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 (25)
* Partial year
Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
[Finished 23 April 2017] There’s something about this novel that felt exactly like what I needed to read right now. After a chance encounter, Raimund Gregorius, a middle-aged teacher of Latin and Greek finds himself compelled into a fascination with Portuguese language and culture and discovers a book of brief essays by Amadeu Prado which leads him on an impromptu trip to Portugal where he spends his time trying to uncover Prado’s life and understand who he was, largely by managing to find Prado’s surviving friends and family. Beautifully written and hard to put down.

Americanah by Chimimandah Ngozi Adichie
[Finished 12 April 2017] At times brilliant, but too often just dull. It felt like Adichie wasn’t quite up to fully facing the issues that she writes about in this novel. Add in a flat lifeless ending after a dull final section and what could have been a great book came out as merely average.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
[Finished 8 April 2017] Beautifully written. Tinti does character like no one else and her characters live on the page in ways that other authors (myself included) can only aspire to.

Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit
[Finished 4 April 2017] I put in a hold request for this book in December. It wasn’t until the end of March that a copy finally became available. I’m not the only one looking for hope in the dark, it seems.

Written in the midst of the second Bush administration (after the Iraq war and before the 2004 election), things seemed grim for progressives. Republican control over congress had increased and there were no apparent consequences for the illegitimate invasion of Iraq. What Solnit endeavors to do is reinforce that “the dark” means the unknown and not the terrible and that while progress may be slower than we like, it is inevitable. I had hoped for some concrete plans of action to come from reading the book, but solace was an acceptable consolation.

The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise by Georges Perec
[Finished 2 April 2017] Absolutely brilliant. Written without any sort of pauses, Perec starts with a flowchart and explores all the possible paths through the flowchart with humor and style and where it could have grown repetitive, instead this remains compellingly readable all the way through.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
[Finished 1 April 2017] Saunders has increasingly become a writer invested in language. I noticed it reading Tenth of December and in this book, he quite masterfully writes using nineteenth century American diction. Unfortunately, his characters never quite come alive in this book (which can only be partly attributed to the fact that most of his characters are dead), and that ended up leaving this as less of a book than it could have been.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
[Finished 26 March 2017] A fascinating account of missionary life in Congo around the time of Congolese independence. Kingsolver lost me a bit as she followed her characters after the family left the village where they had their mission—while I agree with her politics, she doesn’t quite have the knack of making the political into compelling fiction—but the first part of the book which treats of the family’s attempts to deal with the realities of Africa and how the idealistic vision of how the mission would work were plenty fascinating.

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.