Recently I asked Stokes about what he was reading. His reply:
Here are five books I’ve recently read that I think are sensational.Visit Jonathan W. Stokes's website.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Extremely well written, keenly observed, often funny, often poignant, and without a single false note. The plot kept surprising me as well. It was a little experimental (an entire chapter without commas, for instance), but only in ways that served the narrative. Really terrific writing.
The North Water by Ian McGuire. Excellent writing. I mean it's extraordinarily dark, violent, and nihilistic, but ultimately the hero emerges with his morality intact. It's a really terrific depiction of the whaling trade. In tone, it reads like a deeply gritty and less dignified Patrick O'Brian.
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. I thought it was extraordinary. Four strangers all meet on a rooftop with the intention of ending it all...and somehow develop a fascinating and unlikely friendship. Hornby rigorously prevents the narrative from becoming trite or sentimental. And with his usual mix of humor and pathos, he creates a uniquely enjoyable story.
Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. Wonderful. Twain's travelog contains observations and insights on Europe and the Middle East that remain astonishingly modern. Through Twain's lens, Italy, Greece, and Turkey seem remarkably unchanged from 1869. A fantastically informative and entertaining window into the past.
Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Extremely well written portrait of a downtrodden man trying to take control of his life. This book affected my mood for weeks. Russo is like the Tolstoy of small town America, examining the locale from its wealthiest citizens all the way down to its poorest. And like Tolstoy, he seems to show that the drama of human existence - all the trials and tribulations - affect everyone equally. Every life has both triumphs and tragedies.