So Much to Read
"A man ought to read just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good."—Samuel Johnson




To browse this book of my new and old favorites, hover over the edge of the page and click to turn the pages.

I've always loved a page turner
I've always loved a page-turner

14 October 2014
The Dud Avocado
Elaine Dundy

I can't believe I had never even heard of, much less read, this book until I stumbled across it on Amazon last month. It was well received on publication in 1958 and apparently has been revived several times, yet I missed it until now. Don't let that happen to you! Sally Jay Gorce is a young college graduate living in Paris on the generosity of her wealthy uncle. She's a self-described ''spectator at the Banquet...more

3 October 2013
The Unknowns
Gabriel Roth

It isn't often that I wish a book were less well-edited, but that might be the case with this slim novel. Each scene flows smoothly to the next, connecting the present with the backstory of the past, like a tightly written piece of code. It's billed as the story of a high-school programming whiz trying to crack the "girl problem," but it's really about a young man with misgivings about his life who falls for a young journalist...more

9 March 2014
Meaty
Samantha Irby

Terrible boyfriends, confessions of bad habits, and the need to lose weight have supplied the fodder for many a thirty-something woman's personal essay collection, but Irby is way funnier than most. She also had a much more difficult childhood than most, but she's not one to make excuses for herself or anyone else. She's fat because "I eat bad things and go to sleep immediately afterwards." She's happy to share...more

6 July 2013
The Best Man and others
Kristan Higgins

I've tried several contemporary romance writers, and no one comes close to Kristan Higgins. I've read five of her books so far (I'm pacing myself so I can savor the ten she currently has out) and they all have the same basic plot: a thirtyish woman with modest professional success but romantic failure returns to her pretty little Northeast home town to live near her family. There's a hunky...more

21 October 2011
The Chairs Are Where the People Go: How to Live, Work, and Play in the City
Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti

Glouberman is a gently opinionated performing arts teacher from Toronto who dictated his musings—in fully-formed paragraphs, we're told—to his friend Sheila as she typed. He focuses on his passions, namely: teaching classes on how to play charades and his campaign to get the bar next door to stop playing its music...more

19 May 2005
Seven Blessings
Ruchama King

What a little gem this novel is! It constantly caught me off guard with its sly observations, unpredictable plot twists, and simultaneously irreverent and holy (that is, quintessentially Israeli) worldview. Jerusalem's matchmakers have their work cut out for them, between an Orthodox American woman in her late thirties, never married and a bit of a loner...more

1 December 2010
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Barbara Demick

North Korea, the last holdout of hard-line communism, is so foreign to the Western way of life that it seems to be not only from another time but from another planet. Demick's remarkable book shows us what life is like for six ordinary North Koreans. We meet a communist stalwart, a young woman who never bought...more

6 July 2013
He's Gone
Deb Caletti

A Seattle woman wakes up in her houseboat the morning after a party to find her husband has disappeared. Her memory of the night before is hazy—she took some pills, they had an argument—and the longer he's gone the more she starts to panic. Should she be worried for his safety, or angry that he has walked out on her? She and Ian left their spouses for each other, and it has been a heavy burden...more

30 May 2010
After the Workshop
John McNally

Our hero, Jack Sheahan, is basically Jim Anchower with an MFA. In the twelve years since he graduated from the famed Iowa Writer's Workshop, he hasn't added a word to his once-promising novel, and he hasn't had a date since his fiancée left him. He works as a media escort—a chauffeur, gofer, and hand-holder for visiting writers—a job that barely covers his bar tab and requires him to dodge poseur novelists...more

18 January 2010
The Bigness of the World
Lori Ostlund

The stories in this collection are all very similar but not redundant; reading each one is like being shown another facet of a diamond. Ostlund's two basic premises, a lesbian couple's relationship disintegrates as they travel in a developing country and a small child tries to understand the behavior of irresponsible...more

3 November 2009
Still Life With Husband
Lauren Fox

Not that there's anything wrong with "chick lit"—why should books that interest women be dismissed? And since when are love, work, and friends subjects only of interest to women? But I know it when I see it. This book has a breezy tone, a hot pink spine, and a narrator, Emily, with a best girlfriend and the sort of sweetly shy yet hunky love interest that shows up in every romantic comedy but has never...more

3 February 2005
Blue Clay People: Seasons on Africa's Fragile Edge
William Powers

As an aid worker in Liberia with Catholic Relief Services, Powers comes to see his mission ("Fight poverty and dependency while saving the rainforest") as less of a job description than a riddle. His sharp eye and ear make Africa come alive for the reader: the people of a war-ravaged country making lives from almost nothing, the lurking...more

5 August 2008
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation
Sheila Weller

If the thought of knowing which Joni Mitchell songs were written about Jackson Browne makes you salivate, then this is your book. Big and juicy, it's crammed full of trivia and anecdotes about the New York and California folk/rock scene in the 1960s and 70s. Weller's slightly clunky writing style took a little...more

30 December 2009
The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance
Elna Baker

Elna Baker grew up in a warm, supportive, and very well-traveled Mormon family. She loves her religion and plans to stay a teetotaling virgin until she marries in the temple and to become a god after her death. But she's also a natural performer and dreams of being an actor, so when she leaves home for school she chooses New York...more

30 December 2008
Youngblood Hawke
Herman Wouk

A big book about a big man with big ideas. Like his contemporary Marjorie Morningstar, Hawke is pursuing the artistic life and seeking security. Unlike Marjorie, Hawke is a man, and marrying into money isn't his only option, although he does consider it. All he wants is to pursue his punishing nocturnal writing schedule and churn out big novels with gripping plots and fascinating characters that people...more

10 April 2006
Music Through the Floor
Eric Puchner

Aimless young men, rickety marriages, and children of divorce are all shopworn staples of the modern short story, so it's a delight to find someone who can make something new and sparkly of them. This tasty little book surprised me like a story collection hasn't in a long time, making me gasp and laugh out loud. Puchner makes very subtle and...more

23 September 2012
Mating
Norman Rush

This novel about an anthropologist pursuing a development guru across the Kalahari desert is like nothing else I've ever read. Rush's heroine is a steel coil, strong yet jittery, and the object of her crush is her mental and physical match, a man of remarkable accomplishments who talks of life's goal being to reduce the amount of time required to decently maintain oneself so that you can have all the time you want...more

3 November 1999
The Dangerous Husband
Jane Shapiro

The narrator's romance begins like any other, floating on the blissful high of discovering a soulmate. Then reality hits: her beloved's endearing clumsiness turns worrisome. He makes a mess of the kitchen. Furniture collapses in his wake. The pets are afraid of him. She soon finds herself lusting after any man who can drink a glass of wine without spilling...more

24 September 2008
The Size of the World
Joan Silber

The six narrators in this book take turns telling their overlapping stories, which span the twentieth century, several wars, and three continents. Mostly Americans, they've all left their homes: An American expatriate living the life of a boss-man in Thailand returns to San Francisco; an American woman leaves her husband and runs away to Mexico; an Italian bride immigrates to New Jersey...more

5 August 2003
Heart, You Bully, You Punk
Leah Hager Cohen

I.J. Esker is a young math teacher at a tony private high school in Brooklyn. When one of her favorite students, Ann, mysteriously falls off the bleachers, Esker, as she calls herself, offers to tutor the girl at home. As she grows closer to Ann, whose mother left the family to pursue her acting career, Esker is also drawn to Ann's father...more

14 March 2010
Short Girls
Bich Minh Nguyen

Two twentysomething Vietnamese sisters from Michigan make a familiar pair—the pretty one and the smart one. The one who never finished college is having an affair with a married man, the other is an immigration lawyer whose husband has just moved out of their house. Believing they have little in common and wary of each other's criticism, they spend most of the book avoiding each other, but they...more



"There was so much to read, for one thing, and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breathgiving air... I was rather literary in college—one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the Yale News—and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the 'well-rounded man.' This isn't just an epigram— life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all." —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby