Dive into a variety of captivating reads

This month truly offers something for every taste. I found some of these books more engaging than others, but none were a waste of time.

For the history buff, try “Revolution Song” by Russell Shorto. The subtitle of this is “The Story of America’s Founding in Six Remarkable Lives.” The Revolution was a monstrous challenge and the more we know about those who grappled with the process, the more we can appreciate how important their actions were to our lives now. All history books should be this captivating.

“Summerlings” by Lisa Howorth is a wry tale about a group of friends in Washington, D.C., during the Cold War. Anyone whose childhood included this era will chuckle at the suspicion of spies, fear of bombs and general camaraderie shared by this neighborhood pack.

As a word and grammar nerd, I thoroughly enjoyed “The Grammarians” by Cathleen Schine. Twin sisters share a fascination with language and vocabulary, and their relationship changes as they grow but it still befuddles their parents and friends. I found this novel an entertaining and quick read.

For a more serious topic, Tope Folarin’s “A Particular Kind of Black Man” presents the tender story of Tunde, a first-generation Nigerian-American. Growing up in Utah and Texas, he sounds like all of the other students, and just wants to do well in school and play basketball. Meanwhile, his father struggles to succeed in spite of inexorable determination and effort. The author is a Rhodes Scholar and winner of the Caine Prize for African writing.

Mystery and crime are always popular so here are a few recommendations. The first two are British. Louise Penny never disappoints and she has a shivering good crime in “Kingdom of the Blind.” Mark Billingham is new to me and I enjoyed “Their Little Secret,” which features Tom Thorne as the Detective Inspector. “The Snakes” by Sadie Jones takes place in the French countryside. Though there is a brief section about reptiles, the snakes are the evil, untrustworthy people of this disturbing parable. Moving back to this side of the pond, “Tell Me Everything” by Cambria Brockman is set on a Maine college campus. This has a twisty ending I did not anticipate - perfect! On the other coast, Daniel Nieh gives us a blisteringly fast-paced and complex story of Chinese crime brought to California in “Beijing Payback.” This is an excellent choice for an audio book to hear the Mandarin portions of the dialogue.

Tupelo Hassman is a new writer who shows promise in her novel “gods with a little g.” It tells the story of Helen Dedleder growing up in an evangelical town with her flawed but loyal family and friends, and what that love and loyalty sometimes demand of people.

Mariann Chambers has written a journaled account of caring for her aging parents in “Who Are These People?” Many baby boomers will relate to the humor and exhaustion this role brings. The author provided a copy of her book for this review.


You can reach me at rgbreads@gmail.com and can request to receive an email link to this column.

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