Here is a list of my favorite contemporary novels.


Affliction, Russell Banks
Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, John Derbyshire
Enduring Love, Ian McEwan
A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Last Crossing, Guy Vanderhaeghe
Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
Morality Play, Barry Unsworth
A Soldier of the Great War, Mark Helprin
Atonement, Ian McEwan
Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Case of Curiosities, Allen Kurzweil
Postcards, Annie Proulx
Imperium, Robert Harris
The Hollow Land, Jane Gardam


The Innocent, Ian McEwan
Restless, by William Boyd
A Perfect Spy, by John LeCarre
The Debt to Pleasure, John Lanchester
Reversible Errors, by Scott Turow
Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem
The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst (and all of Furst's other books; Spies of the Balkans is most recent, and very good)


Rose, by Martin Cruz Smith
The Draining Lake, by Arnaldur Indridason
The Big Picture, by Douglas Kennedy (a suspense tale with a photography theme); made into a movie that takes place in Paris and, I think, Croatia, with quite a different ending.
The Last Kashmiri Rose, Barbara Cleverly (a very nice historical mystery about Bengal)
Unbecoming, Rebecca Scherm. A mystery about art that takes place in Tennessee and Europe with some nice surprises.


The Spy and the Traitor, by Ben Macintyre; a gripping account of the story of Oleg Gordievsky. I couldn’t put it down. Well-written and historically important.

The Saboteur: The Aristocrat Who Became France’s Most Daring Anti-Nazi Commando, by Paul Kix. An absorbing story about the role played by young Robert de La Rochefoucauld in the French resistance during WWII. There are several asides on the attitudes of De Gaulle and others and overall it gives a fascinating picture of France in this horrible time.

In the Enemy’s House: The Secret Saga of the FBI Agent and the Code Breaker Who Caught the Russian Spies, by Howard Blum. Lots of fascinating information about the Rosenberg spy ring and their capture by the FBI.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. A little known  episode in the history of the relationships between natives (Osage Indians), locals (Oklahomans), and the US government.

The Hard Road West, by Keith Meldahl (2007); his description of geology of American West is unsurpassed.

In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson; a description of the service in Berlin of the US Ambassador, Dodd, focusing on him and the interesting life of his daughter. Well researched, full of interesting detail of those pre-war years.

Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, by Richard Wrangham (2009). An excellent, scholarly, and thought-provoking collection of ideas related to cooking and human evolution.

A Voyage Long and Strange, by Tony Horwitz (2008, excellent, except for his reference to the hoax of the Kensington Runestone (e.g., he mentions the falsehood that the discoverer was a stonemason); I believe the evidence is overwhelming that it is completely legitimate).

The Wild Trees, by Richard Preston; a superb description of the giant redwoods of northern California, an amazing collection of beautiful trees.

After the Ice Age: The Return of Life to Glaciated North America, by Edith Pielou (1991; maybe out of print)

Operation Mincemeat, by Ben McIntyre; a modern account of the famed WWII story of The Man Who Never Was. Well written, superb story and characters.

The Kensington Runestone: Approaching a Research Question Holistically, by Alice Beck Kehoe. An account of the arguments about the Kensington Runestone. I have gone to see it and I think the arguments against its authenticity are all very week. It is a remarkable artifact, and it is somewhat cool that it sits in a modest museum in Alexandria, Minnesota. Vikings were here.

Play It Again, by Alan Rusbridger. Probably this is only of interest to those who play the piano, but for me I found it inspiring to see how the author balanced his busy career (editor of The Guardian) with his desire to play the difficult Ballade No. 1 by Chopin.

Created with the Wolfram Language