Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Catching up with my reading list

Here it is 11 days in to March and I realized that I have not posted, since early February, on the books I've been reading. And I've been reading a lot, which is part of the reason I have been remiss in my duties as a blogger. I've also failed to post because my two sons have me playing games on the computer, and I have been distracted by episode two of Half Life 2.

So, I will attempt to correct my oversight today and tomorrow. Today, February's book. Tomorrow, those I have read so far in March.


16. The Outlander, Gil Adamson. Fiction

17. Frontier Medicine, David Dary. History

18. Darkness, Take My Hand, Dennis Lehane. Thriller

19. Prayers for Rain, Dennis Lehane. Thriller

20. Dark Banquet, Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures, Bill Schutt. Natural Science

21. Cost, Roxana Robinson. Fiction

22. The Family Trade, Book One of the Merchant Princes, Charles Stross. Speculative Fiction

23. The Hidden Family, Book two of the Merchant Princes, Charles Stross. Speculative Fiction

24. Clapton, Eric Clapton. Biography/Blues

25. The Clan Corporate, Book three of the Merchant Princes, Charles Stross. Speculative Fiction

26. The Merchants’ War, Book four of the Merchant Princes, Charles Stross. Speculative Fiction

27. Somewhere Towards The End, Diana Athill. Memoir

28. John Tyler, Gary May. Biography

29. The Women, T.C. Boyle. Fiction

30. Herbert Hoover, William E. Leuchtenburg. Biography

As you can see, there's something of a pattern. Early in the month I pulled together a couple of early works of Dennis Lehane and toward the end I read four books by the always inventive Charles Stross. Grouping books like that seems to work well. The Stross books, for example, are all part of his Merchants Princes series and after finishing one book I can jump immediately to the next.

I enjoy Lehane's early works and am disappointed that he has ceased to write about the team of Genaro and Kenzie. Stross' Merchant Princes series isn't his best work, but it is still better than most. I find that I'm not reading much science fiction these days, but I will always make time for Charlie Stross and Robert Sawyer.

I highly recommend Gil Adamson's debut novel, The Outlander. I blogged about it in February so I won't say more now. I did not much care for Roxana Robinson's Cost, the story of a New England family coping with a son's heroin addiction. The mother is so desperately, densely hopeful that I found her unsympathetic. Her denial seems palpably unreal. (Although my wife, who worked with addicts for more than eight years says that this level of denial really exists among family members.)

Along with The Outlander, the other fictional standout was T.C. Boyle's The Women. I liked it a lot, and believe this is his finest effort since Drop City. It is eminently readable, and you can always improve your vocabulary by reading Mr. Boyle. I compiled a list of unfamiliar words while reading The Women, which I've since misplaced. If it surfaces (and it is likely to do so), I'll share it here.

Non-fiction was a mixed bag. I am normally a fan of the histories of David Dary, but not this time. Take a pass on Frontier Medicine. I'd say the same about Dark Banquet, Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-Feeding Creatures by Bill Schutt. It is mildly interesting, but not as good as I thought it could have been.

Clapton's self-titled biography is an interesting read. I don't normally go in for celebrity bios, but was interested in Clapton because of his ties to the blues.

Three works I think are not to be missed: Diana Athill's fine memoir Somewhere Towards The End, and two new offerings from Times Books' American Presidents Series, John Tyler by Gary May and Herbert Hoover by William E. Leuchtenburg. Athill's memoir is tender and illuminating. The Presidential biographies insightful and informative.

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