Many of us are finding it easier to tackle our TBR piles, now that we’re practicing social distancing. Here are some suggested titles to add to your reading list — most are available as audiobooks.
Something She’s Not Telling Us by Darcey Bell
Charlotte has everything in life she could ever want — an adoring husband, Eli, a thriving flower shop, and an adorable, smart daughter, Daisy, who is five. Her relationship with her mother is improving, as long as there is some distance between them. Her brother, Rocco, finally seems to have found a girlfriend, Ruth, that the family likes, and the relationship between them seems as if it may become permanent.
Ruth loves Daisy — maybe too much. Her relationship with Daisy is on track to become an obsession. Ruth has never had much, but she’s finally on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of — a stable job, a boyfriend she falls more in love with every day, a new niece she adores. But there’s Charlotte’s attitude toward Ruth, which toggles between politely cold and downright hostile. Ruth knows that Charlotte must have a long-buried secret, but the question is: What?
And then one day Daisy is kidnapped. When Charlotte goes to pick Daisy up from school, she learns that Ruth has already picked her up. Charlotte’s worst fears about Ruth are realized, and she’s determined to find Daisy before any harm can befall her. But how much help can the parents give the police when they can’t even remember what Daisy was wearing when she went to school that morning?
The Mercies by Kiren Millwood Hargrave
The Mercies is a dread-soaked retelling of real events that occurred in Norway in 1617. If you think that the Salem witch trials in the late 1600s were unique to the United States, this story will show otherwise. In 1617, a freak storm in the North Sea blows in and kills the majority of the men in the village of Vardo, Norway, who were out on a fishing expedition at the time.
Maran, one of the women left behind, loses as much as anyone in the storm. Taken by nature are her brother, her father, and her husband-to-be. When the town of mostly women divides after the storm, she finds herself drawn to Kristen, who flouts gender norms, rather than to the more conservative women of the town. The town’s remoteness offers it a degree of freedom that will soon be challenged by the arrival of the commissioner, and witch hunter, Absalom Comet. His arrival represents an assertion of state and church authority over what he sees as a wild, devilish place.
The women of Vardo are not witches. They are accused of variations of two crimes: finding comfort in their pre-Christian religious traditions and acting like men — wearing trousers, fishing, taking a deep interest in other women. These are the sins that will send them to the stake. The appeal of being a witch is the embracing of women’s power. The thing that makes men burn them is the fear that their own power is being stolen.
The women find strength in each other. They labor, they teach each other, and they face the cruel sea and even more, the brutality of men. In every crevice of the book, women find ways to survive and live or die on their own terms.
Saint X by Alexix Schaitkin
In this debut, Schaitkin delves into the ripple effects of a tragedy that affects two individuals from polar opposite walks of life. Claire is only seven years old when her college freshman sister, Alison, is murdered on the last night of a family vacation on the tropical island of Saint X. Two weeks later the body is discovered, and Edwin Hastie and Clive Richardson, employees of the resort, are arrested. Although they were the last people seen with Alison, they are soon released because the evidence is circumstantial, and Alison’s murder remains unsolved. The family returns home with the mystery remaining unsolved.
Twenty years later, by chance, Claire’s and Clive’s paths cross again. Claire is working in New York City and one day gets in a cab. She doesn’t recognize Clive until she sees his name and license on the partition between the front and back seats. Claire begins drowning in her obsession to find out the truth about who her sister was and what happened that night on Saint X, tearing open old wounds never properly healed.
Schaitkin vividly paints the emotional struggle Claire experiences after leaving the island. Her identity, her relationship with her parents, the expectations of her friends, are all defined by her sister’s death. Once Alison is gone, she becomes the ideal. But Alison also had her rough edges, and Claire becomes increasingly caught up in her determination to find the truth.
If a good slow-burn literary mystery/thriller type book is your preference, check this one out. It examines the aftermath of a tragedy from all sides, and explores privilege and race while unfolding the mystery.
The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Suspense fans, be sure to add this book to your list of must-read books for 2020! The book is a duel narrative of a niece and her aunt, 35 years apart, with lots of secrets at a small-town roadside motel, the Sun Down.
Carly Kirk sets out from her Illinois hometown to find answers some 35 years after her Aunt Viv vanished from the seedy motel in upstate New York while working her night shift. What Carly discovers fairly quickly is that she may be tackling a much bigger mystery, the never-solved mystery of a cluster of murders of young girls. Was Aunt Viv also looking for answers before she disappeared? St. James alternates stretches of Carly’s investigation with flashbacks to Viv’s nightmarish experiences at the haunted motel. Creepy, scary, intense, and gripping, this book combines an exciting mystery with just enough ghosts to not overwhelm the plot.
Amnesty by Aravind Adiga
In his latest book, Booker Prize-winner Adiga confronts a universal conundrum: at what price are we willing to do the right thing? Danny, an illegal immigrant from Sri Lanka, has stayed in Australia, even after he has been denied refugee status. Since coming to Australia, he has worked eleven hour days over more than four years as a housecleaner. He has begun to become assimilated. He has a passable Australian accent, has highlights in his hair, and is dating a nurse.
Now there has been a murder. Danny recognizes the woman as one of his clients. There is a jacket found at the murder scene and Danny also recognizes it. The jacket belongs to a doctor, another one of his clients, who he knows has been having an affair with the woman.
Suddenly Danny is confronted with a choice, and either choice will change his life. Does he risk coming forward with his knowledge and risk being deported or does he keep quiet and let justice go undone? This story takes place over eleven hours in a day of Danny’s life. He spends these hours evaluating the weight of his past, his dreams for his future, wrestling with his conscience, deciding if a person without rights still has responsibilities. If you are looking for a literary fiction book with timely social issues and moral questions, add this book to your TBR list.
While vacationing in England in 2017, Hammer, contributing writer for Smithsonian Magazine, spotted a very short news story about a thief of falcon eggs, Jeffrey Lendrum, who had jumped bail and was on the run. For Hammer, the article raised questions: What kind of person raids falcons’ nests? Why are the eggs valuable enough to risk a person’s life? From these questions sprang a story almost too bizarre to believe.
Falcons are prized in the Middle East as racing birds, wild ones more so because they are thought to be faster and stronger than domesticated birds and can bring more than $400,000 a bird. But in Dubai there is a falcon race, the President’s Cup, with a current purse of $11 million, so it’s a small investment. The book explores two parallel lives, that of the globe-trotting smuggler who spent two decades capturing raptors worth millions of dollars and Detective Andy McWilliams of the United Kingdom’s National Wildlife Crime Unit, bent on protecting the world’s birds of prey.
Sometimes reading like a James Bond movie, Hammer takes us inside the life of a smuggler, the thrill of the chase, such as dangling from a helicopter to raid nests. We also accompany McWilliams as he spends decades of his life shining light on the world of wildlife crime and its perpetrators.
Unless you’re living in a cave without Wi-Fi, you are aware that raising children today presents challenges that previous generations of parents didn’t face. These challenges are heightened by the 24 hour news cycle and pervasive social media. Anxiety is the number one mental health disorder of both kids and adults. Renowned clinician Levine takes a close look at this anxiety and how it affects decision making and child development.
She examines the epidemic anxiety of contemporary parents that causes them to both shelter and over-manage their children, which leads those children toward depression and likely failure in a future that will require different skills and preparations. Overprotective parenting commonly leads to two problems: “accumulated disability” and the “impairment of life skills.” Levine cautions readers of learned helplessness and delayed adolescence and advises parents on how to change course and cultivate “a strong moral compass and an appreciation for the common good.” She stresses skills needed by today’s adolescents such as critical thinking, curiosity, flexibility, collaboration, and perseverance. Hope and optimism are “ultimate life skills.” Levine emphasizes the ability to thrive amid uncertainty, illustrating her point with stories of people both famous and not famous. Best of all, however, Levine masterfully balances the realism with positivity — all is not lost. Parents and children can change course.
Olympic Pride, American Prejudice: The Untold Story of 18 Africans Who Defied Jim Crow and Adolf Hitler to Compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Deborah Riley Draper and Travis Thrasher
On the eve of what was to be the XXXII Summer Olympics in Tokyo — postponed until 2021 — Draper and Thrasher delve into the history of black athletes in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Many people are familiar with Jesse Owens, his performance as a medal winner, and his subsequent snubbing of Adolf Hitler. However, there were eighteen black Americans who competed in those games. These athletes came from all walks of life: from college students, dock workers, and housewives and generally were unknown by the public. Draper and Thrasher have thrown light on these unsung heroes.
So daunting were the athletes’ prospects that they considered boycotting the games. The athletes already knew lives of racial prejudice. Their second-class status confronted them everywhere in America. Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, is a reminder of the era of Jim Crow, a derogatory term for blacks stemming from state laws that sought to retain segregation. This easy-to-read book includes many historical photographs and shines a light on these lesser known Olympians, black sports heroes, who paved the way for future civil-rights gains.
This book grew out of a 2016 documentary film of the same name, produced by Draper — this film is currently available to watch on Hoopla.
— Regina S., Collection Management Coordinator