Galloping into Enlightenment: “Napoleon: A Life” by Andrew Roberts

best napoleon biographyFor a pleasurable holiday read, Andrew Roberts biography, Napoleon: A Life (2014), is a 810-page gift to be enjoyed for the fascinating and easily accessible history lesson about the “founder of modern France and one of the great conquerors of history.”

Considered the definitive biography of the soldier-statesman who once said, “What a novel my life has been,” it has received numerous awards, such as Winner of the Grand Prix of the Foundation Napoleon, and was listed as a New York Times Notable Book and included in Amazon’s “100 Biographies and Memoirs to Read in a Lifetime” list. Read more

All Dogs, Great and Small

“A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours…Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things – a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity.”  –John Grogan, Marley and Me

Dog nonfiction books

One could say that Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan, first published in the fall of 2005, played a significant role in the most recent formation of a great wave of dog memoirs that is still going strong today, especially evident during the holiday season. Dog books are prominently displayed everywhere, each enticing and each with endearing pictures beckoning, like a puppy in the window, to be brought home.

Indeed, never has there been a better time on planet earth to be a dog. From boutique dog shops with Swarovski-studded poodle skirts and cashmere sweaters to comfy pillow beds, spas and doggie daycare buses that transport dogs to and from their homes, bed and biscuit boarding “inns”, dog-friendly restaurants and hotels, dogs today truly have never had it better. No longer toughing it out in the distant coldness of a doghouse, they have been warmly welcomed into the luxury of modern day living. Read more

All Things Beaujolais

Le Beaujolais Nouveau “Every year…millions of bottles of a fresh, fruity Gamay from Beaujolais are poured to celebrate the new vintage,” writes S. Irene Virbila in a recent Los Angeles Times article. “Banners all over France — and the world — proclaim ‘Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!’ French restaurants, of course, get into the spirit of things big-time.”

Shortly after the Paris attacks, when the world became more attuned to all things Paris and France, I viewed a show on television about the annual French festival, celebrating the arrival of the 2015 Beaujolais wine. What a contrast, I thought, between the festivities and the tragic events that had taken place just a week before. And so, when I came across an abundant supply of Georges Duboeufs 2015 Beaujolais Nouveau that was festively displayed for the Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it appropriate to celebrate France and support the Parisians by buying a bottle. Read more

Stepping into Beauty

life and times isabella stewart gardner“If you invest in beauty it will be with you all the days of your life.” –Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect, designer and writer, 1867-1959

Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1925) was a woman whose life fully embodied the above quote from Frank Lloyd Wright – and a visit to her museum in Boston allows one to experience all of the beauty that she collected during her travels around the world.

From master paintings, sculptures and tapestries, to objects such as Napoleon’s letters, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is even more striking during the holiday season, with hundreds of vibrant red amaryllis beautifully poised in the courtyard that seem to speak to Mrs. Gardner’s exuberance for life. Read more

In Need of a Knight or Two

“Maybe he will make thee a Knight of His Round Table – and there is no honor in all the world that can be as great as that!” –King Arthur
“For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times…before the Empire.”Star Wars (Obi-Wan Kenobi to Luke Skywalker)

Knights Code of Chivalry It can sometimes feel in these unsettling, turbulent and fear provoking times as though the world has grown a shade darker – particularly as the winter solstice draws near. And in dark times, it is only natural to search for a little sparkling light to guide one through the stormy seas of upheaval and distress that sometimes seems to wash over our wearied world.

Perhaps, when the world is spinning round in these “worst of times,” it would be wise to remember King Arthur and his knights in shining armor who ride into the darkness of the troubled realm, brandishing their swords and vanquishing the dark and evil forces with their chivalry.

One such “brandishing sword of light” is Ethan Hawke’s perfect little stocking-stuffer book, Rules for a Knight, a treasure for all – boy and girl, young and old – who seek a more admirable way of living. Read more

Christmas Cookies for Christmas Tea

Christmas cookie recipes

“Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.” –Chaim Potok (American author and rabbi, 1929-2002)*

In the jingle-jangle, hustle-bustle of this busy, blessed season it is always good to make time for some peace, quiet and comfort with the taking of afternoon tea – accompanied, of course, by a sprinkled assortment of crisp and chewy Christmas tea cookies.

It is with a joyful spirit that ATG shares below an afternoon of tea and cookies with recipes for three very heavenly cookies. Read more

The Lion

“He’ll be coming and going…[o]ne day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down–and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis (British novelist, 1898-1963)
C.S. Lewis Quotes
The South Bank Lion, cast in 1837; Westminster Bridge, London

A View of One’s Own

The Elephant House Harry PotterStrolling along George IV Bridge Street in Old Town Edinburgh – a short distance from The Royal Mile – you’ll come across what appears to be “just another” coffee shop…that is, until you read the sign that says “Birthplace of Harry Potter.”

Step inside “The Elephant House” and you’ll quickly discover why J.K. Rowling found a “home away from home” in this warm, cozy little cafe while writing the first Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.*

With a view of the iconic Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the “Stone of Destiny,” towering above the city’s cobbled streets (see below), it’s little wonder she was inspired to write of a “magical world” of witchcraft and wizardry that would come to captivate the imaginations of children worldwide. Read more

Talking Points for 1995

Wifi JokeAmong the charming allure of “The Elephant House” coffee shop in Edinburgh, Scotland – known as the “Birthplace of Harry Potter” – is this refreshingly simple sign that encourages us to put down our phones, close our laptops, remove our headphones and…TALK!

If we were to “pretend it’s 1995”, here are a few “talking points”:

1995 New York Times Top Fiction Books (in no particular order):

Five Days in Paris by Danille Steel

The Lost World by Michael Crichton

Silent Night by Mary Higgins Clark

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher

Beach Music by Pat Conroy

The Children’s Book of Virtures by William J. Bennett Read more