You Loved “This is a Robbery”

Are looking for an all-ages book or want to be at the beach

Hi book lovers,

Welcome to May. It was one of those rare perfect weather weekends here in D.C. I hope the weather was lovely wherever you are too.

Thanks to everyone who filled out the survey! I’m looking forward to incorporating your suggestions into future editions of this newsletter. Congratulations to Theresa in Philadelphia, who wins a gift certificate to her favorite bookstore, Headhouse Books, in the raffle. (Headhouse Books looks awesome, and I’m already planning a visit next time I’m in Philly.)

I noticed a number of you were looking for recommendations of books in translation. I’m trying to read more of them myself and have been looking to Tabatha Leggett’s fantastic newsletter Bookmarked for inspiration. Leggett is reading a book from every country and sends out a review of her latest pick each Saturday. It’s such a great project, and I’ve found many fantastic books — including a number in translation — from her newsletter.

Later this week, I’ll send out a Q&A featuring author Angie Kim, who wrote the brilliant Miracle Creek. We had a great conversation, and I’m excited to share it with you.

And now, what to read if…

You Binged “This is a Robbery”

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Johnson

It seems like everyone is watching “This is a Robbery,” Netflix’s four-part documentary series on the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. When talking about it, I keep hearing that people are enjoying a true crime story that doesn’t feature murder or graphic violence. If that sounds like something you want, check out Kirk Johnson’s The Feather Thief.

The narrative nonfiction book tells the story of Edwin Rist, a talented American flutist with an unusual hobby — the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Rist’s obsession with becoming the best fly-tier in the world drives him to break into the British Museum of Natural History and steal a million dollars’ worth of rare feathers. The book details the planning and execution of the heist and its aftermath and Johnson’s attempt to locate the still-missing feathers.

Johnson incorporates the history of both the global feather trade and salmon fly-tying into his stranger-than-fiction tale. He also examines why it is he became obsessed with the case. If the gruesome side of true crime isn’t your thing, but you love weird stories, this is your book.

(And a quick reminder: The Hidden Things is a fictional take on what happened to a piece of art stolen in the Gardner heist.)

You’re Looking for a Family Read

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Growing up, my mom, brother and I had a book club. We would all read the same book and then go out to lunch (!) to discuss it. It’s something we’ve been able to carry on with some of my younger cousins. If your family does something similar — or is looking to start a new tradition — Tae Keller’s When You Trap a Tiger is the perfect choice.

The middle-grade book, which won this year’s Newberry Medal, is the literary equivalent of a Pixar movie. Readers of all ages will get something from it. When You Trap a Tiger follows Lily, a preteen, who begins to see the tigers that exist in the folktales her halmoni, or grandmother, told her. As Lily watches her halmoni grow increasingly ill, she makes a deal with a tiger in an attempt to save her grandmother.

It’s a beautiful exploration of grief, growing up and why the stories we tell matter. I loved the way it incorporated traditional Korean folklore into a modern tale. I thoroughly enjoyed it and think younger readers will too.

Love this newsletter? Click the heart at the top or bottom of this page or share it with a friend.

Share

You’re Ready to be Beachside

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur

I think we’re all hoping it’s a bit easier to get to the beach this summer. If you’re counting down the days until you have the sand between your toes, pick up a copy of Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur. Large portions of the memoir take place at her step-father’s Cape Cod beach house, and it’s one of those books where the setting almost becomes another character.

Wild Game is perfectly named. Every time I try to describe it, the first word that comes to mind is “wild.” In the book, Brodeur recounts the years she spent — starting at age 15 — facilitating her mother’s affair with her step-father’s best friend. She came up with excuses for them to spend time together, even serving as a chaperone. When the couple concocts a plan to write a wild game cookbook as an excuse to spend time together, Brodeur helps make it happen.

It’s a memoir that reads more like a thriller, with gripping tension. I was, at times, stressed that the affair would be discovered and, other times, desperately hoping it would all be exposed so the family could begin to rebuild.


Have you read any of these books? (Or watched “This is a Robbery”?) Let me know!

Leave a comment


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.

If you're reading this on Substack or were forwarded this email, and you'd like to subscribe, click the button below.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.