Reading List 2020

What I’ve read this year. I sample or skim some that aren’t included. Happily, I have lost the compulsion or sense of duty to finish every book I start.


Dreamers: When The Writers Took Power Germany, 1918 by Volker Weidermann translated from the German by Ruth Martin c2017 Pushkin Press edition 2018
a vivid recreation of the collision of political dreams and idealism with the desperate realities of Germany in the first months after defeat

The Inugami Curse by YOKOMIZO Seishi translated from the Japanese by YAMAZAKI Yumiko c1972 Pushkin Press edition 2020
very enjoyable, satisfyingly intricate murder mystery

Journey By Moonlight by Antal Szerb translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix c1937 Pushkin Press edition 2001 (NYRB)
a wonderful novel; ruthlessly honest, tenderly ironic observation of a man on an improbable journey to recover/understand his youth and to escape his conventional life

Shots from a Lawyer’s Gun by Nicholas Everitt and Ernest Ivens Watson 6th edition c1927 Gilbertson & Page
a tour through English Game Laws with anecdote and illustration; just as incomprehensible but more entertaining than one would expect

Books, a memoir by Larry McMurtry c2008 Simon and Schuster
agreeable shoptalk of a life in the book trade


Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Doblin translated from the German by Michael Hofmann c1929 New York Review Books edition 2018
an extraordinary feat of translation; a novel that immerses the reader in lower class Berlin in a torrent of images, politics, scenes, sounds, facts, characters, literary set pieces, and more until the reader feels like she is careening through a whitewater rapids of words with only the hapless one-armed Franz Biberkopf to steer as they race to the waterfall’s edge….

Master Of The Day Of Judgment by Leo Perutz translated from the German by Eric Mosbacher c1975 Pushkin Vertigo edition 2015
great atmosphere and suspense in old Vienna, clever twist

The Buffalo People, Pre-contact Archaeology on the Canadian Plains by Liz Bryan c2005 Heritage House Publishing
very well written survey of a century of archaeology, current historical understanding of the artifacts and sites, what’s known and what’s argued about

Death Going Down by Maria Angelica Bosco translated from the Spanish by Lucy Greaves c1955 Pushkin Press edition 2016
many layers of lies and deceptions in this satisfying mystery story
Doubts make nasty enemies

The Murdered Banker by Augusto De Angelis translated from the Italian by Jill Foulston c1935 Pushkin Vertigo edition 2016
the appealing Inspector De Vincenzi solves his first (of 20!) case


The Door by Magda Szabo translated from the Hungarian by Len Rix c1987 NYRB edition 2005
unsettlingly unsentimental story of the relationship between two women, a writer and her housekeeper, in late Communist Hungary; thematically rich and complex

The Lady Killer by TOGAWA Masako translated from the Japanese by Simon Grove c1963 Dodd, Mead & Co. edition 1985
a good example of the Japanese psychological mystery; well-drawn characters, touch of humor

Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler translated from the German by Philip Boehm c1941 Scribner edition 2019
how this novel was included in the Modern Library Best English Novels list is part of its fascinating backstory; compelling, absorbing story of an old revolutionary reevaluating his life and convictions when arrested and interrogated during a party purge (book group)

Sci Fi, A Yellowthread Street Mystery by William Marshall c1981 Holt, Rinehart and Winston
the reader is bounced between hilarity and suspense in this pinball game of a police procedural set in pre-handover Hong Kong; not everyone has come to the Science Fiction and Horror Movie convention to have a good time in costume

Death Is Hard Work by Khaled Khalifa translated from the Arabic by Leri Price c2016 Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition 2019
the misery of contemporary Syria made plain as three siblings attempt to take their deceased father’s body to his home village for burial; an increasingly dangerous and nightmarish journey of black comedy and despairing recollection

Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic c2015 Pushkin Press edition 2017
terrific Australian thriller

A Dose of Frontier Soldiering: The Memoirs of Corporal E.A.Bode, Frontier Regular Infantry, 1877-1882 ed. by Thomas T. Smith c1994 Univ. of Nebraska Press
“soldiering is mostly laboring”; no flashy campaigning stories, but a very interesting account of the life of an enlisted soldier, albeit an exceptionally well-educated one who writes with humor and a sympathetic interest in the natural and human world of the western frontier

The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun Translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell c2016English language edition Arcade Publishing 2018
psychological suspense, falling into the holes of our own making of misunderstanding, loneliness, and regret

The Honjin Murders by YOKOMIZO Seishi translated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai c1973 Pushkin Press 2019
delightful locked-room mystery


Rocket to the Morgue by Anthony Boucher
c1942 Penzler Publishers 2019
clever locked room mystery, cast of Science Fiction writers (thinly disguised Golden Age luminaries), an insouciant, engagingly breezy style
In the lounge car of the Lark, Pullman train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a tall thin man with a pale face and flaming hair sat contentedly with two highballs and a blonde.

The Path To Rome by Hilaire Belloc c1902 Catholic Answers 2015
a charming, eccentric account of a pilgrimage to Rome, walking a straight line (by the map) and writing about whatever he thinks and meets along the way; illustrated with pen and ink sketches by the author

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life by Louise Aronson c2019 Bloomsbury Publishing
a heartfelt call to reclaim the dignity and value of life in its third phase; a devastating critique of American medical practice and its failure, even indifference, to provide true care as part of the so-called Health Care system

For All The Gold In The World by Massimo Carlotto translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar c2016 Europa Editions
a fine example of noir crime fiction; interesting situation, a complex hero, and the right balance of action, introspection, and social commentary

They Will Have To Die Now: Mosul And The Fall Of The Caliphate by James Verini c2019 W.W. Norton & Co.
powerful reporting from the Iraq war

A Month In The Country by J.L. Carr c1980 NYRB edition 2000
humorous, delicate novel of healing; poignant recollection of a summer after the Great War

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller c2018 Europa editions
superior historical novel of England circa 1809

The Anatomy Of A Moment, Thirty-five Minutes In History And Imagination by Javier Cercas translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean c2009 English translation 2011 Bloomsbury
a brilliant piece of historical research and writing about the attempted military coup in Spain in 1981


Measuring The World by Daniel Kehlmann
translated from the German by Carol Brown Laneway c2005 English translation c2007 Quercus
wonderfully entertaining, witty and intellectualy stimulating (book group)

The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen
translated from the Finnish by David Hackston c2016 English translation c2017 Orenda Books
darkly comic mystery, surprisingly warm and hopeful as the poisoned protagonist reflects on his life and Life while solving his murder

Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter
c2015 Graywolf Press remarkable, singular, poetic story of loss, grief, recovery

The Lord of the Rings, being The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
Houghton Mifflin
rewarding and deeply satisfying to revisit

The Wolf Children by Cay Rademacher
translated from the German by Peter Millar c2012 English translation c2017 Arcadia Books
the second in a trilogy of mystery stories set in ruined post-war Hamburg; solid storytelling and a vivid evocation of the city

The Moor: A journey into the English wilderness by William Atkins
c2014 Faber & Faber
a very well written history – natural,human, literary – of the English moorlands; entices one to go for a long tramp

Author: abookwomansholiday

The perfect holiday for a lifelong reader is one with a stack of books and few distractions. Retiring after three decades as a bookseller, I look forward to reading my way through the stacks and shelves and lists of books waiting for me. This blog will be something of a grab bag or commonplace book of reviews, quotations, notes on the history of books, the contemporary book trade, and anything connected with books and language. Reading is a great pleasure. Thinking and talking about books multiplies and intensifies that pleasure.

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