Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Reading for Mental Health


Reading for Mental Health in 2021, by Terry Shames

 In keeping with our tradition here at 7 Criminal Minds, I’m going to recommend some books I’ve read this year. This has been a particularly chaotic year in my life, so I really depended on my reads to keep my mental health. 

 Most of the books I’ll mention are mysteries, but there is one non-mystery that really grabbed me. Thank you to all these authors on my list for taking me out of my chaotic world and setting me firmly in the world of fiction. 

 So here’s my list: 

 I’m going to start with a non-mystery. I just finished reading Amor Toles’ The Lincoln Highway. It was very different from his blockbuster A Gentleman in Moscow, but just as compelling.

It grabbed me and held on. I can’t imagine a book better-suited for soothing the spirit. It’s a “road trip” novel and a “wise boy” novel and a book that gradually breaks your heart, but also has a healthy dose of hope. It’s about bravery and foolishness and the consequences of impulse. In short, I highly recommend it. 

 Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery, by Rosalie Knecht. Winner of the Sue Grafton Award, the book is witty and sharp, and solidly written. This writer deserves more recognition. 

 The Paris Diversion, Chris Pavone. A sequel to The Expats. You don’t really have to have read the first one to enjoy this. It’s clever with compelling characters and an ingenious plot. A really good read. 

 Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding, Rhys Bowen. Everyone should know by now that I’m a sucker for Bowen’s Lady Georgiana series. This is one of the more entertaining entries, answering the question: Will Lady Georgie actually marry the intriguing Darcy? A solid plot, and lots of fun. 

 One by One, Ruth Ware—fellow author Susan Shea gave me this one to read and I was so grateful! It’s a great locked-room mystery. Ware is an author you can trust to come up with a great plot and intriguing characters. She also does dread really well. One red herring after another builds the sense of suspense. 

 The Distant Dead, Heather Young. This was a great book. Young never disappoints, but this was above and beyond. It’s poignant and unexpected. Nominated for an Edgar. 

 Bone Canyon, Lee Goldberg. A good, solid mystery with a likable protagonist. I found it particularly interesting because he does Los Angeles (my new location) extremely well. As I read the book, I felt like I knew the canyons. And Goldberg knows how to do characters! 

 Conviction, Julia Dahl—very tightly woven story of trouble between Black and Jewish neighbors in New York in the early 90s. A young man is convicted of a crime against a Black family, and many years laterthe convicted man begs reporter Rebekah Roberts to help him prove he didn’t do the crime. Rebekah is a great character and the plot solid. 

 Please See Us, Caitlin Mullen. This book was totally original, heartbreaking, beautifully written. It won the Edgar for Best First novel. If this is her debut, I can’t wait for her next book. 

 The Guide, Peter Heller. A sequel to last year’s The River, this tale was every bit as good. I love Heller’s writing. It’s spare and clean, and poetic. It hardly matters what the mystery is because the writing is so gorgeous. But in fact, the mystery is well-crafted and doesn’t disappoint. 

 The Deep, Deep Snow, Brian Freeman. Nominated for an Edgar, it was very well written, with a solid plot and good characters. It’s a cliché to say that a mystery is about “secrets” in a town; but Freeman takes this trope and enriches it. 

 The Darkest Evening, Ann Cleeves—I haven’t read a lot of Cleeves, although I have watched a lot of the Vera series. I find the books different from the series, and in many ways I like the books better. The character of Vera is richer. This book is a good example. 

 I’ll mention one more book: Darling Rose Gold, by Stephanie Wrobel. I hesitate to recommend it because I despised the man characters. But I couldn’t put it down. It compelled me forward—which I suppose is why it was nominated for an Edgar.

Happy Reading, Everyone. And Happy Holidays to All.


Josh Stallings said...

Terry, I just finished Lincoln Highway, and it was absolutely what the doctor ordered. It reminded me of how I love Steinbeck's Cannery Row books. And now you have given me a few more for my TBR pile. Happy holidays!

Terry said...

Same to you, Josh. And before too long, we have to get together. I

Ms. Allison said...

Great list, some on my TBR list!’