Carin Pratt moved to Strafford, Vermont, four years ago from Washington D.C. where she worked at CBS News for 27 years, the last 20 as Executive Producer of Face the Nation. Her husband, John Echeverria, is a professor at Vermont Law School, and she has two grown sons. She likes to hike, cook, garden, bike, horseback ride. She reads a lot.
Texas is a humungo state and there are many reasons to both love and hate it, but you cannot deny the oversize influence it has on America. Wright has written a seamless and fascinating cultural and political travelogue of sorts of his native state, going back and forth into history and out, discussing issues such as Texana, snakes, school shootings, oil and energy, and the sausage making legislature. Not to mention the cowboy culture. One reviewer said God Save Texas is both an "apologia and an indictment." True, but to put it more plainly, it's a hell of a book!
Sedaris is up to his old tricks in this new collection of essays. Funny stories about family dynamics (on which he is superb), shopping in Japan, other people's eating habits, beach life, his sister's suicide, and mortality. While the tales make you laugh out loud, or at least snicker in private recognition, there is both a poignancy and a little more bite than in previous books. That said, Sedaris' prodigious powers of observation have not flagged in the least.
This is Ondaatje's first novel since the estimable The Cat's Table (2011) and, boy, is it worth the wait. The story follows two siblings who have been mysteriously abandoned by their parents in the aftermath of the Blitz in London. It has all the trademark Ondaatje themes: what parents owe their children (and vice versa), the seduction and destruction of war, memory and the "ravine" of childhood, what one does with the history and traits one inherits, and of course the endlessly fascinating elements of love. Ondaatje is an artist who paints with words and woven into this intricate puzzle of a book, are indelible images. Just read the first sentence and try to resist.
Prison literature is by definition claustrophobic, surreal, and sad. Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room is all that, but it's also funny, sometimes in a brutal kind of way, and so moving. Romy, a single mother and stripper, is in a California prison serving two consecutive life sentences for killing a creepy customer who stalked her. (Terrible defense attorney.) Kushner writes about Romy's daily life in prison, her fellow prisoners, and intersperses that with the story of how she ended up there. Forever. While this book can be difficult to read, it is also necessary. And the writing...
I am a total sucker for the “We-ditched-our-desk-jobs-bought-a-ramshackle-farm,-and-after-
ten-years-of-back-breaking-work,-made-a-go-of-it’ memoirs. There's something appealingly pioneer-y and American about them. (Just nevermind that this particular farm is in Canada. It's close to America...) Preston is a former journalist so this memoir of learning to farm successfully AND sustainably and organically, is particularly well-written. Informative, honest, inspiring and passionate.
Know anybody who likes to open water kayak? Don't give them this book -- or better yet, DO give it to them so they can better understand the perils. The Cove tells of a man in a kayak at sea who is caught in a sudden storm and struck by lightning. Coming to later, he finds he's partially paralyzed, mentally foggy and desperate to reach the shore and safety. Exquisitely written, gripping and terrifying. And if you are wondering about the impact of such a short book....the night after I read it, I woke up in the middle of the night -- 3:32am to be exact -- searching for land.
Nomadland is about a subset of older, mostly white Americans who, for a variety of reasons, don't have houses or the means to retire. So they take to the road, live in vans and trailers, become "gasoline gypsies," and work where they can -- at seasonal campgrounds, inhumane Amazon distribution centers, and beet processing plants. They are the new pensionless Americans, and Bruder tells their stories well. This book is for fans of Nickel and Dimed, We Are All Fast Food Workers Now, and The Long Haul. At the very least this book will spur you to put a little more into your retirement fund.
The admirable memoir joins the increasing canon of Iraq/Afghanistan war literature. An honest, often funny, more frequently sad, accounting of one man's induction into the Marines at age 19 and his three tours in Iraq. Written in a variety of genres i.e. lists, letters, prose, even graphics, the memoir underscores the idiocy of engaging 20 yr olds in war, and the insanity, monotony, and violence of war itself.
Trump should read this book. He won't, but he should. Francisco Cantu is a young man who worked for the Border Patrol in Arizona and Texas. The migrants he encounters (and sends back south) tell him stories of desperation, of the power and horror of the drug cartels, and of their thwarted desires for a better life and work. All this gives Cantu nightmares and tests his humanity. And it makes the concept of a "wall" utterly laughable. Must reading if you want to understand the border.
Denis Johnson wrote better about miscreants, ne'er-do-well's, inmates and addicts (he had some personal experience there) than just about anybody. These five stories, published after his untimely death, are full of dark humor, poignancy, sadness, surprise, and psychological acuity, sometimes all in the same story. Not only did I want to read them again as soon as I had finished, but I pulled out my old copy of Jesus' Son -- his earlier collection of stories -- and read that again, for the umpteenth time. He will be sorely missed
The four Gold children visit a fortune teller in NYC in 1969 who tells them each the exact date of their deaths. The Immortalists recounts how they live their lives and act on that knowledge. It's an interesting premise backed by wonderful writing, a story of the sometimes rocky, but always loving, relationships of four very different siblings,
and a profound meditation on destiny
A powerful true story about a series of murders in the 1920s of members of the Osage nation in Oklahoma, after oil was discovered under their land. The cases constituted one of the fledgling FBI's first major homicide investigations. A fascinating and compulsively readable look at venality, greed, and outright evil. Soon to be a movie (Scorsese, DiCaprio). From the author (and New Yorker writer) of The Lost City of Z.
Elmet, shortlisted for the Booker last year, is set in rural Yorkshire England and is a strange amalgam of LIttle House on the Prairie and Blood Meridian. Narrated by the gentle 14-year-old son of a loving brute of a father (he fights/boxes for a living), the story is of this boy's family (he has an impressive older sister: mom was a train wreck) and an escalating conflict with their money-grubbing landlord. The writing is often painfully beautiful and lyrical, almost fabulist, but this is "rural noir," and the noir part is black indeed. That said, Mozley conjures up a world that stays in your head.
I've read so many Harry Bosch mysteries (this is the 20th) that I feel he's a definite part of my detective family (Everyone should have one). In this one, Harry goes undercover in one of the two story threads. And the inimitable Micky Haller, Harry's half brother and attorney, has a decisive role. Always good, always learn something about legal (and illegal) procedures.
The Good People, set in 19th Century Ireland, tells the story of three women and a crippled child they all desperately wish were whole. With evocative prose and impeccable pacing, Kent (author of the excellent Burial Rites) illuminates the splits between the Old Ways and the new, folklore and religion, suspicion and knowledge, and delves into the peculiarly human hunger to find something, anything, to explain the inexplicable.
Savage Country, by the author of Coal Black Horse and The Coldest Night, is aptly titled. A new widow, whose husband spent the couple into debt before he died, sets off on a buffalo hunt south of Kansas to save her farm. She's accompanied by her strange and mythic brother in law. In their quest, they encounter thieves, blizzards, floods, wolves, fire, snakes, rabies, and Comanches. The book is intense, propulsive and often remarkably visual in its depiction of one of the great hunts of the late 1800s which decimated the population of 50 million buffalo. This is a literary Western of a pretty high order, in my opinion.
Alice McDermott writes flat-out beautiful books and her latest is no exception. The main character, Sally, grows up in Brooklyn in the early 20th century. Her father killed himself before her birth. She and her mother live in a convent and work with the Sisters. While on the surface a quiet novel, as many of McDermott's are, moral dilemmas, acute observations and keen character development abound. McDermott writes about the Irish Catholic American experience better than just about anybody. One of the year's best.
I like books that illuminate a corner of life you don't normally know (or want to know) about. The Long Haul is such a book. Murphy describes the life, methods and travails of a long haul truck driver -- if you've ever been moved a long way, you've used one. And it's pretty fascinating, from the quirky terminology to the logistics of packing thousands of pounds of, well, stuff. Read this and you'll never look at your mover -- or how he or she works -- the same way. (By the way, if you like the book...he's coming to the store.....November 8)
If a movie isn't made out of this thriller in the next 5 years, well, then I'll be wrong, but I wouldn't bet on it. Ricky Mendoza, aka "Ghost," is an ex-addict, ex-gangbanger safe-cracker in LA who also happens to have cancer and is looking for one last heist -- or two or three. He wants to take care of some people before he goes, and given that it's the middle of the 2008 financial crash, lots need his help. Can he do it without endangering the people he cares about most? Who will catch him first, the DEA, or worse, the Mexico-connected dealers he's ripping off? This gritty novel takes place over two days and is near impossible to put down.
One reviewer called it "Game of Thrones with Cops"; another, "The Godfather with Cops." Call it what you will, this panoramic novel starring anti-hero corrupt New York cop Denny Malone is endlessly entertaining, in a profane corrupt cop kind of way. Denny's on top of his world, a detective with power, reach and influence, until...he gets caught fixing a case and his life begins to unravel. For fans of Winslow's Cartel. Great dialogue and set pieces.
Finding a laugh these days is like finding a 50 cent piece on the sidewalk in front of you, shiny and unexpected. Theft by Finding: Diaries, excerpts from David Sedaris' diaries from __ to __ is full of such coins. These excerpts are perhaps best not read cover to cover, but in little bits, as Sedaris suggests. However you read them, you will be in the hands of a master humorist, whose remarkable powers of observation were present even when he was young. Trust me, you will laugh. And God knows, we all need that.
I guarantee this book is unlike any other you have read. For one thing, the author is a convicted murderer in prison for life without parole. These intense stories depict the world of prison life, in all its tedium, forced intimacy, desperation and dreams... mostly of escape. A fictional look at our culture of incarceration.
If you think growing up poor in provincial France is tough, try growing up poor and gay too. Louis wrote this remarkable book when he was 18. (He's now 25). A thinly disguised memoir, (he's said every bit is true) the novel depicts Louis' upbringing in a working class, poor, and violent family and his schooling in an equally violent atmosphere of bullying and homophobia. He was lucky to get out alive. Heartening? Not especially, but a view into a world not often depicted so honestly.
This charming murder mystery (if that's not an oxymoron) is set in Giverny, where Monet painted the numerous and famous water lily paintings. A wealthy eye doctor, who happens to be an art collector and a ladies' man, has been slain. But that's just the start. There's a beautiful art teacher, a jealous husband, an amorous police detective, and a dog who sees everything but can't, of course, talk. Atmospheric and clever, this mystery has more twists than a modernist staircase. NB: If you are so inclined, the book is available as an audiobook on Libro.fm, the bookstore-friendly audiobook alternative to Amazon's Audible, and the reader is excellent!
Hannah Tinti (The Good Thief) is a fabulous old fashioned storyteller. Twelve Lives relates the adventures of a petty, but somehow heroic, criminal, his beloved wife, and their daughter. Ranging all over America and moving seamlessly back and forth in time, it's also a relentless love story, a coming of age story, a father and daughter story, and a literary thriller. It carries you along like a river. I didn't want it to end.
In her late twenties, Amy Liptrot moved to the remote Orkney Islands north of Scotland, where she had grown up, the daughter of a bipolar farmer and his evangelical wife. Liptrot was fleeing the self-destructive hedonism (ie, drinking and drugs) of her life in London. She quit all that, and immersed herself in island life, helping lamb, searching for the rare corncrake, hiking the island perimeters, observing the Northern Lights (the Merry Dancers), and swimming in the frigid waters -- all in an effort to find out just what made her tick. A brave, moving and lyrical book.
Christopher Knight, aka the North Pond Hermit, lived in the Maine woods -- not exactly an unhostile environment, especially in winter -- for 27 years without human contact. He stole food and other necessities from camps around his hideout. Why would a 20 year old with a job, parents and siblings, and no obvious signs of derangement choose to live this way? By the end of this fascinating book, you almost understand why.
Sebastian Barry (in my opinion, Ireland's best living writer) won the Costa Prize for this mesmerizing book about the travails, loves, and adventures of an Irish immigrant to America in the mid-1800s who survives the Indian Wars, the Civil War, and Andersonville prison. It's violent, but then so was that era in America's history. This is stop-you-in-your-tracks writing, and you learn a lot about what it was like to be Irish then.
Wanna get away? Dip into this true-life Indiana Jones adventure story. In 2012 Douglas Preston joined a team of scientists and archeologists trying to find the White City, also known as the ‘Lost City of the Monkey God’, deep in the Honduran jungle. (A jungle replete with a multitude of nasty insects, jaguars, mud and snakes -- one of which, the fer-de-lance, can spit its deadly venom six feet.) Lost City is the story of that quest and also of the demolition of a once powerful civilization. A true, historical page turner.