The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway (2009) -apocalyptic sci fi that starts strong, and then veers into flashback for a really good reason you'll learn as you get closer to the end of the book. almost gave up on it, but worth it in the end. Really excellent IF you can stick with it.
Bible Stories for Adults by James Morrow (1996) - cynical short stories, sorta SF in the way that J. G. Ballard was SF: 40% speculation and 50% misanthropy. Will read one of his novels eventually.
South Pacific Skin by Amanda D Fornal (2012) -self-published book ostensibly on the tattoo traditions of Oceania by self-absorbed American documentary filmmaker (or so she says). I haven't seen her film on SP tattoo (if it even exists yet), but why do we need a film AND a book from the same author, especially when the book is more about how crappy the tourist facilities are on remote islands than it is about tattoo?
There are a few bits and pieces of interviews with tattoo artists and some hints of the symbolism in SP tattoo iconography, but the majority of the book is a travelogue about the awesome scuba dives the author took in between interviews, her crushes on men she met while travelling, and how shitty (rats, no electricity) the guesthouses are at remote places that don't get any Western tourists. There are plenty of other books on tattooing in this region written by people that ACTUALLY HAVE TATTOOS (unlike Ms. Fornal) that no one needs to read this, ever.
Finder, King of the Cats - Carla Speed McNeil (2001) another excellent graphic novel by an artist who ought to be "Walking Dead" levels of famous.
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (1949)- American expats/postwar trust fund kids go to Algeria and Morocco in search of some vague cure for ennui and bad stuff happens. Alienating and poetic and I really wish I'd read this at 23 instead of 43. Not disputing it's place in literature, just probably not the best choice for me to read 1/8th of the way through my own expat contract.3 out of 5.
Tropical Depression by Arin Greenwood (2011) Like the protagonist, I am an American woman living and working on an island in the South Pacific. While this is a novel, she really captured the spirit of the joys and frustrations of living on island time in a foreign culture. Probably the best small press/self published (?)debut novel I've ever read. Read this before you take that expat job!
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight (2013) sorta YA novel about a mom trying to come to terms with and figure out the story behind her daughter's death by suicide/accident/murder after high school angst. Nice read, good suspense, not overly cheesy. Good airplane/beach book, would read next by this author.
Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss (2001) As a fan of the Mutter Museum and the circus tradition, I wanted to love this, but the writing just didn't do it for me. Historical fiction that tries to give voice to the idea of "what if you're a conjoined twin and you really despise your brother?" A nice effort with a true backstory that's remarkable, but I just didn't get into it (though I did finish it). 2.75 out of 5.
The Healer: a novel by Antti Tuomainen (2013) - Finnish crime novel about an Earth maybe 40 years from now devastated by climate change with refugees fleeing to Scandinavia for the tolerable weather and a vigilante called "The Healer" killing people indirectly responsible for trashing the planet (greedy CEOs, etc). Started off promising but I was unsatisfied with the end. not bad overall though.
Persepolis 2- the story of a return by Marjane Satrapi (2005) - pretty good, but not excellent, sequel to the amazing Persepolis covers authors high school years in Europe while her family suffers in Iran.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (1987) - somehow I had never read this. would have liked it better had I read it before all the Bale Batman films, but still damn good.
Elders- Ryan McIlvain (2013) Novel about Mormon missionary in Brazil losing faith in the church written by ex-mormon who did his missionary work in Brazil. I guess we can assume some of the novel is autobiographical? Anyway, I liked it, but I don't think many people who are still Mormons would like it. As someone also living in a foreign country, I enjoyed the "fish out of water" descriptions from the lead character.
Nos482 - Joe Hill (2013) Very old school Stephen King-ish, but still really good horror novel about a sort of vampire who whisks children away to Christmasland and feeds on their souls and never ages. I haven't read King in decades but I loved this.
More Women Travel: The Rough Guide, Second Edition (1995)
Anthology of short travel narratives with nothing in common except they were all written by women and were all mostly interesting. Many were extended vacation / "finding myself" while travelling, but there was only one or two that were overly self-indulgent. Recommended-- there are other similar other anthologies from Rough Guides like this one that are also probably as good.
What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank (2005)
One of Paul's books I never read but picked up off the bookshelf to see how it read post-Obama. Obviously weighted in favor of trying to explicate the GW Bush's popularity among people that didn't used to be GOP voters.
Tiger lilies : women adventurers in the South Pacific / Shirley Fenton Huie
Stumbled across this while researching something related. Really interesting. Amazing how many well-to-do Victorian ladies made it out here when there was little infrastructure for them to be travelling without an entourage. Knew that Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife lived in Samoa but didn't know Jack London and his wife also did that "sail around the South Pacific" thing, Probably not of interest to most folks I know, but I really liked it.