Tuesday, January 5, 2016

My 2016 Reading List

Once again, for the third year, I'm putting together an ongoing blog post of all the books I'm reading during the year. I've found that when you read 50+ books a year it's nice to be able to go back and jog your memory about just what you've read and when.

1. Middle of Nowhere -- Ridley Pearson

I've only read a few Pearson books, but, like Michael Connelly or John Sandford, he seems to always be good for a page-turning thriller.

2.  The Racketeer -- John Grisham

Another gripping page-turner. Typical Grisham; better than some, not as good as others.

3.  The Human Division -- John Scalzi

Book #5 of Scalzi's Old Man's War series; you'll need to read at least some of the other books to get anything out of this one. Scalzi has put together an interesting format for this book, telling the story in thirteen stand-alone short stories, and throws in a couple of bonus stories.

4.  L.A. Confidential -- James Ellroy

Book #3 of Ellroy's L.A. Quartet; though some minor characters appear in each book, it's not necessary to read them to understand this one. The 1997 movie barely touches the elaborateness of the book's plot.

5.  Saint Mazie -- Jami Attenberg

A nice bit of historical fiction; a fictionalized account, through 'diary entries' and 'interviews,' of the life of Mazie Phillips-Gordon, the Queen of the Bowery.

6.  The Innovators -- Walter Isaacson

Non-fiction. The subtitle pretty much sums it up: "How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution;" a fairly comprehensive history of computers, electronics, software, the Internet, etc., going all the way back to Ada, Countess of Lovelace.

7.  Girl at War -- Sara Novic

One of those books that you want to read slowly to savor every word, but can't help reading at a breakneck pace. Incredibly moving.

8.  Deadline -- John Sandford

Speaking of page-turners, I blew through about 300 pages of this one in a day, finished it off the next. One of the best Sandford books I've read in a while.

9.  White Noise -- Don DeLillo

A post-modernist novel that explores many themes, most notably fear of dying, in an absurdist sort of way.

10.  The Final Storm -- Jeff Shaara

I've read everything by Shaara now until he gets around to writing something new. I thought this was going to be a history of the War in the Pacific, but he recapped the first three years of the war in the introduction, then spent 330 pages on Okinawa and the rest on Hiroshima.

11. Chasing the Dime -- Michael Connelly

A fairly typical Connelly crime story even though it doesn't feature any of his main recurring characters.

12.  Men of War -- Alexander Rose

Non-fiction. Subtitled "The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima," this book is an American version of The Face of Battle by John Keegan, which focused on the British battles of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme. A fascinating, sometimes intense look at what it's like to be in combat and the evolution of the American fighting man, his tactics, weapons, attitudes, etc.

13.  The Prophet -- Michael Koryta

An entertaining crime story, a murder in a small town/echoes of the past tale with some football thrown in. I'm going to put more of Koryta's books on my reading list.

14.  The End of All Things -- John Scalzi

The sixth book of the Old Man's War sci-fi series. The last book, The Human Division (see #3), was written as a series of short stories; this one is in four novellas. Scalzi might one day decide to write another book of this series, but this one kinda reached a real good stopping point.

15.  A Stir of Echoes -- Richard Matheson

I've had the movie in my Netflix queue for quite a while now, but decided I needed to read the book first. A first-rate ghost story.

16.  Whiteout -- Ken Follett

Much better than the last Follett book I read, Night Over Water (see the 2015 list, #47). A decent crime thriller.

17. Let the Great World Spin -- Colum McCann

Wow! Highly recommended. A series of interconnected stories explore life in New York City in the days of Philippe Petit.

18. Mister Slaughter -- Robert MacCammon

Book three of MacCammon's Matthew Corbett saga, the story of a detective in 1700s New York. Works okay as a stand-alone book, but you'd probably get a little more out of it if you read the previous books, Speaks the Nightbird (see the 2015 list, #44) and The Queen of Bedlam (2015, #53).

19.  White Jazz -- James Ellroy

The final book of Ellroy's LA Quartet. There are different main characters in each book, but a lot of minor recurring characters. It's not necessary to read the other books to understand this one, but is highly recommended to get the full flavor of Los Angeles in the late 1940s and 1950s.

20.  A Confederacy of Dunces -- John Kennedy Toole

A comic romp through old New Orleans with some of the strangest characters ever committed to paper. Highly recommended.

21.  It -- Stephen King

The first book I've intentionally re-read in a long time. I had a weird false memory that I read this the first time while I was still in high school, but discovered that it was first published in 1986, a couple of years after I left college. I didn't remember it being so jumbled chronologically, jumping from 1958, when the protagonists were kids, to the present, which in this case is 1985. King's first really ambitious book; it probably would have been better if it had been trimmed just a bit.

22.  Shots on the Bridge -- Ronnie Greene

Non-fiction. Subtitled "Police Violence and Coverup in the Wake of Katrina," this book focuses on the events on the Danziger Bridge and the aftermath. This is one of those books that's infuriating to read because of the recounted injustices.

23.  Seveneves -- Neal Stephenson

An epic sci-fi story concerned with the survival of the human race after a catastrophic event. I loved it; my only complaint is that the plot was occasionally broken up by long explanations of scientific concepts that sometimes made my eyes glaze over.

24.  Rain Gods -- James Lee Burke

This book was very reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men with similar themes and characters. I enjoyed this book more, though it did go on a tad too long.

25. I Travel by Night -- Robert McCammon

Finally, some horror from McCammon in the form of a vampire story. Too bad it's just a little novella of less than 150 pages. Hopefully, we'll see more fiction about this Trevor Lawson fellow soon.

26.  Lock In -- John Scalzi

A nifty, page-turning science fiction crime story.

27.  All the Light We Cannot See -- Anthony Doerr

An incredible novel of historical fiction; one of the best World War II novels I've read.

28.  The Ridge -- Michael Koryta

The only other Koryta book I've read, The Prophet (see #13), was a fairly straightforward crime novel. This one started out that way and then turned into a sort of horror novel.

29.  A Game of Thrones -- George R. R. Martin

I've seen all of the HBO series except for the latest episodes, and decided to see what the books were like. As is almost always the case, the book is better than the movie (or Season One of a series in this case.) One disadvantage to seeing the series first: there weren't any real surprises as I already knew what was going to happen next. An advantage: I was better able to figure out who was who in this cast of thousands.

30.  Eileen -- Ottessa Moshfegh

"Crime novel" or "psychological thriller" doesn't really do this book justice. A bizarre, engrossing story about an unsympathetic character. A first person account by an unreliable narrator recounting a week fifty years in the past.

31. The Hum Bug -- Harold Schechter

Not quite as good as I thought it was going to be, but still an interesting piece of historical fiction. The story is told from the point of view of Edgar Allen Poe who is working for P. T. Barnum to solve a string a murders in 1830s New York City.

32.  The Confession -- John Grisham

One of Grisham's better books, a fast-moving account of the impossible task of preventing the execution of an innocent man in Texas.

33. Wicked Lies -- Lisa Jackson and Nancy Bush

Meh. What I thought would be a page-turning crime novel turned out to be something I had to force myself to finish.

34. A Thousand Splendid Suns -- Khaled Hosseini

I didn't think this novel could be as good as Hosseini's first, The Kite Runner, but it's better.

35. Wicked Prey -- John Sandford

Typical Sandford; a fast-moving crime thriller.

36. The Sixth Extinction -- Elizabeth Kolbert

Non-fiction. There have been five mass extinctions in Earth's history, the most notable being the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. This sobering book documents the many ways humans are driving the sixth extinction.

37.  The Gray Man -- Mark Greaney

A fast-paced international hitman-type thriller, a la Jason Bourne. I was also reminded of Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt character, who just can't be killed no matter the odds.

38.  Saturn Run -- John Sandford and Ctein

It's odd to see a writer you're very familiar with leave the bounds of the genre he's famous for. Sandford, best known for his crime novels, teams with Ctein to write an epic hard-science fiction novel. Very reminiscent of Seveneves (see #23), but where Sandford and Ctein mention the scientific concepts and move on, Stephenson beats you over the head with them for an inordinate number of pages.

39.  The Circle -- Dave Eggers

A suspenseful, engrossing tale of where we might be in a few years. A tale of an Internet company that's like Google on steroids, a company that has subsumed or absorbed Google, Facebook, Twitter and others, in a world where secrets and privacy are rapidly become relics of the past.

40.  A Clash of Kings -- George R. R. Martin

Book Two of Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" seven-part mega-epic series. This book corresponds to Season Two of Game of Thrones with some deviations from the TV show.

41.  Point of Impact -- Stephen Hunter

A nifty thriller; the basis of the movie Shooter.

42.  Scandalmonger -- William Safire

An interesting piece of historical fiction, focusing on the newsmonger James Callender and the scandals he unearthed about Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

43.  White Butterfly -- Walter Mosley

A tight, gripping murder mystery.

44.  On Such a Full Sea -- Chang-rae Lee

Here's one of my pet peeves again: a book without quotation marks. Also, some strange narration, told by someone left behind, filled with details the narrator couldn't seem to know. The story seems to have been passed around from teller to teller, each embellishing the story to the point of legend. A fairly amazing novel.

45.  The Cold Six Thousand -- James Ellroy

Book Two of Ellroy's Underworld USA trilogy, a sort of Secret History of the United States. This novel picks up immediately after the events of American Tabloid (see the 2015 list, #24) and follows the boys through the subsequent coverup of the JFK assassination and new adventures with the civil rights movement and Vietnam, culminating in the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.

46.  A Little Life -- Hanya Yanagihara

This book is not for everyone. It's a difficult read due to the harrowing subject matter, an emotional punch to the gut. But, if you can make it through, it's an incredibly good book. The New Yorker review sums it up nicely. 

47.  Long Ride Home -- W. Michael Gear

I like a good western every now and then. This one is very nicely done, avoiding many of the stereotypes of the genre and actually throwing in a little historical accuracy.

48.  Shutter Island -- Dennis Lehane

Despite all the stuff in the blurb on the cover about nothing being as it seems, I really didn't see the ending coming. A great psychological thriller from the author of Mystic River.

49. The Black Ice -- Michael Connelly

One of Connelly's earliest books; a typically fast-paced crime drama.

50.  A Storm of Swords -- George R. R. Martin

Book Three of Martin's "A Song of Fire and Ice" seven-part mega-series. While the HBO series Game of Thrones follows the books fairly closely, there is some deviation, especially with this book.

51.  Suspicion -- Joseph Finder

A fairly decent page-turner of a crime thriller.

52.  End of Watch -- Stephen King

Book Three of King's "Mr. Mercedes" trilogy. The series started out as a fairly straightforward crime story and got a little weirder and more toward what you'd expect from Stephen King as it went along. You definitely have to read the prior books, Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, to understand this one.

53.  In Cold Blood -- Truman Capote

Capote's classic "New Journalism" tale (or, as Capote himself called it, a "nonfiction novel") about a multiple murder and its aftermath. Immensely readable and engrossing.

54.  The Providence Rider -- Robert McCammon

Book Four of McCammon's Matthew Corbett novels (there are six so far), detailing the adventures of a detective in early 1700s New York City. The other books have worked well as standalone novels. For this one, you really need to read the previous book, Mister Slaughter (#18), to know what is going on.

55.  The Secret History of Las Vegas -- Chris Abani

This book started out as a crime novel and turned into something really strange involving a shadowy government-sponsored institute, apartheid atrocities, sideshow freaks and more. Not one of my favorite books, but very memorable. (NY Times review)

56. High Fidelity -- Nick Hornby

A coming-of-age story. The twist is the protagonist is in his mid-thirties. Since I love music so much (and used to be as much of a snob about it as our hero is) and grew older without really growing up, I found it highly relatable.

57.  The Girl in the Spider's Web -- David Lagercrantz

At a time when I wasn't reading much, I flew through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy (what the publisher is now calling the Millennium Series) one right after another. But the series seemed to be wrapped up nicely and author Stieg Larsson is dead, so I went into this one with quite a bit of trepidation. While this one is not quite as good as the original novels, it's still an exciting, fast-paced thriller.

58.  Empire Falls -- Richard Russo

A serious/comic look at life in a small town in Maine.

59.  Long Lost -- David Morrell

A bare-bones, page-turner of a crime thriller.

60.  Annihilation -- Jeff VanderMeer

A bizarre, little (under 200 pages) sci-fi story. Book One of the Southern Reach Trilogy.

61.  The Witches -- Stacy Schiff

Non-fiction. A thorough telling of the events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

62.  The Appeal -- John Grisham

Not one of Grisham's best, but a fast-moving tale that explores the folly of the people electing judges.

63.  Certain Prey -- John Sandford

A typical fast-moving, page-turning Sandford crime thriller.

64. The Dead Lands -- Benjamin Percy

Dystopian sci-fi/fantasy chronicling a new Lewis and Clark expedition across post-apocalyptic America.

65.  Razor Girl -- Carl Hiaason

A typical Hiaason weird, wild, wacky South Florida crime saga.

66.  The Underground Railroad -- Colson Whitehead

Part brutal depiction of slave life, part Gulliver's Travels through the Old South. Highly recommended. The interview on NPR's Fresh Air sums it up nicely.

67. Authority -- Jeff VanderMeer

Book Two of the Southern Reach Trilogy. A slow read, but an engrossing, bizarre sci-fi series. This was a drastic change from the first book, Annihilation (see #60). I can't wait to see how this series shakes out.

3 comments:

Sylvia Harp said...

We seem to read many of the same books. Try Marian Keyes, her family is hilarious!

Duane Tate said...

Thanks for the suggestion. Any book in particular?

Sylvia Harp said...


"This Charming Man" by Marian Keyes is a good place to start. You will be introduced to the family--the sisters, Mum and Dad. Then "Rachel's Holiday".
You will laugh!