Exams have begun, and maybe you can even see the end of them. Just in time for summer, here are some reading suggestions from your professors.
I recently discovered a new favorite author — David Liss. Liss writes historical fiction. Many of his plotlines revolve around stock market manipulation and financial treachery. I highly recommend the Coffee Trader (about the attempt of a Jewish merchant in 15th century Amsterdam to corner the new European market in coffee), The Whiskey Rebels (an engrossing story set in post-revolutionary Philadelphia, New York, and Pittsburgh, involving all of the monumental figures of the day engaged in an epic battle over the financial fate of Hamilton’s Bank of the U.S. and of the new republic, exposing their very human motivations – greed, lust, honor, etc. – that brings them to life as real people), and, on a different note, The Ethical Assassin (trust me, very different, but equally engaging). And a bonus reason to read Liss – he’s a GSU graduate.
I’ve enjoyed William Prescott’s History of the Conquest of Peru. Prescott was a 19th century Boston lawyer who happened also to be blind. The conquest is a story of treachery and brutality that disgusted even some of those who took a leading part in it. Prescott is never indignant but never misses an opportunity to point out how our interests shape our perceptions of our deeds. As Prescott was aware, most of the sources he had to rely on were suspect, and there is a wealth of archival material that has come to light since he wrote. So, there are more accurate histories but I would be surprised if there are many better stories.
Population 485 by Michael Perry. A sleeper I would have overlooked but for the keen eye and good advice of the owner of a small independent bookstore. I can’t do better than the description on Amazon: “Welcome to New Auburn, Wisconsin, where the local vigilante is a farmer’s wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Against a backdrop of fires and tangled wrecks, bar fights and smelt feeds, Population: 485 is a comic and sometimes heartbreaking true tale leavened with quieter meditations on an overlooked America.”
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I usually don’t like non-fiction, but the action is riveting for a turn of a century book that meshes the architecture of the Chicago World’s Fair with the hunting grounds of a serial killer.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – the ins and outs of the music industry told by way of a trek through time.
I recommend The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. It is a fascinating historical account of African American families who moved, or in some cases escaped, from the south to northern locales in the great migration. It is very powerful and engaging, and it won many awards. There are aspects of criminal, juvenile, family and race law throughout. It’s available in paperback now, although it was only available in hardback when President Obama took it on his vacation last summer.
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It’s the story of a widower and his daughter as told by the family dog. It is a sweet and insightful book that is a great, quick read.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It’s a complex story of a family of surgeons in Africa. It is beautifully written and richly evocative. It will stay with you long after the last page.
The Litigators by John Grisham. If you want a fast page-turner, this book is for you. John Grisham books are usually not funny, but this time he wrote a funny story with interesting and sympathetic characters, Finley, Figg, and Zinc. The fate of the cholesterol drug lawsuit was inevitable, but there were some interesting twists along the way. There is lots of legal action, including the mistreatment of illegal immigrants, product liability law, and the hypocrisy of the drug companies. It is a very entertaining book.
Although it is law related – I still recommend The Lawyer Myth: A Defense of the American Legal Profession by Rennard Strickland and Frank T. Read. I just think it gives a perspective that we tend to miss when we are involved with the “law” – in whatever capacity – on a daily basis.
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand. A cure for ignorance, blood loss, and bedwetting. http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2002-09-23-ayn-rand_x.htm
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry. A glimpse of our country before the bankers and lawyers got ahold of it. Great compilation of all of life’s essential priorities. http://rogerwallace.com/lonesomedove.html
I’ve just finished up The Agency trilogy by Y.S. Lee. It’s a young adult series about a teenage thief in Victorian England who is saved from the gallows and offered the chance to be trained in an all-female spy school. Just as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple was the perfect sleuth because no one ever paid attention to the quiet old lady, under the same theory Mary Quinn is trained to work undercover in overlooked roles (lady’s companion, builder, maid). The stories go quickly, have plenty of action and just the right amount of romance. The books also delve into the uneasy juxtaposition of the native English population with the Chinese immigrants in east London during this time. The series includes A Spy in the House, The Body at the Tower and The Traitor in the Tunnel.
Defending Jacob by William Landay. It’s the story of a family torn apart by their son’s arrest for murder of a school friend. This one is likely to appeal to lawyers and non-lawyers alike, as it has a gut-wrenching human element to it, as well as the necessary legal wrangling and drama we’d normally associate with a book by Scott Turow or John Grisham.
For pure escapism, I highly recommend the Spellman series by Lisa Lutz. The tales of this dysfunctional family of private investigators who live and work in San Francisco are told through the eyes of the immature, but outrageously funny, middle-daughter, Isabel Spellman. Start with the first, the Spellman Files. I found them like potato chips — you can’t read just one. If you read them on your e-reader, so click on the footnotes. While some are just informative, so add to the hilarity.
On a more serious note, Still Alice, by Lisa Genova, is a compelling description of a highly successful academic experience with early on-set Alzheimer’s. While fictional, the story rings true — indeed the author’s work has been embraced by the Alzheimer’s Association.