Monday, November 12, 2012

BECAUSE WE DON'T DO THIS ENOUGH:  What are you reading now, and what recent reads do you recommend?

I had intended to finish it in advance of the election, but I am still finishing up Richard Ben Cramer's epic What It Takes: The Way To The White House, his revelatory chronicle of the 1988 presidential race which helps Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart and others come to life in a way that can't be revealed via day-to-day campaign journalism. You truly come to understand who these men are and what made them tick, and its biography of Dole, in particular, is just tremendously moving.

64 comments:

  1. Christy in Philly10:03 AM

    I just finished Infinite Jest. It was a big project but one that I'm really glad I finished. I definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it.



    Now for something a little lighter, I'm re-reading Justin Cronin's The Passage before reading the sequel, The Twelve. After Infinite Jest, this is like potato chips: cheap, easy, probably not good for me, but I can't get enough. I don't know if the newer one is very good but the first one is as much of a page turner as I remembered.

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  2. Finally finished Gone Girl and appreciated it despite finding reason to loathe almost every character (except for the female detective, for whom I want a novel of her own).

    Now reading Rebecca for the first time and LOVING it. I've never seen the Hitchcock movie either, so this is all completely new for me, though I just know something ain't going to be right at Manderlay.

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  3. I'm currently about a third of the way through "The Leftovers" by Tom Perrotta. Interesting concept, and I'm enjoying it, but I'm not completely hooked at this point.


    I recently finished "Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn, which I read because I enjoyed "Gone Girl" so much. Dark Places was a page-turner, but I got antsy about halfway through, and the conclusion was very disappointing. I also read "Away" by Amy Bloom - I'm a big fan of her short stories - but I found the book somewhat dull and episodic, and wish I'd enjoyed it more. And I absolutely loved "11/22/63" by Stephen King.

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  4. andrewraff11:01 AM

    I also read Gone Girl recently. I'm currently reading Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet and just also started Friend of the Blog Alan Sepinwall's The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever

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  5. Recently: "Heft" by Liz Moore (a little bit "The Art of Fielding"-lite)

    Not-so-recently but highly recommended: "From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant" by Alex Gilvarry (a novel that is an interesting look at GITMO through the eyes of a Filipino immigrant fashion designer who gets caught up in a terrorist scandal. I know that makes it sound insane, but worth the read. Full disclosure: Alex is an acquaintance.)
    Next up on the Kindle: "The Beekeeper's Apprentice" by Mary Russell (I've been assured by my Sherlock Holmes-loving friend that I won't be mad about the reappropriation of Holmes in this series.)


    I'm contemplating re-reading "Anna Karenina" as an adult (I read it the summer before 8th grade. Pretty sure I had no clue what was happening.) Perhaps seeing the movie will ignite that spark.

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  6. I'm reading Cloud Atlas. It was recommended to me by numerous people who gave some version of the review "best/favorite novel I've ever read," so my expectations are a bit higher than is probably wise. I've just passed the halfway point and while I'm intrigued by it, I've yet to quite figure out why everyone thinks it's so incredible. But given its weird structure, I'm going to see it through and maybe I'll be converted. After that, I'm going to read Justin Cronin's new Passage novel.

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  7. lisased11:17 AM

    I am so close to the end of "Life of Pi" that I just want to skip work today. I ran through all of Gillian Flynn's books, and they just keep getting better, The last YA book I read was "Unwind", which was a hell of an idea and included one of the most disturbing pieces of writing I have ever read. It kills me that I can't hand it to my 12 year old; she'd love the story, but I don't think she can handle it yet.

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  8. Marsha11:28 AM

    I second the love for 11/22/63, which is definitely the best thing I've read recently. I recently finished The Barbarian Nurseries, which is flawed, to be sure, but which I'm definitely still thinking about. And I just finished The Glass Castle, which is very hard to read in some places, but which is an extraordinary memoir. One of the blurbs on the back talks about how it is written with an utter lack of self-pity, and that describes it very well.



    I am currently reading The Art of Racing in the Rain, which I am flying through, and our book club just picked Gone Girl, so that's coming soon.



    Thanks as always to everyone for the recs. Some days I think the only thing keeping me alive are all the fabulous-looking books on my GoodReads to-read shelf....

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  9. In recent weeks I've been great at starting books and terrible about finishing them. Most recent finished books, I think, have been James Mann's The Obamians (about the Obama foreign policy team) and Water By The Spoonful (most recent drama Pulitzer). Hoping someone here can convince me to finish "This Is How You Lose Her" -- I loved Oscar Wao and like short stories but can't seem to get into this one.

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  10. I think I recommended Maria Semple's "Where'd You Go, Bernadette," the last time there was a post like this but the book wasn't out then (I read a galley) and it's so great you should get it. Smart, well-written, and funny. She used to write for Arrested Development if that makes you more inclined to pick it up.

    Sepinwall's book is on my list for when you can get it on something other than a Kindle.

    I recently finished Julie Salamon's (who most recently wrote the Wendy Wasserstein bio) "Facing the Wind" which is great for narrative nonfiction readers and fans of true crime, although it's more than just a true crime book. It's almost 10 years old, so ebook and used are pretty much the only ways to get it but it's worth it. Another older book of hers, "The Devil's Candy," about the making of the film version of Bonfire of the Vanities, is one of the best behind the scenes of Hollywood books you can find, so look for that too.



    Next on my list are the new Michael Chabon and Antoine Wilson's "Panorama City."

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  11. I also recently finished 11/22/63, which I enjoyed although I found it a bit overlong. Perhaps I was just impatient to get to the event toward which I knew we were headed (um...spoiler?). Read all of Gillian Flynn, one after another. And I liked The Leftovers but loved everything else Perrotta has written more.

    Now reading Stephen Tobolowsky's The Dangerous Animals Club. His is my absolute favorite podcast; it's a bit of a rerun in parts and reading is less than listening, but it's still marvelous.

    Next up: Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. And then hope to move on to Louise Erdrich's latest.

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  12. Marsha12:17 PM

    Ah yes - I should have mentioned that I plan to buy Alan's book in paper, because I want it on my shelf. I expect Sue and I will be talking about it a lot over the Christmas holidays.

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  13. I just finished up "Destiny of the Republic" - about the Garfield assassination - and am about to polish off "Nothing To Envy," which tells the stories of North Korean defectors. Would recommend both.


    Next up are 11/22/63, which has been on my iPad for a while, and Sepinwall's new book, which I am sure I will love. Excited, as always, to read through this thread for some more recommendations.

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  14. My 13 year old niece and I both read "Unwind" this summer while she was staying with me. We had some good conversations about issues in the book. She missed some of the more subtle topics (not that they're handled all that subtly in the book), and I let them go because I wasn't sure she was ready for the conversations.

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  15. Genevieve12:40 PM

    Agree on 11/22/63 (and I haven't read any Stephen King in decades because my tolerance for violence is low). Also greatly enjoyed Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

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  16. Maggie12:41 PM

    Currently 1/3 of the way through Gone Girl after enjoying Flynn's first two books and recently finished Suffering Succotash (a delightful exploration of picky eating). Have The Caro LBJ books on kindle and am hoping to start that project during some upcoming holiday travel.

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  17. Watts1:31 PM

    Yay for Suffering Succotash!

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  18. Watts1:37 PM

    The Montmaray Journals trilogy by Michelle Cooper. It's a little bit Nancy Mitford, a little bit Connie Willis (in its depiction of the Blitz), a little bit Cold Comfort Farm. You have the royal family of Montmaray, an island located in the Atlantic about equidistant from England and Spain. In the first book (A Brief History of Montmaray), you have the mad king and his heirs pretty much alone on the island. In the second book (The FitzOsbornes in Exile), the family has had to move to England. And in the third (The FitzOsbornes at War), they're living through World War II. Tons of cameos from real historical figures and I just devoured the whole thing.

    Our book club this month is reading Love Is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield - a memoir of his life with his wife, punctuated with lots of music talk.

    And I just started The Secret Life of Bletchley Park. 'Cause it neatly combines my interests in World War II, cryptology, and England.

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  19. Jenn C2:10 PM

    I just finished The Twelve and I really need to talk about it!


    My book club book this month is What Alice Forgot--it was what I needed after The Twelve.


    Now I'm reading World War Z. Next on my list is a total palate cleanser...the Bouchon Bakery cook book.

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  20. Watts2:15 PM

    David Sedaris's ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY made me snort out loud. So there's that.

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  21. bellawilfer2:18 PM

    I work with manuscripts, so read a lot of things early, but I join my voice to the choir for 11/22/63, which is one of my favorite King novels in a long time. Feels very influenced by his injuries from when he was hit by that car, which was interesting to think about during the read. About to start the Jobs book...

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  22. Tosy and Cosh3:14 PM

    I loved The Years of Rice and Salt and have it on the list of "would really like to re-read at some point" (apart from one scene I'd be very happy to never think about again, let alone read). But then the whole Mars trilogy is on that list too, so . . .

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  23. Tosy and Cosh3:19 PM

    Did most of Gone, Girl on a red eye and loved it. Gillian Flynn's other stuff goes on the list. Just started The Prestige last night and was surprised at the framing device, since it's not in the film. Wondering how different the book will be. About halfway through Going Deep: 20 Classic Sports Stories by Gary Smith. His "Higher Education," about a black basketball coach in Amish/Mennonite country is perhaps my favorite magazine article ever. As for what's in the queue, the Sepinwall shoots to the top (once it's in paper), alongside The Casual Vacancy and the new Chabon and Kingsolver.

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  24. Tosy and Cosh3:20 PM

    My go-to recommendation is Edward P. Jones' The Known World, a historical novel about black slave owners in the South. Best novel I've ever read.

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  25. Jenn C3:28 PM

    Prestige the movie seemed to make much more sense to me than Prestige the book.

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  26. Tosy and Cosh3:32 PM

    Hrmm. That doesn't bode well. ;)

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  27. Adam B.3:47 PM

    Wonder was the assigned summer reading for all the 4th and 5th graders at Lucy's school. She loved it.

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  28. Adam B.3:48 PM

    These are very different choices; you're not exactly asking us to choose between different works of contemporary sci-fi or something. Do not attempt Infinite Jest on an e-reader. Caro is never a bad choice.

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  29. When I was 11 or 12, I loved the Foundation books. But they don't hold up well AT ALL. Asimov has fascinating ideas, and I admire him for them, but he's a pretty terrible prose stylist. If you care about that kind of thing, the books will be disappointing.

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  30. Oh Cutting for Stone is AMAZING. His other books are good, too, though non-fiction.

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  31. Genevieve4:08 PM

    Enthusiastically joining in on the love for the Montmaray Journals, and so pleased to know someone else who's read them!!

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  32. Genevieve4:09 PM

    Yes, yes, yes. Less blythe than Steve Kluger (one of the Will Graysons is extremely depressed) but wonderful.

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  33. Genevieve4:23 PM

    All Men of Genius, by Lev AC Rosen - a mashup of The Importance of Being Earnest, Twelfth Night, and steampunk. I feared with all that going into it, it couldn't be as enjoyable as I was hoping, but it was.

    Triangle, by Katherine Weber - a novel of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, with mysteries unraveled, taking place in modern-day and in flashback.

    As Always, Julia - letters of Julia Child and her publisher, Avis DeVoto, over the decades. Wonderful and illuminating about the times she lived in as well as about cooking.

    The Tragedy of Arthur, by Arthur Philips - the son of a con man tries to find out if his father really could have discovered an unknown Shakespeare play.

    Next up: Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore; Dodger, by Terry Pratchett; Sapphire Blue, by Kerstein Gier (sequel to her Ruby Red, time-travel YA which I liked very much); Bomb and Temple Grandin (Newbery-likely nonfiction).

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  34. andrewraff4:51 PM

    I don't remember if it was because I found the the book to make less sense than the film or for some other reason, but enjoyed the film The Prestige much more than I did the book (having read the book after the film).

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  35. Lucy's in 4th grade already? I feel old.

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  36. Adam B.5:43 PM

    And if she's that old, that also means that this blog, very (very) soon, is turning ... sshhh ....

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  37. victoria5:45 PM

    Thoroughly enjoying so far! The writing is entertaining and it feels coherent. I'm about halfway through and the only reason I've not just plowed straight through is that I'm on some medicine at the moment that makes me wonky.

    I am not normally a history person and don't have a lot of similar things to compare it to, though, so take that for what it's worth.

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  38. I have the first Montmaray sitting on my TBR pile from the library right now, per your recommendation.

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  39. Wait, seriously? I wish my friend Tom in DC was into Wiki editing, because he's obsessed with Years of Rice and Salt and would be perfect for fixing that lack.

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  40. Same here, Jenn. Plus, it had real illusion work in it, unlike the cheating CGI in The Illusionist.

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  41. I've been a friend of Weber through various forums, but please don't let that tinge my MY GOD recommendation of Triangle to everyone. It's a brilliant piece of work.

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  42. Watts8:11 PM

    Yeah, but The Illusionist wasn't both dead boring and pretentious.

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  43. Jenn.8:49 PM

    I figured out the conclusion, flipped to the end to see if I was right, and then stopped reading, because I despised the characters so very, very, very much.

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  44. Heather K8:51 PM

    I second The Glass Castle. It was a very compelling.

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  45. Heather K8:53 PM

    I read Gone Girl last month on my honeymoon, and as several folks here mentioned on Twitter, that was maybe not the best situation to read that in. I liked the book overall though.


    Right now I am on a crime novel kick and am looking for good ones.

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  46. Jenn.8:57 PM

    Just started reading a mystery series by Jeffrey Siger set in Greece that I'm very happy with. Just read the first in a series by Peter Steiner set in rural France---not as sure about that one. I just reread the first in a series by Kate Ellis. (Had trouble getting the books in paperback some years back, but now that they are on Kindle....). Will now go and order Alan's book....

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  47. KCosmo9:52 PM

    Mike Grunwald's The New New Deal; Gone Girl (along with everyone else); and tons of YA dystopia (Delirium/Pandemonium ; Divergent/Insurgent/Resplurgent; Matched/Crossed....yes, I'm 12 these days.

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  48. His first book was My Own Country, about his work as a doctor in East Tennessee in a town facing the AIDS epidemic, and it's terrific. I need to finish Cutting for Stone soon.

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  49. Just finishing Twilight of the Elites, which I recommend. Last few before that were One Last Thing Before I Go, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, and The Fault in Our Stars. Of those, One Last Thing was the easiest, quickest read and the least edifying.

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  50. gretchen11:49 PM

    I've had a hard time with the new Michael Chabon -- I've started reading it twice and failed to get into it both times. I think it might require more time than I have right now. Would be interested to know if others have the same reaction.

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  51. gretchen11:52 PM

    You should read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer -- right in that tradition and I really liked it. I also liked Graceling -- excellent YA fantasy.

    Resplurgent? Convergent? I like Detergent.

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  52. Huh. I'm from East Tennessee and had never heard of that book. Will put it on my to-read list.

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  53. I'm a big fan of crime novels out of the UK, because I find too often US ones always end up in the "gunfight scene." If you want some recommended authors, tell me who you've already read and I'll recommend others.

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  54. gtv20007:58 AM

    Just started Gone Girl so I'm skimming these comments to avoid any hint of a spoiler. Just finished Neil Young's autobiography - only for fans.

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  55. You should read Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson.

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  56. Sheila10:40 AM

    I'm also into a ton of YA these days. I can't wait for Detergent, although book 2 wasn't quite as good as book 1. Graceling is good, as are the "sequels" (more like other books in the same world). Have you read Marie Lu's Legend? Not quite as good as the ones you mentioned but another pretty good YA dystopia. Right now I'm more on the YA fantasy track - just finished Sabriel/Lirael and am about to read Abhorsen.

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  57. Marsha11:54 AM

    I didn't like Divergent at all - hackneyed, trite, and two dimensional. were the second and third any good?

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  58. christy in nyc1:13 PM

    I just finished (late last night) my annual read of all five National Book Award nominees in young people's literature. Started Gone Girl right after that. I've managed to avoid ALL spoilers. Although a coworker did give me the heads up not to give it as a honeymoon read, Heather! :)

    Looking over my reading list from the last few months, I think the one that stands out is The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan. I LOVED her Tender Morsels from several years back, but it's a hard one to push on people because it has so much rape and violence in it. This new one, though maybe not quite as special as Tender Morsels, has a lot of what I loved about it, without that particular hurdle. Also worth mentioning that neither premise is something that would normally draw me in--Tender Morsels is a Snow White and Rose Red retelling; Rollrock is selkies--but it was good reviews for the first and faith in the author for the second that got me reading.

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  59. Watts5:31 PM

    It's been on my to-read shelf for years now. It's just so LONG.

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  60. Matt Brown11:30 AM

    Thanks for the (anti) recommendation. That definitely would bother me.

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  61. Matt Brown11:31 AM

    Really? I've read a lot of recommendations in other places for doing Infinite Jest on an e-reader for the sole reason that you would have an easier time flipping between the main story and the footnotes, and also because of the benefit of a built-in dictionary. Interesting to hear a different perspective. I do wish though that the Kindle made it easier to navigate around the screen to move the cursor to the footnote location, however.

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  62. Adam B.3:23 PM

    I've never liked flipping on the Kindle, because of the cursor issues. On the other hand, it's a heavy book.

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