What I’m Reading

I enjoy mysteries but have omitted many from this list to keep it manageable. Most mysteries are entertainments and forgettable. However, I’ve included some that in my subjective opinion ascend to literature. That usually means the plot is believable, the prose is solid, and the characters have depth. I’ve also included a few by authors who have a body of work that meets these criteria even if the particular book selected is not their best. My all time favorite authors in the mystery genre are the team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. The Laughing Policeman is the best police procedural ever written. The Fire Engine That Disappeared is another from their Martin Beck Series with a remarkable character driven plot. Enough already about mysteries.

Each book receives a grade and a 3-word review. Enjoy.

M Train—by Patti Smith B Writes Memoirs Effortlessly

Just Kids by Patti Smith—A The Real Deal

Upstream by Mary Oliver—A Poet, Essayist, Artist!

Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad—B+ Exciting True Story

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund—A Inventive Plot, Characters

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi—A Heartbreaking, Uplifting, Compelling

Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver—B+ Nature’s Love Songs

The Abundance by Annie Dillard—B Well Written Essays

The Trespasser by Tana French—A Strong Murder Mystery

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan—B+ Eventually Quite Wonderful

The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton—C- Clumsy Violent Plotting

Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo—A Small-town Philosophical Comedy

Midnight Sin by Michael Tabman—D+ Poorly Written Procedural

Descent by Tim Johnston—B Good Character Mystery

Alice and Oliver by Charles Bock—B Harrowing Medical Tale

Fates and Furies by Laura Groff—D Couldn’t Finish It

H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald—B Communing With Hawks

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante—A++ Heart Wrenching Tale

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins—C Too Many Crazies

My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante—AA+ Best Friends Forever

The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer—B Drinking with Mentors

I Am With You edited by N. Novak & B. Richardson—B+ Collected Cancer Essays

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr—A++ Unfortunately, It Ended

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt—A Picaresque, Ruminative, Cathartic

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown—A Eight as One

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot—A-  Forever Is Forever

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta—B  Summer Escapist Thriller

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman—A-  Dreams of Childhood

The Dinosaur Feather by S. J. Gazan—B+  Ornithology and Murder

Redeployment by Phil Klay—A  Jingoism Not Allowed

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis—B+  Less Is More

Ask Me, 100 Essential Poems by William Stafford—A-  Few Are Better

The Martian by Andy Weir—A-  McGiver In Space

Pacific and Other Stories by Mark Helprin—C+  An Uneven Collection

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan—A  Photographing Indian History

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide—A-  Eloquent Feline Daydream

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway—A+  Best Anti-war Novel

Briar Patch by Ross Thomas—B+  Well Plotted Mystery

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri—A  Strong Story Collection

A Game of Thrones Book One by George R. R. Martin—B+  Take Some Notes

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddartha Mukherjee—A  History of Cancer

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand—B+  True Torturous Journey

The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon—A-  Rare Appealing Tales

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson—B  Cold File Addiction

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett—A  Amazonian Cancer Cure

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht—A  Pet Your Cat

Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan—B+  Rock and Roll

The Immense Journey by Loren Eiseley—A  Natural World Wonders

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers—B+  Join the Navy

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens—C  I Expected More

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach—B  For Baseball Lovers

Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr—B+  Remember to Forget

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje—B+  Cruise Ship Mystery

The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell—B  Forgetting to Remember

Tenth of December by George Saunders—C+  Quirky Difficult Tales

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold—A  Natural Wonders Educate

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell—B  Turn Off Reality

Faith of Cranes by Hank Lentfer—B  Angry Environmental Angst

Canada by Richard Ford—B+  Picaresque Sibling Separations

Hubble Space Discoveries by The Hubble Space Telescope—A  The Great Beyond

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters—A  Don’t Look Now

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain—A-  War and Football

The Pocket Pema Chodron by Shambala Pocket Classics—A  Peaceful Guiding Wisdom

Dear Life by Alice Munro—A-  Clear Concise Prose

4 responses to “What I’m Reading

  1. I note you are a reader and that is great. Please feel free to read my stories and give advise. If you wish my serial killer work I will be glad to send you the first chapter to see if it is your cup of tea.

    Like

  2. John, I just noticed that you gave Mortality by Christopher Hitchens a D+. Why? I haven’t read the book but was planning to, the reviews weren’t half bad. I’d love to hear your opinion. Best. L.

    Like

  3. Brother John!

    I loved this list and the vise-poetry (new genre?) you employed to distill each volume. Great stuff. As usual, life has clouded my vision when it comes with trying to put my blog buddies into focus. You are always a pleasure to read and a delight to see in the In Box

    Blaiser

    Liked by 1 person

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