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Books & Authors Print

I put this list together for anyone who needs a recommendation for a good book. Remember, this is all my opinion, but numerous friends will agree with me.

I used to work feverishly on my laptop while on airplanes, trying to get maximum output for each minute of travel time. I came to my senses a number of years ago and now finish my computer work while in my hotel room so that I can reserve my travel time for reading. It's one of the luxuries that I think travelers deserve--quality time with a good book.

In general, I prefer mysteries. Like most people, I have some favorite authors and when I discover a new one, I set about procuring all the books by that author so I can read them at my leisure. One of my first mystery writer "discoveries" was Michael Connelly, who used to cover the crime beat for the Los Angeles Times. I read a review about him in the L. A. Times Calendar section on mysteries back in the mid 90s and tried one of his books and loved it. I've read them all now and have learned about other authors through friends.

There is a wonderful Web site for mystery lovers located here that will suggest authors if you like a certain other author: "If you like Michael Connelly, try Dennis Lehane and John Wessel." That sort of thing. It's a great resource when you run out of things to read.

I also have a Notes page in the Notes section of Outlook (and therefore on my iPhone, too) titled "Books To Consider" in which I make note of book reviews and authors that look interesting. Being a Costco junkie, I usually pick up the latest paperback I'm waiting for while shopping there. However, when I have the misfortune to run out of reading material while on the road, I can take my iPhone, go to the nearest book store and buy a book I can be pretty sure I'll enjoy.

Another tip, especially if you read at home: use your local library! It's a good way to find some books that are out of print.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite authors and some of the why. If they have a Web site, there is a link associated with their name. And yes, I have read all of John Grisham's books and I do enjoy them. I'm just assuming that the same holds true for you.

Michael Connelly
Among the best there is. A recurring character, Detective Harry Bosch, figures in the series but he has written several books that do not feature Bosch. As good as the Bosch books are, my favorites are "Void Moon", "The Poet", "The Lincoln Lawyer", "The Brass Verdict" and "The Scarecrow", none of which are part of the series, although Harry does figure in "The Brass Verdict".

Robert Parker
For years he didn't have a Web site but put one together that was interesting and personal. Creator of the Spenser series of private-eye novels that became a TV series staring Robert Urich. Spenser has been around since 1973 and the series is a wonderful bunch of quick reads involving the smart-ass, tough-guy P. I. Spenser from Boston. His relationship with his lady friend, Susan Silverman is woven into the books wonderfully. I love this stuff. Unfortunately, Parker passed away in January 2010.

Robert Crais
My friend Art Litman was in a bookstore some time ago with a Michael Connelly book in his hand, looking for other stuff to read, when a woman came up and handed him an Elvis Cole novel and said, "If you like Connelly, you'll like Crais, too." She was right. Great books, with Elvis Cole every bit as sarcastic, urbane, witty and cool as Spenser. Didn't take me long to sail through this author's books--they're really enjoyable. There are several books outside the series, including "Hostage", which was made into a movie with Bruce Willis in the starring role.

Dennis Lehane
I've forgotten how I learned about Dennis Lehane but I told Art about him and we both devoured the series in no time. Gritty, hard-boiled detective books, with a terrific male/female P.I. partnership figuring in the series. "Mystic River" isn't part of the series but was a great book and was filmed by Clint Eastwood with great success. "Shutter Island" is also not part of the series and was a great book.

John Sandford
Writer of the Lucas Davenport "Prey" series that takes place in the Twin Cities. Police detective mysteries, sometimes gruesome, always enjoyable, sprinkled throughout with Davenport's acerbic wit. Another series, featuring Kidd and LuEllen, is equally enjoyable, where Kidd is an accomplished artist and software guru teamed up with LuEllen, who is a thief. We identify and cheer for them, despite what they do. Sandford is one of the best writers alive--his prose is concise, his plots are well woven and it's a genuine pleasure to read his work.

Lee Child
Author of the Jack Reacher series about an ex-Army military policeman who is now a drifter. It may sound odd, but Child writes very well and the stories are well woven and engrossing. Start with "The Killing Floor", which was the first in the series. Highly recommended.

Vince Flynn
Writes a terrific spy/terrorist/action series involving CIA operative Mitch Rapp. I've read them all and have enjoyed them all. If you haven't read any of these books, you should start at the beginning for continuity. The writing improves with each book and I always enjoy the stories.

Patricia Cornwell
Featuring Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta from the Commonwealth of Virginia, I first learned about her in the mid 90s, starting with "Postmortem", the first in the series. As usual, I started reading them all. Murder mysteries featuring a series of recurring supporting characters, they're intelligently written, authoritative books that are always a pleasure. Patricia Cornwell is, in fact, a medical examiner. Her last few books have been really creepy so I found them somewhat less enjoyable than the beginning of the series.

Nelson DeMille
"The Gold Coast" was the first of his books that I read, started on the way to one of our family trips to Maui. I'd say that I couldn't put it down, but on Maui, I did find a few other things to do. But Maui provides great reading territory and the book was great. I picked up "The Charm School" next and remember coming to the end of the book as I was landing at LAX one night with only 20 pages to go. I couldn't stand it, so I went into The Red Carpet Club to finish the book. This guy writes great books--there just isn't any other way to say it--with sarcasm and humor that no one can match. "The Lion's Game" is fabulous and quite timely. "The General's Daughter" was better than the movie (most books are) and "Up Country" is a sequel to it. Anyway, just trust me--they're usually pretty long (800 pages or so) but you won't even notice.

Michael Crichton
Not a mystery writer, per se, but he wrote the most interesting stuff. Very thought-provoking, they frequently deal with a timely issue of concern. For example, "Jurassic Park", the wonderful dinosaur book, arose out of his concern over genetic engineering and the lack of control thereof. A doctor by education and training, he had serious scientific credentials and so knew what he was talking about. (Unfortunately, he passed away in 2008 from cancer.) All of his books are really, really good and worth reading. Many of his books have been made into great movies. "Congo", which was a great book, was made into the most asinine excuse for a movie ever perpetrated on the public. Laura Linney, who is a fine actress, had the misfortune to play a leading role. Had the movie even remotely resembled the book, it would have been great. The dodos who are responsible for turning "Congo" into the execrable movie it became should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. But that's just my opinion...

Thomas Perry
This fellow writes fabulous books. Jennifer and I really enjoy the Jane Whitefield series, about a Native American woman who is a "guide"--someone who helps others in trouble disappear. I've read them all, of course, and will be interested to see how the movie "The Guide" pans out. It will star Halle Berry in the Jane Whitefield role, but I'm not sure how well it will follow the story line of the series. "The Butcher's Boy" (his first novel) and "Sleeping Dogs" were the first two of his books that I read and, while not part of the Jane Whitefield series, they're also excellent.

Steve Martini
I picked up a copy of "Compelling Evidence" while in Washington, DC in 1993. It was the first of the Paul Madriani series, he being a lawyer in Sacramento who has since moved to San Diego. It's a great book, as are all the others, and I zipped through it in no time. I passed it on to Art, who has now read the series, too. We highly recommend this fellow.

Sue Grafton
Author of the alphabet series ("A is for Alibi", "B is for Burglar", etc.) featuring the gutsy lady private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Like the Spenser books, they're terrific, quick reads that are well written and deal in real-life terms with sarcastic Kinsey, her foibles, and her cases. Yes, I've read them all, and if you haven't yet, you should think about it.

John Dunning
He hasn't written that many books, but they sure are great. Art gave me "Two O'Clock Eastern War Time" several years ago; it's a fascinating book about radio shows during World War II, spun around a mystery. One of those great books through which you learn something while being entertained incredibly well. "Deadline" is one of my favorite books, being a great story that pulls together different stories that merge through the career of a reporter. "Booked To Die" features Cliff Janeway, a Denver policeman, and introduces you to the book trade. "The Bookman's Wake" is the sequel and "The Bookman's Promise" came out in March, 2004, followed by "The Sign of the Book" and "The Bookwoman's Last Fling". Dunning writes very, very well, and his books are great reads. Great stuff and highly recommended.

Mark Mills
He has only written four books as of 2012, but the three that I've read are among my favorites. He's an English scriptwriter, with several movie and TV credits to his name, and he writes very, very well. Dialogue flows off the page and wraps you up in the story and the storytelling is incredibly good. His first book, "Amagansett" was a New York Times bestseller and I loved it. I read his second book, "The Savage Garden", while we were on Kauai in 2008 and I loved it, too. "The Information Officer", about Malta in WWII, was also terrific. They're all in paperback now and you will do yourself a BIG favor by picking them up and reading them now.

Barry Eisler
His recurring character is John Rain, half-Japanese, half-American, a professional assassin whose specialty is making his contract killings appear to be deaths from natural causes. Rain is formerly a CIA operative in Japan and is knowledgeable about single malt Scotch whisky, which is why I was drawn to the series. I've read four of them, and they're worth a try.  He's hyper-liberal, so I don't care for his personal views, but his books haven't offended me.

Loren Estleman
He has several series but the one with which I'm familiar is the Amos Walker series. Walker is a gritty, hard-boiled private investigator from Detroit, with the attitude and humor that I enjoy. Definitely worth reading.

Daniel Silva
"The Messenger" came out in 2006 and his character is Gabriel, an Israeli operative who is also an assassin, and a professional art restorer. I sympathize with his character and his motives and I learn something about art in each book. Silva also writes very well, with finely crafted prose and well thought-out plots.

Jeffrey Ford
I read "The Girl In The Glass" while Sue and I were on Kauai in early 2008 and I really enjoyed it. I learned about him through the Mystery Book Store in Westwood, CA, which was a wonderful place to learn about and read good mysteries. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book about times long past that was well written and a pleasure with which to spend some time. I'm going to try some more of his stuff.

Bill Bryson
"the mother tongue" (see below) was the first of his books that I read and I loved it so I continue to buy more. He writes very well, in concise, proper and readable form and everything I've read by Bill Bryson has been a real pleasure to read. Many of his books involve travel but "A Short History of Nearly Everything" won awards for best science book of the year in 2005. In it, Bryson tells the story of science through the stories of the people who made discoveries, such as Edwin Hubble, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and many others. The book relates time from the formation of the universe, explaining the Big Bang and other phenomena. It's a wonderful book. "In A Sunburned Country" will teach you more about Australia than any other travel or history book. Trust me--you need to read these books.

Now, if you're interested in reading a good book that isn't part of any of these series, I heartily recommend these:

The Africans. I started it before we left for Africa, and finished it when Sue and I were on Kauai in March, 2008. It's written well and will help you understand why African countries almost never succeed in governing themselves.

The Arabs. It will help you try to understand why they are the way they are and why we don't get along.

the mother tongue. What a great book. All about "English and how it got that way."