Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The Reading List 2023, Part I

Long-time readers of this blog may remember my sharing of my reading list. Why share my reading list? Well, I figure if anyone’s actually reading me, they may be interested in what I read. Also, maybe you’ll find something here that will interest or excite you and you’ll be inspired to pick it up.

Note that little to no commenting on each book doesn’t mean I didn’t like it; it just means I don’t have anything to say about it (possibly because I’m not sure how I feel about). Books with an asterisk are re-reads. I am a re-reader, no question.

*Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel (2014). I was compelled to re-read this after watching the miniseries on HBO. It’s great when a film/TV adaptation doesn’t completely screw your ability to “see” a novel. I still love this book, and highly recommend it. It hits a little different in the wake of COVID Also, the series was really well done.

*All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren (1946). It’s amazing to me that I couldn’t even get through this book the first time I tried it. Love it, third time I’ve read it. Warren’s prose is lush, his characters are compelling, and it’s a great story.

Things We Do in the Dark, Jennifer Hillier (2022). It’s wonderful to see someone I knew from “back in the day” making it big! Kudos to Jennifer. I really liked this, and love her heroine, Paris Peralta.

The Last Chairlift, John Irving (2022). Sigh. The more John Irving books I read, the more I realize I’m not so much a fan of John Irving as I am a fan of some his books. There’s some great writing in here, no doubt, and some humor and some tragedy and some really interesting characters, but so many settings and situations and characters feel like they’ve been lifted from his other books.

Fairy Tale, Stephen King (2022). I love Stephen King. I love long books. This one felt very much like two different books and the set up felt way too long. Overall, I enjoyed this, but felt it could have benefitted by some trimming, especially up front. I need to remember this and apply it to myself.

The Warehouse, Rob Hart (2019). Very well done. The best dystopian fiction (for me) is that which seems really possible, and this does.

Heat 2, Meg Gardiner and Michael Mann (2022). Written sequel to a great movie from the 90s, a literary thriller. It’s always odd when you find yourself rooting for the bad guys. Also: it was really hard not to see Val Kilmer, Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in my head here.

Sea of Tranquility, Emily St. John Mandel (2022). Lovely writing, and full of interesting ideas.

It Can’t Happen Here, Sinclair Lewis (1935). Heavy-handed and a slog to get into at first, but it picked up as it went along. Amazing how the fascist playbook hasn’t changed.

*The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Stephen King (1999). A re-read, but I first read it so long ago (I’d say, hmm, 24 years ago) that I really didn’t remember it. An under-appreciated gem about a 9-year-old girl lost in the woods. Shockingly compact (224 pages) for King.

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (1990). One of those books heavily recommended to writers that I finally got to read. Strong voice, powerful stories about young men experiencing the horror that is war. What I can’t figure out: why the hell was this shelved in the Youth section of my library???

Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1851). Not the leviathan, 635-page original, but a 1949, Washington Square Press edition that cut out 30 or so chapters and 300 or so pages. This is one of those books that has a fearsome reputation. On reading it, I found it quite entertaining (mostly) and, in many ways, surprisingly progressive. Also, now I know where Star Trek’s Khan cribbed the line, “From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee” from.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris (2018). Inspiring story of love and survival, set in hell on earth. Based on a true story, and causing me to once again ask, “Why are Nazis still a thing?”

So, there’s the list so far. I’ve already started on the next round. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Got any recommendations for me?

2 Responses

  1. Hi, Donna,

    So sorry I didn’t reply! Working, working, always working! An update soonish, I think.

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