WHAT WE READ IN 2002

Bet Your Life

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Richard Dooling

Highly recommended.  This is a novel about the insurance  industry's F-word (fraud). It is very funny with lots of plot twists.  The story revolves around viatical policies, term life insurance usually purchased by AIDS patients, whose benefits are sold at a discount.    The investors get unhappy when the patients don't die soon enough.  (12/02)

The Autograph Man

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Zadie Smith

A somewhat disappointing follow-up to White Teeth.  The author, still in her twenties, is incredibly talented, but the eponymous signature trader in the title never gives any indication of why we should care one way or the other what happens to him.  (12/02)

The Whore's Child

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Richard Russo

The Pulitzer Prize winning author of Empire Falls returns with a fine collection of short stories that are insightful and full of characters to whom it is easy to relate.  The writing quality is consistently first-rate. (12/02)

July, July

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Tim O'Brien

A reunion of the Class 0f '69 is the setting for this excellent novel.  The characters are interesting and their stories are told with humor and compassion.  A good read. (11/02)

The Color of Oil

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Michael Economides

I recently attended a lecture by the author who said the the success of this book was a triumph of superficiality over substance.  True enough, but if you want a quick yet insightful peek into the world of oil, this is quite good. (11/02)

The Emperor of Ocean Park

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Stephan Carter

The author claims that this is not a roman à clef.  However, as both he and the protagonist are New England university law professors, its a little hard to believe.  This is a well-written, entertaining book, despite being a tome - 653 pages. (11/02)

Bad Boy Brawly Brown

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Walter Mosley

Easy Rawlins is the hero in the latest in a series of novels about life in black L.A. during the early 60's.  Denzel Washington has played Easy in the movies and he'll be back if they film this one.  An fast, fun read. (10/02)

The Lobster Chronicles

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Linda Greenlaw

You may remember the author from The Perfect Storm - she was the captain of the last boat to speak with the crew of the Andrea Gail.  She gave up that life to return home to Maine fishing for lobsters.  Highly recommended. (10/02)

Mr. Potter

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Jamaica Kincaid

See extended commentary -  Mr. Potter (9/02)

Youth:Scenes from Provincial Life II

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J. M. Coetzee

An odd little novel about a young South African who emigrates to England in the early 60's to become a writer, but winds up as a computer programmer.  The author uses the unusual medium of the brain noodlings of a truly boring nerd to make social commentary.  (9/02)

Basket Case

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Carl Hiaason

Is Hiaason the funniest man in America?  It's very possible.  His south Florida characters are so amusing it makes you almost (but not quite) want to go to Miami to see the types in real life.  (9/02)

Paris to the Moon

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Adam Gopnik

Gopnik is a New Yorker magazine staff writer who moves his family to Paris when his first child is born.  His motivation is to avoid Barney, the purple PBS character.  There are many interesting observations about Paris, but far too many anecdotes about little Luke for my taste. (8/02)

Atonement

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Ian McEwan

McEwan examines the dark side of human nature again, this time documenting the destruction of a family by a thirteen year old girl.  The story begins in 1935, and ends in 1999 and includes details of the British retreat from France in the early stages of WWII.  Brilliant writing throughout.  (7/02)

True History of the Kelly Gang

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Peter Carey

This story of Australian outlaw/folk hero Ned Kelly is a difficult read, but worth the effort.  Told in the first person English of an uneducated nineteenth century Irish immigrant, this fact-based novel helps explain the affection Australians still have for Kelly (6/02)

Complications

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Atul Gawande

If the author, a surgeon, cuts as well as he writes, his patients are in good shape.  A fascinating set of stories about the education of a young doctor. (5/02)

A Nasty Bit of Rough

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David Feherty

An entertaining fable by one of the few TV golf commentators (Gary McCord is the other) who realize that it is only a game. (4/02)

A Way of Life, Like Any Other

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Darcey O'Brien

Reissue of a semi-autobiographical novel by the son of fading Hollywood stars in the 50's and 60's.  Deceptively simple and fun to read. (4/02)

The War Against Cliché

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Martin Amis

Well-written analyses of the leading authors of our time.  Unfortunately, most the books discussed are still on my "to read" list. (4/02)

Ghost Soldiers

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Hampton Sides

Incredible story of WW II heroism in the Philippines.  Thoroughly researched and very well written, this book is worth your time. (3/02)

A Cook's Tour

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Anthony Bourdain

The author roams the world in pursuit of the perfect meal with mixed results.  Tapas bar-hopping in northern Spain sounds great, but eating goat testicles in the Moroccan desert doesn't. (3/02)

Half a Life

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V. S. Naipaul

Semi-autobiographical novel won Pulitzer Prize.  Second half contains excellent picture of colonial decay in Africa. (2/02)

Warwick Todd Goes the Tonk

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Tom Gleisner

For cricket fans only.  A look at the cover tips off that this is not a serious work. (1/02)

The Grand Complication

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Allen Kurzweil

An odd novel told in the first person by a nerd librarian.  A little slow off the mark, but once it gets going it is hard to put down. (1/02)

 

Books 2001