Vasily Grossman, A Writer at War with the Red Army, 1941-1945. Grossman, the author of the novel Life and Fate, was a journalist with Red Star, the Soviet army newspaper, during the entire Great Patriotic War, from Stalingrad right through to Berlin. This book is made up of excerpts of his reportage from those years with explanatory text by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova.
Michael Connelly, Trunk Music. The fifth in the series devoted to Los Angeles homicide detective Hieronymus Bosch, this one has has plenty of twists and false starts, with a pleasant surprise at the very end. Harry’s my man.
Ha Jin, In the Pond. Young man who works in Chinese fertilizer factory practices his calligraphy at night and perfects his brush strokes. Young man’s bosses refuse to recognize his talents and obstruct his opportunities. What happens then to this energetic small frog “in the pond”?
Pat Barker, The Eye in the Door. This novel, set in England during World War I, is a sequel to Barker’s Regeneration. We follow the lives of real and fictional characters struggling with the moral and psychological trauma of a war that never should have been. The eye is the door observes you when you are imprisoned for your pacifist beliefs.
David Lodge, The British Museum Is Falling Down. In this 1960s comic novel, the Museum is not really falling down, but one of the regular inhabitants of its famous Reading Room is certainly in a state of near collapse.
Richard Francis, Fruitlands: The Alcott Family and Their Search for Utopia. In a test of their Transcendentalist beliefs, Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane led Alcott’s family, plus occasional others, in an attempt to create utopia. Fruitlands, the farm where they pursued their ideals was both more and less than they expected.
Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions. Kilmore Trout, prolific but unrecognized science fiction author, goes on a road trip to an arts festival where he meets Dwayne Hoover, Pontiac dealer. Damage ensues. I am late to the party and this is my first Vonnegut. It was ok, but I would have enjoyed the book more if I had read it in high school.
Julian Barnes, Arthur and George. This novel recreates the interaction of famous writer Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, and the unjustly imprisoned George Edalji. Based closely on the historical record, the men and their situation are brought to life, vividly and believably.
Alastair Cooke, The American Home Front 1941-1942. I hope you remember Alastair Cooke, the original debonair host of Masterpiece Theater on public television. As a young reported for the BBC, Cooke made a road trip all around this country in the early days of America’s participation in World War II. He did report on the activities related to the war, but he also provides for us now a snapshot of the U.S. in the early 1940s.
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Part memoir, part writer’s guide, On Writing shows us a man who writes because he has to and because it brings him joy. His parting thought for writers, including bloggers: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and about enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay?”