(Primary Justice, Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness)
The two books I never have any problems recommending are:
Candide by Voltaire. It’s funny, it’s smart, it’s short and it’s just as relevant today as it was when Voltaire wrote it, if not more so. And then, after my friends have read it, we can have long, pizza-fueled discussions about what the last line means.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Once readers get through the first chapter and absorb the rhythm of the book, everyone enjoys this story of two sisters raised by their eccentric, transient aunt. Robinson’s use of language is so good, you find yourself savoring each sentence.
(Gutshot Straight, Whiplash River)
During the cold Oklahoma winter, I like to read books that transport me to warmer climes. Timothy Hallinan’s terrifically compelling mystery-thriller, The Fear Artist, is set in Bangkok, Thailand, which is just about as far from a cold Oklahoma winter as you can get. As for nonfiction, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, an account of life in a Mumbai slum, is heartbreaking, head-turning, and absolutely exhilarating.
(Death on Demand, What the Cat Saw)
My most recent reading included a new book, The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, and an old book, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough. Rhys’ book is another in her series about a young royal, distant in the line of succession, in the 1930s who frolics from adventure to adventure.Light, fun, and entertaining. It was a New York Times best-seller.
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay was published in 1942 during the darkest of the war years and offered readers respite in Skinner’s recollections of the duo’s trip abroad when they were 19 — a lovely return to innocence.
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi. This YA (young adult) novel is a mix of Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Romeo and Juliet ... and it really, really works.
In a world ravaged by violent, constant tornados (hey, we’ve all been there, right?), society has split into two factions: those who dwell in enclosed Pods and spend their days hooked into fantastical virtual realms, and those who struggle with the dangerous, primitive existence on the outside. When an exiled Dweller is rescued by a fierce Outsider, their very worlds collide, too.
For some cold-winter-day entertainment, check out this novel and its sequel, Through the Ever Night, which recently became a New York Times best-seller.
(The Pull of the Moon, Lone Star Diary)
Maybe I’m having a second childhood, or maybe it’s a foreshadowing of my next body of work, but I’m captivated by the robust YA market right now.
And in that vein, I’m reading the ultimate survival story: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand. You won’t put it down.
B. Kent Anderson
(Cold Glory, Silver Cross)
Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat-Moon. After he loses his job and his wife leaves him, the author takes to the back roads of America. He is a fine traveling companion and observer of the people and places he visits, also sharing his personal inner journey. The book gets to the essence of America.
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. The novelization of the Civil War’s Battle of Gettysburg puts human faces on larger-than-life figures as Robert E. Lee and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. His language is breathtaking, but the book never lags in its pacing as the harrowing battle unfolds.
(Dating DaVinci, Something New)
Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do, edited by Meredith Maran: In this collection of essays by 20 bestselling authors, including Sebastian Junger, Jennifer Egan, Ann Patchett and many more, the writers share the triumphs and turmoil that comes with writing, both the solitary bit and how writing has impacted their lives away from the typewriter. Writers and readers who are fascinated with a writer’s mind likely will love the book.
(Harpsong, Kind of Kin)
I love nothing better than curling up with a good book on a winter’s eve, and the louder and more strident the world’s noise, the more I find myself seeking the comfort and deep immersion in a novel.
Some of my favorites of late: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, a brilliant look at the Iraq War era and its parallels with American foot ball culture — so funny and wise and smart.
Tobias Wolff’s Old School is a delightful boy’s eye-view novel for every one who loves writers and writing, featuring cameos by Robert Frost and Ayn Rand!
And, finally, I’ve got to recommend my friend Constance Squires’ terrific, Army-brat-coming-of-age novel, Along the Watchtower, which takes place in the 1980s in Germany and Lawton, and features one of the most engaging young characters you’ll ever meet in fiction, Lucinda Collins, daughter of a U.S. Army major and lover of all things rock ’n’ roll!