2019 reading list

  1. Chandler, The Little Sister
  2. West, A Cool Million
  3. Dostoevsky, The Karamazov Brothers (Avsey translation)
  4. Weiner, Legacy of Ashes
  5. Beevor, Ardennes 1944
  6. Ford, Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance
  7. Anonymous, Lazarillo de Tormes (Stavans translation)
  8. Thomson, Why Acting Matters
  9. Boullosa & Wallace, A Narco History: How the United States and Mexico Jointly Created the “Mexican Drug War”
  10. Quammen, The Chimp and the River
  11. Sabatini, Captain Blood
  12. Conrad, The Arrow of Gold
  13. Lawton, Black Out
  14. Sayers, Gaudy Night
  15. Radiguet, The Devil in the Flesh (Moncrieff translation)
  16. Simenon, Maigret Afraid (Duff translation)
  17. Naipaul, Among the Believers
  18. Thomson, Sleeping with Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire
  19. Dunne, Monster: Living Off the Big Screen
  20. Hanson, The Case for Trump
  21. Keefe, Say Nothing
  22. Murray, Bloody Sunday
  23. Naipaul, S., Journey to Nowhere
  24. Mailer, The Fight
  25. Naipaul, S. North of South
  26. DeLillo, Falling Man
  27. Dworkin, Last Days at Hot Slit
  28. Mann, Joseph and His Brothers (Lowe-Porter and Woods translations)
  29. Kipling, Kim
  30. Sayers, Strong Poison
  31. Harris, Cari Mora
  32. Kipling, Captains Courageous
  33. Rooney, Conversations with Friends
  34. Priest, An American Story
  35. Beevor, The Battle of Arnhem
  36. Hersh, The Samson Option
  37. Sayers, Have His Carcase
  38. Orner, Am I Alone Here?
  39. Updike, The Coup
  40. Benfey, If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years
  41. Brandt, I Heard You Paint Houses
  42. Maugham, Ashenden
  43. Stone, Outerbridge Reach
  44. Pynchon, Against the Day
  45. Schwartz, Off the Map: Freedom, Control, and the Future in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies
  46. Hazzard, The Transit of Venus
  47. Zink, Doxology
  48. Greene, The Heart of the Matter
  49. Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station
  50. DeLillo, The Body Artist
  51. French, The Witch Elm
  52. Lerner, The Topeka School
  53. le Carre, Agent Running in the Field
  54. Dexter, Death is Now My Neighbor
  55. Connelly, The Night Fire
  56. Dexter, Last Bus to Woodstock
  57. Dexter, Last Seen Wearing
  58. Houellebecq, Serotonin (Whiteside translation)
  59. le Carre, The Honourable Schoolboy
  60. Sherry, Conrad’s Eastern World

(updated 2 December 2019)

2018 reading list

  1. Kadare, Broken April (unknown trans.)
  2. Dreiser, Sister Carrie
  3. Tosches, Dino
  4. Eliot, Middlemarch
  5. Traven, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Creighton trans.)
  6. Nolte, Rebel
  7. Le Guin, Rocannon’s World
  8. Silber, Improvement
  9. Anderson, Green Sun
  10. Anderson, Night Dogs
  11. Anderson, Sympathy for the Devil
  12. Yokoyama, Six Four (Lloyd-Davies trans.)
  13. Frank, Dostoevsky Vol. 1
  14. Dostoevsky, The Idiot (McDuff trans.)
  15. Vlautin, Lean on Pete
  16. Itzkoff, Robin
  17. Dinesen, The Immortal Story
  18. Carreyrou, Bad Blood
  19. Pease, Secret Cargo
  20. Jones, The Thin Red Line
  21. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War
  22. Hersh, Reporter
  23. Malamud, The Assistant
  24. Eca de Queiros, Alves & Co. (Jull Costa trans.)
  25. Holiday, Conspiracy
  26. Cather, My Mortal Enemy
  27. Epstein, The Ideal of Culture
  28. Woolrich, It Had to be Murder
  29. Rollins, Get in the Van
  30. Dostoevsky, Demons (Maguire trans.)
  31. Capek, War with the Newts (Osers trans.)
  32. Murdoch, The Nice and the Good
  33. Halliday, Asymmetry
  34. Waugh, The Loved One
  35. Conrad, The Secret Agent
  36. Kadare, The Traitor’s Niche (Hodgson trans.)
  37. Young, All Gates Open: The Story of Can
  38. Ballard, Cocaine Nights
  39. Conan Doyle, The Lost World
  40. Connelly, Dark Sacred Night
  41. le Carre, The Secret Pilgrim
  42. Schnitzler, Dream Story (JMQ Davies trans.)
  43. Blake, Bring it on Home: Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin and Beyond
  44. Bloodworth, The Myth of Meritocracy
  45. Benedict & Keteyian, Tiger Woods
  46. Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  47. Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely
  48. Fowler, The King’s English

(last updated 29 December 2018)


Good novels about young people

There are more good novels about young people than there are good Young Adult novels. Here is a list of good novels about young people:

Ballard, J.G. Empire of the Sun
Blatty, William Peter. The Exorcist
Brodkey, Harold. First Love and other Sorrows
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Cather, Willa. My Antonia
Conrad, Joseph. The Shadow-Line
Crowley, John. Little, Big
Crowley, John. Love and Sleep
De Vries, Peter. The Blood of the Lamb
DeLillo, Don. End Zone
Dexter, Pete. Train
Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield
Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop
Dreiser, Theodore. An American Tragedy
Egan, Jennifer. The Invisible Circus
Egolf, Tristan. Lord of the Barnyard
Eugenides, Jeffrey. The Virgin Suicides
Faulkner, William. Light in August
Forster, E.M. The Longest Journey
Forster, E.M. A Room with a View
Greene, Graham. Brighton Rock
Greene, Graham. The Captain and the Enemy
Hamsun, Knut. Hunger
Harrison, Jim. Farmer
Hazzard, Shirley. The Great Fire
Hughes, Richard. A High Wind in Jamaica
James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kipling, Rudyard. Kim
Kipling, Rudyard. Captains Courageous
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace
Lawrence, D.H. Sons and Lovers
Lindsay, Joan. Picnic at Hanging Rock
Llosa, Mario Vargas. The Time of the Hero
Macdonald, Ross. The Far Side of the Dollar
MacLaverty, Bernard. Cal
Mann, Thomas. Buddenbrooks
Mann, Thomas. Young Joseph
Maugham, W. Somerset. Of Human Bondage
McCarthy, Cormac. Blood Meridian
McCullers, Carson. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
McMurtry, Larry. Horseman, Pass By
Millhauser, Steven. Edwin Mullhouse
Mitchell, David. Black Swan Green
Moody, Rick. The Ice Storm
Murdoch, Iris. The Time of the Angels
Murdoch, Iris. Nuns and Soldiers
Murdoch, Iris. The Good Apprentice
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita
Narayan, R.K. Swami and Friends
Narayan, R.K. The Bachelor of Arts
O’Connor, Flannery. The Violent Bear It Away
Parker, Robert B. Early Autumn
Percy, Walker. The Last Gentleman
Portis, Charles. True Grit
Powell, Anthony. A Question of Upbringing
Proust, Marcel. Swann’s Way
Proust, Marcel. Within a Budding Grove
Reid, Forrest. Tom Barber trilogy
Santiago, Danny. Famous All Over Town
Singer, Isaac Bashevis. The Manor
Snow, C.P. Strangers and Brothers
Spark, Muriel. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Spencer, Scott. Endless Love
Stafford, Jean. The Mountain Lion
Stern, Richard. Other Men’s Daughters
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Treasure Island
Stevenson, Robert Louis. Kidnapped
Tartt, Donna. The Secret History
Tevis, Walter. The Queen’s Gambit
Theroux, Paul. The Mosquito Coast
Twain, Mark. Tom Sawyer
Vlautin, Willy. Lean on Pete
Twain, Mark. Huckleberry Finn
Waters, Sarah. Fingersmith
Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited
West, Nathanael. A Cool Million
Wodehouse, P.G. Mike
Yu Hua. Brothers

Great California Novels

1899  McTeague  Frank Norris
1939  The Day of the Locust  Nathanael West
1951  The Way Some People Die  Ross Macdonald
1953  The Long Goodbye  Raymond Chandler
1962  Big Sur  Jack Kerouac
1966  The Crying of Lot 49  Thomas Pynchon
1968  Myra Breckinridge  Gore Vidal
1969  Fat City  Leonard Gardner
1970  Play It As It Lays  Joan Didion
1974  Dog Soldiers  Robert Stone
1978  Lying Low  Diane Johnson
1983  Famous All Over Town  Danny Santiago
1987  The Black Dahlia  James Ellroy
2009  Nobody Move  Denis Johnson

On reading two novels at once

I don’t recommend reading two novels at once, but it can be done if the novels are drastically different from one another, separated by what normally separates books; tone, style, setting and characters. The two novels I’m reading at the moment both feature young men on the make who commit murder, and that’s the only thing they have in common.

I’m a third done with Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma, and I’m reading a chapter a day in the morning. The Richard Howard translation is flawless, and it’s a novel I could complete over a long weekend if I wanted to–it reads easy and smartly and moves fast as a book with 200,000 words can move.

In the evening I’m reading Dreiser’s 300,000 word novel An American Tragedy, an American novel, written in a not-smooth style of the 1920s. The novel concerns the fate of young Clyde Griffiths, a child of wayward preachers who looks to get past penury and make a place for himself in the glamorous set, a set he sees up close in hotel and club rooms where he is a bellboy, an outsider. Tragedy’s prose is clunky but it’s not badly written, and I’m getting through it quickly.

Hank Stamper throws some dynamite

Good bit from Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion where Hank Stamper tries to bomb a boat. That Kesey never uses the word “dynamite” is the aspect I like best:

Henry appeared to be tiring. One of the men, the taller one, who I decided must be Hank—what other Caucasian ever moved with that slack-limbed indolence?—left the others and loped into the boatshed and reappeared, bent in an odd position as he shielded something with his cupped hands. He stood at the edge of the dock in this position for a moment, then straightened up to throw whatever he held in the direction of the boat. (Oh lordy, what’s happening?) And then there was nothing but silence as the whole cast—the figures on the dock, the petrified brown lump in the boat, even the pack of dogs—stood perfectly still and quiet for perhaps two and three-quarters seconds before a thundering blast right next to the boat jammed a white column of water forty feet into the hot, smoky air, ka-whooomp! like an Old Faithful erupting in the middle of the river.

Kerouac’s Big Sur

Picked up a copy of Big Sur at Moe’s last week for an unknown reason–I hope the purchase was made for an unknown reason and not a known reason like nostalgia. Okay it was likely nostalgia. Shoot me.

Strange to remember that Kerouac–for all his On The Page flaws–is a natural writer, natural in the natural sense, that his prose flows easy and moves a story along as a story requires. Compared to contemporary bestsellers his writing style is envious; compared to Lee Child he is James Joyce Jr.

Laughed again at this bit from Chapter 6 featuring Alf the mule:

So I angle back down to the home canyon and down the path past the cabin and out to the sea where the mule is on the sea shore, nibbling under that one thousand foot bridge or sometimes just standing staring at me with big brown Garden of Eden eyes — The mule being a pet of one of the families who have a cabin in the canyon and it, as I say Alf by name, just wanders from one end of the canyon where the corral fence stops him, to the wild seashore where the sea stops him but a strange Gauguinesque mule when you first see him, leaving his black dung on the perfect white sand, an immortal and primordial mule owning a whole valley — I even finally later find out where Alf sleeps which is like a sacred grove of trees in that dreaming meadow of heather — So I feed Alf the last of my apples which he receives with big faroff teeth inside his soft hairy muzzle, never biting, just muffing up my apple from my outstretched palm, and chomping away sadly, turning to scratch his behind against a tree with a big erotic motion that gets worse and worse till finally he’s standing there with erectile dong that would scare the Whore of Babylon let alone me.