An escape into a great book and getting together with friends to discuss are moments I cherish and look forward to. These times allow for both quiet reflection and social interaction with friends who have great insight and thoughts to share.
While the spring is a busy time of year and the kids and family activities build up, I find it’s essential to slow down and delve into a great book. Here is a list of some of my recent favorites and recommendations from close friends and family.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. This is one of my favorite books I read this year. It is beautifully written and heartbreaking, with great detail given to the characters. It is a fictional story of Shakespeare’s family, his son’s death, and the impact on all of the characters. It is set during the 1580s in England at the time of the Black Plague. However, the overriding themes are very relevant today.
Five Decembers by James Kestrel. This book is a suspenseful mystery and crime novel set during the Second World War surrounding the time just before, during, and after the attack on Pearl Harbor. There is a murder mystery, a love story, and a well-written historical portrait of the War. It is a page-turner and hard to put down.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. This is the story of a woman and her son who are forced to flee their home in Acapulco, Mexico to escape a drug cartel and travel a dangerous and arduous journey to the United States. It is a story about family, love, and survival.
Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates. This book had a lasting impression on me, and I still think about it from time to time. This is a true story about a female Shakespeare professor who volunteers to teach a Shakespeare class in a maximum-security prison. The story centers around her unlikely years-long friendship with a prisoner with a life sentence. The prisoner is passionate about reading and analyzing Shakespeare, and it is a tale of a life-changing experience for both him and the professor. The book also sheds light on the inner workings of the prison system and the need for reform.
French Braid by Anne Tyler. This book centers around the various members of a family through generations. It follows their lives through the latter half of the 20th century and into the current pandemic times and struggles. Beautiful writing, detail, and in-depth character and relationship analysis.
Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur. This is a memoir written about a complicated relationship between a mother and daughter. When the mother entrusts the young daughter with a secret, there are significant consequences for all involved. This is an emotional book about family, love, devotion, and the lengths people will go to protect loved ones.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. This book is a suspenseful mystery about a wife’s search for her missing husband. The search uncovers truths about his past and identity. The wife and stepdaughter set out on a journey to discover the truth about why he disappeared.
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe. For those interested in nonfiction, this is a well-written and detailed account of the story behind the Sackler family. The Sackler family is one of the wealthiest families in the world and is responsible for the making and marketing of OxyContin, which fueled the opioid epidemic.
The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer. A historical fiction novel set in 1942 during the Second World War, the story centers on the story of two women, one from Nazi-occupied Poland that the other from modern-day. The overriding themes center around the strength of the human spirit, compassion, love, and perseverance through unthinkable obstacles.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This is a story of a Russian nobleman sentenced to house arrest and forced to live out his days in a small hotel room. The rich detail and character analysis paint a portrait of the main character, the relationships he forms, and his observations and insights about life. This book will leave you thinking about the main character long after the story has ended.
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. This story is by the same author as A Gentleman in Moscow, described above. This story centers around a young woman in New York in 1937 and details New York society during this time period and the journey of the main character as she enters this new life. It’s a fun escape into Manhattan in the 1930s.
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. This novel is set in the 1960s and follows a young woman who is a scientist and single mother, but her life journey towards a career takes a sharp turn in another direction. The main character is bright and witty, and it is an interesting story of her persevering through life. It is set during a time when men dominated careers in science and the sexism women faced during this period, especially in the workforce. It is a smart, funny, and poignant book.