A Bend in the River - V.S. Naipaul

I have admittedly read very little African literature. Yet I feel as though this book seemed to capture the essence of the countries repeatedly torn apart by civil war. The main character is a man who comes to a village to run a store and make his way in the world. He arrives right after a war has finished that destroyed the economy of the village. There is a period of rebuilding and prosperity that is merely illusory and then is crushed again under another war. The man sees his investment grow and then shrink. He makes and loses friends and lovers. All because of the stress of the rebellions and impending wars. Eventually he leaves and goes to Europe. The feeling you get from the book is that no matter how hard you try to build a life for yourself, it will be taken from you and the only way to build a life is to leave Africa. But even when you leave, you cannot escape.

Arrowsmith - Sinclair Lewis

I thought that a book about someone devoted to science would be incredibly boring. To the contrary, it was very interesting to read about Arrowsmith whose dedication to science was more poignant because of his enormous flaws in other areas of his life. He was in part responsible for the death of his first wife and completely responsible for the destruction of his second marriage. In the end he runs off to the woods with his colleague to investigate "phage" turning his back on his wife and child. Yet despite this, he remains noble. After reading the book you both like and despise arrowsmith which is an uncommon feeling at the end of a book.

Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy

An illustration of the worst of human behavior. It follows a kid as he joins with a group that hires out as Indian killers and then goes on a killing raping pillaging spree across the desert. The story seems to really be about a character named "the judge" who initially appears as a sort of renaissance outlaw, but as the book progresses the judge progresses from Renaissance man to sociopath.