October's reading list is long

There is no calculated order to the books I read. I request print and audio books online from the public library and take them in the order they are available. This is my explanation for the hodgepodge this month!

Starting with non-fiction, first is a memoir from the former New York Times Food Critic Ruth Reichl. “Save Me the Plums” is her journal of serving as editor of Gourmet magazine in the early 2000’s right into the abyss for printed media. Honestly, reading this made me want to scream as the Conde Nast mothership bankrolled extravagance galore for their print productions and then were shocked when the economy could not support their hubris. Still a fun read and cooks will enjoy the back of the house descriptions of the Gourmet kitchens.

Next is “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. I forbid you to get political about this book. It is non-partisan and is a tribute to her family (her mother in particular) on the importance of hard work, honesty and integrity to raise children to become productive and successful. The descriptions of life in the White House are enlightening.

Based on a real place but fictionalized for this book is “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead. Brutal, shocking, unconscionable, poignant, but never overwrought, this story of a reform school in Florida that was ultimately found to have beaten to death many residents is sobering yet engaging. A short and staggering read.

For a change to mystery, adventure, escape reads I highly recommend “The Darwin Affair” by Tim Mason. There is a bit of gore in this one, a Victorian thriller ignited by Charles Darwin’s evolutionary science. I devoured it while Dorian lumbered through.

In a contemporary setting of an artist’s colony in upstate New York, Barbara Bourland gives us “Fake Like Me.” The art world is more devious and mercenary than idyllic in this tale.

I love a good Aussie thriller and Chris Hammer delivers in “Scrublands.” I thought I had it figured out in the first pages, fool that I am. It is a twisted and dark story set in a bone-dry struggling town. Keep a water bottle handy.

For fans of David Baldacci, “Long Road to Mercy” introduces a new character, FBI agent Atlee Pine. She is smart, cagey and unflinching in her pursuit of truth. I look forward to more stories with Agent Pine.

The next three books became available all at once or I would not have read them in sequence. You can pick and choose. “Stay and Fight” by Madeline ffitch (that is not a typo) is set in Appalachian Ohio where there are no jobs save for the gas pipeline and residents are desperately independent. Three women, one son, try to live off the grid. This story is funny, deranged, spirited and earnest; sometimes all on the same page.

Mesha Maren gives us “Sugar Run.” The rural West Virginia setting is pretty much indistinguishable from the community in “Stay and Fight,” but the story is darker as Jodi, the main character, is released from prison and returns home to try and start anew. Hard to accomplish with the family ties that bind.

“Ohio” by Stephen Markley takes place in the industrial Northeast corner of Ohio over a single night but with the flashbacks of the four protagonists this complex story is fleshed out with betrayals, frustrations, secrets and regrets. Narratives switch repeatedly but effectively.

I always seem to get one really weird book - this time it’s “Bunny” by Mona Awad. A fable of graduate school competition, challenge yourself with this when you are feeling open minded.

When you need a break, whip through “Honestly, We Meant Well” by Grant Ginder. Greece, some indiscretions and retributions well deserved.

As always, comments and queries welcome. rgbreads@gmail.com.

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