December 2022 Book Marks
It’s that time of year when work, time and to-do’s feel squeezed like a sponge and it all screeches to a halt with the holiday hard stop. I’ve left this December blog far too long, meaning to get back to editing it with each passing day. So without further bluster—here are some wonderful reads for warm or cold climates. And here’s to hoping you found some joy, big or small, with the holiday season and the coming new year.
Trust by Hernan Diaz
This clever book tells a tale from three perspectives, beginning with the ultra-rich Rasks, who are at the top of the Manhattan pecking order thanks to Benjamin’s golden touch in the 1920’s stock market. The couple also become the inspiration for a popular novel, however when we delve into the story within the story, the truth begins to looks very different. Prosperity has come at a cost. One woman is determined to find the truth, and through her perspective we view the extent to which power and greed can manipulate reality. This novel spans generations and centuries, creating a brilliant literary puzzle. Highly recommend this read!
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
This book was all the buzz in London as a shortlist for the Booker Prize this year. It’s a tiny little jewel box of a novella, easy to accomplish in two sittings, that takes place in early 20th century Ireland. Furlong is married to a good woman, with a family of young daughters and a steady business selling heating fuel. He was born to a single mother, a domestic in a kind household, who would never tell him who his father was. Furlong grew up with a wonderful relationship with the lady of the house and due to her kindness and support (she was childless) he fared better than most children of out of wedlock mothers. On one of his coal deliveries to the local convent, he has a chance encounter with a young, terrified girl. She is one of the victims of Ireland’s notorious Magdalen laundries, where young pregnant girls were sent to carry out unpaid labor. Their babies either died or were given away for adoption against their will. What Furlong chooses to do next forms the wonderful turn in this beautifully wrought book.
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
This book starts in fourth gear and doesn’t let up. Set in the deep south, “Demon” is born to a teenaged single-mother in a trailer, who is also an addict. His dead father’s only legacy is his name and a copper-colored mop of hair. But Demon is the epitome of a good kid, with a curiosity about the world, wit and a keen sense of survival, despite his circumstances. At times it’s hard to read; with a story that veers into the “lost boys,” food insecurity and a child starved for love, parenting and lacking in the basic necessities. Kingsolver’s prodigious writing talents are at work here. Her writing and dialogue wholly embodies the voice of a boy-to-man, including slang and swearing, sex and vomit, drugs, deceit, addiction and so much more. Based on the narrative of Dicken’s classic, “David Copperfield,” Kingsolver has updated the commentary on institutional poverty and the damage society can cause children. But at its heart, this is a coming of age story that weaves in the triumph of the human spirit.
The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama
As a follow-up to her first book, “Becoming,” Obama continues her story, writing with her honesty and wit while drawing on her experience as a mother, daughter, spouse, friend, First Lady and advocate. She invites us into her post-White House world and frankly addresses both triumphs and disappointments, as well as her own anxiety and fears in today’s polarized, uncertain world. Her accessible writing style and vulnerabilities give the reader permission to work through our own fears and live life with an emboldened sense of purpose.
Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story by Bono
As the front man for the band U2 for more than four decades, this author doesn’t need a last name. Organizing his life around the structure of 40 songs and their backstories, Bono provides a picture of his interior and exterior life with captivating storytelling. Note — he reads the audio book with sound effects and songs. The stories move from the band’s early days and the fundamental loss of his mother at age 14, to his deep faith and unwavering love for his wife Ali, and covers the band’s secret to longevity, despite “anger issues.” Shaped by growing up with a Catholic father and Protestant mother during the time of sectarian violence in Ireland, we gain insight into Bono’s drive to help others through his activism and work to fight poverty and AIDS. If you love a good memoir, don’t miss this one.
The Unfolding by A.M. Holmes
This darky biting comic parable examines some of the tropes and truths of our divided country. The book begins in the immediate wake of the 2008 election, when “The Big Guy” and his cronies are watching in disbelief as McCain concedes. The Big Guy loves his country, his family and money, not necessarily in that order. With that love in his heart, he orchestrates a plan for his team to regain their version of the American dream. But underneath all those family values and apple pie, things are beginning to rot. Wife Charlotte is an alcoholic, stick thin and silently seething, conscious of her gilded cage life. Their daughter Meghan is boarding school reared, loving horses and learning about history, largely sequestered from the reality of life for the 99%, she is beginning to open her eyes to some of the truths surrounding democracy, freedom and truth. The book really begins to move about half-way through as the title suggests, when things begin to unfold.
*These are books I genuinely love and am thrilled to recommend to my friends. These are Bookshop.org affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I get a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. Alternately, if you prefer to rent books at your local library or buy from your local bookstore, I very much support that!