Reading List 2023


How Big Things Get Done by Bent Flyvbjerg and Dan Gardner, Currency 2023
might have been titled “get done so badly”; eye-opening analysis of those mega-projects that seem always to be over-budget and over-schedule

Life and Death of Harriett Frean by May Sinclair, (c1922) Penguin Books/ViragoPress 1980
well crafted psychological novel prompted good discussion (book group)

I Will Have Vengeance: The Winter Of Commissario Ricciardi by Maurizio De Giovanni, translated from the Italian by Anne Milano Appel; (c2007) Europa ed 2012
it’s 1931 in Naples, the first story of the Commissario set at the opera; distinctive delightful noir

Making the Cut by Jim Lusby, Orion 1995
Irish mystery, well-drawn characters and an entertainingly twisty story

Like A Sword Wound by Ahmet Altan, translatd from the Turkish by Brendan Freely and Yelda Turedi; (c1997) Europa 2018
marvelous language, an engrossing many-layered story of the last days of the Ottoman empire; first in the Ottoman Quartet

The April Dead by Alan Parks, Europa 2021
one of Europa’s World Noir imprint; Parks is an intelligent and skillful writer but his ’70s Glasgow is a very very dark place


The Engagement by Simenon, translated from the French by Anna Moschovakis; (c1933) NYRB 2007
early non-Maigret novel; unsettling, pitiless and cold even for a noir

American Midnight: The Great War, A Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis by Adam Hochschild, Mariner Books 2022
author is a notable writer of popular histories; examines the social hysteria, paranoia, and cruelties triggered and given license with America’s entry into WWI

Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders At America’s Edge by Ted Connover, Knopf 2023
life on the rural margins if not quite off-grid, a close look at the San Luis valley in south central Colorado (includes Great Sand Dune NP)

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey, Soho 2018
ambitious effort to portray the social and cultural complexities of 1920’s India in a mystery story

Fragile Cargo: The World War II Race to Save the Treasures of China’s Forbidden City by Adam Brookes, Atria Books 2022
fascinating and well-told story of the extraordinary efforts made by the museum’s staff to protect the many fragile precious pieces of the collection

Age of Vice by Deepti Kapoor, Riverhead Books 2023
sprawling gaudy story of crime and wealth in contemporary India

The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen, translated from the Finnish by David Hackston; Orenda Books 2021
a unique voice in Nordic noir crime fiction; a warm, hilarious, absurdist thriller

Blood Curse: The Springtime of Commissario Ricciardi by Maurizio De Giovanni, translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar; (c2008) Europa 2018
Naples, 1931 mystery story; beautifully written, wonderfully atmospheric

The Greatest Slump Of All Time by David Carkeet, Harper and Row 1984
an exceptional, insightful comic novel of depression; players on a baseball team struggle with personal “slumps” as the team is mysteriously successful


Tokyo Zodiac Murders by SHIMADA Soji, translated from the Japanese by Ross and Shika Mackenzie; (c1981) Pushkin Vertigo ed 2015
complex puzzle story

Killshot by Elmore Leonard, William Morrow 1989
tremendously entertaining, great dialogue leavens the tension

52 Pick-up by Elmore Leonard, Secker and Warburg 1974
first of his crime novels; a blazing fast read because I couldn’t put it down

The Boat of Longing by O.E. Rolvaag, translated from the Norwegian by Nora O. Solum; (c1933) Minnesota Historical Press 1985
a moving story of immigration, its hopes and costs; lovely, lyrical language in the descriptions of the sea and life in Norwegian fishing village (book group)

Picture in the Sand by Peter Blauner, Minotaur Books 2023
pure storytelling pleasure; a young Egyptian man caught up in the political turmoil of post-British Egypt in the 1950’s while working on the deMille production of The Ten Commandments

Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk, translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap; Knopf 2022
a tremendous novel, expansive in themes and engrossing in character and story; bubonic plague strikes a small island in the waning days of the Ottoman empire

Crashed by Timothy Hallinan, Soho Press 2012
a Hollywood comic crime novel with sharp writing and great characters; if you like this kind of thing, which I do, it’s a delight – I rationed the pages to savor the dialogue

In The Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty, Seventh Street Books 2014
1980’s Belfast, police detective solves a classic locked room mystery to catch an IRA bomber

Counting Sheep, A Celebration of the Pastoral Heritage of Britain by Philip Walling; Profile Books 2014
a remarkably interesting and enjoyable guide to all things sheep in the UK, historically and today; really a delightful book, especially for anyone who has enjoyed the sight of “woolies” dotting the hills and countryside of Britain

China After Mao, The Rise of a Superpower by Frank Dikotter; Bloomsbury 2022
a superbly readable account, dense with economic and historical detail and enlivened with anecdotes and personalities; the consistent repression and economic mismanagement described should finish the foolish expectations of democratic change; the chapter on the Tiananmen Square massacre is masterful and devastating

Iced In Paradise by Naomi Hirahara, Prospect Park Books 2019
another enjoyable, well written story from Hirahara; the mystery has a nice twist but the chief pleasure is in the picture of life on one of the smaller Hawaiian islands

Three Roads Back: How Emerson, Thoreau, and William James Responded To The Greatest Losses Of Their Lives by Robert D. Richardson; Princeton Univ. Press 2023
a slim, thoughtful reflection on the impact grief had on the thought and lives of the three men and how their resilience can be models for each of us


Idol, Burning by USAMI Rin, translated from the Japanese by YONEDA Asa; (c2020) Harpervia 2022
sympathetic portrayal of a teenage girl and her obsession with a J-pop idol; winner of Akutagawa Prize

Billie Starr’s Book of Sorries by Deborah E. Kennedy, Flatiron Books 2022
2nd grader Billie collects the “Sorry” excuses and explanations she hears from adults

Second-Class Citizen by Buchi Emecheta, George Braziller 1975
strongly autobiographical novel of a woman determined to be educated and independent; propulsive narrative takes Adah from childhood in Nigeria to the London slums as a young mother

A Death in Tokyo by HIGASHINO Keigo, translated by Giles Murray; (c2011) Minotaur Books 2022
a classic procedural with Detective Kaga; psychological insight, deeply moral

Evil Things by Katja Ivar, Bitter Lemon Press 2019
solid mystery story set in early 1950’s Finland, introduces an interestingly complex female detective who solves a tricky case in Lapland

Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo, Tom Doherty Books 2022
modest novella about the value and importance of stories, personally and culturally; set in an appealing China-ish fantasy world

Gravel Heart by Abdulrazak Gurnah, Bloomsbury 2017
deceptively powerful novel; a story of lives disrupted in the post-colonial turmoil of 1970’s Zanzibar told in such measured subtle prose that I was immersed before I noticed my feet were wet

O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker, (c1991) Scribner 2021
a very witty, very odd novel, a bit unsettling but wonderfully entertaining for the language and dark comedy (book group)


Murder After Christmas by Rupert Latimer, (c1944) Poisoned Pen Press 2021
a delightful entertainment, like the classic elements of a Golden Age mystery exuberantly exploding from a Christmas Cracker

The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney, Europa 2022
intricate procedural in darkest Glasgow

Gaia, Queen of Ants by Hamid Ismailov, translated from the Uzbek by Shelley Fairweather-Vega; Syracuse Univ. Press ed. 2020
the stories of intriguing empathetic characters, all shaped by the political turmoil of their homelands, are intertwined with myths and folktales of Central Asia; lots of food for discussion in Book Group

Double Wide by Leo W. Banks, Brash Books 2017
I’m calling this very entertaining western mystery/thriller ‘noir light’ – lots of tough and snappy dialogue, characters on the fringe of Southwest society, but the exbaseball player protagonist is just too likeable for Noir (that’s a good thing)

The Orphanage by Serhiy Zhadan, translated from the Ukrainian by R. Costigan-Humes and I. Stackhouse Wheeler (c2017) Yale University Press 2021
an intense, gripping story of war at the Ukrainian-Russian border as a trip across town to reach the orphanage becomes a three day nightmarish journey; brilliantly conveys the confusion of identity and loyalty in the community, the confusion and uncertainty of the military action, and the misery and suffering of everyone

The Marshal at the Villa Torrini by Magdalen Naab, (c1993) Soho Press 2009
one of an excellent series of mysteries set in Florence; beautifully written with a very appealing and singular detective character

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman, Viking 2022
the Thursday Murder Club solves a cold case in this third book of the improbably entertaining, witty, and warmhearted series

The Slowworm’s Song by Andrew Miller, Europa 2022
subtle, exquisite prose; a story of finding a way out of the trauma and guilt from a tragic mistake, the possibilities of healing and reconciliation

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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