Discover more from What To Read If
You’re Ready for “The Bachelor” Finale
Want a moody thriller or are a "Derry Girls" fan
Today, the Monday after we turn the clocks ahead an hour, is one of my most hated days of the year. Losing that one hour of sleep throws me off for a week. I am sending you all energetic vibes and encouragement to have an extra cup of coffee.
If you’re looking for a non-caffeine jolt, please check out this list from Literary Hub of “50 Very Bad Book Covers for Literary Classics.” They had me laughing out loud last week and might give you the burst of energy you need. Please let me know which is your favorite. I don’t know that I can choose just one, but this is a strong contender (and a hint to my first rec):
And now, what to read if:
You’re Counting Down the Hours till “The Bachelor” Finale Tonight
This has been a wild season — on camera and off — of “The Bachelor.” I carefully avoid spoilers, but it seems like there’s a good chance that our hero, Matt James, did not find love on the show.
That’s the situation Chip Bingley, one of the characters in Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible, finds himself in. After a disastrous stint on a dating show, Chip moves to Cincinnati, where he begins dating Jane Bennet.
As the characters’ names imply, Eligible is a Pride and Prejudice retelling. (Yes, this is the third Pride and Prejudice adaptation I’ve recommended. There is one for every type of reader.) It follows the five Bennet girls, all living together in a crumbling Tudor mansion after their beloved father suffers a heart attack. Jane Austen fans will find a lot to love about Eligible, but so too will general-interest readers.
It’s hard for me to talk about Eligible objectively. I love it so much that the audiobook is permanently downloaded to my phone. I turn it on whenever I can’t sleep.
While the love story between Liz and Darcy (perfectly cast as a neurosurgeon) is the book’s driving force, Sittenfeld applies care and attention to the relationships between the Bennet family members and Liz’s friendship with Charlotte Lucas. The dialogue is top-notch, brimming with wit, and it makes me smile each time I listen to it.
As a bonus, it includes one of my favorite croquet scenes in any book.
You’re Looking for a Moody, Atmospheric Mystery
A few of you have reached out recently looking for a creepy thriller with a distinct setting. (Reminder: if you email me, I will send you personalized recommendations.) Each and every time, I’ve suggested A Madness of Sunshine, a mystery set in Golden Cove, a small town on New Zealand’s rugged West Coast.
The book opens with the line, “She returned home two hundred and seventeen days after burying her husband while his pregnant mistress sobbed so hard she made herself sick.”
It’s a compelling first sentence that sets the tone for the rest of the book. The “she” in question is Anahera Rawiri, a recently widowed classical pianist returning to her tiny, claustrophobic hometown. Shortly after Anahera settles into her isolated cabin, a teenage girl disappears, in a case that echoes one from Anahera’s childhood. She teams up with Will, a new-in-town police officer, to investigate the case.
As I write this, I’m realizing A Madness of Sunshine sounds like a retread of many thrillers (suffocating small town, outsider detective, a woman with a mysterious past returning home under inauspicious circumstances and a missing teenage girl), but it never feels like a cliché. Rather, it shows just how gripping those tropes can be in the hands of an author as talented as Singh.
You’re Marking St. Patrick’s Day With a Derry Girls Binge
First off, if you haven’t watched “Derry Girls,” an Irish sitcom about teenage girls growing up during The Troubles, you should fix that. It’s hilarious and available to stream on Netflix (I recommend watching with the subtitles on.) It also has a great soundtrack.
Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing provides the real-world context about the world the Derry Girls live in. He uses the disappearance of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of ten, to illuminate the history of the Troubles, the long-running violent conflict in Northern Ireland. In the vein of Erik Larson, Say Nothing brings history to life with a cast of fascinating characters. He takes us inside meetings of members Irish Republican Army deciding to engage in a hunger strike and into discussions between top British military officials planning operations.
Say Nothing is one of my two favorite books of the past few years (the other, if you’re interested, is Daisy Jones and the Six). I’m just blown away by how Keefe turned years of research and reporting into a propulsive read.
Bonus Rec: Milkman by Anna Burns is a Man Booker prize-winning novel about a teenager living through The Troubles in Belfast. Milkman isn’t for everyone. It’s super experimental. The characters, for example, don’t have names and are called “boyfriend,” “little sister” and “milkman.” I really enjoyed it though and found it to be a moving depiction of what it’s like to live in a violent, sectarian area.
I want to extend a quick welcome to everyone who found What To Read If through the recent shoutout in Politico Recast, a weekly newsletter about how race and identity are shaping politics, policy and power.
Have you read any of this week’s books? Let me know!
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