Books

MR BOOKS READ 2020 – 2024

recommended in bold

AuthorTitle (s)Comment
ShakespeareHamletWhat a piece of work is man.
ShakespeareKing LearSharper than a serpents tooth it is to have a thankless child.
Maggie SmithYou Could Make This Place Beautiful
Maggie SmithKeep MovingInspiration by pithy poetry. Love the design.
Ingrid Rojas ContrerasFruit of the Drunken TreeA gripping tale of growing up in Colombia amid violence and corruption and escaping barely.
Ann NapolitanoHello BeautifulStraight, compelling storytelling. Ann Napolitano reaches a new level of accomplishment after Dear Edward (below).
Jacqueline WoodsonAnother BrooklynI loved this book about growing up in poverty, in the projects, in Brooklyn during a time I remember so well.
Stephen MitchellTao Te ChingStephen Mitchell’s ‘interpretation’ of this ancient text. Inspiring guidance for living in 2023 from around 400 BC.
Stephen MitchellBhagavad GitaStephen Mitchell’s interpretation of this classic ancient text is clear and inspiring.  
Annie Ernaux    Do What They Say or ElseAnnie growing up as a teenager. Stream of consciousness. What’s it like to be a girl in France. We get intimate with her mother and father. They are examined in other Annie Ernaux books so this book gives context and depth to the Annie Ernaux life in its various permutations. 112 pages.
Joan DidionThe Year of Magical ThinkingHard truths, deep grief, drifting alone in a world with her partner gone I could see her in her New York apartment, sequestered in a room. “I’m only myself in front of a typewriter,” she has said. She pulls it together for this book to keep herself from unraveling, and we’re with her through every word. The Didion style is unmistakable but it goes deeper, naturally, than she has before.
Annie ErnauxA Man’s PlaceAnnie’s father. Beautiful. 90 pages.
Elizabeth Strout      Lucy By the SeaAgain, an easy read that cuts deep and doesn’t spare the drama and the life altering circumstances of the real-life characters that inhabit the pages of an Elizabeth Strout novel. She is a treasure.  

Annie Ernaux    
Getting LostSex. Desire. Obsession. More sex. More obsession. The object of her obsession is a married Soviet apparatchik. Intimate and focused, vulnerable and brave, she cuts herself open and lets us crawl inside. I never read anything like this. Annie Ernaux is winner of the Nobel Prize. 239 pages.  
Jennifer Egan  A visit From the Goon Squad.This novel won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Whatever. Didn’t do it for me.  

  Jane Smiley  
 1000 AcresPulitzer Prize winner. Drama on par with Shakespeare. Three daughters processing trauma and fighting for the affection of the abusive father reminded me of Lear at the outset but it’s a very American novel with a deep dive into the farming way of life in the Midwest with a lot of drama to go with it.  
Haruki Murakami      IQ84I got 550 pages into this 800-page book and abandoned it. He went off the edge, again, into some super-real magic realism or something. Why does there always have to be the obligatory chapter on animal abuse in his books?  
Colson Whitehead    The Nickel BoysTwo Pulitzers, National Book Awards, Colson Whitehead pumps out highly readable novels about the Black experience. This one about an institution in Florida that abused Black boys was highly readable, disturbing, and educational. He’s a smooth storyteller.  

Amy Bloom    
In LoveWonderful short book about helping your spouse die.
Honoree Fanone Jeffers      The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois800 pages. Incredible, sweeping epic of Black life from the time of slavery to the present day. A life-altering experience.  
Miriam ToewsFight Night | Women Talking  A treasure. A beautiful writer. No matter how tragic, she’s funny as hell. Canadian. I want to read everything she writes.  
Elizabeth StroutOh William!  Long listed for 2022 Booker. Love Elizabeth Strout. Loved this short book.  
Nastassja MartinIn the Eye of the Wild  Yes.
Nathan HarrisThe Sweetness of Water  Black slave life. Beautiful book.
Peter Ho Davies  A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself  I agree with Sigrid Nunez when she says more books like this need to be written. Honest, true, funny auto-fiction about love, marriage, raising children, and writing. Short book. Gut punch.  
Avni DoshiBurnt SugarTerrific debut book. Very talented writer. Let’s see how she develops. This book was a little fractured.  
Jason Mott  Hell of a Book2021 National Book Award winner. Hell of a strange book.  
Alexandra Chang   OK. Chinese woman disappointed with her boyfriend, her job, her life, ruminating on her place. It’s educational. The gradations of the culture and relation to whites, the place of a Chinese American. She’s young and I have a feeling she’s going on to more weighty books.
Sigrid Nunes  1.A Feather to the Breath of God   2. What Are You Going Through?   3. Sempre Susan1 & 2. Beautiful voice, masterful story telling. Short books that effortlessly go deep and wide. Love her voice. 3, Sempre Susan – about Susan Sontag. I’ll read anything she writes.
Madeline Miller    CirceBeautiful, fantastical exploits of a Greek goddess. A historical novel by some stretch. It’s like an action-adventure book that will teach you about the Greek gods. Awakens the adolescent adventurer.
Deborah LevyThe Cost of LivingAn intimate, lyrical look at growing up at 50 with kids and a still raw divorce. One in a trilogy. A short book with short bursts punctuated with a longer killer sequence. I ordered earlier novels. Beautiful voice.
Alison BechdelThe Secret to Superhuman Strength | Fun Home | Are You My Mother?Incisive. Erudite. Brilliant graphic memoirs about coming of age, coming out, and discovering and analyzing deep family secrets. Rearranges what you believe a graphic novel could do. Goes deep into the history and practice of psychology.
Robert JonesThe Prophetslife-altering historic fiction about life for slaves on the plantation, revolving around the love of two male slaves. A powerful book that doesn’t leave me. I remember the situations and feelings of the book as if I read it yesterday. It should be a classic. Debut novel shortlisted for the National Book Award.
Raven LeilaniLusterLove this book. Love her voice. Great debut novel. Could be an artist coming of age, or a lost soul scraping along. I was with her all the way, like I was under her skin.
Tara WestoffEducatedMemoir. Wonderful.
Brit BennettThe Vanishing Half | Mothers  Extraordinary talent, really ambitious in sweep. So young. Great work to come. Loved both these novels.
Elif BatumanThe IdiotStrange, long book. Subdued and close-up without being intimate. I stuck with it, although I imagine some wouldn’t.
Lily KingWriters & LoversWonderful. A fun book that’s real. You thought you knew what it took to be a waitress? The tale of a struggling writer.  Based on this book I tried to read two of Lily King’s earlier novels and found them too dense. The book has air and lift.
Carolyn SeeThe HandymanAnother fun look into the Southern California strangeness. I can’t believe they didn’t make this into a movie.
Ann NapolitanoDear EdwardAn OK book. I like Ann Napolitano and want to follow her. I remember the story. See above for ‘Hello Beautiful’
Sheila HetiMotherhood | How Should a Person Be? | Ticknor | Women in ClothesShe will appeal to a certain type; most, nah but she fascinates me for some strange reason. I read everything she writes. Ticknor was a misfire. She was trying to be something she’s not.
Sally RooneyNormal People   Beautiful World, Where Are You?  Normal People: I was really impressed with this book. I admired the writing. But I don’t remember it at all. Beautiful World … : Didn’t get it at all. Rejected.
Kiley ReidSuch a Fun AgeOK. A little too clever/MFA for me. Good buzz on this book. Let’s see what the next one looks like.
Maggie O’FarrellHamnet“… a thing of shimmering wonder …” What more can you say? Incredible historic fiction. Adds so much to understanding Shakespeare and his time. A joy to read.
Suleika Jaouad Between Two KingdomsMemoir. At turns highly readable and occasionally petulant and annoying. I love Suleika’s substack ‘Isolation Journals’
  Yaa GyasiTranscendent Kingdom | Homegoing  All the Jesus stuff can become annoying, but I loved these books. Homegoing has less Jesus. A really gifted writer and natural storyteller.