reading “The Rules of Civility” in Berlin

While on a recent trip to Austria, I grabbed a copy of Amor Towles’ The Rules of Civility. My brain was a bit fried from so much German, that I popped into an international bookshop with not much of an idea of what I would find. I perused the shelves and didn’t really see anything until I came upon it. I remembered the title from a then-recent post over at Literary Man. So, I snapped it up and was happy to have a new book to read as I next traveled to Berlin.

It is more than an ode to New York. The main character is the 25-year-old native New Yorker, Katey Kontent, who on New Years Eve in 1937, meets the enticing Tinker Grey. What comes is the next year of Katey’s life as she moves around the city with new jobs and new friends. The dialogue is snappy and the author makes sure to add an authenticity to the story by dappling the text with vogue establishments and trends of the time. One of my favorite lines was,

“Doesn’t New York just turn you inside out.”

It is repeated a few times and that is exactly was happens throughout the novel. The Rules of Civility was a real page turner and great relief to my brain which has been thinking German for too long. I popped in to a bookshop today with an international section. I won’t reveal what the novel is yet but it is British and it’s incredibly addicting.


post script Many apologies for my horrid grammar and syntax; I’ve been losing my language skills recently but this book is a must read!

The Traveler’s Paperback

There was a fantastic article by Dominique Browning in the New York Times this week titled, Learning to Love Airport Lit. With personal anecdotes, Browning tells of her love for the airport paperbacks when travelling. She long gave up on literary giants like Ulysses or War and Peace. Instead, trading them in for novels by P.D. James or George R.R. Martin.

All I want now, from a good airplane book, is transport. A sense of propulsion. I want to feel the rush of plot against my cheek. I want to know where I am going, and why. I’m willing to trade transport for transportation.

This immediately peaked my interest.

1) I live in Manhattan, meaning, I do not own a car, thus, resulting in my utilization of public transportation (re: subway, bus). New Yorkers are hardcore public transit book readers. I mean, how else can we avoid eye contact with the crazy homeless person yelling at us about sandwiches.

2) But more on point with Ms. Browning’s article, I have some upcoming travelling to do. I HATE flying. I don’t even think hate is strong enough a word. If I’m not able to totally pass out into dreamland, I must be in a constant state of distraction and engrossment. I’m sorry Gravity’s Rainbow, you won’t be making the cut.

The article dissuades the reader from memoirs, self-help books, etc. and offers the advice: Don’t make the mistake of straying off the plot path. You need books with hefty runways and fast takeoffs. So, it looks like I will be stocking up on suspenseful crime dramas for my long-haul flight.

The article is accompanied by these useful suggestions.

[click on the image to enlarge]