Monday, June 30, 2014

Reading Review - First Half 2014

It's been a literature reading year thus far, unlike last year which was mainly history. Funny how that works. Once I get on a roll and realize how many more good books there are to read, I gain a momentum that can last months at a time, and sometimes a year or more. The first half of this year has been no exception to that pattern.

So here are the books read thus far this year (with new authors for me in italics), roughly in order of preference. Some ratings may have been slightly adjusted upon further review and to slot them more accurately with regards to other books read later in the year. By my arbitrary 5 star ratings:
  • 5 - The Painter (Peter Heller)
  • 4.5 - The Son (Philipp Meyer)
  • 4.5 - This Dark Road to Mercy (Wiley Cash)
  • 4 - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)
  • 4 - The Realm of Last Chances (Steve Yarbrough)
  • 4 - Buying a Fishing Rod for my Grandfather [Stories] (Gao Xingjian)
  • 4 - St Burl's Obituary (Daniel Akst)
  • 3.5 - Netherland (Joseph O'Neill)
  • 3.5 - The Burgess Boys (Elizabeth Strout)
  • 3.5 - Drown [Stories] (Junot Diaz)
  • 4.5 - The Vintage Caper (Peter Mayle, 2009, 223 pages) - I didn't review this book separately, as I wouldn't call it a work of literature by any means, and so even at 4.5 stars it is here at the bottom of the list. It's a very good book, but reads like a piece of candy. It is set in California and in Paris and Marseille, and is part halfhearted mystery, but mainly just a good book about food, wine, travel and likable enough characters. A very nice two-day read, but this is cotton candy among rib eye steaks. Loved it, but it is what it is. Everything else on this list is serious literature...this is a good book.
Total books - 11
Total pages - 3,260
Different authors - 10
New authors - 6

There really wasn't a bad book in this bunch, and not a single one that I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend others to read.

I also read parts of the following story collections:
  • Fever (John Edgar Wideman) - Wasn't crazy about Wideman's style and probably won't finish this.
  • Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (ZZ Packer) - Did like Packer's style and will finish this, in pieces, eventually.
As we move into the back half of the year, I am partway through Wiley Cash's first book (A Land More Kind Than Home, 2013) and have also started Tom Rachman's second novel (The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, 2014 - I was stuck out of town without a book and needed to buy something to read...). Both of these novels are keeping the quality level very high...

Next up in the (potential) on-deck circle are The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt), All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr) and In Paradise (Peter Matthiessen).

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