From serious to lightweight, July is bursting with books
As someone who can quote the entirety of “The Devil Wears Prada” and was fascinated by the documentary “The September Issue,” I love a good tell-all about Anna Wintour. I also have admired Andre Leon Talley since he first began working in the glossy magazine trade. But his memoir “The Chiffon Trenches” is so much more than behind the scenes gossip. It is an honest and soulful account of Talley’s life and work in a society that undervalued him. He never elicits pity, he has too much integrity to play that cheap card. An illuminating read.
“The Vanishing Half” is the first I have read by author Brit Bennett. This story of twin Black sisters of fair skin, one of whom is able to “pass” as White, is a compelling read of race, identity and whom we choose to be. Don’t miss out on this book.
Anna Solomon mines the story of Esther trying to save the Jewish people in Persia for the tale of three women in “The Book of V.” The contemporary story lines intersect in the end in a lovely twist I failed to anticipate. I question the honesty of the act the husband requests of his young wife, but he is a politician so I didn’t let that detail upend the whole story. Intelligent writing that asks pointed questions about power, duty and family.
“Please See Us” by Caitlin Mullen is a thriller set in seedy Atlantic City where young women go missing. Though a more casual read, it too raises issues of female sexuality, power and manipulation. Finally, a thriller with a dependable narrator and not a psychotic wife/husband/girlfriend.
Amity Gaige takes us on a boat trip with a young family in “Sea Wife.” A tale of survival at sea and of marriage in general. The fact that I would find it ludicrous to mortgage my home to buy a 44-foot sailboat to spend a year at sea with a spouse and two young children did not prevent me from enjoying this superbly written novel.
Catherine Steadman gives us a psychological thriller with “Mr. Nobody.” Well-paced writing with twists and turns of memory and action, this is a good summer read from the author of “Something in the Water.”
“How Quickly She Disappears” is another thriller with excellent pacing and a story reminiscent of Hannibal Lector with an inmate who trades information for favors. The suspense continues to the last page. This is Raymond Fleischmann’s first novel and is set in Alaska, adding to the chilling story line.
A genre that I refer to as Southern mountain crime is defined by Brian Panowich, a master of the craft. I started with “Bull Mountain” and read “Like Lions” this month. His third in this series is out but I am on the waiting list so I hope to feature it next month. You do not need to read these in any order. His writing style is explosive and will leave you exhausted.
For nonfiction, don’t miss “Rust: A Memoir of Steel and Grit” by Eliese Goldbach. She grew up in Canton, Ohio, when the steel industry ruled the community and economy. The economy led this English major to a job in a mill. Fascinating and instructive details about the workings of the mill and a psychological portrait of the author.
She gets a bit bogged down in parts, but this is a highly worthwhile read, similar to “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance.
“Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh is a short, deceptively simple book that actually deals with some complex topics, including one of the best descriptions of depression you will ever read. Much of the writing is accompanied by simple graphics, rendering it a fast read.
For those who want a funny, frothy beach/pool book, pick up “Last Tang Standing” by Lauren Ho. Set in Singapore, it will delight those who relished Kevin Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians” trilogy.
For more information, check out beckysbookclub.com.