New war novel 'All the Light We Cannot See' shines bright

Several friends asked if I had read the new book by Anthony Doerr, “All the Light We Cannot See” (Scribner, 2014), claiming that it was a terrific read.


A woman's perspective on the Greatest Generation

During World War II, Virgilia Short Witzel, a young mother and U.S. Navy officer’s wife, grappled on the home front in Menlo Park with wartime rationing, shortages and loneliness. During the ensuing Cold War, she experienced adventure and misadventure overseas. Living in opulence in China while surrounded by poverty, she was forced to evacuate in a rush as the Communists took over. Then in the early 1950s, she moved to London, enjoying celebrity-studded receptions, including tea at Buckingham Palace.

Virgilia, who settled in Los Altos Hills in 1959, left a collection of letters in the family’s Menlo Park home when she died at 95 in 2004. Her daughter, Palo Alto writer Christine Witzel, used the letters to chronicle the fascinating journeys of her mother in “She Also Served: Letters from a Navy Wife.”


‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss yet another tale of aliens who live among us shouldn’t overlook Matt Haig’s richly realized new novel, “The Humans” (Simon & Schuster, 2014).


"Jack London" chronicles author's adventurous life

Much has been written about American author Jack London, primarily known for his early-20th-century Western adventure novels, including the classics “White Fang” and “The Call of the Wild.”

In Earle Labor’s biography of the literary icon, “Jack London: An American Life” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013), London comes across as a complex, larger-than-life man. Dozens of biographies have covered London’s life and work, but Labor’s is an especially well-balanced, thoughtful and definitive account.


Pick up a fun summer read for a day at the beach

Summer weather does not make me want to curl up with a long, heavy novel like “War and Peace,” so I read two new fiction books just for fun.


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