April 14, 2018

Books, YTD

As expected, now that I'm not traveling full time, my book consumption is on the rise.  So far this year, I've physically read 6 books, and listened to a whopping 29! If I keep it up at this rate, I'll get to triple digits for the audiobooks, which will definitely be a first.

Physical books:

Pachinko (A+)
Min Jin Lee
This book has it all.  A multi-generational story rooted in the historical details of Korean immigrants living in Japan from the late 1800s until the 1980s.  At times, I felt like I was sitting in on a history, cultural, and geography lesson due to all of the things I didn't know that I was learning.  And yet, the characters are all so rich and detailed that it was only after the fact that it felt like school.  While reading, it didn't feel like anything other than an impressive character study (with slightly more page time for strong female characters than the interesting men and boys in their lives) which kept me drawn in even during periods of simple life without an obvious plotline to pull me through.  But finally, at the end, I realized that there were multiple lines of story action lying dormant at various points, but all growing and moving interestingly, some ending in tragedy, some in joy, most in that beautiful real-life mixture of the two.  If you have any interest in the history of Japan, the history of Korean immigrants (both in Japan and in general), Japanese culture, Korean culture, or just plain old great storytelling, then I highly recommend this book to you.
Cat's Eye (B+)
Margaret Atwood
Her first book after The Handmaid's Tale.  A portait of time in the feminist experience unlike any I've ever read.  The tale of an artist. A female artist, who ages less than perfectly gracefully.  Who had tumultuous female (and male) relationships.  Exceedingly honest and well done.  Highly recommended. 
The Brass City (B+)
S.A. Chakraborty
Impressive fantasy tale from a first-time author.  Rooted in the djinn mythology and supported by marids (water people), peri (air people), and earth people, it's a gorgeous tale of intermingling cultures and powers, court intrigue, and the associated drama.  One of the best new fantasy books I've read in years. It was written as the first book in a trilogy, which I didn't know when I started it, so the ending was not as satisfying as I'd otherwise want it to be.
Little Fires Everywhere (A+)
Celeste Ng
This book blew me away. I hadn't loved the reviews of her first book, and probably wouldn't have picked this one up on my own, but book club did.  And I was so glad.  Such a gorgeous and nuanced look at high schoolers while I was in high school coupled with mothers dealing with the feminism of that time, not to mention the cultural/racial realities that she deftly dropped into the narrative.  I highly recommend this book to all.  My Mother-In-Law read one chapter in my physical book before I flew out and ordered the kindle version for herself.  It's that addictive, and for good reason.
South and West (B)
Joan Didion
Notes from Joan Didion's travels in the south when she was 19 years old.  Observative almost to a fault.  Surprisingly relevant regional observations that inform cultural regional differences today.  Very enjoyable.
Kingdom of Speech (B)
Tom Wolfe
A find from the Telluride bookstore "Between the Covers" -- this book is recommended to every wannabe linguist.  It follows the history of "Darwanism" as well as the evolutionary conception of  language development and "Chomskyism."  One of the better nonfiction books I've read.  If you care about these things, Mr. Wolfe's dry humor and assessment of the realities of what we know today about the development of language will not disappoint. 


The Entire Harry Bosch Series:
(B average)
Michael Connelly
I'm a sucker for good mysteries.  I also like to return to known characters and styles from authors that I like again and again via a series.  I've already consumed the entire Lincoln Lawyer series (Mickey Haller) and I knew I liked Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch books as light entertaining LA mystery fodder, so I gave the Black Echo a try to see if I wanted to do the whole series. The rest is history -- I put everything I could find in the series on hold in Libby and slowly made my way through them in whatever order they became available, with occasional supplements purchased from Audible where they weren't available on Libby. I've now finished the entire series except City of Bones, which is oddly super popular, so I’m just waiting ‘til it frees up.

The bonus that I didn’t expect when I started this romp is that Bosch is just now starting its 4th season on Amazon and it’s free for Prime members. The TV series is good too. So I’m making my way through season 1, enjoying the clever ways that these stories have been updated to the modern day. This is particularly good, because the last episode of the Magicians for this season just came out and I was needing a new streaming TV show to fill the void while I wait for the latest season of Criminal Minds to be released on Netflix.

The Black Echo (1992)
The Black Ice (1993)
The Concrete Blonde (1994)
The Last Coyote (1995)
Trunk Music (1997)
Angels Flight (1999)
A Darkness More Than Night (2001)
City Of Bones (2002) – holding (10/19 for the single copy, I registered the hold on 1/20 – no idea why this one is so popular)
Lost Light (2003)
The Narrows (2004) (sequel to The Poet)
The Closers (2005)
Echo Park (2006)
The Overlook  (2007)
Nine Dragons (2009) (also featuring Mickey Haller)
The Drop (2011)
The Black Box (2012)
The Burning Room (2014)
The Crossing (2015) (also featuring Mickey Haller)
The Wrong Side Of Goodbye (2016) (also featuring Mickey Haller) – read on paper in 2017
Two Kinds Of Truth (2017) (also featuring Mickey Haller)

The Poet (His first book, prequel to The Narrows, pre-Harry Bosch)

The Late Show (Renee Ballard) (B)
Michael Connelly
Having almost finished everything in the Harry Bosch series, I decided to give his new detective a try.  Harry Bosch is a flawed, complex, and fascinating male character, but Michael has typically done a great job of writing female characters that interact with him, so I was interested to see how he'd portray a female main character.  Renee is fun, impulsive, and very interesting.  Her stubborness and commitment to the job are believable.  And, of course, in classic mystery style, she eventually figures out who is at fault and takes down the big evil.  Much like the Bosch series, Los Angeles is both the backdrop and a character.  Very enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to the next Ballard book, due in October.
The Hate U Give (A+)
Angie Thomas
This was possibly the best YA book I've read, ever.  Star, a 16-year-old African American girl, is so believably thoughtful, smart, and raging with teenage emotions that I couldn't help but fall in love with her, find her maturity and actions inspiring *and also* find her ridiculously immature and annoying at times.  The descriptions of inner city living, racial tensions, racial violence, code-switching, and more, were all excellent treatments of these extremely difficult topics.  First, and foremost, star is a human teenager, and then the layers of race, privilege, educational identity, sexual identity, and more are laid out in a riveting story of love, violence, and activism.
Running With Scissors (B-)
Augusten Bouroughs
A ridiculously crazy over-the-top tale of failed parenting, failed mental illness care, and a boy who somehow manages to surf the chaos.  I wouldn't call it entertaining.  Fascinating, perhaps.  But in a guilty "I shouldn't be watching this" sort of way.  It got a ton of attention when it came out in 2002, but I am doubtful it would garner the same level of praise today. 
Storm Front (The Dresden Files)
 Jim Butcher
Fun adult male wizard fantasy tale (Harry Dresden, professional wizard).  He makes a living as a consultant to help people find lost objects, solve crimes that involve magic, etc.  Perfectly acceptable pulp to recover from Running with Scissors.
Fool Moon (The Dresden Files)
 Jim Butcher
Continuation of the easy wizardous pulp.  But with werewolves.  I learned the terms loups-garous and lycanthropes, and the French origination of the werewolf, which was interesting, and then oddly relevant in my next book…
It (A+)
Stephen King
Several authors and other people I admire had referred to this book as one of their favorites.  But, I’m not one for horror, generally.  So, while I’d wanted to read it, I’d also been putting it off.  After 2 fluffy fantasy wizard tales, I decided I could give it a try. 

This book is a tome.  The audiobook is 44h55m!  And it held my attention for the entire time.  It’s fantastical in the most gripping sense and truly horrific in terms of creating a sense of fear and foreboding in the reader.  It’s also such a truly American story.  Set in Maine (King’s home state) during multiple time periods with the main characters spending much of the narrative in the late 50s as children and then in the mid-80s as adults, it’s a complex woven masterpiece of imagined evil incarnate that honestly portrays the casual sexism and racism of the various periods it describes in the background.  I’m very glad I ventured outside my comfort zone with this one, but I was also very glad when I finished it.
I Can’t Make This Up, Life Lessons (B-)
Kevin Hart
Autobiographical stories from the funny man.  He hustles like no one’s business and deserves all the fame he has achieved.  Realistic, funny, and heartwarming.
The Last Black Unicorn (A+)
Tiffany Hadish
Like the rest of America, I’ve fallen completely in love with Tiffany Hadish. This book is full of real honest accounts of her *very* difficult childhood and early adulthood including time in the foster care system, and an abusive marriage.  Throughout it all, she has maintained a love of comedy and a side-splitting sense of humor that is so authentically unique.  I tweeted to her (first time I’ve ever tweeted at an author) that I think this book should be required reading as part of any American Studies program as she gives voice to experiences that are common in our country, but not usually discussed openly.  Plus, she reads the book out loud and it is nothing short of inspirational (and hilarious).    
How to American
Jimmy O. Yang
Best known now as Jian-Yang on Silicon Valley, Jimmy O. Yang wrote (and read) a very funny account of his experience as an immigrant from Hong Kong who moved to Los Angeles when he was 10, and then his experiences in Beverly Hills, University of San Diego, Hollywood, and the entertainment industry.
New York 2140
Kim Stanley Robinson
KSR is the author of the brilliant Mars Trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars – all of which I adored.  This book is the story of New York after two large “pulses” of ice melting, which have flooded Manhattan and left a Venice-like infrastructure of skyscrapers maintained via scuba repair at the bottom with habitable areas above the water.  The story is a story of finance, kidnapping, actual governance in the face of civil unrest, ephemeral power, tidal fluctuations, legal issues (well researched), children who are treasure hunters, NYC police, and a conservation-oriented streaming star with a blimp named “The Assisted Migration” who broadcasts her adventures in helping to migrate wildlife in response to climate change.  KSR is *so* smart.  Reading his science fiction is a fun education as he hides lectures on topics that interest him in fascinating plots.  Very though-provoking on how society may have to change due to the inevitably higher sea levels to come.


Jen said...

I’ve been intrigued by The Hate U Give and the Tiffany Haddish book, so I’ll definitely put those on my list. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

@Jen -- I hope you enjoy both!