Prequel to Independence Day (1996): A monotonous blathering unemotional slog emitted from a robotic, sometimes relievedly smug protagonist. This is the only book I've disliked so far, which doesn't particularly count because it's not a Pulitzer winner but a prequel to one. I'm not going to head right into Independence Day because I need a break from this author's voice. I could probably pick it up in ten years and not have forgotten any pertinent material. I wrote a blog entry on this book before I finished it and my opinion did not shift one iota.
2005: A love letter to existence itself. Robinson's economy of language puts into a paragraph what great philosophers have mulled in volumes. John Ames is the wise grandfather you might wish for, one who has weathered all the hardships of early industrial America and inherited little of his father's or grandfather's failings of character, though the first to admit that he managed to develop new ones.
2011: A collection of short stories, windows into the lives of a series of characters all connected to a single record producer in some way over a period of about forty years. Touching in subtle ways. Somewhat a collage of imperfect people colliding with each other, trying to be better than their impulses and mostly failing.
1988: Moving between plot-driven prose and ethereal poetry, Beloved is a brooding horror novel fraught with the horrors of slavery and what fear and torture do to the human psyche. A tale of mothers and daughters, parents and children. Of how difficult enslavement is to shake, if it can be shook, even in the midst of freedom.
1953: Imagine winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Nobel Prize for Literature in less than 100 pages. This being my first Hemingway, I wasn't expecting the simple, straightforward narrative. Having now read it, I can see how the almost childlike structure created a framework in which all the senses of my imagination could be fully aroused. I've tasted flying fish, felt the drag of the lines cutting my calloused palm, and the hot wooden belly of the skiff under the gulf sun.
2017: The narrative structure was devastating. The rare blissful respites were wrenched away in almost prosaic simplicity. There was no need to embellish. The circumstances laid plainly are enough to convey the horror, and Whitehead never shies away from the most disturbing pictures. But he lets your imagination fill in the gaps which makes that deeper visceral connection.
1972: A beautiful sweeping epic of cultured East meets untamed West, of loyalty and betrayal. Sensorially lush in its detail, Angle of Repose looks over the shoulder of historian Lyman Ward while he attempts to reconstruct and understand the life of his late grandmother, a venture which forces him to examine the consequences of his own life. Victorian meets Silent Generation meets Sexual Revolution.
2013: An thrilling tale of the human spirit rising from one of the most oppressive locations on earth. Johnson's writing style almost makes it seem as if the text was a direct translation - the source material being one of the Interrogator's unread biographies miraculously smuggled out of Pyongyang - a technique that (if it is a technique) brings the shrouded state very much into the light, showing us real people living real lives under horrific circumstances. Richly descriptive without gilding the lily.
2015: Easily one of the best WWII novels I've ever put my fingers to. Utterly engrossing. I left it knowing every dusty, bomb-blasted corner of Saint-Malo, but in the tactile/auditory/olfactory way Marie-Laure was forced to learn it. A tale of hope and perseverance. Of love and conscience. Doerr apparently spent a decade writing it and this careful approach shows.
2001: I started reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay during a flight delay back to New York City in 2006. If you’ve never read a great piece of fiction set in New York City while in New York City, I highly recommend it. Suddenly the book is happening just around a corner, right down the street.
1961: I read it in grammar school, so I remember very little from To Kill a Mockingbird save for the portable little isms: “Real courage is when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”