Bestselling novelist Herman Wouk died today at age 103. Here’s a link to Herman Wouk’s obituary in today’s The New York Times.
The Wouk bestsellers reviewed at GreatPenformances are:
The Caine Mutiny (1951 bestseller #2)
Marjorie Morningstar (1955 bestseller #1)
Youngblood Hawke (1962 bestseller #4)
Don’t Stop the Carnival (1961 bestseller #10)
The Winds of War (1972 bestseller #7)
War and Remembrance (1978 bestseller #2)
I have two sets of favorites from the 1965 bestsellers, one serious and the other lighter.
The Source by James A. Michener and The Ambassador by Morris L. West are the best of the 1965 bestsellers. They engage readers in examining weighty topics without being dull or pedantic.
Michener’s novel is about the history of an archeological dig in Israel. It remains significant today because the Middle East is still being fought over by descendants of people who settled there in ages past.
Although the topic sounds dry and book is long, The Source can be read comfortably because of Michener’s unusual technique: He reveals significant developments and significant people in the site’s history in what is almost a series of novellas.
The Ambassador is about another war zone: Vietnam.
West looks at American involvement in Indochina through the perspective of an American diplomat whose assignment to head the embassy in Saigon begins inauspiciously: A monk burns himself to death as the official limousine passes.
In carrying out Washington policy, the ambassador has to do things that offend his sense of American principles.
Today, The Ambassador puts the Vietnam quagmire in historical and cultural context for readers who know little of that era.
On the lighter side, I recommend Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman and Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk.
Kaufman takes readers inside an inner city high school with a novice teacher.
Wouk takes readers to tropical paradise with a middle aged Manhattan publicist looking for a stress free life.
Both novels are funny, but their humor hugs reality closely enough to give readers something worth some serious consideration.