Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Lift. If you’re likely to ready only one book this summer, consider Maggie Shipstead’s novel titled, Great Circle. Fans of historical fiction will find a compelling story about Marian Graves through most of the 20th century. After Marian and her brother, Jamie, are orphaned and rescued from a sinking ship, they are raised in Montana by their uncle whose neglect makes them self-sufficient. Marian falls in love with aviation when a biplane comes to town. At two critical points in her life, she is asked what she would like, and both times she answers that she wants to fly. In the first case, she wants to learn to fly an airplane. In the second, she wants to circumnavigate the earth from pole to pole. Shipstead enhances the total novel by adding a contemporary story in which a movie is being made of Marian’s life. There’s a big cast of compelling characters, engaging stories set in the past and present, and fine writing over the course of six hundred pages. If that doesn’t lift your summer to a new level, consider looking skyward every now and again as you read this novel, and think about the lift that Marian achieved throughout her life, and feel great about the world and all its possibilities for each of us. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Great Circle from amazon.com.
Compact. I’ve enjoyed every novel by Sara Paretsky featuring Chicago private detective V.I Warshawski. I don’t recall reading her short fiction, so I looked forward to a collection of her stories titled, Love and Other Crimes. Vic shows up in some of these stories, but this is certainly not a one-protagonist collection. Paretsky shows that she can tell a compelling story in a compact form and develop interesting characters with efficiency. Readers who enjoy crime fiction and short stories will find a lot to enjoy in this collection. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Love and Other Crimes from amazon.com.
Hope. I confess to rolling my eyes when I heard that the protagonist of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel titled, Klara and the Sun, was an Artificial Friend. Shame on me for thinking this was about robots or artificial intelligence. Before long, I found myself thinking about what it means to love. I observed Klara’s hope as a model for how each of us can live life fully. Klara is voice that most readers will remember fondly after reading this magnificent novel. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Klara and the Sun from amazon.com.
String. If like me, your science reading has been erratic, and you wonder if your knowledge has fallen out of date, you can get a quick and readable catchup with the world of physics in Michio Kaku’s book titled, The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything. Like a university teacher to a class of non-majors, Kaku explains complex things in simple ways, and his focus on string theory may actually make sense to most readers. Kaku shares with great joy the beauty and symmetry of physics with readers, and how the great questions are worth asking. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The God Equation from amazon.com.
Visceral. Wracked with grief following the death of her father in 2020, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wrote a book titled, Notes on Grief, about her personal experience and as a loving tribute to her father. Through her fine writing, we participate in the visceral aspects of grief and want to howl with her at the great loss. Her words expose our own grief as well. During the past two years millions of people have experienced forms of pandemic grief as our world changed unexpectedly. Our connections to each other can become stronger in the context of grief, and this finely written book will connect deeply with every reader with a grief story of our own. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Notes on Grief from amazon.com.
Venice. An interesting novel by Christopher Bollen titled, A Beautiful Crime, about scheming and deception becomes more enchanted by the setting of most of the novel in Venice. Nick Brink and Clay Guillory meet in New York, fall in love, and plan a crime to give them a secure and happy future together. Bollen draws readers into their deception and before we know it, we are alongside the characters in Venice, agog at the setting, and shocked at the lengths to which people will go once plans are set in motion. Fans of crime fiction, and any reader who loves Venice, will find something to enjoy in this crime novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase A Beautiful Crime from amazon.com.
Answers. General readers looking for a comprehensive examination about sleep and dreaming will find out what science knows today about this topic by reading a book by Antonio Zadra and Robert Stickgold titled, When Brains Dream: Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep. Whatever questions you’re likely to have about what goes on while we sleep, you’re likely to find answers in this interesting book. I didn’t snooze once while I was reading it, but I think while I slept overnight, my brain processed what I read. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase When Brains Dream from amazon.com.
Erased. The seventh installment of Mick Herron’s series featuring the MI5 spies who are surplus to requirements is titled after the series, Slough House. Strong satire bites sharply on these pages, as news is manipulated, and MI5 has been used for private purposes. Internal politics has led to the erasure of Slough House in the MI5 records. Jackson Lamb, however, knows how to play an inside game. Amid deaths, diversions, lies and power grabs, Lamb finds a path toward survival for him and for most of the Slough House rejects. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Slough House from amazon.com.
Busman. The setting of the sixth installment of Jean-Luc Bannalec’s mystery series featuring Commissaire Georges Dupin, is a two-week beach vacation for Georges and Claire, a novel titled, The Granite Coast Murders. While it appears that Claire has disengaged from her medical practice during their holiday, Georges begins a clandestine investigation of a local murder. While Georges has been warned before about detecting outside his jurisdiction, he can’t stand inactivity, and prefers a busman’s holiday to lying on a beach towel. Some readers will salivate at the descriptions of some of the meals that Georges and Claire enjoy. Mystery fans will love the intricate plot. Fans of this series will enjoy the return of familiar characters. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Granite Coast Murders from amazon.com.
Context. Until I read Paul Farmer’s book titled, Fevers, Feuds, and Diamonds: Ebola and the Ravages of History, I thought I understood a lot about the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Thanks to the context that Farmer provides in this book, it will be obvious to all readers that the situation in West Africa in 2014 was the consequence of hundreds of years of exploitation and injustice. He shows how the strategy of containment may have limited the spread of disease, but by not also focusing on medical care of patients, the people in this region (and others) do not have the health systems to address problems when they arise, let alone provide basic health care for people. Farmer writes with clarity and empathy, explaining history and medicine in terms that all readers can understand. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Fevers Feuds and Diamonds from amazon.com.