Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Summer Reading and Recommendations

My reading list is shaping up and the summer is looking good if I can ever get through the first half of this re-write so I can reward myself with some fiction. Mystery/Thriller One should always be well-read within your genre and cognizant of the greats. These are the people that crowd the field I'm trying to elbow my way into... well, into the crowd that's gathered to touch the hems of their robes anyway. The new Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child is out. The reviews are consistently good: Pure thriller, shootemup adventure. Jack Reacher is who all those other anti-hero characters are trying (and failing more often than not) to emulate. The LA Times link I just gave you also bears mentioning because it brings up the crucial evolutionary step preceding Reacher, Parker by the late, lamented, Donald Westlake. Unabashedly macho, admittedly criminal, these characters are nonetheless compelling and if you do nothing else, read them to learn how to create empathy in your readers for characters that aren't entirely likable! After that, there's a new Michael Connelly mystery The Scarecrow which pulls its plot from the headlines, featuring a reporter (recurring character Jack McEvoy from The Poet) about to be fired in the latest round of budget cuts at his newspaper. He preps a story sure to send him out with a bang and soon all hell breaks loose. I haven't read it yet, obviously, but Connelly consistently proves that writing about cops, criminals and crime doesn't mean you're not creating literature. And with October's release of the new Harry Bosch novel Nine Dragons, I'm confident I won't be disappointed. Incidentally, I don't often recommend authors unreservedly, but if you've never heard of him (or even if you have), go out and find yourself some David Hewson novels. His new one "Dante's Numbers" carries a title that gives the mistaken impression that he's another Dan Brown clone, but he's been out there for years with his ensemble cast of characters, turning in consistent crime fiction from the mean streets of Rome. (Yes, Rome. As in Italy.) Start with "Season For the Dead" or "Villa of Mysteries" and you won't regret it. I've read a lot of literature by female authors, but it became clear to me recently that there's a paucity of women on my mystery/thriller shelves. (This revelation was prompted in part by the tempest stirred by Ian Rankin's remark about female crime writers being more violent than male writers of the same genres.) My reading table now includes some women who are entirely new to me including Val McDermid, Manda Scott and recent Edgar Award Winner Tana French's "In The Woods". All chosen based on recommendations of friends and by the old standard of reading the ad copy, back cover and first chaper while standing in the bookstore. More recommendations of overlooked feminine voices in crime fiction? Leave them in the comments!! The Classics Every summer I do my best to mow through some of the classics that I either missed or glossed over in the past. This generally includes one very old masterpiece. Last year was Canterbury Tales and Don Quixote before that, generally balanced by sundry modern works. This summer, I will be making my way through The Divine Comedy once more. I last read it as a teenager and didn't get it so much as have it spoonfed to me and that's no way to create a real appreciation for or understanding of a significant work of western literature. I'll be filling in around the edges with the collected short stories of O. Henry, Hemingway, Kipling and Chekov. There isn't a reader alive whose erudition couldn't be improved by the addition of more great short fiction. RECOMMENDATIONS SOUGHT! Being between novels, my non-fiction mental hummingbird has nowhere to alight and is madly flitting about between gardening books and home-improvement guides. I need something solid to sink my teeth into, a great biography I might have missed or a scathing expose of Cleopatra's court or something... I'm game for just about anything, so send me your recommendations. Nothing really scandalous or titillating, just a great non-fiction read in an area I might otherwise overlook. What's on your list?


  1. Just catching up on your blog. Val Mcdermid can be interesting, graphically violent though, I do like the way she choses her titles from T.S. Eliot's poetry.
    I also try to catch up on some classics, I have Andre Gide's Strait is the Gate, waiting for my attention.
    Wish I knew of some good biogs, friends seem to keep giving me celebrity biogs, not really in to those, the last one I read was on Suzi Quatro, it's not one I would recommend. Hope someone suggests some good reads and good luck with the writing, I am in awe of people who can do it.

  2. Dorothy Sayers! Elspeth sent me a message to remind me about Dorothy Sayers. Of course, how silly of me. Incidentally, I also need to go find her translation of Dante for comparison's sake. Thank you Elspeth & Bookpusher (Love the handle! Slowly making my way through the old posts on your blog.)


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).