The Nickel Boys – Colson Whitehead

Just finished this book about Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee. Elwood is headed for success when he is unjustly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, where boys are horribly abused. Elwood is scared constantly but friendship with Turner helps him deal with day to day survival, although what ultimately happens leaves lifetime scars. The book is based on a real “reform” school which operated for over 100 years. The writing is stellar, which is to be expected from the guy who recently won the Pulitzer. 

The Defense – Steve Cavanagh

This is an excellent legal thriller. Kept me hooked from start to finish. A con man turned lawyer must get an innocent verdict for his client-the head of the Russian mob-or they will kill his kidnapped daughter. The hero is my favorite kind, someone who uses wit to outflank the opposition.

The Female Persuasion – Meg Wolitzer

I liked this book about a young woman who’s heroine and mentor is one of the central pillars of the women’s movement. This mentor gives purpose to Greer’s life even if she isn’t living the way she always imagined when tragedy envelops the life of her once upwardly mobile boyfriend. It’s about the people who guide us and how that relationship can evolve from worship to the realization that no one is perfect. Meg Wolitzer writes detailed slice of life dramas. When I have time, I enjoy her work. Her book ‘The Interestings’ was good too.

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy – Sue Klebold

book-cover-1I still remember the day Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris walked into Columbine High School in Colorado, killed twelve students, a teacher and wounded twenty-four others before committing suicide. It wasn’t the first such shooting, but it was the biggest at the time, ushering in a new era of fear for school aged children. Many of us wondered how such a tragedy could occur. Where were Dylan and Eric’s parents? In this book, Dylan’s mother, Sue, shares her grief and shame, and with unflinching honesty, describes the signs she might have missed. What’s truly alarming about her story, though, is that the Klebolds were a normal middle class family. There may have been subtle signs Dylan was in trouble, but no large red flags.  The Klebolds could be any of us. And, until we remove all impediments to treating people for mental health, the scenario is bound to happen again and again. A frightening, yet fascinating, glimpse inside the life of a mass murderer in the making.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics – Daniel James Brown

boys in the boatIn 1936, boys from the University of Washington vied for gold in the eight-man crew in the Berlin Olympics. They had to beat the heavily favored Ivy League to represent the United States. Their efforts were impressive given German and Italian teams were government-sponsored. The boys, including the coxswain, came from lower middle class families, and struggled to earn their way through school during the Depression. This magnificently written non-fiction saga, chronicles their quest for glory, illustrates the importance of teamwork in rowing, and showcases the grueling sport of crew which is equal parts exhaustion and pain. Rowing was big news in the 1930s. Millions followed the sport on the radio. This team put Seattle on the international map. Also covered, are Hitler’s efforts to gloss over the inhumane treatment of Jews and other “undesirables,” and win public support for the Third Reich. Although lengthy descriptions sometimes slow the narrative, it’s worth the read as the book builds toward a breathtaking showdown in Nazi Germany.