Category Archives: Marion’s Favorite Books

Marion’s favorite books that he has reviewed.

Wisdom from Kammbia Book Review 41: The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner







As a reader, there are some books (and authors) you have been meaning to read.  But other books (and authors) would come before it.  Unfortunately, Wallace Stegner fell into this category for me.  I’ve been meaning to read his work for at least 20 years, and The Spectator Bird has been on my shelf for the past five years.  I would get ready to read it, and then I would put it down for something else. Finally, I have read this well-received Stegner novel.

The Spectator Bird is the story of retired literary agent, Joe Allison and his wife, Ruth.  They have settled in Northern California after a long career in the New York City publishing world.  Joe discovers a postcard from a friend in Denmark.  He reads the postcard, and it brings back the memories of a European trip that the couple took years ago.

Ruth finds out that Joe kept a journal about the Denmark trip and asks him to read the journal entries.  Joe reluctantly agrees and those journal entries make up the bulk of the novel.  Stegner examines the marriage dynamic as Joe reveals more details than he wanted to share.  Also, it brings into account that things in the past should stay in the past.

The Spectator Bird is very much a novel about character and how the past brought to life can upset a comfortable lifestyle.  The strength of the book is Stegner’s clear and straight-forward prose and as a reader I felt like I was attending a masterclass on how to read a novel that doesn’t need a plot or action to drive the narrative.

I feel bad for this taking long to read Wallace Stegner.  The Spectator Bird is not the first novel mentioned with  Stegner’s work.  Literary critics and longtime Stegner readers consider Angle of Repose and Crossing to Safety as his best novels. However, I believe that The Spectator Bird does not have to take a backseat to either of those aforementioned works and is a great place for readers new to Stegner.

The Spectator Bird will be one of my favorite reads of 2020.  This quiet novel about human connection and love is a short-term escape worth taking in lieu of what the world is dealing in the COVID19 pandemic.

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 39: Black Fortunes by Shomari Wills

  Black History Month has passed, and I had a plan to read three non-fiction books about black history during the month of February.  I finished Maurice White’s wonderful biography, My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire quickly and then I read Before The Mayflower by Lerone Bennett, Jr.  Bennett’s groundbreaking book chewed up the… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 37: My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire by Maurice White

I was challenged recently by a blog reader to read and review more nonfiction books. I have read fiction books for most of my reading life. There were numerous reasons why I have gravitated towards novels instead nonfiction. However, I chose not to state those reasons in response and accepted their challenge. I have decided… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 33: Jay-Z (Made In America) by Michael Eric Dyson

I love getting books as Christmas gifts especially from my 10-year-old daughter. This year’s Christmas gift is Jay-Z (Made In America) by Michael Eric Dyson. I will confess upfront that Jay-Z is not my favorite rapper and I have not listened to a lot of his music. My favorite rappers are Big Daddy Kane and… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 32: A Time To Dance by Padma Venkatraman

One of the joys of reading is discovering a book (or author) you would have never come across in your normal reading experience. I will confess upfront that I’m not that much of a fan of YA novels. Reading about teenagers (or young adults) and their problems or issues does not move me as a… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 31: Ascending by Meg Pechenick

What if you were the only person on a spaceship with an alien race? You were the person groomed to speak an alien language and take part in an intercultural exchange between planets? You would want to do it in the first place? If you did, how you feel about it? Excited? Optimistic? Groundbreaking? Or… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 30: The Chef’s Secret by Crystal King

It is interesting how a certain sub-genre presents itself to you as a reader. I have not been a historical fiction reader throughout my reading life. However, I read several historical fiction novels over the past couple of years. Beginning with the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay like Children of Earth and Sky, A Brightness… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 29: The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli

The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli tells the story of Luca Vianello, heir to a gondola-making business. However, he is a participant to a tragedy that strikes the business and alters the course of his life. Luca begins to pick up the pieces of his life and becomes a boatman to an established and famed… Continue Reading