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Y’all Like Books?

I love books a bunch, mostly contemporary fiction and sometimes non-fiction, and I thought it would be fun if we had a comments thread about books you like or don’t like or want to read? Maybe you’ll get a suggestion for something you’d like to read.

Here are some books I’ve loved the last few years:

  • Harlem Shuffle and Crooks Manifesto by Colson Whitehead

  • Heaven and Earth Grocery and Deacon King Kong and The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

  • Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton

  • Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Sellout by Dan Ozzi

  • Gone to the Wolves by John Wray

This year I’ve really liked:

  • North Woods by Daniel Mason

  • Wellness by Nathan Hill

  • Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (I actually can’t decide if I liked this or if I just want to talk to people about it. I hated all the characters.)

  • The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue

  • Running the Light by Sam Tallent

Favorites of all time!!

  • Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt and

  • Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. (The long awaited TV adaptation of GiM with Ewan McGregor starts today on Showtime.)

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Also, what do you think about a book club? Let’s do a bookclub, right? I’m not really sure how it would work except for probably we’d all read the same book at around the same time and then probably we’d all gather somewhere on this website and talk about the book, probably in a comments thread, though it remains to be seen. Comment down below if y’all are interested and Jason’s gonna come back from vacation and I’ll say, “Surprise, buddy, now youse got a book club!” and then we’ll go from there.
(And by “there” I mean we’ll figure out a book and time and method for discussion and then we’ll tell you about it.)

What have you been reading?

Discussion  50 comments

Nathan Clark

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow was SO GOOD!
✅ Book clubber

Heidi Fritschel

The English Understand Wool and The Last Samurai, both by Helen DeWitt. I read both this year and have developed an obsession with DeWitt. She's not terribly prolific, so I only have a couple more books of hers to go. I also love The Good Lord Bird, Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Gentleman in Moscow, and Pride and Prejudice, Aaron--which makes me interested in reading the others on your list that I haven't read. Thanks! Some other all-time favorites: Nine Stories by JD Salinger, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Leave It to Psmith by PG Wodehouse. I'll check out your ice cream shop next time I'm in Somerville.

David Horn

I read The Last Samurai... I want to say 20 years ago? It was absolutely fantastic. I mention it to so many people and very few have heard of it. It was amazing.

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I feel Heidi on becoming obsessed with an author and wanting to parcel out their books.

I have been putting off Julie Otsuka's The Swimmers after mainlining The Buddha in the Attic and When the Emperor Was Divine last fall. Same with Francis Spufford, whose Cahokia Jazz had me reading late into the night a few weeks ago.

And I only have three novels left by Jane Gardam, who is in her 90s and has stopped writing, so I just keep re-reading Old Filth once a year to put off the inevitable day when I have read every word she wrote and then what will I do?

S. Ben Melhuish

Sorry I didn’t see your mention of Cahokia Jazz. Have you read Spufford’s Golden Hill or Light Perpetual? I loved the former, haven’t read the latter.


I just finished Light Perpetual and it was very good! On to Golden Hill, with excitement.

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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke is one of my all time favorites and her recent Piranesi is amazing as well (and with a much lower page count).

I also love the following series in no particular order:
Murderbot, by Martha Wells
Ancillary, by Ann Leckie
The Black Company, by Glen Cook
Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

Wade A. Hutchison

Hey, PhanTom - why are you posting my list of books? All of those are fantastic. WRT non-fiction, I've read two "sailors marooned" books in the last year - The Wager and In the Heart of the Sea. Can't get enough of the scurvy, canabalism and starvation I guess.

To add to the Sci-fi list, I loved Alastair Reynold's Revalation Space books. I read, but did not care for, Three Body Problem. Cheers, and great job Aaron.

Catherine Brennan

Does anyone know where I can get a hardback copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell? The copy I bought from Amazon is a small print, poor quality paperback and I can't handle it.

Dave Sandell

JS&MN is my very favorite as well, as well as the Broken Earth trilogy.

@Catherine There are used copies out there, usually cheaper on abebooks.

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Paul Josey

Just finished the anime series Hikaru No Go 20 minutes ago and loved it. Makes me want to rewatch the AIpha Go movie. Thought North Woods was beautifully written but still wanted the plot to assert itself into the fantasy more and less into the sequential. Felt like one too many introduced plot lines and concepts that didn’t quite tie themselves together. Yet the writing was a joy.

Kara C

All-time favorite fiction and non-fiction:
A visit from the goon squad - Jennifer Egan
War is beautiful - James Neugass (posthumously-published
diary of a American volunteer in the Spanish Civil War)

Favs read in the past year:
Julia - Sandra Newman
My year abroad - Chang-rae Lee

Aaron CohenMOD

Re-reading A Visit From the Goon Squad now.

David Horn

Such a good book. The follow up (not quite a sequel) was also amazing: The Candy House.

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S. Ben Melhuish

Favorite recent reads:

  • Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford, a noir set in the city of Cahokia in an alternate 1922
  • You Deserve a Tech Union by Ethan Marcotte
  • Hild and Menewood by Nicola Griffith, two chonk books set in post-Roman Britain
  • The Mountain in the Sea by Ray Nayler, about late-stage capitalism and sentient octopuses in the late 21st century, kind of?
  • and I second Aaron's mention of Harlem Shuffle and Crook Manifesto
Lucy Orloski

I also love Hild! No one ever knows it! It's so interesting. I've reread it several times.

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David Horn

Some recent favourites:

  • Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony
  • Mislaid by Nell Zink
  • Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
  • French Exit, by Patrick de Witt
David Horn

That's Anthony Doerr for Clouds Cuckoo Land

Phil Wells

Loved Sea of Tranquility. Reminded me of a buggy Moonbase game I used to play on my old PC.

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Scott M

Babel by R. F. Kuang was my favorite book of last year. Ted Chiang’s books of short stories (Story of Your Life and Exhalation) are brilliant and always sticking with me. Same goes for Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy.

Lacey V

I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future a few years ago, and it was so good and frankly utterly devastating that I’ve been avoiding him ever since.

Scott M

I could not finish The Ministry of the Future, it was just too overwhelming. I was reading as the actual Indian heat wave of 2022 was happening and just decided that it was too much and moved on. However, if you have not read the Mars Trilogy you should. It won't give you that same devastated feeling while still being some of the most well developed science fiction I have encountered.

Bo Brock

Always wanted to read the Mars trilogy, and I loved Ministry of the Future — this is just the prompt I needed to bump Robinson to the top of my queue.

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Lacey V

Oh good, dozens more things to add to my “to read” list.

The Children of Time series by Adrian Tchaikovsky has been my high note of 2024 so far. Just got the third book today.

Late last year I read Nobody Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood and told all my friends about it. It’s not for everyone but for me, after years of reading pretty much only nonfiction, it kind of kickstarted me back into realizing how much fun and how emotive reading can be.

Bill Amstutz

I think I liked Big Swiss by Jen Beagin, but mostly I want someone to explain the significance of the bees and the donkeys.

Elizabeth Brackeen

Turns out the bees were from real life . She wrote an essay about it (you can see pictures of the house).

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Your mention of A Gentleman in Moscow (which I loved) being made into a TV series brings a question to mind.

Regarding books that have been made into movies/shows:
Do you prefer to read the book(s) first, or do you prefer to see the show first? Personally, I prefer to read the book first. Reading the book first allows me to create and enjoy a vision of the story that is entirely mine. If I see the movie (or show) first, and then read the book, I can't help but be influenced by the vision of the story that's been put forward by the filmmakers.

And now here's a quick book recommendation.
I got started on Becky Chambers's "Wayfarers" series, starting with "The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet", and what a delightful writer she is. I've read everything I can get my hands on that she's written.

Bo Brock

Personally, I prefer to read the book first. Reading the book first allows me to create and enjoy a vision of the story that is entirely mine.

Exactly my approach — and I was just ecstatic to see Netflix's 3 Body Problem ship-slicer exactly as I had imagined it, down to the detail of slicing decorations on the wall. Just fantastic.

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Eric Roling

A book that amazed the heck out of me was "The Deluge" by Stephen Markley. It tells the story of roughly 7 primary characters over the next 30 years as the the climate crisis plays out in the US. The characters deal with climate change, radical political movements, failed half-measure solutions, ecoterrorism, and more. It's a big book, but it is such a realistic view of what could happen and an engrossing journey into a difficult future. It totally immersed me and I am excited to reread it soon.

Dirk Bergstrom

I read about half of The Deluge but finally had to put it down because it was just too depressing. Really well written and engaging, but horrific.

Over the past decade I've moved almost entirely to reading for escape. I'd like to read other stuff, but I just can't any more.

Eric Roling

Totally understand. Things are going to get bleak and the novel captures that very well. I thought there was some hope embedded in later parts of The Deluge, but he wrote it such that things could go either way. But I agree that that bleakness does not make it an escapist read. I was the other way - I've been personally unaffected by most of the early effects of climate change and this book made it sink in in a very personal way.

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Christopher Jobson

Reading this now and loving it. Put it down for 2-3 weeks and wishing I'd written a little character tree but getting back into it.

Catherine Brennan

I absolutely cannot admit to reading my favorite book series for the fifteenth time except that I just did. The excellence of the writing and my now soggy memory make the whole experience fresh and comfortingly familiar at the same time.

Really I'm here to say "yes"to a book club. Plz. Maybe then I'll read something new.

Kenzie B.

Love books, love seeing what others are reading. A few recent favorites to add to the conversation:

The Idiot and Either/Or by Elif Batuman

Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin (and her Cities duology)

the Scholomance trilogy by Naomi Novick

the Red Rising series by Pierce Brown

Lucy Orloski

Also seconding the NK Jemisen! Read Broken Earth while ago, just finished first Cities book.

Elizabeth Brackeen

YES! to the NK Jemisin, we could have a multi-year book club talking about just these two series.

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Casey M

Adding all of these to my list!

Heaven by Mieko Kawakami was my all-time favorite last year

Bo Brock

Thanks for the tip on the adaptation of A Gentleman in Moscow, that's a must-watch for me.

I've been on a J.G. Ballard streak lately: The Drought, Concrete Island, The Unlimited Dream Company, Hello America, Kingdom Come.

Other recent favorites:

  • The MANIAC by Benjamin Labatut
  • Prophet Song by Paul Lynch
  • The Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Rental Person Who Does Nothing by Shoji Morimoto
  • Teen Couple Have Fun Outdoors by Aravind Jayan
  • Matrix by Lauren Groff
  • Headlong by Michael Frayn
  • The Dark Room at Longwood by Jean-Paul Kauffman, How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Moijo Jojo

oooooo thx all for piling more fuel onto my tbr fire! currently reading Never Say You Can't Survive by Charlie Jane Anders, My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris (so great! thx jason), & The Gathering by Anne Enright. Two of my faves in the last year are both from Claire Keegan- The Foster & Small Things Like These. Her writing is just so ridiculously good. I loved Max Brooks' Devolution from a few years ago because Big Foots (-feet?) and he wrote such great/bonkers anxiety-provoking action. I'm a weird seasonal/mood/comfort repeater; Precious Bane & Cold Comfort Farm consecutively every few autumns, and was thinking about rereading The World According to Garp soon. Definitely P&P this summer. have Franny & Zoey from a giveaway that i somehow never read. A recent title i read & didn't get all the fuss over was Remarkably Bright Creatures. just meh?

book club sounds great aaron =)


Claire Keegan's Foster, The Library at Mount Char, The English Understand Wool, To Be Taught If Fortunate. Many of these are shorter, but that's just coincidence, or maybe mood? Loving all the recommendations in this thread, definite book club material!

Lucy Orloski

Books that are really interesting to read in proximity to each other:

- Straight On Till Morning by Mary Lovell, a biography of Beryl Markham, the first person to fly west to east across the Atlantic, against the wind. Beryl grew up in British colonial Kenya in the 20s and her life is a total trip.
- West With the Night by Beryl Markham. She wrote this memoir in the 40s; very interesting to know what in it is true, what's elided, and what happened to her in the 40 years ago she wrote it.

Also good together:
- N by E by Rockwell Kent. An account of his trip to Greenland in the late 20s, complete with spectacular woodcuts he made documenting it.
- Wanderlust by Reid Mitenbuler. A biography of Peter Freuchen, one of the last early arctic explorers, who lived a varied and surprising life. After having read N by E, I was both surprised and unsurprised to see the two men met by chance and became great friends. Seeing them show up in each other's lives is like seeing cameos 100 years past in Greenland.

An Immense World by Ed Yong. All about animal senses. One of those books that becomes woven into how you see the world.

Similarly, Being You by Anil Seth.

Cadillac Desert by Mark Reisner. All about the west, it's lack of water, and America's history of dam development and groundwater. Old, but unnervingly still extremely accurate and relevant.

Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth by Richard Fortey. This kicked me off on a multibook tour of the geologic history of Earth and early evolution of life. I was shocked how little I knew.

Seconding Cloud Cuckoo Land, Piranesi, and Ancillary series! Tore through all of them in the past few weeks.

Sam Brelsfoard

Just finished One Last Stop, which was charming and unexpectedly spicy (I am notorious for failing to fully read book blurbs before diving in).
Also recently really enjoyed, in no particular order: Big Swiss, Democracy Awakening, Tampa, and Ripe.

Dave Sandell

Halfway through Wellness and loving every page so far.

Phil Wells
  • Vintage Contemporaries by Dan Kois. I've never really wanted to work in publishing but I get the allure.
  • Fates and Furies, Matrix, and The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff. They were all good but F+F was the best.
  • This Other Eden by Paul Harding. Really good! I think this did what The Vaster Wilds was also doing, only better!

I would almost certainly lapse in my duties as a book club member. I can't be counted on the read for a deadline.

Sam Brelsfoard

I just read Matrix, too. And while I liked it a lot, it didn't stick with me like Fates and Furies did. Haven't tried the Vaster Wilds yet, but I think I'll probably go for Arcadia first.

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Daniel Swartz

And my list of books I've read in the last year-ish that were my favorite:

  • ’Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University' by Richard White
  • 'Slaughterhouse-Five' by Kurt Vonnegut (yes... finally read it and loved it!)
  • 'Emperor of Rome: Ruling the Ancient Roman World' by Mary Beard
  • '/'Circe' by Madeline Miller
  • 'Let the Great World Spin' by Colum McCann
  • 'Klara and the Sun' by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • 'War and Turpentine' by Stefan Hertmans (truly an amazing book...)
  • 'Warlight' by Michael Ondaatje
Anamaria V.

I recently finished The Overstory by Richard Powers and Our Share of the Night by Mariana Enriquez, both of the which I really enjoyed, albeit in completely different ways.

And I would absolutely love a Kottke book club!

Barbara Quinn

Loved Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro... and
The All of It by Jeannette Haien
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Cutting for Stone by Verghese
The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Lots of sentiment in these (and romance and sex in the latter), but there's a time and a place and space for all kinds of books. I rely on my small-town library so I find most books by searching online for books published 5, 10, 20 years ago.

Jon Ryder

The book I don't think is that well-known that I recommend to absolutely everyone is Karoo by Steve Tesich. So, so good.

And yes, I'm up for a book club. Let's do it.


Me, I wanna be in the book club!

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