2020 reading list

  1. Greene, Our Man in Havana
  2. le Carre, Call For the Dead
  3. Woodward, Wired
  4. Coetzee, The Childhood of Jesus
  5. Caldwell, The Age of Entitlement
  6. Coetzee, The Schooldays of Jesus
  7. Coetzee, The Death of Jesus
  8. Christie, The Pale Horse
  9. Baker, John
  10. Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends
  11. Spiegel, Sidney Lumet
  12. Cohen, Witz
  13. Reid, I’m Thinking of Ending Things

(updated 24 February 2020)

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. Quammen, The Chimp and the River
  10. Sabatini, Captain Blood
  11. Conrad, The Arrow of Gold
  12. Sayers, Gaudy Night
  13. Radiguet, The Devil in the Flesh (Moncrieff translation)
  14. Naipaul, Among the Believers
  15. Thomson, Sleeping with Strangers: How the Movies Shaped Desire
  16. Dunne, Monster: Living Off the Big Screen
  17. Hanson, The Case for Trump
  18. Keefe, Say Nothing
  19. Murray, Bloody Sunday
  20. Naipaul, S., Journey to Nowhere
  21. Mailer, The Fight
  22. Naipaul, S. North of South
  23. DeLillo, Falling Man
  24. Mann, Joseph and His Brothers (Lowe-Porter and Woods translations)
  25. Kipling, Kim
  26. Sayers, Strong Poison
  27. Harris, Cari Mora
  28. Kipling, Captains Courageous
  29. Rooney, Conversations with Friends
  30. Priest, An American Story
  31. Beevor, The Battle of Arnhem
  32. Hersh, The Samson Option
  33. Sayers, Have His Carcase
  34. Updike, The Coup
  35. Benfey, If: The Untold Story of Kipling’s American Years
  36. Brandt, I Heard You Paint Houses
  37. Stone, Outerbridge Reach
  38. Pynchon, Against the Day
  39. Zink, Doxology
  40. Lerner, Leaving the Atocha Station
  41. DeLillo, The Body Artist
  42. French, The Witch Elm
  43. Lerner, The Topeka School
  44. le Carre, Agent Running in the Field
  45. Dexter, Death is Now My Neighbor
  46. Connelly, The Night Fire
  47. Dexter, Last Bus to Woodstock
  48. Dexter, Last Seen Wearing
  49. Houellebecq, Serotonin (Whiteside translation)
  50. le Carre, The Honourable Schoolboy
  51. Sherry, Conrad’s Eastern World
  52. Kadare, The Concert (Bray translation)

(updated 15 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)


Notes on The Illustrious House of Ramires

Quarter done with The Illustrious House of Ramires, another great Eca de Queiros novel, this one published in 1900 the year he died (not sure if it is posthumous or not.)

  • Decay is again front and center, decay and rot of a family called Ramires that has been in Portugal since the 12th century. Eca opens with a brief but lively retelling of our modern hero Goncalo Ramires’ ancestors, all of whom are comic heroes or fools or villains.
  • Goncalo is a young man with literary ambitions; his friends publish journals, all of which seek to raise Portugal’s profile in the world, all with pompous titles. There’s a sense of insignificance of place; Portugal is itself annexed and overshadowed by Spain and the rest of Europe, sort of a western outpost easily ignored. This maddens the drunk young students.
  • Goncalo has land that he must lease to stay afloat. This is another spin on fading empire, the turning over of land to lesser men in order to support a decadent lifestyle.  Goncalo is idle and simple minded and takes to transcribing a dead relative’s epic poem into a new story for publication. Of course, he is distracted by gluttonous drunk friends and his own laziness.
  • The politics and political allusions aren’t known to me in 2014, but the bluster and rancor is familiar to anyone who has ever read a political discussion on the Internet. Lots of hot air and phony outrage.

Notes on 2 short novels

Farmer — Jim Harrison’s Farmer came out in 1976, a short novel about a high school teacher seduced by a student. Joseph is an amiable sort, 43 and of hardscrabble northern Michigan. He lives on his family farm with his dying-yet-knowing mother, and for 20 years has taught at the local two-room school, which is to be closed down at the end of the year. Joseph has no college, and is declared unqualified, so he has to decide what to do with his life. Rosealee, his fellow teacher and the woman everyone in town expects him to marry, hangs together with Joey out of comfort and history. Doc provides grand insight into the town’s and Joseph’s past–he’s a good comic historian, half-drunk half-smart. Joseph’s affair with Catherine, 17, is done well, especially once everyone in town figures it out. Middle-aged angst, but none of the contemporary immature adult nonsense that ruins novels. Here’s the slight original NY Times review.

Hadji Murat — a tale of suspense and Caucasus warring politics, with great asides off the main story that make it whole. Fleeing from Shamil, with whom he has had both a blood feud and a blood allegiance to, Hadji becomes a favorite of the Russians he once tried to kill. He is feted and feared and analyzed in many quarters, by men of various standing; boobs and buffoons, and kind friends. Women tend to swoon over him, but also make sound judgments. All the time, Hadji is watching them, figuring them out–they speak different languages–and he gets the upper hand by knowing them better. Lots of palace intrigue as the Russians plan out how to best use Hadji for their side against the Chechen troublemakers. The tributary stories–a soldier is shot and dies and we learn of how he became a soldier, his family; Nicholas I, a lumbering boob emperor, has no idea how to govern–are damn good and vital to the whole. The ending of Hadji (and of the story) is so nonchalant that it is disappointing, hardly a hero’s death. But nobody gets a hero’s death, not even heroes.