The Stream of Sexual Misconduct Cases Makes You Want to Scream

You’re thrilled there’s a new 007 movie or are celebrating Fat Bear Week

Hi Book Lovers,

First off, congrats to Ellen, who won last week's raffle! She recommended Francine Prose's The Vixen, a novel told from Ethel Rosenberg's perspective. I've requested it from the library and am eager to dive in.

A few of you have asked for updates on Ellie, the five-year-old dachshund-Yorkshire mix I adopted this summer. She's doing great, and I love having her around so much. This weekend, we went to the Blessing of the Animals held at Siena College in recognition of the Feast Day of St. Francis. Ellie loved being around all the other animals and even stayed still while the priest blessed her. We're both looking forward to more adventures.

In other news, I'm rolling out a new feature in this edition: Reminder Recommendations. I'll use this to point you towards books I've recommended in the past that are relevant again because, if you're like me, you read about a book, think 'I should read that' and then promptly forget.

And now, what to read if …

The Stream of Sexual Misconduct Cases Makes You Want to Scream

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

In the past few weeks, a series of sexual misconduct scandals in the National Women's Soccer League have come to light; members of the U.S. gymnastics team testified in a congressional hearing about the abuse they suffered under the supervision of USA Gymnastics and R.Kelly was convicted of sex trafficking. Each of these events served as a stark reminder of the ways powerful institutions fail to protect women from known sexual offenders.

In this environment, Chandler Baker's Whisper Network could be a cathartic read — or it may cut too close to home for some readers. The book follows Sloane, Grace, and Ardie, friends and high-powered attorneys at sportswear company Truviv. Their boss is a misogynistic serial harasser, Ames Garret. When Truviv's CEO dies, and Ames is put up for the job, Sloane adds him to "The BAD Men List," not knowing her actions will lead to a dead body on the sidewalk outside Truviv's building.

In the hands of a lesser writer, Whisper Network wouldn't work. It's part soap opera, part legal thriller, part feminist manifesto, and yet somehow, it all holds together. As Kirkus noted in its review, "It's a breezy page-turner of a book, which is the brilliance of it: Under the froth is an unmistakable layer of justified rage." 

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You've Already Seen the New James Bond Movie

Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht

I'm yet to see the new Bond movie, but I'm sure I will at some point because 1) apparently a woman plays 007 for a part of the movie and 2) "Casino Royale" is one of my favorites in the franchise, and I'd like to see Daniel Craig close out his time as the world-famous secret agent.

If you can't get enough of spy stories, make sure you check out Who is Vera Kelly by Rosalie Knecht, which takes a lot of beloved spy novel tropes and flips them on their head. The title character, Vera Kelly, is penniless and attempting to break into the underground gay scene in 1960s New York when the CIA recruits her. She's quickly sent to Buenos Aires on a mission to wiretap a politician and infiltrate a group of student activists. After the Argentinian government collapses, Vera is stranded with no help from the CIA.

Vera is a unique character — smart, biting and funny — and a great addition to the pantheon of fictional spies. Moreover, Knecht deftly describes spy hijinks while offering sharp criticism of U.S. policy towards Latin America in the 1960s. It's an intellectual spy novel that made me think hard as I frantically flipped pages.

You're Celebrating Fat Bear Week

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Fat Bear Week is truly one of my favorite parts of fall. For the uninitiated, Fat Bear Week is a celebration of the brown bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park. Each year, the bears gain hundreds of pounds in preparation for the long winter's hibernation. And the good folks at let us vote on our favorites. There's even a bracket!

Blueberries for Sal is the perfect Fat Bear Week book (shout-out to my mom, who helped me think of this one). Not only does it feature bears eating, but it also captures the spirit of joy that permeates the week-long celebration. Robert McCloskey writes about Sal, a toddler out blueberry picking with her mom. In a nearby blueberry patch, a mama bear and her cub are foraging for berries. A mix-up ensues, and Sal ends up home with the mama bear while the cub nestles up to Sal's mother.

It's a near-perfect children's book and one of my go-to gifts for young kids. The art is lovely, and it features the type of word repetition little ones love. If you have kids at home — or even if you don't — Blueberries for Sal is a joy to read.

Reminder rec: Ryan Higgin’s Mother Bruce is a delightful tale about a grouchy bear who inadvertently adopts a family of baby geese.

This week, I'm excited to have a guest recommendation from Lanie Rich, author of more than ten books and the Dear Writer newsletter.

Lanie writes, "There are times when I just want to relax and enjoy a fun story, and Sophie Kinsella never disappoints on that score, but the one of hers that I return to the most is I've Got Your Number. It's a story about a lost phone, a found phone and an unlikely friendship, and what I love about it is that it's a love story that builds upon a friendship between two people who genuinely like and respect each other and work really well together. Kinsella is a storyteller who gets dismissed because she writes funny stories for women, but she knows what she's doing when it comes to stories, and she has loads of fun while doing it."

That's it for me this week. You can catch up on last week's recommendations here and read my Q&A on book supply chains (remember to pre-order!) here. Until next time, happy reading!

What to Read If is a free weekly book recommendation newsletter. Need a rec? Want to gush about a book? Reply to this email, leave a comment or find me on Twitter @elizabethheld.

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