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.”

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