Highway Rest Areas Bucket List?

10 Interstate Rest Areas to see before you die? Doesn’t seem a likely list but, if it exists, I will nominate this one on I80 westbound near Tiffin IA (near the University of Iowa and its writers program).

I walked all around the building to enjoy the frieze of book spines like a super long library shelf and the sturdy book stack pillars at the corners. The celebration of Iowa’s literary culture, both serious and playful, gave new energy to a tired traveler!

The eastbound rest area is said to be even more fun and elaborate in its displays. If only I’d known I would have made the equivalent of a highway “around the block” to see it!

looking for books in the old Habsburg empire, a tale of three cities: pt 3 Prague

Prague is the fifth most visited city in Europe. Millions of travelers are attracted to this remarkably beautiful city by its art, architecture, history, and, it must be said, the amazingly cheap beer. It’s good beer, too, so the price is all the more surprising to the American craft beer drinker used to a ten dollar pint. This is the only place I’ve ever been where the beer in a restaurant costs less than the tap water.

But even with the thousands of holiday revelers filling the narrow streets of Old Town it’s possible to find a quiet pocket and an uncrowded museum. The Postal Museum, for example, where we were (by the guest book) the third visitors in a month. “Yes, yes, we’ve come to see your museum,” we assured the startled security guard. He flitted upstairs and fetched equally startled but welcoming staff who unlocked the cash box and took our admission fee.

Postage stamps carry a lot of political and cultural history between their tiny perforated borders. The Czechs are rightfully proud of their authors and literature so it’s no surprise to see them represented on stamps.

We’ve come to our last day in Prague and the end of our trip. We’ve honored the pledge to buy no books more in the spirit than the letter, but, still, I can lift our suitcases. We decide to reward ourselves and ask the hotel concierge for the best bookstore in Prague. With no hesitation she directs us to Luxor bookstore on Wenceslas Square. A little map study told us it would be a longish walk but doable. A few wrong turns turned it into a very long walk. On the bright side, we saw more of the city and enjoyed a really excellent pastry and coffee just when we needed reviving. And we did reach the Square and had a very pleasurable browse through the large selection of history books. Tired legs are forgotten when you find something special!

looking for books in the old Habsburg empire, a tale of three cities: pt 2 Vienna

Vienna at Christmas time is purely wonderful. All the constant pleasures of the city – the coffee houses and cafes, the museums, the arts and music performances, the shops – are magnified by the seasonal festivity. Huge displays of lights, decorations, and Christmas markets seemingly around every corner make it a delight to stroll the streets.

We did pop in to a couple of bookstores as we passed by, just to enjoy the sight and smell of books, but didn’t go looking for them. For new ones, anyway. The Tyrolia bookshop behind St. Stephan’s Cathedral is an old favorite. Not a big store but it always has something to add to my husband’s library.

Books have a way of finding me, though, or perhaps, being a bookish person, I just notice them more. I was casually viewing the Lower Belvedere’s collection of medieval art when I noticed a book in a saint’s hand. Then another, writing in a book, and another in his study with untidy bookshelves behind him!

The best and most unexpected book appearance was at the Weltmuseum (Ethnographic Museum). Was it really chance that led me down that bland hallway or were my steps guided by some magnetic force pulling me to discover Chaekgeori? And why was the exhibit extended by more than a month until I would be there? Methinks there be mysterious bookish powers at work.

Someone thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the 130th anniversary of Austrian-Korean diplomatic relations. I don’t know that I would have, but I am delighted that it prompted this terrific exhibit. Chaekgeori translates as “books and things” and refers to a tradition of painting an arrangement of books, shelves, small treasures and objects. The style moved from scholarly court paintings into Korean folk art and continues to engage contemporary artists. All completely new to me and so interesting and so much fun.

I bought the catalog, of course, but it’s small and hardly added any weight to the suitcase. Oddly, though the exhibit captions included English, the catalog is only Korean/German. Good thing I’m happy just to look at the pictures!

looking for books in the old Habsburg empire, a tale of three cities: pt 1 Bratislava

Strictly speaking, we weren’t looking for books on our holiday trip. “We’re packing light, right? Only carry-ons, right? So we can’t buy books this trip.” I said. “Only carry-on, keep it light!” my husband agreed, “No books. Unless we find something really special, of course. Surely one or two would fit?” Our good intentions lasted into the second day.

And to be fair, I was the one who broke first. When touring the Bratislava castle the visitor must pass through a really attractive museum shop to reach the medieval tower. One would think it safe for the non-Slovak speaker to walk past the abundant displays of books. One would be wrong. “Oh look,” I said. “The exhibit catalogs are bilingual!”

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

looking for books, a road trip coda

Two days driving across the beautiful plains and prairie of southern Colorado and Kansas, we reached the end of the Flint Hills Scenic Byway and the official end of the grand Western Road Trip. Just a drive for home along the familiar sights of I70 ahead. But an unexpected final treat awaited in Council Grove, the small town at the end of the Byway.

Flint Hills Books is a delightful shop in a fine old bank building in the center of town. The space wasn’t large enough for a big collection but it was very well chosen with a particularly choice case of local interest. The bookseller was friendly and chatted while tallying our stack of books. We’d made her day, she said, but I assured her that she’d made ours.

Nothing more but to head for home and start reading!

looking for books along CA49, the Golden Chain Highway

The Gold Rush country of Northern California is a beautiful area of mostly small to very small towns. Not too promising as an environment for bookstores, but we found that books – like gold – are where you find them.

First strike in Nevada City. Harmony Books packs a good, balanced selection of books into its historic storefront. Right by the front door is a case of local interest material with the Gold Rush guidebook we’ve been looking for.

Murphys is small but bustling with tourists looking for wine instead of gold. Amongst the tasting rooms is the bright and cheerful Books on Main.

Auburn is an attractive county seat town where we were able to find both real gold – a massive nugget displayed in the fine county museum – and a few literary nuggets at William Smith Books. Smith Books is a very good general used bookstore, an increasingly rare find. The shelves are well filled and meticulously organized.

Museum and Park gift shops are often good sources for books too. The Visitor’s Center at Calaveras Big Tree State Park had an excellent selection and gave us a fine tote bag to carry them.

Front Street Books

Front Street Books in Alpine, Texas – as nice a small town bookstore as you’ll ever find. The stock is thoughtfully chosen with a strong but not exclusive emphasis on the local history and literature. Our purchases include a collectible Texas writer, contemporary Texas writers, several very small press translated from Spanish novels, a history of the US/Mexico border in WWI, and a couple of popular genre titles. Don’t miss it when visiting Big Bend National Park!

Reading List 2022


Lady Joker volume 2 by TAKAMURA Kaoru, translated from the Japanese by Marie Iida and Allison Markin Powell; (c1997) English ed. Soho Press 2022
an absorbing and monumental novel, 19th century-esque in scale and ambition; a cross-section of the political/legal/business establishment of 1990’s Japan as a specimen slide under the author’s microscope

There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job by TSUMURA Kikuko, translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton; (c2015) English edition Bloomsbury 2020
a witty, agreeably odd exploration of the nature of Work in the modern world as a young woman undertakes a series of peculiar temporary jobs

A Waiter in Paris: Adventures in the Dark Heart of the City by Edward Chisholm, Pegasus Books 2022
inspired by Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris, the fascinating and appalling memoir of the author’s four years in the decidedly non-glamorous life of the restaurant workers in Paris

The Bachelors by Muriel Spark, 1960
a distinctively Spark-ian story of several London bachelors and their entanglements

Fallout by Paul Thomas, 2014 Upstart Press
Maori detective Tito Ihaka mystery

Travels With Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski, translated from the Polish by Klara Glowczewska; (c2004) English ed. 2008 Penguin
fascinating, deeply engaging work by the famed Polish reporter; how he found a guide in Herodotus who exercised his curiosity, asked questions, and talked directly with people to discern the truth


The Dead Hour by Denise Mina; Little, Brown and Co 2006
Glasgow noir, unusual and interesting protagonist

Piccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse, (c1917) BBC Audiobooks America 2011
read by Jonathan Cecil
a hilariously complicated story elevated to the sublimely funny by the performance of Mr. Cecil (and baseball figures in the plot)

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea; Little, Brown & Co. 2009
a delightful novel, comic but not trivial; well drawn characters, beautifully paced storytelling, serious elements carried lightly in a picaresque quest tale
(book group)

Algerian White by Assia Djebar, translated from the French by David Kelley and Marjolijn de Jager; (c1995) English ed. Seven Stories Press 2000
a singular work; a lyrical meditation on Algeria’s revolution and continuing cultural/political violence, the role of language and writing in a nation’s life, and a lament for the many deaths of friends and fellow writers

Brotherhood by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, translated from the French by Alexia Trigo; (c2015) English ed. Europa 2021
multi prize winning novel about a city taken over by an Islamist group; thoughtful exploration of the ways people react to the violent imposition of the Brotherhood’s control, individually and as “the people”

Giving Up the Gun: Japan’s Reversion to the Sword, 1545-1879 by Noel Perrin; David R. Godine 1979
a fascinating story of a deliberate retreat from a more “advanced” technology


Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks, Europa Ed. 2021
crime novel 1970’s Glasgow, lots of drugs and rock and roll

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox, W. W. Norton 1970
vividly evokes the sense of change and menace in urban life circa 1970; outstanding literary quality, subtle, spare and insightful prose (book group)
“Ticking away inside the carapace of ordinary life and its sketchy agreements was anarchy.”

Morocco Since 1830, a history by C. R. Pennell; NY University Press 2000
very readable history, dense with fact and insight

Points In Time, tales from Morocco by Paul Bowles; Peter Owen 1982
impressionistic short pieces blending history and fiction

In Morocco by Edith Wharton, (c1920) John Beaufoy Publishing 2015
fascinating account of travel in “a country without a guidebook”, Morocco in the last days before post-war modernity rushes over it


Black Cabs by John McLaren, Simon & Schuster UK 1999
amusing thriller in which several London cabbies get the better of City hotshots

The Politics Of Pain: Postwar England And The Rise Of Nationalism by Fintan O’Toole, (c2018) US ed. W.W. Norton & Co. 2019
an unsparing, insightful analysis of post-war UK politics culminating in the black comedy that is Brexit; engrossing, witty, disturbing


The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson, translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerberg; Thomas Dunne Books 2006
strong characters, psychological suspense in the Scandinavian noir style

Total Chaos by Jean-Claude Izzo, translated from the French by Howard Curtis; (c1995) Europa 2005
noir in Marseilles: fine riff on the hard-boiled American detctive story in which Life is hard but the food is better; “In which Dawn Is Merely An Illusion That The World Is Beautiful”

My Life As A Fan by Wilfrid Sheed, Simon & Schuster 1993
a memoir of the ardent obsession of his childhood with baseball; funny, affectionate, insightful answer to the question “what was it like”

The Khan by Saima Mir, Point Blank 2021
Polemic slickly delivered as a feminist thriller


Bloody January by Alan Parks, (c2017) Europa edition 2018
One of Europa’s World Noir series; vivid story of the dark side of 1970’s Glasgow

A (Very) Short History of Life on Earth by Henry Gee, St. Martin’s Press 2021
subtitled: 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Pithy Chapters which neatly, if too modestly, encapsulates the contents; a very model of popular science writing

Country by Michael Hughes, Custom House 2019
the Iliad as a tale of Northern Ireland in the Troubles; haunting and beautiful
“We can’t get rid of our grief, neither one of us, so let’s leave it there on the floor, for it does us no good. But there’s no way out of it either, for life is nothing only grief.”

We Don’t Know Ourselves, A Personal History Of Modern Ireland by Fintan O’Toole; Liveright Publishing 2021
an extraordinary work; dense with personalities, incident, personal observation and experience; sympathetic unsparing analysis of Irish society entering the modern world

The Devils’ Dance by Hamid Ismailov, translated from the Uzbek by Donald Rayfield; (c2016) English ed. Tilted Axis Press 2017
extraordinary immersive novel; the story of a novelist imprisoned for unknown political reasons intertwines with the historical novel he is writing about people victimized by the ruthless politics of Central Asia in the Great Game era

Read more: Reading List 2022


The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood, Poisoned Pen Press 2021
smoothly written, amusing mystery

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, FSG 2007
charming novella imagines Queen Elizabeth accidentally visiting a bookmobile and discovering the pleasures of books and reading

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld, Weidenfeld and Nicolson 2014
something like a dark fable/fairy tale, improbably poetic story of death row

Signs Preceding The End Of The World by Yuri Herrera, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman; (c2009) English ed. & Other Stories 2015
slim haunting story of negotiating borders physical, emotional, cultural

Long Live the Post Horn! by Vigdis Hjorth, translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund; (c2013) English edition Verso 2020
lots of heart and humor in this story of a young woman finding purpose and her own voice; a love letter (pun intended) to the postal service (book group)

Will and Testament by Vigdis Hjorth, translated from the Norwegian by Charlotte Barslund; (c2016) English edition Verso 2019
guilt, denial, and the limits of forgiveness; fine novel of a woman’s struggle to heal from abuse as a child and the pain of her family’s denial of her suffering

Northern Heist by Richard O’Rawe, Melville House 2021
well-paced story of a Belfast bank robbery

The End Of The Affair by Graham Greene, Heinemann 1951

Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym, Penguin 1977
Pym’s wry humor, lack of sentimentality, and writerly craft well-displayed in the story of four people at the edge of retirement; my favorite of her novels (book group)


Silver Bullets by Elmer Mendoza, translated from the Spanish by Mark Fried; (c2008) Maclehose Press 2015
an exceptional, headspinning take on the classic hard-boiled detective story; 58 characters (I was grateful for the scorecard) populate the 200 pages of this blackly comic Mexican noir; stylistically interesting, contributes to the sense of chaos and uncertainty in a society ravaged by the corruption and violence of the drug trade

A World Beneath The Sands: The Golden Age Of Egyptology by Toby Wilkinson, Norton 2020
from the Rosetta stone to King Tut’s tomb; a lively account of the discoveries, personalities, and scholarship of Egyptology and the political/historical context of European rivalries and the developing Egyptian nationalism

Black Sea by Neal Ascherson, Jonathan Cape 1995
an extraordinary history of the whirlpool of peoples and cultures that is the Black Sea region; fascinating and disturbingly relevant

The Far Empty by J. Todd Scott, Putnam 2016
noirish crime story in the Big Bend territory of West Texas; interesting characters and very good sense of the country

How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read by Pierre Bayard, translated from the French by Jeffrey Mehlman; Bloomsbury 2007
witty, provocative, and thoughtful exploration of what we mean by “reading” and why we do it; a good discussion in book group where I was amused to learn that I was the only person who finished it (book group)

Ukraine, A History by Orest Subtelny, University of Toronto Press 1988
from earliest times through the Soviet period, tells of the centuries long struggle of Ukrainian people to achieve statehood, provides a bitter context to the current war

High White Sun by J. Todd Scott, Putnam’s 2018
good follow-up story to The Far Empty


Migratory Birds by Mariana Oliver, translated from the Spanish by Julia Sanches; (c2014) Transit 2021
gracefully written essays on themes of migration

Olav Audunsson, Vol.I Vows by Sigrid Undset, translated from the Norwegian by Tiina Nunnaly; (c1925) Univ. of Minnesota 2020
wonderfully evocative, immersive story of medieval Norway

The Name Is Archer by Ross Macdonald, Bantam Books 1955
short story collection

The Shadow of the Empire, A Judge Dee Investigation by Qiu Xiaolong; Severn House 2021
author of popular Inspector Chen series reworks one of Dee’s cases

The Emissary by TAWADA Yoko, translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutami; (c2014) New Directions 2018
not your usual dystopia; poignant, funny, thoughtful

Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane, Jonathan Cape 1996
second reading even richer experience; wonderful language, complex layering and interweaving of stories (book group)

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, Grove Press 2021
novella asks if we can choose to be courageous and kind when it’s easier to look away

Malice by HIGASHINO Keigo, translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith; (c1996) Minotaur Books 2014
a very clever puzzler and treat for fans of literary/psychological mysteries

Under The Midnight Sun by HIGASHINO Keigo, translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith; (c1999) Minotaur Books 2016
extended, complex story of a crime and its aftermath


The Ivory Grin by Ross Macdonald, c1947 Knopf
Macdonald’s Lew Archer series exemplifies the pleasures of the hard-boiled detective story

Velvet Was The Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Del Ray 2021
seriously entertaining or entertainingly serious, take your pick; very interesting and enjoyable story of people caught up in the political turmoil of 1970’s Mexico City (book group)

The Basel Killings by Hansjorg Schneider, translated from the German by Mike Mitchell; (c2010) Bitter Lemon Press 2021
first of a mystery series set in Basel Switzerland; interesting detective, characters and plot show cross-currents of contemporary Europe

The Window Trail by J J Rusz, 2018
“A Big Bend Country Mystery”; a nicely told story, appealing characters and excellent local color; a pleasure to read, especially while traveling in the Park

Silver Pebbles by Hansjorg Schneider, translated from the German by Mike Mitchell; (c2011) Bitter Lemon Prss 2022
drug deal diamonds go astray and are found by an unlikely couple on the margins of society

Fatale by Jean-Ptrick Manchette, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith; (c1977) NYRB 2011
very dark noir from the great French crime novelist; opening scene of hunters “…hunting for a good three hours and still had not killed anything. Everyone was frustrated and crotchety.” There will be plenty of killing with a cold edge of black comedy.

Eight Dogs or Hakkenden, Part One of An Ill-Considered Jest by BAKIN Kyokutei, translated from the Japanese by Glynne Walley; Cornell University Press 2021
wonderfully entertaining saga with elements of adventure, fantasy, folklore and historical romance

The Body Snatcher by Patricia Melo, translated from the Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers; (c2010) Bitter Lemon Press 2015
crushing heat and pervasive corruption, moral and physical, in a remote western Brazil town; complex surprising plot


From the Holy Mountain, A Journey In The Shadow Of Byzantium by William Dalrymple, HarperCollins 1997
the author’s courage, scholarship, humor and humanity are all evident in this modern classic of travel writing; it’s an absolutely wonderful, engrossing account of an extraordinary journey to discover the survivals, physical and cultural, of the Byzantine world in the contemporary Middle East

The Aosawa Murders by ONDA Riku, translated from the Japanese by Alison Watts; (c2005) Bitter Lemon Press 2020
a painstaking reinvestigation of a shocking murder builds surprising tension and horror

Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah, Bloomsbury 2020
seemingly effortless classic storytelling; the flow of a hundred years of history and politics seen through the ordinary lives of an Arican town (book group)

Augustus by John Williams, (c1972) NYRB 2014
a biography of Augustus, a history of the founding of the Roman Empire, a subtle study of power and politics – all in the form of an epistolary novel; an extraordinary accomplishment

In Translation, Translators On Their Work And What It Means edited by Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky, Columbia University Press 2013
some essays were on technical topics but there was much for the general reader interested in the history, issues, and challenges of translation


Inside Dope by Paul Thomas, Hachette New Zealand 1996
extremely entertaining comic crime story; author has a real flair for character and description, sharp humor

Legends of the Condor Heroes 1: A Hero Born by YONG Jin, translated from the Chinese by Anna Holmwood; (c1959) English ed. Maclehose Press 2018
a wonderfully entertaining martial arts fantasy adventure tale with memorable characters and briskly moving action; excellent translation

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Riverhead Books 2020
(book group) several stories of different forms of “passing”; novel overcrowded, felt labored

A Brief History Of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next by Tom Standage, Bloomsbury 2021
title says it all; engaging style, lively anecdotes, cautionary observations about the unforseen consequences of technology and good intentions

Lady Joker by TAKAMURA Kaoru, translated from the Japanese by Marie Iida and Allison Markin Powell; (c1997) English edition Soho Press 2021
Vol. 1 immersive fascinating portrait of Japanese society in the guise of a crime novel

The Meaning Of Travel by Emily Thomas, Oxford Univ. Press 2020
a pleasurable tour with “philosophers abroad”, contemplates the who and why of travel and what we think of where we’ve been

The Village Of Eight Graves by YOKOMIZO Seishi, translated from the Japanese by Bryan Karetnyk; (c1971) English edition Pushkin Press 2021
an irresistable title; another delightfully complex problem for detective KINDAICHI Kosuke complete with a lost Samurai treasure hoard

Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin, translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins; (c2016) Daunt Books 2020/Open Letter 2021
award winner for translation; language both spare and unsparing in description; enigmatic storyof borders and uncertain identities, its tone as cold as the weather in the shabby out-of-season resort town

Dancing On The Ropes, Translators and the Balance of History by Anna Aslanyan, Profile Books 2021
entertaining stories of the role of translators/interpreters in history illustrate the challenges and philosophies of cross-language communication

Prefecture D by YOKOYAMA Hideo, translated from the Japanese by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies; (c1998) English edition Riverrun 2019
early stories set in the Japanese Police unit that became the setting of the author’s excellent 2012 novel Six Four

The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers, translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo; (c1946) NYRB 2018
psychologically insightful, intensely suspensful story of escape from a Nazi prison camp for political dissidents before the war