Weekend reading

Vannessa Cronin on January 03, 2020
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It's the first weekend of the New Year and the Amazon Books editors are divided: two thirds of us are in the mood for nonfiction (running the gamut from a massacre in Revolutionary War-era Boston to a contemporary voyage across Antarctica). And two of us are looking for escape of a different kind: into a cracking good thriller. Vive la différence.


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The Boston Massacre: A Family History by Serena Zabin

Having grown up only one town away from where the first shot was fired in the Revolutionary War, I thought I knew a lot about the run-up to that event. But Zabin’s The Boston Massacre (February 18) looks at the people living in Boston at the time—the merchants, the politicians, the British soldiers, the soldiers’ families—to better explain the tensions between the colonists and Mother Britain, and why those tensions overboiled into a shooting in a Boston street in 1770. I’m enjoying Zabin’s eye-opening history enormously, and I’m secretly hoping to be rained in this weekend so I can spend much more time with it. —Adrian Liang


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The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison by Jason Hardy

Yesterday I picked up The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison by Jason Hardy and I haven't put it down since. It's a personal, appealingly honest, and eye-opening look at what it means to be a parole officer in New Orleans. From home visits and cuffing offenders to putting them in jail to dry out and forming genuine bonds, Hardy grapples with the dichotomous job of trying to both catch and protect the 220 souls--offenders--he's responsible for. He is at once a hero and a savior, a friend, and a foe. There are bleak moments and shining rays of hope in his experiences, but I'm most grateful for his narration that is empathetic and thoughtful, giving attention to a system that though limited is also saving lives. —Al Woodworth


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The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice—Crossing Antarctica Alone by Colin O'Brady

Colin O’Brady was in the news recently for crossing the Drake Passage in something that looks like a really long rowboat. He did it with a small team of equally hearty souls, and it was the first time anyone had crossed from the tip of South America to Antarctica under their own power. You can read more about it here, and when you do you’ll realize that it might be the last time anyone rows a boat along that course. O’Brady has a book coming up called The Impossible First (1/28), in which he recounts crossing Antarctica “alone, without support, and completely human powered.” I’ve heard some good things about it, and it even has a blurb from the guru of Grit, Angela Duckworth. —Chris Schluep


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The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts by Tessa Fontaine

I stayed with friends over New Year's and on the squat bookshelf in the guest room were a handful of choice tomes, including The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine, a memoir I really enjoyed when it was first published in May of 2018. There are people who threaten to join the circus, and people who actually do. Fontaine spent a season with the World of Wonders, the last touring sideshow in America, and learned to eat fire, charm snakes, become a human flashlight, and fit in with her sideshow family (perhaps the biggest feat of all). Turns out, there isn’t much smoke and mirrors involved; to perform these death defying acts, she had to “un-train [her] instincts, unlearn self-preservation.” She had to, essentially, make peace with pain. That also happens to be one of the keys to living a full life and the overarching message of this memoir: If you don’t face your fears and open yourself up to heartache, you’re closing yourself off from the best life has to offer. As 2020 begins to unfold, this is a good thing to be reminded of. —Erin Kodicek


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The Other Woman by Daniel Silva

Because of my job, people often ask how many books I read in a year, and it’s hard to say because I just don't keep track...  I also listen to a lot of audiobooks, but again, haven’t kept a count. This week I got an email from Audible telling me that I listened to 24 audiobooks in 2019. This doesn't count to ones I've listened to on another app.  Does this mean I'm spending too much time in the car and cleaning my house (the current state of it would say no, but...)?  I'm going to ignore that question for now because I've just started my first new audiobook of 2020.  I'm kicking off the year with a book I missed in 2018, Daniel Silva’s The Other Woman. This will be the third Silva novel I’ll listen to, and it’s the same wonderful narrator, George Guidall. A spy thriller that concerns a Russian conspiracy, a KGB mole, and a mysterious woman, I started The Other Woman on my way to work and I can’t wait to put on my headphones and do some packing today so I can jump back into Vienna, where the story begins. . . —Seira Wilson

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The Truants by Kate Weinberg

I know judging a book by its cover is wrong (everyone says so), but it's tough when the cover of The Truants has beguiled me since I first saw it in a catalog months ago. Add to that the fact that the jacket announces it as "perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and The Secret History" and there was no doubt that I'd be reading this one. So far, so good. A pair of university freshmen are enrolled in an Agatha Christie class offered by an enigmatic English literature professor and they are rubbing shoulders (literally, in one, romantic, case) with other students as their social circle, and the cast of suspects, begins to form. I'm 50 pages in and hooked already, so the weekend promises to be a good one. —Vannessa Cronin


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