I’m supposed to do this every time I read a book worth recommending, yet somehow I’ve failed to do it even once this year. So here’s a little catch-up. You are invited to click the links if you want to buy any of these titles; the links take you to Amazon.com, where I get a tiny kickback if you buy anything there (even if it’s not the item you originally clicked on).
“The Final Solution,” by Michael Chabon. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” wrote this novella about an old man in the 1940s who used to be a big-time detective, is now retired, and becomes involved in solving a case. His name is never given, but we understand: It’s Sherlock Holmes. As always, Chabon writes with a tenderness and eloquence that few other modern writers can match. The story is engaging and satisfying, a great joy to read — and a pretty good Sherlock Holmes story, too!
“Oryx and Crake,” by Margaret Atwood. I had this one read to me on CD by actor Campbell Scott on a road trip. It’s a fine novel, set at some point in the near future, where most of humanity has apparently been wiped out and one man, called Snowman, now lives near the beach and is the only connection the new breed of people — strange, peaceful, childlike adults — have to the old world. Through flashback, we learn how it all happened, and how the evil genius behind it was a friend of Snowman’s. It’s a great story, well told by Atwood.
“A Long Way Down,” by Nick Hornby. The “About a Boy” author’s latest novel is about four strangers who meet on New Year’s Eve on the roof of a building known as a popular suicide spot — which is exactly what they were doing up there, only instead they talk each other out of it, sort of, and become this strange confederation of friends. Like all of Hornby’s work, it’s funny and melancholy simultaneously, a real spirit-lifting pleasure.
“Flicker,” by Theodore Roszak. Here is a big, thick mystery for serious lovers of film, about a man who comes to realize that the works of an obscure B-movie director named Max Castle contain subliminal messages and are part of a larger conspiracy. The fictional Max Castle is folded into real-life film history (he’s said to have assisted Orson Welles on “Citizen Kane,” etc.), and the smartly written, deep-thinking novel demonstrates a genuine passion for the production and viewing of movies. (Note: The book’s title appears in all-capital letters on the cover, “FLICKER,” and at a glance, the “L” and “I” next to each other look like a “U.” I saw more than one person on the train do a double-take when they saw me reading it.)