When I am not writing, I am reading. There are some writers who believe that they need to go “cold turkey” while they are working on a book. I ascribe to the theory of fifty percent of the time writing and fifty percent of the time reading the work of others, whether fiction or nonfiction. I used to stay away from dystopian novels but after reading Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, I am a convert. Most recently I read with a sense of dread, Leave the World Behind, by Rumaan Alam. I recommend both. What you won’t find on my list are books in the fantasy genre.
Here are my top three books for this month:
A collection of novellas, my favorite of the four is “Mr. Harrigan’s Telephone.” A young boy in small-town Maine befriends an elderly curmudgeon who is a former Wall Street investor. The young boy introduces him to power of the internet accessible through his iPhone. When the man is buried, the young boy slips his iPhone into the coffin. And then the boy’s phone rings. I’ll say no more.
The language is gorgeous, and the story of Milkman Dead is set in a North Carolina town, with a diverse cast of characters. Milkman’s fate is pre-ordained but it is a pleasure watching his story unfold as he seeks out hidden treasure with the help of a so-called friend and strong women of his family who want to lay claim to what he is after. If you love Song of Solomon, you might also want to read Tar Baby. Set on a Caribbean island, a stranger comes to town (a common story theme but made uncommon by Morrison) and upends the life of Jadine, a black fashion model and the niece of domestic servants who work for a wealthy white couple, the Streets. Again, the writing is gorgeous. Morrison explores the themes of racism and white privilege.
This historical novel set in the early 1900s in Manhattan leads the readers through the streets of the city, vividly portrayed, following the heels of Andrew Haskell Green, responsible for putting Central Park and the New York Public Library on the map. The book opens with the murder of Green and is also a who-dunit. The perpetrator is motivated by a case of mistaken identity.