Thursday, May 26, 2022

Nonfiction Choices of the Summer Reading List

I never deliberately balance my nonfiction reading with fiction, but I find that I work my way through more nonfiction these days than in the past. One book that drew my attention was The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation. I find that the diary itself holds up to re-reading every few years, and I have also read a number of books that fill in some of the blanks about the short life of this child whose writing was evidence of such a bright mind. I even enjoyed the novel The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, based on the false premise that Peter actually survived the war and lived to adulthood, keeping his past a secret in the U.S. Sullivan goes into some detail about the actual experience in that attic space, but goes further as a modern team followed up leads, using up to date technology, to determine who might have informed the authorities about their hiding place. While the conclusions are not absolute, the author and the team of investigators put forth substantial evidence about the guilty party. They also suggest that Otto Frank and Miep Gies also knew of the identity but ever revealed the information out of an instinct to protect the family of the person responsible.

 In a totally different vein, I enjoyed Carole King's memoir A Natural Woman, which follows her life, tracing her success as a songwriter and singer, as well as detailing her personal life. I am always shocked to be reminded just how young she and Gerry Goffin were when they began penning their mega-hits. Rather than a tell-all in which she spills the dirt on others whose paths crossed her, this book is usually generous to other she knew but sometimes painfully honest about her own life choices. Details of her performance as part of James Taylor's band was a stunning reminder of all the talented musical arts who supported one another during their heyday. The book begs for a companion playlist. 

Michelle Zauner's memoir Crying in H Mart, which began as a New Yorker essay explores the complicated dynamics between mother and daughter, compounded by culture. Zauner, the Korean-American lead singer of the indie rockers, Japanese Breakfast, particularly explores the strong sensory connection between familial ties and food. For book clubs that pair meals with books, this memoir provides a perfect culinary opportunity. After reading Lisa See's Island of the Sea Women and The Girl with Seven Names by Lee Hyena-seo, one fiction and the other non-fiction, I am beginning to crave kimchi.


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Summer Reading--While It's Still Spring

 Living on a school schedule, I love that my summer break starts in early May. I've always made an effort not to let my work get in the way of reading for pleasure, but summer always gives me a little more opportunity to whittle down my book stack.

Jason Mott's novel Hell of a Book alternates between the story of a Black writer (of a novel called, no coincidence, Hell of a Book) during his book tour, involving many strange encounters, including one he calls The Kid. In a parallel narrative thread, another young boy called Soot by bullies because of the comparative darkness of his skin, deals with school conflict and then witnesses his father's death. The narrative keeps readers speculating about the connection between the two stories. The story is both unsettling and originally told.

Jennifer Egan's Candy House lives up to expectations for anyone who read her 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad. The first novel certainly proved to be prophetic in the way technology would begin to eliminate our privacy--even of our thoughts. In this new novel, a scientific discovery is coopted by Bix Bouton for his company Mandala, offering people the opportunity to "own your own consciousness." Realizing that characters from the earlier book make an appearance in this one has me considering re-reading Goon Squad for continuity and to see just how much of what seemed far-fetched then is our reality now.

These are just a sampling of my fiction reading so far. Stay tuned for the nonfiction picks.