Monday, December 13, 2021

More Book Recommendations

Book suggestions

- from Susan


There can never be too many books. There can never be enough time to read all those books. Every day last week, as my Minds colleagues highlighted their favorites, my scribbled list of “must reads” got longer.


I agree with everyone that not all the noted books need to be crime fiction, nor do they need to have been published in 2021. In fact, after 2020, when I read all or parts of hundreds of crime fiction novels for the Edgar Awards, I needed to cleanse my palette, so I read a lot of non-fiction, older fiction, and a handful of books by authors who are friends. Here’s my grab bag of suggestions.


Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, by E.O. Wilson. This was published in 2016, the last in a trilogy about our Earth and what we can do to save it. Wilson is revered as a biologist and also as a writer. I’ve read other books he wrote, but this one for me is a shining example of how science looks at and makes sense of the physical world in all its glory and potential. Wilson believes we can save the Earth, but the title is the clue to his theory, and it will be an uphill battle. 


Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, published in 2012. My son, who tutors online, told me he had assigned it as a YA novel to a writing group and said it was well-crafted and captivating, which is how it caught my attention. It’s a World War II spy novel centered on the work of two young women, and I could not put it down. It’s packed with adventure, bravery, heartbreak, and resilience and, judging by the reviews on the cover of the paperback, neither could anyone else who read it. Why it’s classified as YA, I don’t know. I’ll have to ask him.


Tricky, by Josh Stallings, published in 2021. In a year when I was avoiding the ugliness of the world as much as possible, Josh (a Minds friend) got me with a story of police corruption and violence, and one man’s attempts to figure out a guy who is either a murderer or the victim of a frame-up. Cisco, who displays characteristics of being mentally disabled, is the beating heart of the story, vulnerable and hard to assess. Later in the book, another memorable character, appears. Won’t say who because that could be a spoiler, but this guy has his own (albeit small) good heart. I loved this book and Josh’s storytelling.


Out Loud, a memoir by internationally acclaimed modern choreographer and dancer Mark Morris, published in 2021. Morris is frank, outspoken, brilliant and – who knew- very, very funny. I laughed out loud as he described his growing up devoted to performing, his signature approach to dance as being inspired by music, the ups and downs (mostly ups) of a long career that started when he was about 10 years old. He’s a gay man who came of age during the nightmare of AIDS but managed to dance his way through the minefields, and who to this day creates dances the way most of us plan and cook dinner every day. 


Miss Buncle’s Book, by D E Stevenson, originally published in 1934. Catriona McPherson (also a Minds friend) turned me on to this escapist confection a few years ago, and I would love to pass along to Minds readers the delight of a story about a woman in a small town who must do something to make money and who decides to write a novel. She looks around her for inspiration and winds up creating fantasy outcomes for her neighbors. Fortunately or unfortunately, the book Miss Buncle writes becomes a best seller and the townspeople catch on and are not happy. Charming, sly, and amusing, it also resonated with me because Catriona gave it to me when my first French village novel came out, and, yes, I had done a bit of that myself! 


But Catriona’s present was even more welcome because it introduced me to the gems of the Persephone Books (London) curated catalog of works that have earned the distinction of being re-animated. Not only is their catalog full of delights, but the books themselves are gorgeous, well made paperbacks in dove gray covers with endpapers and bookmarks taken from period wallpapers and fabrics. I thought it might be a niche publisher, hardly known, but when I was in London in 2018 and went to Waterstone’s famous bookstore, an entire front window was dedicated to Persephone Books, and the clerk pointed me to a section upstairs set aside for those dove gray covers. My collection keeps growing. So, thanks, Catriona!


So many books, so many different tastes in reading, so many authors to admire and cherish. 


Happy holidays, happy reading, happy writing if you’re an author or reviewer. May 2022 be a better year for Earth and all of us who inhabit it!






Catriona McPherson said...

You are most welcome, Susan. I started another friend (I hope) on her Persephone journey on Saturday, when I gave Dorothy Whipple's THEY WERE SISTERS to Laura Jensen Walker.

Love your choices. SPOILER: that might not be the last time TRICKY pops up this week,


Josh Stallings said...

Susan, thank you for the gift of your kind and insightful thoughts about Tricky. And I really can't wait to read Code Name Verity. I sometimes forget I love YA. They require a a tightness and clearity of prose.

Susan C Shea said...

Okay, Catriona, when the push is over at Persephone to fulfill Christmas orders, I'm going to order THEY WERE SISTERS. Persephone has a number of her novels, so it's like opening a new seam into something precious.

Susan C Shea said...

Josh, I am sure you'll like CODE NAME VERITY, as different as it is from your California mean streets. The Nazis were evil personified.