Barbarian Book Club: August 2017

August was a good month for reading. I managed to finish a bunch of technical books, lots of articles, and the usual daily dose of blog posts. I started reading Macbeth and supplementary material that helps me understand Shakespeare and the time period he wrote in. But most importantly I managed to read a book that jumped to the top of my list for all time favorite.

Noble House.jpgNoble House by James Clavell was an amazing read. A loose sequel to the equally badass Tai-Pan, Noble House is one of the best novels I have ever read. Part historical novel, part thriller, all wrapped up in a family business saga, that takes place over the span of one week in 1963 Hong Kong. Noble House follows Ian Dunross, Tai-Pan of the titular Noble House of Struan founded by Tai-Pan’s Dirk Struan through a week of financial challenges as communists, traitors, spies, market forces, and nature itself become seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It’s amazing how a fantastic writer like Clavell can pack so much action, excitement, and romance into a single novel compared to 21st-century fantasy writers who write epic multi volume works where nothing worth reading happens for entire books. Clavell’s writing is everything that I want out of a novel and I’m really bummed that he passed away before writing more. If you haven’t read any of the Asian Saga stop whatever you are doing and go pick up Shogun, Tai-Pan, and Noble House right now. I loved Tai-Pan and Noble House so much that I even booked a trip to Hong Kong because reading Clavell made me interested in the culture and history of one of the most unique cities in the world.

Call for the Dead by John le Carré. Awhile back I got the urge to read some espionage literature so I asked around for recommendations. The obvious answer was to read le Carré so I picked up his first book and the first appearance of his famous character Smiley. Call for the Dead isn’t really an espionage novel, it’s more of a murder mystery with spies but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Smiley is a great character, a realistic anti Bond. He’s fat, frumpy, plain, and extremely erudite. It’s almost boring and pedestrian to


picture him but that’s kind of the point of being a spy, you have to blend in, be boring, not stand out in a crowd. I enjoyed the book and will eventually move on to the later Smiley novels, specifically the one that takes place in Hong Kong.

Tilt-a-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein. This one was a bit of a wild card, I picked it up for free on a recommendation from Misha Burnett and read it over the weekend. It was a fun buddy cop detective story that takes place in a sunny Jersey Shore town filled with quirky quaint stores and carnival attractions. The main character is an Iraq war veteran, Detective Ceepak, who lives by a squared away moral code and perfectionist military lifestyle while being followed around by the narrator who is a young part-time police man working the force for the summer. A murder occurs, the solution is predictable, but the characters were fun and the writing was good and crisp. Fun book, nowhere near the level of Jo Nesbo or Tana French, but overall enjoyable, even if it felt like the pilot episode of a new police show.tiltawhirl.jpg

I’m not sure what I’m going to read in September. I’m kind of in a Horror or Detective mood, so I might go back to some Northern Noir and continue reading through Jo Nesbo’s Hole series. I also have so much sitting unread on my Kindle so I might make a push of reading through my pile before buying anything new.

4 thoughts on “Barbarian Book Club: August 2017

    1. I read Shogun when I first moved to Japan. Found it really cool that I was living in the same area that the novel takes place and where the historical basis for the character actually landed. Also there’s a whole area called Anjinsuka here and a memorial to William Adams. But, I read Tai-Pan after and love that novel even more.

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