.]

Buddha in the Attic tells the often extremely brutal and traumatic experience of “picture brides” brought from Japan to marry unknown Japanese men in America.

When the Emperor Was Divine tells of the overnight change in status of Japanese-Americans when the War begins. Sent to internment camps and denied their rights as American citizens, this is one of the ugliest events in U.S. history after slavery/Jim Crow and the Trail of Tears.

Finally, two books set in Japan that I just plain loved


I cried over Hachiko and cried a different type of tears over the Professor. Both are such wonderful, wonderful books!

Hackiko Waits and The Housekeeper and the Professor

Stop by on Monday when I’ll be reviewing a National Book Award-nominated novel about the Korean experience in Japan….


Would you like to participate in May’s Six Degrees of Separation? Here are the rules.

Read all of this month’s chains here


May’s book will be The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver–another 5 star, life-time favorite of mine.


6 Degrees of Separation: The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

This month’s chain of 6 books is bit more of a stretch than usual because not only have I never read this book, until I checked the list to see what the March book was, I’d never even heard of it! This lapse on my part is likely due to it coming out not long before I became a parent (enough said).

The Book

The bestselling classic that redefined our view of the relationship between beauty and female identity. In today’s world, women have more power, legal recognition, and professional success than ever before. Alongside the evident progress of the women’s movement, however, writer and journalist Naomi Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It’s the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of “the flawless beauty.” (Amazon).

My chain is informed by both my young-womanhood and study of feminism vs conservatism in college and the writing of one of today’s top writers.

My Chain

Want to join in?

Next month’s chain starts with a life-long favorite of mine:


6 Degrees of Separation: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders



Right off the bat let me say that I did not like Lincoln in the Bardo, in spite of hte hype, the awards, and the amazing creativity of it. I listened to the equally amazing and creative audio version but had to force myself to finish it. You can read my review here. There. That’s all been said out loud. Let’s move on to this month’s chain of books.

I’ve chosen a selection of fiction and non-fiction, as well as a classic children’s book, to that come to mind instantly when I hear the name “Lincoln.” As hard as it was to make sense of Lincoln in the Bardo, doing so without having a good grounding in Lincoln and his times would be even worse.

The Three Novels I Choose




Each of these builds the portrait of the chaos in which Lincoln was forced to govern–both as President and as Husband and Father of the Lincoln family. His own depression butted heads with the mania of his wife, Mary Todd. His children all but ran wild, he was besieged by hangers-on and consumed by the Civil War. It is a life I’d not wish on an enemy.

The Non-fiction I Choose




I read Lincoln’s Sons in high school and it had a lasting impact on me. It is well know that the Lincoln’s lost a son, Willie, in the White House. Many know that they paid a substitute to fight for their Harvard student eldest son, Robert. This was mostly due to Mrs. Lincoln’s family having divided loyalties–some of her many brothers or half-brothers faught for the Confederacy. But there is a second reason. The Lincoln’s also lost a son named Eddie–hence the large age gap between Robert and his little brothers. Such a sad thing to have happened even in a day and age when children often died in childhood.

Abraham Lincon’s World takes a younger reader thru the events of the world at the time Lincoln lived. This book, and it’s counterparts–George Washington’s World being one, are such marvelous histroy! I have not read the entire book, but read significant portions of it with my children when they were younger. Superb.


The Picture Book I Choose



I love the D’Aulaire’s book on Lincoln. It is simply the best children’s book on Lincoln ever.





Note: If you’d like your children to know more classic literature, check out Ambleside Online. While it is a superb homeschool curriculm, the book lists are so amazing and any can enjoy them. I have a blog where I track my progress in reading thru the book lists: A Lifelong Learner in Ambleside.


The Documentary I Choose–Bonus!


This documentary, and Ken Burn’s Civil War series, are an excellent education in Abraham Lincoln. Both show up on Youtube and can be borrowed on dvd from many public libraries. A House Divided sums up the Lincoln’s tempestuous marriage.


The Poem I Chose To Complete the Picture of Lincoln



Nancy Hanks

If Nancy Hanks
Came back as a ghost,
Seeking news
Of what she loved most,
She’d ask first
“Where’s my son?
What’s happened to Abe?
What’s he done?”

“Poor little Abe,
Left all alone.
Except for Tom,
Who’s a rolling stone;
He was only nine,
The year I died.
I remember still
How hard he cried.”

“Scraping along
In a little shack,
With hardly a shirt
To cover his back,
And a prairie wind
To blow him down,
Or pinching times
If he went to town.”

“You wouldn’t know
About my son?
Did he grow tall?
Did he have fun?
Did he learn to read?
Did he get to town?
Do you know his name?
Did he get on?”

– Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet

This was in my 3rd or 4th grade reader and I’ve never forgotten it. Nancy Hanks Lincoln was Abraham’s mother. She died leaving Abe and his sister Sarah to be raised, in part, by a step-mother who treated him kindly.


Want to Join in 6 Degrees of Separation?

On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. It is hosted by the blogger Bookksaremyfavoriteandbest. You can see all of January’s chains here.

Six Degrees of Separation: Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

The Story According to Amazon

Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s, Less than Zero has become a timeless classic. This coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs, and disaffection at too early an age. They live in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money in a place devoid of feeling or hope.

Clay comes home for Christmas vacation from his Eastern college and re-enters a landscape of limitless privilege and absolute moral entropy, where everyone drives Porches, dines at Spago, and snorts mountains of cocaine. He tries to renew feelings for his girlfriend, Blair, and for his best friend from high school, Julian, who is careering into hustling and heroin. Clay’s holiday turns into a dizzying spiral of desperation that takes him through the relentless parties in glitzy mansions, seedy bars, and underground rock clubs and also into the seamy world of L.A. after dark. Link

My Chain

I haven’t read this book, but was in college from 1980–1984 so I’m very familiar with the era. But since the L.A. Times called it an “Updated Catcher in the Rye….” I’ll start with that.


Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger


Next another novel about the destructive qualities of excess, The Great Gatsby.


John O’Hara immediately came to mind after reading the blurb on Less Than Zero, but the problem was choosing which of his books to include. I decided Pal Joey was the seediest.


Vile Bodies is one of Evelyn Waugh’s best-known books, but it’s portrayal of the 1920’s Bright Young Things hasn’t stood up well to the test of time. (My review). But decadence is decadence.


The Bright Young Things learned decadence from their parents–the Edwardians or late Victorians.  The Shooting Party is a good illustration of that society. Senseless slaughter of birds raised only to be killed, corridor creeping to other beds and a class system so rigid that no one could be truly happy. The Shooting Party. The film is also excellent.


When the Bright Young Things who survived the 20’s became dreary husbands and wives they escaped their deteriorating standard of living at, what else? House parties like this one, written by Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes, it had the same look, the same cadence as Downton, but it is Downton’s evil twin. Gosford Park.


You can read more about Six Degrees of Separation HERE. You can see all of November’s chains HERE.



Six Degrees of Separation: Like Water for Chocolate



This month’s Six Degree’s of Separation chain starts with Laura Esquivel’s amazing Like Water for Chocolate. This book is a foodie’s romantic delight! I was sad to discover that I’d been on blogging breaks when I read several of these so I have no personal review to link to. You’ll have to make do with the link to Amazon, from which I receive no money.


The Easy Choices


The all-too-obvious first book that came to my mind was Joanne Harris’s superb Chocolat!

I made it thru the movie of this one, too!



The second book it brought to mind was Sarah Addison Allen’s wonderful Garden Spells–with it’s almost magical properties of food. Sigh, swoon, ahhhhh. Lovely.



The third book was a disappointing one. Here is part of my  review from my old blog:

I was very excited when I read the premise of this book–a girl can “taste” the emotions of the people involved in growing, processing and cooking her food. It made me instantly think of that little touch of fantasy or whimsy in Sarah Addison Allen’s fun novels. Sadly, this was not the case. In places it was just plain weird. While mostly “ok,” the prose often sounded like an over-reaching MFA student trying to stand out from the pack. Here are some choice examples:

  1. a pepper “PILLAR” instead of shaker or cellar
  2. “a purple-glassed” (votive candle)
  3. “during the babysit” or even “in the babysits”
  4. “[her] quicknesses”
  5. [cheeks or lips] glistering

. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender


The remaining books took more thought.



I can only say this is one that usually comes to mind when I think of Water for Chocolate or vise versa. How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents isn’t even from Mexico, set in Mexico or populated by Mexican people. They are from the Dominican Republic! It must be the very common last name in the title. Or girls growing up? Or the feel of the book? I’m going with the feel of the book.



Another coming of age story, this time with a fruit in the title. Not very original but that’s my brain this week. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.



Finally, thanks to numbers 4 and 5, I recalled this one. It has been compared to House on Mango Street.  It was brought to my mind by the hurricane and has stuck in my mind. Many of you may be looking for a “Puerto Rico book,” so here’s a good one to add to your Reading the World list. You can read my review here.


Do you enjoy creating and sharing thematic lists of books? Then join in the fun each month at Six Degrees of Separation. Click here to get started. To read more of this month’s posts, click here.

Now, why not round off your weekend by reading one of these great books or at least watching one of the movies!

Six Degrees of Separation: Wild Swans by Jung Chang





While I’ve not yet read Wild Swans, it has been on my to read list for ages. I even spotted a copy at Half Price Books last week, but couldn’t remember why I might want to buy and read it! Now I remember–it’s September’s Six Degrees of Separation starting point book.

This book’s topic brought to mind so many great books! I skipped Pearl Buck’s classic, The Good Earth and the popular Lisa See books, and focused mostly on very readable non-fiction. The one novel I hated to leave out was Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.


My Six Books




America, and much of the Western world, first learned of China from Christian missionaries, so I chose Gladys Alyward  and the story of her life in China, The Little Woman.

The Joy Luck Club was assigned in my first college English class in the Fall of 1980. It is unforgettable.

Chinese Cinderella is a book for middle grade students, but is informative for any age.

Red Scarf Girl is a middle grade book, a personal account of life during the worst days of the Cultural Revolution as experienced by a school girl.

Factory Girls, which I have blogged about before, is a good look at where all those “Made in China” goods are  made and by whom.  Not many Americans would choose to live and work like these young women do.

A Heart for Freedom is book I’ve just started reading. The author fled China in a cargo container and went on to the Ivy League and more. A very vivid tale of today’s China.


Six Degrees of Separation is  a monthly book meme now hosted by Books Are My Favorite And BestWon’t you come and join the fun? Here’s the link to the rules. And, here is the link to this month’s Meme posts.





Six Degrees of Separation: Picnic at Hanging Rock







I have not read Picnic at Hanging Rock and know about it only what the blurb on Amazon told me. Since I have a dear friend who promotes her nation’s literary classics on her blog, A Peaceful Day, I am now hanging my head in shame! From the movie version stills I gather I’d enjoy it. I’ll add it to my To Read list and hope I get to it soon.







The book cover in the Amazon link may be different than those pictured here.

I do not make any money off of links. They are just for your convenience.


My Chain….



A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute






One of my few full 5 Star rated read,  A Town Like Alice is another Australian classic. It was made into a television series many years ago and shown on PBS Masterpiece Theater (as it was called then). I saw parts of it. I’ve read the book twice and love it more each time. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute


Cloudstreet by Tim Winton






Cloudstreet is always on those lists of great modern novels. I’ve had it on my To Read list since it came out. I really should read it because I’m sure I’ll love it. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton


The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes






Since I have great-great grandparents who went out to Australia and failed before ending up in Indiana, I’ve intended to read this book for years and years. Another one I should probably just pick up and start reading already! The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes.


The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion





The Rosie Project is a contemporary Australian novel that is just plain fun. No other reason to include it. It’s fun. Read it. You’ll laugh. The Rosie Project by Grameme Simsion.






The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough






I cannot tell a lie on books! This is also an all-time favorite. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it. Meggie and Ralph–one of my gateway older man, younger women couples. They came into my life right after Scarlett and Rhett. I used to own a copy of the miniseries on VHS. Why you ask? Richard Chamberlain. (She swoons just remembering him in that bespoke soutane!) The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.







Because who hasn’t thought of moving to Australia on a bad day?? Alexander…..Very Bad Day by Judith Virost. Did you know in the Australian version of the book he wants to move to Timbuktu?


Want to Join In?

I’m off to check out the other chains in this month’s Six Degrees of Separation before I go read a lot about Australia! How about you? Want to read them? Or join in next month? Here’s the link to the rules. And here is the link to July’s posts.



Six Degrees of Separation: Fever Pitch





This month’s Six Degrees of Separation Chain starts with Nick Hornby’s memoir Fever Pitch–a book I haven’t read.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:  In America, it is soccer. But in Great Britain, it is the real football. No pads, no prayers, no prisoners. And that’s before the players even take the field.

Nick Hornby has been a football fan since the moment he was conceived. Call it predestiny. Or call it preschool. Fever Pitch is his tribute to a lifelong obsession. Part autobiography, part comedy, part incisive analysis of insanity, Hornby’s award-winning memoir captures the fever pitch of fandom—its agony and ecstasy, its community, its defining role in thousands of young men’s coming-of-age stories. Fever Pitch is one for the home team. But above all, it is one for everyone who knows what it really means to have a losing season.  Link

Soccer is a sport I tolerate fairly well. It’s simply and they keep the commercials to a minimum by not allowing tv time-outs. That said I’ve not read any soccer books. So, I’ll go with the title–Fever Pitch. Only that is difficult, too. Are we pitching a baseball or pitching woo? Pitching a fit or pitching a tent? Malarial fever or dengue fever? Football-football or soccer? Reaching a fever pitch or being pitched out the door? Perfect pitch or an elevator pitch.  All of them? None of them? Here’s goes.

  1. Fever Pitch–a baseball….


I’m a life-long Cubs fan, but this book is great. You don’t even have to like sports to enjoy it. Presidential and First Lady historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s memoir of the Brooklyn of her youth, the Brooklyn of the Dodgers and Ebbets Field.  Wait Till Next Year.

2. Pitch a Tent…Get a Fever


Another Presidential Historian, Candice Millard, has written a superb account of Theodore Roosevelt and son Kermit’s epic adventure–an adventure that darned near killed T.R. It is like reading an Indian Jones adventure! Charting the course of the Amazon in pre-war 1914 was not a job for the faint-hearted. Larger-than-life Bull Moose, Teddy Roosevelt took on the challenge but only just lived to tell. River of Doubt.

3. Malarial Fever


This was a fun read. As a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, the title immediately caught my eye. Happily the story did not disappoint. First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria….

4. Pitching a Fit…or Not


French kids don’t pitch fits … even at dinner. They eat their rocket salad with tangy mustard vinegrette. No one has heard of Ranch [dressing]. Not sure if the lessons in this book work in suburban America–at least not the parts I’ve been in, but I’m assured French kids simply get on with with their after-dinner salad like seasoned gourmands. Bringing Up Bebe.

5. Pitching Some Woo


As recently as my childhood it was still illegal for black and white to marry in many states. This book tells the story of how the Supreme Court decided such laws were wrong. I’m anxious to read it. Love Wins.

6. Perfect Pitch


This beautiful picture book tells the story of famed operatic contralto Marian Anderson–who caused “Marian Fever” in Europe according to one book review. Famously denied the use of Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. by the Daughters of the American Revolution, Ms. Anderson’s fame became immortal when first lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for a larger venue for Ms Anderson’s concert: The Mall stretch from the Lincoln Memorial, which was the stage, to Capital Hill. When Marian Sang.

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme now hosted by Books Are My Favorite And Best.

Twitter hastag #6Degrees

Six Degrees of Separation: Fates and Furies


Six Degrees of Separation is a fun way to link books together, and then to link bloggers together. The first Saturday of the month a new book title is announced and everyone develops and posts their chain of books. This is my second time doing this. You can read last month’s 6 Degrees post here.


February’s Book


Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff .

My Review

After all the hyper-hype on this book, I felt like I’d read it before I began (not the author’s fault). Due to the over-hyper I can’t really. I listened to the audio version and found it slightly exhausting. I felt sorry for the wife, but then, too, I felt sympathy for the husband. I always tell myself “there’s two sides to every story” and never is this more true than with a marriage. I loved hearing both sides, but wish I’d read it in the print version. I look forward to more of Lauren Groff’s writing. Highly recommended.


My Chain and the 6 Degrees of Separation



Fates and Furies first brought to mind the last Chief Inspector Gamache novel I listened to. Peter and Clara’s story line was also about how we hurt or protect each other in marriage.

Then it brought me to A Beautiful Mind (again–I just mentioned it in another post recently) and how mental illness impacts any relationship–let alone a marriage.

Next it brought up the stories of Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge. I’ve always meant to read the books, but I count the movie as a tour de force for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Then I thought how things aren’t always what they seem in a marriage and recalled The Headmaster’s Wife and the fabulous Portrait of a Marriage.

Finally I recalled Madeline L’Engle’s superb Crosswicks books. Superb to the reader, but apparently thought of as fictional in places, if not total fiction, by her children. The book on her marriage, to actor Hugh Franklin is the Two-Part Invention.

No one really knows a marriage but the two in it.

What about you? Where does Fates a2nd Furies lead you? And, yes you can join in and play even if you haven’t read it. #6Degrees




Six Degrees of Separation


I saw this on Falconer’s Library. Everyone starts with the same book title, then leads thru whatever thoughts, memories, etc. to six books. Apparently it originates with Kate at Books Are My Favorite And Best.  Or maybe it started with Annabel Smith on her blog? So, today, I’m giving this a try. We’ll see where my odd brain leads us in terms of books.

First of all, I haven’t read Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, though I am familiar with it and the  rest of Stieg Larsson’s series.

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo makes me think of a song in Camelot:

I Wonder What the King is Doing Tonight?

You mean that a king who fought a dragon,
Whack'd him in two and fixed his wagon,
Goes to be wed in terror and distress?

So that leads me to …


…T.H. White’s magnificent  The Once and Future King. Because, obviously, dragon whacking was big back then. Merlin, I’m sure, had Wart practice daily–like soccer drills at practice today.

This leads me to……


…a best selling recent book that is two books in one–a story of girl who gets into old-school hawking like Merlin would have taught and a biography of T.H. White himself. H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Which leads me to ….


…Maurice by E.M. Forester, but really more the 1987 movie version–I could hear White talking like them, see him dressed like them, as I read H is for Hawk.I also imagined the public school old boy falconers were really some of the college Dons and similar in Maurice.

This, in turn, leads me to …


…the French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles for the simple reason that I always think Jeremy Irons was in Maurice but it’s Hugh Grant. And Jeremy Irons came to my attention in the Pallisers on P.B.S. and with Meryl Streep in the movie version of French Lieutenant’s Woman. I read the book in college and loved it. Then I saw the movie and, well, didn’t like it as well- except for Jeremy Irons who has been part of my inner life ever since. That voice…..

[Don’t even try to work out the logic….]

Which brought to mind…..


….my favorite Tracy Chevalier book, Remarkable Creatures both because it is also set in Lyme Regis and because I confuse the title with Jeremy Iron’s movie Beautiful Creatures.

Which leads me to a funny story about George V who recovered from a life-threatening illness in the lat 1920’s at Bognor. The town decided to immortalize its role in the King’s recovery by renaming itself “Bognor Regis.” When Lord Stanfordham, the King’s private secretary, told the king this he replied, supposedly, “Bugger Bognor.”

Now back to six degrees of separation….

So Remarkable Creatures leads me to….

…my must-read book of 2017–about an animal who likely will become a fossil


You can read more about The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating in my Must-Read Book of 2017 post.