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 (90)
2021 (85)
2022 (20)
* Partial year
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
[Finished 2 April 2022] I had a therapist who found this book a boring read, and having finished it, I kind of wonder what his problem was. I can see the use of Jamaican patois being a challenge for some readers (although having invented my own creole for a short story set in Burkina Faso, I had no difficulty with it). The bigger challenge was keeping track of the assorted characters (it’s always a bit of a warning sign when there’s a list of characters at the beginning of the book) and finding my footing within the story. I feel like a re-read of the book would be very rewarding although it’s a long enough book that I’m also reluctant to do that.

Practice Makes Perfect: Spanish Conversation by Jean Yates Five by Endo
[Finished 22 March 2022] A book my wife got to push me into building my insufficient Spanish skills. A pretty good resource (I have one year of college Spanish and some scattershot acquisition of the language since then) and this helped fill in some gaps for me. The Kindle format that my wife bought it in is somewhat suboptimal though.

Five by Endo by Shūsaku Endō
[Finished 22 March 2022] I’ve read two of Endō’s novels before this book and those prepped me to love his writing and I wasn’t disappointed in this book. Beautiful writing on intriguing subjects. The only weak spot was the story which was in fact the first chapter of Endo’s The River which, contrary to the introductory notes, doesn’t really work as a stand-alone piece.

Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite a Novel in Three Drafts by Matt Bell
[Finished 17 March 2022] I’ve read one of Bell’s novels and two more on my shelves (he’s apparently a guaranteed pick for the TNB book club), and thanks to some of his promotion on Twitter, I decided to give his craft book a shot and damn, it’s good. I’m already applying some of it in my rewrite process on my own novel and I plan to use it to make a plan for the third draft revision process.

Especially notable is that he tends against prescriptivism in his advice unlike a certain other writing professor whose writing I’ve read who insisted that his method was the only way to create Literature.

The Latinist by Mark Prins
[Finished 16 March 2022] As a would-have-been classics major, I was inclined to be into this book with its dark academia premise, but it had a slow and jumbled start, spent too much time in the wrong character’s head and had a rather disturbing scene in the penultimate section which just didn’t make sense (I had to back up and make sure I hadn’t misread what happened). I feel like this could have been a much better book than it was and the book that it is ends up disappointing as a result.

Evelyn Waugh: A Biography by Selina Hastings
[Finished 11 March 2022] I first discovered Waugh through a passing mention in Graham Greene’s autobiography and he joined my pantheon of English Catholic writers whose work and life I obsessed over. Hastings’s biography of Waugh is rich in detail although it gets a bit thin after the second world war (which means that Waugh’s most notorious acts of cruelty towards his children are omitted). I’m thinking maybe it’s time to re-read Waugh this time in chronological order rather than the scattershot approach I took when I first read him when I haunted the W’s in the fiction sections of every bookstore I encountered.

LaTeX in 24 Hours: A Practical Guide for Scientific Writing by Dilip Datta
[Finished 7 March 2022] It might be ungenerous to say this, given that I’m writing my own book on LaTeX, but this is not a good book. I picked it up when Springer was giving away eBooks of their catalog and I figured I should see what a recent LaTeX book looked like. On the positive side, it goes beyond core LaTeX, but it seems to miss the fundamental concept of LaTeX—separating content and form as much as possible—and has a number of incorrect recommendations.

Rywka's Diary: The Writings of a Jewish Girl from the Lodz Ghetto by Rywka Lypszyc
[Finished 7 March 2022] The diary has a wealth of great detail as do the supplementary materials. Perhaps the most fascinating part though, was the introduction where the author couldn’t bring herself to speak ill of Chaim Rumkowski and went to great pains to declare that Rywka’s love of another girl in the ghetto was romantic but not erotic which spoke more of the author of the introduction than her subject.

Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust edited by Alexandra Zapruder
[Finished 6 March 2022] A collection of diaries, either in excerpts or their entirety giving first-person views of young peoples’ lives during the Holocaust. The details are simultaneously heartbreaking and compelling.

Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross edited by Maia-Mari Sutnik
[Finished 2 March 2022] The photos of Ross are, of course, present here, but also some essays by various hands which elucidate the context of the photos and Ross’s presentation of them after their recovery. It was great to have some visual records of life in the Łódź ghetto during the Nazi occupation.