Doug’s 2022 Book Club

January 1 – March 31:

The ones I loved:

AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins. It reads as non-fiction, but it’s not. I loved it even while horrified by it. It changed how I think of migrants at our southern border.

WINTERING: THE POWER OF REST AND RETREAT IN DIFFICULT TIMES by Katherine May. Beautifully written and deeply insightful. Her writing reminded me of H Is For Hawk.

2034: A NOVEL OF THE NEXT WORLD WAR by Elliot Ackerman & Admiral James Stavridis. Holy smokes, what a book! It’s an absolute page-turner. I was literally hooked by the end of the first paragraph. It’s terrifying precisely because we can see how it could happen, step by step. Written before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, I don’t think you’ll put it down once you start, even to sleep.

IN LOVE: A MEMOIR OF LOVE AND LOSS by Amy Bloom. A powerful memoir of a love that leads two people to find a courageous way to part—and a woman’s struggle to go forward in the face of loss—that ‘enriches the reader’s life with urgency and gratitude.’ (The Washington Post) If you know me well, you’ll immediately see why I loved this book.

EVICTED: POVERTY AND PROFIT IN THE AMERICAN CITY by Matthew Desmond. I finally got to this Pulitzer Prize winning book published a few years ago. It’s non-fiction, an important work that really should be read by all Americans, especially those who govern. I won’t lie: It’s depressing. And it’s also unforgettable.

LOST & FOUND: A MEMOIR by Kathryn Schulz. What a beautifully written book of both joy and sorrow. Schulz has also won a Pulitzer Prize, and is a staff writer for The New Yorker. “Crafted with the emotional clarity of C. S. Lewis and the intellectual force of Susan Sontag, Lost & Found is an uncommon book about common experiences.”

Here, listen to her voice:
What I remember most from those first hours after my father died is watching my mother cradle the top of his bald head in her hand. A wife holding her dead husband, without trepidation, without denial, without any possibility of being cared for in return, just for the chance to be tender toward him one last time: it was the purest act of love I’d ever seen. She looked bereft, beautiful, unimaginably calm. He did not yet look dead. He looked like my father.

THE PREMONITION: A PANDEMIC STORY by Michael Lewis. “Much has been written about how the pandemic came to be, but not so well known are the details about how it was able to spread so quickly in the United States…Michael Lewis has written a new book…that fills in those blanks. And it is a sweeping indictment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” ~ Rachel Martin, NPR

THE NIGHTINGALE: A NOVEL by Kristin Hannah. Set in France at the beginning of World War 2, this work of fiction reminded me of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE (which won the Pulitzer Prize). It’s not in that book’s same class but it’s still a good read, and it still packs a powerful emotional punch. Selected as Goodreads “Best Historical Novel” of 2015.

ANTHEM BY NOAH HAWLEY. Another work of fiction that absolutely reads like non-fiction and has the disquieting feel as if it was written literally yesterday. This was another book I could not put down once I started it.

People talk about freedom,” says the Prophet, “but how can we be free when we are sicker and poorer and more afraid than we’ve ever been? Free to do what? What about freedom from poverty, freedom from health care debt, freedom from the drugs we have to take to numb the pain of all the freedom we don’t have?

FAITH UNRAVELED: HOW A GIRL WHO KNEW ALL THE ANSWERS LEARNED TO ASK QUESTIONS by Rachel Held Evans. “In a changing cultural environment where new ideas seem to threaten the safety and security of the faith, Faith Unraveled is a profoundly moving, fearlessly honest, and relentlessly hopeful story of survival.” This was a more poignant read because Evans died at 37 of an allergic reaction to an antibiotic medication administered for a serious infection.

THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYCH by Leo Tolstoy. It’s such a small book, a novella, that I had first read in high school. It’s about mortality and belief and ultimately acceptance of the inevitable end for all of us written by one of the greatest writers of all time.

 

Ones read but not loved, for various reasons:

CROSSROADS by Jonathan Franzen. I’d really enjoyed THE CORRECTIONS so I was eager for this new Franzen novel. It was deeply disappointing, especially because I was a PK (preacher’s kid) and MK (missionary kid) and thought the theme of CROSSROADS would resonate. It did not.

A RIP IN HEAVEN by Jeanine Cummins. Having just finished American Dirt, this earlier work by Cummins was recommended by a friend. It’s not only true crime, it’s autobiographical – the crime happened within her family. Her brother was accused of murdering two of their cousins. Sounds pretty compelling, especially because it’s true, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t engage me the way American Dirt did.

INTO THE ABYSS: AN EXTRAORDINARY TRUE STORY by Carol Shaben.The definitive account of a plane crash in the remote wildness of Alberta that killed 6, including the leader of the opposition Party in the Canadian government. 4 survived and the account of their survival – and eventual rescue – in brutal winter conditions is harrowing. This book is written by the daughter of one of the survivors. Maybe, because I had watched a few episodes of the Showtime series Yellowjackets (before it, too, disappointed me and I quit) I sought this one out. It didn’t really do it for me.

And, finally…

THE DUCHESS COUNTESS: THE WOMAN WHO SCANDALIZED A NATION by Catherine Ostler. To be clear, I actually really enjoyed this book but I am an Anglophile and this is/was a fascinating (for me) true story. It’s a biography of Elizabeth Chudleigh’s remarkable life, every detail researched (and annotated), that transported me back to the 18th Century. She may well have been the best connected woman on earth.

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