My Year in Books – Hooked on Noir

Ted Crow, The Plain Dealer

What have you been reading lately? I have always thought that you can tell much about people by observing what they read (or in some cases, if they read at all). Thoughtful people, presumably, read thoughtfully written books. Frivolous people, in turn, read frivolous books. Perhaps, however, I should be a bit less judgmental about others’ reading tastes. In looking over the list of books that I have read in the past year I don’t find lots of high-brow stuff. Indeed, apart from newspapers and magazines, most of my reading has been in the genre of crime fiction with a heavy emphasis on Nordic noir.

While this post focuses only on the past year, the previous year was much the same except that it was more rewarding because it was then that I read the Stieg Larsson trilogy and nearly all the Wallander series by Henning Mankell. I have never been to Sweden, but now I want to go. And yes, I will be one of those silly tourists taking the Stieg Larsson  and the Wallander tours, exploring all the haunts of Lisbeth Salander and Kurt Wallander.

In last year’s list those works most clearly in the genre of detective noir are those by Michael Connelly, Arnaldur Indriðason, Henning Mankell, and Jo Nesbø. Connelly’s fast paced novels with Harry Bosch as the bedraggled hero are formulaic, but fun to read. Indriðason’s Inspector Erlendur makes Mankell’s Wallander seem positively cheerful. The Icelandic countryside, as portrayed by Indriðason, is bleak compared to the merely wet and dreary landscape of southern coastal Sweden. And Erlendur’s prospects for happiness seem far more remote than Wallander’s, even though neither is psychologically equipped to attain that elusive goal. Jo Nesbð’s Detective Harry Hole is a fitting addition to this morose group. What can be said of all these protagonists is that they drink far too much coffee and get far too little sleep.

The most unique book in the list is perhaps that by Keigo Higashino, The Devotion of Suspect X. Unlike all the others, Higashino casts most of the narrative from the perspective of the criminal, not from the perspective of the pursuing police investigator. The plot is extremely clever compared to most in this genre and by the end of the story, I was hoping the police would fail in their quest.

Other books in the list deserve comment. Arthur Golden’s masterpiece, Memoirs of a Geisha, for example, merits its own review. I will set that task aside for another day. Likewise, comments on Cisneros’ La Casa en Mango Street will have to wait.

Here is the list from November 2010 through November 2011. If there are others you think I might enjoy, please let me know.

Chelsea Cain – Heartsick

Sandra Cisneros – La Casa en Mango Street

C.R. Corwin – The Unraveling of Violeta Bell

Michael Connelly – The Brass Verdict
Michael Connelly – Lost Light
Michael Connelly – The Black Echo

Christopher Fowler – Seventy-Seven Clocks
Christopher Fowler – The Water Room

Arthur Golden – Memoirs of a Geisha

Daniel Hecht – City of Masks

Keigo Higashino – The Devotion of Suspect X

Arnaldur Indriðason – Hypothermia
Arnaldur Indriðason – Operation Napoleon
Arnaldur Indriðason – Silence of the Grave

Faye Kellerman – Sacred and Profane

William Landay – Mission Flats

Henning Mankell – The Troubled Man
Henning Mankell – The Pyramid and Four Other Kurt Wallander Mysteries

Jo Nesbø – The Devil’s Star
Jo Nesbø – The Redbreast

Håkan Nesser – Mind’s Eye: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery

J.D. Robb – Naked in Death

Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö – Roseanna

Martin Cruz Smith – Stalin’s Ghost
Martin Cruz Smith – Wolves Eat Dogs
Martin Cruz Smith – Gorky Park

2 thoughts on “My Year in Books – Hooked on Noir

  1. I’ve read an assortment of books this year and I think there are a few you might enjoy.
    Actually at the end of last year I read Pillars of the Earth and World Without End by Ken Follett. I was awake many nights until 3am because I couldn’t stop.
    My list for part of this year included: Larsson’s trilogy, Elizabeth Street – Fabiano, The Year of Magical Thinking – Didion, All My Friends Are Gong to be Strangers – McMurtey, The Pregnant Widow – Amis, The Man from Beijing – Mankell, Life – Richards, Marriage Plot, The Night Circus, Rules of Civility: A Novel, the Patti Smith book (loved it) and am now reading Blue Nights – Didion.
    There were a few more but have to find the list. Sadly, I don’t have perfect recall anymore. During these troubled political time I find that I read more magazines – The Progressive, Atlantic, Barron’s – just trying to understand what the hell is going on. I’m going to check out a few book from your list.


  2. Sorry I didn’t get to your comment earlier. — Thanks for the suggestions. I’m always looking for new titles. I read lots of magazines too. That, of course, cuts back on the time for other reading.


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