It’s almost the season where a good book paired with a strong, hot cuppa sounds terribly enticing. Here is a list of books we recommend when you feel like curling up and staying indoors.
Jessica Francis Kane’s Rules for Visiting combines a dose of wit with a plethora of botanical facts as gardener May Attway undertakes a journey to reconnect with a set of old friends. While May covers quite a bit of mileage in her odyssey, the book makes equal mental strides as she contemplates whether the kind of hospitality Odysseus received in myth is possible in this day and age. The novel feels light but emotionally affecting, inviting readers to question what it means to know or care about people in a world where over-connectedness and Twitter feeds actually lead to disconnect. You can know the growth habits of a tree, you can feel its bark, you can seek solace in it. And May does. But are there still ways to know a friend so deeply in the age of social media? As May’s story unfolds, her reasons for self-isolation and difficulty forming new bonds are slowly revealed. Kane cleverly provides self-help advice in fictional form, as her flora-loving character navigates what it means for us both to relate to others and to accept who we are and what we’ve been through. ~NORA
“We deserve love. Thick, full-bodied and healthy. Love.” – Patrisse Khan-Cullors, When They Call You a Terrorist
Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele’s When They Call You a Terrorist is a powerful memoir full of love, hope, and healing.
Growing up poor in Van Nuys, California, Cullors witnessed her brothers and their friends being searched by police for no apparent reason other than they were black. She witnessed her father routinely being in and out of prison for drug use. She watched how her brother, Monte, was affected by torture experienced in prison. She discovered what it was like to have one’s home raided by police when her husband was mistakenly identified as a robber being sought. Despite all of this, Cullors remained optimistic. She involved herself in local community organizations whose mission was to provide support to those who were most in need. Together with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, Cullors helped found the Black Lives Matter Movement, an organization which helps shed light on the inequality and racism which still exists today.
Cullors’ story and the origins of the Black Lives Matter Movement is both tragic and uplifting. Cullors, together with Bandele, reminds us that strength will always be found in love and hope, no matter the situation. When They Call You a Terrorist is simply a must-read. ~ENICA
Set in 1544 London, The Alchemist of Lost Souls is the latest Bianca Goddard mystery by local author Mary Lawrence. The absorbing tale of murder and intrigue, based around a magical, glowing stone, is enhanced by its rich, historical detail, as well as by the inclusion of colorful medieval words interspersed throughout. The author vividly depicts life in Tudor London, inspiring readers to imagine what life was really like without modern sanitation, household appliances and medical knowledge. Superstition, magic and fantastical elements are pervasive and feel very authentic. I enjoyed a deepening acquaintance with Bianca, her relationships and her empathy with the people in her life. The river Thames courses through the novel and becomes a part of its exciting denouement. I found myself caught up in Bianca’s world and holding my breath to the very end. ~KAREN
My Beautiful Birds, by Suzanne Del Rizzo, is a beautiful picture book that follows Sami, a boy from Syria, and his family who have escaped to a refugee camp. Sami is worried about whether his pet pigeons have also been able to escape. Del Rizzo uses paint and clay to make the book’s illustrations and the resulting images have a beautiful three-dimensional look to them. The story is based on an actual refugee child from Syria who kept birds. My Beautiful Birds is a beautiful and moving book. ~KATE
Very well known and professionally respected in the American art world, Jim Stegner begins to fall apart after the violent death of his beloved teenaged daughter. It doesn’t help that he is alcoholic, arrogant, and has a short fuse. It is not surprising that he has murdered two men. The really interesting part of the story is the unraveling of why he allowed himself this behavior and whether he was justified in each case. None of the characters are either good or evil, even the brutal brothers he kills are shown to have a sympathetic backstory. The beating of a small horse sets Stegner off on his soul searching and very tense, dangerous, and unwanted adventure. The story is riveting . ~MARTHA