Current Reading May 9 – 15, 2016

barbarian daysThough I read primarily mystery and science fiction-fantasy, I have other reading interests, including biographies/autobiographies. The book I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan, is one such.

I’m not certain where I came across mention of the book, but I had it on my hold-for-later library shelf for several months before unfreezing it last week. It sounded interesting to me, and Finnegan has a varied history of writing, being a staff writer on The New Yorker magazine as well as author of several books, both fiction and non-fiction.

The book won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for biography.

In 1964-1966 I lived at the beach and knew many people who surfed, or worked in board shops, mostly in Laguna and Dana Point. I got a surfboard in 1964 and tried to learn, but mostly it was a series of falls and knocks, with very few waves ever actually ridden. Still, I loved the beach, the music and the idea of surfing, even if I was hopeless at it. 

Finnegan’s book has a lot of surfing in it, but also winding through the book are observations on being a teen, parenting, nature, strength, friendship and loneliness, nature, the power of water, travel, cultures, poverty, and much more. The book is too long in places, has too many descriptions of tides, sets, breaks, waves and weather for the every day reader. But for me, Finnrgan’s around-the-world wanderings in search of great surf and perfect waves, insights into culture and life, always seeking and self-examining, were interesting.

PhantomNext up for me will be Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane. It’s another one of those “I saw a review somewhere” books that I just got from the library.

Barbara finished A Wanted Man by Lee Child, a Reacher novel, and now she’s nearly finished with The Phantom by Jo Nesbo, which falls somewhere mid-to-late in the Harry Hole series. After that, she’ll start either another Reacher or one by John Stanford, the second Virgil Flowers novel.

How about you? What are you reading?

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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24 Responses to Current Reading May 9 – 15, 2016

  1. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I’ll be curious as to your reaction to the Library book, as I had trouble getting into it. I found the main character, presumably the viewpoint character in the coming series, to be pretty uninteresting, or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for it. Lately, as mentioned before, I have been having a tough time finding something that I really want to read, other than short stories. I’ve returned nearly all the books I had to the library and have been pulling things off the shelf here to find something to read.

    One new arrival, which was reviewed on one of the blogs a while ago (George?), from PaperbackSwap: RETURN OF THE DINOSAURS, edited by Mike Resnick & Martin Greenberg. Gene Wolfe and Kristin Kathryn Rusch are among the “what if” authors. I’ve been working through a lot of collections lately, so will probably get to this sooner rather than later.

    What did I read? First, HARD COLD WINTER by Glen Erik Hamilton, second Van Shaw book set in Seattle. The first may have been better but it was definitely worth reading. Next was DETROIT IN OUR BLOOD by Loren D. Estleman, a collection of his Four Horsemen stories. These are about the Racket Squad trying to keep things in order during World War II. They are tremendously atmospheric and great stuff, remembering that police techniques were different in those days. I know he wrote a novel about the same characters – Lt. Zagreb, Sgt. Canal, Burke and McReary – called JITTERBUG, and I have it on reserve. Both these were library books.

    Next was Ben Aaronovitch’s second about apprentice wizard, PC Peter Grant, MOON OVER SOHO, which I downloaded to the Kindle (from the library) and read even faster than the first one. I’ll be looking for book three soon. This time a “jazz vampire” is one of the ghostly killers Grant is after. Then I read another of mine, Peter Turnbull’s nasty little PERILS AND DANGERS. A blackmailer is murdered, his head blown off, and Hennessey and Yellich need to discover if one of his victims did it, and which it was. The beauty of Turnbull’s books is that they come in at 200 pages or less. I’ve got about half a dozen more waiting to be read..

    Lastly was another downloaded library book, Akashic Books’ D. C. NOIR 2: THE CLASSICS, edited by George Pelecanos. I won’t define “classics” but it was a fast read, with authors including Ward Just, Benjamin Schutz, and James Grady. I won’t define “noir” either, but this is definitely gritty.

    Current reading: George Pelecanos, THE MARTINI SHOT: A Novella and Stories. I’ve started a couple of mysteries, both first in series, and will see how I get on. From the library is SWORN TO SILENCE by Linda Castillo. Kate Burkholder grew up Amish in northeastern Ohio, and survived an attack by a brutal serial killer at 14. She left at 18 and now, at 30, has returned to Painters Mill as Police Chief, only to be faced by either the return of the killer, a copycat, or…what? The second is one Bill Crider has recommended, SIX MILE CREEK by Richard Helms, about another small town police chief, Judd Wheeler in Prosperity, North Carolina.

    • I’ll start 42nd St Library when I finish the biography. For someone who’s having a hard time finding things to read, you’re sure reading a lot. Unless it’s recent, I’ve read that dinosaurs book, if it’s the one I’m thinking of, I liked about half of the stories.

      I’ll look for Detroit In Our Blood.

      The one Pelecanos I read was so full of expletives and drugs, for no reason I could fathom, that I resolved not to read any more.

      • Jeff Meyerson says:

        I guess I was in a funny mood where nothing got to e, but then I downloaded a couple of things with a two week deadline so had to read them.

        Most of the Pelecanos short stories are nowhere near as raw as his novels, at least the ones I’ve read. The novella I’m reading now gives a lot of insight into behind the scenes of a television crime series, though I don’t know yet if it’s going to be a mystery or not.

  2. Jerry House says:

    It’s been a quiet week here, Richard, mainly one of rest and recuperation. The only thing really damaged in my recent fall was my pride. Ah, well…

    I did read Thorne Smith’s OUT O’ LUCK, his follow-up to BILTMORE OSWALD — not as funny as the first but still a quick and entertaining read. Not funny at all, but still very entertaining, was John Connolly’s Charlie Parker thriller THE LOVERS. The series has always had a slight fantasy undertone to it, but this book brought it to the forefront full force, reminding me a bit of F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack series. I also read and enjoyed Ian Rankin’s KNOTS AND CROSSES, the first Rebus book although I found the motivation that drove the plot a bit weak.

    I am now working my way (slowly) through Stephen Kings’s LISEY’S STORY, one of only two of his novels that I hadn’t read before. It’s the story of a famous writer’s quarter-century marriage as told by his widow. King’s approach to this one takes a bit of getting used to.

    It’s a blue-skied, sunny morning here as I watch the back yard turn into a jungle. Maybe I’ll mow it later this week. Maybe not.

    • Sorry to hear you had a fall, Jerry. Barbara tripped over her flip-flops and landed hard on her knee, but other than a bruise no harm seems to have been done.

      She likes both the Connelly and the Repairman Jack books, though she would disavow liking fantasy in any form.

  3. Our temperatures are in the 30s this morning. But the trend is warming weather this week and next. I’m on vacation so it’s time to tackle Big Fat Books! But first, I need to finish a bunch of short story anthologies and collections that are taking up space on every flat surface in this house.

  4. Sounds interesting. I wonder if it’s a kind of Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance book.

    • I admit to not making it through that one, Charles, but this book feels different, pretty straightforward surf remanence. But there is all the other stuff mixed in, and he does write well. But then he’d have to to win the Pulitzer.

  5. macavityabc says:

    Just about to finish Max Allan Collins’ new western, THE BIG SHOWDOWN.

  6. tracybham says:

    I have that Con Lehane book (unread as yet) and will be interested in your take on it, especially after Jeff’s comments.

    Reading an Eric Ambler right now (Background to Danger) and recently finished Guns of Navarone.

    Finnegan’s biography would probably be a little heavy on the surfing / beach stuff for me, but it does sound like interesting reading.

    • Tracy, see my comment to Charles, above. Finnegan writes well, but I think you’re right about it being heavy on surfing. There were sections that were over the top for me, and I was interested.

  7. Deb says:

    I’m reading DEVIL SENT THE RAIN by Tom Piazza, a New Orleans-based writer who writes primarily about jazz, blues, and bluegrass but who then started an ancillary career writing about post-Katrina New Orleans which he then parlayed into a writing gig on TREME. This book is a collection of his music writing, along with some Katrina-related essays. So far, I like the essays about Jimmy Martin (“King of Bluegrass”) and Bob Dylan the best.

    • Jeff Meyerson says:

      Pelecanos was a writer and producer on THE WIRE and TREME, which shows up in THE MARTINI SHOT. He mentions a “coastal Southeast city” but it could well be New Orleans.

    • That’s a new one to me, Deb, but I may try it since I like jazz.

      • Jeff Meyerson says:

        Who doesn’t love the internet? Not me. I checked and my library has an ebook version as well as the “real” book, so I just downloaded a copy to the Kindle.

  8. Redhead says:

    Over the weekend I finished a fun near-future murder mystery called The Caline Conspiracy, it was fun, I liked how the main character is a single mom with a cranky teenaged son. It had a fun unexpected twist at the end, whole thing was really enjoyable read. Then this morning I picked The Sleeping Dragon by Joel Rosenberg. does that title sound familiar? 😉

  9. My ma’s a fan but have yet to try Nesbo – not being a surfing person I might just give the Finnegan a miss for now …

  10. Yvette says:

    I’ve read all the Reachers but decided to stop with the latest one since Lee has just gotten too dark for me. If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean. I’m in a lighter frame of mind lately.

    Currently I’m re-reading THE CASE OF THE JOURNEYING BOY by Michael Innes (I’ll be writing about it for Friday’s Forgotten Book meme) and several of Julia Spencer Fleming’s Russ Van Alstyne books. Re-reading, I mean. Just joined the new library (here in N.C.) and will be venturing forth soon as the weather cooperates. Can’t wait to see what I find on their shelves.

    This library I’ll be joining seems to have more e-books for borrowing than my previous library in N.J.

    • The library system here (County, and there are three adjacent counties that allow us to have cards) has more and more ebooks. Sometimes when I search for something, that’s all they have for a particular title. I prefer, and I think you do too, a physical book if I can get it.

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