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 (18)
* Partial year
My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
[Finished 10 March 2017] A largely plotless book, but with beautiful prose, so I suppose that goes a long way towards making up for it.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 27: The Whisperer War by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stegano Gaudiano and Cliff Rathburn
[Finished 10 March 2017] A number of big reveals in plot and character along with a nearly non-stop plot make for a pretty good installment in the saga.

Momma: A Start on All the Untold Stories by Alta
[Finished 8 March 2017] An interesting mix of memoir and poetry with Alta adopting her own idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation rules which keeps it from being too formal. As a view into the challenges of motherhood, even with almost fifty years past since the writing of the book, it’s remarkably insightful.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
[Finished 1 March 2017] I suppose there’s a bit of significance in the titular character’s absence from so much of the book (although it could be argued that her physical absence causes a stronger psychological presence in the barriers between her father and mother and her father and her brother, I suppose).

The book itself was not especially notable, the prose serviceable but not fantastic and the plot interesting but not overly so. And none of this was enough to keep me from getting annoyed every time Edwards wrote “Down’s Syndrome” when she meant “Down Syndrome.”

The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust by Michael Hirsh
[Finished 24 February 2017] As I continue to research the current novel, I wanted to get some sense of what happened at the time that the camps were first liberated. This book fit the bill perfectly. There’s a bit of rah-rah patriotism in the book, but not distractingly so.

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
[Finished 20 February 2017] I suspect that the editing that was done on the manuscript was more than claimed by the editor in the preface (although some cursory internet research indicates perhaps not). No matter, while the language is high-Victorian in style, the story itself is fascinating, providing an often grueling account of the life of a “privileged” slave who, while never flogged, faced a life of continual sexual harassment by her owner and a desire to be owned by no one. She ultimately escapes to the north (after spending seven years(!) cramped in the secret attic of a storage shed), and even once she has custody of her children, finds that she is still not safe once the fugitive slave act is passed.

Perhaps most startling is how much of the book feels relevant to modern race relations with so many white people’s views of blacks being not much changed between the nineteenth century and the twenty-first. It’s books like this that make my decision to strive to have at least 15% of my reading be by non-white authors feel like a wise choice.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction by J. D. Salinger
[Finished 19 February 2017] See my commentary at

The Terezin Diary of Gonda Redlich by Gonda Redlich
[Finished 14 February 2017] Redlich was a member of the Altensrat at Terezin and had a sort of high-level view of what happened at what was originally to be a model ghetto and instead was largely a transit camp where Jews were sent before being sent to the death camps in Poland, a fate that Redlich himself eventually shared with the other inmates. Copious footnotes throughout give a good deal of helpful background. Overall a useful reference for getting a sense of day to day life in Terezin.

After the Holocaust: Rebuilding Jewish Lives in Postwar Germany by Michael Brenner
[Finished 10 February 2017] Another look at the DP-period (and beyond) of Jewish life in Germany after World War II. Brenner provides a fair amount of information, but the section with the interviews was perhaps a bit disturbing in that the only woman interviewed is interviewed to give her husband’s story. Women’s stories are completely excluded.

Among the Survivors of the Holocaust, 1945: The Landsberg DP Camp Letters by Irving Heymont
[Finished 9 February 2017] A look from the army side at the running of the biggest DP camp in the American zone. This is easily one of the most important primary source documents available from the period.