Wednesday, March 01, 2017

February reading -- Gaiman, Craig Johnson, Atwood and Dunmore

Here’s my February reading. The books I liked were: 

Dry Bones, The Highwayman and An Obvious Fact, all a part of Craig Johnson’s Longmire series. As with any series that features recurring characters, I like to read the books in chronological order. I was late starting on the Longmire books, but I’m caught up now. Johnson’s is a skilled writer, who gives us finely drawn characters and a dash of magical realism. 

Level Up, a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham, no spoilers, but the ending made me laugh.

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman’s newest book. The stories in Norse Mythology will be familiar to readers. It’s that special Gaiman touch that makes this book enjoyable. I also re-read his fantasy classic Neverwhere.  Like The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere merits re-reading every few years.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore is the story of a family caught up in a web of deceit when the husband is thought to be a Russian spy. I’m wondering why this book didn’t attract more attention when it was published last year.

The Red Road by Denise Mina. The fourth book in Mina’s Alex Morrow series. 

The Last Witness by Robert Ellis. This was my introduction to Ellis. I’ll be reading more of his books in the future. 

Margaret Atwoood’s Writing With Intent is an enjoyable collection of essays, reviews and miscellaneous writing.  Atwood’s intelligence permeates the book as it does all her writing.

Paul Anderson’s Janet Reno, Doing the Right Thing. Published in 1994, Anderson’s book provides a biography of Reno along with a summation of her first year in office as Attorney General. Anderson combines solid reporting and an ear for the telling anecdote to fashion a highly readable account of our first female AG.   (In the interest of disclosure, I worked for Paul for many years. I like him quite a bit. That doesn’t alter the fact this is a good read.)

Drawing Comics With Dick Giordano, Dick Giordano. I can’t draw a crooked line, but I admire Giordano’s work, and I learned a lot about how an artist approaches his work as well as tips of the trade.

The Science of Supervillains, Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg. This was fun, but the science is dated. 

The book I didn’t like:

The Last Alibi by David Ellis.  Normally, I’m a fan of books in the Jason Kolarich series. This one wasn’t up to par. 

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. This is the second book by Darnielle that’s I’ve read. We’ll be parting ways. 

History of Wolves is attracting a great deal of critical attention and is an early entry in the “best book of 2017” category. I didn’t like it.

On the fence:

I’m still digesting China Miéville’s The Last Days of New Paris. I’m going to need to read it more than once to make sense of things.

The Testament by John Grisham.  Smoothly written, but its Christian message is heavy handed.

The Silent War by Ben Bova.  I’m reading Bova’s entire Grand Tour series. He’s good with the science, but his characters are clunky i.e. the villian in this book repeatedly calls the woman who thwarts his efforts to seize absolute control of the asteroid belt a “guttersnipe.” Yep, I hear that one all the time. 

Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin. I like Jin’s work — normally. This account of the Japanese invasion of Nanking lacked punch.

23. The Lost Witness, Robert Ellis
24. Dry Bones, Craig Johnson
25. History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund
26. The Testament, John Grisham
27. Level Up, Gene Luen Yang & Thien Pham
28. The Silent War, Ben Bova
29. Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman
30. Nanjing Requiem, Ha Jin
31. The Last Days of New Paris, China Miéville
32. Janet Reno, Doing the Right Thing, Paul Anderson
33. The Highwayman, Craig Johnson
34. Drawing Comics With Dick Giordano, Dick Giordano
35. The Red Road, Denise Mina
36. Neverwhere*, Neil Gaiman
37. Universal Harvester, John Darnielle
38. An Obvious Fact, Craig Johnson
39. Exposure, Helen Dunmore
40. Writing With Intent, Margaret Atwood
41. The Last Alibi, David Ellis
42. The Science of Supervillains, Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My reading for January, 2017 -- 22 books

My January reading follows.

Those books that stood out were:

Two classics -- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Peter Pan by J.M. Marie;

A graphic novel, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang;

A collection of sculptures based on fairy tales, The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan;

Two works of non-fiction, Shakespeare and Company Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, edited by Krista Halverson, and Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre;

A novel inspired by the song, Tennessee Stud, Rode by Thomas Fox Averill; 

And three mysteries -- The Ranger by Ace Atkins, Any Other Name by Craig Johnson, and In The Company of Liars by David Ellis.

Rogue Heroes is a history of the SAS, Britain's Special Air Service, who fought behind enemy lines during World War II. The SAS was the inspiration for one of my favorite television shows, The Rat Patrol, which aired on ABC from 1966 to 1968.

I took a class from Thomas Fox Averill more than twenty years ago. He was a wonderful instructor and is an amazing writer.  In Rode, he fashions a complete story to the song, Tennessee Stud. I first heard the song, sung by Doc Watson, in Lawrence, Kansas, forty years ago. The song has haunted me since first hearing it, as it appears to have haunted Averill.

1. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

2. The Fever, Megan Abbott

3. Shakespeare and Company Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, ed. Krista Halverson

4. The Ranger, Ace Atkins

5. Sweet Lamb of Heaven, Lydia Millet

6. Talking God, Tony Hillman

7. American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang

8. The Rock Rats, Ben Bova

9. The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan

10. The Holy Grail of Hoops, Josh Swade

11. Collected Stories, Cynthia Ozick

12. The Boat Rocker, Ha Jin

13. Any Other Name, Craig Johnson

14. Hallowe’en Party, Agatha Christie

15. The Portable Veblen, Elizabeth McKenzie

16. In The Company of Liars,  David Ellis

17. Rode, Thomas Fox Averill

18. Rogue Heroes, Ben Macintyre

19. Union Station, Ande Parks & Eduardo Barreto

20. The Terranauts, T. C. Boyle

21. Bill Clinton, Michael Tomasky

22. Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Thoughts on 2016 Reading

Taken from a bookish perspective, 2016 was a good year. A very good year.

It was a year that saw the publication of books by Louise Erdrich, Ann Patchett, Maggie O’Farrell and Colson Whitehead. That’s all I need to say.  A year in which only one of these writers publishes a book is cause for celebration.  Novels from all four authors in a single year make me feel like a six-year-old on Christmas morning.

Yet 2016 was far from finished. There were new novels by Laura Lippman, Tessa Hadley, Helen Simonson, Ian Rankin, Alan Furst, Michael Connelly and Tana French. Plus, I was introduced to the works of Emma Cline, Megan Abbott and Noah Hawley.

Yes, I’m gushing, but in self-defense it was a year that warrants excess emotion (I’m talking about literary output only here).

The books I’d highlight are below, but first a preamble:
  1. These are all books published in 2016. I address books published prior to 2016 elsewhere.
  2. You can consider it a “best of 2016” if you wish. I think of this list as books that I enjoyed the most — some touched me deeply — and which I am most inclined to recommend.
  3. I do not respect genres. A good book is a good book.
  4. If a book doesn’t make my list, it doesn’t mean YOU won’t like it. Michael Chabon, Annie Proulx, Jonathan Safran Foer and the Smiths (Zadie and Al), all had books published in 2016. These are authors that I like and admire, but their books this past year left me wanting more.
  5. There is more fiction than non-fiction. That’s just how I read.
  6. The books are in alphabetical order by author’s last name. I respect these writers too much to try and tell you that someone’s book was better than another writer.
  7. There is no arbitrary number . . . the top 5 or top 10. I stopped when the books I liked ran out
Fiction
  • You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott
  • Hagseed, Margaret Atwood
  • The Girls, Emma Cline
  • The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Michael Connelly
  • LaRose, Louise Erdrich
  • The Trespasser, Tana  French
  • A Hero of France, Alan Furst
  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • The Past, Tessa Hadley
  • Before The Fall, Noah Hawley
  • The Nix, Nathan Hill
  • News of the World, Paulette Jiles
  • Wilde Lake, Laura Lippman
  • Coffin Road & Runaway, Peter May
  • This Must Be the Place, Maggie O’Farrell
  • Commonwealth, Ann Patchett
  • Rather Be The Devil, Ian Rankin
  • The Summer Before The War, Helen Simonson
  • My Name Is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
  • Miss Jane, Brad Watson
  • The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  • Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson

Non-Fiction
  • The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer
  • The League of Regrettable Superheroes, Jon Morris
  • The Word Detective, John Simpson
  • Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
  • The Caped Crusade, Batman and the Rise of the Nerd Culture, Glen Weldon
  • First Bite, How We Learn To Eat, Bee Wilson

Graphic Novels
  • Dark Night, A True Batman Story, Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso
  • March Book 3, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

Children’s
  • Thunder Boy Jr., Sherman Alexie & Yuyi Morales
  • I Am A Story, Dan Yaccarino
  • A Child of Books, Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston

Books written prior to 2016 or How’d I Miss These The First Time Around?
  • About Grace, Anthony Doerr
  • Blood, Salt, Water & Still Midnight, Denise Mina
  • H Is For Hawk, Helen MacDonald (a damn fine book, read it)
  • The Indian Lawyer, & Killing Custer: The Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians, James Welch
  • Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels: My Brilliant FriendThe Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay & The Story of the Lost Child. (Take a month and read alll four books in one massive, joyous go.)
  • Rick Bass: I read several books by Bass, both fiction and non-fiction. I like his non-fiction the best, but wouldn’t hesitate to recommend his fiction, especially his short stories and novellas.
  • Craig Johnson: Thoroughly enjoy the Longmire series.  
  • I continue to recommend books by Bernard Cornwell, Jim Harrison, C.J. Box and Patrick O’Brian.

Classics
  • I begin every year with a book by Charles Dickens. He is the greatest writer in the English language. Sorry, Will.
  • Erdrich’s Love Medicine is a terrific book. No, it’s better than terrific.
  • Willa Cather remains one of my favorite authors. 
  • I was disapppointed in Brideshead Revisited and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. For Parade Magazine, Ann Patchett identified these two books as among the best 75 books in the past 75 years. Hate to disagree with Ann, but I’m not seeing it.
  • Sherri Tepper is a grandmaster of sciene fiction as far as I am concerned and Grass is an awesome book. This was my second reading, and only confirmed by affection for the author and this particular novel.

2016 Reading List

“You always read too many books . . . That can’t lead to any good.”

Classics
January – Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens
February — Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich
March — The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
April — Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
May — O Pioneers!, Willa Cather
June — The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
July —  Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner 
August — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
September — Brideshead Revisted, Evelyn Waugh
October — Pal Joey, John O’Hara
November — A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold
December — Grass, Sheri S. Tepper

January
1. First Bite, How We Learn To Eat, Bee Wilson
2. Batman Cover to Cover
3. Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens
4. Solo, The Deluxe Edition
5. Ronald Reagan, Jacob Weisberg
6. The Best of the West 4, ed. James & Denise Thomas
7. LaRose, Louise Erdrich
8. Moonrise, Ben Bova
9. The Past, Tessa Hadley
10. Girl Seven, Hanna Jameson
11. My Name Is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
12. About Grace, Anthony Doerr
13. Minimum of Two, Tim Winton
14. Warriors of the Storm, Bernard Cornwell

February
15. Wilkie Collins, Peter Ackroyd
16. Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich
17. There But For The, Ali Smith
18. Quarry’s List, Max Allan Collins
19. This Census-Taker, China Miéville
20. Seeds, Richard Horan
21. A Killing In Comics, Max Allan Collins
22. The Road to Little Dribbling, Bill Bryson
23. My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
24. Blood, Salt, Water, Denise Mina
25. Shylock Is My Name, Howard Jacobson
26. The Farm, Tom Rob Smith
27. The Noise of Time, Julian Barnes
28. The House of Twenty Thousand Books, Sasha Abramsky
29. The Doctor’s House, Ann Beattie
30. Milt Caniff, Rembrandt of the Comic Strip,
Rick Marschall and John Paul Adams
31. The Life of Elves, Muriel Barbery
32. Moonwar, Ben Bova

March
33. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
34. Runaway, Peter May
35. For A Little While, Rick Bass
36. Killing Custer, The Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians,
James Welch
37. The Indian Lawyer, James Welch
38. The Ancient Minstrel, Jim Harrison
39. Quarry’s Deal, Max Allan Collins
40. Coffin Road, Peter May
41. Ragnarok, The End of the Gods, A.S. Byatt
42. Off the Grid, C.J. Box
43. The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante
44. Quantum Night, Robert Sawyer
45. Blue at the Mizzen, Patrick O’Brian
46. Comic Wars, Dan Raviv
47. Patience, Daniel Clowes
48. Cut Me In, Ed McBain
49. Paris Stories, ed. Shuan Whiteside
50. David Boring, Daniel Clowes

April
51. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
52. H Is For Hawk, Helen Macdonald
53. Schmidt Steps Back, Louis Begley
54. Return to Augie Hobble, Lane Smith
55. The Caped Crusade, Batman and the Rise of the Nerd Culture,
Glen Weldon
56. Return to Mars, Ben Bova
57. In Other Words, Jhumpa Lahiri
58. A Doubter’s Almanac, Ethan Canin
59. Another Man’s Moccasins, Craig Johnson
60. O Pioneers!, Willa Cather

May
61. Prayer, Philip Kerr
62. Gryphon, Charles Baxter
63. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, Elena Ferrante
64. A Year to Remember, Jason King
65. Dodgers, Bill Beverly
66. Quarry’s Cut, Max Allan Collins
67. Art Spiegelman, Tom Forget
68. Wilde Lake, Laura Lippman
69. The Dark Horse, Craig Johnson
70. The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen
71. Rescue Missions, Frederick Busch
72. Night Heron, Adam Brookes
73. Stumptown, Vol. 2, Greg Rucka and Matt Southworth
74. The Sport of Kings, C.E. Morgan
75. Dead Man’s Float, Jim Harrison
76. The Sky, The Stars, The Wilderness, Rick Bass
77. 1921, Lyle Spatz and Steve Steinberg.
78. Thunder Boy Jr., Sherman Alexie & Yuyi Morales
79. The Blade Artist, Irvine Welsh

June
80. The League of Regrettable Superheroes, Jon Morris
81. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
82. Everybody’s Fool, Richard Russo
83. Peter Arno, Michael Maslin
84. A Relative Stranger, Charles Baxter
85. Workingman’s Dead, Buzz Poole
86. The Precipice, Ben Bova
87. Trinity, Matt Wagner
88. Commonwealth, Ann Patchett
89. Caleb’s Crossing, Geraldine Brooks
90. The Little Red Chairs, Edna O’Brien
91. Straight Flush, Ben Mezrich
92. Quarry’s Vote, Max Allan Collins
93. The Girls, Emma Cline
94. Still Midnight, Denise Mina
95. Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler
96. Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art, Scott McCloud
97. Selected & New Poems, Jim Harrison

July
98. Adventures on the Wine Route, Kermit Lynch
99. Graphic Ink, The DC Comics Art of Darwyn Cooke
100. Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner 
101. Scene of the Crime: A Little Piece of Goodnight, Ed Brubaker
& Michael Lark
102. A Hero Of France, Alan Furst
103. Cousin Joseph, Jules Feiffer
104. Junkyard Dogs, Craig Johnson
105. The Summer Before The War, Helen Simonson
106. Parker: Slayground, Darwyn Cooke
107. Hell Is Empty, Craig Johnson
108. The Letter Writer, Dan Fesperman
109. Jupiter, Ben Bova
110. Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons, Gahan Wilson
111. When The Music’s Over, Peter Robinson
112. The View From The Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman
113. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

August
114. The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante
115. Smut, Alan Bennett
116. Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang
117. Charcoal Joe, Walter Mosley
118. Stray Bullets, David Lapham
119. The Cauliflower, Nicola Barker
120. Ninety-nine Stories of God, Joy Williams
121. The Three-Day Affair, Michael Kardos
122. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, Joshua Hammer
123. Heroes of the Frontier, Dave Eggers
124. You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott
125. Comic Art Propaganda, Fredrik Strömberg
126. Pimp, Ken Bruen & Jason Starr
127. How To Talk To Girls At Parties, Neil Gaiman, Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá
128. Jack Cole and Plastic Man, Art Spiegelman and Chip Kidd
129. This Must Be The Place, Maggie O’Farrell
130. March Book Three, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell
131. The 13 Clocks, James Thurber
132. The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll & Chris Riddell
133. What We Become, Arturo Pérez-Reverte

September
134. Brideshead Revisted, Evelyn Waugh
135. The Dead and Those About to Die, John C. McManus
136. The Children in the Woods, Frederick Busch
137. Eternity’s Wheel, Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves
138. Better Dead, Max Allan Collins
139. Makoons, Louise Erdrich
140. Angel Catbird, Margaret Atwood & Johnnie Christmas
141. Dark Night, A True Batman Story, Paul Dini & Eduardo Risso 
142. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead.
143. The Nightmare Stacks, Charles Stross.
144. Thirteen Confessions, David Corbett
145. A Great Reckoning, Louise Penny.
146. Ty Cobb, A Terrible Beauty, Charles Leerhsen.
147. The Mabinogion, trans. Sioned Davis.
146. The Táin, trans. Thomas Kinsella. 
147. Once Upon A River, Bonnie Jo Campbell

October
148. The Throwback Special, Chris Bachelder
149. Pal Joey, John O’Hara
150. Razor Girl, Carl Hiaasen
151. Parker, The Martini Edition, Richard Stark
adapted by Darwyn Cooke
152. A Charlie Brown Religion, Stephen J. Lind
153. A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James
154. As The Crow Flies, Craig Johnson
155. The Art of Hellboy, Mike Mignola
156. Imagine Me Gone, Adam Haslett
157. Before The Fall, Noah Hawley
158. The Best American Non-Required Reading, ed. Dave Eggers
159. News of the World, Paulette Jiles
160. Time Travel, James Gleick
161. A Serpent’s Tooth, Craig Johnson
162. The Nix, Nathan Hill

November
163. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d, Alan Bradley
164. Sorrow Road, Julia Keller
165. Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
166. The Trespasser, Tana French
167. Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson
168. Miss Jane, Brad Watson
169. A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold
170. The Mothers, Brit Bennett
171. The O’Hara Reader, John O’Hara
172. The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Michael Connelly
173. Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
174. The Deer Pasture, Rick Bass
175. Autumn, Ali Smith
176. Nutshell, Ian McEwan
177. Barkskins, Annie Proulx
178. Wild to the Heart, Rick Bass

December
179. Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, Brian Fies
180. Grass, Sheri S. Tepper
181. The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios, Yann Martel
182. Zero K, Don DeLillo
183. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
184. A Gambler’s Anatomy, Jonathan Lethem
185. Night School, Lee Child
186. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories, P.D. James
187. The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye, Jonathan Lethem
188. The Flame Bearer, Bernard Cornwell
189. I Am A Story, Dan Yaccarino
190. A Child of Books, Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston
191. Swing Time, Zadie Smith
192. Moonglow, Michael Chabon
193. Rather Be The Devil, Ian Rankin
194. The Word Detective, John Simpson
195. Here I Am, Jonathan Safran Foer
196. Quarry’s Choice, Max Allan Collins
197. Winter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell
198. Murder Is My Business, Brett Halliday
199. The Undertaking, Thomas Lynch
200. Si Lewen’s Parade, ed. Art Spiegelman