The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native American from 1890 to Present. My "poetic review" is here. My notes and quotes are here.
The Murder Rule (Audible). Great beach read! In early 2022, I took a screenshot of a tweet from crime writer extraordinaire Don Winslow where he recommended this book. I forgot about about it until a year later and promptly downloaded the book to my Libby app. 4 days later I'd finished it--wow-Aussie author Dervla McTiernan can write. Full of twists and turns and courtroom drama, the reader goes behind the scenes of the Innocence project to find out if the prisoner in question is truly innocent, or if anyone really is.
Uncertain Ground: Citizenship in an Age of Endless, Invisible War (Libby, Listened.). Such a great collection of essays. My review is here.
City on Fire (Libby, Listened). Master crime writer Don Winslow pens a fast-paced mafia thriller set in Providence, Rhode Island. The narrative focuses on Danny Ryan and his struggle to find a place between long-warring Italian and Irish families. I first read Winslow in his SoCal cartel thriller Savages back in 2010 and have followed his work ever since. City of Fire delivers as a classic crime tale--the best part is that its the first of a trilogy!
Khalil (Libby, Listened) This 2021 novel takes the reader into the mind of a Moroccan/Belgian suicide bomber with his sight set on Paris. Notably, it's author is a former Algerian Army officer living in exile in France who publishes under the pen name Yasmina Khadra (his wife's first two names). Even more notable, the French Academy awarded him its Henri Gal Grand Prize for Literature in 2011. All that to say, the story is as nuanced as one would expect from such a gifted author. Khadra delves into the central chracter Khalil's mind as he unveils the history, influences, and methods that turned a young man into a suicide bomber. Equal parts terrifying and stupefying, the author declines to offer any easy answers but instead paints a complex picture of the immigrant experience and the roots of modern day terrorism. *Khadra also wrote one of my favorite novels: What the Day Owes the Night which I reviewed at Beyond Achebe.
Dispatches From a Cowgirl: Through the Looking Glass With a Navy Diplomat's Wife. Author Julie Tully pulls back the curtain on what it's like to be the wife of diplomat living in Africa. With so much written about diplomats, attaches, and ambassadors, Tully fills an important void in telling the story of the vital women/spouses that form the foundation of life overseas. As she takes the reader on the journey of their lives in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Djibouti, it becomes clear just how pivotal her role was to her husband's success. Indeed, the author regales the readers with story after story of her and her husband's lockstep coordination as they developed plans to host dinners and events--it's readily apparent that the attache life is a team sport. The only area that I wished she'd fleshed out more were her efforts to enshrine the memory of Pilot Officer Maguire, the only American born military buried in Djibouti--I'd hoped for another chapter on that. Overall, I can't imagine a more important book for any couple to read before heading to an overseas embassy assignment, particularly one with representational duties. It will ensure they arrive clear-eyed as to the rmyriad responsibilities and exciting opportunities of life overseas.
The Last Policeman. Winner of the Mystery Writers of America Edgars Award (Libby) for best paperback original in 2013, the novel tells the story of a world facing pending destruction at the hand of a monster meteor. No one yet knows where on earth it will hit but already it's upended every societal norm. Among the changes is a huge spike in suicides--they've become so commonplace they are only nominally investigated and processed. One day, however, Detectice Henry Palace encounters a man hung in the McDonald's bathroom that doesn't sit right with him. Author Ben Winters creates an interesting story that makes for a good beach read (or in my case, a way to break up the Napoli afternoon commute).
The Midnight Library (Libby, Listened). A quantum physics take on It's a Wonderful Life. Engrossing read that will have you second guessing every significant choice you've made in your own life. In this novel's case, its protagonist has a chance to re-explore different branches and choices that she didn't make. Ultimately, the authors forces the readers to question their assumptions about determinism and urges each of us to embrace Socrates' directive to seek to "know theyself."
Falling: A Novel (Libby, Listened). Came across this novel via author Don Winslow's twitter feed. This is a decent beach read thriller that takes the reader onto a plane that comes under an unconventional terrorist attack. Frankly, I wasn't sure that the author could write an entire book over such a small slice of time but she does an admirable job of stretch out that space through the thoughts of the various characters.
Romantic Comedy: A Novel (Libby). Superb beach read. I first read Sittenfield back in 2006 and she struck me with her ability to create the an encompassing and utterly believable boarding school atmosphere. A product of Woodberry Forest myself (albeit an all-boys school) I could attest to her mastery. In Romantic Comedy her research is evident as she tackles the world of late night television (a la SNL) and comedy writing. Through sketch writer Sally's viewpoint, the reader quickly gets the feeling of a clubby insider--privy to the inner machinations of a unique sub-strata of the Hollywood world. Romantic Comedy is just what its title describes, and each page is a pleasure as Sittenfield pens perhaps the first great post-COVID COVID novel--one that is unflinching in addressing gender-power dynamics but at the same time tender in its description of all the wonderful and awful ways falling in love feels.
The Violin Conspiracy: A Novel (Libby, Listened). *Audible. I came across this novel through Anne Bagel's Podcast "What Should I Read Next?" In it she spoke with musician Brendan Slocumb as he described writing his first novel, a tale equal parts mystery and commentary on racism in America. While this debut novel may have some minor pacing and diction issues, don't let that dissuade you from this deep thrilling deep dive into the classical music world. As an outsider, it was eye-opening to see and experience the the life of a classical musicians, particularly a black one who is not hesitant to share the myriad racist setbacks and attacks he endures (during the podcast he noted that he based all of the racism from the novel on personal experiences).
Paradise. Currently reading.
Into Thin Air.
City of Dreams.
Brasil: A Biography
Tribe of Mentors. My full review will be here.
The Italians. Currently reading.