I read Tim Hallinan's THE QUEEN OF PATPONG a couple of weeks ago. it's far and away the best book I've read in at least a year, maybe longer. It doesn't release until August or September, so make a note.
I post pretty regularly on the "What are you reading?" thread. True, that's a somewhat mixed bag, but I make it a point to praise those books that gave particular pleasure. Offhand, currently (I dip in and out of this book) it's Hilary Mantel's WOLF HALL that pleases and makes me think about the possibilities inherent in historical fiction. My "Whoa!" reading tends to be the kind I can learn from.
You say that like it's a bad thing, IJ. The man was a genius--of course he was a self-important bastard! La Commedia is probably the greatest poem ever written--it's a work of extraordinary audacity and accomplishment, technically, imaginatively, and in terms of the enormity of its ambition. Perhaps the best part is that Dante's enemies are remembered by name now, 700 years later, only because Dante sunk them in rivers of shit in The Inferno. It's truly the ultimate revenge.