Saturday, January 1, 2011

Books For January: Susan Froderberg, Alan Glynn, Sven Hassel, Raymond L. Atkins, Barbara Hunt, Nevada Barr, William Kent Krueger, George Sheehan

I read good books all year long, but I'm also something of a seasonal reader.  Gardening books tend to be put off until the spring, hunting books until hunting season, and some Halloween and Christmasy books that I didn't get to last year will be put off until the holidays come around again.

This last year, mystery writer Patricia Abbott (pattinase) started the FRIDAY'S FORGOTTEN BOOK feature on her blog, and a number of other writers joined in the project.  Her summing up of the reviews of these books, with links, is here.  My sole contribution was a review of Ed McBain's Money, Money, Money: A Novel of the 87th Precinct (87th Precinct Mysteries), which The Rap Sheet carried as a part of its THE BOOK YOU HAVE TO READ series. 

Besides Forgotten-Book-Fridays, in this space I intend to celebrate Off-And-Running-Mondays, Transcendental Tuesdays, Western Novel Wednesdays, Literary-Analysis-Thursdays, Freezing-Weather-Fridays, Sports Book Saturdays, and Southern-Gothic-Sundays.  Among others.

Just a few of the books I've tentatively scheduled to post about in January include:

Barbara Hunt's A Little Night Music, not to be confused with the Stephen Sondheim musical of the same name, although there ought to be clowns.

This is a 1947 hardcover that is a little-known gem, way ahead of its time, being obscure to begin with and long out-of-print.  Never mind her other books, which were of hoary scope and witchy horrors.  She wrote like an inspired intellectual angel in this one.  On forgotten-book-friday, I'll post a long synopsis and analysis of the book.  This is one that the NYRB needs to pick up and reprint in a new edition in its series of rediscovered and significant books.

This is the month I'll read Sven Hassel's Legion of the Damned (Cassell Military Paperbacks).  My copy is the 1957 first American edition, the first and most autobiographical in a series of novels which became famous in Europe.  The author, under his real name, was a reluctant conscript in a German penal company, fighting for his life with the Nazis against the Russians in the dead of winter.  This seems like the best month to read such a novel.

Raymond L. Atkins' Sorrow Wood has a wonderful dustjacket, a falling down barn, gothic and surreal, with almost metalic blue floral designs in its title font.  A southern gothic novel with social satire and reincarnation, it says.  We'll see.

William Kent Krueger's Heaven's Keep: A Novel (Cork O'Connor Mysteries) has been on my to-be-read shelf for a long time.  January seems like the right time to read this snowy novel that seems to include thoughtful mystery and heartbreaking longing.

I've saved Alan Glynn's Winterland for January.  It comes highly recommended by Emerald Noir novelists Declan Burke and Adrian McKinty, whose blogs I follow almost daily.  They say it's a paranoia novel that reminds us once again of the corrupting influence of bureaucracy.

Nevada Barr's Winter Study (An Anna Pigeon Novel).  I didn't get to this in my naturalism reading binge in November, but this will fit as well in January.  Last year, I read Nevada Barr's Seeking Enlightenment... Hat by Hat: A Skeptic's Guide to Religion, and she soars in my estimation.  The title may be misleading; it is a very insightful and spiritual book.  A bit like reading Marilynne Robinson.

I've sent for Susan Froderberg's Old Border Road: A Novel, off of this review, link.  She writes with the rhetorical word-magic of Cormac McCarthy, they all say.  Well, I'm willing to be convinced.  I may read it later this week.

I also plan on reading Scott Spencer's newest one, Man in the Woods.  A thriller-of-conscience and a dog story too.

Once a runner, always a runner, but January is the time to start getting in shape again.  I plan to start by being inspired by George Sheehan's  Running & Being: The Total Experience once again.  Other running, fitness, and diet books will no doubt follow, most of them with literary nuances.

The next significant holiday at our house is Valentine's Day, which we celebrate Groundhog Day (Special 15th Anniversary Edition) through Valentine's Day itself.  But that involves next month's reading, so more on that later.


  1. I'm very interested in your review of the Froderberg book. I saw it in a bookstore the other day, read the first page, and recoiled. Almost as if someone wrote a piece for McSweeney's. But, you know, seriously. Interested in your take if you get through it.

  2. Dave, you ought to give the book another chance. I'm entranced with it myself, and I'll be posting a long review of it here soon, and at Amazon too. And of course we will discuss it some at the Cormac McCarthy Society Forum.

    Cormac McCarthy was an obvious influence but I also see many other influences here. And, yet, her work entire also seems delightfully singular to me.

    I'm hoping the quality of her next book won't stray too far from this one.