Beach Reads

When you’re on a beach vacation, having a good book to read — or maybe, say, five of them — is essential.  On this trip I’ve enjoyed Bill Bryson’s wonderful, funny, and fascinating book about the summer of 1927 and the latest Harry Bosch book by Michael Connelly, and I’ve got two books of short stories inspired by Sherlock Holmes and a non-fiction book about Wall Street greed in queue.

I love books with continuing characters and their adventures, so when a new Connelly Bosch book appears I snap it up.  There’s only one problem:  I can’t put them down.  I zip through them, relish every word and Boschian revelation, and immediately am hungry for more.  I hope Connelly, and Bosch, live until they’re 120.

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A New Bosch Book

The Parsons branch of the Columbus Public Library system prominently displays “new arrivals” on a rack facing the door, presumably thinking that people coming in might pick up a volume on impulse.  Yesterday, when Kish and I stopped by for some browsing, I was delighted to see a new Harry Bosch book had come out, called The Crossing by Michael Connelly.  I greedily snatched it off the shelf before somebody else beat me to it.

IMG_0763Years ago, the Philosopher King of the Fifth Floor recommended the Bosch books to me.  They’re a series — I’m not sure how many there are now — that follow the career and exploits of Hieronymus (“Harry”) Bosch, a long-time police detective with the Los Angeles Police Department.  I started with the first in the series and was immediately hooked, and ever since I’ve happily followed the jazz-loving, uncompromising Harry through multiple partners, tragic deaths, love affairs, family dramas, political intrigue in the LAPD, and countless other back stories as he searches for clues and carefully solves grisly murders.  It’s been a terrific series.

I like the plotting in the books, I like the characters, and I like the way the books always provide some interesting insight to how police detectives work and police departments operate.  But more than anything else I really like the prose.  Connelly writes in short, declarative sentences — a very Hemingwayesque style — and I always enjoy the way he describes what Bosch is doing.  Too often, modern fiction is so focused on trying to plumb new depths in depressing modern relationships that the authors fail to give any kind of physical description of the setting, the characters, and their actions.  Connelly, on the other hand, always provides a rich account of what the characters are doing and how things look.  It’s wonderful to read his depiction, for example, of how Harry Bosch opens an envelope, organizes the papers inside, and then lays out the photos of a crime scene.

So excuse me, for now.  It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day, I’ve changed into my shorts, and I’m going to go outside and dive into the world of Harry Bosch.  I feel like a kid with a full Easter basket.

Book Recommendations Gratefully Accepted

I’m feeling the need to read these days, but I don’t know what — and I’d appreciate your help.

IMG_5516It’s cold and bleak in Columbus, perfect weather to curl up with a book and give my eyeglasses a workout.  I’ve finished, and enjoyed, every book in the Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly.  Then I read the first of the Lucas Davenport series, Rules of Prey by John Sandford.  It was okay, but I’m not sure I’m ready for another deep foray into crime fiction — especially of the serial killer variety.  So, I tried to move farther into the action-adventure area, by reading David Baldacci’s The Innocent.  It felt too pat for me, with its standard, breakneck pacing and improbabilities.  And how many novels can be written about cold-blooded killers and attempted assassinations of major political figures?  The Day of the Jackal plowed that ground very well, long ago.

So now I’m at sea.  I enjoy fiction and science fiction and historical fiction, and I especially like history and biography.  Two of my favorites in the latter category are The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe and A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman, if that provides any guidance.  I’d be happy to try just about just about anything.

Does anyone have any suggestions?  Have you read anything recently that you would recommend?

 

Starting A New Summer (Book) Series

Summers are made for reading, and summer vacations especially so.

I like to use the summer reading season to discover and dig into books that have already become a series featuring the same characters.  When you make such a discovery you can read the books in sequence, letting the characters and their lives unfold before you and become more familiar and, sometimes, beloved.  There is a particular joy in the initial discovery, too, because you know that you’ve just filled lots of your leisure time — often extending well into the autumn months — with what is sure to be very enjoyable activity.

IMG_4203Over the years I’ve read lots of literary series, and it always seems to happen in the summer — and usually at the recommendation of a friend or family member whose judgment I trust.  It was during the summer that I first enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books (at Richard’s recommendation), Patrick O’Brian’s terrific Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin Master and Commander novels about the British Navy during the Napoleonic era, James Lee Burke’s two-fisted Dave Robicheaux crime fiction (suggested by the Wrestling Fan), George R.R. Martin’s fabulous Game of Thrones books, and Stuart Kaminsky’s wonderful (and unfortunately too-soon-ended) Inspector Rostnikov and Abe Lieberman series.  I loved them all and hated reaching the end.

Recently the Philosopher King of the Fifth Floor recommended Michael Connelly’s books about Detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch.  I’ve begun with the first book, The Black Echo, and it’s excellent.  I can tell I’m going to like following the exploits of the (in the first book, at least) chain-smoking Harry as he struggles with his personal demons and deftly solves crimes along the way — even if it means skirting the edges of the law and breaking a few departmental rules to bring the wrongdoer to justice.  Having made the discovery, I’m especially pleased to learn that the series currently includes 19 books, which probably means number 20 will come out as I am happily working my way through Harry’s story.

Don’t expect much from me this summer:  I’ll be reading.