March 2014

In Phillip Lopate's fabulous essay "Waiting for the Book to Come Out," he describes the phenomenon of Prepublication Syndrome as one that travels through the stages of "anxiety, rage, megalomania, bitterness, terror, self-reproach, resignation, and acceptance." Over the past couple of months, as I've been waiting for the April 1st publication of Love and Treasure, I've cycled through the series at least half a dozen times. The only thing that has been able to reliably calm me down is reading fiction.

The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth My favorite of Roth's books, where the balance tilts toward what I love (the language, the insight) and away from what I find tiresome (the solipsism, the sexual compulsion).

Missing You by Harlan Coben This man is a master of plot and propulsion. And among the nicest people I know.

Gone by Cathi Hanauer A lovely and painful mediation on what a long marriage means.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Klein A historical novel about a train?! Is it any wonder I read this in a single, deaf-to-the-world sitting? Also, Christina is one of the most generous and lovely writers I know.

Casebook by Mona Simpson Simpson examines divorce and adolescence with her always-remarkable microscope. I loved this novel.

Bark by Lorrie Moore When I want to remind myself how to write, I turn to Lorrie Moore.

Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn Holy shit! This book will snatch you by the throat and not let you go until you're finished.

The White Album by Joan Didion A reread, because I'm working on a TV show set in the time and place in which most of the essays take place.

Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Li This woman can write a devastating description.

LA Confidential and The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy Research

The Giant's House by Elizabeth McCracken I hadn't read this in years and really loved it.

The Kept by James Scott Though the story fell apart a bit for me in the end, I loved it almost all the way through.

January 2014

Finally reached the end of the various British novels Michael was sent this year. So many good ones! I'm in a bit of a reading limbo now, though. Not sure what I should start reading as inspiration for my new book. I always read books to inspire me to write. Frankly, I don't trust writers who don't. Especially ones who say they don't want their "style" influenced by others. Whose style wouldn't be influenced to the better by reading Jane Austen or Elmore Leonard or Michael Ondaatje? A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett Sara is a remarkable writer and the combination of her skill and this incredible story make for utterly compelling reading.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett She's a master of the essay.

Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart Parts of this were hilarious. Snooze city on the psychoanalysis, though.

Helium by Jaspreet Singh I'm obsessed with anything about India so I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Schroder by Amity Gaige I absolutely loved this novel until about page 200, and then for no reason I can figure out, I just put it down.

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan Man, those tormented Irish.

All The Birds Singing by Evie Wyld This book is almost fantastic. It builds beautifully, but what it builds to ultimately disappointed me.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo This will knock your socks off.

In Pharaoh's Army by Tobias Wolff Only one of the best short stories writers alive today. This is killer.

Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald This was a reread. At once austere and complex. If you haven't read it, you need to just pick it up already.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Michael read this aloud to me and the kids. It's so exciting to watch a child listen to this book for the first time. Blows their minds.

December 2013

This has been an extraordinary year for fiction. Maybe every year is an extraordinary year for fiction, and I just don't read enough new fiction. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid An unexpected heartbreak. Lovely.

Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop Terrible title, magical novel. One of my favorites of the year.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill I'm not usually a fan of the experimental. Part of me says, "Oh, just write a damn novel." But this is terrific. Engrossing, enthralling.

A Marker to Measure Drift by Alexander Maksik This novel blew my mind. I put it in the category of What is the What by Dave Eggers and The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adele Waldman. The writer immersed himself completely in someone entirely different from himself. It's masterful.

Troika by Adam Pelzman I loved this fucking book. And that is the blurb I gave it.

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi The language! It's written in meter! One of my favorites of the year.

California by Edan Lepucki I adore a post-apocalyptic dystopia, and this is a great one.

The Messiah of Stockholm of Cynthia Ozick I want to be Cynthia Ozick when I grow up.

Someone by Alice McDermott I love how Alice McDermott gives us an entire life in 232 pages. This is a lovely novel. Not as good as Charming Billy, but nothing is.

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann It was very exciting to read this, because it has the same structure as my novel!

Tenth of December by George Saunders How does he do it? So simple, so perfect.

Her First American by Lore Segal Lore Segal is my absolute favorite writer of the year. This book is so full of stuff, so packed with wonderful insights and people.

Longbourn by Jo Baker I expected to hate this. How dare she dare to write a book inspired by Jane Austen? And you know what? I loved it.

October 2013

Five Star Billionaire by Tash AwI adored this almost until the very end, when I realized that it wasn't really building to any exciting climax. Kind of bummed me out.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri How does she keep getting better and better?

The Book on Bookies by James Jeffries Yeah, I'm like five minutes and a stack of dissolving rice paper away from opening my own sportsbook.

Elizabeth Street by Laurie Fabiano I had no idea this period of history even existed! Amazing.

Knocking on Heaven's Door by Katy Butler This book blew my mind. Absolutely everyone must read it immediately. It will change how you think about old age and dying.

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan Kelly did it again, brought us another heartbreaker that'll keep you laughing and crying.

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell I love British novels, I really do.

Love Nina, A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe Crappy chick lit, you say? No! In fact, totally delightful. A wonderful surprise.

Death of a Black-Haired Girl by Robert Stone I wanted to like this more than I did.

Golden State by Michelle Richmond I loved this novel. I love the high concept conceit (California seceding!) but more than that I loved the characters.

Benediction by Kent Haruf My God, this is a magnificent novel. One of the best I've read in years.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adele Waldman I went in prepared to hate this. I mean, hello? Another A. Waldman? But it was pretty fucking great. The insight into the way these literary boys think about women? Terrific.

The Circle by Dave Eggers Man, is he ever at the top of his game. This fabulous book totally freaked me out. It made me rethink a hell of a lot about how I interact with the world.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt Starts great, but kind of falls a little flat at the end.

A Naked Singularity by Sergio de la Pava Stupendous. I mean, seriously. Masterful. And it's a first novel!

August 2013

My Education by Susan ChoiThis book was terrific, and terrifically sexy.

HHhH by Laurent Binet This book was stupendous for the first 200 pages, then suddenly I got sick of the conceit.

Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor Terrific stories, but man oh man is it bleak.

Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem Absolutely his best novel.

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano Man, oh man, I do not get what the big deal is about this book. Snooze.

The People of Forever are not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu I feel like I know nothing about Israel. This book blew my mind completely.

Other People's Houses by Lore Segal She is one of my new favorite novelists.

The Reef by Edith Wharton Not as magnificent as her others, but still pretty damn good.

American Savage by Dan Savage Super fun and insightful.

We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler My absolute favorite book of the summer. Should win prizes.

June 2013

Before I head off to a summer of Maine and Italy (!!), I'd better drop a few lines on my spring reading. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert I love historical novels, and I love feminist novels. Gilbert's prose is marvelous, and the story is fun fun fun.

Cooked by Michael Pollan No one writes like Pollan. I learned an astonishing amount from this book, as usual. And I was inspired to roast a a pork butt! Me!! The person who never cooked.

All That Is by James Salter Beautiful writing. Some of the best. But far too much of this book was the same, tired "middle-aged man gets laid" story.

Half the Kingdom by Lore Segal I have never read such an astonishing book about old age. It's remarkable. This woman is one of the best writers I've ever had the privilege of reading.

The Liars Gospel by Naomi Alderman I would never have expected to love a book about Jesus. I find the subject tiresome in the extreme. But this book is a revelation (?!!). I absolutely loved it.

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver This lovely beautifully, written novel is the best possible summer read (for those of us who demand excellent prose, even in the summer).

& Sons by David Gilbert A wonderful novel that I loved almost to the end. Then I suddenly lost interest in the travails of rich New Yorkers. The wild twist kept me excited, though.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson Yeah, I read this again. Because it's FUCKING AWESOME.

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont In the great tradition of boarding school novels. Plus sailing!

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes This one didn't do much for me.

Last Friends by Jane Gardam Lord how I love Jane Gardam. This book reminds me of the work of Lore Segal. They are both fabulous and you should read them NOW.

Home by Toni Morrison A nearly-perfect short novel.

Shakespeare's Kitchen by Lore Segal Just as marvelous as her new novel.

The Year of Learning Dangerously by Quinn Cummings Hilarious and interesting as I embark on my new homeschooling adventure.

April 2013

The past few months I've allowed myself to read whatever the heck I want. It's been a joy. I'm about to launch into a new novel, and have a pile of biographies on my desk. Saul Below. Vladimir Nabokov. Alma Mahler. Alongside that a few histories of the Côte d'Azur, of Hollywood in the 1940s. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson This one was a reread, after loving Life After Life so much I felt like I needed more Atkinson. It's every bit as good as you want it to be.

The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig Zweig is a killer. Such aching pain. Such tragedy. OY OY OY.

Chess Story by Stefan Zweig I wish I had a complete set of every single New York Review reissue. They're so lovely.

Journey Into the Past by Stefan Zweig This slim little novella devastated me. Broke my heart.

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout A great, satisfying read.

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst It was reading this amazing book that made me understand what my new novel was going to be about.

Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald This book is so lush, and so compelling, and ultimately it kind of falls apart. But I didn't care.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes A serious weeper. And funny, too.

The Riviera Set: From Queen Victoria to Princess Grace by Lita-Rose Betcherman Research.

The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn Reread all of these. They're every bit as good as the first few times I read them.

January 2013

Lots of great reading this time. So happy to be done with my Budapest obsession, the fruits of which will be published in April 2014 by Knopf. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta. I'm not usually so into the pain memoir, but the writing is so good, the mother so crazy, that it's worth it.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion Utterly charming.

The Purchase by Linda Spaulding Rich and dense and terrific.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter Despite wanting to hate it (dude was NOT nice to my husband) I fell under its spell.

Helpless by Barbara Gowdy Compelling, but the elephant book is genius.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich This book is actually pretty good. Although the ending is hard to swallow.

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon Fascinating, beautiful in places, but influenced (of course) by the author's biases, both conscious and unconscious.

If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother by Julia Sweeney Hilarious. I want her to be my BFF.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Fascinating because it recounts an experience unfamiliar to me, but otherwise a bit predictable in terms of prose and story.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer I gobbled this up, refusing to converse with anyone until I'd finished.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain Simply marvelous. Read it.

Londoners by Craig Taylor A must-read for Anglophiles.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis Lovely first novel.

Hello Goodbye Hello by Craig Brown This book is utterly delightful. I know I say that a lot about books, but this one really is delightful.

The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy I know this book is nuts. It's told from the point of view of elephants, for god sake. But it's magical and heartbreaking. And it changed the way I think about animals in the world.

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson One of the ten best books I've ever read.

Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff 1. I utterly identified with Véra. 2. My God, was she a loathsome woman.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo Everyone should read this book. It should be required reading for every human.

November 2012

It's been a fine, long stretch of reading for me. Some marvelous books. I'm finally free of the obligation to read everything ever written about the Holocaust in Hungary (though I doubt I cracked the surface), and am reading purely for fun, which is pure joy. I suppose it's getting to be time to consider my next novel, so soon enough I'll have to turn my attention to whatever inspiration will be appropriate for that. Though for the time being, I haven't the faintest idea what I'll do next. TV, at least through the end of the year, and hopefully longer. Freud's Sister by Goce Smilevski If this novel has even a jot of truth in it, Freud was a loathsome prick (but we knew that already) who allowed his sisters to be murdered by the Nazis when he could have saved them. Worth a read for those, like me, who are Holocaust-obsessed.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan I'd read McEwan's dream journal (and I despise dreams), so perhaps I'm not a good gauge of this one, but I did like it very much. I like all his books very much. Though the main character here didn't ring quite as true to me as some others of his. It wasn't her callowness. I have teenagers. I know how callow youth is. It was just something about her seemed false.

Traps by MacKenzie Bezos Bezos is a great, relatively undiscovered, talent. She's got a miraculous way with a sentence.

The City of Devi by Manil Suri I am a total sucker for Suri. He blows my mind. And this book is just a fun and fabulous as the rest.

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie This memoir about Rushdie's days under the Iranian Fatwa is fascinating, mostly because it's chock full of literary gossip and payback.

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford Sometimes the prose is delightful, but the sexism so unbearable that it's impossible to enjoy a book. It just comes off as at once boorish and insipid, which is something of a trick. But I hear Parade's End is great, so I'll give it a try before I give up on him as a writer who does not survive his era.

The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison A very quick, very sweet and charming (and sad) read.

Time and Again by Jack Finney I was briefly considering writing a time travel TV show, and read this for that. It was super fun.

Jacob's Folly by Rebecca Miller This book doesn't necessarily fulfill its ambition, but it's better to strive and not quite succeed than not to try at all. It's fascinating and worth the read.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson I totally adored this book. It's experimental in its way, but also a ripping yarn. (See how British I can be?)

Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49 edited by Richard Broad and Suzie Fleming This book was part of the Mass-Observation project in England, where people -- not writers, just regular, normal, not-necessarily-neurotic people -- were asked to keep daily diaries. Nella Last's is remarkably fascinating. She's a terrific writer, but more to the point, the window into the life of a housewife in the thick of the war, the bombings, the rationing, is incredibly interesting. And the food! Gah. Horrible.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt I honestly can't say why I liked this book so much. Probably the stylish prose. Has to be, actually, because I sort of hate Westerns. But I gobbled this up in just a couple of nights.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple Super, super fun.

Toby's Room by Pat Barker Barker's Regeneration trilogy are among my favorite books. But now it just feels like she's just treading the same, well-worn path.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Not my cup of tea.

Trapezeby Simon Mawer I love a good spy story.

August 2012

It's been an incredible summer: glorious Maine weather, the kids off at camp for a month. I finished another draft of my novel and handed it in to the editor. I went to Africa as part of Hillary Clinton's press team, and wrote an article about the experience for Marie Claire magazine. I sold a couple of ideas to CBS, and have been busy preparing to write the scripts. Crazy busy, but also oddly relaxing. My reading for the past couple of months:

NW by Zadie Smith A new novel by Zadie Smith is always a cause for rejoicing. This one breathes and pulses and works its magic on you.

Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel I absolutely adored this, until I suddenly got incredibly bored and didn't care any more about annoying and abusive ghosts.

Crazy Salad, Wallflower at the Orgy, and Scribble Scribble by Nora Ephron Her death made me so very sad, so I read a bunch of her essays.

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson I absolutely love survivor tales, the grimmer the better. This one rocks.

Big Girls Don't Cry by Rebecca Traister I love Rebecca's writing so much. This is a fascinating and moving ride.

Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton I just wish she'd written it by herself. It reads like it was written by committee. Which, of course, it was.

Half Empty by David Rakoff I honestly can't bear that this marvelous hilarious generous sweet and incisive writer is dead.

Mission to Paris by Alan Furst Typical of Furst, lots of fun

The Translator by John Crowley He's so good.

Game Change by John Heilmemann and Mark Halperin OH MY GOD, this book is crazy fascinating. Can it be true, though?

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Holmes A.M. is such a graceful and masterful writer.

June 2012

I spent so much time working on my pilot, falling into bed at 2 am after doing rewrites after work, that I ended up reading much less than usual. But I did read some great stuff. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff A delightful first novel, wonderful in that way first novels are wonderful. Packed full of everything the author ever read, thought, saw, felt, loved, hated, etc.

Arcadia by Lauren Groff And with this, Groff really comes into her own.

The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger I love Nell Freudenberger's books. I can't honestly say if the book is an accurate reflection of Bangladeshi culture, but it feels absolutely, perfectly true.

Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan I read this because I needed to see how a young writer does period, and the transition back and forth between periods. The ending is desperately unsatisfying, which ruined the whole book for me.

Crusoe's Daughter by Jane Gardam Not my favorite of Gardam's books, but still awesome.

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer I gave copies of this to my whole staff on my TV show. It's a fun fascinating read. I'm sure you'd learn more reading the actual science, but you wouldn't have anywhere near as much fun.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed I read this in a single sitting on the plane from Boston to SFO. It's terrific. I cried like a maniac.

Purge by Sofi Oksanen I had such high hopes. Sigh.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell This may be the best book I've ever read. I mean, except for my husband's books. This book does everything a novel should, and more and more.

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright She is such a breathtaking writer. So exact. So hilarious. GOD I love the Irish.

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James The thing is, Jane Austen is perfect. So...even a master like P.D. James is doomed to fail trying to write in her voice.

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen Anna Quindlen is about a dozen years older than me, we're both writers, we both have kids, we're in happy marriages, we're comfortably situated in life (kenahora), so I find it very comforting to read her essays. Gives me an idea of what might be coming down the pike.

The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds I'm a desperate hypochondriac so I love reading zippy exercise books like this one.

Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd I love William Boyd, but this novel didn't do it for me.

Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison This is a competent, interesting book. I'm not very into the Russian royal family, though.

January 2012

I've been frustrated lately over my inability to find a book I really really loved. But then I read the first of this list, and it blew my mind. There's always a book out's just a matter of finding it. The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson This book is completely stupendous. The author managed to magically create an entire North Korean universe out of the tiny shards of information we are allowed. It's a feat of true genius.

The Lives of Dwarfs by Betty M. Adelson Yeah, now I know a lot about dwarfs. Like, for example, that I'm about 2 inches shy of BEING ONE.

Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner Maybe a tiny bit slight, but very sweet nonetheless.

Big Girl Small by Rachel DeWoskin Here's what I don't understand. A lovely novel like this goes totally unremarked upon, but that over-rated, pretentious and ultimately pointless Tiger's Wife is treated like the second coming of the Lord. WTF?

Masquerade by Tivadar Soros Well, he's not as gifted a writer as his son is at making money, but the history is interesting.

The Testing of Luther Albright by MacKenzie Bezos Beautifully written.

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard MAN, is she ever a good writer!

History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason Enjoyable, but didn't stick much.

The Siege of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell SO INCREDIBLY GREAT. Hilarious and tragic. Plus, you learn something!

At Last by Edward St. Aubyn Mother's Milk is still my favorite, but this is good.

Would it Kill You to Stop Doing That by Henry Alford Hilariously delightful.

Lucy Jim by Kingsley Amis Gah, British academia. What a snake pit!

The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits Yes, she's my friend. But still. This book is GREAT.

September 2011

Horrors. I've gone so long between logging sessions that I've misplaced all the books I read. This entry will be woefully incomplete. This is the first time this has happened to me in the years I've been keeping this book log, and I'm furious with myself. But this summer I was working frantically to finish a draft of my novel (I did it, and now I'm rewriting, which is fun but hard), and now I've got pilots due (2), and a musical hanging over my head like a Guillotine. Here goes nothing: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett This is a lovely novel, and there are so many marvelous things about it. But...SPOILER COMING. SERIOUSLY. STOP READING IF YOU DON'T WANT THE ENDING SPOILED...there was a deep logical flaw with the premise. There is no woman on earth who would voluntarily consume a substance that would keep her pumping out a baby every year from the time she was a teenager until she was an octogenarian. After kid 5, 10, or 15 she would just STOP eating the damn tree bark. I just don't accept an entire civilization of Michelle Duggars.

I Married for Happiness by Lily Tuck I appreciate spare, but so much of this was so good I really wished for more.

Blackout by Connie Willis I found the writing uninteresting by and large, and the book endless, but the research was amazing.

An Unsuitable Attachment by Barbara Pym I love Barbara Pym so much. Almost as much as I love Jane Gardam, who reminds me a bit of her.

Bird In Hand by Christina Baker Kline Great summer reading.

Maine by Courtney Sullivan I was desperately afraid this book would be like Red Hook Road. But no...the only share the setting.

Children and Fire by Ursula Hegi I loved Stones from the River. This one not so much.

Operation Shylock by Philip Roth Still one of his best.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot Awesome. Seriously. AWESOME.

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje Nah nah, nah nah nah, I got to read this incredibly wonderful book before you did!

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey Jane Eyre! By one of my favorite novelists! I read this ALL NIGHT LONG. I was up until dawn. LOVE. There are so many more! But I have no idea what they are. I'm such a complete ASS.

May 2011

It's Mother's Day and we have big Book Sorting plans, so I have to log what's been piling up on the shelves. Horribly, my cleaning service dusted the books and reordered everything, so I have to go by memory. I'm sure I'll forget 2/3 of what I read. ARG. Beaufort by Ron Leshem I'm on an Israeli novel kick. This one, about the war in Lebanon, is great. The movie was pretty terrific, too.

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips I liked this novel so much, even though I know nothing about Shakespeare and so missed all the best stuff.

Between Silk & Cyanide by Leo Marks Could NOT have been more fun.

The Free Worlds by David Bezmozgis This is a fabulous novel. Bezmozgis is the best of the current crop of Fine Young Russians.

Half a Life by Darin Strauss I cried and cried.

Shop Talk by Phillip Roth I found these fascinating, but I can't help but feel that Roth is a total dick.

Homesick by Eshkol Nevo Another decent Israeli novel.

Almost Dead by Assaf Gavron Now this one I really liked.

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer MAN, she's a good writer.

Dr. Neruda's Cure for Evil by Rafael Yglesias I love Rafael, and this novel!

The 188th Crybaby Brigade by Joel Chasnoff Very useful for my novel. I'll just steal huge parts of it, I think.

A Place of My Own by Michael Pollan I am building a studio, and this book is an inspiration and a guide.

Mr. Mani by A.B. Yehoshua This novel is simply glorious.

Life With a Star by Jiri Weil Ripped my heart out, stomped it to nothing.

February 2011

I don't remember when I've gone 4 months without logging. I'm a degenerate. In my defense, I've been crazy busy with kid stuff and with procrastinating. (I had intended to writing 'working' but decided to just be honest for once.) Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell This is a very good novel, but the movie was so out of this world that it almost paled by comparison.

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada Fantastic, grim grim grim novel about Germany during the war.

The Windup Girl by Palo Bacigaliupi I liked this SF novel. Fun, weird, prescient.

The Best American Essays 2010 by Christopher Hitchens A little heavily weighted toward the Conservative.

The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam I adore Jane Gardam. Lovely novel.

Forbidden Bodies by Cynthia Ozickn Great writer. Somewhat slight, though only when compared to her other work.

When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom Surely a great therapist and writer of case studies, but as a novelist, somewhat limited.

The Ministry of Fear by Graham Greene Far far more than an "entertainment."

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry A little coincidenc-y.

Dr. Neruda's Cure for Evil by Rafael Yglesias I love Rafael, and this novel!

The Alienist by Caleb Carr He is a TERRIBLE writer.

The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle I adore this novel.

Riven Rock by T.C. Boyle This is not his best but still he's so good.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood I love this novel! I only read it because it was a historical, but ended up loving it.

By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham My memory is so appalling that even though I read this book no more than a couple of months ago, I can remember nothing about it. I know there must be more, but I can't figure out where I've put them! Damn it...

November 2010

I've been reading books about Salzburg, about Budapest, about all sorts of things. Most of them are our in my office, but it's been so long that I thought I would update now, and try to remember to update the others later. Half Baked by Alexa Stevenson I didn't expect to enjoy this memoir. I'm sort of over my dead baby phase. But the writing was really fine, unusually so for the genre.

Missionary Stew by Ross Thomas Michael and I are doing a pilot for HBO, and I've been reading lots of spy stories.

Swamplandia by Karen RussellSuper fun, well-written. A little rough around the edges.

Esther's Inheritance by Sándor Márai Hungarian fiction, man. Phew.

Embers by Sándor Márai I am ashamed to admit this, and perhaps you'll think I'm unintellectual, but I just don't GET this writer.

Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian A fun, quick read.

Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre Really really fun book and fun writer.

An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorján Not particularly memorable memoir of the "my grandparents and the Holocaust" school.

Shadow Knights by Gary Kamiya So. Much. FUN!!!

Skylark by Dezsåo Kosztolányi Lovely and weird as hell. Lord, those Hungarians. Odd ducks.

Uncommon Sense for Parents With Teenagers by Michael Riera Sigh.

Nemesis by Philip Roth I haven't liked a Roth so much in quite a while.

The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey Meh.

To the End of the Land by David Grossman I cannot sum up everything I feel about this wrenching novel in a line or two. Just read it.

Fatelessness by Imre Kertész This is one of the most breath-taking and devastating Holocaust memoirs I've ever read. And trust me, I've read A LOT of them, lately.

The Great House by Nicole Krauss I only read this novel out of panic, because it's so similar to my own. She even has the Hungarian Gold Train in her book, which honestly made me want to quit writing and just go back to criminal defense. But, you know what? It's very different from my book despite some glaring (and terrifying) similarities. It's a good novel, especially the section from the point of view of the elderly Israeli.

August 2010

This summer was terrific. Maine and NYC. I didn't read as much as I expected, though. Usually I read on the beach, but I did a lot of swimming, oddly enough. Take One Candle Light a Room by Susan Straight This book is break-your-heart lovely. The images! The language!

Up High In The Trees by Kiara Brinkman I don't generally like novels written from the POV of children, but this book is terrific.

School for Love by Olivia Manning Completely unexpected. A part of history I had very little familiarity with.

Room by Emma Donoghue Why why why didn't I write this book? It's incredibly compelling. Stayed up all night!

The False Friend by Myla Goldberg Oh the horrors of preteen girls. Brought me right back.

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell One of my very favorite writers. Fabulous book.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein Chilling. You'll never look at a tutu the same way again.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender It's about time Aimee Bender got the popular following she deserves!

The Long Song by Andrea Levy Quick read.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman Super fun.

Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst I don't care if he keeps writing the same book over and over. I like them.

Night Soldiers by Alan Furst One of his first. Good.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan I have exactly zero interest in the music business, but I still loved this book.

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman I'm too competitive with Allegra -- great writer, mother of 4 -- to write fairly about her. But I read all her books!

One Day by David Nicholls Gobbled this up.

First Love Last Rites by Ian McEwan Creepy! But great.

Private Life by Jane Smiley Such a great writer!

Only Children by Rafael Yglesias Love the writer, love the book.

A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias Loved the book so much I read it twice.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte This book is marvelous.

Persuasion by Jane Austen Every summer I reread Jane Austen. Because she's the best writer in the universe.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Hitch 22 by Christopher Hitchens A mixed bag for me, but when it's good, it's really good.

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace I could just keep rereading this again and again.

May 2010

I am staring at a vast pile of books that I've read these past two months. Truly insane quantities. The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman Many of these essays are truly delightful, funny and bright. A couple, however, were clearly sort of phoned in.

Border Crossing by Pat Barker I could read nothing but Pat Barker to the end of my days. I mean, not really. But you know what I mean.

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman A wonderful memoir about women saving each other's sanity and helping each other survive.

The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker The best. Ever.

Another World by Pat Barker Not my favorite of her books, but still pretty awesome.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen This is a huge book and I read it in a single day. So that tells you how great I thought it was.

Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby Delightful.

In the White Hotel by D.M. Thomas The Babi Yar scene puts today's callow young Holocaust novelists to shame.

The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman She's funny. But what works on stage works less well on the page.

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen I bought this for a plane ride and ended up crying like a freak.

Happy Now by Katherine Shonk Quiet but moving.

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson OK, am I the only person in the universe who has noticed that the writing in this book is appalling? I mean, truly truly appalling. And it's all creepy S&M shit.

The Husbands and Wives by Laurie Abraham Other people's bad marriages are like car accidents. You can't help but stare but it makes you feel bad.

March 2010

Good God, it's been so long. I feel TERRIBLE. What has my problem been? I've been reading, but I haven't been logging. Probably because we've been traveling all over the place. We've been traveling so much, in fact, that I've left books all over the place. I fear I won't be able to log everything. Three Junes by Julia Glass This was a reread, because I'm trying to figure out what makes really good three-part novels tick. It's a terrific novel. You should read it if you hadn't.

The County of Birches by Judith Kalman This is a short story by a Canadian-Hungarian writer. If you're Canadian or Hungarian, or if you're writing a novel like mine, by all means read it.

The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam A perfect specimen of one of my favorite genres of English novels.

The Hours by Michael Cunningham Again, another three-part novel. Equally marvelous.

Kingdom of Shadows by Alan Furst I love a good spy novel, and this one is about a Hungarian.

In Other Rooms Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin This is a marvelous first story collection.

Too Much Happiness by Alice MunroI love Alice Munro. She's so quiet, and so incisive.

One Must Also Be Hungarian by Adam Biro This book is sort of impossible to understand. I feel like I have to reread.

Morning, Noon & Night by Spalding Gray There's something just a little bit depressing about how privileged he is and how unhappy.

The Innocent by Ian McEwan Oh LORD this book is KILLER.

Nazi Women by Cate Haste As bad as the men.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje This is really the most perfect novel ever.

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford Very silly but fun.

Of the Farm by John UpdikeA fine little novel. Maybe my favorite of his.

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson A pure delight.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel Oh lord was this ever FUN.

November 2009

I've been reading a ton lately. Mostly because I'm judging a contest and doing research for a novel, but also because I can't seem to decide what to do next. I'm in HBO limbo, I'm in nonfiction limbo. Hard to figure out which direction to turn. Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow A very good novel, if not his best.

Big Machine by Victor La Valle Magnificently original.

The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam A perfect specimen of one of my favorite genres of English novels.

The Sky Below by Stacey D'Erasmo I was very grateful to discover this author.

Auschwitz and After by Charlotte Delbo Very difficult to read. Haunting.

The Informer by Juan Gabriel Vásquez Got off to a terrific start. Then petered out -- for me, that is.

The Confessions of Edward Day by Valerie Martin If you're interested in the theater, you'll enjoy this book.

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith She's so smart it's scary. She's also charming as well. This essays are magnificent.

Vanessa & Virginia by Susan Sellers As I am Bloomsbury obsessed, I quite enjoyed this.

Ordinary Men by Christopher R. Browning I'm not sure how 'ordinary' they were. Or, rather, I think there is something different, or was something different, about ordinary Germans. But then again, they don't have an exclusive on bigotry and murderousness, do they?

Nazi Women by Cate Haste As bad as the men.

Blame by Michelle Hunevan Great novel!

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt I love love loved this novel.

Into That Darkness by Gitta Sereny I honestly think every single person in the world should be forced to read this.

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman If you believe this novel, the vast majority of Poles were busy saving Jews. Well, since 90% (YES! THAT MANY) of Polish Jews were exterminated, and since the very few who survived tell us that the vast majority of Poles not only did nothing but applauded the death of the Jews among them, it's hard not to feel like much of this novel is horse-shit. I understand the impulse to glorify the few righteous Gentiles, but the whole point is that there were VERY few of them. That's why they were so amazing. Brave beyond all measure. Anyway, I'm sure this book made a lot of people feel good.

An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah I seem to never get enough of African fiction nowadays.

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski You want to know what it was really like to be a Pole during the Holocaust? Read this.

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte Super super fun novel.

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell I always enjoy reading him.