What’s the Best Book You’ve Read Recently?

Please share.

I’m having an outstanding year so far with my reading choices. There has been a couple of losers but overall I’ve discovered some amazing books this year.

25 thoughts on “What’s the Best Book You’ve Read Recently?”

  1. Here are the ratings of the 5 best I’ve read since 1 January 1916. Some are old books I’ve read more than once.
    87 De Bernières, Louis. 1995. Captain Corelli’s mandolin
    91 Garner, Alan. 1967. The moon of Gomrath.
    87 Hosseini, Khaled. 2003. The kite runner.
    93 Lewis, C.S. 1960. That hideous strength.
    90 Williams, Charles. 2014. The Chapel of the Thorn.

    If you have not read it, I think you might enjoy That hideous strength. It is the third book of a trilogy, but may be read on its own, and you might enjoy the descriptions of academic politics and bickering — Lewis was an academic and knew all about that.

    I’ve said a bit more about it, and the background to it, here Mere Ideology: The politicisation of C.S. Lewis | Notes from underground


  2. Wanted to ask whether you tried reading “Kristin Lavransdatter.” The second and third parts are the best, but the first (The Wreath) is also nicely written.

    If you want to explore good Israeli literature too, I recommend “A Tale of Love and Darkness” by Amos Oz.

    // Oz chronicles his childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel, and his teenage years on Kibbutz Hulda. … As a child, he crossed paths with prominent figures in Israeli society, among them Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Shaul Tchernichovsky, and David Ben-Gurion. One of his teachers was the Israeli poet Zelda. Historian Joseph Klausner was his great-uncle. Told in a non-linear fashion, Oz’s story is interwoven with tales of his family’s Eastern European roots. //

    If you want entertainment after all the heavy reading, I enjoyed reading Tuvia Tenenbom’s “Catch the Jew!”. He is provocative on purpose and tries to present everything with humor, but his interviews seemed genuine to me, reflecting many true things about Israel.

    // Alone Among Jews / Catch the Jew! recounts the adventures of Tuvia Tenenbom, who wanders around Israel of our time calling himself “Tobi the German.” In the course of numerous interviews Tuvia extracts information, sentiments, hidden theories and delusional visions motivating the miscellany of peoples forming the present-day Holy Land.


  3. May you also put a post about blog links, please? Or I will be glad if the commentors may leave me hear a few links to their most favorite blogs. Today my summer vacation started and I am searching for new good blogs to read. 🙂

    In defense of “Bastard Out of Carolina”, it’s coming of age not only of the protagonist but also of her mother. In addition, the abuse happens in the first chapters, but it is not the focus of the book except when it returns at the end of it. I loved the discription of the extended family and their relations with each other.


  4. Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti: The Night Masquerade. This is the final volume of a trilogy of novellas. Binti and Binti: Home are the first two. There are others, but these stand out asd the very best I have read this year. Nnedi is amazing.


    1. “There are others, but these stand out as the very best I have read this year.”

      This was ambiguous, sorry. I mean that there are other good books that I have read by other authors (also correcting a typo.)

      These three short books also together form a single novel, in my opinion.


  5. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth. Given my interest in all things Habsburg related, I’m surprised it took me this long to get to it.

    The Invention of Science: a New History of the Scientific Revolution by David Wooton. Really great. Highly recommended if you have any interest at all in the subject.


  6. I know you don’t like speculative fiction, but that’s what I mostly read these days because I’ve had terrible luck with literary fiction in recent years: all I’ve picked was annoying, pretentious, boring, and predictable as it threads the same three tropes; I absolutely refuse to read any more stories where someone was abused or molested as a child or where a woman gets raped and killed. I also read a lot (A LOT) of short fiction, both literary and speculative.

    Over the past several years, my favorite books — all beautifully written, in clear, unadorned prose, with vivid language and emotion (so-called character-driven SF):

    Claire North:
    The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

    Becky Chambers:
    The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
    A Closed and Common Orbit
    (both excellent)

    Nnedi Okorafor:
    The Binti Trilogy (David recommended it above)
    The Book of Phoenix

    Ann Leckie:
    Ancillary Justice (first and best in a trilogy; the other two are Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy, but not as good)

    Books I have slated to read: several by Octavia Butler (e.g., Kindred), Jody Scott (Passing for Human; clever and hilarious as social satire so far), and Jenny Offill (Department of Speculation; I think it falls under literary fiction), along with several collections of short stories (e.g., Other Household Toxins by Chis Allen) that should be good. I also have Appalachian Alchemy (novella) by Barlow Adams, whose flash I adore so I have high hopes for the longer fare.

    Semi-related: For those who care about my recent adventures in writing fiction, go here: https://maurayzmore.wordpress.com/stories/
    I also reviewed a novella-in-flash “Two Sisters of Stone” there (under Blog); novella-in-flash is a very enjoyable form, especially for the patience-challenged among us.


      1. Speculative fiction is an umbrella term for a whole host of genres; the requirement is that something not present in our current or past world be present. So speculative fiction has surreal or futuristic elements and would encompass science fiction, fantasy (many subgenres), horror, slipstream, etc.

        I personally don’t like fantasy very much, especially so-called “sword and sorcery” and epic subgenres. If there’s magic, potions, swords, anything that smells like medieval times, I’m not interested.

        I like science fiction, dark and some urban fantasy, and horror. Usually, the stories I enjoy are set in a world very much like ours (or a plausible extension of ours into the future) where the surreal elements are used well to emphasize some specific human or societal aspect in the present—basically, where the speculative elements are used as a magnifying glass for what ails humanity today.


        1. I recommend The Scar by China Mieville. It is a science fiction/fantasy speculative fiction story about a woman fleeing the law of an oppressive city state. The story is much better than I can say. I highly recommend it.


  7. Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

    Other good reads this year:

    Excellent Women – Barbara Pym
    This Boy’s Life – Tobias Wolff
    Shadow Divers – Robert Kurson
    Born a Crime – Trevor Noah


  8. Four-way tie:

    “Collected Writings of Joe Brainerd,” Joe Brainerd
    “Educated,” Tara Westover
    “Geography of the Imagination,” Guy Davenport
    “The Purloined Critic,” Janet Malcolm

    Each of these overwhelmed me with delight and awe.


  9. Автор: Наум Ним
    Название: Господи, сделай так…

    Plays and Playwrights I liked:

    1) A Raisin in the Sun – Lorraine Hansberry (from wiki: “The story tells of a black family’s experiences in the Washington Park Subdivision of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood as they attempt to “better” themselves with an insurance payout following the death of the father.”)

    2) The Glass Menagerie – Tennessee Williams

    3) Studied Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” in high school, but loved another his play “The Crucible” (from wiki: ” It is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692/93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government ostracized people for being communists. Miller himself was questioned by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended”)

    4) Los árboles mueren de pie – Alejandro Casona

    Of course, I didn’t read it in Spanish, but in Russian: Касона Алехандро – Деревья умирают стоя

    It is a light play compared to the others.


  10. Here is a random selection of books I read and liked this year:
    Chris Hadfield: An astronaut’s guide to life on Earth
    Sarah Moss: Night waking
    Selma Lagerlof: The Lowenskold trilogy (The Lowenskold ring, Charlotte Lowenskold, Anna Svard)
    And for pure fun, Alexander McCall Smith’s series about The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.


  11. Now remembered a really great book:

    Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – by Iranian author and professor Azar Nafisi.

    // Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.


      1. If you liked “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” may be you would enjoy her another book (which I haven’t read) – “The Republic of Imagination” which “emphasizes the importance of fiction in a country where many have begun to deem it a frivolous luxury or useless exercise, through the perspectives of three novels: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.”

        As an aside, did you know that today is the summer solstice? And the first day of my vacation. 🙂


  12. Saw an intriguing book by Nafisi:

    My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices
    by Azar Nafisi (Author), Marjane Satrapi (Author), Abbas Kiarostami (Author), Shirin Neshat (Author), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Author), Lila Azam Zanganeh (Editor)

    From Amazon:

    // In the first anthology of its kind, Lila Azam Zanganeh argues that although Iran looms large in the American imagination, it is grossly misunderstood-seen either as the third pillar of Bush’s infamous “axis of evil” or as a nation teeming with youths clamoring for revolution.

    This collection showcases the real scope and complexity of Iran through the work of a stellar group of contributors-including Azar Nafisi and with original art by Marjane Satrapi. Their collective goal is to counter the many existing cultural and political clichés about Iran. Some of the pieces concern feminism, sexuality, or eroticism under the Islamic Republic; others are unorthodox political testimonies or about race and religion. Almost all these contributors have broken artistic and cultural taboos in their work.

    Journalist Reza Aslan, author of No God But God, explains why Iran is not a theocracy but, rather, a “mullahcracy.” Mehrangiz Kar, a lawyer and human rights activist who was jailed in Iran and is currently a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, argues that the Iranian Revolution actually engendered the birth of feminism in Iran. Journalist Azadeh Moaveni reveals the underground parties and sex culture in Tehran, while Gelareh Asayesh, author of Saffron Sky, writes poignantly on why Iranians are not considered white in America, even though they think they are. Poet and writer Naghmeh Zarbafian expounds on the surreal experience of reading censored books in Iran, while Roya Hakakian, author of Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran, recalls the happy days of Iranian Jews. With a sharp, incisive introduction by Lila Azam Zanganeh, this diverse collection will alter what you thought you knew about Iran.


    1. This demonstrates the crucial role that intellectuals can play if they feel like it. Nafisi has done more to humanize Iran in the eyes of the West than anybody else. And the Latin American writers of the Boom, with all their immense talent, did a lot to exoticize and dehumanize Latin Americans.


  13. Now I started thinking whether Israeli writers successfully humanize us as well as they could or not. 🙂

    Have you read any of our writers?

    One example is Etgar Keret, a famous Israeli short story writer. I think he is good, but not exactly my cup of tea. Studied his short story “Breaking The Pig” at school. Here it is in English:

    If you like his style, I can send several stories of his which I like better. (The stories are in English.)

    The New Yorker has quite a few his stories too:


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