So many books, so little time.
That’s what they say, and in 2019, it was the truth. Here are the can’t-miss, shouldn’t-skip books of the past twelve months.
If the subject of death can be taken lightly, there’s no better way than in “How Not to Die Alone” by Richard Roper. It’s the story of a man who works in London as a finder: when someone dies, the people in his office are tasked with locating the survivors of the deceased. That’s not the funny part; the humor comes in a blurted statement that literally takes on a life of its own, and the lengths the man goes to perpetuate it. Clever, witty, perfect.
Lovers of Mark Twain’s adventure books will relish “This Tender Land” by William Kent Krueger, the story of two boys who run away from an Indian Training School in 1932, and they head down the Mississippi to escape the adults who want them back. Lush, exciting, and irresistible, this novel will fill a good weekend or two.
What can you say about a book that starts off with an attempted suicide? That’s “Talk to Me” by John Kenney, and that’s what happens after a TV newscaster insults a temporary worker and because of it, his life falls completely apart. Media folks will particularly love it, but if you’re a news junkie or a hardline TV watcher, you’ll love this story.
If you’ve already seen the movie about Harriet Tubman, then you know the kind of treat you’re in for when you read “The Tubman Command” by Elizabeth Cobbs. Taking one small event from Tubman’s life, this novel blows it up big and makes exciting, all the while reminding readers that Tubman was a woman, first and foremost. For readers who need a novel that means something, this is it. (Tip: get it in an audiobook, for the full effect of the excitement).
And last but not least in the fiction category, “American Pop” by Snowden Wright is a sweeping, multigenerational novel about a family who’s patriarch creates a drink sensation. When he passes the business down to his scheming children, interesting—and heart-wrenching—things begin to happen.
For political animals and those who are tired of politics as usual, “Palm Beach, Mar-A-Lago, and the Rise of America’s Xanadu” by Les Standiford is still a book to read. It’s a biography of a place and the people who made it, and it’s also a history of us as a country, our need to explore, and our fascination with celebrities. Historians and Floridians take particular note on this one.
Expect something a little different in “Toil & Trouble” by Augusten Burroughs, who reveals in this book that he’s a witch. Not the bubbling cauldron type, but one who knows things but can’t explain why, but who still has to work to find love, home, and happiness just like the rest of us. This book is sweet and quirky and perfect.
You don’t have to have visited Las Vegas, nor do you have to remember the Rat Pack to enjoy “Elvis in Vegas” by Richard Zoglin. Sure, it helps, but loving glitz, glamour, entertainers, and scandal is really all you need to want this book.
It’s not cheating to put together “Bitten” by Kris Newby and “Mosquito” by Timothy C. Winegard in one Best Of, because they really belong side-by-side on your shelf. Newby’s book is about all the things that can bite you and maybe kill you. Winegard’s book is about one thing that bites and kills more humans than any other creature. How can you resist books like those?
And then there’s “The League of Wives” by Heath Hardage Lee, a book about the wives of the men who prepared for and were sent to the moon on the Apollo 11 space module fifty years ago.