Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (fiction)
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty (fiction)
The Roaring Girl by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker (fiction)
Unnecessary Risks: A Memoir of Adventure by Tim Plummer (biography)
Unforgettable Fire: The Story Of U2 by Eamon Dunphy (nonfiction)
Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick (biography)
Frederick Douglass by David W. Blight (biography)
An exhaustive if exhausting biography of a major figure in the history of black civil rights. We have perhaps come less far than one would have hoped.
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (fiction)
The story of a young Mennonite in her senior year at high school. Toews is by upbringing Mennonite so the story is convincing.
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (fiction)
This is an astonishingly good book. A family, father, son, mother and daughter, set off to the South West from New York. The adults have differing destinations. The father wants to spend time in “Apacheria,’’ and the mother is looking for missing children. In the end it is their children they have to find as the children wander off and encounter migrant children briefly. But it is the power of the writing and the ability to conjure up the land that makes this book so good.
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer (nonfiction)
In fact the book goes back further than 1890 and is in a sense the history of Native Americans. Wounded Knee is the low point and the author (himself Ojibwa) sees that now Native Americans have achieved a status that is stable and begins to be prosperous.
Insurrecto by Gina Apostol. A tour de force. It takes some time to work out how to interpret the book, as chapters are numbered in strange orders. What results is a series of snapshots, or movies fragments. Two women set out to make films about the Philippines, one following an earlier filmmaker and another seeking shades of the Philippine-American massacre.
Becoming by Michelle Obama (memoir)
I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years Vol. 1 1933-41 by Victor Klemperer (nonfiction)
I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years Vol. 2 1942-45 by Victor Klemperer (nonfiction)
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (fiction)
Transcription by Kate Atkinson (fiction)
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (nonfiction)
How To Hold a Grudge by Sophie Hannah (nonfiction)
The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch (nonfiction)
Natural Causes by Barbara Ehrenreich (nonfiction)
What’s Yours Is Mine by Tom Slee (nonfiction)
Florida by Lauren Groff (fiction)
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (nonfiction)
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg (fiction)
Britt & Jimmy Strike Out by Stephan Salisbury (fiction)
Miss Muriel and Other Stories by Ann Petry (fiction)
The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age (Columbia Global Reports) by Tim Wu (nonfiction)
Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi (fiction)
Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein (fiction)
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester (fiction)
Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang (nonfiction)
In Every Moment We Are Still Alive by Tom Malmquist (fiction)
It begins, beautifully but horrifically, with the death of his wife just after she gave birth to their daughter. It was so authentic and so wrenching I assumed I was reading a memoir, but it’s classified as “literary fiction.”
I loved this book, painful as it was to read. The style reminded me a little of Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose books have also been termed autofiction. Some reviewers disliked the literary flourishes: running conversations together in one paragraph so that it was difficult to figure out who was talking; shifts in tense and time periods. To me, this was its beauty. It’s the way one’s brain works after horrific tragedy. It felt poured from Malmquist’s heart and soul.
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez (fiction)
Yet another book so realistic I had to check to be sure it wasn’t a memoir. (And yet another about coming to terms with grief.) Only one character in the book has a name, and it is Apollo, the 180-pound Great Dane bequeathed to the narrator in a suicide note left by her married lover. She is a writer, teaching writing and living in a tiny New York apartment. At first Apollo is a burden, as she is not a dog person, and her descriptions of her upended life can be quite funny. But she and Apollo are both grieving, and the day he lay on her feet as she read one of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s volumes to him (after he had picked it up in his jaws and brought it to her) won her over. As it did me. It won the 2018 National Book Award.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (fiction)
If I told you one of the major themes, you wouldn’t want to read it, which is why it took me so long (both to pick it up and to read: it’s over 700 pages). So I will just say it’s an exquisite book, one of the best I’ve read in a long time. It follows four men in New York City whose lives are built up, layer by layer, over the years. By the end you know them, you care for them, and you miss them.
From the Corner of the Oval: A Memoir by Beck Dorey-Stein (memoir)
Read this if you’d like a break from all my grim themes, as well as from the current occupant of the Oval Office. Dorey-Stein (who’s from Narberth!) was a stenographer during Obama’s second term, and the magic of the book is that she was so close to everything that was happening – traveling with him, recording everything he said, getting to know the staff around him. It would have been fascinating had she only included what it’s like to work in the White House, travel on Air Force One, and interact with the President. What made it even more interesting, though, was that she was so open about her tumultuous life during that time, about her friendships and her obsessive love affair. A great beach read.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (fiction)
I don’t usually read Young Adult books, and I didn’t expect to read something by the author of The Fault in Our Stars, but then I heard Green interviewed on NPR and went right out and bought it. In the interview Green talked about his own OCD, and you could actually hear the anxiety in his voice when, asked about his fear of microbes, he shakily said he really couldn’t talk about it. In the book a teenage girl with a paralyzing fear of germs, infection, and physical contact falls in love; and as she tries to explain to her boyfriend what goes on inside her head, you know that Green knows those spiraling thoughts firsthand.
Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration by Emily Bazelon (nonfiction)
The First World War: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Howard (nonfiction)
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (nonfiction)
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (fiction)
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo (fiction)
The Prodigal Spy by Joseph Kanon (fiction)
The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre (fiction)
False Impression by Jeffrey Archer (fiction)
Transcription by Kate Atkinson (fiction)
The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry (fiction)
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (fiction)
The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris by Mark Honigsbaum (nonfiction)
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (fiction)
K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches by Tyler Kepner (nonfiction)
Maybe Your Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb (nonfiction)
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver (fiction)
This is such an unusual and gorgeously written novel, based on the figures in Dorothea Lange’s famous photograph, “Migrant Mother.”
The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcom (nonfiction)
Malcom is a journalist writing about a writer who wrote about a murder. A complete page-turner.
Why Religion? A Personal Story by Elaine Pagles (nonfiction)
A Princeton professor of religion, Pagels writes about her spiritual journeys (plural), in light of two tragic losses.
Long Players: A Love Story in Eighteen Songs by Peter Coviello (memoir)
This absorbing memoir about the sudden ending of what the author thought was a beautiful marriage weaves in a history of popular music.
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer (fiction)
This is a great summer read about a famous male writer and his wife, with (if you haven’t seen the recent movie) a zinger of a twist at the end.
Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (fiction)
Great summer read with a beautiful setting.
Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb (fiction)
A woman out to restart her life gets involved in a mystery from the past century.
Midnight Crossroad (Book 1 of trilogy): A Novel of Midnight Texas by Charlaine Harris (fiction)
Supernatural story about a group of people brought together to solve a murder mystery.
The Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton (fiction)
First book in a long running series, British sleuth Agatha Raisin moves to the country and gets involved in a murder mystery that starts her career as an unofficial detective.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (fiction)
My favorite of all Stephen King’s books (besides IT which is my favorite book of all time).
Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie (fiction)
I love Hercule Poirot books, but this one totally got me with the whodunnit!