An American Editor

June 25, 2014

On Today’s Bookshelf (XVI)

It hasn’t been very long since my last On Today’s Bookshelf (XV) was published, just two months. But it seems that I have had the (mis)fortune (depending on one’s perspective) to discover a lot of books that interest me. And so I have been spending money acquiring yet more books for my ever-growing to-be-read pile. Fortunately, many of them are in ebook form, although if I read a nonfiction book in ebook form and find I really enjoy it, I tend to buy a hardcover version for my library. (It would be so much better for me if publishers bundled the ebook with hardcover version for just a few dollars more than the hardcover alone. I’d always buy the bundle.)

I admit that I get a great deal of pleasure from sitting in my library and looking at the hardcovers on the shelves, remembering the books as my eyes slide over the spines. As much as I like the convenience of ebooks, ebooks fail to evoke in me the sensory pleasure (or the memories) that print books bring forth. Scrolling through a list of ebooks just doesn’t provide the same degree of pleasure I get from sitting in my library surrounded by print books.

Books are the armchair way to experience the world in which we live. Few of us have the resources, whether it be financial or time or something else, to spend years traveling our world and participating in discovery. Consequently, we rely on others to do the legwork and to share their experiences and gained knowledge. Books are a guilt-free addiction. Editing fills part of my craving; the rest of my craving is fulfilled by the books I acquire and read. Alas, there isn’t enough time to sate that craving and so I keep on acquiring.

Here is a list of some of the books that I am reading (or have acquired and added to my to-be-read pile in the two months since On Today’s Bookshelf XV was published) either in hardcover or in ebook form. I have already started On Today’s Bookshelf XVII.

Nonfiction –

  • Eyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966 by Michael S. Bryant
  • Confronting the Good Death: Nazi Euthanasia on Trial, 1945-1953 by Michael S. Bryant
  • Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity by Prue Shaw
  • A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law during the Great War by Isabel V. Hull
  • Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David Von Drehle
  • Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen
  • The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
  • What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa by David E. Murphy
  • Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre
  • God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World by Cullen Murphy
  • 1858: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War They Failed to See by Bruce Chadwick
  • Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire
  • Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister by Robert Hutchinson
  • House of Treason: The Rise & Fall of a Tudor Dynasty by Robert Hutchinson
  • The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor
  • Thomas Cromwell: Servant to Henry VIII by David Loades
  • Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force by John L. Allen
  • Vienna 1814 by David King
  • The Destructive War by Charles Royster
  • The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 by Lisa Tetrault
  • The Embrace of Unreason: France, 1914-1940 by Frederick Brown
  • How Could This Happen: Explaining the Holocaust by Dan McMillan
  • Heretic Queen: Queen Elizabeth and the Wars of Religion by Susan Ronald
  • Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics by Terry Golway
  • 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline
  • The Last Alchemist, Iain McCalman

Fiction –

  • The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer
  • Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
  • The Dark Citadel Trilogy (3 books): The Dark Citadel, The Free Kingdoms, and The Golden Griffin by Michael Wallace
  • The Mapmaker’s Daughter by Laurel Corona
  • Paris by Edward Rutherford
  • The Legend of Oescienne: The Awakening (Book 3) by Jenna Elizabeth Johnson (I previously bought and read book 1: The Finding and book 2: The Beginning)
  • Last Rituals (Thóra Gudmundsdóttir Series #1) by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
  • Power Down by Ben Coes
  • The Soul Forge by Andrew Lashway
  • The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
  • Blood Money by David Ignatius
  • Stone Cold by Joel Goldman
  • Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
  • The Increment by David Ignatius
  • In the Hall of the Dragon King by Stephen Lawhead
  • Agency Rules by Khalid Muhammed
  • The Scavenger’s Daughters by Kay Bratt
  • Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign (Books 1 & 2 of the Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan
  • The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
  • Mirror Sight (Book 5 of the Green Rider series) by Kristen Britain
  • The Tattered Sword and The Huntsman’s Amulet (Books 1 & 2 of The Society of the Sword series) by Duncan Hamilton
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Night Birds by Thomas Maltman

As you can see from the lists, nonfiction and fiction are about equal. Interestingly, for the past 6 or so months, the majority of my reading has been fiction, which should have meant that fiction would greatly outnumber nonfiction. But I know that it won’t be long before I return to nonfiction to the near exclusion of fiction. More importantly, most of the nonfiction I acquire in hardcover, whereas the fiction is largely acquired in ebook format.

A goodly number of the nonfiction books I acquired I discovered from reviews or ads in the New York Review of Books. One of the things I like about the NYRB is that the book reviews almost always not only discuss the book being reviewed, but other books relevant to an understanding of the subject matter. Thus the reviews act as leads for me to acquire other, older books.

Am I the only editor whose TBR pile keeps growing and who cannot stop buying books? What are you reading/stockpiling? I know I ask that question with regularity, but it would be nice if more of you listed books you are buying/reading in the comments — it would expose the rest of us to books and authors we haven’t read.

Richard Adin, An American Editor


  1. Although I’m a book addict, too (“a guilt-free addiction” — I like that!), I stopped stockpiling them in a TBR pile long ago. This was driven by logistics: for many years, I moved regularly, and the labor of hauling them all became a problem. For many years, also, I’ve had too little disposable income to indulge in the luxury. I therefore became a heavy user of libraries, swap programs, and used-book sources. Lately I’ve obtained lots of great books from being a reviewer, though those are usually ARCs. The only books I stockpile are favorite series and/or complete works by favorite authors. After a few years, I’ll go back to them and reread a whole batch.

    The past two weeks, as it happens, I’ve been zipping through the cozy mysteries of Charlotte MacLeod, aka Alisa Craig. Earlier in the year, I reread the whole of Emma Lathen’s Wall Street mysteries, and in previous reread sessions I’ve enjoyed all the Dick Francis novels. Series I’m keeping up with are Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache “Three Pines” and Peter May’s trilogy set in the Hebrides, both of which are a bit too dark for my taste though I love the characters and stories. For a break I’ll dip into general fiction and better romances, most from referral, such as Spending by Mary Gordon. I also enjoy novels involving animals.

    I don’t read much nonfiction, but when I do it’s usually something historical about a period or place that interests me, or personal stories. Recently I’ve read A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II, by Adam Makos; Listening for Madeleine, the biography of Madeleine L’Engle; Paul Newman: A Life, biography by Shawn Levy; Driving Home: An American Journey, by Jonathan Raban (essays); and A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs and Me, by Jonathan Katz.

    On my TBR list are the latest Cork O’Connor mystery by William Kent Krueger (Windigo Island, due out in August), Rule Britannia by Daphne DuMaurier, and Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James (a rediscovery from childhood). I’m also trying to keep pace with ongoing series by Jonathan Kellerman and Nora Roberts.

    One big exception to my non-acquisition habits: Our little country library apparently was gifted a long time ago with a 60-book set of Zane Grey novels, which resided on their own shelf in a corner. I started at A and read to Z, the only patron to read them over the course of two years. The library gave me the whole set in exchange for me continuing to donate the good popular hardcovers I drop off now and then (review books I decide not to keep). That’s saved them a few hundred bucks, so I’m now the proud owner of a matched set of hardcovers, all beautifully lined up on their own shelf in my bedroom. A few years from now, I shall return to them and start again at A.


    Comment by Carolyn — June 25, 2014 @ 6:14 am | Reply

  2. Thanks for sharing your to-read list, Rich! Like you, I’m an inveterate reader and book collector and have always looked at books as an escape and way to travel to other places, into the past, and into the minds and hearts of others. For fifteen plus years now, I’ve taken the travel aspect of book collecting and reading to another level: I have quite a large collection of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Baedeker and other guidebooks, which are wonderful reading for a unique picture of the past in places in Europe and the Middle East. I love that many of the guidebooks I own were carried by a traveler in a different place and time. I also have smaller collections of Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury-oriented books, Quaker and transcendental literature, many classics titles, and the list goes on. These collections reflect periods in my life, and the books on my shelves are like old friends. I can’t imagine living without their company. My current stack of books in reading progress and to be read includes Annie Lamott, Bird by Bird and Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith; R. B. Yeazell, The Death and Letters of Alice James; Sybille Bedford, A Legacy; Stephen O’Shea, Back to the Front: An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War I; Ross King, The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism; Jans Rolls, The Bloomsbury Cookbook; Harry Eyres, Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet; L. Edel, ed., Henry James: Parisian Sketches; and Stefan Zweig, The World of Yesterday. If only I had more time to read!


    Comment by Marian Rogers — June 25, 2014 @ 9:41 am | Reply

    • Marian, I think you will enjoy Ross King’s book. I found it quite interesting. I have been dithering about the Stefan Zweig book. Here is an excellent review from the New York Review of Books:


      Comment by americaneditor — June 25, 2014 @ 10:07 am | Reply

      • Thanks for the positive review of Ross King’s book, Rich. I was quite pleased to pick up a near-mint copy for a dollar at a used book sale here, which is the source of many of my book acquisitions. Thanks as well for the NYRB review of the Zweig books. The New York Review of Books is a great publication, always thought-provoking. This is my second read through The World of Yesterday. I find Zweig’s description of pre-World War I Europe so interesting. The interwar and WWII parts are a bit darker, but I highly recommend the book.


        Comment by Marian Rogers — June 25, 2014 @ 3:54 pm | Reply

  3. I love this! The pile currently includes: Shirley Silver and Wick Miller, American Indian Languages: Cultural and Social Contexts; Charles Mann, 1493; Robert Musil, Rachel and Her Sisters; Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, Painted Cities; David Grann, The Lost City of Z; Dawn Powell, The Golden Spur; Rebecca Solnit, Men Explain Things to Me; Eric Olin Wright, Classes; Noviolet Bulowayo, We Need New Names; Arun Kundnani, The Muslims Are Coming; Perry Anderson, The Indian Ideology.


    Comment by Sarah Grey — June 25, 2014 @ 9:57 am | Reply

    • Sarah, based on your list, I would highly recommend these books by Susan Wise Bauer: The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople; The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome; and The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade. They are the first 3 volumes in her series exploring history worldwide. They give a panoramic view of world history, rather than a detailed view of a particular event, but I have found that they provide a great introduction for other books to fill in.


      Comment by americaneditor — June 25, 2014 @ 10:17 am | Reply

  4. Thanks for the TBR list. I forget when it was that I first read of your list but it got me started keeping my own. Between the NYTimes, NY Reiview of Books, Acumax I keep adding to my list. When I get down to the last book on my Kobo Mini (a great reader btw) I go back to my list to add books to the reader.

    I use my reader while doing my cardio rehab exercises — 70 to 110 minutes 5 days a week — treadmill and recumbant bike– both of which are mindless exercises. I’ve put together a way to hold the eReader up to about eye level so I’m not stupped over trying to read.

    So, I will go through your new list and add those that I will add to my TBR list.

    Attached is a list of the books I’ve read in the last 5 years. Not too shabby for someone who was not a book reader.

    Btw, I hope you’ll add my book to your next TBR list.

    Alan J. Zell, Ambassador Of Selling, Attitudes for Selling


    Comment by — June 25, 2014 @ 11:46 am | Reply

    • Alan, WordPress doesn’t accept attachments to comments so your list didn’t make it. Sorry.


      Comment by americaneditor — June 25, 2014 @ 11:52 am | Reply

  5. My to-read list has gotten ridiculously long, as of late. I read fairly equally between fiction and non-fiction, though I do seem to go in cycles where I favor one over the other for a little while. I, too, appreciate the convenience (and instant gratification) of e-books, but love being surrounded by bookshelves filled with my favorite books. Here is a list of books that I have either recently read or that are waiting for me:

    Mastering the Art of French Eating, by Ann Mah
    Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Dana
    The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America, by Gregg Easterbrook
    David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
    My Bondage and My Freedom, by Frederick Douglas
    Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, by Shawn Otto
    The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, by Richard Holmes
    The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddharth Mukhenjes
    Survival of the Sickest: The Surprising Connections Between Disease and Longevity, by Sharon Maolem

    The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
    The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
    The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
    One Hundred Years of Solitude (again!), by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    The Island Beneath the Sea, by Isabell Allende
    The Woman Destroyed, by Simone de Beauvoir
    Falling to Earth, by Kate Southwood


    Comment by Erica Ellis — June 25, 2014 @ 3:40 pm | Reply

  6. I’m a hopeless book junkie, and now your list is giving me the urge to make another trip to the library! Here’s what’s on my current or TBR pile for the next few weeks:
    Frog Music (Emma Donoghue)
    China Dolls (Lisa See)
    The Coldest Girl in Cold Town (Holly Black)
    A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (Marina Lewycka)
    Nectar in a Sieve (Karmala Markandaya)
    Between, Georgia (Joshilyn Jackson)
    Exit the Actress (Priya Parmar)
    Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind (Ann B. Ross)
    Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn)
    The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons (Sam Kean)
    First Farm in the Valley (Anne Pellowski)–don’t laugh! Yes, this is a book for first-graders, but I loved the series as a child and only recently found out about the existence of this book.

    Mostly fiction–no surprise that I’m primarily a fiction editor!


    Comment by Christina M. Frey (@turntopage2) — June 25, 2014 @ 3:59 pm | Reply

  7. Oh, god…! DITTO! That’s exactly how I feel although my lack of space now dictates eBooks,

    Kathy Davie



    Comment by KD Did It — June 26, 2014 @ 9:56 am | Reply

  8. Thanks for sharing your TBR Richard…
    If you like “Agent Zig Zag” by Ben Macintyre, you may also enjoy “Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II” and “Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies”.


    Comment by Pablo Lioi — June 29, 2014 @ 12:45 pm | Reply

  9. […] the afterlife to read all that I am accumulating. (To discover what is in my TBR pile, see, e.g., On Today’s Bookshelf [XVI], the most recent listing in the series, and the previous 15 similar articles [search for On […]


    Pingback by What Are They Thinking? UPs and the Road to Self-Destruction | An American Editor — July 14, 2014 @ 4:01 am | Reply

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