Monday, March 30, 2020

Dear Great Book Guru, In these troubling times, I find it very hard to concentrate when I read.  There is so much time and I would like to spend some of it with a good book.  Do you have any thoughts on this? Anxiously Distracted

Dear Anxiously Distracted, I very well know what you mean. I have found myself going for comfort foods and comfort books this last week.  I’m going suggest you consider John Grisham’s oeuvre.  He has written over 35 novels and - interestingly- in rereading some of them, I found there was still a strong surprise ending.  From the first A TIME TO KILL to the latest THE GUARDIANS, these legal thrillers share a common theme. The lead characters are usually young, vulnerable people - frequently new lawyers -  who find themselves in perilous situations where they should fail but somehow triumph: over mega institutions, the health insurance behemoths, the FBI, organized crime, corrupt politicians…. The endings are seldom predictable and not always happy, but the reader’s attention is kept throughout. Most are set in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana with richly colorful local details. At their core these novels reflect Grisham’s interest in social justice, particularly capital punishment and racial profiling. Another strong plus for his novels, Nassau Library System’s eBook platform LIBBY lists 48 books and 31 audiobooks  for Grisham - all available to borrow (except the latest  THE GUARDIANS).   

Monday, March 9, 2020

Dear Great Book Guru, My friends and I are thinking of starting a small book group. Do you have any suggestions about how to go about this? Also, any books that might work really well for us?  Fledgling Book Clubber

Dear Fledging Book Clubber, I have belonged to many book groups over the years - in fact, there is one I have been attending monthly for 28 years.  My first suggestion is to choose short books - I know that sounds like trite advice but if you want consistent attendance, short is the way to go. A single venue also helps a great deal - the same home or restaurant. Thirdly, don’t get caught up in elaborate refreshments - wine and seltzer, maybe cookies are all that are necessary.  Of course, this is if you want your primary focus to be books - many prefer more of a social event. One of my groups just read a very good book that might be a fine first choice for yours: PASSING by Nella Larsen. The title comes from the practice of choosing to pass for a different race.   Written in 1929 and coming in under 200 pages, this novel - set in 1920’s Chicago and Harlem - tells the story of two biracial women Irene and Claire who were childhood friends. When they meet twelve years later, Claire confides she has been passing as white and has married a wealthy, virulently racist Chicagoan.  Drawn to Irene, Claire follows her to Harlem where - for a moment - she enjoys a double life filled with passion and danger. This book touches on questions of race, class, and gender all in the form of a fast-moving story.  Highly recommended!   

Monday, March 2, 2020

Dear Great Book Guru, Next week the Winfield Irregulars - with Sea Cliff’s own Joe Hughes - will be performing at the Metropolitan Bistro on Sunday, March 15 at 4pm. It will be agrand afternoon of Irish folk music plus good food and drink.  I am very excited, but there will be plenty of time for a challenging mystery. Any thoughts? Lover of Irish Music and Mysteries

Dear Lover of Irish Music and Mysteries, I am a great fan of Tana French - a writer of mysteries - all set in and around Dublin.  An exciting new TV series DUBLIN MURDERS is based on some of these novels. FAITHFUL PLACE is a favorite of mine. Faithful Place is the name of a gritty, crime riddenDublin housing project where Frank Mackay grew up. He left there as a teenager for many reasons: an abusive father, detached mother, damaged siblings, and most of all - a broken heart. Frank had planned a midnight elopement to England with his girlfriend Rosie Daly. Rosie never showed up that evening but left him a note saying she had changed her mind. Neither Frank nor her family ever heard from her again. The next twenty-two years saw Frank marry, have a child, divorce, and eventually become a highly decorated undercover police officer, but he remained tortured by what he saw as Rosie’s rejection. Estranged from family and friends, hnever returned to Faithful PlaceThen during a building demolition, Rosie’s suitcase is unearthed and shortly afterwards her body is found. Frank is forced to revisit people, places, and beliefs he had long ago abandoned. We soon realize a terrible crime has been committed. This is a tale of Irish despair, decay, and eventual redemption.  Highly recommended!