My tastes are eclectic and my 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 and people.
The Botany of Desire by Michale Pollan
Djinn City by Saad Hossain
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Chrismas 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.