It is very telling that all the books this month were dark. It was wearing me down so I am about to start a book of essays by an SNL star. Things have got to lighten up around here!
That said, there are some excellent reads in this list. For your consideration…
“The End of October” by Lawrence Wright, written before the current pandemic, follows a worldwide pandemic and the CDC expert who is desperately trying to stop the deadly spread. So realistic it is required reading.
“The Red Lotus” by Chris Bohjalian. Research on an Ebola like virus in the hands of arms dealers. Think it is far-fetched? A lack of ethics and money to be made — hmm. Have you heard this one before? Begins in Vietnam on a bike tour and ends in a New York City hospital.
“Members Only” by Sameer Pandya. This is a marvelous book for discussion. Privilege, power, freedom of speech — this story was so much more than I anticipated. A great read for high school seniors and college students as it presents the importance of listening to other opinions as part of the education process.
“The Mist” by Ragnar Jonasson. Part of Scandinavian Noir as I have seen it labeled. An isolated farmhouse in Iceland on Christmas Eve and a stranger arrives. Chilling, creepy and will cool you with its description of freezing, snow blurred landscapes.
“Miss Iceland” by Audur Ava Olafsdottir. Set in Iceland, but not a crime story except for the crime of lack of opportunities for women. This story ends with a blow to the heart. Hekla, the main character, pursues her writing with dignity, fervor and persistence. Many references to the poetry writing in Iceland, which is a national point of pride. The New Yorker recently published a piece on that very topic.
“Friends and Strangers” by J. Courtney Sullivan. One of my favorite authors gives us a story simultaneously astute and amusing. Basically, the relationship between a mom and her college student sitter. But the character of the mother’s influencer sister with her Instagram account is hilariously accurate.
“A Burning” by Megha Majumdar. This is a heartbreaking book that follows the earnest attempts of three people in modern day India who just want to make a slightly better life for themselves. Please, also read “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo — a factual description of the slum life of millions in Mumbai.
“Conjure Women” by Afia Atakora. A superbly crafted story of three women in the South before and after the Civil War and how they survive. Brilliant writing transports you to the time and place of this haunting tale.
“Hard Cash Valley” by Brian Panowich. He is a master of Georgia mountain crime stories and this is the third in his trilogy. Even better since you know it is all culled from real life.
“Blacktop Wasteland” by S.A. Cosby. Ant, real name Beauregard, is a recovering criminal who still loves the life he left but has everyday problems of rent, braces for his kid, and a mother in a nursing home. The payoff of one more job is hard to resist. This is
Virginia back roads down and dirty dealing. But the supporting characters are simultaneously well drawn and eloquent in their fractured logic.