I was reading Dan Brown’s Angel and Demons on holiday in the sun in 2005 while cardinals around the world were en route to Rome to elect the successor to John Paul II. Ever since that time, Brown is among my guilty pleasures which is why his new book, Inferno, will make its way on to my ‘to read’ pile before long.
Being a book lover, I can’t help picking up on book chat wherever I come across it — even more so since I have been blogging about books on izzyreads.com — so it’s not surprising that the ‘to read’ gets longer and the ‘read’ list is always well behind.
On the list at the moment are a mixed bag of popular and more serious novels from favorite authors as well as a few titles that caught my attention in the book review pages over the last few months.
In the mix is Maggie O’Farrell who has been making headlines recently following the publication of her new book, Instruction for a Heatwave. I enjoyed one of her earlier books, The Hand that First Held Mine and have been meaning to get around to some of her other work. My pick of the moment is The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox which, at under 300 pages, appeals on several fronts — including the theme of madness and incarceration and the Edwardian setting. At under 300 pages, this one is also short enough to read in a reasonable timeframe.
Linwood Barclay has several good thrillers to his name. It has been almost three years since I reviewed Fear the Worst, a pacy page-turner about a father’s quest to find a missing daughter. The Accident came out in 2011 and is another domestic thriller where layers are peeled back at the story unfolds. It got mixed reviews on Goodreads but enough of them are positive to encourage me to take a closer look.
Among the books from recent years that stand out in my memory is Patrick Gale’s Notes from an Exhibition, a beautifully written and insightful novel where the central character is bipolar. Gale has several other titles to his name including Rough Music, a novel set in Cornwall that explores themes of memory, courage and love and reflects on how childhood experience impacts on later life.
Of Douglas Kennedy’s work to date, The Pursuit of Happiness and his two subsequent novels — A Special Relationship (2003) and State of the Union (2005) — are to my mind his strongest work. Kennedy is a good story teller and writes well about relationships. His latest book, Five Days, another story of love and life choices is due to be available for Kindle from amazon.com next month (April 2013).
A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks, recently reviewed on izzyreads.com and in which Faulks explores related themes across different historical periods has some similarities with an earlier non-fiction work by the same author. In The Fatal Englishman Faulks sets out three short biographies — a painter in 1920s Paris, a WWII fighter pilot and a Cold War journalist — and in the process presents different facets of the twentieth century.
Staying with collections of shorter writing, a new book from Joseph O’Connor looks interesting. Where have you been, published in autumn 2012, is a collection of short stories. O’Connor’s backlist includes the well-received Star of the Sea which, for me, was the last one of his books that really engaged me although I read both Redemption Falls and the later Ghost Light.
Two Philip Roth novels — Everyman and Nemesis — were reviewed on izzyreads.com last year. On the to-read list for 2013 is American Pastoral — the story of a Swedish father in New Jersey who has to come to terms with his daughter’s transformation into a violent radical.
Two other titles complete the ‘to read’ selections — both ordinary stories and somewhat quirky: The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson tells the story of a man who escapes from a nursing home while The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce follows a retired husband who sets out on a journey to say goodbye to a former love that becomes an inner journey.