Make March your month to enjoy different books
One thing I sorely miss in Charleston is Major League Baseball. As you read this, opening day is hovering on the calendar. If you love baseball or prefer watching paint dry, you will still enjoy “The Cactus League” by Emily Nemens. This gem of a novel follows a small group of characters all intersecting with the spring training scene in Arizona. The author never falls for the predictable storyline.
A world away, the slums of India are the setting of “Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line” by Deepa Annapura. School children become sleuths to delve into the disappearance of schoolmates when the police show no interest in these lost souls.
For crime fans who enjoy complicated plots, try “Just Watch Me” by Jeff Lindsay, the author of the Dexter series. Here he introduces a new criminal mind – Riley Wolf – and he is going to steal the Iranian crown jewels.
Luke Geddes’ premier novel is “Heart of Junk” and I think he may give us something better in the future, but this sendup of midwestern flea market culture is perfect for anyone who has watched “American Pickers” and had serious concerns about the people who collect what looks like junk then turn down offers of real money to part with a rusted oil can.
For all my friends who came here from Chicago, I urge you to read “Stateway’s Garden” by Jasmon Drain. Superb collection of vignettes telling the story of a family in Chicago public housing. This is real writing talent.
If you are particularly squeamish, skip this next book. “Things in Jars” by Jess Kidd is a Gothic mystery set in Victorian London with a female sleuth peering into the practices of surgeons and anatomists. Things get ugly.
For a sweeter story, pick up “A Southern Girl” by John Warley, about an adopted Korean girl trying to fit into the cloying and restricted Charleston society. The novel was published by Pat Conroy’s Story River Books, which also published “The Cigar Factory.”
Moving on to nonfiction, I absolutely loved “The American Story — Conversations with Master Historians” by David M. Rubinstein. These are transcripts of dialogues with authors such as David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Cokie Roberts, Walter Isaacson, and many more during a series at The Library of Congress. Fascinating, insightful and entertaining, this is an outstanding audiobook as well.
“The Poison Squad” by Deborah Blum was the basis for the PBS American Experience show of the same name. The book covers a longer period of time, telling the full story of how we are all indebted to Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley for the establishment of food safety standards and the Food and Drug Administration. Shockingly, American food producers fought viciously to prevent the government from impeding their ability to make money by selling adulterated and mislabeled “food.”
And in the aftermath of the opioid crisis, Tiffany Jenkins lays it on the line in her memoir “High Achiever.” The first part of this book reads like “Orange is the New Black,” but in her back story I was frustrated by her destructive and stupid decisions. Oh well, I think that is the point she is making.
Bechhold can be reached at email@example.com.