Saturday, July 02, 2016

Summarizing my reading at the 2016 mid-point

We’re only midway through 2016 and already there are four books worthy of a “best of” list, and a five “notables.”

Those “best of” include novels by three of my favorite authors and one debut novel. Here’s the books:

LaRose by Louise Erdrich
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
The Girls by Emma Cline

Erdrich, Patchett and Lippman are accomplished authors, who have written extraordinary books in the past, yet I believe that LaRose, Commonwealth and Wilde Lake represent the best books they have written. 

The Girls, the story of a Manson-like cult, is an extraordinary debut novel. It isn’t perfect, but it manages to be deliciously creepy.

As for those “notable” books, I recommend:

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
The Past by Tessa Hadley
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo
The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien

Not to be missed, are Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, a quartet of delightful books. I’ve read three of the four: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name and Those Who Love and Those Who Stay.

I discovered Denise Mina’s Alex Morrow series this year. I’ve read Blood, Salt and Water and the first book in the series, Still Midnight. It’s clear that Mina is going to provide me with many hours of pleasurable reading.

I also recommend Craig Johnson’s Longmire series. I am making my way through these books now. Like Mina, Johnson is a superb writer. Don’t overlook these books because they carry the stigma of the mystery genre. Some of our finest writers are working in genre fiction. Among those writers is Peter May. I read both Runaway and Coffin Road this year. He’s good. Very good.

Two older works of fiction that I especially liked: The Indian Lawyer by the late James Welch and a collection of novellas by Rick Bass, The Sky, The Stars, The  Wilderness.

I continue to read historical fiction by Bernard Cornwell, work my way through Ben Bova’s Grand Tour novels (science fiction) and devour the darkly comic noir fiction of Max Alan Collins. I’ve only a few Quarry novels left to read.

I read fewer works of non-fiction, but there were three “best of” published in that genre in 2016 (and one carry over from 2015):

H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald
First Bite, How We Learn To Eat by Bee Wilson
The Caped Crusade Batman and the Rise of the Nerd Culture by Glen Weldon
The League of Regrettable Superheroes by Jon Morris

H Is For Hawk is one of those books that you put in people’s hands and demand they read. It is difficult to convey how good it is without resorting to hyberole. Trust me on this one — read it.

The League of Regrettable Superheroes was the most entertaining book I’ve read this year. Unless you’re a comic book afficiando like me, you might not enjoy it, but then again it may connect with your inner nerd. (And, in complete transparency, I am also especially found of the book because I bought it at Shakespeare & Company, while on vacation in Paris.)

It was published a few years back, but I also recommend Killing Custer by James Welch. 

Two books of non-fiction I would avoid: The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson and Straight Flush by Ben Mezrich. Bryson is mean-spirited and Mezrich is lazy. To quote Ben Grimm, “Nuff Said.”

Friday, July 01, 2016

2016 Reading List -- January through June

We're midway through 2016, which makes it a perfect time to update my reading for the year.

I've read 97 books so far.  Tomorrow I will do a brief summary of the best books.

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

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

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 MiƩville
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

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

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

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

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