August 2019 Book Marks
The calendar gods got it wrong when they made January the start of the new year. In my book, it should be September, the month when summer fun comes to a close. The first sign is the fallen leaf, burnished into a lipstick shade by a rogue cool mountain night.
Then there’s Labor Day, aptly named as the gateway to what’s to come…back to school, weekends at home, the buckling down into work and routines. Summer dresses and white shorts get packed away.
Once crickets begin their late afternoon chirp in the August grass, I feel a wisp of the blues, mingled with nostalgia and excitement. Nostalgia for all the back to school stretches I experienced as a child, college student and then as a mother. Excitement… because fall is a new gear, faster, cooler, time to get down to business. Fall has a renewed purpose, whether we like it or not.
And while in the midst of your “getting back to it,” save some time for books, whether on audible, Kindle or turning the pages of a book at the end of a long, good day. Enjoy this crop of new August reads…
The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
Occasionally, a book dumps me into a rabbit hole until I find myself mourning the last page. And while my criteria might be different than yours, it usually starts with exceptional writing, the depth of the characters and, of course, the story. For those who share my love of Wallace Stegner, this book reminded me of “Crossing to Safety” in numerous ways. It’s a simple story that examines complex issues; love, marriage, faith, loss, perseverance and much more. Two couples, coming of age in the 50s and 60s and wrestling with the vicissitudes of the era; civil rights, the war in Vietnam, women’s rights. Both husbands co-share minister duties at a church in New York city, although they have different relationships to their faith. The two couples have a twinned, but complicated friendship that delves into four psyches of individuals encountering every day questions about friendship, truth, disappointment and belief. I highly recommend this read.
Devotion by Madeline Stevens
Like so many young girls before her, Ella has arrived in New York City from Oregon full of big dreams and with empty pockets. When she takes a nanny job for the young son of an Upper East Side couple, she’s transported into a world of privilege in an elegant brownstone. Lonnie, the pretty wife, is a talented writer who has been born into family money. Ella is immediately attracted to everything about her, rocketing between envy and coveting her life, which begins to grow to an infatuation. As Ella is pulled deeper into Lonnie’s world and her girlish affections, warning lights go off everywhere. Beware the bright flame, it’s easy to get burned.
The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor
Recently, there have been a spate of WW2 novels that deal with lesser known subjects and this book is no exception. Inspired by the little-known “Faux Soir Movement” and its resistance heroes, this book is a combination of a heist tale and historical fiction, a kind of “Ocean’s Eleven” meets “All the Light We Cannot See.” Set in Brussels, 1943, a rag tag band of resistance fighters use their voice and risk their lives to publish a satiric newspaper mocking the Reich and combatting Nazi propaganda to rally the Allies. When they are captured, they must choose between using the power of their voice to paint the Allies as monsters or be killed. The real life story that inspired the book reminds us of the importance in illuminating the extraordinary acts of courage by ordinary people whom history forgot.
Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America by Christopher Leonard
Seven years in the making, the author, an investigative journalist, traces the rise of modern corporate America through the story of a powerful, yet secretive family corporation that most Americans know little about. With an annual revenue that exceeds Goldman Sachs, Facebook and U.S. Steel combined, Koch Industries is everywhere, from the fertilizers that make our food to the synthetics we wear to the diapers, chemicals and carpets we walk on. A genius businessman with a belief in free-market ruthlessness, Charles Koch began quietly amassing companies from Wichita, Kansas, with a view toward very long-term profits. Operating in deep secrecy, he and his brother David consolidated power over 50 years, transforming capitalism in a way that led to anemic unions, widened the income divide, stalled climate change progress and exerted vast control in the influence industry and politics. At times the book reads like a thriller, with epic characters waging battles worthy of Game of Thrones.
Girl on the Block: A True Story of Coming of Age Behind the Counter by Jessica Wragg
In the vein of the tell-all foodie-memoir trend, (ala Anthony Bourdain or Sweetbitter) Britain’s top female butcher tells the story of how a simple local market job at 16 in Chesterfield, England led to being a rising star. She pulls the curtain back on the all-male meat industry and gives us a ringside seat to what it was like to be the only woman in the ultra-competitive, tradition-bound industry.
Finding herself behind the counter with too-large boots and an apron splattered with blood and animal innards, Wragg finds herself falling in love with “the craft of butchery.”
As her career moves forward, she masters animal anatomy and knife skills and begins to realize how she can bring her concepts for ethical meat eating to the industry, as well as help the other “women of meat” in the process. A talented writer, the book is also peppered with stories of Wragg’s life outside of work as well as recipes, facts about meat and explanations for the layman about how and when to carve.
Barnum – An American Life by Robert Wilson
More than 125 years after his death, the story of “the world’s greatest showman” still inspires. The co-creator of Barnum and Bailey Circus was a brilliant impresario, a shrewd charlatan and a champion of wonder, joy and trickery. He has captured the world’s imagination since he first made international sensations of Tom Thumb, Jumbo the Elephant and so many more. Barnum once made a fortune selling tickets to see a mermaid, fashioned out of a monkey head and a fish body. He learned how to wow crowds and repeatedly reinvented himself, becoming one of Americas first millionaires. He suffered tragedy, bankruptcy, survived fires and willed himself to rebuild again. Much more than a cartoon ringmaster, he was also a state legislator, mayor, philanthropist, temperance advocate and the embodiment of the American Dream. The biography is an interesting and detailed look back at a period in history not unlike today, when scam and con artists blur the lines with celebrity, politics and showmanship.
Lee Woodruff Speaker-Author-Executive Media Trainer