Hank Howls For David G. McCullough


Many times when a patron asks for a specific novel she reveals that her book club is reading it.  My usual reaction is to ask her if there are any men in her book club.  In nine years, I have gotten one yes.  A couple of times the answer was “that’s the reason we have a book club – to get away from our husbands.”

It shouldn’t surprise you then that there are no men other than me in the three book clubs I belong to.  Here’s what happens when I ask one of my male friends to join a book club – they get a panicked look in their eyes, take a step backward, do some hemming and hawing, then make a statement similar to this, “Yes it’s true I do read a lot but only magazines.”

Thus, it is that I am forced to endure a lot of books about relationships – with countless descriptions of formal dresses, hairstyles, interior decorating, and other equally boring topics.  Every time I read how this color brings out her eyes or how romantic the decorations for the ball are, I become more determined to make the women in my clubs pay.  When it is my turn to select our book, I tell myself, I’m picking a really masculine book, a real testosterone spewer.

Last month, it was my turn to make the book selection in the Hooked on Books club. I was planning on picking The Black Nile by Dan Morrison which is a very good account of one man’s solo journey from the source of the Nile to its exit into the Mediterranean Sea.  At the last minute, I wimped out and gave them an alternate choice – That Woman by Anne Sebba.  Yet another biography about Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom a man foolishly gave up his throne.  After giving a rousing affirmation of The Black Nile, I held up both books, and we took a vote.  Thirteen votes for That Woman and one vote for The Black Nile.

So we read the Wallis Simpson bio, and I was the only one who liked it.  The main complaints were that there were too many names and dates, and it sounded like a history book. I had read other books about Simpson and the Duke of Windsor, and although, I liked Sebba’s book, there was one thing I didn’t like.  As much as I hated to, I had to agree with my female book club members.  It did remind me of a history book.

Given that history is important, interesting and instructive, we all should read at least some history.  What we need is an author who can make a history book sound like a good novel.  Is this possible?  Yes, there are writers capable of doing that, and one of the best is David G. McCullough. Give him a try.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.  Click on this link to see our collection of his books:  http://encore.sjcpl.lib.in.us/iii/encore/search?formids=target&lang=eng&suite=def&reservedids=lang%2Csuite&submitmode=&submitname=&target=david+g+mccullough

+  After the blog on trilogies, two vigilant readers submitted these suggestions:

From Margie Davis – “And don’t forget one of the greatest trilogies ever, Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. Brilliant!”

From Jeffrey Zwart – “The Deptford Trilogy. It is an underappreciated gem.”



From Elliot Engel:

Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently humorous.

You do not need a parachute to skydive.  You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

I used to be indecisive.  Now I’m not so sure.

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder to find one.

I didn’t say it was your fault.  I said I was blaming it on you.


From The Laugh-a-Day Book of Bloopers, Quotes & Good Clean Jokes by Jim Kraus

*  My father was completely lost in the kitchen and never ate unless someone cooked a meal for him.  When Mother was ill, however, he volunteered to go to the supermarket for her.  She sent him off with a carefully numbered list of seven items.

Dad returned shortly, and, very proud of himself, proceeded to unpack the grocery bags.  Out came one bag of flour, two loaves of bread, three bananas, four gallons of milk, five boxes of dishwasher detergent, six gallons of ice cream and seven water melons. (yes, they were big bags).


*  Four men – a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer. a chemical engineer, and a computer engineer – were riding in a car when it stalled.

The mechanical engineer said, “It must be the pistons; we’ll repair them and be on our way.”

The electrical engineer said, “It must be the spark plugs; we’ll repair them and be ready to roll in no time.”

The chemical engineer said, “It must be bad gas; we’ll flush the system and be on our way.”

The three of them turned to the computer engineer.  “What do you think we should do?” they asked.

The computer engineer shrugged and said, “Lets get out of the car, close the doors, get back in and try restarting it.”


*  While attending a marriage seminar dealing with communication, Tom and his wife, Grace, listened to the instructor say, “It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other.”  He then addressed the men: “Can you describe your wife’s favorite flower?”

Tom leaned over, touched his wife’s arm gently and whispered,  “It’s Pillsbury isn’t it?”

The seminar quickly degenerated from that point.



Author: hank

I am married with two daughters and one grandchild. After teaching in the inner city of South Bend, IN for many years, I now work at the St. Joseph County Public Library. I started keeping track of the books I read when I was sixteen years old, and now have read over 1700 books with a page count of more than 500,000.


  1. I would like to point out that my online book club is perfectly divided in gender (two women, two men), and the differences in our opinions and geography (we’re spread across 3 states) has been a real asset to our discussions. We video chat about our book choice once a month and communicate via Twitter the rest of the time. It’s a lot of fun. We’ve mostly been reading teen fiction.

    By the way, one of our members is Corey Whaley, who won the Printz award for his debut YA novel this year. It’s really good and SJCPL owns it! It would make a perfect book club choice, actually.

  2. By all means, give The Black Nile another shot!

    Travel, danger, history, fun.

    Best regards,

    Dan Morrison

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.