Click here to see Time Magazine's list of the 100 best novels of all time.

(3 of the books are reviewed here)





Wolves Eat Dogs

Martin Cruz Smith

Reading Cruz's bokks in orderis a good substitute for reading post Berlin Wall Russian history.  Arkady Renko is Cruz's hero, a mid-level police inspector.  He never gives up despite the lack of support from his superiors who are more interests in protecting their own positions than applying the law.  In this novel, Renko is off to Chernobyl to solve a suspected murder which has been classified as a suicide.  A second murder is discovered near the nuclear site while Renko is is there investigating the first.  Although I like the author's writing, I found Wolves to be too long with too many characters with similar names.    (12/13) 

Still Foolin 'Em

Billy Crystal

Everyone I know loves Billy.  He has been a stand-up comic, an actor, and a movie star.  His best may very well have been as host of the Oscars.  The annual show had become boring until Billy rescued it.  This autobiography explains how he got to where he is today.  The book is a nice read, but about two thirds of the through he seems to have lost a little steam,  (12/13)

Swimming Home

Deborah Levy

Nominated for the Booker prize, this novel is quite subtle.  An English poet and his wifw rent a French villa for short with vacation their fourteen year old daughter.  They invited a couple of friends to share the villa.  When they arrive to move in they find a naked woman floating in the swimming pool.  She says that there was some kind of mix-up on the dates.  The end result is that the naked lady is offered a room in one of the small buildings in the villa.  Mistake !  There is a lot of sexual tension in the air but nothing explicit.  This is one of those books that you know something bad is going to happen but you won't find out what it is until the final page. (11/13)

The Devotion of Suspect X

Keigo Higashino

This authors work is very popular in Japan, so imagine the writing is more nuanced than the English translation which is very cut and dried.  There may not be a three syllable word in the entire book.  Never mind, if you get through the first two or three pages, the story is so interesting that you are drawn in.  Despite the flat prose, the differences in how Japanese and American are dramatic are clearly defined.  This book is not like anything you have previously encountered.  (11/13)

A Delicate Truth

John Le Carré

Even if you don't agree with his politics you have to admire his writing.  At his best in the world of clear good guys (MI-5) and bad guys ((USSR and satellites), he produced Tinker, Tailor, and The Spy Who Came in From The Cold among others where George Smiley became an unlikely hero.  Heroes are harder to find in Le Carré s recent work..  The Bad Guys are easy to identify.  They are the ones with a Yankee accent. In any event this book is a quick and enjoyable read. (10/13)

The Fallen Angel

Daniel Silva

Silva has written 13 novels in this series.  The Fallen Angel is the 12th.  Gabriel Allon is the hero, part time restorer of ancient art, part time Israeli secret agent.  Allon is a friend of the Pope's right hand man, which gets him summoned to the Vatican to discreetly investigate a suspicious apparent suicide in the Basilica.  The story moves along smartly with Allon and his mates foiling a few terrorist attacks and solving the mystery.  Reality is suspended as Allon is asked by the Pope to be his personal bodyguard on a visit to Jerusalem.  Take this book to the beach, but use lots of sunscreen (09/13)

Bad Monkey

Carl Hiaasen

Once again Hiaasen has mined the lunatic fringe of South Florida to produce a very funny book.  This one geets off to a rousing start when a tourist on a chartered fishing boat hooks and lands a human arm.  This sets in motion a series of events that lead to a Medicare scammer who bills the government for motorized wheel chairs that are never delivered. A detective named Yancy is hot on the trail but is ordered to stop his investigation.  Of course he doesn't follow orders and resolves all oen issues by the end of the book.  Don't read this unless you are prepared to laugh out loud. (08/13) 

All That Is

James Salter.

Salter is an award winning novelist and short story writer.  This is the first of his novels that I have read, and I felt that it didn't have as much bite as his short stories that I liked a lot.  The book traxks the life of a WW II vet  named Phillip Bowman who becomes a book editor.  The novel focuses on Bowman's  relationships with a variety interesting women, most of whom he lives with, the first of them he marries.  If you are looking for a wwell-written book without a lot of action, this may be for you.  (08/13)

The Simple Truth

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J. A. Turley

Turley is a retired oil company exploration expert who has pieced together the facts of the BP disaster and explains what really happened in a form that the layman reading the book can understand.  He has used a clever device to make the story readable by creating  a work of fiction in which the characters  are made up but the story of the explosion is real.  Lots of good diagrams explaining the jargon in plain English. (08/13)

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad

When Anthony Bourdain recently visited  the Congo to record  his CNN show, he made several references to this classic novel.  I had always planned to read it but now I had an incentive.  I must admit understanding the book was a lot more difficult than I anticipated, but it was worth the effort.  The story is  narrated by a character named Marlowe, a ship captain who is searching for a Mr. Kurtz, a trader who has achieved legendary status with the natives, which has led to a rift with the senior management of his employer. In the movie Apocalypse Now, Marlon Brando plays Col. Kurtz, a rogue American Army officer in Vietnam who like his counterpart in the book, is worshipped by the natives, but this doesn't sit well with his superiors.  I saw the movie many years ago.  I intend to watch it again. (06/13)


Kent Haruf

Haruf is a writer who sees poetry in the banal lives of the people existence of people who live in the rural heartland of America.   Dad is a man on his deathbed at home uder the supervision of hospice.  He is busy tidying up his affairs. With the exception of his wife, everyone in contact with Dad has a hidden story.  Everything resolves nicely in the end.  Some may find this a tad slow, but I liked it. (05/13)

Sweet Tooth

Ian McEwan

This isn't one of McEwan's best bocks, but even so it is better than most other novelists' best.  This story is narrated by a woman, which must be a chalenge for a male writer.  Serena Frome  works at MI-5.  Her mission is to recruit a young author who could persuaded to give things a bit of a right-wing slant.  She succeeds ao well vinding a young man to whom she becomes attracted.  Mistake.  I'll let it go at that, otherwise I have to start issuing spoiler alerts.  (05/13)

Francona - the Red Sox Years

Terry Francona

This is baseball's version of the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.  When Francona managed the Boston Red Sox to two World Series victories, he was the king of New England.  When the Sox failed to turn into a dynasty, Francona was a convenient target.  He, of course, has a different explanation - bad personnel decisions in which he was ignored.  A pretty good book which could have been better by shortening the second half.  (3/13)

Tenth of December

George Saunders

When this book was reviewed in the New York Time, the cover page of the Book Review section stated that this would be the best book you will read this year. So far I have read three and this is in third place.  The book is a collection of unconnected short stories.  I liked the first story but I liked each succeeding story less and less.  I'm not a fan of science fiction, and other than the first story, the stories had a sci-fi element to them.   (03/23)

Dear Life

Alice Munro

Canada's best short story writer strikes again with a fine collection of bit-sized novels, some of which are autobiographical.  What sets her writing apart is the hint of sexual tension lurking just below the surface in most of the stories.  Always interesting and worth the time. (02/13)

Private Empire

Steve Coll

Weighing in at nearly 700 pages, this is the story of America's largest company. This is a firm that doesn't take a lot of risks and as a result has produced a steady flow of earnings for its shareholders.  When they decide to try something new, they do it big.  Although the book is well written, Coll tends to go too far in emphasizing upper management's opposition to climate change, and heavy lobbying effort to sell Exxon's position in the congress.   (01/13)


Books read in 2012

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