Reading: 2020

Titles Read = 18

The Dogs of Riga —Henning Mankell

Angle of Repose — Wallace Stegner (+)
History, generations, concrete: an expansive narrative of love, loss, disappointment, triumph. Following the trope of contemporary offspring reconstructing the lives and events of their historical family in a detailed family histry, this novel both engages and satisfies. I have always enjoyed generational novels ever since reading Buddenbrooks as a young man. The structure of this novel compares quite nicely with Byatt’s Possession.

The Ginza Ghost and Other Stories — Leikichi Osaka
Short mini-mysteries.

Growth of the Soil — Knut Hamsun (+)

The Testaments — Margaret Atwood (+)
Chilling and not even outlandish considering the fundamentalist direction of this nation. The situation between Gildead (ex-USA) and Canada (the good guy) was interesting, although the author IS Canadian. Note that Gilead collapses and there is ample historical evidence to incriminate the perpetrators. The two Gilead books are must reads (I did not see the Hulu series).

Palm Beach, Finland — Antti Tuomainen
Inventive concept. Plot not so much.

The Beirut Hellfire Society — Rawi Hage (+)
I’ve read several fictional treatments of the war in Lebanon. This one, centered on a local undertaker, is possibly the most violent and visceral. Pulls no punches. Well done.

Snow Falling On Cedars — David Guterson
Decent novel but predictable subject matter. But please, let’s not diminish of forget the effects of fear and hatred on the mistreatment of a people that does not look, act, or worship like some mythical American patriot … especially today.

The Water Dancer — Ta-Nehisi Coates
Very evocative text but there are many treatments of slavery, the underground railroad, etc. that should also get our attention.

Carter Beats the Devil — Glen David Gold
Fun entertainment but a little too long to maintain interest.

The Topeka School — Ben Lerner
Good but not great. Interesting take on High School Forensics.

The Miller’s Daughter — Emile Zola

Quichotte — Salman Rushdie (+)
Fun and thought provoking romp through Don Quijote, Walt Disney, and a bunch of other highly identifiable trops. One question: At times the author drops an extremely current reference that could easily be totally forgotten in weeks if not days; although this makes the novel more accessible to the contemporary reader, does it also show a disregard for any future consideration? Are we writing for the fast sell and expecting a lingering life on the remainder racks?

Hard Case Crime: Slide — Ken Bruen

Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn — Ace Atkins

The Children Act — Ian McEwan

Serotonin — Michel Houellebecq (+)
One of my go-to authors, not for the weak or amateur optimist. This is a strong, challenging treatment that investigates the question oft attributed to Peggy Lee (a huge favorite of mine).

Terrorist — John Updike
Not perfect but a very good treatment of adherence to rigid fundamentalism and how a youth without critical thinking skills can be easily influenced. Note that the unstated (and presumably unintended) idea that a religious Muslim can become a mass killing terrorist is unfortunate and dangerous in itself.