Time to Read – Q1 Books

One thing about retirement: I finally have enough time to read as much as I wish. In the first quarter of 2018 I read 15 books. Given how much time I actually have, this number begs the question, why so few? Anyway, I’d highly recommend the first six on this list:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I loved this novel and read it in one big gulp. It is about a single historical incident, but structurally it paints a whole sweep of history. The concept is a bit Thornton Wilder, but the execution, well, the execution is marvelous.  The “Bardo” is a Buddhist liminal state between death and rebirth; Saunders imagines a whole world there with multiple voices. This books reads like a work of poetry (or like the play Saunders said he started to write), it is funny and sad and beautiful all in one.
A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City by Drew Philp
An amazing first non-fiction work. The story is structured around Drew’s complete rebuild of an auctioned house, while articulating how to rebuild a community. He gets, and articulates well, the big issues that have been facing Detroit for years. Very excited to see him speak in Traverse City in April.
The Sympathizer: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) by Viet Thanh Nguyen
A contemporary novel about Vietnam, and the experience of Vietnamese immigrants, told by a narrator who is amazingly honest – also funny, crass, scary, and meditative. Fantastic and beautiful use of the English language.
City of Thieves: A Novel by David Benioff
A good, fast, interesting historical novel set in St. Petersburg during WWII. Reminded me a little of All the Light We Cannot See.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J D Vance
A straight up memoir, of a young man’s escape from the path his parents took. I liked it very much. J D Vance’s Mamaw is a character that will be with me for a long time. This is an important story about what the American dream has become in the 21st century.
First Snow, Last Light by Wayne Johnston
I really enjoyed this mysterious novel, set in Newfoundland.  The writing style was a bit different than any I have read before, and the story was compelling.  I liked the characters and wanted to follow them for all their quirks. I recommend this, and plan to pick up another novel by Wayne Johnson soon.
These were also good reads, and I recommend them in this order:
Celine by Peter Heller
The Painter by Peter Heller
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
The Tenth of December by George Saunders
Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferriss
The Nest by Cynthia d’Aprix Sweeney
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
A Good Cry, poetry by Nikki Giovanni

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