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 (67)
2019 (95)
2020 (73)
* Partial year
Flavius Josephus: selections from his works by Flavius Josephus
[Finished 6 October 2020] See my Dewey Decimal Project posts at

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
[Finished 24 September 2020] Lombardo is giving a lecture this October at the Oak Park library and I decided I would take a look at her debut novel to see what her writing was like.

There was the germ of a good novel here, but I think that the novel that wanted to be born was wrapped in a lot of other, less interesting material. Lombardo created a large palette of a family most of whom were irrelevant to the story. The youngest sister, for example, vanishes for most of the book and what little role she does play seems more distraction than contributing to the novel. Lombardo does handle the parallel time structure reasonably well, although I suddenly found myself questioning some of my own choices in managing multiple close third-person narratives after reading this and seeing how jarring the frequent transitions are.

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw
[Finished 22 September 2020] I seem to stumble on background material for the Hiroshima chapter of my novel in progress by persistent serendipity. In this instance, a post by Burkinshaw’s agent on Twitter revealed the existence of this book which I promptly read. It makes a good companion to Barefoot Gen showing a different family’s experiences in the time leading up to the bombing of Hiroshima and its immediate aftermath.

Overthrow by Caleb Crain
[Finished 9 September 2020] A long-delayed read from the Morning News’s Tournament of Books. I tried really hard with this but found myself not able to connect with the characters despite my interest in the subject matter. It felt like a not that great execution of a great idea.

Radical Sacrifice by Terry Eagleton
[Finished 9 September 2020] When I was an undergrad, I became obsessed with Eagleton: a Marxist, a Catholic and someone who was deeply involved with literary theory. This seemed like the perfect mix. So spotting this at the bookstore, it was an obvious buy for me. Sadly, I had a hard time getting into this. There was one extended section that felt like an effort more to aim barbs at Jacques Derridas than anything else. There were some interesting insights here, but overall it felt like a slight book.

Alone!: Lives of Some Outsider Women by Rosemary Dinnage
[Finished 8 September 2020] See my review at

Women's Holocaust Writing: Memory and Imagination by S. Lillian Kremer
[Finished 2 September 2020] A book of literary criticism—which I hadn’t expected when I ordered it online. Most of the value for me was discovering works of fiction that I’ll read in doing continued research on my own novel, as well as some food for thought about what makes a work of fiction about the Holocaust something which is both artistically and morally sound.

Romancero Gitano by Federico García Lorca
[Finished 25 August 2020] As I was trying to do the Sealey Challenge (read a poetry book a day for the month of August—which I gave up on with this book), the next short poetry book I had was this one. I read it in Spanish, a language which I can somewhat read/speak but not as well as I should. García Lorca challenged me extremely when I began reading this. My vocabulary doesn’t include a lot of the terms that García Lorca used in his poems and then his often surreal imagery had me looking up words that I already knew because I found myself second-guessing the meaning of some words. But because of this, it was a deeply educational experience. I was forced to read slowly (I ended up reading just one poem a day to be able to meditate on each one) and to be really conscious of his language. I feel like the experience of reading this in Spanish has made me likely to be a better poet and writer in my own work.

Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas by Laura Sook Duncombe
[Finished 23 August 2020] See my review at

The Cost of Living by Rob Roberge
[Finished 22 August 2020] A well-written book that’s completely not for me. I have a hard time reading about self-destructive people with substance abuse problems. I liked the parts about band and music life, but the continued spiral down in the protagonist’s life just left me aggravated. More my failure than Roberge’s though.