Reading List February – May


4 3 2 1:  Paul Auster:

I’m in the middle of this right now.  Auster is one of my all-time favorite novelists, and at nearly 900 pages, this is his longest work by far.  He tells the story of Archie Ferguson – or, rather, 4 different paths of Archie Ferguson’s life.  I’m keeping a flowchart to keep track of the differences between each path.  I’m finding this to be funnier than anything Auster has written in the past, and have laughed out loud a few times.  Auster has always been concerned with chance, and how the path of one’s life can turn instantly due to any number of factors.  I don’t see this surpassing The New York Trilogy or The Music of Chance for me, but I’ll happily eat my words if I’m wrong.  This is off to a strong start.  He has nodded to DeLillo’s “Underworld.”  Is this Auster’s answer to that great work? 

Billy Bathgate:  E.L. Doctorow:

I’ve read up to page 70 or so a few times and always dropped this book for something else.  When I take the plunge this time, I intend to finish the novel.  I really like E.L. Doctorow, and think Ragtime and World’s Fair are two great novels.  I love Doctorow’s similes, and at the beginning of this novel, he describes a head cracking open like a melon.  That’s not particularly novel, nor is it the best example of Doctorow’s appeal to me, but I’ve always gotten a Dickens/Twain-with-a-modern-twist feel from the beginning of this that I think is very promising.  

Henderson the Rain King:  Saul Bellow:

Bellow is one of my favorites and I don’t have a reason why I’ve not read this before.  “Herzog” and “The Adventures of Augie March” were very enjoyable reads for me, and I know this is regarded as one of Bellow’s better novels.  

Lincoln in the Bardo:  George Saunders:

I’m not on the bandwagon that believes George Saunders is God, although I appreciate his short stories.  This is his first novel.  From what I’ve skimmed, it recalled Tim O’Brien’s “In the Lake of the Woods,” although that’s a surface-level comparison.  My understanding is that Saunders casts a dead Greek Chorus of sorts to provide varying perspectives in this novel about Lincoln visiting his dead son’s grave.  

A Colony in a Nation:  Chris Hayes:

I’ve been waiting for a great follow-up to The New Jim Crow that will further educate me.  Will that  necessarily be this book, written by a White, Ivy League educated, TV personality?  Maybe, most likely not.  I’m open to it, and trust that it will at the very least give me more food for thought.  I understand Hayes takes a very self-aware approach in writing this, acknowledging his privilege.  Hoping for a well-researched argument that adds to the conversation rather than reiterates it. 

A High Wind in Jamaica:  Richard Hughes:

I discovered Hughes through the New York Review of Books and the NYRB edition of this novel is the only one in print.  The first chapter of this reminded me of Nabokov in its articulacy and child imperilment.  That’s enough for me to delve.  

Killers of the Flower Moon:  David Grann:

After “Trial By Fire” and a number of Grann’s other essays, I will read anything he writes.  His long-form journalism is compelling and plays with shifting allegiances.  No one researches unusual subjects like Grann, and no one twists a narrative quite like him.  Very much looking forward to this one. 

The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford:  Jean Stafford:

Jean Stafford has not been on my radar until recently.  My intent is to work through her Pulitzer winning short stories and then move onto “The Mountain Lion,” one of her most highly regarded novels.  She seems to not be widely read these days, and I’m curious to know why.  Her vocabulary is a treasure, and my sense is that I would read her writing on just about anything.  

Wilson:  Daniel Clowes:

This is probably a 2 hour read – a palette cleanser between Faulkner and Ullrich, perhaps.  I’ve always thought Clowes was a great artist, and that his especially dark humor is grounded in harsh truth.  “Ghost World” is a landmark of the genre, and I’ve not read anything else he’s done.  

Absalom, Absalom!:  William Faulkner:

An admitted gap in my reading.  I’ve read some Faulkner, namely “The Sound and the Fury,” “As I Lay Dying,” “Intruder in the Dust,” and his short stories.  I’d like to get through this and “A Light In August” in 2017 to determine if I feel like delving further.  

Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939:  Volker Ullrich:

This is supposed to be a monumental biography pulling from many different sources.  The provocative NYT review stoked my curiosity and for all the nonfiction Holocaust reading I’ve done, I’ve never actually committed to a biography of Hitler.  The 2 volume Ian Kershaw biography has been on my radar, but what I’ve skimmed in “Ascent” has lived up to its promise.  


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