Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Orchestral. The song in Jesmyn Ward’s novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, will break your heart. An ensemble of characters sing their part in a chorus of racism, drug addiction, poverty, incarceration, child neglect and love. Ward’s prose unveils places and people with perfect language and deep sentiment. A reader’s empathy builds on every page. Even the ghosts sing in this chorus because they remain attached to the people and places. This novel is on many of the best of the year lists and won the National Book Award for fiction. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Sing Unburied Sing from

Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance

Smaller. Bill McKibben’s novel titled, Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance, is a homage to the resistance movement in the form of a fable. Independent and smaller is presented as better than dependent and larger. This short and playful book brought me a welcome break from the news of the day and the struggles of life. McKibben draws interesting characters, provides an engaging story and brings some laughs along the way. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Radio Free Vermont from

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Belief. The blurred line between reality and fantasy isn’t a contemporary development in American life, according to Kurt Andersen in his book titled, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. “America was the dreamworld creation of fantasists, some religious and some out to get rich quick, all with a freakish appetite for the amazing.” (p.427). Readers with strong religious beliefs will feel somewhat dismissed in those beliefs when they read Andersen’s categorization of them as fantasists. Readers who share Andersen’s worldview will find almost five hundred pages of statistics, anecdotes, and selective stories of American life to show that over a long period of time, fertile ground in America provided the soil in which fantasy and reality blurred and became widespread. Truth has become a matter of feeling, not fact, and that didn’t happen overnight. Whether offended or vindicated by Andersen’s book, every reader can understand our contemporary society better by reading about our past and seeing in that past the foundations of modern life. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Fantasyland from

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies

Invisible. One more deficiency in my education was resolved when I read Jason Fagone’s finely written book about the life of codebreaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman titled, The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies. A combination of sexism and secrecy made her significant role in the 20th century invisible. Thanks to Fagone, long overdue credit for her significant achievements can be learned by any reader interested in codes, espionage, and recent history. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Woman Who Smashed Codes from

The Vanity Fair Diaries

Energetic. The punchy wit that Tina Brown writes in her book titled, The Vanity Fair Diaries, will delight even those readers with little interest in the New York media world of the 1980s and 1990s. Her trenchant observations about people are peppered throughout the book, while she pulls readers into her workaholic life. In this account, Tina never stops pushing, pressing, trying new things, working constantly. For readers who know the New York world she describes, this book will be required reading, at least about people one knows, and whose entries are easy to find, thanks to the index. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Vanity Fair Diaries from

Three Days and a Life

Guilt. Pierre Lemaitre’s novel titled, Three Days and a Life, is a character study and morality tale. The novel is set in two time periods in the life of protagonist Antoine Courtin. At age 12, Antoine accidently kills a young neighbor, and then hides the body rather than face the consequences of his action. Lemaitre explores the ways in which guilt and remorse affect Antoine. More than a decade later, Antoine returns to his home town and carries out his self-inflicted punishment. The inner and outer storms of this novel and the surprising twists will delight most readers. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Three Days and a Life from

End Game

Rescue. The fifth novel in the Will Robie series by David Baldacci is titled, End Game. Robie and Jessica Reel are sent on a search and rescue mission. Fans of the series will enjoy the ways in which Will and Jessica’s skills are deployed in this story. New readers who enjoy action thrillers will find some pleasure here. This is a formulaic novel that had few surprises, but lots of implausible action. Rating: Three-star (It’s ok) Click here to purchase End Game from