*The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown is a NYT bestseller and “an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times.” Reminiscent of Unbroken and Dead Wake who also plumb the same era with engaging prose and meticulous historical research, the Boys are working class students at UWash who surprise the world by defeating the elite teams of the East Coast, Great Britain, and eventually the best of Hitler’s German athletes.
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald is an award-winning UK best-seller about how a young girl became an experienced falconer who copes with grief from the death of her father by training a dangerous goshawk. While providing a little more than I needed about the history and techniques of falconry, there’s a parallel examination of T.H. White's eccentric falconry. A meditation on “Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir,” clearly the work of a true British intellectual.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Recently ‘discovered’ by her attorney, the book distracts significantly from the reputation of the author (and some of fiction’s favorite characters) while showings that, possessing talent in her twenties, Lee needed (and received with Mockingbird), the firm hand of a good editor. The image of Atticus as a rationalizing racist was too much for me to handle.
**The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll is a “riveting debut novel” that blends elements of Gone Girl, Harriet Alger and Primates of Park Avenue. Ani is determined to create the perfect life--husband, home, and career--until an incident from the past threatens to unravel everything. Knoll has a keen eye and finely tuned ear for the challenges of competing on Philadelphia’s Main Line or Manhattan’s East Side.
*Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties by Patricia Marx, former writer for SNL and the New Yorker is “equal parts sarcasm, silliness and smarts.” (NPR). Her self-deprecating riffs on memory lapses-- looking for glasses while wearing them or asking, "Who's the guy who isn't Robert De Niro?" --are reminiscent of Nora Ephron's I Remember Nothing and lots of fun for anyone willing to admit that their brain doesn’t function as well as we think it once did..