Brendan Ryan's Book Review




Friends who like reading enjoyable books, 

Just over two months ago I sent out a bookletter that varied from our norm of mysteries and thrillers. Instead, I focused on the 28 books that I most enjoyed reading over the past 40 or even 50 years. Happily, I can say that that version was one of the most successful bookletters ever. Certainly, based on the responses I received. And I think it was successful for the same reasons I very much enjoyed writing it. It caused many of us to reflect back over the years and be reminded of books that truly were enjoyed by each of us, many from years ago. And also served to bring to the attention of many, some great books they had not yet read. So good for me and good for you. 

Now as you may recall in that bookletter, I made the offer to everyone that if you would like to submit ONE book that you greatly enjoyed along with the author and your name as and if you wished to be credited, I would send a follow-up letter. And hence, this letter. 

Now perhaps in keeping with the topsy-turvy nature of the world we live in, following directions would appear not to be high on the list of you all. The idea was one book, one author, no mysteries/thrillers. Well, some interpreted that as their 20 most favorite books, while others said, “Here’s my fiction favorites, my non-fiction favorites. Here are my three favorites” etc. etc. And of course, many, actually the majority, said “No thanks, I’m happy to just read your list.” All good. And of course, there were a couple who said, “Here’s the title and author but don’t put my name in the letter”. Witness Protection, perhaps? Who knows. But we comply. 

Before printing the list, a couple of observations. The most favorite author not included on my own list was Robert Caro. And actually, The Power Broker by him is certainly one of my own favorites as well. But he clearly has a big following. In some other cases, authors whom I included such as James Clavell and Tai-pan were superseded by “my favorite was Shogun.” Fair enough. And as you will see, many of the books are by very big-time authors. Happily, there are also several whom I have never heard of but whom I shall pursue. I think we all had fun doing this. And so it is with pleasure that I now pass on to you all, without further commentary, “The list of most favorite reads not included on my 28 but appreciated by readers of the bookletter.” 

I hope you enjoy them. And I do hope that where I have chosen from a handful of books by a respondent I chose “the right one.” And hopefully, I did not blow anyone’s cover who wanted to remain anonymous. I also apologize if I somehow “lost” your suggestion. Absolutely not intentional. And absolutely random order of presentation. Enjoy. 


Angle of Repose | Wallace Stegner | Jim Normile

Charlotte Simmons | Tom Wolfe | Evy

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers | Katherine Boo | Tony Nacinovich

The Years of Lyndon Johnson (4) | Robert Caro | Bob Howe

A Short History of Nearly Everything | Bill Bryson | Bill

Mistress of the Art of Death | Ariana Franklin | Holly Conroy

Anna Karenina | Leo Tolstoy | Helen Everts

The Blind Assassin | Margaret Atwood | Stewart Pearson

The Poinsonwood Bible | Barbara Kingsolver | Karen Sauder

Catch-22 | Joseph Heller | Jack Barnosky

Shogun | James Clavell | Steve Koch

Undaunted Courage | Stephen Ambrose | Kimberly Till

The Power Broker | Robert Caro | Tim Croak

Birdsong | Sebastian Faulks | Chris Kyme

The Narrow Road to the Deep North | Richard Flanagan | John Penberthy

Passage of Power | Robert Caro | Tim O’Connor

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Gail Honeymoon | Claudia

Laupmanis Stoner | John Williams | Chris Bril

Lee – The Last Years | Charles Bracelen | Flood Anon.

The Rules of Civility | Amor Towles | Doreen Muncie

Pillars of the Earth | Ken Follett | Larry Cole

Malgudi School Days R.K. Narayan | Ambi

The Luck of Huemac | Daniel Peters | Steve Hilbert

Gone With The Wind | Margaret Mitchell | Karen Boxer

The Right Stuff | Tom Wolfe | Bob Beck 

The Moonstone | Wilkie Collins | Bob Bramson

I, Robot | Issac Asimov | Jules Fine

Long Walk to Freedom | Nelson Mandela | Mary Gavin

Gaudy Night | Dorothy Sayers | John McCarthy

One Few Over the Cuckoo’s Nest | Ken Kesey | Vinny Freaney

Ringolevio | Emmett Grogan | Jim Rowbotham

Ironweed | William Kennedy | Gordon Hasse

All the Light We Cannot See | Anthony Doer | Don Gruhn

Leaving Berlin | Joseph Kanon | Allen Adler

East of Eden | John Steinbeck | Rona Saadeh

Genghis – Birth of an Empire | Conn Iggulden | Johan Cramer

Trinity | Leon Uris | Mike Walsh

Pillars of the Earth | Ken Follett | Susan Kilgallen

Scenlin Acends | Josiah Bancroft | Charles Hopkins

A Perfect Spy | John Le Carre | David Reid

Trinity | Leon Uris | Bill McDonough

The Power Broker | Robert Caro | Bob King

Confessions of Nat Turner | William Styron | Matt McNerney

Confederacy of Dunces | John Kennedy O’Toole | Maureen McCaffrey

My Life with Picasso | Francoise Gilot | Howard Lewis

Bread and Wine | Ignazio Silone | Mel Sokotch

To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee | Bonnie Ammer

The Red Fox | Anthony Hyde | Tony Outhwaite

Chesapeake | James Michener | Diana Vought

Marathon Man | William Goldman | Barry Smit

Flashman and the Redskins | George Macdonald Fraser | Dr. Bob

So that is our list. Some very fine books for sure. And not a bad response although when one considers about 1000 people read this bookletter, certainly nothing to have a victory dance about. And I can’t resist adding two more books of my own which probably should’ve been on my top 28. And they are both by a French author named Jean Larteguy and are titled The Centurions and The Praetorians. Just brilliant books which I completely forgot. 

Back to a “normal” bookletter “shortly”....and maybe, just maybe, I will do the summary of the 76 (and counting) mystery/thriller series with continuing characters. 

Enjoy the New Year...the Asian one of course !! Brendan 

January 14, 2020