Yeah. It’s been over a year since I’ve done a recommended reading list. It got lost in the noise of everything else I’ve been doing. I’ve had people ask for it to come back, and then I got a lovely email with an embedded photo of Puss in Boots from Shrek, hat off, begging for the list to return, and saying if I didn’t have time, then perhaps we needed to start an crowd-sourcing campaign to get Kris a vacation.
Well, I had planned a vacation this November, but it got canceled. I have been reading. I just haven’t written up what I liked. And then I got so behind, it’s been overwhelming.
So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to start fresh with what I’m reading right now. Then I’ll add in some things I read in the past that you really don’t want to miss. I’m going to strive for monthly, although I might make the list appear more than once a month, if I have a lot of material. I’ve decided to write this direct to the website so that I don’t have to move everything, and add links, and all of that. I’m putting it on an automatic schedule too, so that whatever I have done by that day goes live.
On other people’s books, I will still use the Amazon links because it’s easier. Then you can get them yourself at your favorite places.
There’s a dearth of fiction on the October list, partly because I’ve been line editing two Fiction Rivers, and partly because the novels I read aren’t recommendable. (One was going gangbusters until I hit the middle. Wow.The book went breathtakingly awry.) I’m hoping for more fiction in the future.
If you want to see what kind of fiction I have been reading the past year, take a look at Women of Futures Past, The Year’s Best Crime & Mystery Stories, and at Fiction River. That’s just a little of the brilliant short fiction that’s crossed my desk.
Thanks for the kind letters, everyone! Here’s to the return of the Recommended Reading List!
Edwards, Martin, The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of The Writers Who Invented The Modern Detective Story, Harper Collins, 2015. This book won this year’s Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical book, and boy, oh, boy did it deserve the win. I learned a lot about the early days of the mystery genre and the writers who wrote it.
The book focuses on the Detection Club in England, and like any group of writers, the club is full of colorful personalities, squabbles, and downright shady stuff. Edwards uses archives, his own collection, and his connections to the people in the genre to craft a tale that reads like a detective story in and of itself.
Somewhat gossipy (which is great), the book also defends the cozy genre, pointing out that it’s not as far from noir as we Americans like to think. Lots for the mystery reader here to think about, and a lot of myths busted. My favorite kind of book.
Knight, Phil, Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike, Scribner, 2016. For those of you who don’t know (and apparently don’t live in Oregon), Phil Knight started Nike as a company called Blue Ribbon Sports, selling athletic shoes almost before America wore athletic shoes. He worked with legendary coach Bill Bowerman, and then Bowerman essentially invented the shoe we wear today. As some would say, the rest is history.
But not really. Because lost in the history is the story of a man “in debt to everyone,” a stomach-churning saga of growing a business essentially from nothing. I’ve been through some of this stuff on a small scale, and there were moments in the book where I just had to set it down. I know what the scary stuff he went through feels like. Only he went through it with $150,000 in 1970s money, when I went through it with $250,000 in 1990s money, and didn’t end up with a world-class business. (This is why I can blog about business: because I failed, big time, more than once.)
This is a must-read for anyone running a business. First, you won’t feel alone in the problems you have. Second, you know that others got out of these situations, and third–well, the book is riveting. Apparently, Knight wrote it himself. He clearly took writing classes and had instruction, and spent years on this. The great thing is that it’s in his voice, which isn’t as confident a voice as you would imagine for a man who created a billion-dollar industry. Read this one. Learn.
Waldman, Ariel, What’s It Like In Space? Stories From the Astronauts Who’ve Been There, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2016. Here’s something completely fun. In theory, this is a children’s book about space, but grown-ups will love it more, I suspect. The little details are fun, such as the very first fact: In space, no one can hear you burp. In fact, burping is difficult at best in space, for reasons I’ll let the book explain to you.
The illustrations by Brian Standeford are fun. My only complaint about this book is that it’s just too short. Pick up a copy for your favorite kid for their next birthday–and then get a copy for yourself.
Ward, Nathan, The Lost Detective: Becoming Dashiell Hammett, Bloomsbury, 2015. I absolutely loved this book. It’s about a narrow slice in Hammett’s life–how he transitioned from his workaday jobs (including Pinkerton Detective) to writer. By most professional writer’s standards, Hammett didn’t write a lot over a lifelong career, but almost everything he wrote made a huge impact on the genre. Some of that was the verisimilitude in his fiction. Ward explores the source of that verisimilitude. Fascinating stuff.