Reading List: July 2015

Whoa. Hey, it’s been a while, sorry.

Let’s get this blog (re)started with a reading update. Haven’t done one of these in a couple of years, but for those of you who followed this thread in the past (here and here and here and here and here), there’s some good news at No. 1.

Here, in reverse chronological order, are the last five books I’ve read:

stan1. Stan Musial: An American Life, by George Vecsey. This one had been on my list for years. For a while, I wanted to make sure and read it before Stan died—but then he died, and the impetus passed with him. But I’m feelin’ baseball this summer, so I finally grabbed it and read it. Very interesting book. Not your typical biography, so much as a series of stories to illuminate The Man’s life. Some of them went on a little too long, but on the whole I really enjoyed it.

financial2. The Financial Lives of the Poets, by Jess Walter. I’m a sucker for a good title, and this one got me. And the text lived up to the title. There was lots of laughing out loud while I read this book, a story about a guy who has lost everything and then sets out to lose more. I’ll definitely be reading more from this author. I’m also a sucker for bargain books; I’m on about three lists that send me daily emails with reduced-price e-books. This was one of those books, as were Nos. 3 and 5 in this list.

manhunt3. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase To Catch Lincoln’s Killer, by James Swanson. For a while this spring, I was on a Civil War reading binge, and this was one of the books. A pretty interesting documentation of the assassination of Lincoln and attempted assassination of several of his Cabinet members, followed by the long hunt for John Wilkes Booth and co-conspirator David Herold.

Gettysburggrantnever4. Gettysburg, Grant Comes East and Never Call Retreat, by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen. OK, it’s three books—a trilogy—but I’m embarrassed enough to have Newt in this list that we’ll just confine it to one slot. This was sort of an alternative history of the Civil War, beginning with the battle of Gettysburg, speculating how things might have gone if Robert E. Lee had not attacked head-on on the second day of the battle, but instead tried a different tactic. The three books detail how things might have played out over the next year or so, as Lee and Ulysses Grant square off in a series of subsequent battles. All in all, a pretty interesting take.

horses5. Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson. This novel was on sale for a couple of bucks in the Kindle store, and I guess I was in the mood for something Scandinavian, so I picked it up. I was glad I did. It was a very enjoyable read, set in Norway, and much of it in flashback to the World War II years. It may be the first book I’ve read that was translated from Norwegian, and I found the style very interesting: very, well, Scandinavian.

The Next Five

Now, although I’m never very good at this and this time it’s even more guesswork than usual, here’s a list of what just might be the next five books I’ll read:

1. The Dirty Parts of the Bible, by Sam Torode. Like I said, I’m a sucker for a good title. I’ve  started this one and it’s going by very quickly, which is a good sign.

2. Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee. My initial instinct, after the first reports came out about a racist Atticus Finch in this book, was to not read it. But since then I’ve heard more positive feedback, and that this one reveals some things about the development of To Kill A Mockingbird, which is at or near the top of my (and probably most readers’) “favorite books” list.

3. From The Bottom Up, by Chad Pregracke. This is the story of the man who took it upon himself to clean trash and waste from the banks of the Mississippi River a decade or so ago, and built up a network of fellow volunteers and corporate supporters that has spread throughout the river system. A couple of years ago, he was named CNN’s Hero of the Year.

4. A Sudden Light, by Garth Stein. Like “Watchman,” above, this was a birthday present, and I’m looking forward to diving into this fairly new book from the author of “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” another favorite.

5. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen. I’m guessing, the way my reading’s going this year, that I’ll be about at this point in my list when this new novel comes out in September.

How ’bout you? What books are on your list?