One of the best ways to get to know a new-to-you author, is to poke around in the author’s bookshelf. I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite books. Since you’re all ardent readers, I’m sure you understand, if I did this tomorrow, it might be an entirely different booklist. No matter how many books I put on the list, I will always feel horrible about the great books I omit.
One great spy story
The Blackbirder, Dorothy Hughes – Set during World War Two, The Blackbirder is a story born of the paranoia of refugees who worked with the French Resistance. It takes Dorothy B. Hughes just a few paragraphs to capture the paranoia of illegal refugees from occupied France, trying unsuccessfully to be invisible in New York City.
One book that belongs on every mystery lover’s bookshelf
The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett – Quite possibly the best detective story ever written.
One book that made me re-think my notion of what the mystery genre can be
Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds – A three hundred page poem, winner of the 2018 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.
One “Gothic tale of fate and retribution”
Shipwrecks, Akira Yoshimura – Set in a remote fishing village in medieval Japan, Shipwrecks is hauntingly relevant today.
One must-read middle-grade mystery
Zora and Me, T.R. Simon and Victoria Bond – A lyrical tale of a fictional Zora Neale Hurston, solving mysteries as a child in Eatonville, Florida.
One book about the birth of forensic medicine
The Poisoner’s Handbook, Deborah Blum – At the start of the twentieth century, if you were inclined to commit murder, targeting your spouse perhaps, or your business partner, the weapon of choice would be poison. Science had progressed to the point that numerous poisons had been isolated and still more were being manufactured, but science had not progressed to the point that those poisons could be identified in human tissue. So it was nearly impossible to obtain a conviction in a case of murder by poison. Deborah Blum does a wonderful job with the science and the human stories, as she traces the invention of medical forensics.
One book of fables from the Ming Dynasty
Monkey, Wu Cheng-En – This is a 500 year-old Chinese folk novel about a Buddhist priest who walks from China to India and back again to bring Buddhist scriptures to the people of China.
One book that made me want to be a writer
Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut – The hardest thing here is selecting just one book by Vonnegut. He is, arguably, my favorite author. One of the highlights of my writing life was when I was selected to be part of the Vonnegut Reading Marathon, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Slaughterhouse 5.
One book I’m reading right now
Blacktop Wasteland, S.A. Cosby – The best opening chapter I’ve read in a very long time.
One book on my TBR pile
We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson – I bought this for my wife, who loved it. Now it calls out to me in the way that only good horror can.