Books to Read After Running

by Mark Mindel and Sally Drake



Mark’s Top 5 Books

#5. Blue Moon, (Jack Reacher, #24) by Lee Child

Reacher stumbles upon an old man about to get robbed of $20 thosand in cash at a Greyhound bus stop. He stops the theft but is intrigued by the old man's story. He has been borrowing money from Ukranian loan sharks to pay for his daughter's expensive, experimental, cancer treatments. Meanwhile the city they are in is split into two warring sectors. The Ukrainians control the East side while the Albanian gangs control the West. Add Reacher into this mix as he befriends Abby, a young waitress working on the East Side. Together they plot to help the old couple. With a few of Abby's friends, Reacher comes up with a plan to not only get the money but end the gangs for good. Will it work? You'll have to read it to find out!

#4. The Institute by Stephen King

I haven't read a Stephen King book in a while, but thanks to the Pandemic, I was able to take one out from the library before they all shut down. What a find! Best book I have read since this whole isolation thing started. I never wanted to put it down. In a nutshell, a secret organization has about 20 "Institutes" around the world where they keep kids with great mental abilities ~ telekinesis and telepathy ~ as well as high BDNF scores (having to do with their brains) and use them in strange and bizarre ways. Our hero, Luke Ellis, is so smart at age 12 he has been accepted into two Engineering schools, but before he can go, the Institute kidnaps him, kills his parents and brings him to a secluded area in Maine where kids are kept under strict rule by the sadistic administrator, Mrs. Sigsby and her staff of doctors and enforcers. To fully understand the whole crazy system, you will really have to read it. At the same time in a small rural town in South Carolina, a drifter and ex-cop Tim Jamieson has taken a part time job with the sheriff's department. Eventually, by a twist of fate, Tim and Luke will have to team up to see if they can stop the craziness. A must read.

#3. Bloody Genius by Virgil Flowers, #12) by John Sandford

Like a good wine, John Sandford's Virgil Flowers series gets better with age. In his latest appearance, Virgil is called in to solve the murder of a professor at the University of Minnesota. The trail leads us on various sideways trips, but as always, Virgil's humor leads the way. Virgil is like no other (compare him to Justified's Raglan Givens, the Cowboy hat, the long hair, the Cowboy boots)....and a great sarcastic personality plus the sharp ability to see things others don't and solve crimes others don't. As we weave our way through various plots and wrong turns, Virgil (who works for the Minnesota Criminal Bureau of Apprehension) and his new partner for the story, Sgt. Margaret Trane of the Minneapolis PD must race against the clock as our killer strikes again, and perhaps again.

#2 28 Summers  by Elin Hilderbrand 

I love reading Elin Hilderbrand's once-a-summer Nantucket beach novels....and this one delivers on her promise that it's her best yet! I honestly challenge you to read it and....be able to put it down! (you can't!). And the tears will flow as Hilderbrand weaves her story of the sad, tragic, but somehow perfect romance of Jake and Malory over 28 summers on the little island on the Cape. Based loosely on "Same Time, Next Year," it's a love story that will have you turning the page in disbelief. Complications, triangles, deceit, and in a weird sense, loyalty, all play a strong part. If you read one novel this summer, please read this one.

#1 Night Fire, (Harry Bosch, #22, Renee Ballard, #3; Harry Bosch Universe, #32) by Michael Connelly

It doesn't get any better than this! Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard, the two similar LAPD detectives who work by their own rules to solve cases no one else can, team up again for another thriller. Harry is retired and the much younger Renee works the Late Show, the midnight shift because she accused her boss of sexual harassment (it was true) and got 'sent to Siberia' when no one would back her up. But she likes it in 'Siberia'; she works the night shift solo, then surfs in the morning with her dog and sleeps in a tent on the beach (and sometimes with the young lifeguard! who doesn't hassle her). Harry digs up a 20 year old homicide his old mentor had the Murder Book for at home and Ballard and Bosch dig into it. Along the way they find a few interweaving murders, all perhaps linked to a "Black Widow" assassin! The race is on to see if Harry and Renee can save the day, solve the murders, and not get in trouble with the powers that be. If you like Harry Bosch, you will LOVE Bosch and Ballard together!

In case you have spare time and are wondering what to read next, here is a list of Mark’s other books that received his highest rating of five stars in 2020.

Bad Luck and Trouble (Jack Reacher, #11), by Lee Child

Born to Run (Jack Swyteck, #8), by James Grippando

Deadlock, (FBI Thriller, #24), by Catherine Coulter

Fear Nothing (Detective D.D. Warren, #7), by Lisa Gardner

Final Cut (A Brit in the FKI, #23), by Catherine Coulter

Hush, Hush (Detective Harriet Blue, #4), by James Patterson and Candace Fox

Lady Killer (Rosato & Associates, #10), by Lisa Scottoline

Masked Prey (Lucas Davenport, #30), by John Sandford

Robert B. Parker's Fool's Paradise (Jesse Stone, #19), by Mike Lupica

The Neighbor (Detective D.D. Warren, #3), by Lisa Gardner

Troubles in Paradise, (Paradise, #3,) by Elin Hildebrand

When You See Me (Detective D.D. Warren, #11, Gardner Universe, #20), by Lisa Gardner

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens


Top 5 Fiction

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

Not just my favorite book this year, one of my favorite books ever. A crime novel involving mafia bosses, drug rings, and corrupt cops set in 1969 in a Brooklyn housing project (the “Cause") is a whole lot different than what I usually read but what this book is really about —community, friendship, love, loyalty, redemption and hope, told via a richly-drawn, multi-dimensional and vibrant group of characters moved me as much as any novel I’ve ever read. The people of the Cause just leap off the pages, their interactions and connections and feelings toward each other alive and complex and deeply felt. The plot is thick and fast-paced, the humor sharp and endearing and the social commentary pointed and profound. This is a hugely entertaining book, impossible to put down and unforgettable for what it says about the capacity of human beings to survive by finding the best in each other.

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar

A brilliant blend of fiction, memoir and personal essay, this is a powerful book about a Muslim-American navigating post 9-11 America and his fractured relationship with his immigrant father who idolizes Trump and the false promise of the American dream.  His observations and experiences about what it means to be an American exposes our dark and complicated myths of achievement, citizenship and individualism. At times very funny and always sharp this is at once an important, illuminating and entertaining read. 

Vanishing Half  by Brit Bennet

The story centers around 2 generations of the Vignes family, twin sisters and their daughters. At 16, the twins run away from their small southern Black town with a unique and complicated history. The twins separate when one disappears to assume a new identity and only come together decades later when their daughters, from totally different worlds, chance meet.  This is a powerfully poignant novel about race, identity, secrets, family and love and how the forces that bind us are nearly indestructible, no matter how strongly they are pulled apart.

Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

A suspenseful and emotional story about a family who takes a year away from their suburban life to sail around the Caribbean. The marriage is fraught, and the trip is dangerous with an impending tone of disaster from the beginning. The writing is so taut and atmospheric that I literally felt seasick as the boat navigated rough seas and claustrophobic from the tight quarters and heavy emotional weight of the story. Gaige is a brilliant writer and this psychological drama is perfectly paced and executed.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernandine Evaristo

The winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, this is a gorgeous and vibrant novel spanning several generations of inter-connected Black British women. Brilliantly written with inventive, poetic prose, it explores the social, cultural and political diversity of post-Brexit Britain through the lives of 12 fascinating, funny, very different women. It explores class, race, age, and cultural divides but ultimately is an uplifting story of how we are more connected than separate.

 

Top 5 Non-Fiction

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

The first of two installments of the President’s memoir begins with his early political life through the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden. He takes us through the journey of his presidency with detailed and elaborate tellings of every major issue he shepherded, from the global financial crisis when he was first elected, the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reform, and the response to the Deepwater Horizon crisis. In each section, he writes authentically and with humor and grace of the people who advised him, the politicians who fought him and his internal struggles to balance political reality with his ideals. He refers to the writers, thinkers and activists who inspire him and guided his reactions to domestic and international issues. Obama is a thoughtful and pragmatic leader who is committed, first and foremost, to participating in the American experiment of democracy, making it better by inspiring citizenship and driving us forward always to be better. This is a fascinating and entertaining memoir and I look forward to the next installment.

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

This is not a light and cheerful read but it is a brilliant and compulsively readable account of a large mid-century American family devastated by mental illness, its role in how modern psychiatry understands and treats schizophrenia, and how people recover from deep family trauma. Masterfully written with a reporter’s attention to detail but also with a profound empathy, this is just a stunning book. I’ll never forget it.

Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

In this brilliant book, Wilkerson lays out a razor-sharp and searing argument that American is built on a caste system and that our political, economic and social structure is designed to ensure that the privileged (white) caste remains in power. While the Civil War may have resulted in the end of slavery, our social structure maintains and perpetuates the racist belief that Black Americans are less than human and undeserving, based solely on skin color, of accessing the privileges of the dominant caste. This system persists because the dominant class will go to any length to keep its power. With compelling historical analysis and comparison to two other caste systems (India and Nazi Germany) Wilkerson not only proves her point but it becomes obviously clear. American racism is not just what some people feel, it is what constitutes the structure of our country and as long as the caste system persists, we will have these enormous and appalling disparities in economic, health and social well-being. Until and unless there is an intentional and deliberate effort to dismantle the castes, the disparities will continue. As a nation and as individuals we have to confront this, truly atone for the abomination of slavery, repair the damage that decades of discrimination have wrought; we must tell our history honestly and realign all of our power structures to expose and then fix the disparity. And, she argues, as individuals we must engage in “radical empathy” to break down the barriers the caste system has created in our personal consciousnesses to living as one society. I hope that we are at a turning point, that the Black Lives Matter movement is breaking through the caste walls, but much will depend on the fall election as well as the actions of those in the privileged caste to forego power and accede to change that dismantles the structure. Reading this important book is a good start. In fact, replacing outdated history textbooks that tell false and incomplete stories about slavery and America racism with this book, making it required reading, would be a radical and impactful action.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

A beautiful and devastating memoir about surviving sexual assault and the criminal justice system that further traumatizes women. Miller stayed anonymous for years after she was assaulted on the Stanford campus and through the well-publicized trial of her rapist, Brock Miller, when her powerful victim impact statement created a movement that changed laws in California and resulted in the recall of the Judge in her case. Miller reveals herself and tells her story with a triumphant combination of strength and vulnerability in this stunning book. I felt this was a masterpiece of memoir form.

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey

A haunting and beautifully read memoir about trauma, repressed memory, racism and domestic abuse. The author’s mother was murdered by her abusive ex-spouse after years of torment. As she processes the trauma of her childhood living in this situation, she also grieves her beloved mother.  This memoir is a journey, and it felt like an honor to join her on it.  I highly recommend the Audible, read by the author, a poet whose lyrical prose and language patterns add so much meaning and depth to the already intensely moving story.

Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

In this brilliant book, Wilkerson lays out a razor-sharp and searing argument that American is built on a caste system and that our political, economic and social structure is designed to ensure that the privileged (white) caste remains in power. While the Civil War may have resulted in the end of slavery, our social structure maintains and perpetuates the racist belief that Black Americans are less than human and undeserving, based solely on skin color, of accessing the privileges of the dominant caste. This system persists because the dominant class will go to any length to keep its power. With compelling historical analysis and comparison to two other caste systems (India and Nazi Germany) Wilkerson not only proves her point but it becomes obviously clear. American racism is not just what some people feel, it is what constitutes the structure of our country and as long as the caste system persists we will have these enormous and appalling disparities in economic, health and social well-being. Until and unless there is an intentional and deliberate effort to dismantle the castes, the disparities will continue. As a nation and as individuals we have to confront this, truly atone for the abomination of slavery, repair the damage that decades of discrimination have wrought; we must tell our history honestly and realign all of our power structures to expose and then fix the disparity. And, she argues, as individuals we must engage in “radical empathy” to break down the barriers the caste system has created in our personal consciousnesses to living as one society. I hope that we are at a turning point, that the Black Lives Matter movement is breaking through the caste walls but much will depend on the fall election as well as the actions of those in the privileged caste to forego power and accede to change that dismantles the structure. Reading this important book is a good start. In fact, replacing outdated history textbooks that tell false and incomplete stories about slavery and America racism with this book, making it required reading, would be a radical and impactful action.


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