Book Club Day: The Black Count by Tom Reiss

Reading about someone who lived over 250 years ago is always fascinating: their accomplishments, their beliefs, their family. It still amazes me when something that happened  so long ago resonates with present day.  In The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo biographer Tom Reiss recreates life for a mixed man during the French Revolution.

Today From Left to Write members discuss what resonated with them from this month’s selection.

Grab your copy of The Black Count and learn all about the amazing Alexandre Dumas. The first one.

Read more about Tom Reiss on his website and check out his Facebook page.

October Book Club Announcement: The Black Count by Tom Reiss

The Black Count by Tom Reiss

The Black Count by Tom Reiss

The beginning of October just snuck up on me! We’re headed to revolutionary France with The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss.  This month’s book club selection will grab you right away:

Here is the remarkable true story of the real Count of Monte Cristo – a stunning feat of historical sleuthing that brings to life the forgotten hero who inspired such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.

The real-life protagonist of The Black Count, General Alex Dumas, is a man almost unknown today yet with a story that is strikingly familiar, because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used it to create some of the best loved heroes of literature.

Yet, hidden behind these swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: the real hero was the son of a black slave — who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time.

Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas was briefly sold into bondage but made his way to Paris where he was schooled as a sword-fighting member of the French aristocracy. Enlisting as a private, he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution, in an audacious campaign across Europe and the Middle East – until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.

Sounds fascinating, right? Reiss will keep you turning the pages as you read about Dumas’ exploits in the French military.

Grab your copy of The Black Count, and come back next week, October 11 as From Left to Write members discuss the life of Alexandre Dumas.

Read more about Tom Reiss on his website and check out his Facebook page.

What’s In Your Fall Stack?

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Wow, summer went by so fast.  2011 was the summer of fiction for me, and I’m pleased that I knocked out (almost) all of my books.  I only have half of one left to go.  Today is the official first day of fall; I thought it only appropriate to share the books that are next on my reading list.  I’m definitely a fan of making reading lists and sticking to them (albeit loosely at times).  My husband and I have a huge home library and there is so much we’ve purchased over the years and forgotten to read!  We are also frequent visitors to our local library, which is about a block away.  I’m the type of person who loves a list because it gives me a goal and keeps me focused.  In no particular order, here are the next books up in my queue for Fall Reading:

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician King by Lev Grossman is the second in a planned trilogy; the first was 2009’s novel The Magicians.   If I had to characterize them, I’d say they were sort of “Harry Potter meets Narnia for grown ups” – they follow a quartet of friends on their adventures in magic school, a fantasy realm, and places in between.  Grossman writes with wit and sarcasm, yet manages to bring raw emotion and characters that are easy to relate to.  The Magicians was playful, edgy, and engrossing, and I don’t doubt that the follow up will be just as entertaining.  I cannot wait to check this one out of the library (although I’m sure my husband will beat me to it).


Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I have two novels by the timeless Gabriel Garcia Marquez on my list.  I’m starting with Chronicle of a Death Foretold, which is about the investigation of an ancient murder.  I’ll be following this one with Of Love and Other Demons , a novel about an allegedly possessed girl and the ill-fated love affair between her and her supposed savior, the priest who comes to oversee her exorcism.  I love Garcia Marquez’s work – Love in the Time of Cholera  and One Hundred Years of Solitude were so deeply moving and well written I’d read them both again in a minute.  The two novels on my list now are both relatively short (both are fewer than 150 pages) but promise to bring all of his considerable writing prowess to the table.


A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage comes to me highly recommended by my husband.   Standage tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the twenty-first century as seen through the glasses of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. I’m a history nut, and this promises to be an interesting way to see how these beverages have played a role in human events.

Next up on my my non-fiction side of the stack is Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach.  This is another one of my husband’s recommendations.  I’m a sucker for the “advance praise” on the book jackets – if an author I know and respect liked it, I’m in.  This book garnered kudos from Devil in the White City‘s Erik Larson as well as A.J Jacobs (who penned the fantastic The Year of Living Biblically).

Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford

I’ve also got a biography on my list this fall: Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Millford.  I can’t even begin to list the reasons I’m excited about this one – I love Millay’s works, I love biographies,  I love the title Millford chose.  I’ve read nothing but excellent reviews of this book, and really cannot wait to get started on it.  At 509 pages in paperback (550 including the notes and index) the book promises to deliver on information and insight.

Finishing up my non-fiction shelf is A Murder in Virginia: Southern Justice on Trial by Suzanne Lebsock.  This is an account of gender and racial politics and murder in the South at the turn of the twentieth century.  It also happens to take place about five miles from where I live, which is very interesting.

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

Now back to my fiction list!  The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco is one I started awhile ago and loved, but didn’t finish.  Eco’s books require more focus than I could put into a novel just after my son was born.  I’m excited to jump back into this, though.  It’s the story of what happens to an Italian man who has a stroke, wakes up, and remembers nothing of his life; he does, however, remember every book he’s ever read (and every bit of poetry and literary quotes).

The last book on my list for now is The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.  This was a last minute addition – I honestly had forgotten I bought this book (see – this is why I make lists!).  I shared an amazing quote from it on the From Left to Write Facebook page earlier this week, which prompted me to go find the book on our shelves and put it on the stack!  The quote was “Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.”

I’m not including on my list the books I’m reading as part of From Left to Write!  I’ve just finished up Carry Yourself Back to Me by Deborah Reed and am about halfway through Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra.  And of course, there are the books that aren’t actually on this list, but have been part of my “need to read” for quite some time – The Hunger Games trilogy, The Kite Runner, and others.  But that is a whole different list!

My goal is to be done with all of these books by Thanksgiving weekend in November.  I better get to work!  What’s in your stack this fall?  I’d love to hear about it –  feel free to leave a comment below, or share a link to a blog post you’ve written about it!


September Book Club: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff


Our second book club selection from September has From Left to Write members all abuzz. We’re reading Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra: A Life, which just came out on paperback last week. Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, is probably the most well know queen in ancient history. She has inspired Shakespeare and has been played by Elizabeth Taylor. Do we really know who Cleopatra was? Stacy Schiff digs into the history books to find out who the real Cleopatra was.

This should wet your appetite for the book:

Her palace shimmered with onyx and gold but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first and poisoned the second; incest and assassination were family specialties. She had children by Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of the most prominent Romans of the day. With Antony she would attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled both their ends. Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Her supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order.

Want to read more? You can read an excerpt and visit Stacy Schiff’s website to see if her book tour is coming your way.

So grab your copy of Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra: A Life which is published by Little, Brown, and Company. You might want to buy two copies. Our club members have reported that their husbands have stolen their copy!

Come back on Tuesday, September 27 to read how Cleopatra: A Life inspired our book club members.