Reading List 2021

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.

May

Heida, A Shepherd At The Edge Of The World by Steinunn Siguroardottir, translated by Philip Roughton, (c2016) English edition John Murray 2019
interesting vignettes of life on a remote farm in Iceland, focuses on the political fight to block a plan to flood her valley for a reservoir

The Mao Case by Qiu Xiaolong, Minotaur Books 2009
another satisfying story in the Inspector Chen series; extreme care is necessary in a case with roots in the Cultural Revolution and linked to the Great Leader

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford, Scribner 2016
a vivid evocation of colonial New York City and homage to the 18th century novel; unusual twists to the story, a very showy entertainment

April

Landmarks by Robert Macfarland, (c2015) Penguin Books 2016
a beautifully written slow-reading pleasure; reflections on landscapes and the language created through long intimacy of living within a particular place

China in Ten Words by Yu Hua, translated from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr, Pantheon Books 2011
completely fascinating; brave, witty, and shocking; Yu uses his life experiences as a prism to illuminate the elements of contemporary Chinese society

March

The Dry by Jane Harper; Flatiron Books 2016
well plotted mystery, strong on local color of drought-ravaged Australia

Cold Storage, Alaska by John Straley, Soho Press 2014
very appealing story, a kindlier example of the ironic/goofy style of crime novel

The Republic of Imagination, A Life In Books by Azar Nafisi; Penguin Books 2014
she shares her insights and love of literature; focus on books that illuminate the American experience

A Student Of History by Nina Revoyr, Akashik Books 2019
author is a fine stylist, but I was left feeling like the protagonist’s thesis advisor that the promise of the early chapters was unfulfilled

Earthlings by MURATA Sayaka, translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori (c2018) English edition Grove Press 2020
a deeply sad, surreally comic story, a harsh critique of society’s pressures to conform

Without Ever Reaching the Summit, a journey by Paolo Cognetti translated from the Italian by Stash Luczkiw; (c2018) HarperOne 2020
meditative trek in Nepal, a pure example of a trip that is all about the journey

Synthesizing Gravity, Selected Prose by Kay Ryan; Grove Press 2020
essays characterized by humor and insight, much on the act/nature of writing

The Big Both Ways by John Straley; Alaska Northwest Books 2008
depression era story with colorful memorable characters and setting in Northwest and Alaska

The Oedipus Cycle by Sophocles, translated from the Greek by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald; Harcourt Brace and Co.

The Forger by Cay Rademacher, translated from the German by Peter Millar; (c2013) Arcadia Books ed. 2018
Final volume in the very interesting and satisfying mystery series set in Hamburg in the immediate post-war years

February

The Mountains Wait by Theodor Broch; 1943 Michael Joseph Ltd. illustrated by Rockwell Kent
memoir of life in northern Norway and the coming of WWII by the Mayor of Narvik

WHY WE DRIVE, Toward a PHILOSOPHY of the OPEN ROAD by Matthew B. Crawford 2020 William Morrow
engaging stories illuminate his critique of the dangers of big tech and bureaucracy to personal freedom and creativity

Patrick Melrose by Edward St. Aubyn Picador edition 2015
being a cycle of five novels: Never Mind; Bad News; Some Hope; Mother’s Milk; At Last comic and terrible, heartbreaking and hopeful, the boyhood to adult middle age of an upper class Englishman; brilliant dialogue, wonderful prose

Lord Grizzly by Frederick Manfred c1954 Univ. of Nebraska edition 1983
vigorous vivid story of the mountain man Hugh Glass, who famously survived a mauling by a grizzly bear

The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff c1957 Oxford Univ Press
one of the author’s engaging series of novels about Roman Britain

Tokyo Ueno Station by YU Miri c2014, translated by Morgan Giles Riverhead Books edition 2020
through the memories and reveries of a homeless man’s ghost we see something of the hardships of life for the poor in post-war Japan; poetic, dream-like prose

I Was Jack Mortimer by Alexander Lernet-Holenia (c1933) translated by Ignat Ivesy 2013 Pushkin Press edition
terrifically entertaining thriller set in Vienna

Inferno by Dante Alighieri, A New Verse Translation by Michael Palma
W. W. Norton 2002

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Viking 2020
so much fun, a really witty clever warm-hearted mystery

The Vanished Library by Luciano Canfora, translated from the Italian by Martin Ryle; University of California Press 1989
scholarly sleuthing untangles references and allusions to libraries in the ancient world, particular focus on the great library of Alexandria

January

Journey to Britannia: From The Heart Of Rome To Hadrian’s Wall AD 130 by Bronwen Riley; 2015 Head of Zeus Ltd.
great armchair travel through time, landscape, and history

Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason; 2013 One (Pushkin Press)
comic mystery, bit overlong but entertaining – and there’s a great dog!

The Memory Police by OGAWA Yoko; translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder; (c1994) 2020 Vintage Books
mesmerizing speculation of a world in which first small, then intrinsic elements are “vanished” by a mysterious authority; what’s left when memories and stories are removed?

Soldiers Of Salamis by Javier Cercas; translated from the Spanish by Anne MacLean; (c2001) Vintage Books edition 2020
explores the boundaries of historical knowledge, the limits of memory and the unknowable human heart; wonderful novel of the Spanish Civil War and aftermath

The Willow King by Meelis Friedenthal, translated from the Estonian by Matthew Hyde (c2012) Pushkin Press ed. 2017
very intriguing and enjoyable dark fantasy of science tangled with folklore and superstition in Renaissance Estonia

Three Rings: A Tale of Exiles, Narrative, and Fate by Daniel Mendelsohn; 2020 University of VA Press
an essay and example of the technique of ring composition in literature illustrated by the interconnections between the great story of exile, The Odyssey, and the stories of three authors living as exiles

Blessed McGill by Edwin Shrake (c1968) John M. Hardy Pub. 2007
one of “50 best books on Texas” and a richly entertaining story; memorable characters, adventure, humor, and irony in Reconstruction Texas

The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre, translated from the French by Frank Wynne (c2013) English ed. 2015 Quercus
winner of the Prix Goncourt; France after the Great War, exhaustion, guilt, greed,and despair for those who survived; unforgettable characters, intricate plot is both thriller-compelling and emotionally rewarding

Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuscinski translated from the Polish by William Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand (c1982) Vintage International Books edition 1992
the overthrow of the last Shah of Iran told with literary virtuosity and insight; a template and preview of the history of the past forty years

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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