Books

Recently finished books and my Goodreads rating.

December 2015

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens ★★★★★
In a series of essays, the late Christopher Hitchens talks openly about being afflicted with cancer.

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co., #1) by Jonathan Stroud ★★★★
Young ghost hunters keep London safe. Not up to Stroud’s Bartimaeus books, but a good read nonetheless.

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun by Sébastien Japrisot ★★★★
In this French noir novel Dany Longo is on the road in a Thunderbird and confused about her possible involvement in a murder.

Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden ★★★★
The story of Shin Dong-hyuk’s life in a North Korean prison camp and his unlikely escape and flight to the West.

The Gold Cell by Sharon Olds ★★★★
A collection of poems documenting relationships, abuse, marriage and parenting.

The Wild Truth: The Untold Story of Sibling Survival by Carine McCandless ★★★★
A companion book to Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, Chris McCandless’ sister Carine clears the air and sets the record straight concerning a troubled upbringing in an abusive home.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell ★★★★
Georgie McCool uses a magic phone to call her husband in the past and, with this plot device, examine her troubled marriage.

November 2015

Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder ★★★★
Stories of surveillance, detention and resistance in the police state behind the Berlin wall.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redeption by Laura Hillenbrand ★★★★★
This is a story of extraordinary athletic achievement, the valor of an army airman, survival at sea and a harrowing POW experience. Written alone, any of these stories would make for an amazing book. That this all happened to one man is unimaginable and heartbreaking.

What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley by Kim Cross ★★★★
A chilling account of the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak that devastated communities across the southeast, killing 243 people in Alabama and a total of 348 people across the region. I was hoping this book would finally pay attention to the many small Alabama communities that suffered greatly on that day. But unfortunately it suffers from the same flaw as the media coverage following the storm, focusing too narrowly on the storms of central Alabama. A broader telling is still needed.

Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon ★★★
This book will be of most interest to Sonic Youth fans. My least favorite of the rock autobiographies I’ve recently read.

The Slaves’ War: The Civil War in the Words of Former Slaves by Andrew Ward ★★★★
Through a compilation of interviews conducted after the Civil War, former slaves tell of their experiences during and just after the war. Compelling stuff.

Submission by Michel Houellebecq ★★★★★
François suffers mid-life melancholy as he ponders his position as a lecturer in Paris. At the same time the social landscape of France changes when the Islamic party takes over the government. With subtle satire this book pushes buttons on the politicial left and right.

The Crossing by Michael Connelly ★★★★★
Retired LAPD Detective Harry Bosch gets involved when his half-brother, defense attorney Mickey Haller, is convinced he has an innocent client. Michael Connelly delivers again in this fast-paced drama.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson ★★★★
If the Internet never forgets, then a public shaming can live forever. And unravel a life. This is a scary topic that, unfortunately, is not covered thoroughly here. It’s at its best when it documents the lives destroyed from imprudent or badly worded jokes. But the book flounders when it heads off on loosely related tangents that don’t really add to the topic. Left unexplored are the implications of public shaming being used increasingly to shut down open discussion of social and political issues.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: And Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald ★★★★
A nice collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories, my favorite being Babylon Revisited.

Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburo Oe ★★★★
Abandoned and trapped in a village, a group of Japanese reformatory boys try to make the best of the situation. But death and distrustful adults undo their efforts. This is Oe’s first novel, written in 1958.

Orange It the New Black by Piper Kerman ★★★★
Piper does the time for her crime and deals with the inanity of institutional life. Because the characters have familiar names and attributes the book resembles the Netflix series. But in the book the characters are more sympathetic and the drama less dramatic.

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy ★★★★
When this book recounts real-life homicide cases from murder-plagued South Central Los Angeles it reads like a gripping crime novel. But the explanations for “root causes” seem incomplete and preachy. Still, I highly recommend it.

Rabbit, Run by John Updike ★★★
Rabbit Angstrom finds unhappiness at every turn. I found the prose difficult to get through.

The American Mission by Matthew Palmer ★★★
Trouble with a mining company in the Congo. A rather ordinary suspense/thriller.

October 2015

The Dark Tower by Stephen King ★★★★★
After seven books and 3,914 pages Roland Deschain’s quest for the Dark Tower comes to an end. I liked the ending and thought it was worth the long read.

10% Happier by Dan Harris ★★★
Spoiler alert: Meditation. Harris spends a lot of time talking about himself before getting to the point.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green ★★★

Song of Susannah by Stephen King ★★★★★

September 2015

I’ll Mature When I’m Dead: Dave Barry’s Amazing Tales of Adulthood by Dave Barry ★★★

Last Words by Michael Koryta ★★★★

Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale ★★★★

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck ★★★★★

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King ★★★★★

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai ★★★★★

13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff ★★★★

Essays After Eighty by Donald Hall ★★★★★

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch ★★★★

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins ★★★★

August 2015

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath ★★★★

Cujo by Stephen King ★★★★

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance ★★★★★

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You by Eli Pariser ★★★★

The Innocent by David Baldacci ★★★

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King ★★★★

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore ★★★

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra ★★★★★

July 2015

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff ★★★★

Under the Same Sky: A Memoir of Survival, Hope and Faith by Joseph Kim ★★★★

World Order by Henry Kissinger ★★★★★

Marathon Man by William Goldman ★★★

The Last Town by Blake Crouch ★★★★

Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson ★★★★

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart ★★★

The Decisive Moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson ★★★★★

Color: American Photography Transformed by Amon Carter Museum of American Art ★★★★

The Dying Animal by Philip Roth ★★★★

Euphoria by Lily King ★★★★

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer ★★★★

June 2015

Finders Keepers by Stephen King ★★★★

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Man ★★★★★

Wayward by Blake Crouch ★★★★

Under the Skin by Michel Faber ★★★★★

Pines by Blake Crouch ★★★★

May 2015

The Racketeer by John Grisham ★★★★

Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen by Fred Ritchin ★★★

Radiant Angel by Nelson DeMille ★★★★★

The New World: A Novel by Chris Adrian ★★★

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan ★★★★

Beatles ’64 A Hard Day’s Night In America by A.J.S. Rayl ★★★★

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald ★★★★★

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child ★★★

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung ★★★★★

April 2015

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler ★★★★

The Waste Lands by Stephen King ★★★★

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple ★★★★

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler ★★★

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

March 2015

Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Robert Harris ★★★★★

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan ★★★★

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King ★★★★

Looking at Photographs: 110 Pictures from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art by John Szarkowski ★★★★

The Giver by Louis Lowry ★★★

Night by Elie Wiesel ★★★★★

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel ★★★★★

February 2015

Alabama 24/7 by Rick Smolan ★★★

Reflection of a Man: The Photographs of Stanley Marcus by Stanley Marcus ★★★★

Revival by Stephen King ★★★★

The Democratic Forest by William Eggleston ★★★★

The Photographer’s Eye by John Szarkowski ★★★★

Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operations Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 by Marcus Luttrell ★★★★

Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner ★★★★

Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike by Grant Petersen ★★★★

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver ★★★★★

January 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo ★★★★★

Ping Pong Conversations: Alec Soth with Francesco Zanot by Francesco Zanot ★★★★★

Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind’s Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers by Henri Cartier-Bresson ★★★★

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer ★★★★


Photograph: Bookcase at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House in Florence, Alabama.