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 (7)
* Partial year
Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003–2018 by Kathy Fish
[Finished 9 February 2019] Kathy Fish is probably the best known contemporary practitioner of the short short story (or as it’s come to be known, flash fiction, a term I’m not particularly fond of). Her writing is beautiful with a number of great turns of phrase, although some of the stories didn’t hit the mark for me. Still, it’s a collection worth reading (and owning) as a reference to how a master of the genre approaches the short short piece.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
[Finished 6 February 2019] The opening story of this collection, “The Finkelstein 5,” was just devastating. I had to put the book aside for a while after reading it. The next story was (thankfully?) forgettable. Some of the stories show a strong influence from Adjei-Brenyah’s mentor, George Saunders, a bit to his detriment, although Adjei-Brenyah manages to make the Saunders-style story mostly his own in the story, “Zimmerland” as opposed to “The Era” which, if it were presented on its own, could have been written by any of a world of Saunders-imitators. Overall, it’s clear that Adjei-Brenyah is a writer to watch.

Helping Your Child with Selective Mutism: Practical Steps to Overcome a Fear of Speaking by Angela E McHolm, Charles E. Cunningham and Melanie K Vanier
[Finished 5 February 2019] A pretty good overview of SM and its treatment. It seems geared towards parents without professional help and shows its age in the introductory chapters where a lot of the answers to the basic questions (what causes SM? what’s the best treatment?) come down to “more research is needed.”

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey
[Finished 28 January 2019] I enjoyed this book, although it felt like it wrapped things up a little too tidily at the end and never fully explored Lena’s family’s complicity with the authoritarian regime whose legacy casts a shadow over the island republic. But the writing is beautiful and the characters are worth spending time with.

Mothers, Sisters, Resisters: Oral Histories of Women Who Survived the Holocaust edited by Brana Gurewitsch
[Finished 24 January 2019] Divided into three sections, per the title, this is a fascinating collection of testimonies from female Holocaust survivors. I’d hoped for a little bit more about the DP camps afterwards, but there was valuable information for my novel research about the concentration camp experience and life before.

The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
[Finished 13 January 2019] There are a number of disparate threads in the narrative of this book: the struggles of a mother of a young child, the State of Jefferson right-wing separatist movement and the socio-cultural-economic situation that led to its rise, the story of the old woman facing the end of her life. I felt that each of these on its own was compelling, but the three narrative threads didn’t really form a cohesive whole.

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, by Donald Maass
[Finished 7 January 2019] A good practical work on emotional work in fiction. Like other Writers Digest books, it incorporates numerous exercises which help reinforce the concepts of the book.

Him With His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories by Saul Bellow
[Finished 31 December 2018] At the recommendation of one of my professors in college, I read Henderson, The Rain King and enjoyed it. A bit later I found this book used (I don’t remember where) but didn’t get around to reading it for another thirty years. I honestly can’t say whether what I liked about Henderson is present in this volume, but I generally found myself having a hard time staying involved with the rather long stories here. There were a few details about seventies Chicago which were fascinating, but overall, the stories blended into one another and were nothing special.

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine
[Finished 25 December 2018] While in some ways this is a flawed book and takes too long to determine what it’s about, the writing is wonderfully evocative. Her use of parentheses as part of her omniscient narrative is genius.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
[Finished 18 December 2018] After The Friend beat The Great Believers and There There for the National Book Award, I wanted to see what this book that was judged better than either of those two would be like. I have to say that I was pleasantly impressed. As much a series of meditations as a coherent story, the writing is bright and poetic and I was happy to have spent this time in Nunez’s mind.