The Orphan Master's Son: A Novel by Adam Johnson, copyright 2012 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. This is the first novel I've read set primarily in North Korea. Johnson darkly probes the concepts of freedom, individual versus society rights, and safety. There is frequent stark contrast with other cultures, including Japanese, South Korean, and American. In response to a rumor that Americans so love their dogs that they produce specialized dog food, "The idea was shocking to Ga, a cannery dedicated to dogs. 'Not that I saw,' he said."
A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, copyright 2010. There was a strange familiarity as I read it, like coming home, and I came to recognize that portions have been excerpted and printed before. From multiple viewpoints, Egan traces the human condition, family, societal norms, and music across several decades in the United States. One striking quotation: "Kathy's husband, Clay, wore seersucker shorts and a pink Oxford shirt, an ensemble that might have seemed ironic on a different sort of person."
The Lively Art of Writing, by Lucile Vaughan Payne, copyright 1965. I have the urge to ask, "Lucile, how do I condense an elegant well-presented essay into a 140 character tweet." In response, one colleague had the brilliant suggestion to solve the problem with a hyper-link.
This is Rage: A Novel of Silicon Valley and other Madness, by Ken Goldstein, copyright 2013. It is brutal yet retains a disturbing humor as it exposes the valley, loosely akin to how Orphan Master's Son digs into the workings and ruses of North Korea. My quotation is from Kimo Balthazer. Although with more rage than me, he doesn't respect Malcolm Gladwell's work. For me, it is Gladwell's loose case study based research, carefully selected to prove pre-identified points. For Balthazer, "'You want to hear what I think, maybe about Malcolm Gladwell, that endless New Yorker c**p about a tipping point? One paragraph, one blog entry and he turns it into a published book and makes millions--vapid tin pan rubbish masquerading as meditative thought.'"