1. Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan
Read this not so much for its action but for its character development. It’s always tricky to say that a book is character-driven rather than plot-driven. There is, of course, a plot in Jennifer Egan’s novel. But the reader sticks with the narrative largely because of the developing character of the protagonist.
2. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
Hell if I know what happens here, but it’s fascinating stuff anyway. What to think about for a writer: How to break rules, and when to break them. If this had been the author’s first story ever submitted, who would have published it? I can just imagine the rejection letter. “Thank you for letting me read this fascinating but unpublishable novel.”
3. Leonardo, by Walter Isaacson. The author is once again thorough in his work, and proves that as with his other biographies, one needn’t hold a Phd in the subject at hand, but commit to total immersion. As with his other books, this one takes a good deal of concentration, as Isaacson’s storytelling skills are not up to his reporting mastery. Yet, it’s Leonardo. Who else is more important? Trump?
4. The Other New Girl, by LB Gschwandtner. Here, in what seems to be a coming-of-age novel set in a private school, are storytelling twists and surprises you’ll long treasure. As I say on the book’s jacket,
5. The Pentagon Papers. If you’ve seen The Post, or if you’ve had the faintest interest in the origins and lies of the Vietnam War — why wouldn’t I, a veteran? — this is for you. As our country edges toward another war orchestrated by yet another chicken hawk, this is enlightening stuff.