Book cover
The Sand Pebbles
Richard McKenna

This book is on my list and I can’t for the life of me remember how it got there. But still, I’m glad it did. I knew absolutely nothing about it going in. Based only on the name I expected something more philosophical. What I got was a kind of story I adore: A deep and sometimes obsessive dive into one little nook of the human experience (in this case, life on an early 20th century gunboat) wrapped up in an intense, character-driven story.

In a way it reminded me of Nevil Shute’s On The Beach—one of my favorite novels—in the minutia and the introspective protagonist. I wouldn’t say The Sand Pebbles is as good (to me) as that, but it is very good.

Content warning: this book (authentically) portrays major anti-Chinese racism in its characters.

It’s a book that made me sit quietly and think for some time after I finished.