Thursday, July 23, 2020

Shadowplay

Bram. Are you missing live theater during the covid-19 pandemic? Spend a few hours with Joseph O’Connor’s novel titled, Shadowplay, and you’ll be in London’s West End during the time of Jack the Ripper and walking alongside Bram Stoker at work in the theater. Sometimes we read fiction for a glorious escape from contemporary life, and O’Connor gives that to us in this finely written novel. While this is a Dracula backstory, it is also a story of passion and ambition in a setting that will delight most readers, but especially theatregoers who long to return to those wonderful places. Night becomes a time of danger and opportunity in Victorian England, and Stoker is in the middle of things that will spark the imagination of readers of this entertaining novel. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Shadowplay from amazon.com.

Sorry For Your Trouble

Characters. Fans of superb writing especially in short form fiction are those most likely to enjoy the collection by Richard Ford titled, Sorry For Your Trouble, containing nine short stories. The characters in these stories face all sorts of contemporary troubles, and Ford’s spare language captures their predicaments with precision and insight. There’s complexity and subtlety in most sentences, and Ford builds his characters with great care into forms that we recognize and understand. These characters are people we know and at the same time are individuals we have never met. We’ve overheard the dialogue in these stories. We have seen these characters in our community, and yet Ford makes them fresh and offers us wise reflections that apply to our own lives. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Sorry For Your Trouble from amazon.com.

After the End

Divergent. Clare Mackintosh’s emotionally taut novel is titled, After the End. Parents Max and Pip face a difficult choice in how to treat their brain damaged child, Dylan. The tension in the novel comes when the parents diverge in choosing the best approach in caring for Dylan. Mackintosh explores these relationships, the heart wrenching decisions that need to be made, and the meaning of quality of life. She reveals ways in which the divergent paths might play out over time. I learned at the end of the novel that the story is a personal one for the author who faced a similar situation. Writers are often advised to write about what they know, and it is with emotional depth and great skill and personal knowledge that Mackintosh describes the most difficult choices that parents may ever make. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase After the End from amazon.com.

The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness

Kindness. I find it hard to not apply a covid-19 lens to what I read during the pandemic. So, when I read Kelli Harding’s book titled, The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness, I couldn’t help but think how a little bit of kindness to others would go a long a way these days. After all, we’re just being asked to wash our hands, practice social distancing, and wear a mask when indoors with others or at times when we can’t keep a safe distance away. These are times when many of us will benefit from thinking about our health in new ways. This book helps us understand the interaction of body and mind, and the ways in which we may be missing pieces of what’s critical to our health. Harding learned this through a rabbit study, and readers of this book can learn some missing pieces that can make our lives happier and healthier. Also, wash your hands, maintain physical distance from others, and wear the damn mask. How hard is it to be nice? Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Rabbit Effect from amazon.com.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line

Missing. Disappearing children in Deepa Anaparra’s debut novel titled, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, will make your blood run cold. Anaparra describes life in a city in India, and what parents, police and children do after children begin to go missing. The descriptive prose offers a setting in vivid detail, and the perspectives of different characters draw us into what for most of us will be an unfamiliar environment. The fine storytelling propels us to turn pages as we begin to care deeply about these characters, especially the children. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line from amazon.com.

People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent

Progressive. If you think everything is peachy these days, don’t bother reading Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’ book titled, People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent. Assuming that most readers will see a smidgen or two of trouble ahead for the world, those who pick up this book will find a cogent prescription which Stiglitz calls “progressive capitalism.” Those readers interested in public policy will find in this book a clear description of trends and a way to enjoy the benefits from markets while building a system of effective controls and balances. There’s no waffling ambiguity in this book. All readers can understand exactly what Stiglitz thinks we should do next. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase People Power and Profits from amazon.com.

On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal

Collaborative. I confess to waiting to read Naomi Klein’s book titled, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, until a stifling heat wave arrived. Warm or cold, Klein’s message resonates: people all over the world need to collaborate to address climate change. This book is a collection of her essays over the course of two decades. She pulls together the connections between the climate crisis, underregulated capitalism, economic inequality, systemic racism, adverse health conditions, emigration for survival and more. Whether you agree or disagree with Klein’s views, you are likely to find that she describes her position with clarity and passion. It seems reasonable that we collaborate to work toward better outcomes for all. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase On Fire from amazon.com.