The Last Ten Books I’ve Read: iv

This time I thought I’d rank them, bottom to top, based on a jambalaya of how well written they were, how interesting, how informative, how challenging, how enjoyable, all percolating in my brain, some predominating in one judgment, some in another, topped off with brief comments ranging from the judicious to the block-headed.
10. Alexander McCall Smith’s “44 Scotland Street.” Recommended by a guy at the health club. He has sound politics but his literary taste I will never seek again. As for the book, what can you expect from an author whose goal is to recreate “Tales of the City” in Edinburgh?
9. Mark Herron’s “Slow Horses.” Recommended by a friend whose politics are suspect but who otherwise has good cred. He compared Herron to Le Carre. But I’d given up Carre after “Drummer Girl.”
8. Ben Schwartz’s “The Truth of Their Life.” I’d known Ben casually (perhaps an overstatement) since the early ‘70s but never knew he wrote. This is his first book, a novella/ short story collection. He sure has mastered what it takes to write fiction – a lot more than I have – and his the longest is better than that.
7. Patti Smith’a “Year of the Monkey.” I much preferred “Just Kids” and “M Train.” Her poetry and imagination are here, but I would have liked more reality. Would probably benefit from a rereading but I won’t bother.
6. Kate Atkinson’s “Big Sky.” Atkinson’s my favorite crime writer – the only one I read now that Elmore Leonard’s gone – and I’d been rereading her Jackson Brodie books in order. This struck me as the weakest but is still darn good.
5. William Vollman’s “Ice Shirt.” Had to work too hard to get stuff out of it. Still, Vollman is always worth chewing on.
4. Kathleen Thanos’s “The Truth of This Life.” Its co-editor swapped it to me at the café for a “Cheeseste4ak.” It is always good to filter the day through a little Buddhism.
3. Anne Tyler’s “A Patchwork Planet.” I used to read every Tyler. Then I stopped. This is the second I’ve picked up off the café’s “Free” shelves, and both have been delightful.
2. Larissa Macfarquahar’s “Strangers Drowning.” I recalled portions from “The New Yorker” and wanted to see what the whole book was like. An intriguing, head-shake inducing look at the quest for living a moral life.
1. Vollman’s “Fathers and Crows.” This completed my reading of his series of novels about the coming of Europeans to North America. This one covers the French, the Jesuits, and the eradication of the Hurons. A clash between madnesses, it seemed. My second favorite in the group, behind “The Dying Grass.”