Top Ten Favorite Reads for 2016.

I’m going to stick to my guns here, enforce my long time rule for selecting the top ten list which is “Do I want to read this book again someday?”  The answer must be yes to qualify. Which means there are many books that I loved reading that will not make the list. Lots of books are great books, great reads, but not something I’ll … Continue reading Top Ten Favorite Reads for 2016.

The Appointment by Herta Muller

Honestly, I think Nobel Prize Winner stickers should include the word ‘warning. Warning: Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Put it in bold face red type as well.  Buyer beware.  Difficult literature ahead.  “Sit bolt upright in that straight back chair and get set,” as Laurie Anderson said in her song “Difficult Listening Hour.” Herta Muller, born in Romania, lived under the repressive regime … Continue reading The Appointment by Herta Muller

Memory: A Novel by Philippe Grimbert

A young boy, an only child, believes he has an older brother.  He carries on imagined discussions with his brother, building him into a real person.  One day he finds an old plush toy, a dog, in his family’s attic. A man meets the love of his life on his wedding day. He manages to keep this secret from his wife, even though the woman … Continue reading Memory: A Novel by Philippe Grimbert

Two Award Winners I Didn’t Finish

Two days after I gave up on Paul Beatty’s satirical novel The Sellout, it won the Mann-Booker Prize, the first American novel to do so. My general rule of thumb is that the books on the long list that don’t win the Man Booker Prize are generally much better reads than the winner is. I have not read the rest of the long list, so I can’t … Continue reading Two Award Winners I Didn’t Finish

Doghead by Morten Ramsland

A drunken man so frightens and embarrasses his  grand children that they vow revenge.  After some planning and a short wait for the perfect moment young Asger seizes his chance and pees into his grandfather’s beer before serving it to him. His sisters both laugh as they all watch their grandfather pick up his glass and take a healthy, full drink.  Unable to contain himself, … Continue reading Doghead by Morten Ramsland

Topology of a Phantom City by Alain Robbe-Grillet

I love this book. I’m not sure what it’s about. But I do  have five theories. Theory #1:  A murder has taken place.  The narrator describes the crime scene like a detective who does not know which bit of evidence will prove relevant.  So the detective/narrator writes everything down without filtering his senses or his thoughts.  The result appears random the way notes often do. … Continue reading Topology of a Phantom City by Alain Robbe-Grillet

The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

One of the many reasons for reading literature in translation is the window it can provide onto experiences other than our own, sometimes experiences we never knew existed.  The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez provides a window on life among German nationals living in Columbia during the second world war.  Because of diplomatic pressure from the United States, the government of Columbia published a list … Continue reading The Informers by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Long into the night Marco Polo sits in Kublai Kahn’s palace telling him about all the cities he has visited, cities the Kahn will never get the chance to see. This is the premise for Italo Calvino’s wonderful novella Invisible Cities translated from the Italian by William Weaver. Each of the short chapters describes one city.  After a few chapters, the dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublia Kahn … Continue reading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Tournament of Short Stories II–Murakami vs. Hardwick or “Goodbye, Haruki!”

I never thought it would come to this. It’s not like I don’t still love Haruki Murakami.  I do. Maybe not like I once did– maybe the honeymoon is finally over, though it lasted many years. Many, many terrific writers essentially write the same story over and over again.  Some put the same narrator into slightly different situations but basically repeat themselves each time they … Continue reading Tournament of Short Stories II–Murakami vs. Hardwick or “Goodbye, Haruki!”

Please Look After Mom by Kyun-sook Shin

It’s not often that a book affects me as profoundly as Kyun-sook Shin’s award-winning novel Please Look After Mom did. As much as I read, books should do this to me more often. I’m still haunted by this story, by its characters, especially by its missing character, a week after reading it.  I’ve passed it along to a good friend who has read the first section and … Continue reading Please Look After Mom by Kyun-sook Shin

The Vagabond by Collete

Colette’s The Vagabond tells a story of backstage life in the music halls of turn of the century Paris.  The narrator/heroine has left a failed marriage and career as a novelist to earn a living performing two shows a night as an actress in French pantomime. The Vagabond works as a backstage novel and as a source of insight into the its author, Colette.  Because … Continue reading The Vagabond by Collete

Solaris by Stanislav Lem

In the 1960’s science fiction was about ideas.  It was also about rocket ships and invading space aliens, but there was still plenty of room for books about ideas.  Even ideas based in actual science.  This is still true, but you’d never know judging from what’s playing at the local theatre and on cable television.  Not much in the way of ideas there. Once in … Continue reading Solaris by Stanislav Lem