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 (39)
* Partial year
J. D. Salinger: A Life by Kenneth Slawenski
[Finished 15 June 2017] As a biographer Slawenski’s contribution is to attempt to fill in the gaps of Salinger’s military service employing the experiences of others to provide some sense of what Salinger experienced between his landing as part of the D-Day invasion until his arrival in Munich. The greater contribution though is in the reading of Salinger’s published work, where Slawenski shows himself as a talented and sympathetic reader. Slawenski spends little time on the uncollected stories, although he does highlight some of the more significant works, but it’s the collected stories especially where Slawenski shows himself to be a superb guide.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
[Finished 27 May 2017] I think I would have liked Mandel to have been a little more commercial in some aspects of her storytelling (there are some distressing loose ends in the story that I would have liked to have seen tied up, especially given Mandel’s reliance on coincidence in other aspects of her plotting), but in many ways this is the book that I wish The Stand would have been. The looks back at the life of Arthur Leander provided a depth to the characters that made the book especially enjoyable.

A Separation by Katie Kitamura
[Finished 27 May 2017] I was not especially impressed.

Functional Programming in JavaScript by Luis Atencio
[Finished 26 May 2017] Employing functional idioms in JavaScript has been a growing trend and here Atencio does a good job of showing how best to exploit the benefits of FP in JS while also providing a good introduction to the benefits of FP in general.

Functional Programming in Scala by Paul Chiusano and Rúnar Bjarnason
[Finished 26 May 2017] Another good introduction to FP, here Chiusano and Bjarnason dedicate most of the book to re-implementing basic library functionality as a means of explaining the benefits of functional programming and showing how these things can be implemented in Scala. There’s an assumption of some familiarity with Scala programming in the book which makes some of the examples a bit inscrutable at times, but this is otherwise an excellent book.

Las Puertas Retorcidas by Kathie Dior
[Finished 18 May 2017] See my review at

We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
[Finished 16 May 2017] Freeman sets us up for one story, about a family who are recruited to teach sign language to a chimpanzee, then throws a curveball in moving to a historical narrative that begins to explore the racial undertones of the study. She doesn’t completely manage to connect the dots in a satisfactory way (although I wonder how much of that might be a blind spot on my part as a white male reader). Even so, I enjoyed reading this and look forward to the possibility of more books from Greenidge in the future.

Summer of the Red Wolf by Morris West
[Finished 15 May 2017] I’m most familiar with West’s religiously-oriented fiction, his novels about the papacy and other institutional aspects of the Catholic Church, so it’s a bit of a change to read something like this which is largely secular in its subject matter although even as such, West’s Catholic sensibilities manage to make themselves known in his writing. The story was pretty compelling although West takes a bit of a cheat in his story’s conclusion,

Suicide and Attempted Suicide by Erwin Stengel
[Finished 2 May 2017] Aside from being several decades out of date and occasionally racist (it attributes violence in suicides to an inherent attribute among black people), this is still an interesting read, if only for its snapshot of perspectives on suicide in the mid-1960s.

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
[Finished May 2017] I had high hopes for this book after reading The Small Backs of Children, but I found myself not especially thrilled with this one. The whole skin grafts thing felt forced and none of the characters really lived in my mind.