If You Like Charles Portis (True Grit)

There are generally three or four big successes in the life of a good book. If an author is lucky, sales peak when a book is first published, and they spike again should the book be made into a movie or if it wins a major award. Most reliably of all however is that warm glow of popularity bestowed upon an author precisely when they can least enjoy it: right after they die.

The irony would not be lost on sardonic author Charles Portis, who died last Monday in his home in Arkansas at the age of 86. Best known for his witty, gritty anti-romantic 1968 western True Grit, as well as popular film adaptations starring John Wayne and Jeff Bridges, Portis is enjoying a revival of popularity, with waiting lists on his other novels and stories as well. (Portis excelled at road novels, and my own favorite is his The Dog of the South, which tells of the offbeat misadventures of Ray Midge, who falls in with odd company on a trip south of the border searching for his runaway wife Norma. Or join hayseed folk singer Norwood Pratt on his own equally amiable cross-country ramble, this one from Texas to Manhattan.) Continue reading “If You Like Charles Portis (True Grit)”

If You Liked Yuval Harari’s Sapiens

Book cover image for SapiensWho are we? What are we? Why are we here? Where will we wind up? These are just a few of the questions asked – and answered – in Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, a thought-provoking and opinionated international bestseller about nothing less than the humanity, start to finish.

I’ve long been intrigued with human origins, fascinated by the staggeringly brief history of our remarkable and problematic species. Our diminutive presence across both the vast reaches of outer space, and aeons of earth’s history, provides a salutary humbling perspective to our often ego- and anthropocentric lives. Then there are all of our curious hominid siblings, outlasted by only us – unless you believe in Bigfoot. With this keen interest in the rapidly evolving field of paleoanthropology, I was thrilled to suddenly find so many of our patrons enjoying Harari’s book, and wanting to learn more. Continue reading “If You Liked Yuval Harari’s Sapiens”

If You Liked Where the Crawdads Sing

With its lyrical descriptions of nature and tempestuous love story, Delia Owens’ evocative debut novel Where the Crawdads Sing (a current Peak Pick selection) has taken the literary world by storm. If you enjoyed it, or if you’re still waiting for your reserve copy to arrive, here are some similar titles you might enjoy.

Aldo Leopold’s classic A Sand County Almanac is one of the books that Owens says inspired her to write her novel: “After university, I spent much of my adult life studying wildlife in some of the most remote regions of Africa. Living in those far reaches of the earth inspired me to wonder if I could write a work of compelling fiction against the backdrop of a wild and wonderful place. To combine Leopold-inspired nature writing with a (hopefully) page-turning plot. Where The Crawdads Sing is my attempt at such a dream.” Continue reading “If You Liked Where the Crawdads Sing”

If You Like Liane Moriarty

Here at the library we love talking with readers, both in person and online via our Your Next Five Books recommendation service. As we do so, there are certain authors who readers will mention to us over and over again. Australian writer Liane Moriarty is one of those authors. For many readers, Moriarty strikes the perfect balance between witty, insightful writing on the challenges of family life and relationships, and mounting tension that builds to a suspenseful climax.

For readers who love Moriarty, we’ve assembled a list of several other titles that have a similar appeal. Here’s a small sampling from our list:

  • The Secrets She Keeps, by Deb Caletti. Gathering at their aunt’s once-famous divorce ranch for celebrities, a trio of women confront their own difficulties with love and marriage against the backdrop of the ranch’s tumultuous history.
  • The Mother in Law, by Sally Hepworth. A woman’s obsessive fears about how much she disappoints her successful, pillar-of-the-community mother-in-law lead to a controversial disinheritance and a suspicious suicide.
  • I Found You, by Lisa Jewell. A lonely single mom who offers shelter to an amnesiac man and a young bride who is told that her missing husband never existed struggle to make sense of their transforming worlds and connection to a sister and brother whose lives where shattered by secrets more than two decades earlier.
  • Jean Harley Was Here, by Heather Taylor-Johnson. After Jean Harley is killed accidentally, her husband, mother, two best friends, and the person responsible for the accident all have different perspectives on her life and death.
  • Ghosted, by Rosie Walsh. Sarah thinks she has met the love her life in Eddie – until he disappears after leaving for a long-booked vacation. Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers there is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

Check our our full list in the library catalog, and then let us know in the comments below what other great titles for Liane Moriarty fans we’ve missed!

     ~ Posted by David W.

Crime: If You Like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series.

In his 1950 essay The Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler outlined the character of the modern detective, in words fit to quote at length:

“…down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. … He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor — by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. He is a lonely man…”Lost Light, the 9th Harry Bosch novel (one of my favorites), by Michael Connelly

From that day to this, hardboiled fiction writers have offered variations of this theme, some memorable and some not so. When an author gets it right, he brings us a character with such enduring pathos that we will follow him to the ends of the earth, to hell and back, for years on end. Chandler himself did it with Phillip Marlowe, Ross MacDonald did it with Lew Archer, and Michael Connelly has followed in their footsteps with his maverick detective Harry Bosch, sometime of the LAPD, and admired by millions.

We admire the stoic integrity with which Bosch grapples with the morally compromised world which it his endless job to make a little bit better, or at least more just. We identify with his own doubts and fears, and are moved by his sacrifice as he gives up some part of his soul to the unforgiving business of meeting evil, day in and day out, settign aside his own happiness to rescue others, or to try. We sympathise with his frustrations as he struggles against the banalities and bureaucracies of  modern life.

And when we have read all his books and are waiting for the next, we look about for another hero who we can believe in half as much. Here is a list of some excellent hardboiled mysteries featuring heroes with a lot of the same appeal as Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. Can you think of any other great hardboiled detectives that have the same feel and appeal?