Don Hosek - Recent reading

I tend to be a voracious reader, and I read widely. This list has its origins in an old signature file which I would update periodically with the current book that I was reading. That gradually transmogrified itself into the current massive archive with brief reviews.

What I've been reading lately
Number of books read and reviewed each year
1995* (28)
1996 (47)
1997 (74)
1998 (61)
1999 (62)
2000 (27)
2001 (51)
2002 (60)
2003 (37)
2004 (36)
2005 (32)
2006 (46)
2007 (109)
2008 (78)
2009 (65)
2010 (68)
2011 (98)
2012 (129)
2013 (114)
2014 (101)
2015 (88)
2016 (82)
2017 (76)
2018 (38)
* Partial year
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
[Finished 28 July 2018] A magnificent book, deserving all the attention it’s received.

O the Chimneys: Selected Poems, Including the Verse Play, Eli by Nelly Sachs
[Finished 26 July 2018] At times, the language of these poems comes across as a bit overwrought, particularly with its use of “O” in direct addresses (see, for example, the book’s title) which, courtesy of the original German appearing on the facing pages I can see is on Sachs and not the translator, although perhaps “O” is less dramatic in German. But even with that, the poems carry great power as Sachs worked to show that there could be poetry after the holocaust.

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste
[Finished 14 July 2018] I picked up this novel since I was going to be working with Mengiste at the Disquiet Literary Conference and I wanted to know something about her writing. I don’t know a whole lot about Ethiopia. I remember the whole famine of the ’80s thing, I can find it on a map and I’ve heard of Haile Selassie, but beyond that, most of what I know is fantasy delivered by the likes of Samuel Johnson. I had a massive corrective here as Mengiste takes a ground-level view of how protests against the emperor and mismanagement of the country’s resources led to the communist takeover and the beginning of the repressive Derg regime.

Operation Shylock: A Confession by Philip Roth
[Finished 12 July 2018] There’s so much this book could have been but wasn’t. The idea of döppelgängers lurks below (and above) the surface of the narrative, between the other Philip Roth in the novel (I wonder whether Roth was inspired at all by Graham Greene’s experiences of someone claiming to be him) and the claims by John Demjanjuk that Ivan the Terrible was not him, but merely someone who looked like him with a similar name. But these ideas, along with the disaporism plotline end up going nowhere so while there are some profound moments and comic moments, overall the novel felt a bit lacking.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McLoud
[Finished 1 July 2018] I picked this book up because I had a creative writing workshop where one of the pieces we would be workshopping was going to be a graphic narrative and I wanted to have more of a critical framework to approach graphic narrative. This fit the bill perfectly—I learned a great deal and am better able to appreciate all the graphic narrative that comes my way now.

The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
[Finished 22 June 2018] A wonderfully bizarre book, mostly randomish observations about life, religion and philosophy. Not exactly a novel, but not exactly not a novel either. The translation I read tried to take the various bits of The Book of Disquiet that Pessoa had written and arrange them in chronological order by the date on which they were written, a challenging task given that most fragments are undated and were not part of any collation done by Pessoa during his lifetime. I don’t know if this makes for the best reading experience, but it worked for me.

Women and the Holocaust—Volume XXII: Narrative and Representation edited by Esther Fuchs
[Finished 19 June 2018] A nice multi-disciplinary anthology. I discovered this reading the author notes on Esther Fuchs’s book on the golem and it was worth reading if for no other reason than to have read some criticism of artistic portrayals of women during the holocaust and having an idea of what not to do.

The Walking Dead, Vol, 29: Lines We Cross by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano and Cliff Rathburn
[Finished 12 June 2018] Maybe I’m becoming a more astute reader of graphic narrative, but I found a number of elements of this volume to really exploit the nature of graphic narrative in enjoyable/impressive ways. Add in some compelling developments in the plot and this is one of the best volumes in the series.

The Lovers by Morris West
[Finished 11 June 2018] At its heart a doomed love affair set in the midst of post-WWII intrigue of Europe with the moral compromises made in the name of anti-communism in the early days of the cold war playing a central role. I’m not sure how much the Catholic stuff is integral to the story versus feeling merely grafted on as a sop to fans of West’s more overtly theological fiction.

Living Clojure by Carin Meier
[Finished 10 June 2018] The first roughly two-thirds of this book provides a gentle introduction to Clojure, providing more hand-holding than does Clojure Programming but sacrificing little depth (mostly in the realm of more esoteric features of the language). Again, advancements in the Clojure community make the contents in many ways different, with newer, often simpler solutions available courtesy of newer libraries.

I did find Meier’s decision to clump all the exercises together as a timed learning plan to be a bit odd—I would rather have had there be exercises interspersed with the primary text, but that could just be me and certainly it wouldn’t fit with her modeling the text on the Couch to 5K model.