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 (52)
* Partial year
Selected Works by John Dryden
[Finished 22 August 2017] I have a gap in my studies of English literature between Milton and Pope. Not just literature, but history as well, the whole restoration period is a bit fuzzy in my mind, so long long ago I picked this volume up secondhand somewhere and I finally got around to reading it.

The poetic fashion of Dryden’s era tended towards rhymed couplets and Dryden was nothing if not faithful in following fashion. Most of the poems were imminently forgettable, but there were some interesting moments in Dryden’s apologetic work, particularly when he tackles defending Catholicism from protestant arguments (Dryden converted to Catholicism when James II ascended the throne and remained Catholic after James was deposed because he realized that there was little to commend one protestant sect over another).

I found reading this that perhaps part of why this period in English literary history is foggy in my mind is that there isn’t much to commend it.

Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwarz
[Finished 18 August 2017] I wrote a review of this which apparently vanished and I don’t feel like redoing it now.

Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
[Finished 3 August 2017] Written in sections that shift in time starting in the fifties and running to the 80s (iirc) alternating with sections in the more-or-less present day. Taking different characters for her close third-person narrative, Sullivan is able to tell a story that none of her characters fully understands and manages to paint a wonderful picture of Irish-American Catholicism in the Boston of the late twentieth century.

Venus Prime 1: Breaking Strain by Paul Preuss and Arthur C. Clarke
[Finished 27 July 2017] This is an interesting project: Preuss apparently took a set of Clarke short stories and used them to link together a narrative about a character of his own creation. It’s relatively easy to spot where Clarke leaves off and Preuss steps in—the two writers are at different levels and while Preuss has squashed the prose down to his own level, the plotting is likewise distinguishable between the two writers.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healley
[Finished 21 July 2017] Healley does the seemingly impossible task, making a compelling story narrated by a character with senile dementia whose train of thought often doesn’t make it from the start to the end of the paragraph. Despite this narrative challenge set for herself, she manages to let the story with its dual mysteries unfold in a compelling manner leaving the reader to put together the pieces that are left incomplete.

Jewish Displaced Persons in Camp Bergen-Belsen, 1945–1950: The Unique Photo Album of Zippy Orlin edited by Erik Somers and René Kok
[Finished 13 July 2017] Photos mixed with an assortment of essays on related topics. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information about the contents of the pictures.

Essential Latin by George D. A. Sharpley
[Finished 9 July 2017] See my review at

In Progress: See Inside a Lettering Artist's Sketchbook and Process, from Pencil to Vector by Jessica Hische
[Finished 8 July 2017] It was fascinating to see how Hische’s process worked, particularly her use of skeletons in the lettering design. Some aspects of this were things that I’ve worked out intuitively in my own lettering work, but either way, it was educational to see how an expert does the work.

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler
[Finished 3 July 2017] I’ve never read Butler before this book and I can see what I’ve missed out upon. She does an incredible job of telling stories, not just with unique and intriguing worldbuilding, but with great command of language and character. The two essays in the volume, which are largely cheerleading for would-be writers, are disposable, but the stories themselves are all gems.

Run by Ann Patchett
[Finished 30 June 2017] The most Catholic of Patchett’s novels, with the Catholicism of the Doyle family front and center in the narrative, this was the book that persuaded me that Patchett was at least raised Catholic, which, it turns out, she was. The coda of the novel feels a bit of a cheat, and the scene with the two Tennessees is a bit out of character to the rest of the novel, but the characters are a joy to spend a novel with.