This is a bonus month for non-fiction lovers.
This first book is somewhat controversial because the author refuses to say which parts are fiction, if any. “Homeland Elegies” by Ayad Akhtar has generated significant interest. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner for a previous play so certainly has street cred, but I personally found this book to be confusing with a lack of plot or continuous thread. I still strongly recommend it as the book does provoke discussion of the Muslim/immigrant experience in our country. Please read for yourself.
“The Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez Mississippi” by British author Richard Grant is an eye-opening look at the culture of the deep South. This is a dispassionate, straightforward telling of the history of a classic Southern town and how the culture developed and thrives, or doesn’t. As with all good Southern storytelling, this is entertaining as well as revealing.
I love a good procedural book, movie or series and “Unspeakable Acts” by Sarah Weinman looks back at multiple true crimes you are probably well aware of, but evaluates them from a new perspective often with new details about the perpetrators as well as the victims. A lively read and does not dwell on gore.
For a far lighter read, “Upstairs at the White House” by the late J.B West, former head butler, is a terrific inside look at how the White House runs and how the apolitical staff handle carrying out the wishes of various administrations. It is striking how hard previous First Couples from both parties worked in their roles. An excellent complement to the CNN series on First Ladies.
If you are a foodie, which I am decidedly not, you know David Chang of Momofuku restaurants and his Netflix series “Delicious Ugly.” His memoir, “Eat a Peach,” tells how he went from high school golf phenom to aspiring restaurateur to culinary royalty. The food part never interests me as much as the business side, but both are engaging. The underlying story is really the struggle with his constantly simmering rage.
Moving to fiction, “The Devil and the Dark Water” is an ambitious tale combining “Treasure Island” and Sherlock Holmes. Author Stuart Turton is an exceptionally talented writer whose prose is so evocative of a ship at sea in 1634 you will taste the salt and smell the bilge. This story propels you right to the last sentence.
You have probably heard about “Leave the World Behind” by Rumaan Alam as it has been optioned for a movie with Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. It is a contemporary, eerie depiction of a family and their rental landlords on Long Island when something big has gone awry in the country. Extra creepy as it is so plausible.
I hope you read Phil Klay’s first book “Redeployment” which won the 2014 National Book Award. I consider it required reading for every U.S. citizen. Superb war writing by a soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. His new book “Missionaries” covers both post 9/11 Middle East battles and Columbian drug wars. His writing is pointed, sincere and honest. He does not shy away from difficult questions.
“Payback” is written by one of my favorite authors, Mary Gordon. She cleverly proffers ethical issues that are rich kindling for discussion.
Edmund White gives us “A Saint From Texas” profiling the life stories of twin sisters from that great state who choose divergent paths — one a nun, one a socialite in Paris. But aren’t they sprung from the same soil? White, a Princeton professor, has won many honors in French literature and his expansive knowledge of French culture is on full display.
For crime aficionados, “The Cipher” by 44- year-law enforcement veteran Isabella Maldonado is the first of her series. She clearly knows her territory and I look forward to more from Maldonado.
More at beckysbookclub.com and on Instagram.