Reading

Books I have read (or listened to) since returning to book-reading in 2018, in (mostly) reverse chronological order. Date next to each entry denotes date finished (or abandoned).

  • “The Rooster Bar” by John Grisham
    • Presently reading. A lawyer diploma mill scam. Quote: “It’s perfect! It’s beautiful! It’s one great big fat law school scam that’s risk-free. If we default the taxpayers pick up the tab. Rackley gets to privatize the profits and socialize the losses.”
  • “Masked Prey” 🕪 by John Sandford
    • Presently reading.
  • “Echo Burning” by Lee Child
    • Presently reading. || Paused because my library loan timed out. Must wait to borrow again.
  • “Running Blind” by Lee Child ★★★★★ 2020-07-03
    • One of the better Reacher novels. Having read most of the Reacher novel series (in random order), and having been disappointed with Lee Child’s recent product, I was pleasantly surprised by this early (2000) work. Well thought-out, well researched, well written.
  • “Murder on the Orient Express” 🕪 by Agatha Christie ★★★★★ 2020-07-08
    • Back to this gem from the queen of mysteries, some 40 years later.
  • “Rogue Lawyer” by John Grisham ★★★★☆ 2020-07-30
    • First Grisham novel in a long time. Enjoyable.
  • “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” 🕪 by Agatha Christie ★★★★☆ 2020-07-09
    • Never read this one before.
  • “Persuader” by Lee Child ★★★☆☆ 2020-06-06
    • Too many words. 544 pages is unnecessarily long for this type of novel. I skimmed through the second half.
  • “The Never Game” 🕪 by Jeffery Deaver ★★☆☆☆ 2020-06-06
    • Abandoned at 25%.
  • “Without Fail” by Lee Child ★★★★☆ 2020-05-28
    • Good novel, overall, with a few oddities: Reacher explains himself too much, uncharacteristically. Reacher wears a watch, despite having an impeccable internal clock elsewhere in the series; phrases like “near as makes no difference”, “laughing up their sleeves”, and “time to time” (notfrom time to time”) appear several times throughout the novel and nowhere else in the Reacher series. Such oddities solidify my suspicions — first arisen by the very poor “Past Tense” — that not all novels in the Reacher series were written by Lee Child himself.
  • “Code of Conduct” 🕪 by Brad Thor ★★☆☆☆ 2020-05-27
    • Abandoned.
  • “Smiley’s People” by John le Carré ★★★☆☆ 2020-05-15
    • Surprisingly, this John le Carré novel did not draw me in as I expected. Too drawn out, too descriptive. Or maybe I have become less patient… Abandoned at 66%.
  • “The President Is Missing” by James Patterson and Bill Clinton ★★☆☆☆ 2020-04-19
    • Lightweight + didactic = annoying combination. Abandoned.
  • “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” by Horace McCoy ★★★★★ 2020-04-16
    • Reading this novel some 40+ years after I saw the film was simultaneously inspiring and depressing. I devoured it in two days. 1935 mood same as 2020 mood… “[…] the first existentialist novel to have appeared in America” –Simone de Beauvoir
  • “A Delicate Truth” by John le Carré ★★★★☆ 2020-04-14
    • Private-intelligence service. Military contractors. Politicians. Money. Cover-ups. “So it’s a good old British compromise: a deniable toe in the water but not the whole foot. And me and the boys, we’re the toe, like.” “It’s another merc job, Brigid. Makes you wonder sometimes who starts the wars these days.” A sheer delight, even if somewhat naïve, considering everything that has been happening in the world since the book was published in 2013.
  • “The Sicilian” by Mario Puzo ★★☆☆☆ 2020-04-11
    • A forced, weak attempt to replicate the success of The Godfather. Abandoned.
  • “The Last Don” by Mario Puzo ★★☆☆☆ 2020-04-10
    • A forced, weak attempt to replicate the success of The Godfather. Abandoned.
  • “The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds” 🕪 by Michael Lewis ★★★☆☆ 2020-05-13
    • Picked up on a friend’s recommendation. An interesting — if needlessly long — account of the collaboration between two brilliant scientists, their contributions to the field of mathematical psychology, and the dynamic of their symbiotic relationship.
  • “The Honourable Schoolboy” by John le Carré ★★★☆☆ 2020-04-14
    • Surprisingly, this John le Carré novel did not draw me in as I expected. Too drawn out, too wordy. Or maybe I have become less patient… Abandoned.
  • “Interior Chinatown” by Charles Yu ★★★★★ 2020-05-20
    • Delightful. You don’t have to be a Chinese immigrant in America to understand, appreciate, enjoy, love this warm, thoughtful, witty, beautifully written narrative.
  • “Annihilation” 🕪 by Jeff VanderMeer ★★★☆☆ 2020-03-06
    • Clever sci-fi novel, whose elaborate descriptions of EVERYTHING — though masterful — felt a bit too elaborate for me. The whole thing could have been a novella, a short story even. It could also be that I am not all that much into sci-fi in general.
  • “Blue Moon” by Lee Child ★★★★☆ 2020-03-01
    • Back to Lee Child and Jack Reacher, after getting over my serious disappointment with one of Child’s recent Reacher novels. This one is so far so good. It appears that Child has bounced back from his recent slump (or whatever else caused him to put out sub-par work). // This is good writing. It is amazing, almost inexplicable, how Child’s writing quality can vary so greatly from Reacher novel to Reacher novel. // Hmmm… Albanian gangster using phrases like “opportunistically and treacherously”? I will withhold further judgement until I finish the book. // A good Reacher novel. Interesting plot twists — some predictable, some not. Above all, it’s good to have back the Child I knew (who seemed to have gone missing in some of his recent works, most notably “Past Tense”).
  • “Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances” by Neil Gaiman ★★★★☆ 2020-03-14
    • Came for the short fiction, found disturbances. Abandoning for a lighter fare, for I have enough disturbances in my life as it is.
  • “Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody” by Joe Canzano ★★☆☆☆ 2020-02-21
    • I bought this book because I wanted to support the author — a friend whom I know as a musician. I didn’t know what to expect from his writing. Fifteen pages into the novel I am hooked. Fast-paced sci-fi action amid witty dialog, taking place in the (not-so-distant?) future when the United Mexican Union is one of the nine nations on Earth. Quote from page 16: “He obviously wasn’t expecting anyone hostile, like a dentist.” // 90 pages into the 295-page novel the wisecracks and the one-liners begin to wear thin. I put the book down. Maybe I’ll get back to it and finish it at another time.
  • “Charting and Technical Analysis” by Fred McAllen ★★★★☆ 2020-02-16
    • First book bought with Bitcoin. Actually, first-ever Bitcoin purchase. // Learning about stock trading and charts and trend lines and patterns and TA (technical analysis), and forecasting, and lemme tell ya: Voodoo is much more scientific than any of that. But I will finish the book, and I will use my new-found knowledge in my cryptocurrency adventures. // I abandoned the book on page 114, at 43%. The book is written at a 9th grade level, which is probably what its target demo is. I bought this book because I wanted to make sense of the mumbo-jumbo on crypto Twitter, in which I became suddenly, (and briefly, as it were) interested. I also wanted to buy something with Bitcoin, and this book was a perfect candidate. It did its job for me, and gave me what I was looking for. I may return to it if and when I decide to become a day trader or swing trader. For now, I am just a HODLer.
  • “Finders Keepers” 🕪 by Stephen King ★★★★★ 2020-02-22
    • First King book in a very long time. // A well-woven story about an obsessive literary fan, with all the crime and drama and suspense and characters King is known for. It kept me looking forward to my commutes.
  • “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams ★★★★★ 2020-02-12
    • What took me so long to get to this book??? Quote (this is science fiction written in 1978, mind you): “Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the job of the Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract attention away from it.” Also: “There are of course many problems connected with life, of which some of the most popular are Why are people born? Why do they die? Why do they want to spend so much of the intervening time wearing digital watches?” Also: “It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons.”
  • “Stealth” by Stuart Woods ★☆☆☆☆ 2020-01-21
    • A new low on my list. A wealthy NYPD detective owns an estate in the UK across the river from the estate of the female director of MI-6, with whom he has sex. He next has sex with an attractive female doctor, who is also an MI-6 agent. Russian paratroopers arrive during the night on black parachutes. Abandoned the book on page 56. Should have abandoned it sooner.
  • “Camino Island” by John Grisham ★★★☆☆ 2020-01-20
    • Rather bland story set in the world of books, writers, booksellers, and stolen F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts. Main takeaway for me: the advice of a seasoned bookseller to a young novelist about what not to do in her novels. Not Polonius-level stuff, but interesting and potentially useful nonetheless.
  • “The New Girl” 🕪 by Daniel Silva ★★★★☆ 2020-01-24
    • The obligatory filler notwithstanding, this is one of the better and more interesting Silva books in the Gabriel Allon series. Loosely based on the killing and dismemberment of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the author fictionalizes the events leading to and following the murder, with an interesting twist of events.
  • “Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread” by Chuck Palahniuk ★★★★☆ 2020-01-10
    • Having belatedly discovered transgressive literature, I was both fascinated and disturbed by this collection of short stories. I didn’t finish it. Definitely not everybody’s cup of tea. ‘Zombies’ is a gem.
  • “The English Spy” by Daniel Silva ★★☆☆☆ 2020-01-12 // 🕪 
    • Presently reading. I am having trouble finishing this one, either because I have little interest in the Northern Ireland / UK / IRA conflict, or because there’s just too much filler. // Picked up this novel again as an audio book, to listen to during my commutes. // Paused.
  • “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan ★★★★★ 2019-12-24
  • “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing” by Hank Green ★★★★★ 2019-12-10
    • Futuristic sci-fi with present-day characters. Sheer delight.
  • “The Heist” 🕪 by Daniel Silva ★★★☆☆ 2020-01-04
    • Like most Daniel Silva novels, this feels unnecessarily long.
  • “Permanent Record” by Edward Snowden ★★★★☆ 2019-10-31
    • This book did not tell me anything I didn’t already know or suspect, yet it caused me to reassess and alter my online behavior. The first ⅔ of this book is brilliant and dense, then things trail off in the last ⅓. Everyone should read this book, regardless of their personal opinion of the author.
  • “Die Trying” by Lee Child ★★★☆☆
    • I am having trouble finishing this one. Unnecessarily wordy, it feels as if the author is getting paid by the page. Maybe I’m just getting tired of Jack Reacher.
  • “The Black Widow” 🕪 by Daniel Silva ★★★★☆ 2019-12-10
    • Israeli uber-operative Gabriel Allon discovers, follows, and neutralizes an Islamic terrorist cell. Good for four weeks of commuting.
  • “Agent Running in the Field” by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-11-25
    • John le Carré’s latest novel, masterful as always. However, as someone who has read most (all?) his work, I can’t help but feel that he is running out of material.
  • “The 14th Colony” 🕪 by Steve Berry ★★☆☆☆ 2019-11-08
    • Bloated. Why is every recently-written fiction / adventure book over 400 pages? Do authors really get paid by the page? So much filler…
  • Gathering Prey
  • Neon Prey
  • Golden Prey
  • False Friend
  • False Witness
  • “The Mission Song” 🕪 by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-09-26
  • “Our Kind of Traitor” 🕪 by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-09-03
  • “A Legacy of Spies” by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-08-15
  • “The Pigeon Tunnel” by John le Carré ★★★★★ 2019-08-04
    • A beautiful collection of true stories as experienced and told by a field operative thinker
  • Death of an Honest Man
  • Death of a Kingfisher
  • Death of a Liar
  • Death of a Ghost
  • 61 Hours
  • Personal
  • Not a Drill
  • The Christmas Scorpion
  • Death of a Maid
  • No Middle Name
  • Never Go Back
  • High Heat
  • “The Fourth K” by Mario Puzo ★★★☆☆ 2019-05-18
    • Mario Puzo does a political thriller. It’s OK, but I keep waiting for the mafia to show up and it doesn’t.
  • Enlightenment Now
  • 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
  • Nothing to Lose
  • The Affair
  • The Murderer’s Daughter
  • Motive
  • Killer
  • Guilt
  • Victims
  • Deception
  • A Wanted Man
  • “Past Tense” by Lee Child ★★☆☆☆
    • The poorest of all Reacher novels. I strongly suspect it was not written by Lee Child himself but by a novice ghostwriter. Many similar sentiments appear in Amazon reviews.
  • Bad Luck and Trouble
  • Jack Reacher: One Shot
  • Worth Dying For
  • Make Me
  • Small Wars
  • The Enemy
  • Night School
  • Deep Down: A Jack Reacher Story
  • The Midnight Line
  • Gone Tomorrow
  • Killing Floor
  • “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie ★★★★★ 2018-12-16
    • I first read this half a century ago in Bulgarian. It was called “Десет малки негърчета” — “Ten little negroes”. I have since read it many times in English as “Ten little Indian boys”, “Ten little sailors”, and now as “And Then There Were None” — the publishers progressively yielding to the PC demands of the day. Regardless, this is a superb mystery, and I will probably read it again in the future.
  • “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie ★★★★★ 2018-12-09
    • I first read this half a century ago in Bulgarian. It was called “Алиби” — “Alibi”. I have since read it many times in English. A superb mystery from the queen of mysteries. Allegedly Christie wrote this novel as a response to a friend’s claim that murder mysteries are transparent and it is always apparent who the murderer is.
  • Judgment Cometh
  • A Crime of Passion
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Blood Money
  • Reasonable Fear
  • Injustice for All

Future reading:

  • “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr
  • “Indistractable” by Nir Eyal
  • “The Looking Glass War” by John le Carré
  • “The Ministry of Fear” by Graham Greene
  • “String Theory: David Foster Wallace on Tennis” by David Foster Wallace
  • “Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture” by Johan Huizinga