What are you reading right now? Here are thirteen books I’ve recently loved …
The Bad News: Last Journalists in a Dictatorship by Anjan Sundaram
From the publisher/Penquin Random House:
With Bad News, Sundaram offers an incredible firsthand look at the rise of dictatorship and the fall of free speech, one that’s important to understand not just for its implications in Rwanda, but for any country threatened by demands to adopt a single way of thinking.
Loulou de la Falaise by Ariel de Ravenel and Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni
A beautiful coffee-table book, inspiring, colorful, and glamorous just like the woman herself. She was Yves Saint Laurent’s muse and soul mate. Her wardrobe are what fashion dreams are made of.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
This book stayed with me long after I finished it.
Science fiction classic. Part time-travel tale and part slave narrative, it was first published in 1979 and is still very popular.
Dana, a black woman, and her husband Kevin, a white man, have just moved into their home in 20th century California. Suddenly, Dana, is plunged back in time to 1819 Maryland. Over many visits to the past, Dana realizes that the son of the plantation owner is her ancestor and that she must protect his life to ensure her own existence.
** The graphic novel adaptation is SO cool.
That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba
The author presents information that has not been available to previous biographers e.g. recently declassified British government files stored in The National Archives of the United Kingdom. She also accesses source material not previously used. And yet, it all just seems like a regurgitation of information. There is no storytelling here when you so badly want some and often I felt Sebba offered a more sympathetic portrayal than was needed. The relationship that has been widely considered a great love story of modern times appears to be nothing of the sort. The king, in Sebba’s telling, emerges as a man who today might be looked on as something of a stalker. There are also somewhat shocking revelations – assumptions – regarding Wallis’s medical issues. What may be most interesting is a description of what it meant to be divorced in the 1930s/40s.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
This is the kind of book you’ll want to dig into and not leave the house till you have turned the last page.
The story is told through the eyes of a writer for a high-end travel magazine, who’s recently received the assignment of a lifetime – covering a glamorous cruise ship’s landmark trip in the North Sea.
Her first night aboard she witnesses a passenger going overboard- or did she? When she begins to try and find out about the woman, she risks everything – including her life.
An Agatha Christie inspired thriller if ever there was one. (Ware is a self-admitted Christie fan)
I could not walk away from after the first thirty pages, the plot was that good, the characters that terrific.
If you like this, you might like: Girl on a Train, Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, and anything by Agatha Christie or Tana French or Dorothy L. Sayers.
Human Acts by Han Kang
Devastating, gorgeous, horrifying. Painful.
In 1980, in Gwangju, South Korea, government forces massacre pro-democracy demonstrators. The bodies are stowed in the hall of the complaints department of the Provincial Office. When the bodies — the complaints — grow too many, they are moved to the school gymnasium, and there, a boy named Dong-ho looks for the corpse of his best friend. His is the first section, followed by six more stories of the victims of Gwangju — including a spirit tethered to a stack of rotting corpses, the mother of a dead boy, an editor trapped under censorship, a torture victim remembering her captivity, and, finally, a writer.
Kang wrote the 2015 Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Vegetarian.
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
From the publisher/Hachette Book Group – A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world’s densest jungle.
Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Thought-provoking. A renowned sociologist from Berkeley, California travels deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right.
One of “6 Books to Understand Trump’s Win” according to the New York Times the day after the election. For the record, I have also read Hillbilly Elegy and skimmed part of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America and discussed these with a few savvy folk and we all strongly agree Strangers by a mile offers the most solid insight into why we are where we are politically and socially. (Other books one might consider are Evicted and Dark Money).
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays + Arguments by David Foster Wallace
I did not understand how much we had lost in 2008 when Wallace, at only forty-six-years of age killed himself. A well-read friend introduced this book to me when I told him I had been unable to read Infinite Jest. This book, a collection of essays, has made me devout admirer of Wallace. I want to read every single thing he has written. You could say I am “training” to read Infinite Jest (a book that takes some months to read with a dictionary and two bookmarks). LOVED “Tornado Alley” and the title essay about his experiences aboard a seven night luxury Caribbean cruise (an assignment for Harper’s magazine). BRILLIANT!!!!!
I recommend checking out his now famous 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College on You Tube.
Citizen by Claudia Rankine
Winner of the 2015 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Award
Winner of the 2015 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Poetry
Winner of the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection
Winner of the 2015 PEN Open Book Award
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry
One of the Guardian’s Best Politics Books of 2015
One of the Guardian’s Readers’ Books of the Year for 2015
Finalist for 2014 National Book Award in Poetry
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism
“Marrying prose, poetry, and the visual image, Citizen investigates the ways in which racism pervades daily American social and cultural life, rendering certain of its citizens politically invisible. Rankine’s formally inventive book challenges our notion that citizenship is only a legal designation that the state determines by expanding that definition to include a larger understanding of civic belonging and identity, built out of cross-racial empathy, communal responsibility, and a deeply shared commitment to equality.”—National Book Award Judges’ Citation
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
A beautiful, realistic portrayal of grief.
Penguin/Random House: From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage–and a life, in good times and bad–that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Exceptional, marvelous. LOVED. William Shakespeare’s The Tempest retold as Hag-Seed.
The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories
In the mists and shadows, on the lonely roads, in dreary estates, and on wild moorlands we meet a variety of ghostly protagonists. The stand outs:
The Red Room (1896) H.G. Wells
The Phantom Coach (1864) Amelia Edwards
The Judge’s House (1891) Bram Stoker GOOD, EERIE
The Empty House (1906) Algernon Blackwood LOVED!!! A young man and his elderly aunt get keys to a haunted mansion. Blackwood’s prose, his power of suggestion are fantastic. One is “suddenly conscious of tingling nerves, creeping skin, and a chilling of the blood.”
The Taipan (1922) W. Somerset Maugham – too brief, didn’t care about character. Englishman living in China.
Mr. Jones (1930) Edith Wharton
Man-Size in Marble (1893) E. Nesbit EXCELLENT