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Book Report for December 2023

Book Report for December 2023

Letter No. 67: Includes pulp fiction, a book built around mise en place, and an ambitious reading goal.

For the year, I read 68 books; not enough, but an improvement on 56 the preceding annum. I aim for 70 this year. As I have noted before, book links are to bookshop.org, which funnels a lot of money to independent booksellers. I am an affiliate, so I get a couple of bucks anytime you buy through the links below.

For the month, a bit of a lackluster set. Best written was the Portis, most entertaining the Martha Wells. The numbe of books under consideration is alarming. There’s only so much money, says I. There’s only so much room in the house, says my wife.

  • Norwood, Charles Portis. A slight first novel, really a novella, in which the only halfway smart people are the grifters. Everyone else is dumb as cabbage in this entertaining, very funny picaresque. The dialogue alone makes the book worth your time.
  • Recursion, Blake Crouch. Clever, entertaining tale of a world imperiled by technology that allows people to map memories and use them as portals to their past. Bad things happen. Not as good as Crouch’s superb Dark Matter, but good clean fun.
  • Everything in its Place, Dan Charnas. Something of a productivity guide, a category I usually dismiss, but built around what Charnas has observed of fine chefs and how they work. The productivity stuff is far less interesting than the kitchen stories.
  • System Collapse, Martha Wells. The seventh volume in the Murderbot series, some of the cleverest, most endearing pulp fiction being written today. I consumed it in gulps. Now I should set a Google alert for the appearance of the next one.
  • The Best American Essays 1999, Edward Hoagland (ed.). The best pieces are by Michael W. Cox (“Visitor,” a shocker), Joan Didion, Cynthia Ozick, and Touré. Best of all, “Planet of Weeds” by David Quammen.
In progress
  • Papa Hemingway, A.E. Hotchner
  • Against Amazon and Other Essays, Jorge Carrión
  • The Little Drummer Girl, John le Carré
  • Tricks of the Mind, Derren Brown
  • The Making of Incarnation, Tom McCarthy
  • A Year and a Day, Phillip Lopate
  • System Collapse, Martha Wells
  • Feed Them Silence, Lee Mandelo
  • Notes on Complexity, Neil Theise
Under consideration
  • Monkey, Agnes Bushell
  • How Much of These Hills is Gold, C. Pam Zhang
  • The Saint of Bright Doors, Vajra Chandrasekera
  • Vita Nostra, Marina and Sergey Dyachenko
  • The Wren, The Wren, Anne Enright
  • Kairos, Jenny Erpenbeck
  • The Way of Unity, Sarah K. Balstrup
  • In Fond Remembrance of Me, Howard Norman
  • Palo Alto, Malcolm Harris
  • The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu