Several categories of books are highlighted this month starting with nonfiction, three memoirs, a variety of fiction and a couple of thrillers. Hope you can find at least one to tote to the beach or pool.
I have been listening to NPR forever – to and from work including weekends on call when driving around to a bevy of hospitals and hoping that I would catch the puzzle section with Will Shortz on Weekend Edition.
“Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie” by Lisa Napoli is the backstory of the creation of NPR. An idea which flourished thanks to the hard work, dedication and skills of these four ladies. Unless you have a heart of stone, the section on Cokie Roberts and her perseverance up to the time of her death will have you in tears. Their individual stories are case histories on women in the workplace in the ‘60s- ‘80s. This is not a political book, just great reading.
“The Bomber Mafia” by Malcolm Gladwell is a fascinating look at how bombing in WWII was strategized. The science of war is chilling, but the bravery, ingenuity and courage of those who command and the troops is always inspiring. Gladwell offers a fitting tribute to the Air Force in this podcast which evolved into a book. The Audible version is excellent as he has archival footage of interviews with the central players.
“I’ll Be Gone In The Dark” by Michelle McNamara was recommended to me by someone who loves true crime. It is a frightening narrative of the facts of the spree by the Golden State Killer and how he was eventually caught. If you enjoy procedural crime shows you will be enthralled. You will also be certain to lock your doors. Yikes!
“The Souvenir Museum” is a collection of short stories by Elizabeth McCracken, author of “Bowlaway” and “The Giant’s House” among others. I loved both, particularly the later and this collection does not disappoint. Her writing can be funny, wacky, absurd and sad, but always expertly crafted.
“Hummingbird Salamander” by Jeff Vandermeer is a new genre to me – the eco-thriller. A working mom receives a strange clue setting off a breakneck, brutal hunt for the meaning. This is all told with a background hum of a deteriorating climate and drastic changes to life on this planet. I had trouble with the protagonist leaving her family in her pursuit but if you let go of that, the quest becomes propulsive and engaging.
“Secrets of Happiness” by Joan Silber starts out with a provocative story line of a man in Brooklyn who is discovered to have had two families. The book is told by several voices of the members of the two families. The intersections of their lives and how each handles the complexity of life illustrates how we strive to cope, achieve order, balance, and contentment, and that happiness is not necessarily ebullient joy.
“The Northern Reach” by W.S. Winslow focuses on a small town in Maine and the lives of two interconnected families. Anyone who has lived in a small community will appreciate the characters, the scrutiny, and the limitations of a life under constant judgement. If you are watching Mare of Easttown you will love this, though it is far less dark.
“Open Book” by Jessica Simpson is her memoir and before you turn up your nose, the NY Times called it one of the best of the genre. I want to publicly apologize for the snarky remarks I made about her back during her Newlywed MTV days. This is a fast reading, brutally honest book and she does not make excuses. She also made a billion-dollar deal on her shoe and clothing line – not as dumb as you might like to think.
“Crying in H Mart” is a memoir by writer and singer Michelle Zauner. Originally a short story in The New Yorker, she was encouraged to expand it into this book. She describes her sometimes difficult relationship with her Korean mother and her relentless expectations. When her mother dies from cancer, Zauner is galvanized to seek out her own identity and finds much of it has sprung from time with her mother and her Korean heritage.
In “The Light Years,” Chris Rush recalls in spectacular detail his drug fueled years from age 12 through his early 20s. As I read his story, I had to keep checking that he did indeed survive and become an accomplished artist. His tale made me wonder - again - how I made it through the ‘60s and ‘70s unscathed while others fell down the rabbit hole of psychedelics. His functionally dysfunctional family was kindling for this fire.
Two thrillers to finish up this month – “One Got Away” by S.A.Lelchuk is the second with Nikki Griffin as a bookstore owner who uses her considerable talents to punish those who prey on others. The description of the luxury inn in Carmel, California, will have you dreaming of a weekend away.
“The Last Thing He Told Me” by Laura Dave has already been optioned by Reese Witherspoon for a movie with Julia Roberts in the lead so you can just picture her as Hannah as she tries to find out why her husband has disappeared and is being charged with money fraud at his high-profile company.
For more information, go online to beckysbookclub.com.