Thursday, March 31, 2011

Five Good Reads

My two year involvement with the Texas Library Association Lariat Adult Reading List task force comes to an end in about two weeks. We will meet at the annual TLA conference and vote on our favorite 2010 fiction titles. Many are nominated; only 25 can be chosen. Our criteria: that they be "a pleasure to read"... Today I thought I would feature a handful of titles I thought were good reads.

Joyce Maynard is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I knew I would like The Good Daughters (William Morrow, 2010). Two girls born on the same day in a small New Hampshire hospital are as different as can be. One grows up to be a farmer, the other an artist. Neither feels at home in their family. Why? Maynard slowly reveals family secrets that redefine both women's lives.

The Confession (Doubleday, 2010) by John Grisham presents a bleak panorama of the Texas criminal justice system, but as usual this super-popular author uses his top notch storytelling skills to bring a death penalty case into sharp focus. A recently released rapist confesses to murder just as the young black man imprisoned for the murder faces execution. The sweeping cast of characters includes parents of the victim, the wrongly accused prisoner and his family, lawyers, state officials and one minister caught in the middle of it all. A classic legal thriller.

Lauren Belfer's novel, A Fierce Radiance (Harper, 2010) is a fascinating look at the history of penicillin. During the World War II era, Life photojournalist Claire Shipley files a story about the development of the new penicillin drug, a story which becomes so political and sensitive, it is killed. But this isn't the end of her involvement with the new wonder drug, and thus the plot thickens. Set in New York City, this historical thriller was unexpectedly eye-opening. I now have a much greater appreciation for antibiotics.

City of Veils (Little, Brown and Company, 2010) by Zoe Ferraris combines two mystery plots: that of a missing husband and the murder of a female filmmaker. Time frame and place: modern day Saudi Arabia. Katya, a Muslim woman working in the medical examiner's office, steps up to an investigative role. She has to pretend to be married in order to keep her job, and there are some romantic developments stirred into the book's mix. For me the most fascinating part of the novel was learning more about Saudi Arabian women's roles, restrictions and conundrums.

I don't think I ever read anything by Lily King before, but after reading Father of the Rain (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010), I plan to hunt down her earlier books. Told over some forty years, it is one daughter's story of how her allegiance to her alcoholic father both weakens and strengthens her life. Set in an east coast WASP shore town, this novel's time, place and characters rang true for me. If you like your fiction rich, moody and insightful, this is one book you shouldn't miss.

I have about 5 or 6 novels left to read before we vote. Hopefully I will get through them! Although it has surely been a privilege to work on the Lariat list, I must admit I look forward to regaining absolute reading freedom.


Anonymous said...

Interesting Keddy, I"ll have to check out your suggestions. I've never been a big fan of Grisham (always like his discussions of his books better than the books themselves), but if you like it, I'll take another look! Hope all's well!

LoneStarLibrarian said...

With the Grisham, I had to read it for Lariat, and then got engrossed, and was also having a "shame on Texas" reaction. I like his book Painted House - it's like Grisham doing Steinbeck...not a legal thriller.