With pandemic relief on the horizon, I find my reading proclivities to be all over the place. I have moments of hope, panic, and exhaustion. Sometimes a thriller provides a great escape, while sometimes fiction is less nerve jangling. Bit by bit, my attention span is returning, allowing me to focus on book with a little more heft. Happy Reading! Take advantage of any extra time you might have and revel in it.
Hanna Jameson’s “The Last” may cut a little too close to home for those overwhelmed by Covid. For me, it was heaven diving into the writer’s post-apocalyptic world, set in a Swiss hotel, with twenty bewildered survivors.
Rumaan Alam’s “Leave the World Behind” turned out to be one of my favorite Coronavirus reads. This subtle tale of class and race takes many unexpected turns as two families get thrown together unexpectedly, just as the world turns upside down.
The earth has been choked with pollution, in Diane Cook’s “The New Wilderness,” and people are dying at an alarming rate, especially children. When the State offers an escape, Bea jumps at the opportunity - but the chance at salvation comes with its own steep price. Riveting.
There aren’t a whole lot of rural noirs, along the lines of “Winter’s Bone,” and “Deliverance” and I think I like all of them. “The Captive,” by Fiona King Foster, adds an end-of-the-world intensity and a female narrator to the mix, resulting in an exhilarating tale.
Suzie Yang’s “White Ivy” tells the story of an Asian-American girl torn between American life and the pressures of growing up with immigrant parents. Fantastically insightful while also delivering pure thrills, this novel strikes an original chord.
“The Other Mrs.” takes you deep into the heart of a small town in Maine filled with secrets. Mary Kubica’s take on murder combines domestic and psychological drama to perfection.
Escape to Tom Clancy’s world of “Shadow of the Dragon” and find yourself satisfied on all levels. The newest Jack Ryan tale draws some remarkable parallels to our current world of mayhem.
Jane Harper’s “The Survivors,” set in Australia, turns the sunniness of a small vacation town on its head. First a body, then an innumerable amount of secrets wash up on shore.
Gregg Hurwitz is turning into one of those writers with a reliably prolific slate of books that come out like clockwork and can be read in a jiffy. “Prodigal Son” is the 6th book in the Orphan X series and reads like wildfire.
Maria Semple’s “Today Will Be Different” envelops you in the exact comic tone you need to make it through your week. Even if you have a sinking feeling that the days of your life will continue to be the same, at least laughter will help get you through.
The best book to be written about nature since “The Giving Tree,” Richard Powers’ “The Overstory” is a monumental, transcendent work that in its decades-spanning narratives illuminates the human experience in the grand scheme of things.
Echoing the free spirited and warm-hearted “Enchanted April, “Narrowboat Summer,” by Anne Youngson, follows three women intent on reinvention. Charming and cozy, this novel is as warm as a hearth fire.
“Good Eggs,” by Rebecca Hardiman, keeps the family crisis coming, as the knocks don’t let up. Luckily, the adversity weaves together perfectly, to bring the once foundering characters toward love, acceptance and second chances.
Kristin Hannah has flourished into a very successful author, with her books, like “Firefly Lane” turning up as Netflix series. Her latest novel, set in the depression, provides a terrific sounding board for our contemporary malaise.
Scott Spencer’s “An Ocean Without A Shore” replicates all the steamy intensity of his brilliant “Endless Love.” Chock full of lust and longing and unrequited passion, Spencer’s novel is
Jeff VanderMeer scored legions of new fans with his “Southern Reach Trilogy” (and the movie “Annihilation"), but his weirdly imaginative work has been a mainstay in the speculative fiction field for decades. The beautiful new omnibus “Ambergris” brings together his two novels and story collection set in the bizarre titular metropolis.
Rocked by scandal, Cass, in “We Play Ourselves,” by Jen Silverman, flees her life for a new one in Los Angeles. But, as we all know, running away alway brings its own challenges.
A feminist western, “Outlawed,” by Anna North, provides a parallel experience of life on the range. All of the tropes of guns and heists and horses come in a shiny new package, bursting with vigor and a renewed energy that the genre sometimes lacks.
“The Truants,” by Kate Weinberg echoes the great Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History.” Murder on a college campus always satisfies.
Sue Miller’s “Monogomy” delves into family drama with secrets and lies aplenty. If you’ve ever wondered what happens after “happily ever after,” this novel get into the nitty gritty.
“The Kindest Lie,” by Nancy Johnson, pries open Pandora’s Box. Johnson writes with aplomb about the deceits that keep us functioning, but maybe darken our souls in insidious ways we fail to recognize. The book manages to be both chilling and compassionate, with the relief of forgiveness.
“My Sister the Serial Killer,” by Oyinkan Braithwaite is one of the most original books I have ever had the pleasure to read. The story focuses on Korede, a nurse in Nigeria, as she grapples with her sister’s impulse control issues, and by impulse control, I mean she can’t stop murdering people.
Julia Fine’s “The Upstairs House” is a modern ghost story. This is my favorite kind of haunting where the psychological mixes with the scares and the line between them blurs. Read it on a rainy spring evening with the lights out.
Intrigue, fraud and false identity play in to Alexandra Andrews, “Who is Maud Dixon.” When the protagonist, Florence Darrow, stumbles into the life she always wanted, she finds it impossible to do the right thing. This is one of those stories where you can’t help but imagine what you would do if you found yourself in the same situation.
Jeff Tweedy’s “How to Write One Song” brings you into the singer’s creative process. An acclaimed musician, and member of Wilco and Tupelo Honey, the singer’s insight and support might be just what you need to get started.
“Just Eat,” by Barry Estabrook comes with a recommendation from Ruth Reichl, which is all I need. The author takes an investigative approach to diets and shatters many conventional wisdoms in the process.
From Shakespeare to Pixar to video games, writer-instructor Daniel Joshua Rubin draws on great narratives spanning centuries and genres to break down what exactly makes a good tale tick in the “27 Essential Principles of Story”. Direct and concise, the guide is sure to get the wheels turning for any would-be scribe.
Perhaps no other current American writer has been as synonymous with the short story as George Saunders. In his “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain”, he offers lucky readers the chance to sit in on the course he has long taught on the subject at Syracuse. Delving into the Russian masters, Saunders inspires readers and writers alike as he leads you through these timeless works.
“Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian “(Season 1) will absolute thrill fans - and these days who isn’t one? If you can’t get to Disneyland - and these days who can? - immerse yourself in the Galaxy through these pages.
Maja Safstrom’s “Animals of a Bygone Era” makes a fantastic gift for just about anyone. The gorgeous illustrations of extinct animals, like the giant sloth, and the Tasmanian tiger are incredibly poignant.
“Under the Olive Tree,” by Anna Maggio, makes a great present for anyone who likes to travel, likes Italy, and likes food. Is there anyone who doesn’t like these things? Evocative and chock-full of recipes, read it and be transported.
“Everything is Fine,” by Vince Granata, recounts the heartbreaking story of his brother’s schizophrenia and subsequent murder of their mother in the throes of psychosis. Granata manages a delicate balance of insight without exploitation.
A book to give your best friend, Laura Lee’s “A History of Scars” tells it like it is. Almost too intimate, Lee tells stories of her heartbreaking childhood, linking them to her current self and her struggles with her own mental health.
Sometimes a book of essays is about all my brain can focus on at the moment. Gabrielle Korn’s “Everybody (Else) is Perfect” is by turns funny and vulnerable, covering a range of topics, from social media to sexuality.
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