Category: Fiction

1966, 1968, Books, Fiction

Cancer Ward (1966, 1968) by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I have no idea why it took me so long to finish this one. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but something about it turned into a slog for me. (It also happened that I was listening to podcasts when I supposed to be reading, which was a problem.) Anyway, the time it took …

2004, Books, Fiction

The Plot Against America (2004)

This is a flawed but near-great alternative history of the United States in the first years of World War II that manages to be incredibly compelling and affecting even while you suspect the premise might be slightly implausible. However, Roth is such a good writer that you kind of stop caring and if his handling …

1960, Books, Fiction

The Caretaker (1960) by Harold Pinter

This is my first Pinter and I should mention that I had no idea what I was getting into before I read it. I suspect that it would have made more of an impression on me had I seen it, rather than read it, simply because some of the tone of one of the characters …

1995, Books, Fiction

A Fine Balance (1995) by Rohinton Mistry

Every day, but especially days in December, I see someone in Canada or the US on Facebook or YouTube or Twitter who is complaining about how awful our world is. If it’s not an individual, it’s an article or other post about something terrible happening. And this really drives me crazy because I know that …

1969, Books, Fiction

Runaway Horses (1969) by Yukio Mishima

All of us approach anything new from our frame of reference. And so I cannot help but liken this novel, the second part of a tetralogy the rest of which I haven’t read, to Dostoevsky’s The Possessed (aka Demons). It’s been years since I read it, but I felt strong echoes of it in this …

1982, Books, Fiction

Space (1982) by James Michener

The older I get the more I seem to be winning the battle – or at least not losing the battle – with my completist streak. I am writing a review of this flawed novel after having read only 470 pages as a celebration of defeating my completist impulse yet again. I do not need …

1959, Books, Fiction

Hawaii (1959) by James Michener

This was my first Michener, though I did read a novel called London, which was basically an imitation Michener, back when I was a teenager. My understanding is that he is very much the author of these alternative histories of given places. So I guess I had to read him at some point. But holy …

1978, Books, Fiction

The Westing Game (1978) by Ellen Raskin

This is the kind of novel all kids should read. I am far too old for this type of book now but, as a child or tween, this would have been great. It feels like a legitimate game (it’s basically a far more complicated version of Clue with character development) and its humour is rooted …

1903, Books, Fiction

The Ambassadors (1903) by Henry James

I hate giving up on a book – I just hate it. I have a really strong completist streak in me that has helped me endure through things I’ve really disliked. Since I graduated university I can count the number of books I’ve given up on, on one hand. Usually, it’s non-fiction (such as The …

2007, Books, Fiction

A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) by Khaled Hosseini

This is, for the most part, a compelling, affecting and, at times, devastating novel of what it was like to live as a woman in Afghanistan for the last quarter century or so of the 20th century. It is particularly effective of giving insight into men who hate women – into a whole society that …

2013, Books, Fiction

The Dilettantes (2013) by Michael Hingston

Full Disclosure: This novel was written by a friend of my brother. When I was younger, I reviewed everything without regard to who created it and so wrote some reviews of music made by friends that I didn’t love (though I couldn’t tell them this to their faces because I’m a coward). As I’ve gotten …

1906, Books, Fiction

The Prodigy aka Beneath the Wheel (1906) by Hermann Hesse

This coming of age story is quite affecting and feels like a much better glimpse into the youth of a German male of the era than I am used to, either from Hesse himself or from someone like Thomas Mann.

1919, Books, Fiction

Demian (1919) by Hermann Hesse

This is the kind of book I’d have eaten up when I was in my early 20s, I think. It’s one of those novels of ideas, and the ideas are vague enough that one can project one’s own feelings on them. That’s one reason it would have appealed to me. Also, I was a young …

2011, Baseball, Books, Fiction, Sports

The Art of Fielding (2011) by Chad Harbach

This is an excellent debut novel, featuring a richly constructed world and (mostly) believable characters. It works as both a baseball novel and a college novel. It has been a long time since I cared about characters this much.

1851, Books, Fiction

Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Mellville

I discovered there was a free audio version of Moby Dick online, as a podcast, so I started listening to it. However, 3/4s through it, the site went down. So I resumed with an audio book from the library. I think listening to it was a mistake. I distracted myself too many times and missed …

1915, Books, Fiction

The Good Soldier (1915) by Ford Madox Ford

Sometimes I can handle stories of the idle rich, sometimes I cannot. This is one of the latter, where I really struggled to care about any of the characters, their rich, bored lives and their endless emotional struggles. I can understand why this novel is so well regarded: it exposed the fraud of “keeping up …

1985, Books, Fiction

Less than Zero (1985) by Bret Easton Ellis

On some level, this feels like an ’80s LA Catcher in the Rye, albeit with richer and older kids, and drugs and prostitution. I feel like this may have been Ellis’ intent, I also think that the acclaim that greeted it upon its release likely was due, in part to that comparison, however misguided. Holden …

2000, Books, Fiction

Baudolino (2000) by Umberto Eco

This is a fairly uproarious comic novel about the fine line between truth and fiction, that also functions as a critique of medieval logic and reasoning and as a celebration/satire of the power of myth (and faith, and belief). But I felt a nagging sense of deja vu the entire time I was reading it. …

2007, Books, Fiction

Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks (2007) by Christopher Brookmyre

This is not only  a well-done mystery but it is also a fine indictment of a certain kind of chicanery, one that drives me particularly crazy. SPOILERS

1968, Books, Fiction

A Case of Need (1968) by Michael Crichton writing as Jeffery Hudson

This is a real page turner and it’s easy to see why it’s the book that properly launched Crichton’s career: it’s full of detailed information about contemporary medicine but Crichton uses that detail to drive the plot, not to overwhelm the reader in minutiae (as some “techno thriller” writers do). Though this type of thriller …

1816, Books, Fiction

Adolphe (1816) by Benjamin Constant

This is an odd one: it’s a story of a romance with virtually no context. Sure, we get some idea of what Europe was like for a son of a wealthy family in the early 19th century. And, in one of the later chapters, Constant describes the physical geography of an area of Poland. But, …

1900, Books, Fiction

Lord Jim (1900) by Joseph Conrad

Conrad is perhaps my favourite (English language) writer from the turn of the last century. I find “The Secret Sharer” to be one of the greatest English language short stories ever written. And Nostromo is a favourite of mine. And yet it took me forever to get into this, considered by some to be among …

1896, 1897, 1901, 1904, 1993, Books, Fiction

The Essential Plays (1993) by Anton Chekhov

This is a fine collection of Chekhov’s four most famous plays. The Seagull is my least favourite – it’s concerned with the theatre a little too much for my liking. The ending is great, though. Uncle Vanya is the kind of thing I would have devoured in my early twenties. It’s borderline existential the conflict …

1953, Books, Fiction

The Worldly Philosophers (1953, 1992) by Robert L. Heilbroner

This is an impressive and engaging summary of the lives and ideas of the major economists from Adam Smith through Joseph Schumpeter, covering both the people you would expect (Ricardo, Keynes) and some people you would not. Heilbroner is a refreshing guide because he both has a historical sense of economics and he is not …

1996, Books, Fiction

A Game of Thrones (1996) by George RR Martin

I have never liked fantasy novels and usually only enjoy fantasy movies for their cheesiness and predictability (though there are exceptions). However, the TV show won me over due to its drastic differences from most fantasy I am familiar with. As a fan of the show, I really felt no need to read the books. …

2000, Books, Fiction

Super-Cannes (2000) by J.G. Ballard

This is a provocative page turner that raises lots of questions about where late 20th century capitalism is headed. FYI, it’s also the first Ballard novel I’ve read, but I have seen both of the films that were adapted from his books. I found it entertaining and mostly provocative, but I did have a few …

1920, Books, Fiction

The Age of Innocence (1920) by Edith Wharton

Scorsese’s version of this book is, in my opinion, one of his very best films and on the short list of films I would recommend to anyone wanting to understand good direction. This despite Michelle Pfeiffer’s supposedly miscast as the female lead.