Like most writers, I read a lot—about three books per month. The greatest challenge is always finding something worth reading--something that’s among the genres I enjoy and, most of all, something that’s well-written. Best-seller lists are always a good resource. The New York Times list is perhaps the most prestigious. But Amazon provides greater utility. You can search by genre or keyword and get a list of what’s most popular and specific to your interests.
Goodreads.com is another excellent resource. It’s a social media network for book junkies like me. Once you’ve created an account, you can join groups of readers whose interests are aligned with yours. You’ll find reviews, online book clubs, and opportunities for discussion with like-minded readers. I maintain my “Want to Read” list on Goodreads and hope to get to the bottom of it before I perish from this Earth. Unfortunately, I add to the list faster than I can read the books. It’s an online variation of the pile of hardcovers some people accumulate at their bedside.
Podcasts are another great source. I like NPR’s Book of the Day podcast, where I learned about some of the best books I’ve read this year. So, let’s get on with it. Here are three of my favorites:
British writer Keggie Carew grew up in the shadow of a man who was among the first undercover agents in what we now call MI-6, the British equivalent of the CIA. While caring for him in the years immediately preceding his passing, she discovered a treasure trove of documents, letters, and photos in his attic. Using them as a source, she interviewed his fellow spies and compiled a compelling real-life story of a World War II hero. Here’s my Amazon review:
Keggie Carew has written a book that is one part memoir, one part family saga, and one part military adventure. And it’s all tied together in one Gordian knot quite marvelously by a daughter who adored her unique father… Carew’s Dad was the youngest Lt. Colonel in the British Army during WWII, an honor he earned by parachuting behind enemy lines in France and Burma. His success was earned by his leadership skills, his charisma, and his courage. His family life is complicated. His business life even more so. Through it all, Ms. Carew’s love for him shines through. And, by the end, you love him too. Read the full review.
Dan Shaon writes near-future Science Fiction as I do. I was captivated by his book, which is written entirely in the first person by a drug-addled hitman trying to survive in a believable dystopian future. Shaon’s imagination and creativity make this book worth spending time with, even if science fiction isn’t your favorite genre. Here’s my review:
Dan Chaon’s first-person tale is a near-future, speculative fiction with a compelling twist. It’s told by a dysfunctional sociopath whose painful life experience makes him a sympathetic character. As the story begins, he is living a balanced life in an unbalanced world. His cruise through a landscape he thinks he has figured out is disrupted by an unwanted message from someone claiming to be his daughter. What follows is an imaginative personal journey coupled with some bizarre projections of our recent past into a dystopian future. It’s both a hero’s journey without a hero and a fun thriller that’s almost but not quite science fictional.
By far the most entertaining book I’ve read this year, A Gentleman in Moscow is a historical fiction novel told from the perspective of a Russian duke serving a life sentence at the founding of the Soviet Union. The hook? He is confined to a luxury hotel in Red Square opposite the Kremlin. His adventures over decades of the evolution of the dictatorship are compelling and informative. Through it all, the duke adjusts to his diminished status and maintains his gentleman-of-the-old-world ethic. Here’s my review:
This book is a delight! Narrated in the almost-tongue-in-cheek tone of Downton Abbey, it is the story of an old-world gentleman who finds himself in a challenging circumstance: under house arrest in the wake of the Russian Revolution. He is challenged to maintain standards of decorum and to sustain a positive outlook on life. The story of how he does so is told with Russian culture and Soviet history as the backdrop. At its core, A Gentleman in Moscow is a story about the triumph of the human spirit. I can’t recommend it more highly.
How about you? What are your favorite books of 2022?