I go through reading droughts. Last year was a particularly bad one. I started and put down many more books than I finished. Part of the reason was I was writing HERESY and most of the time when I'm in the writing weeds, I feel guilty taking time to read. I need to be working! But, there's also another issue I've had since becoming a professional writer: it's tough to read for enjoyment anymore. I'm too busy 1) figuring out the ending 2) wondering why the writer made a particular choice 3) lamenting that an editor swallowed their red pencil, especially for Big Name Writers. It's tough to get lost in a book once you know how the sausage gets made.
This year has been different. First, I'm not working on a book at the moment. Oh, sure. I've started a couple of projects but can't seem to stop procrastinating long enough to make much progress. So, I've been reading and listening to audio books. Below are five that stood out.
(Links below support independent bookstores. Buy from local bookstores where you can. This is why.)
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal; narrated by Meera Syal (womens fiction/audiobook)
Firstly, believe this title. It does not lie. Second, this book was an incredibly enjoyable listen. Meera Syal gives a great performance and the writing is sharp. I'm trying to read outside my culture as well as marginalized voices, and this book was a great look inside London Punjabi culture.
The Book Thieves: The Nazi Looting of Europe's Libraries and the Race to Return a Literary Inheritance by Anders Rydell (Non-fiction/WWII)
We've all heard about the Nazi looting of priceless artwork, but the looting and destruction of Europe's libraries and literary inheritance have been largely overlooked. This book was enthralling, fascinating, horrifying and disturbing. A must-read for lovers of WWII history and historical fiction (though this is non-fiction).
The Underground Railroad by Coleson Whitehead
I'm a couple of years late to the party on this one. Wow. WOW. What a book. The sci-fi conceit - a literal railroad underground transporting slaves to freedom - fades away as the reader visits each stop and realizes that each one is a mirror of some of the most heinous ideas/theories/actions against black people, the very ideas that have perpetuated discrimination for the last 150 years, and have enshrined this discrimination into the fabric of our society. Beautifully written and haunting. A must read.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent; Narrated by Morven Christie (historical fiction/audiobook)
I've wanted to read this book for years and I decided to listen to it because I knew I would butcher the Icelandic language in inner monologue, and I was so glad I did. Morven Christie is phenomenal. Her alto voice gives necessary gravity to the subject - the last execution in Iceland. You need to listen to this novel. Give it a few chapters. It'll be well worth it.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (romance)
I've been on a romance kick since I bought a Julia Quinn novel at a second-hand bookstore on vacation. I'd seen this book all over social media and read it based on the recommendation of Miss Haley on Twitter. I'm so glad I did. This book is pretty darn sexy for upmarket romance, though in all fairness, I haven't read upmarket romance in a long time. Is that even a genre? Maybe not. I'm calling it upmarket romance. Anyway. The heroine is on the spectrum and the hero has a full body dragon tattoo wrapping itself around his torso. Sold.
While you're over there, feel free to add my upcoming novel, Heresy, to your Want to Read shelf!