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Reading and Writing

Reading and writing are passions that have consumed a significant part of my life. First, it was the technical writing associated with two academic careers, laboratory medicine and marine biology. This included appointments at City College, the American Museum of Natural History, University of Mississippi, University of South Alabama, Crater Lake National Park, and the Oregon Institute of Technology. Fieldwork occurred in Texas, South Carolina, Oregon, and Bermuda. In 1999-2000, I received a nine-month Fulbright Fellowship to Russia. After many years of teaching and technical writing, I retired in 2013. Finally, I acquired the time to create what I had always enjoyed reading—fiction. I hope to continue with the joys and frustrations of literary production for the duration, whatever that may be. 

Here is my current list of favorite books, ones I highly recommend, among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others.

  • Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck. Perhaps not his best or most-noted, but I consider them his most delightful. These made me a fan for life.

  • Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough by Robin Sloan. This has everything: mystery, puzzle, unforgettable characters, and my favorite settings (book stores and the Bay Area)

  • Stone Mattress and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. All of her fiction is superb, but the first, a collection of nine short stories is precise and unnerving. The second is her sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, worth waiting all these years for.

  • Orange World and Other Stories and Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell. She writes fantastic novels as well, but her short stories are delicious and beautiful. Wish I could write like her!

  • The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson. I could list hundreds of favorite science fiction stories, but this one represents the sheer audacity, scope, and inventiveness of a great and epic story.

  • The Stories of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende. I have always been drawn to magical realism and that light touch of mysticism so well represented in the works of Fuentes, Garcia Marquez and others. Allende is one of the very best.

  • The Scar by China Miéville. No modern writer does the combination of gothic horror and futuristic dystopia better. He produces an amazing diversity of books. Check him out!

  • The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle. I have always liked T.C. Boyle's short stories, but this novel, presenting the contrast between yuppie L.A. and the immigrants struggling to find a better life is one of his best. Not an easy read if you are sensitive to injustices imposed on others.

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. The film didn't do this ribald classic justice and Heller, in my opinion, was never able to recapture the magic in his subsequent novels, but this is one of the great ones, deserving of a re-reading at any time.

  • The Cider House Rules by John Irving. I was a big fan of Irving's earlier works. They were fast and funny and they were poignant. This coming of age tale contains all of the wonder and mystery of discovering life's arbitrary absurdity.

  • Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell. He writes, horror, science fiction, and historical drama, all with superb craftsmanship and presentation.

  • José Builds a Woman by Jan Baross. Magical realism set in Mexico, a most unusual story. She also writes travel books, is a photographer, and a filmmaker. I am looking forward to a collection of coming-of-age short stories by her in the near future.



Other favorite fiction authors include Mikhail Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita), Isaac Asimov (I, Robot), Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), E. Annie Proulx (The Shipping News and many hard-hitting short story collections), Brian Aldiss (Hothouse), Orson Scott Card (the Homecoming series), William Cook (the Driftwood mysteries), Stevan Allred (The Alehouse at the End of the World), H.G. Wells (The Time Machine), Frank Herbert (Dune), J.K. Rowling (Harry and Gang), Philip Pullman (Dust and Dark Materials novels), John Updike (Witches of Eastwick), and, as I indicated, thousands of others.

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