Reading List

Libraries light up my soul

My tastes are eclectic and my reading habit voracious. I’m always game for a non-American or writer of color. I’m a devotee of libraries. Borrowing a book gives me the freedom to stop reading when the thrill is gone.  I read like a dog eats, wolfing down the words for the sheer pleasure of discovering new places, characters, and writers excelling at the craft.

Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker.  Written thirty years ago with insight that makes one squirm.  And still female genital mutilation plagues millions of women around the world.

Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  A master craftsman delivers a riveting tale.

Indian Horse by Richard Waramese. Soulful and moving exploration of a Native American experience.

Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Falade.   Extraordinary use of language of the time, and some truly hilarious scenes between the central character (a black sargent) and his superior officers (white abolitionists).  Loved this book!

Gravel Heart by Adbulrazak Gurnah.   A tour-de-force by a master craftsman. The harrowing story and the sublime writing altered my soul.

Hold It Till It Hurts by T Geronimo Johnson.  A gifted writer who knows emotional nuance.

The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson. Rekindles my fascination and affirms my love for the extraordinarily complex life of plants. A fascinating read!

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell   Brilliant analysis with wonderful stories about how people become successful.  It’s only shortcoming is that it’s decidedly skewed toward men’s realities. The critical component of opportunity is usually harder for women to access.

All About Love by bell hooks. Her insights make me weep about all I do not know about love and has radically altered my thinking and feeling about how we humans can connect.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.  I’m working backward on this man’s amazing body of work

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead.  A master of vivid and powerful wordsmithing.

The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell.   The important stuff about WWII we never learned in school.  Gladwell is a brilliant storyteller.

Red Island House by Andrea Lee.  I’ve got Madagascar on my travel list. This women writes a lush, complex story.

The Three Cornered War by Megan Kate Nelson.  The American Civil War in the the West. (Who knew!) Fascinating lives and struggles. The time when reservations were first created for American Indians. And it’s got wonderful maps!

Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi.  A wrenching read written by a tightly wound and deeply talented transgendered woman.

Believing by Anita Hill.  Radicalizing, even if you’re already a feminist.  But way too long!

Tribal Leadership by Logan, King, and Fischer-Wright.  Good directions for navigating ‘human resources’ if you work in an organization of any size.

Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes by Nathan Lentz.  An often-hilarious read about the many design flaws of the human body.

How to Mars by David Ebenbach.   Hilarious and sobering

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson.  Everyone should read this book so we can get on with a more coherent dialog about our racial divides.

Various articles about Kenya’s struggle with COVID, and the continent’s lack of access to vaccinations.

The City of Thieves by David Benioff     The best read of the year (2021) so far. Astonishing account of the siege of Leningrad from the point of view of a teenage boy.  Hilarious companion.

Becoming Wild by Carl Safina.  A fascinating romp through the habits of some of the really smart creatures that co-habit this planet with humans.

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang    A compelling story of a young Chinese’s woman’s experience of Gold Rush era California.

The Power by Naomi Alderman     An unusual premise that luridly illustrates the current imbalance of gender power, but the story stops without concluding.  That always annoys me.

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.  Written in 1993 and eerily prescient of our current circumstances.

Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo.   Takes me back to my time challenging work in Sudan; loses momentum about four chapters in.

Fine Just the Way it Is by Annie Proulx -– the master storyteller

Barkskins by Annie Proulx – an extraordinary, sprawling epic of the lumber-hungry folks who loved to clear-cut forests.

Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston

Station Eleven by Emily St john Mandel

Americana by C. Ngozi Achide    Witty. A worthy insight into the uncomfortable ‘fit’ of Africans in America

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Erlich

Changing my Mind by Zadie Smith

Cold Storage by David Koepp

Hard Rain Falling by Don Carpenter

Exit West by Moshin Hamid

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  Quirky

Contact by Carl Sagan  I loved most of the writing, and the fabulous vision.

The Novice by Thich Nhat Hanh

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

A Song Flung Up to Heaven by Maya Angelou

Manifold Space by Stephen Baxter – a prescient  if sometimes overly technical view of Earth’s possible futures

The Stone Fields by Courtney Angela Brkic – an amazing journey through the Balkans during and after WWII and the horrors of the early 90’s. A remarkably insightful writer.

The Botany of Desire by Michale Pollan

Djinn City by Saad Hossain

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou

The Last Leaf of Harlem by Dorothy West

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.  Makes me yearn to travel in Australia for a while.

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany.  A best-seller in the Arab world when it was published in 2005, this is an extraordinary read. Lush writing, a fascinating cast of characters, and a no-holds-barred visit to their sexual lives.

Memories of My Melancholy Whore by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.   As troubling as it is nimbly and lavishly written.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell.  Wonderful essays.

The Most Beautiful Women in Florence by Alyssa Palumbo.  Though the writing veers at times into purple prose, it well satisfied my abiding addiction to all things Florentine.

The Path to Tranquility by Dalai Lama.  I mine this often for wisdom.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller.  A stunning account of a growing up white in southern Africa.

The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett.  I’m back to crushing on science fiction.

In the Land of Armadillos by Helen M Shankman.  World War II from the Polish perspective.

Quantum Night by Robert Sawyer.  A fascinating mediation on psychopathy.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.  An analysis of every pivotal advance in human knowledge, with all the hilarious back stories. Reads like a good novel.

Between the World and Me  Ta-Nehisi Coates  One of the most important writers on the experience of being black in America. Everyone should check it out.

Close Range  Annie Proulx.  Back to unhinged Wyoming stories.

The True History of the Kelly Gang  Peter Carey   A wild tale of Irish settlers in Australia in the mid-1860s. Virtually no punctuation.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou … a Genius

Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehrwa.  A fetching novel – with recipes!

The Delta by Tony Park  A thriller set in Southern Africa. Loved the smell and feel of it.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors by Maryam Munaweera  A breath-sucking voyage into Sri Lanka at its worst.

Black River by S.M. Hulse   God, I love stuff set in cowboy country! This is beautifully written and evocative.

July, July by Tim O’Brien  Dark as hell but the guy can tell a story.

The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli.  Slow start but plays out provocatively

The Bosnia List by Kenan Trebincevic  Oh Bosnia!

Problems with People  David Gutterson

Longitude by Dava Sobel  An account of the centuries-long quest to measure longitude

The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison

Trains and Lovers  by Alexander McCall-Smith    Intricate storytelling.

The Martian  by Andy Weir.  Fabulous scifi with hilarious events

Annihilation  by Jeff VanDerMeer.  Spooky, unique and worth it

A Moveable Feast  by Ernest Hemingway. Wistful.

Detroit City is the Place To Be  by Mark Binelli   An intense story-teller’s take on the dynamics of decay and resurrection in my city of origin. Hilarious, astonishing, moving – the best non-fiction I’ve read in years.

The Progress of Love  by Alice Munro. I adore her work.  It sings to me!

Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx    An evocative stomp through American cities and history via the unpredictable ownership of an accordion.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini

One Amazing Thing  by Chitra Banjeree Divakaruni  (Hard start, decent end)

The World and Other Places  by Jeanette Winterson  (A ride in a very unusual universe)

How to Read the Air  by Dinaw Mengestu

Out Stealing Horses by Pers Petterson.  His best!

The Bodies of Night Women  by Marlon James

Home  by Toni Morrison

Purple Hibiscus  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,  a brilliant mediation on the lives of Nigerian women

Say You’re One of Them  by Uwen Akpan, a collection a staggeringly powerful short stories set in Africa

Layover in Dubai  by Dan Fesperman  A wonderful thriller in the tradition of John LeCarre, fun to read since I’m familiar with that part of the world.

Bad Dirt  by Annie Proulx  Always her short stories unleash  emotion, laden as they are with adroit descriptions of place  (Wyoming) and characters you figure you’d never know but find somehow dangerously captivating.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex  by Nathaniel Philbrick   An adventure story well told – but only for about four chapters.

Close Range  by Annie Proulx     I can’t escape my fascination with her tall tales of the grand space and crazy minds in the American West.

In the Country of Men  by Hisham Matar    My favorite book of 2012. A masterpiece of storytelling.

A Mercy   by Toni Morrison    A rough ride told unblinkingly from the perspectives of slaves.

The Winter Ghosts  by Kate Moss   An unusual story of mystical events and transformation in the wilds of France.  Much better than her first (bestselling) book, Labyrinth.  I could not get very far into the hoodoo of that one.

A Matter of Desire  by Edmund Paz Soldan  Interesting premise that peters out fast in cloying self-involvement.

 Best American Short Stories of 2010  A lovely bunch of stories, the best being Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff. Set during the Nazi invasion of Paris, this story ends unforgettably.

Fine Just the Way It Is  by Annie Proulx   Sigh.  It’s a compulsion to read wild west adventures written by her skillful hand.

She’s Come Undone  by Wally Lamb  Interesting story dealing with important subject matter but struck me as a bit too predictable and tidy at the end.

The Birdman and the Lapdancer  by Eric Hansen   A collection of humorous and insightful stories by a fearless world traveler.

 View from Castle Rock  by Alice Munro   I’m always amazed at how much power emanates from these stories of simple people and situations.  Alice is a master craftswoman and one of my writer heroes.

The Granta Book of African Short Stories  ed. Helon Habila  A mixed bag, very contemporary views, with a riveting story called Ships in High Transit  by Bingavangu  Wainainu

The Slave Ship by Marcus Rediker   A fascinating examination of the phenomenon of slavery and the realities of the slave ship.  The first few chapters are astounding, but the fussiness of detail begins to burden even the most motivated reader.

Too Much Happiness  by Alice Munro  Another collection of her trademark stories of Canadian life. I learn so much from this woman’s writing – like thunder in my head.

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