Update- Jhumpa Lahiri and Kirstin Valdes Quade


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In my 2015 year-end review I recommended the short story collection, “Night at the Fiestas”, as a great first book.  Recently, the book earned Ms. Quade the John Leonard Prize. This prize is given by the National Book Critics Circle in memory of John Leonard, the former editor of the New York Times’ Book Review. Prior recipients were Anthony Marra and Phil Klay. The NYT Book Review had also favorably reviewed this collection mentioning that it contained “three legitimate masterpieces”. The one that always sticks in my mind is the reenactment of The Passion Play. Definitely worth your time to get to know Ms. Quade.

In my review of “Lowland” last year I mentioned that former Brooklyn resident, Jhumpa Lahiri, was enthralled about living in Italy and was learning Italian. I surmised that her writing might be turning in a different direction and that she might next publish in Italian. She has now established a beachhead with “in Other Words” a non-fiction memoir in both Italian and English, about language. Italian is her third language after Bengali and English and once she is more sure-footed she likely will try her hand at fiction.

The Road


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Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize novel “The Road” is a masterpiece of dystopian fiction. The apocalypse that has left the world burnt and ashen, devoid of wildlife and civilization, is unspecified. This is a story about the will to survive.

The writing is spare, the dialogue between father and son often repetitive. The young boy is gripped by fear, his responses often limited to ”I’m scared” and “Okay”. It is winter and the elements are brutal. They are trying to walk to the West Coast along a road, although there is little hope that conditions will improve there. The plot is the day-to-day chore of trying to exist. Life is stripped to the bone: water, food and warmth. The dystopian element is the difference standards for survival. The boy and his father are the “good guys” and they try to avoid those who would enslave and kill them for what residual goods they may have left from civilization or as a source of meat. The father is responsible for his son’s life, so he is unsympathetic to the conditions of others who he distrusts. The boy, as a child, is all that is left of humanity. There is no religious or philosophical element to the story. It would detract. The reader is a third wheel on the trip, equally gripped by the will to survive. For those who wish to write, this book is a master lesson in less is more. It is hard to stop turning the pages.

The only criticism I have is that I would have preferred another ending. This is a personal preference and you may feel differently.

If you have not read this book, it is a must read.

Jamrach’s Menagerie


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Carol Birch’s “Jamrach’s Menagerie” is a story about survival. Initially based in Victorian London it captures the economic survival of the working poor. Predominantly, it details survival of a whaling crew lost at sea after the destruction of their ship. The story’s principal characters are two young boys who find work with a man who trades in exotic animals. While there an order comes in for a dragon that one of Mr. Jamrach’s employees heard existed in the Far East. Although the story never says what the dragon is the description is of a komodo dragon.

The story is not philosophical nor religious. Ms. Birch is intent on telling a tale. The closest she gets is one character’s personal reflection on death.

“Death was close. Sitting next to me. It hurt, if the others were anything to go by. And if them, why not me? How do you get there? Death, I mean, wherever it was the wild thing dropped you:you, breath-stopped, amazed. Will I there or drift? When would be the moment of knowing? What sound? What sight? The sky, dark or light? The side of the boat? Would I go hard or easy? What grief. More than anything else, what grief to leave the world.”

Starvation redefines taboos. This was so in Mark Twain’s famous short story about men trapped on a snowbound train. It is so here.

A.S. Byatt, an accomplished writer, is quoted as saying that this novel is one of the best stories he ever read. I cannot agree with him. It is a fast and entertaining read, but no more.

The Quick & the Dead


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Joy Williams’ novel is not the basis for the American Western of the same name. This episodic book is best reserved for Federico Fellini.

Orphan Pamuk acknowledges that his novels are vehicles to express the points he wishes to make. He uses characters as vessels, crafting a story into a novel. Joy Williams is principally recognized for the quality of her short stories. I wanted to read these, but the library only had this novel. I was thought about Mr. Pamuk’s method of writing while reading this novel.

Although grounded in three adolescent women, the book is neither a character study, nor plot driven. I was struck by some of the reviews of the novel on the jacket of the book. The New Yorker was quoted: ” Beautifully written, profoundly strange, and fiercely mordant.” All true, but not easily describable despite the novel being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2000. The novel is open to each reader’s interpretation if there is one. The book is not a slice of life. It is not strange enough to be science fiction, as the Twilight Zone might be. It is not fantasy. It is an ensemble piece that deals with life and death; fate and destiny. It is mythic, philosophical, theological, arguably anti-humanist and darkly funny.

The principal characters are teenage girls who have lost one or more of their parents and are living in rural Arizona with either their father, grandparents, or occasionally alone. Alice is a zealot, manic, eco-warrior, that is censorious. She can walk into any room and stifle any conversation. She lives with her grandparents and is trying out womanhood. Corvus, lost both her parents and wants to revenge the murder of their dog by a neighbor. The latter later reemerges as mentally, if not physically, abusive boyfriend of the  desperate mother of Emily Bliss Pickless, a precious 8-year-old animal lover who convinces a wealthy owner of a taxidermy museum to close it. Corvus is in a semi-conscious state due to mourning. Annabel is the daughter of a wealthy widower, Carter, who recently moved from Connecticut to Arizona to avoid having anything to do with his deceased wife Ginger. Unfortunately, the ghost of Ginger continues to stalk him in his house and  to criticize him and his new gardener boyfriend. Annabel is a “material girl”, who is the counterweight to Alice. Unfortunately for Annabel, it is summer, and school has not started. You can’t always choose your friends. Certain American neuroses are expressed through these young girls.

The strength of the novel is the description of life at the local nursing home, Green Palms. The three girls initially do volunteer work there. Green Palms is limbo, a mini- Divine Comedy; the place between the living and the dead. It is an argument for fate instead of destiny. It is a place where Corvus ultimately admits herself.

Nurse Daisy at Green Palms, tells Corvus that to serve is not to love. Is Corvus in search of love; is it the love in Corinthians 13? Nurse Daisy is cynical. “It is completely cynical, this continuous peddling of the natural world. It’s not out there anymore! Even old-timers don’t find anything familiar in this empty symbolizing, this feckless copycatting.”

“They can’t see you, of course”, the nurse said. “Most everyone in this residence has the dark water in their eyes, glaucoma. They only pretend to see you. It is much like life here, but it is not life and that’s not why you came back. Because you were going to leave us, weren’t you? You were that close to leaving, but then- let me guess- you saw some cruddy thing that had within it all the treasure of being, some cruddy thing that turned radiant in the light of your regard. So you come back to wait for the waiting, as one waits for the dead. You are not one of those signs-and-wonders girls, you’ll have nothing to teach, you’ll serve in silence, you’ll get the dark water yourself, you’ll labor undetected, they”ll bury you out of this place like some failed old postulant.

“The air in Green Palms is restrained. There was a sense that salvation was being deliberately, cruelly withheld. And there was a speechless concurrence that it was hardly significant that in their lives the birthday presents had been purchased, the weeding done, the letter written, the windows washed, or the preburial contract sensibly arranged. And if, with some effort, they could recall the affairs that had been consummated, the roads taken, the languages mastered, the queer meals eaten in foreign lands, of what consequence was that? This had been the destination all the while.”

“Alice had a little theory about the soul that she was somewhat loath to share, as certain of her theories had been discredited in the past. For example, when Alice was a child, she believed the sex of a baby was determined by the one who tried hardest in the making of love; girls were made by women who concentrated, and boys when the woman wasn’t quite paying attention. Concerning the soul, she had tentatively concluded that when someone ended up in this waxed and flourescent way station that was Green Palms, his or her soul was still searching for the treasure that was meant for it alone. But the search had gone on just a shade too long. The soul didn’t know where it was, only that it was in the place where the treasure meant for it alone would never manifest itself. As a conclusion, Alice had to admit this wasn’t much… Still there had to be an explanation as why some people ended up being tenured to death for so long without being dead.”

Sherwin, a gay, suicidal, aging piano player who entertains at Carter’s cocktail parties, is seduced by Alice and in turn seduces Alice. He might have been named Lee”(Liberace). He offers a theory about the 3 girls. They are the Moirai, the so-called Fates: they spin, allot and snip. Alice is Atropos because she is inflexible and would cut the thread of life. Annabel was Klotho, the spinner, good-hearted and unaware of what she was doing. Corvus was Lachesis, the measuring one. There is an interesting discussion of Fate and Destiny in classical Greek and Roman mythology at the Fates. Sherwin discounts them being the Furies, because they are too differentiated. They also may not represent the Moirai. Sherwin cannot remember the name Lachesis when trying to associate Corvus with her. Corvus in Greek mythology is the raven and in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem a symbol of mournful and never-ending remembrance.

Juxtaposed against the futility of life is Emily Pickless. For her there is no time for thought, just for doing. Life is each day, a day without limits. Alice wants to escape God’s numbers, but is reminded that one day her number will be called. A lifetime is neither a day, nor an eternity. Worse is Annabel.

“Annabel went inside and looked at the magazines. Your Prom looked fascinating. She took it over to the checkout line and stood behind a man with an immense fistula on the back of this neck. It had a little black hole in the center of it as though he was in the habit of trying to locate it with a pin or pencil. What if eternity was like this? Standing behind a huge fistula in an unmoving checkout line with the last copy of Your Prom magazine.”

Ms. Wiiliams is a strong advocate of animal rights, perhaps supportive of PETA. Alice and Emily reflect her feelings about animals. There is one scene with Alice that may express how far she might go. She may also have strong feelings about nursing homes and those who work in them.

“Actually, Alice did have some suspicions about the nurses. In a book she’d been reading about nurses’ experiences in Vietnam she had come across one nurse’s account of goober contests. The nurse was working in a ward where no one got better, no one. They were all just boys in there, none of them much older than twenty, and they were all comatose and mostly limbless and the nurses would upon occasion, usually national holidays, place them in competition with one another. Bets were taken, money changed hands. The nurses would prop them all up in bed and arrange the beds in a row. Each nurse had a boy and each would clean out her boy’s tracheotomy hole at the same moment and the boys would involuntarily shoot out there big balls of phlegm, sometimes a considerable distance. The nurse recounted that she had a hard time adjusting when she returned home, which was of little surprise to Alice.”

I would recommend this novel, but it is not for everyone. I still want to read Ms. Williams’ short stories.


Men We Reaped


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I am not sure who the “We” are in Jesmyn Ward’s memoir Men We Reaped. Is it society, black women, sowing of the seeds of boys to men. The time frame is  1970-2000s,  Mississippi, New Orleans, with short stints at the University of Michigan, Stanford University and New York City, where the author attended school and worked post-graduate for a while. The theme is predominantly the death of young black men that the author grew up with in and near DeLisle, Mississippi on the Gulf Coast. The most affecting is the death of her brother Josh. This is not Black Men Matter. The deaths are self-inflicted, by accident, and black-on-black, which predominate today.

What bothered me about the “We” is that the subject I was more interested in was the black women who were carrying the load, while the sons and fathers were doing drugs, getting drunk, cheating with other women and creating families that they knew they could not support. The author ascribes the failure of these men to economic circumstances, racial prejudices, and substance abuse. These are clearly factors, but it ignores the women who are subject to the same influences and burdens, yet carry-on. There is no Million Women March because they are home with the kids trying to make ends meet.

The author is lucky. She drinks, does weed, but thanks to the financial help of a white family she gets to go to an all white prep school on scholarship. She is the eldest daughter who takes care of her younger siblings. Her father periodically abandons the family and provides no financial support, partly because of lack of work and partly because he spends what he earns on himself, his girl friends and new families. The author still has an attachment to him, as girls do to their dads, and seems to look beyond the warts. Her mother is the disciplinarian, the father is the boy who has not grown up. The positive aspect of the relationship, is that although a black belt, there does not seem to be spousal violence or child abuse. He is hard on Josh, as the author sees it, to prepare him for black manhood.

As the only black girl in an all white prep school in the South she bears the burden of prejudice and social and cultural isolation. She also bears the burden of black boys and men hitting on her. There is a weakness of black girls; they don’t become strong often until it is too late. Her mother refuses to let her date for fear of her becoming pregnant. The black girl does not seem to be as valued in the black community as the black boy, even if the girl is intellectually or otherwise superior. This is an undercurrent in the book, and about the author, but the author does not delve into it. She remains insecure. It is Josh, her younger brother, who seems more mature to her- has real life common sense.

Her book intends to give voice to the five black young men who died between 2000-2004.

“I wonder silence is the sound of our submitted rage, our accumulated grief. I decide this is not right, that I must give voice to this story.”

Desmond, a young black male friend from middle class background, does not escape the fate.

“Desmond’s family history wasn’t so different from my own, did that mean we were living the same story over and over again down through the generations? That the young and Black had always been dying, until all that was left were children and the few old, as in war?”

“The land that the community park is built on. I recently learned, is designated to be used as burial sites so the graveyard can expand as we die; one day our graves will swallow up our playground. Where we live becomes where we sleep. Could anything we do make the accretion of graves a little slower?”

The author’s mom cleans the homes of rich white people. One of them gets the author into the prep school on a scholarship. The wife talks to the author about what language she is taking. Her mom goes on cleaning the house in the room where they talking while the author tells the woman she is taking French because of her family’s Creole background. The author feels somewhat uncomfortable. It is not take your daughter to work day.

The last two pages of the book are used to finally express the author’s gratitude to her mom. She admits she never saw the burdens of the Black women- her mom’s. Her father’s dreams are cultivated, although they fail. Her mother’s dreams are vanquished without a thought. The author now has a baby daughter and will teach her child the legacy. It still seems male focused.

She needs to write another book.











Flood of Fire


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Amitav Ghosh, the author of “Flood of Fire”, spoke at the Brooklyn Public Library last Fall. This novel was the last of his Ibis Trilogy about the Opium War. The first novel in the series was “Sea of Poppies” which was short listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Mr. Ghosh read  from the opening in the book, which describes the spectacle of the parade of the full paltan of the Bengal Native Infantry’s 25th Regiment.

“Few were the tamashas that could compare with the spectacle of the Bengal Native Infantry on the march. Every member of the paltan was aware of this- dandia-wallahs, naach-girls, bangy-burdars, syces, mess-consummers, berry-wallahs, bhisties- but none more so than Havildar Kesri Singh, whose face served as the battalion’s figurehead when he rode at the head of the column.”

Most of Mr. Ghosh’s talk involved the culture and history of early 19th Century in India and China, the British East India Company, and a multi-media presentation of Kolkatta (Calcutta), where the author lives when he is not in Goa or Brooklyn. While reading this novel I thought it suitable for a mutli-media electronic version, if it would be commercially viable: background history, culture, and language could be explored as well as the author’s notes and a hyperlinked dictionary of foreign language terms. For epic historical fiction such as this novel, publishers need to push the envelope.

Although about 600 pages, it is a fast read. I was not much of a reader when I was younger and particularly avoided long books. Nonetheless, James Clavell’s novel “Tai-Pan” about the rise of the trading house (Hongs) Jardines Matheson & Co. in Hong Kong altered my mind. There is historical connection between this novel and “Tai-Pan” because the Thirteen Factories in Canton (Guangzhou) during the Qing Dynasty preceded the foreign-owned hongs created in Hong Kong after the First Opium War and the so-called peace treaty of Nanking, where the British forced reopening of the opium trade and the cession of Hong Kong to their Empire. This is the period and historical plot line for “Flood of Fire”. British Imperialism entailed commercial interests- through the East India Company in India and China- directing British foreign policy. The East India Company had its own army in addition to the British army.

In other respects the cultural feel of the novel reminded me of Naguib Mahfouz’s wonderful Cairo Trilogy: “Palace Walk”, “Palace of Desire” and “Sugar Street”. Although the Cairo Trilogy was a generational saga based in Egypt, the characters and description of the venue created the atmospherics that Mr. Ghosh does for India, Britain and China leading up to the First Opium War.

The novel has a traditional format: a cast of limited principal characters whose seemingly divergent plot lines ultimately intertwine. It is fiction, so inevitable connectivity requires a suspension of reality. The main characters are Kesri Singh, a sepoy in the East India Company army of the rank of Halvidar (akin to a non-com, such as a Sergeant) and Captain Mee his British superior officer; Zachary Reid an American sailor who is charged with criminal conduct on the Hind en route to India; Shireen Modi, the widow of a wealthy Indian opium trader who mysteriously dies near Hong Kong after the Chinese seize the opium of traders; and Mr. and Mrs. Burnham, a wealthy British opium trader and his wife. There are a host of other lesser characters and their family relations. There is also romantic interests principally in connection with Mrs. Burnham.With a glossary you will learn a lot about the military organization of the East India Company’s army, as well as Hindi and Chinese language. Some you can interpret from the sentence structure, but others require a dictionary. You can read the novel and understand it without looking the words up. The usage of the language creates the atmosphere, but it can be burdensome at time.

The prose is not exquisite, nor is it intended to be. Mr. Ghosh is a story-teller and he is impart historical fact based on extensive research. It is a worthwhile read.




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Sofi Oksanen’s novel is centered in rural Estonia principally during the period of the Cold War. It traces the lives of two sisters, Aliide and Ingel and a young woman who Aliide finds deposited in front of her house. The young woman, Zara, is a victim of Russian and Estonian sex trade. Zara is impressed by the wealth of her childhood friend Oksanka upon her return to Vladivostok from Germany. She takes up her friend’s offer to find her a job in Germany, where she turned into a prostitute. Aliide was jealous of her elder sister Ingel, who has both beauty and the homemaking skills to become the wife of Hans, a young man Aliide was secretly attracted to. This jealously results in intrigue, as Hans aligns with Germany and the anti-Communist movement in Estonia, following occupation by the Soviet Union. Aliide is apolitical but suffers from the purging from both sides in defense of Hans. To avoid future tortured cleansing she marries a leader in the local communist party, all the while trying to protect Zara who has escaped from her pimps.

This is a novel where all the characters are victims- even the perpetrators. Ms. Oksanen’s description of the torturing of Aliide is graphic. She is not a sympathetic character, as innocence is in short supply, save for Ingel. There is a sense of quiet siege throughout the novel, as is the case with occupations.

The strength of the book is its ending. Zara’s familial relationship is telegraphed early in the book, except to Aliide. It is the revelation of the secret State dossiers on certain of the characters at the conclusion of the novel that alters the reader’s perspective about them. This twist is what I enjoyed most about this book.

The author is Finnish-Estonian and Purge was her first novel translated into English. It was the first novel to win both of Finland’s principal literary awards, the Finlandia and the Runeberg. It was translated into English by Lola Rogers and published in the United States by Black Cat. It has a map of the Baltic and Scandinavian region which is the venue of the novel. I appreciate this and wish more historical fiction books did so.

The 2015 recipient of the Finlandia Prize was Laura Lindstedt for her novel “Oneiron”, which relates the story of seven women who find themselves in a mystical place following their deaths. It was the second time she won the prize. The 2015 recipient of the Runeberg Prize was Joni Skiftesvik for his novel “Valkoinen Toyota vei vaimoni”. It is autobiographical and in English means “The white Toyota took my wife.”


Out of the Box


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” ‘ It was really surprising’ Dr. Bernstein  said, ‘Why would a metabolism gene cause cancer?”

“But then again, why was it mutated so often?”

“The gene, isocitrate dehydrogenase, of IDH, had long been considered humdrum, a so-called housekeeping gene that directs cells to make enzyme used in energy production.”

Today the New York Times wrote an article about the discovery of a gene that causes cancer on an accelerated basis when an IDH gene is mutated with methyl tags. The mutation caused a destruction of the walls separating loops of DNA cells, causing the cells to merge. These were found in brain tumors, but they also exist in other cancers such as liver cancers, sarcomas, colon cancers, bladder cancers and leukemia.

What struck me about this is the parochialism of science and the way we think. In my last review of the children’s book “Rebecca, Winter is Here” I discussed that the book teaches children about perception: the concept of a glass being half full or half empty.

We make assumptions instead of challenging everything. It is easier to be passive and accepting. Why is a gene, a humdrum, housekeeping gene? Why not assume every aspect of biology and nature has a purpose(s) and that nothing should be ignored or taken for granted. Some advancements in medicine have resulted from discoveries by “accident”. Were they accidents or the result of our blindness. Our resistance to look and think outside the box.

It may be dark outside on the day of the winter solstice, but in fact Spring is beginning. Teach your children well. Teach your parents well.

Dear Rebecca, Winter is Here


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This Tuesday will mark the Winter Solstice in the northern half of the Earth: the longest night and the shortest day.  It is my favorite winter day, because it marks the beginning of the march toward Spring. Conversely, I am a little depressed on the Summer solstice although the vagaries of our recent climate is altering that.

“Winter is here. It was brought by little hands of darkness. Each little hand is a few minutes long.”

Thus begins Jean Craighead George’s magical children’s book. Simply the book is a grandmother’s letter to her granddaughter explaining the change in season, with each page illustrating changes in habitats and what the child will do in each season. The author is a Newberry Award winner.

Ms. George is a naturalist at heart, and this book imparts that love of nature to young children. Admittedly, some parents are more captivated than their children. I think my child has grown to dislike the book because of my constant reminder about it getting lighter or darker after each solstice.

It is that thought process that is the most intriguing aspect of the book, but which will lost on most young children. It demonstrates contrarian thinking, much like a glass half full or half empty. Children naturally perceive more through innocence, but over time learning rules and conventional thinking constrain this. With change there is optimism for renewal. Each season is a blessing.

This holiday, find this book and read it to your child and for yourself.

May you and yours have a happy and peaceful holiday. I remain optimistic that next year will find you and yours in good health  and that hope for a better life for all that inhabit Earth will not prove to be elusive.


2015 Books and Authors Reviewed- with my favorites and disappointments


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I was very pleased with the books I read this year. I failed to read a science fiction novel as I intended, but I read fantasy (“Bathing the Lion”) and a dystopian novel (“The “Bone Clocks”). I read a fair number of foreign authors and novels based in foreign countries. The description of the book below will tell you its locale.

MY FAVORITE BOOK FOR 2015: “Lila” by Marilynne Robinson. I was surprised that it was not Short-Listed for the Man Booker Prize. It juxtaposes spirituality and religious beliefs.

MY FAVORITE SHORT STORY COLLECTION: “Night at the Fiestas” by Kirstin Valdes Quade. A great new voice. Edith Pearlman’s “Honeydew” was also excellent, but it is expected of her. Same with Colum McCann’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking”.

MOST ORIGINAL BOOK: “The Book of Duels” by Michael Garriga. A collection of micro stories. What “Hamilton” is to theatre, this might be to short story writing. Very creative. Honorable Mention: “Orfeo” by Richard Powers.

MY FAVORITE FIRST PARAGRAPH:  I love first paragraphs. The great Margaret Atwood wrote a beautiful one in her title story “Stone Mattress”.


“Amnesia” by Peter Carey. This seems to have been an experiment by an otherwise gifted writer.

“Memories of Melancholy Whores” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Maybe a long night drinking or just getting old. Rather disturbing.

“The Body Where I Was Born” by Guadalupe Nettel. It was favorably received but it did not resonate with me.


Tinkers by Paul Harding. Locale: U.S. Published by Bellevue Literary Press.

The Search for Heinrich Schlögel by Martha Baillie. Locale: Germany and Arctic Canada. Published by Tin House in the U.S.

The King  by Khader Abdolah. Locale: Persia. Published by New Directions. Translated from Dutch by Nancy Forest-Flier.


The Man Who Walked Away by Maud Casey. Locale: France. Published by Bloomsbury. Historical Fiction.

The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng. Locale: Malaysia. Published by Weinstein Books. Long-Listed for the Man Booker Prize. Historical Fiction.

The Book of Duels  by Michael Garriga (micro-short stories). Locale: U.S. Published by Milkweed Editions. Historical Fiction. Inventive.


In Paradise  by Peter Matthiessen. Locale:Poland (Auschwitz-Birkenau). Published by Riverhead Books. Historical Fiction. His last book.

Orfeo by Richard Powers. Locale: U.S.. Published by W.W. Norton & Company. Genetics and modern music historical fiction. Inventive.

Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. Indian-American author.  Locale: India. Published by Alfred A. Knopf. Historical fiction. Short-Listed for Man Booker Prize.

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibin. Irish author. Locale: Ireland. Published by Simon & Schuster.

Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey. Locale: U.S.. Published by Random House. Historical fiction.


Cré na Cille by Máirtin Ó Cadhain. Irish author. Locale: Ireland. Translated by Alan Titley. Published by Yale University Press.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. U.S. author. Locale: U.S. Published by Harper Perennial Modern Classics.

Redeployment by Phil Klay. U.S. author. Locale: Iraq and Afghanistan. Published by Penguin Press. National Book Award.


The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. British author. Locale: Dystopian fantasy based in England and Switzerland. Published by Random House. Long-Listed for the Man Booker Prize and short-listed for the World Fantasy Award.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. U.S. author. Locale: U.S. Published by Marian Wood Books/Putnam. Winner of Pen/Faulkner Award and short-listed for Man Booker Prize.


Memories of Melancholy Whores by Gabriel García Márquez. Columbian author: Locale: Columbia. Translated by Edith Grossman. Published by Knopf.

The Shadows of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto. Pakistani author. Locale: Pakistan and Afghanistan. Published by Penguin.

The Tusk that Did the Damage by Tania James. Indian American author. Locale: India. Published by Knopf.


Amnesia by Peter Carey. Australian author. Locale: Australia. Published by Knopf. Historical Fiction, in part.

Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll. U.S. author. Locale: U.S. (fantasy). Published by St. Martin’s Press.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood (short stories’tales- novella). Canadian author. Locale: Varied. Published by McClelland & Stewart.

Paris Stories by Mavis Gallant (short stories). Canadian-Francophile author. Locale: France. Published by NYRB Classics.


The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami. Moroccan-American author. Locale: Pre-colonial America. Historical Fiction. Long-Listed for the Man Booker Prize. Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Published by Vintage.

The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel. Mexican author. Locale: Mexico and France. Published by Seven Stories Press.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson. U.S. author. Locale: U.S. Published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. National Book Award Finalist. Short-Listed Man Booker Prize.

Night at the Fiestas by Kirstin Valdee (short stories). U.S. author. Locale: U.S. Published by Norton. This collection was included in the New York Times’ “100 Notable Books of 2015”.


His Own Man by Edgard Telles Ribeiro. Brazilian author. Locale: Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. Published by Other Press. Historical Fiction. Translated by Kim Hastings. Winner of the Brazilian Pen Prize.

Honeydew by Edith Pearlman (short stories). U.S. author. Locale: U.S. Published by Little Brown & Co. This collection was included in the New York Times’ “100 Notable Books of 2015”.

Peace by Richard Bausch. U.S. author. Locale: Italy (WWII). Published by Knopf.


Khirbet Khizeh by S. Yizhar- Israeli author. Locale: Israel (war of independence). Published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. Nicholas de Lange and Yacoob Dweck translators.

Lazarus is Dead by Richard Beard.  English author. Locale: Palestine. Published by Europa Editions


The Centurions by Jean Lartéguy- French author. Locale Indo-China, France and Algeria. Published by Penguin Classics. A military cult classic.

The Infinities by John Banville- Irish author. Locale: Ostensibly Ireland. Published by Alfred A. Knopf.


Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann (short stories). This collection was included in the New York Times’ “100 Notable Books of 2015”.

City Beasts by Mark Kurlansky (short stories). Locales: U.S.; Basque Spain; Mexico; Cuba; Dominican Republic; Haiti. Published by Riverhead Books.

The Stone Woman by Tariq Ali. British Pakistani author. Locale: Ottoman Empire. Published by Verso.


Khader Abdolah- Persian-Dutch author. This is his pen-name. His legal name is Hossein Sadjadi Ghaemmaghami Farahani. His pen name is a composition of the names of two of his friends who were executed.

Tariq Ali- British Pakistani author, journalist and filmmaker.

Margaret Atwood-Canadian author. The incomparable writer of dark tales of fantasy and horror and a treasure of the Northland. Short-listed for the Man Booker, winner of Arthur C. Clarke Award. Also a poet and literary critic.

Martha Baillie-Canadian author.

John Banville- Irish author and playwright. Man Booker  and Kafka Prize recipient. Numerous Irish Book Awards. Writes under pen name Benjamin Black on occasion.

Richard Bausch- U.S. author. Recipient of PEN/Malamud Award and Rea Award for Short Story.

Richard Beard- English author.

Fatima Bhutto- Pakistani author. Member of the powerful Bhutto family in Pakistan. She grew up in Damascus but now resides in Pakistan.

Mártin Ó Cadhain- Irish author.

Peter Carey- Australian author. Twice the recipient of the Man Booker Prize.

Jonathan Carroll- U.S. author. Fantasy in the style of Neil Gaimen.

Maud Casey- U.S. author.

Tan Twan Eng- Malaysian author. His second novel “The Garden of Evening Mists” was Short-Listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Karen Joy Fowler- U.S. author. Pen/Faulkner Award recipient and short-listed for Man Booker Prize.

Mavis Gallant- Canadian-Francophile author. Reknown writer of short stories, considered by other authors to be a writer’s writer.

Michael Garriga- U.S. author.

Paul Harding- U.S. author. 2010 Pulitizer Prize winner for fiction.

Tania James- Indian American novelist.

Phil Klay- U.S. author. Recipient of National Book Award. Recipient of National Book Foundation “5 under 35” award.

Mark Kurlansky- U.S. author of non-fiction and fiction, particularly about food, culture and history.

Jhumpa Lahiri- U.S.- Indian author. Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction.

Laila Lalami- Moroccan-American author.

Jean Lartéguy- French author and journalist. His legal name is Jean Pierre Lucien Osty. Writes from experience as he was a war hero.

Gabriel García Márquez- Columbian author. Recipient of Nobel Prize in Literature.

Peter Matthiessen-U.S. author. Co-founder of The Paris Review and 3 time National Book Award recipient for fiction and non-fiction.

Colum McCann- Irish author.

David Mitchell- British author.  Twice short-listed for Man Booker Prize.

Guadalupe Nettel- Mexican author.

Edith Pearlman- U.S. author of short stories. Winner of National Book Circle Critics Award, PEN/Malamud Award, finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize.

Sylvia Plath- U.S. poet and novelist.

Peter Pouncey- U.S. author.

Richard Powers- U.S. author. National Book Award recipient that writes creative fiction about science and  technology.

Kirstin Valdez Quade- U.S. author. Recipient of National Book Foundation “5 under 35” award.

Edgard Telles Ribeiro-Brazilian author and diplomat.

Marilynne Robinson- U.S. author. Pulitzer Prize, Orange Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award recipient and nominee for National Book Award and Man Booker Prize. Lila is part of an awarded trilogy with Gilead and Home.

Colm Tóibin- Irish author. Short-Listed for Man Booker Prize a couple of times.

S. Yizhar- pen name for Yizhar Smilansky.







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