Thursday, June 23, 2022

Favorite Reads, Spring 2022

 Squeeze Me, Carl Hiaasen. Savagely funny satire of a president (code name: Mastodon) and his wife in their palatial south Florida digs. The inciting incident - a python eating an old woman at a charity gala - sets the tone gloriously. Maybe Hiaasen’s funniest book, which says something.


The Second United States Sharpshooters in the Civil War, Gerald R. Earley. Meticulously researched and detailed history of a unique Civil War regiment. Unlike most others Civil War units, the sharpshooters hailed from multiple states and had to pass through a rigorous screening process before acceptance. They also had their own tactics, making them the forerunners for specialized units such as Rangers and paratroopers. A little down in the weeds at times, but the best look at day-to-day life during the war as I have read.


The Side Hustle, Colin Conway. The first of Conway’s 509 series deals with the ripple effects of the murder of a financial planning blogger. Conway takes a relatively detailed look into an arcane subject and makes it easy to understand and relatable even to those with little interest in such things, while still nailing the police elements.


Rum Punch, Elmore Leonard. The basis of the film Jackie Brown, and maybe Leonard’s best crime  novel. He was at the height of his powers here, and the plot meshes perfectly with his dialog and attitude. It had been a while since I read it; I chose wisely to come back.


The Premonition, Michael Lewis. Brilliant examination of the CDC’s role in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and why the organization is better suited for looking back through gathering data than working well on real-time solutions. Once again, Lewis takes a complex subject and makes it not only eminently readable for nonprofessionals, but highly entertaining.


A Baker’s Divorce, Frank Scalise. The story of a trend-chasing, aging rocker whose impending divorce (Number 13) triggers a mid-life crisis. Cal Baker is as self-centered and clueless a character as you’ll ever read, but there’s little or no malice in him; he just doesn’t get how his selfishness affects other people. I have never read a funnier book.


Sacrifice Fly, Tim O’Mara. The first of the Raymond Donne novels. O’Mara hasn’t had a Donne book published recently, which is a shame. Re-reading Sacrifice Fly reminded me of what a fine and nuanced writer he is.


A Bridge Too Far, Cornelius Ryan. Masterful depiction of World War II’s greatest Allied disaster, the airborne drop into Holland, code named Market-Garden. Poorly conceived and not well executed on the ground, it was a catastrophe for the British 1st Airborne Division in Arnhem and helped to change the philosophy of airborne infantry forever after. Ryan uses the same scholarship and writing techniques that worked so well in The Longest Day to describe a longer operation. Strongly recommended for anyone interested in the war in Europe. (Link is for the Library of America’s combined reprinting of A Bridge Too Far and The Longest Day. Highly recommended for the improved maps and other features.)


Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Lawrence Block. I was unaware of this gem until I stumbled across it while looking for the next book in the Scudder series. Funny and always on point, this compilation of advice columns originally written for Writer’s Digest should be on every author’s bookshelf.



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