Nightstand Reads with author Sara Donati

Where the Light Enters is the latest from Sara Donati, a bestselling author known for her riveting and well-researched historical novels. We asked her to share her own reading list with us:

I read a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction out of personal interest and professional necessity. My novels are deeply researched, so I spend a lot of time reading medical texts and government reports written before 1890.  But I also read contemporary and historical fiction of all stripes, from noir crime to romance to short story collections. Ancient Rome, modern-day Detroit, Victorian England, WWII China are all welcome.

If I continue thinking about a book long after I’ve finished it, I consider it time well spent. Here are some of my recent discoveries.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger
by Rebecca Traister
There is a lot to be angry about. Traister’s book came out just after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified, and it reminded me that women’s anger, once focused, is hugely powerful. It has launched movements and revolutions that have changed the world for the better.

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott
A thriller about two female scientists in a university setting seems unlikely, but Abbott has a talent for complex women characters, and the novel manages to be both a page-turner and an examination of the morality-ambition conflict. As a former professor at a large research university, I always like novels that strip away academic pretense.

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
Andrew Carnegie was a Gilded Age industrialist and tycoon, and this novel takes place in his household with the introduction of a Clara, a new arrival from Ireland who becomes, against all odds, the maid to Carnegie’s mother. A good historical novel provides insight into the broader setting, and so here we get not just the extreme wealth of her employer, but also the Irish immigrant experience in the 1860s and some aspects of the Civil War. This is a romance in its bones with an unconventional happy ending having to do with Carnegie’s launch as a philanthropist.

White Houses by Amy Bloom
Eleanor Roosevelt has always been an inspiration for me, somebody to emulate. The public portrait of this particular First Lady followed the expected outline, until serious biographers began to look more closely and the complexities came to the surface. Then Amy Bloom wrote this novel, smoothly interweaving fact and imagination. Lorena Hickok, known as Hick, is the novel’s narrator and her relationship with Eleanor is at its epicenter. Bloom’s Hick, plain-spoken, funny, cheeky, irreverent, brings the woman and her time and place into sharp focus.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
I am an unapologetic Karin-Slaughter-fan-girl. Her Will Trent series is my first love, but this stand-alone crime/thriller showcases her talents. Slaughter is not an easy read, and absolutely not for the queasy or tender-hearted. Here we are introduced to two sisters who haven’t spoken in decades, unable to weather the chaos after a third sister disappears. Now Claire has money, respect, and a successful architect husband; Lydia had the opposite set of experiences but is stable and in control when the story opens with the murder of Claire’s husband. Everything begins to spiral back toward chaos, and the sisters have no choice this time but to deal with each other and events outside their control.

Sara Donati will be reading from Where the Light Enters at Third Place Books Lake Forest Park on Friday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. 

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