We Love These Books. It’s Summer.

It’s summer, and now is the time to relax and catch up on on some great novels– on a plane, on vacation, or simply at home. It is our belief that whenever and wherever you read a great novel, it’s as if you’ve gone away for a few days for a good break. May we suggest the following:

The new novel from John Le Carre, A Delicate Truth.  One of his best, one of his angriest, in years. Counter-terrorism meets private government contractors. Familiar? The recipe is great for headlines as well as thrillers. It is an occasion indeed when John Le Carre releases a new book.  This one, which kicks off in tiny Gibraltar, sits with you long after you’ve read the last page. Like the best of John Le Carre’s novels, this one haunts you.  It’s why great fiction speaks more truth than what we read in the papers.



Anything by Michael Connelly, but if you haven’t read his latest, The Black Box, then you must. Our hero, LAPD Detective Harry Bosch, links a gun to a murder that occurred 20 years ago, during the 1992 LA riots.  So while Harry Bosch, now in the Siberia of Open and Unsolved Cases, defies authority as usual, he also takes us back to the streets of 1992 violence-torn Los Angeles, reminding us that Connelly’s books are such great psychological studies of an ageing cop who succeeds by bucking the system.

Don’t Ever Get Old, by Daniel Friedman. An 87 year old  (yes, retired) Jewish Memphis cop is as hilarious as he is relentless in this romp of a novel.  Friedman’s characters are funny and poignant, as our hero seeks justice from the former Nazi SS commandant who guarded his POW camp during WWII. We hope he gives our hero a recurring role in many more novels.
Jane Gardam’s trilogy is funny, moving and magnificent.  Life on Privilege Hill has its ups and downs– but it is life in Hong Kong for an English couple and their friends that makes this set of novels unforgettable. Old Filth, Gardam’s first in the trilogy, is a glimpse of the Empire’s 20th Century through the eyes of barrister Sir Edward Feathers, called Old Filth (an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong), and the love of his life, his wife Betty.  Getting old is not easy on anyone, but it takes brilliance and skill to make it as grand, loving, funny and sweeping as Jane Gardam.  She’s won two Whitbread Prizes, was shortlisted for the Mann Booker, and these books illustrate why. The next in the trilogy, The Man in the Wooden Hat, is the story of Sir Edward Feathers and his wife Betty, as told through Betty’s perspective. It’s magnificent. Theirs is a marriage aching for romance– but full of respect, understanding, and the pain and pleasure that come with decades together. All this and funny too. The final installment, Last Friends, revolves around the people who are left, after Betty, Old Filth, and their friend are no longer on Privilege Hill.  The old people are a little mad, and the narrator is a little unreliable, just increasing the pleasure of the epic.
Carl Hiaasen‘s new novel, Bad Monkey, is Hiaasen at his best.  Our hero, Andrew Yancy, has been demoted from a detective to a health inspector– in short, roach and rodent patrol at some local favorite hangouts in the Florida Keys. As in all of his wonderful books, this is Florida at its seamiest.  Our Andrew treats some sleazy real estate developers and their prospective buyers to a special welcome only he could invent. Peopled with outrageous characters, including that bad monkey, a gorgeous kinky coroner who prefers the morgue slabs to the bedroom, and a most frustrated real estate speculator.  Bad Monkey is one of the funniest installments in Hiaasen’s collection, in which corruption and greed require wicked retribution and just desserts.

Ian Sansom’s Paper: An Elegy is a celebration and history of that which we have most taken for granted throughout ourcivilization.  Consider that we are in the Age of Paper.  Where would we be without it? It’s on our desks, in our wallets, in ourbathrooms, on our walls, and on our tables.  It’s our food packaging, our passports, our birth and death certificates.  It’s on ourbandages, our facial tissue.  In this often funny and astonishing love letter to paper, Ian Sansom takes us on a cultural andhistorical ride from the first manufacturers of toilet paper and money (China) , to eighth century paper factories in Iraq, to wistfulFrench philosophers and intellectuals, to the odd creators and perpetrators of Origami.  Astonishing. Ian Sansom is also a novelist and a Professor of English at Warwick University in England.




Frederick Forsyth: Day of the Jackal!  One of the great political thrillers in memory, Frederick Forsyth wrote The Day of the Jackal between journalism assignments for the BBC.  We dare you to put it down once you pick it up, even if you read it years ago.  He dashed it out in 35 days.  While an assassin– the Jackal– plots to kill General Charles De Gaulle, authorities must scramble to find a killer about whom they know nothing. It’s heartstopping.  Read this in preparation for the upcoming Writers Bloc program with Frederick Forsyth on August 20.