Trust me, after posting my recent Preview of Coming Attractions I’ve been trying to crank out more reviews, but sadly haven’t had much luck. Nevertheless, I’m confident you’ll start seeing some new posts before you know it. But until then, here’s another preview post to tide you over. Over the last week or so I read an enjoyable novel in addition to two quality works of nonfiction. Hopefully, soon on my blog you’ll be reading about these three books.
The Little Book by Selden Edwards – Back in 2008, I heard a glowing review of this novel on NPR. Not long after that a former co-worker raved about it. I’ve been wanting to read it for years and last week I finally got the chance. I was not disappointed.
The Memory Chalet by Tony Judt- Yet another book I once checked out from the public library only to return it before even reading the first page. But with Judt’s 2008 book Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century making my year-end Best Nonfiction List I’ve been inspired to read the rest of his stuff. Not only is this an excellent collection of autobiographical reflections and historical essays it was composed while Judt was paralyzed and dying from ALS. An impressive book in more ways than one.
The Man with the Poison Gun: A Cold War Spy Story by Serhii Plokhy – Spotted this one of the shelf at my local public library and simply HAD to have it. Published in late 2016, it tells the forgotten story of a pair of KGB-orchestrated assassinations during the height of the Cold War. A great follow-up book to Ben Shephard’s The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War .
Well, I might have began the year with a flurry of posts but for the last few weeks I’ve been missing in action. Sorry about that but I fear I’ve been plagued with a slight case of writer’s block. Anyway, the good news is even though I’ve ignored my blog I’ve still been reading. Hopefully, by doing a little preview post on the books I hope to feature in the coming weeks I can inspire myself to do some blogging. This tactic has worked in the past and I’m cautiously optimistic it’ll work once again.
Below are six books I plan to feature over the coming weeks or so. Half are fiction and the other half are nonfiction. Like most the stuff I read it’s heavy on history, including historical fiction.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford- I read this one for a book club but unfortunately I was unable to attend. I approached Ford’s novel with modest expectations and in the end enjoyed it more than I originally thought I would.
The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping by Aharon Appelfeld – Last September I grabbed this novel from the public library only to return it a few weeks later ignored and unread. But after reading in the New York Times he’d recently passed away I once again borrowed a copy from my public library. I’m glad I did.
The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer – I can’t remember if it was on Goodreads or Amazon, but this one kept popping up as something I should read. I took the suggestion and loved Rojstaczer’s novel. Perhaps the best novel I’ve read so far this year.
The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War by Ben Shephard – If The Mathematician’s Shiva is the best novel I’ve read so far in 2018 then The Long Road Home is the best piece of nonfiction I’ve encountered at this point in the year. An outstanding companion to Savage Continent.
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman – I’ve always had a soft spot for Russian literature going all the way back to my college days. Besides that, who could resist the great cover art courtesy of New Yorker cartoonist Raz Chast?
Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Days of Paranoia by Francis Wheen- Over the last couple of years I’ve been obsessed with the 70s. Therefore, when I found this book at my public library I eagerly grabbed it. This book was completely off my radar and had it not been for my library I never could have read it.
Last week I announced my favorite fiction from 2017 and now it’s time to do the same with my favorite nonfiction works of the year. Of course, it doesn’t matter when these books were published. All that matters is I enjoyed the heck out of them.
- The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End by Robert Gerwarth
- SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
- Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan
- The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan by Gregory Feifer
- The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark
- The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature by Adam Kirsch
- Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers
- Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O’Neil
- October: The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Miéville
- Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century by Tony Judt
- The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe’s Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell
- Stolen Words: The Nazi Plunder of Jewish Books by Mark Glickman
Considering my reading tastes, perhaps none of us should be surprised 10 out of 12 these books deal with history. Interestingly, four out of those 10 books are about World War One and/or its aftermath. Declaring an overall winner was not easy. In keeping with my World War One focus, I’ll bestow Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919 as my favorite nonfiction book of the year.
As the year known as 2017 finally draws to a close, it’s time for me to look back and announce to the world my favorite books of the year. Just like last year, I’ll start by talking about the outstanding fiction from 2017. Later, I’ll follow it up with another post dedicated to my favorite nonfiction books. Of course, this year just like in previous ones, it doesn’t matter when the books were published. All that matters is they’re excellent.
As for declaring an overall winner, it wasn’t easy since all 12 books are fantastic. In the end, it was tough call to make but I awarded it to The Paying Guests. As high as my expectations were for this book, I was not disappointed.
And a diverse collection of novels indeed. Set in faraway locations like Libya, Croatia and Morocco the armchair traveler in me was duly satisfied. So also was my inner historian, with one novel set in turn of the 20th century New York City, one in Stalinist Russia and another in 1920s London. Lastly, several of the below-mentioned books were first time novels. Kudos to their respective authors for a job well done!
- The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall
- The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida
- The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
- In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
- The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
- Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
- Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
- Conclave by Robert Harris
- The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
- The Yid by Paul Goldberg
- The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
- Girl at War by Sara Nović
I haven’t done a Five Bookish Links post in a month. While I sit here digesting my Thanksgiving leftovers I think it’s time to post a new one.
- If you’re like me, you’re curious when it comes to the reading preferences of great authors. If that’s the case, check out this posting on Brian Pickings “The Greatest Books of All Time, As Voted by 125 Famous Authors.”
- Speaking of famous authors, according to the Guardian it looks like the personal library Richard Adams, the author Watership Down is up for sale.
- Meanwhile, Elon Musk claims he was “raised by books” and credits his success to these eight books.
- Personally, I think the concept of “leaderless revolution” is bunk but Carne Ross’ book recommendations on leaderless revolution intrigues me.
- Lastly, how can anyone resist an article entitled ‘Ten Books that Changed the World?”