Riveting novels and memoirs top this list of great reads

“The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store” by James McBride begins with a skeleton found buried in an old well on Chicken Hill, in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. McBride spins a masterly web of connected characters: immigrant Jews, African-Americans, and whites all interacting in this small community. This is one of my absolute favorite authors and I strongly urge you to read his past works beginning with “The Color of Water,” which is the story of his family. “Deacon King Kong,” set in 1969 Brooklyn, is another great read.
“Somebody’s Fool” by Richard Russo is the final book of the North Bath Trilogy. “Nobody’s Fool” was made into a movie with Paul Newman, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, and Jessica Tandy. Read the trilogy and search for the movie on streaming. Spot-on casting!
“The Quiet Tenant” by Clemence Michallon is a truly disturbing psychological profile of a “nicest guy in town” who is a serial killer. A creepy thriller just in time for Halloween.
“Pulling the Chariot of the Sun” by Shane McCrae is a memoir that tells how the author was taken by his grandparents and hidden from his father. In spite of a difficult childhood, McCrae becomes a successful writer and teacher. Once again, school and teachers can be the lifeline for children from troubled circumstances. Thank a teacher!
“The Rachel Incident” by Caroline O’Donoghue tells the story of Rachel and James, best friends in Cork, Ireland, working in a bookstore, sharing an apartment, living their best life as they can with no money, but plenty of energy. Their relationship with one of Rachel’s professors has profound consequences for them both. This is a well-paced, well-told story of youth, identity, loyalty, and maturity. 
“Crook Manifesto” by Colson Whitehead is the second of a trilogy. “Harlem Shuffle” was the first and introduced our main player, Ray Carney, in the early 1960s fencing goods in NYC. Now we are in 1971 New York, remember the crime, the filth? Ray is trying to be legit and his furniture store is doing well until – he needs Michael Jackson tickets for his daughter. Let the games begin. Crooked cops, dealers, and Ray, who really doesn’t want to be in the game anymore.
“Small Town Sins” by Ken Jaworowski features a small town in Pennsylvania that is past its prime and its inhabitants are desperate to scratch money or meaning out of their dismal lives.  This is my first book by Jaworowski and I will read his next one too. Gritty.
“King of the Armadillos” by Wendy Chin-Tanner is based on her father and his stay in the ’50s and ’60s at Carville, the government institute for those with Hansen’s Disease (leprosy). The institute treated patients from 1894-2005. If you read the “Covenant of Water” by Abraham Varghese, you know about the leprosarium in that book. So interesting to learn about this refuge and treatment facility. There is a side story that I found less enthralling, but the book is still worth a read. Armadillos carry the bacteria that cause Hansen’s Disease and there was a cluster of cases in Florida this summer which piqued my interest.
“Clark and Division” by Naomi Hirahara is the first of two Japantown mysteries set in Chicago. The book is historical fiction about a community of displaced Japanese Americans who were moved out of internment camps to new areas of the U.S. to start over. The second book, “Evergreen,” is out now.
“Whalefall” by Daniel Kraus is perfect for scuba diving aficionados. A man tries to find the remains of his father, a world famous diver, in the waters off the California coast and is swallowed by a 60-ton sperm whale. Can he get out before his oxygen runs out? And exactly how does one navigate whale innards? Surprisingly engaging and claims scientific accuracy. Fun to read.
“The English Understand Wool” by Helen DeWitt is a short, fast, funny morality play. Loved it!!
“What You Are Looking for is in the Library” by Michiko Aoyama is a trio of stories all centered on an enigmatic librarian and her recommendations to three patrons with personal dilemmas. A best seller in Japan, it is a gentle story with a positive message.
Happy reading!
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