Saturday, January 02, 2021

On re-reading in 2020

I’m going to channel Stan Lee and insist on going full bore with hyphens.  Reread is an ugly word, difficult to parse. Re-read is clumsy, but has the benefit of clarity.

Re-reading books has its pleasures and its pitfalls.  The pleasure comes in re-reading a much-loved book, rediscovering its charms, taking away a new insight each time. As with most life-long readers, I have re-read numerous books through the years. Willa Cather’s My Antonia, for example, is a book I return to every other year or so.


Walter Wangerin’s Book of the Dun Cow and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy are also books I cherish and re-visit regularly.


A pandemic offers little opportunity to browse local bookstores, and on-line purchases have limited appealed. Fortunately, I have thousands of books here at home and maintain a list of books I have entertained re-reading.


Here’s where the pitfalls appear. Whether a decades-old sci-fi novel or a classic of English literature, some books simply don’t hold up well. 


I re-read Why Call Them Back From Heaven and City by Clifford Simak, Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein, Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz, The Peripheral by William Gibson and Lilith by George MacDonald.  Four works of sci-fi and three of fantasy. (Side note: Bradbury is impossible to categorize, but fits best in fantasy.)


Sci-fi of the ‘50s and ‘60s tends to be outdated. Predictions fall wide of the mark and cultural advances leave some older texts feeling awkward and tone deaf, i.e. a husband jocularly threatening to spank his wife for lack of obedience. Women, in these older works, are rarely fully drawn, appearing as stereotypes — the Madonna, the prostitute with a heart of gold, the shrewish wife, the empty-headed blonde.  


When I was a kid, Simak was one of my favorite sci-fi writers. I can’t say that now. The same is true for Heinlein.  I did find The Puppet Masters mildly humorous compared to the horror it evoked when I first read it at 14. And I was pleased to see that a line I vividly remembered from that first decades-old read was just as I remembered it, and still carried a frisson of horror.


Admittedly a newer work, Gibson’s The Peripheral was fine.  I primarily re-read it to set up Gibson’s newest novel, Agency.  Gibson is always worth a spin around the block.


By its nature, fantasy avoids the problems inherent in sci-fi.  Bradbury’s book was mesmerizing. MacDonald’s eerie and with its magic duels and court intrigue, Kurtz’s novel — her first — was just plain fun.


The classics, and I think each of the books that follow warrant that description, were also a mixed bag, although to a much lesser extent.  I re-read Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, They Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson. (Note: maybe I should have included Bradbury here. He does transcend genres.)


Among all these books, only Catch 22 fell flat.  A satirical look at war and the military, it felt like a one-trick pony.  It was clever, until it wasn’t.


I’m curious how broadly read Ken Kesey is today.  I found One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a powerful, insightful book that warrants a wider audience.  Perhaps a new generation will discover this merry prankster.  (Year ago, I read Kesey’s Sometimes A Great Notion, and loved it.  I need to track down a copy and re-read it this year.)


Slaughterhouse Five, They Things They Carried and The Long Ships cemented their status as favorite books.   (Note: Anyone who is a fan of Bernard Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom series is advised encouraged to read The Long Ships.)   


I plan to re-read more books from my home library.  Pleasures and disappointments await.


Friday, January 01, 2021

Further thoughts on 2020 reading -- Ursula K. Le Guin & the 33 1/3 series

 On Discovering Ursula K. Le Guin

Despite the vast amount of science fiction and fantasy that I read as a kid, and as an adult, until this past year I had never read a book by Ursula K. Le Guin. (For that matter, I never read Philip K. Dick, either, but let’s leave that for later.) 


I am at a loss to describe this lapse in my reading.  All the criteria is there for a successful author-reader rapport:


  • Le Guin wrote (and I read) both science fiction and fantasy.
  • Several of her books, notably A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness enjoyed critical and commercial success, and are now rightfully considered classics.  (The Left Hand of Darkness won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel. Le Guin was the first woman to earn that achievement.)
  • She influenced many writers that I have, and do, read, including Neil Gaiman, Iain Banks and David Mitchell. 
  • In 2003 she became the second woman named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

The great covid pandemic of 2020 brought us together.  I quickly plowed through the stack of books I planned to read this past year, and, limited in my ability to purchase new books, I raided the shelves of my personal library. There I found nine books by Le Guin. 


Yes, nine.  Waiting patiently to be discovered.

There was nothing for it, but to read these books: The Left Hand of Darkness, The Telling, Orsinian Tales, Rocannon’s World, The Dispossessed, Tehanu, The Beginning Place, Gifts and The Other Wind.  


I loved them. I absolutely fell in love with this writer.  Le Guin is a powerful and luminous writer who explores sexuality, feminism, social and political systems, race, gender and coming of age themes set among alien worlds or fantastic worlds filled with magic, dragons and fantastic quests.


I especially liked Tehanu and The Other Wind  — fantasy of the first order. (Note: these books are closely connected. Tehanu should be read first.)


There are a number of books by Le Guin I have yet to read.  I will continue to address that oversight in 2021. 


The 33 1/3 Series


I like music, lots of styles from blues to rock to country, and I like reading about music, so it is no surprise that I both enjoy and recommend the 33 1/3 series from Bloomsbury Academic.


These are small books (rarely more than 150 pages in length) about popular music, focusing on individual albums by artists.  I’ve read 11 books in the series, ranging from Murder Ballads, the album from Nick Cave and Bad Seeds, to Dusty In Memphis, featuring Dusty Springfield, to Workingman's Dead, my favorite album by the Grateful Dead. Other books I've read feature John Cash, AC/DC, Jethro Tull and Neil Young.


I like to listen to the album, read about a particular track, and then listen again.  


It’s an ideal series for music lovers.  Currently, there are 151 books in the series. 


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Thoughts on my 2020 Reading


Behind the Numbers — 

I read 132 books in 2020. That’s one less than I read in 2019.  I had a slow start with only eight books dispatched in January and seven in February.  The pandemic took hold, and I settled in to a more normal pace of 12-15 books each month.  I have been keeping a book list since 1996. I read 67 books that year.  From ’96 through 2020, I have read 3,404 books.  So many books, so little time. 


Best Fiction — 

In many respects, I dislike the idea of the best of this and the best of that.  Let’s just say that the books I single out — both new and old — are among the books I enjoyed the most, and that I believe others will enjoy as well.  My enjoyment can derive from the author’s skill, the characters (Dickens has no equal here), the narrative or a concept or idea that’s being  put forth.  With that caveat before us, here are the books I most highly recommend:


Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell

Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart

The Mirror & The Light, Hilary Mantel

Simon the Fiddler, Paulette Jiles

In the Memory of the Forest, Charles T. Powers.

The Soul of Kindness, Elizabeth Taylor

The Long and Faraway Gone, Lou Berney

The Searcher, Tana French

Redhead by the Side of the Road, Anne Tyler

Slaughterhouse-Five, Ryan North & Albert Monteys based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut


I started praising Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet as soon as I put it down in April. In a word it is superb, and is absolutely the best book that I read this year. O’Farrell is an Irish novelist and not well known in the states. That’s unfortunate, she a superb writer.   Hamnet is an excellent introduction to O’Farrell. I also recommend The Hand That First Held Mine.


Another little known novelist is Paulette Jiles.  Born in Missouri, Jiles was graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She spent many years in Canada before moving to Texas where she now lives on a 36-acre farm west of San Antonio.  The background helps explain Jiles two most recent books — News of the World and Simon the Fiddler — both set in Texas. News of the World was recently made into a movie starring Tom Hanks.  If you liked Lonesome Dove, these books are for you.


Shuggie Bain, which won the Booker Prize, is a stunningly powerful first novel.  


In the Memory of the Forest by Charles Powers was recommend by the novelist Dan Fesperman. Like Jiles, Powers was born in Missouri. He worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star, later serving as foreign correspondent for the Los Angles Times.   In the Memory of the Forest, set in Poland, is his first and only novel.


Slaughterhouse-Five by Ryan North and Albert Monteys is an excellent adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s extraordinary novel. If you’re curious about graphic novels, but not sure where to begin, this is a great entry point.  It shows how the addition of “pictures” (art, drawings, whatever you choose to call it) can illuminate and expand on an author’s writings.


Mantel, Taylor, Berney, French and Tyler are not new to my “best of” list.


Best Non-Fiction — 

Perhaps it’s just me, but there seemed to be a broad range of excellent non-fiction books this past year.  Let’s look at those I found especially worthwhile:


Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald

The Big Goodbye, Sam Wasson

His Truth Is Marching On, John Lewis and the Power of Hope,Jon Meacham

No Time Like The Future, Michael J. Fox

Sticky Finger, The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine, Joe Hogan

Anything You Can Imagine, Peter Jackson & the Making of Middle-Earth, Ian Nathan

Dirt, Bill Buford

Astral Weeks, A Secret History of 1968, Ryan H. Walsh

Yellow Bird, Sierra Crane Murdoch


Remember H is for Hawk? Yeah, Vesper Flights is by that Helen Macdonald.  Is it going too far to say these essays on nature take flight? The Big Goodbye is an account of the making of one of my favorite films, Chinatown.  As for the rest . . . a tribute to an American hero, the third memoir from Michael J. Fox, Lord of the Rings, French food, misdeeds on the reservation and Van Morrison.  Squarely in my wheelhouse.


I re-read a number of books in 2020, and I want to say more about that. I also want to write about:


falling in love with the works Ursula K. LeGuin, 

books that disappointed me this past year, 

self-published books (which didn’t disappoint), 

the 33 and 1/3 series, 

historical fiction, 

mysteries,

the poverty of the national book awards, 

and the value of a home library containing books you have yet to read. 

My 2020 Reading List


 “Books are always better when read than explained.”

The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern 


January

1. Texas Flood, The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan, 

Alan Paul and Andy  Aledort

2. Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens

3. The Shores of Tripoli*, James L. Haley

4. Demelza, Winston Graham

(Book Two in the Poldark series)

5. A Flame of Pure Fire, Jack Dempsey and the Roaring ‘20s, 

Roger Kahn

6. A Darker Sea*, James L. Haley

7. Why Call Them Back From Heaven?^, Clifford D. Simak

8. Many Rivers To Cross, Peter Robinson


February

9. Enough, C.D. “Tony” Hylton, III

10. Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book, Harvey Kurtzman

11. The Peripheral^, William Gibson

12. Agency, William Gibson

13. Marley, Jon Clinch

14. The Caribbean Account, Alan Furst

15. Fredericksburg!, George C. Rable


March

16. The Big Goodbye, Sam Wasson

17. The Worm Ouroboros, E.R. Eddison

18. The Falcon Thief, Joshua Hammer

19. Long Range, C.J. Box

20. American Secession, F.H. Buckley

21. The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio, ed. Mark Evanier

22. Apeirogon, Colum McCann

23. Lilith ^,  George MacDonald

24. Sticky Finger, The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and

Rolling Stone Magazine, Joe Hagan

25. The Mirror & The Light, Hilary Mantel


April

26. Eight Perfect Murders, Peter Swanson. Mystery

27. The Man Who Walked Through Time, Colin Fletcher

28. The Last Voyage of the Emir, David Riley

29. Hi Five, Joe Ide

30. Encounters with the Archdruid, John McPhee

31. Leopoldstadt, Tom Stoppard.

32. No Cheering in the Press Box, ed. Jerome Holtzman

33. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon

34. Redhead by the Side of the Road, Anne Tyler

35. The Boy From The Woods, Harlan Coben

36. Harvey Kurtzman, The Man Who Created Mad and 

Revolutionized Humor in America, Bill Schelly

37. Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell

38. Broken, Don Winslow

39. Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, ed. Mark  Salisbury

40. A Silent Death, Peter May


May

41. Surface Detail, Iain M. Banks

42. Trouble Is What I Do, Walter Mosley

43. Do No Harm, Max Allan Collins

44. The Sandman Companion, Hy Bender

45. Catch 22,^ Joseph Heller

46. King of the Comics, ed. Dean Mullaney

47. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest^, Ken Kesey

48. In The Tennessee Country, Peter Taylor

49. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

50. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

51. Fair Warning, Michael Connelly


June

52. Slaughterhouse Five^, Kurt Vonnegut

53. Simon the Fiddler, Paulette Jiles

54. The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún, J.R.R. Tolkien

55. Wilson, A. Scott Berg

56. The Telling, Ursula K. Le Guin

57. The Book of Eels, Patrik Svensson

58. Lullaby Town, Robert Crais

59. Orsinian Tales, Ursula K. Le Guin

60. Glorious Boy, Aimee Liu

61. The Stepford Wives, Ira Levin

62. The Magicians, Lev Grossman

63. Dirt, Bill Buford


July

64. Rocannon’s World, Ursula K. LeGuin

65. The Long and Faraway Gone, Lou Berney

66. Best SF: 1971, ed. Harry Harrison & Brian Aldiss

67. Dandelion Wine^, Ray Bradbury

68. Caniff, A Visual Biography, ed. Dean Mullaney

69. The Boys On The Bus, Timothy Crouse

70. The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin

71. Fool Me Once, Harlan Coben

72. The Magician King, Lev Grossman

73. The Revelators, Ace Atkins

74. Tehanu, Ursula K. Le Guin

75. The Death and Life of Bobby Z, Don Winslow


August

76. City^, Clifford  Simak

77. The Things They Carried^, Tim O’Brien

78. The Beginning Place, Ursula K. Le Guin

79. Anything You Can Imagine, Peter Jackson & the Making of

Middle-Earth, Ian Nathan

80. In the Memory of the Forest, Charles  T. Powers

81. Utopia Avenue, David Mitchell

82. The SFWA Grandmasters, Vol. 3, ed. Frederik Pohl

83. Sharpe’s Devil, Bernard Cornwell

84. The Other Wind, Ursula K. LeGuin

85. Yellow Bird, Sierra Crane Murdoch


September

86. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley

87. Bone Coda, Jeff Smith

88. The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, 

        John Steinbeck

89. My Life As A Villainess, Laura Lipman

90. The Once and Future King, T.H. White

91. Superman, The Unauthorized Biography, Glen Weldon

92. Slaughterhouse-Five, Ryan North & Albert Monteys

based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut

93. The Less Dead, Denise Mina

94. Squeezeme, Carl Hiaasen

95. Monogamy, Sue Miller


October

96. His Truth Is Marching On, John Lewis and the Power 

        of Hope, Jon Meacham

97. The Soul of Kindness, Elizabeth Taylor

98. Next to Last Stand, Craig Johnson

99. Jack, Marilynne Robinson

100. All In Color For A Dime, ed. Dick Lupoff & Don Thompson

101. H.M.S. Surprise, Patrick O’Brian

102. A Song for the Dark Times, Ian Rankin

103. Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald

104. All The Devils Are Here, Louise Penny

105. The Bookseller’s Tale, Martin Latham

106. Treason’s Harbour, Patrick O’Brian


November

107. War Lord, Bernard Cornwell

108. The Searcher, Tana French

109. Gifts, Ursula K. LeGuin

110. You Have Arrived At Your Destination, Amor Towles

111. Piranesi, Susanna Clarke

112. Surfacing, Kathleen Jamie

113. Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart

114. The Sentinel, Lee & Andrew Child

115. Astral Weeks, A Secret History of 1968, Ryan H. Walsh

116. The Law of Innocence, Michael Connelly

117. Don’t Let Go, Harlan Coben


December

118. The Tin Can Tree, Anne Tyler

119. Pappyland, Wright Thompson

120. From Elvis In Memphis, Eric Wolfson

121. The Long Ships^, Frans G. Bengtsson

122. Deryni Rising^, Katherine Kurtz

123. Interior Chinatown, Charles Yu

124. Murder Ballads, Santi Elijah Holley

125. The Puppet Masters^, Robert A. Heinlein

126. She Come By It Natural, Sarah Smarsh

130. The Neil Gaiman Reader, Neil Gaiman

131. No  Time Like The Future, Michael J. Fox

132. Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens


  • Books 1 & 2 in the Bliven Putnam Naval Series

^ Re-read


“But the direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be.”

— Colin Fletcher, The Man Who Walked Through Time


“ . . . she was not so naive as to think there was any necessary relation between religion and morality, or that if there was a relation it was likely to be a benevolent one.”


“ . . . if the Telling was a religion it was very different from Terran religions, since it entirely lacked dogmatic belief, emotional frenzy, deferral of reward to a future life, and sanctioned bigotry.”

— Ursula Le Guin, The Telling


The best thing for being sad . . . is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails.”

— T.H. White, That Once and Future King


“Vodka is for the skinny and scotch is for the strivers and bourbon is for the homesick.”

—Wright Thompson, Pappyland, 

A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, 

and the Things That Last

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Thoughts on 2019 Reading List

An extraordinary year for reading. Two of the best books, by any measure — one a novel, the other a memoir — were written by Kansans. 

The New York Times considered Ben Lerner’s The Topeka School one of the 10 best books of the year. Heartland, by Sarah Smarsh, was a finalist for the National Book Award.  

Both books resonated with me.  I worked in Topeka for years, and raised my family there. My daughter and Lerner attended the same high school. Lerner and my oldest son were competitors in debate. And, I am almost certain, I judged Lerner at least once at a Topeka forensics tournament.

I know the geography of The Topeka School — intimately. The World Famous Topeka Zoo. The Westridge Mall. The crumbling church at Stull with its gateway to hell. The Phelps family from Westboro Church with their crude signs denouncing gays. The Phelps family was guaranteed to raise your blood  pressure. I tried to avoid the intersections they frequented.

The Topeka School is Lerner’s most accessible novel, and most successful.   Kansas has had its writers — William Inge, William Stafford, Gordon Parks — but, until now, the Sunflower State could never boast of a writer with such range, insight and critical success.

Smarsh’s memoir is the story of growing up poor in rural Kansas. I see parallels in our lives, but the differences are stark.

She lived west of Wichita. I lived east. She was born when her mom was 17. My mom was married on her 15th birthday and I was born a week before she turned 16. Mom went on to have four children before she was 25, including a daughter stricken with cerebral palsy.

Both families had little education. My dad graduated high school. Mom, who grew up dirt poor, only went as far as the eighth grade. Sarah and I were both the first in our families to receive a college degree. 

But the differences in in economic opportunity and family stability were stark and help to explain why my family was a rung or two up the economic ladder.  

For generations Smarsh’s family was cursed with teen pregnancies, abusive men, divorce, alcoholism, and dead-end jobs.  

Neither of my parents smoked or drank, and dad was not a violent man, although he did not spare the belt when his three boys misbehaved. My folks were married more than 50 years.

The folks operated two cafes in our small town and Mom later ran a successful clothing store. Dad worked; first at a local refinery and, when that closed, he caught on with one of aircraft manufacturers in Wichita. I remember he found employment even in the midst of union strikes. The old man worked into his eighties.

We also benefitted from my paternal grandparents. Grandpa worked construction, yet still found time to grow a little alfalfa, raise cattle and a hog or two. He’d butcher a cow and a hog each year, assuring us a plentiful supply of beef and pork. Grandma raised chickens. She had layers and fryers (essentially if you weren’t a layer, you were a fryer, i.e. Sunday dinner), and nurtured an immense garden that fed three or four families.

Smarsh avoided her family’s curse of teen pregnancy. She attended the University of Kansas, received a degree in journalism and launched a successful career as a journalist covering socio-economic class, politics and public policy. 

Damn, these were good books.  Not unexpected in Lerner’s case, but Smarsh’s captivating memoir came out of left field.  My deepest appreciation to Rex Buchanan for telling me, “You’ve got to read this.”

(Rex had a new book published in 2019. I liked it a lot, but doubt that many of you have the same interest as I did in Petroglyphs of the Kansas Smoky Hills.)

Here are what I consider my best “reads” of 2019.  I think there’s something for everyone. Non-fiction was especially strong.

Fiction
Lady In The Lake, Laura Lippman
The Overstory, Richard Powers
Big Sky, Kate Atkinson
The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
Exhalation, Ted Chiang
Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes
The Institute, Stephen King
The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
The Topeka School, Ben Lerner
The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern
Agent Running in the Field, John le Carré
The Testaments, Margaret Atwood
The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich

The Overstory by Richard Powers and The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern were flawed, but beautiful, powerful works of fiction. 

The most skillfully executed novel was The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Her best in a long and distinguished career.

Don’t overlook Stephen King and The Institute. If you think shlock horror, you’re mistaken. He is a consummate storyteller who understands the source of true evil lives in the heart of our fellow man. 

I was extremely pleased to discover the writing of James L. Haley, who has launched a series of adventure novels featuring the “early American, tall ship sailing navy.” With three books published, and five more planned, Haley is poised to do for the nascent U.S. navy, what Patrick O’Brien did for the British. Haley is every bit as adept as Bernard Cornwell when it comes to historical fiction. The novels are an absolute delight and will be a welcome addition to my reading life for years to come. 

I re-read Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor. If you have not read this classic work of British literature it’s time.  There are echoes of Edith Wharton is this closely observed novel of an aging woman clinging to ever-diminishing resources and the unexpected social demands of her new residence.  It is utterly lovely. 


Non-Fiction
Dreyer’s English, Benjamin Dreyer
The Best Cook In The World, Rick Bragg
K, A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner
Becoming Superman, J. Michael Straczynski
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, David Treuer
Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson

I realize as I write this that Rex Buchanan also recommended Rick Bragg’s The Best Cook in the World. I loved this book, and have prepared a couple of the recipes found within.  

As for Dreyer’s English, a book about words is always welcome. Tyler Kepner’s K, A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches is the best baseball book I’ve come across in years. I suspect its a book I will read again, and again.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer is an unusual combination of history and memoir, in which Treuer catalogs how the Indian continues to thrive despite every effort by the American government and many of its citizens to eradicate the Indian and his culture. I strongly recommend reading this book in conjunction with Louise Erdrich’s The Night Watchman, which is scheduled for publication in March

Finally, I read all of 133 books in 2019. That’s a little low for me, but retirement seems to be keeping me occupied. I’ve been keeping a book list since 1996 and I’ve read (or re-read) 3,405 books in that time.

Currently reading a biography of Stevie Ray Vaughn and, of course, dipping into Dickens (Martin Chuzzlewit)  to launch the new year properly. 

2019 Reading List


“I’m tired of people saying they don’t have time to read. I don’t have time for anything else.”
                                     — George Whitman, Shakespeare and Company

January
1. Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2. Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3. Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Hubert
4. Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5. A Canticle For Leibowitz,* Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6. Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous, Christopher Bonanos
7. Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross
8. Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9. The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris
10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
11. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont,* Elizabeth Taylor

February
12. The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Alan Bradley
13. The Problem of Susan and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman &
P. Craig Russell
14. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
15. Frankenstein,* Mary Shelley
16. Shrink Rap, Robert B. Parker
17. Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift
18. The Big Fella, Jane Leavy
19. School Days, Robert B. Parker
20. The Boats of the Glen Carrig,* William Hope Hodgson
21. The Professional, Robert B. Parker
22. Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
23. Flannery O’Connor, The Cartoons, ed. Kelly Gerald
24. Comics & Sequential Art, Will Eisner
25. Sharpe’s Escape, Bernard Cornwell
26. Thirteen Ways Of Looking,* Colum McCann
27. Late In The Day, Tessa Hadley

March
28. Still Life,* Louise Penny
29. Golden State, Ben H. Winters
30. Slowhand, The Life and Music of Eric Clapton, Philip Norman
31. The Border, Don Winslow
32. Careless Love, Peter Robinson
33. Dreyer’s English, Benjamin Dreyer
34. The Best Cook In The World, Rick Bragg
35. The War of the Worlds*, H.G. Wells.
36. Red Dragon, Thomas Harris

April
37. The Dragon Factory, Jonathan Maberry
38. K, A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner
39. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
40. Wolf Pack, C.J. Box
41. Run Away, Harlan Coben
42. A Good Man Is Hard To Find,  Flannery O’Connor
43. The Hand Maid’s Tale, art and adaptation by Renée
Nault, based on the novel by Margaret Atwood
44. The Sweeter Side of R. Crumb, Robert Crumb
45. Odds & Ends, Robert Crumb
46. The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen, Hope Nicholson
47. Prairie Fires, The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
Caroline Fraser
48. Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud

May
49. The Fellowship of the Ring*, J.R.R. Tolkien
50. The Two Towers*, J.R.R. Tolkien
51. The Return of the King*, J.R.R. Tolkien
52. Goodbye Without Leaving*, Laurie Colwin
53. Letters to a Friend, Diana Athill
54. Raising The Stones, Sheri S. Tepper
55. Sideshow*, Sheri S. Tepper
56. The Goat Getters, Eddie Campbell
57. Nickel Mountain*, John Gardner

June
58. Lady In The Lake, Laura Lippmann
59. Miracle Creek, Angie Kim
60. Creationists, E.L. Doctorow
61. Leadership in Turbulent Times, Doris Kearns Goodwin
62. Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift
63. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
64. The Marvel Art of Skottie Young, Jess Harrold
65. The Overstory, Richard Powers
66. Fall; or, Dodge in Hell, Neal Stephenson

July
67. Conviction, Denise Mina
68. We Were Killers Once, Becky Masterman
69. Big Sky, Kate Atkinson
70. Hergé, Son of Tintin, Benoît Peeters
71. Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks
72. Less, Andrew Sean Greer
73. The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead
74. Exhalation, Ted Chiang
75. They Call Us Enemy, George Takei.
76. Will Eisner, Champion of the Graphic Novel, Paul Levitz
77. Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson
78. Tintin, The Art of Hergé, Michel Daubert
79. Chris Ware, Daniel Raeburn

August
80. The Pioneers, David McCullough
81. Sub 4:00, Alan Webb and the Quest for the Fastest Mile, Chris Lear
82. Clyde Fans, Seth
83. Jinx, Brian Michael Bendis
84. Beyond the Phog, Jason King & Jesse Newell
85. Chances Are . . ., Richard Russo
86. Becoming Superman, J. Michael Straczynski
87. Tales of the Batman, ed. Martin H. Greenberg
88. The Bitterroots, C.J. Box
89. MetaMaus, Art Spiegelman with Hillary Chute
90. A Dangerous Man, Robert Crais

September
91. Magic Words, The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore, Lance Parkin
92. The Shameless, Ace Atkins
93. Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes
94. The Nick Adams Stories, Ernest Hemingway
95. Normal People, Sally Rooney
96. John Brown to Bob Dole, Movers and Shakers in Kansas
History, ed. Virgil W. Dean
97. A Better Man, Louise Penny
98. Confessions of a Bookseller, Shaun Bythell
99. The Institute, Stephen King

October
100. Inland, Téa Obreht
101. The Dutch House, Ann Patchett
102. Blindsight, Peter Watts
103. Deep River, Karl Marlantes
104. Rum Punch*, Elmore Leonard
105. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, David Treuer
106. Olive, Again, Elizabeth Strout
107. Highway to Hell, Joe Bonomo

November
108. Music From Big Pink, John Niven
109. Land of Wolves, Craig Johnson
110. M Is For Magic, Neil Gaiman
111. The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, Neil Gaiman &
Yoshitaka Amano
112. Sword of Kings, Bernard Cornwell
113. Light Blue Reign, Art Chansky
114. The Topeka School, Ben Lerner
115. Flashbacks, 25 Years of Doonesbury, G.B. Trudeau
116. Petroglyphs of the Kansas Smoky Hills, Rex C. Buchanan, 
Burke W. Griggs & Joshua L. Svaty
117. Blue Moon, Lee Child
118. The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern
119. Agent Running in the Field, John le Carré
120. The Night Fire, Michael Connelly
121. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood

December
122. Westwind, Ian Rankin
123. Hot Tickets, Crimes, Championships and Big Time Sports at
the University of Kansas, H. George Frederickson
124. The Night Manager, Louise Erdrich
125. Jayhawker, On History, Home, and Basketball, Andrew
Malan Milward
126. Under Occupation, Alan Furst
127. Killing Quarry, Max Allan Collins
128. Games of Deception, Andrew Maraniss
129. The Devil In Paradise, James L. Haley
130. Charlie Martz and Other Stories, Elmore Leonard
131. Ross Poldark, Winston Graham
132. Half Broke Horses*, Jeannette Walls
133. Heartland, Sarah Smarsh

* Re-read

“But neither infinite power nor infinite wisdom could bestow godhood upon men. For that there would have to be infinite love as well.”
                               A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr. (p. 238)


“The bare idea of this is no doubt horribly repulsive to us, but at the same time I think we should remember how repulsive our carnivorous habits would seem to an intelligent rabbit.”
The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells. (p. 139)


“And I add this part here, to hint to whoever should read it, that whenever they come to a true sense of things, they will find deliverance from sin a much greater blessing than deliverance from affliction.”
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe (p. 96)


“Sheller,” Fredrickson shouted to the senior squid, who was already crawling through the blackness. “I need some goddamned IV fluid and something to cut off these arteries.” Sheller appeared with a bottle and  IV tubes as well as his kit. While Fredrickson was doing what he could to stanch the bleeding, Sheller jabbed a catheter into Jackson’s arm and held the glass of fluid as high in the air as he could. Jackson calmed down, his terror and panic diminishing as the two corpsmen got his faltering system working again. Mellas glanced down Jackson’s body. Fredrickson was working on pulp below Jackson’s knees. There were no feet.

“You’re going to be all right, Jackson.” Mellas kept repeating. “You’re going to be all right.” Jackson moaned and passed out.

Mellas didn’t pray, but his mind once again soared above the landing zone, seeing all of I Corps below him, and went looking for something better than God — a good chopper pilot.
Matterhorn, Karl Marlantes


“Books are always better when read than explained.”
The Starless Sea, Erin Morgenstern