March 2021 Book Marks
All masked up and dressed for the cold, I recently walked into the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga, New York. Beyond the growing numbers of vaccinations and that mud-earth scent promise of spring, it was the energy inside that beloved indie shop that gave me hope. The place was cooking with gas, bustling with a happy, energetic vibe I hadn’t felt in a year.
Everyone seemed excited to be there, wandering through the bright aisles and picking up hardbacks, flipping through paperbacks and perusing staff picks. After a year of avoiding public places, I was warmed by how familiar it suddenly all felt. How very “normal.”
Books have been a friend to many of us through this pandemic. And no matter how or where we get our stories… on audio books, Kindle or the old-fashioned way, may your life always be full of fantastical escapes.
What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz
In 2019, artist Laura Preston receives a phone call out of the blue informing her that her brother has been found. Flash back to 1972, when the Preston family was living a privileged ex-pat life of riding lessons and teas, while their father worked for American intelligence. The central tragedy of their lives was defined by the disappearance of their young son Philip, who vanished on the streets of Bangkok while waiting to be picked up from karate class. The narrative toggles easily between present day America and the family’s former life in Vietnam War-era Bangkok Thailand, with their servants and sumptuous Colonial-era house. This engaging, multi-layered story is about families and the secrets that destroy them.
Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig
Based on a true story about a group of Smith College students who serve as nurses in WW1 in France, this sweeping story covers the tale of 18 Smithies, including two trailblazing female doctors, who set sail for France armed with money, supplies, and good intentions. All of their best-laid plans immediately go awry as they face the grim reality of war on the ground.
The Smith College Relief Unit faces villagers in desperate straits, constant shelling from the Germans, a French bureaucracy, and the threat of being ousted by the British army. But the heart of the story is the girls themselves and how they will survive their own differences. Coping with the hardships and terrors of the war, the women navigate old rivalries and new betrayals which threaten the very existence of the Unit. Can the Smith Unit pull together and truly be a band of sisters?
Win by Harlan Coben
The man just can’t disappoint, even if he wanted to. Which is why so many of Coben’s books end up on the screen. In his latest thriller, a crime of the past is connected to a murder on the Upper West side. The key to it all is Win Horne Lockwood the Third. The wealthy protagonist has his own brand of justice that often puts him in the cross hairs of the law. But when two family heirlooms turn up in the murdered man’s apartment, Win becomes the connection between the present-day crime and a heinous act of domestic terrorism in the past.
Already Toast – Caregiving and Burnout in America by Kate Washington
This book is a searing memoir about one woman’s plunge into caregiving when her husband is diagnosed with cancer, but it’s also a factual and well-documented look at the broader national realities and costs of caregiving. With two young children and a thriving career in her 40’s, Kate Washington sees her life and identity being stripped away as her husband Brad plunges into a grim battle to stay alive, including a stem cell transfer, infection and loss of his sight. A writer by trade, Washington tackles the intricacies and taboo emotional side of caregiving with the insight of someone who has journaled her emotions and even blackest thoughts. Framing her story in the larger societal issue of the overlooked and unpaid role of caregivers throughout history, she articulates the challenges and stressors it puts on families and the economy. I enjoyed this book on every level.
Maniac: The Bath School Disaster and the Birth of the Modern Mass Killer by Harold Schechter
What is it about evil and mass murder that fascinates humans? Crime shows and podcasts about evil dominate the ratings. This book piqued my curiosity because I’d never heard of this disaster, one with more lives lost than the Columbine and Sandy Hook school shootings. Schechter forensically recreates the family history and gradual unravelling of mass murderer Andrew Kehoe. In 1927, the residents of Bath, Michigan were proud of their new elementary school. Local farmer and school board treasurer, Kehoe, seemed like an accommodating neighbor and friend. Yet underneath the surface, as his financial world crumbled, his narcissism, rage and paranoia coalesced into a plot to rig the school with explosives. On May 18th his bombs killed 38 children and six adults, injuring many more. The deadliest school massacre in US history was promptly overshadowed by Lucky Lindbergh’s landing in Paris as the birth of the modern tabloid was at full tilt. For true crime lovers, this author has done his research.
Connect – Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends and Colleagues by David Bradford and Carole Robin
Relationships are critical to a fulfilling and healthy life. The personal connections we make persist across jobs, companies and careers. “Connect” offers a compelling and highly accessible roadmap for building and maintaining relationships that can result not just in professional success, but in personal happiness and fulfillment. Like any skill, the process of connecting can be described, learned and applied. The authors, long-time professors at Stanford Business School, are famous for a course on interpersonal dynamics that has become known as “touchy-feely.” They have coached and consulted with hundreds of executives for decades and now we get to benefit from their wisdom.
*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!