What I’m Reading

I enjoy mysteries but have omitted many from this list to keep it manageable. Most mysteries are entertainments and forgettable. However, I’ve included some that in my subjective opinion ascend to literature. That usually means the plot is believable, the prose is solid, and the characters have depth. I’ve also included a few by authors who have a body of work that meets these criteria even if the particular book selected is not their best. My all time favorite authors in the mystery genre are the team of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. The Laughing Policeman is the equal of any police procedural ever written. The Fire Engine That Disappeared is another from their Martin Beck Series with a remarkable character driven plot. Enough already about mysteries.

Each book receives a grade and a 3-word review. Enjoy.

Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane A+ Boston 1974 Thriller

The Wager by David Grann A Shipwreck Starvation Mutiny

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World by Barry Lopez A- Agony Well Written

Trajectory by Richard Russo-B Good Character Studies

The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy-D Makes No Sense

All In by Billie Jean King-A What A Woman!

The Song of the Cell by Siddartha Mukherjee-B Tedious Cellular History

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman-B+ Wry British Mystery

Journeys of Simplicity by Philip Harnden-A Less Is More

Driving Mr. Albert by Michael Paterniti-B+ Steal This Book!

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett-A Elegant Essay Writing

Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout-B Something from Nothing

River of the Gods by Candice Millard-B Adventure, Explorations, Ego

Burning Questions by Margaret Atwood-B+ A Writer’s Writer

Our National Forests by Greg M. Peters-A What Splendid Treasures

The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson-A Global Warming Solutions

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler-A Lovable quirky characters

Saved by a Song by Mary Gauthier-A Drag Queens, Limousines

Devotions by Mary Oliver-A My Favorite Poet

Modern American Short Story-Edited by John Freeman—A Short fiction masterpieces.

The Souvenir Museum by Elizabeth McCracken—- B+ Unique story collection.

The Hard Crowd by Rachel Kushner—- A- You go girl!

That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry—-A- Short story gold!

Educated by Tara Westover—- A Perseverance, Resilience, Escape

Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller — B+ Biography, Memoir, Revelations

Missionaries by Phil Klay —- A+ Agonies of War

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather—- A Buried Treasure Classic

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles—- A+ Elegant Historical Fiction

The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson—- A minus Classy Cowboy Yarn

Winter Counts by David Weiden C minus Mediocre Melodramatic Drivel

Across the Great Lakes by Lee Zacharias—- A So Well Written

Camino Winds by John Grisham—- B Predictable Entertaining Fluff

Normal People by Sally Rooney—-A Conversation, Compatibility, Maturity

The Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks A Gloom, Plague, Miracles

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig—-B+ Picaresque Colorful Prose

Blood Strand by Chris Ould—-A Excellent Police Procedural

Martin, Marten by Brian Doyle—-A Everything Must Eat

The Labyrinth of the Spirits—-by Carlos Ruiz Zafon A Mystery, Suspense, Spain

Inland—-by Tea Obreht A- Thirsty for More

The Overstory—-by Richard Powers A  Trees Know All

Florida—-by Laura Geoff B+ Snakes, Panthers, Dread

Manhattan Beach—by Jennifer Egan A Excellent WWII Tale

Sapiens—-by Yuval Noah Harari A- Humanity Has Issues

Only to Sleep—-by Lawrence Osborne A+ Mexican American Odyssey

Consolations—-by David White A+ Words, Beautiful Words

Anything Is Possible—by Elizabeth Strout A Can’t Get Enough

Autumn—by Ali Smith C+ I Don’t Know

Trajectory—by Richard Russo A Such Wonderful Characters

Aimless Love—by Billy Collins B+ Twice, Poet Laureate

Thunderstruck—by Elizabeth McCracken A Short Story Masterpieces

Olive Kitteridge—by Elizabeth Strout A Damn Fine Stories

My Name Is Lucy Barton—by Elizabeth Strout B+ Captures One’s Heart

The Orchardist—by Amanda Coplin A Impeccable Story Telling!

Over the Edge of the World—by Laurence Bergreen B+ Magellan’s Courageous Journey

A Man Called Ove—by Fredrick Backman B Sweet, Light, Simple

The Rules Don’t Apply—by Ariel Levy B+ Be Here Now

M Train—by Patti Smith B Writes Memoirs Effortlessly

Just Kids by Patti Smith—A The Real Deal

Upstream by Mary Oliver—A Poet, Essayist, Artist!

Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad—B+ Exciting True Story

History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund—A Inventive Plot, Characters

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi—A Heartbreaking, Uplifting, Compelling

Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver—B+ Nature’s Love Songs

The Abundance by Annie Dillard—B Well Written Essays

The Trespasser by Tana French—A Strong Murder Mystery

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan—B+ Eventually Quite Wonderful

The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton—C- Clumsy Violent Plotting

Everybody’s Fool by Richard Russo—A Small-town Philosophical Comedy

Midnight Sin by Michael Tabman—D+ Poorly Written Procedural

Descent by Tim Johnston—B Good Character Mystery

Alice and Oliver by Charles Bock—B Harrowing Medical Tale

Fates and Furies by Laura Groff—D Couldn’t Finish It

H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald—B Communing With Hawks

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante—A++ Heart Wrenching Tale

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins—C Too Many Crazies

My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante—AA+ Best Friends Forever

The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer—B Drinking with Mentors

I Am With You edited by N. Novak & B. Richardson—B+ Collected Cancer Essays

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr—A++ Unfortunately, It Ended

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt—A Picaresque, Ruminative, Cathartic

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown—A Eight as One

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot—A-  Forever Is Forever

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta—B  Summer Escapist Thriller

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman—A-  Dreams of Childhood

The Dinosaur Feather by S. J. Gazan—B+  Ornithology and Murder

Redeployment by Phil Klay—A  Jingoism Not Allowed

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis—B+  Less Is More

Ask Me, 100 Essential Poems by William Stafford—A-  Few Are Better

The Martian by Andy Weir—A-  McGiver In Space

Pacific and Other Stories by Mark Helprin—C+  An Uneven Collection

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan—A  Photographing Indian History

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide—A-  Eloquent Feline Daydream

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway—A+  Best Anti-war Novel

Briar Patch by Ross Thomas—B+  Well Plotted Mystery

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri—A  Strong Story Collection

A Game of Thrones Book One by George R. R. Martin—B+  Take Some Notes

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddartha Mukherjee—A  History of Cancer

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand—B+  True Torturous Journey

The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon—A-  Rare Appealing Tales

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson—B  Cold File Addiction

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett—A  Amazonian Cancer Cure

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht—A  Pet Your Cat

Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan—B+  Rock and Roll

The Immense Journey by Loren Eiseley—A  Natural World Wonders

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers—B+  Join the Navy

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens—C  I Expected More

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach—B  For Baseball Lovers

Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr—B+  Remember to Forget

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje—B+  Cruise Ship Mystery

The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell—B  Forgetting to Remember

Tenth of December by George Saunders—C+  Quirky Difficult Tales

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold—A  Natural Wonders Educate

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell—B  Turn Off Reality

Faith of Cranes by Hank Lentfer—B  Angry Environmental Angst

Canada by Richard Ford—B+  Picaresque Sibling Separations

Hubble Space Discoveries by The Hubble Space Telescope—A  The Great Beyond

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters—A  Don’t Look Now

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain—A-  War and Football

The Pocket Pema Chodron by Shambala Pocket Classics—A  Peaceful Guiding Wisdom

Dear Life by Alice Munro—A-  Clear Concise Prose

6 thoughts on “What I’m Reading

  1. I note you are a reader and that is great. Please feel free to read my stories and give advise. If you wish my serial killer work I will be glad to send you the first chapter to see if it is your cup of tea.


  2. John, I just noticed that you gave Mortality by Christopher Hitchens a D+. Why? I haven’t read the book but was planning to, the reviews weren’t half bad. I’d love to hear your opinion. Best. L.


  3. Brother John!

    I loved this list and the vise-poetry (new genre?) you employed to distill each volume. Great stuff. As usual, life has clouded my vision when it comes with trying to put my blog buddies into focus. You are always a pleasure to read and a delight to see in the In Box


    Liked by 1 person

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