Book Chat

Time again to look at the last month’s book reviews, which may contain affiliate links …

My big read – in terms of subject matter, length, and depth – was The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. It won a Pulitzer Prize, and I can see why. I can’t imagine the amount of research Wright put into it, because he searches out al Qaeda’s roots all the way back from the 1940s until 9/11.

It was a heavy book. It was really hard to keep all the characters straight, most of them being of Egyptian, Saudi Arabian, or Afghani descent. My western mind boggled at keeping straight the likes of Qutb, Zawahiri, al Hazmi, Massoud, Khalifa, Khadr, Sayyaf – you get the idea.

The book takes you into the totally unreal (to me) world of bin Laden and his terrorists – a world of hiding, desire to kill others, and privation (bin Laden eats very little, of his own choice). Yet he’s not totally into privation:  shortly before 9/11, he married his fifth wife, who was 15 at the time.

Some interesting things that stood out:  4 of the 9/11 hijackers went to school in Germany. Reacting to its own extremist past, Germany had become so “tolerant” that it allowed admitted terrorist groups to operate there legally. It was even legal in Germany to plan terrorist attacks, as long as the attacks were not planned to occur in Germany.

Another frustrating thing was the way the FBI and CIA were described as not working together well at all. It sounds like there was ample information known about the planned attacks, but one agency would not share information with another, either because of simple dislike, jealousy, or because of fear that evidence could be used against them in court, or some other inane reason.

The “looming tower” title comes from the Quran, from a passage bin Laden quoted (3 times) just prior to the 9/11 attacks:  Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower. Charming guy, huh?


Well, if you guessed I needed a lighter read after “The Looming Tower,” you’d be right. The Obama Diaries by Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham filled the bill. In this satire, Laura has excerpts from the diaries of Michelle Obama and her mom, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, and even the big guy himself. I have to say that the diary entries were my favorite parts of the  book, and were very funny. Here, Obama is thinking about church:

I’ll never forget when Rev. Jeremiah taught us that the women who went to Jesus’s tomb were the first community organizers. They were “looking for life among the dead just like our people here on the South Side,” he said. “We’re standing in the tomb with an America that is rotted and diseased – worm ridden!

And Michelle muses about the White House garden:
I don’t know squat about gardening and I don’t care to learn. I sprung the plan on Barack tonight. I told him that since the White House is a national landmark, the Park Service should plant my garden for me.

The book is light, funny, and a quick read. Interspersed with the diary entries are factual parts about various features of this Obama presidency that we’re living through. There are a few parts like “here are tips for getting your family to work together” that didn’t really seem to “fit” with the rest of the book, but overall (if you’re conservative!) I think you’ll enjoy it.


I was happy to receive a copy of The Magic Violin from author Mayra Calvani for review. I thought it would be fun for my youngest daughter, who has expressed an interest in learning violin. It’s a children’s story about a girl who indeed does play violin, although she gets frustrated when her progress is slower than expected (musical students everywhere can commiserate). However, a bit of Christmas magic and a chance (?) encounter, along with a lot of practice, lead to wonderful results …

I like this book; it has a different feel – kind of European in my opinion, which being a Europhile I loved. It’s filled with simple, sweet illustrations.


8 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. Your book review are always interesting. I do not enjoy reading books at this point in my life, but I did years ago and who knows – I may again at some point. Right now I’d rather be stitching. Stitching gives me tangible results.

  2. The first book looks heavy indeed — and the second much funnier! Loved reading your thoughts on these.

  3. The Magic Violin looks like a beautiful book! It sounds like one that would be wonderful even as an adult. 🙂 Happy reading!

  4. Well, there goes my TBR list–expanding with absolutely no effort on my part. Both Looming Tower and Obama Diaries are at my library, so they’re going on the list. My library doesn’t have Magical Violin, but I’m putting the title on my watch list–it sounds delightful!

Comments are closed.