These are the books I read in August of 2016 –   7 books –   1 nonfiction, 2 science fiction and 3 fiction with one crime (at least it won the Edgar for best debut novel) –   3 were translated   (2 Chinese and 1 Afrikaners) and  1 was by a woman.   Extremely good month!

The Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead
2016 /  308 pages
rating:  9  /  historical fiction (alternative history)

Very clever and nicely written story of the slave quest for freedom as told through the eyes of a runaway slave girl.   The use of a physical underground railroad is a brilliant authorial device here –  never overdone.

The Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
2015 / 348 pages
rating:    9.5 / A –   literary crime 

Winner of many awards (including the Pulitzer and Edgar debut novel) this is brilliantly told story of a young Vietnamese man/refugee and his struggles with both the North and South Vietnamese as well as the Americans in the US.   Very intense.

The Gene: An Intimate History
by Siddhartha Mukherjee
2016/ 608 pages
rating: 9    /  history/science

The history of genetics from Aristotle through  Mendel, Darwin and Nazism to today’s search for control.  I almost never read biology but this was selected for another group and I am actually very glad it was and that I read it.

The Year of the Runaways
by Sunjeev Sahota
2015 / 485 pages (Kindle) 
rating 7.5 /  contemp India

Story of three boys from India and their struggles as illegal immigrants to England where they have different kinds of troubles.  Intense –  short-listed for last year’s Man Booker prize.


The Three-Body Problem
by Liu Cixin
2008 / 399 pages (Kindle)
rating:  A+   / sci-fi 
Book 1 of “Remembrance of Earth Past” – a trilogy – 

Chinese author of old-school science fiction –  hard sci-fiction –  redolent of Isaac Asimov et al,  but necessarily updated in many (!) ways –  if you’re a fan of the old golden era of sci-fi (NOT pulp)  then try it –   .   It starts out during the Cultural Revolution but progresses pretty rapidly.   Good characters for sci-fi.  Slow start but it all gels about 1/2 way through.

The Dark Forest
by Cixin Liu
2008 (tr 2015) / 513 pages
rating A /  science fiction
Book 2 of “Remembrance of Earth Past” – a trilogy – 

This series (see above)  takes place over the course of 400 years with some characters continuing to be active due to hibernation.  The earth is being threatened with annihilation by aliens and it takes all the science man can muster to defeat this foe –  but can he?  –  They can do and appropriate everything (and more)  that mankind does except read minds.  This gives Earth an edge if they can keep secrets.  –   I’m enjoying the books – the Chinese perspective is surprisingly not too much different.  Book 3 comes out Sept 20.

by Marlene van Nierkerk 
2010 / 581 pages
rating 9 / contemp fiction – South Africa
(translated from Afrikaners by  Michiel Heyns)

Wow – in rural South Africa an older woman is paralyzed and bedridden while her maid cares for her.  The maid was taken in by the white woman at the age of about 4  and has lived as such for about 40 years.  The past is recounted as the main story line – compelling.