It’s been seven weeks since my last list. Since then, Ash Barty has become the women’s world number one. Donald Trump has stepped foot in North Korea. Pinoy fishermen have been amid a ‘maritime incident’. FaceApp and the bottle challenge are the new craze. Meanwhile, through chilly winter, I have steadily chipped away at parts of five works; in all, I perused four novels and one memoir. Here is a recap of the past two months:
The Beekeeper of Aleppo (Christy Lefteri). I wouldn’t dwell too much on this one as I had already detailed this during my Long Weekend post. I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I almost gave up on Beekeeper, until I took it up again. I realised it wasn’t so bad after all. I wouldn’t concur that it is ‘beautifully written’, but it is a worthwhile – if sad – read regardless.
Shoe Dog (Phil Knight). This represents my only foray into non-fiction for this catalogue. Knight’s memoir is probably the best book in this list. Not coincidentally, JM Boehringer – who co-wrote Open – also ghost wrote this one. Both titles end up being polished, accessible, and a joy to read. Shoe Dog takes us through the journey of Nike’s early days. We are given an insider’s look from Knight’s travels to his trunk business; his struggle with equity and branching out. We empathise with Knight in his scouring for brand ambassadors. We learn about Blue Ribbon, the fledgling initiative that would become Nike, Inc. We are courtside with Knight as he deals with Japanese executives, the backbone of his shoe-importing business. We grasp the social issues that surround his empire, including his search for factories and the revolving door of employees. More importantly, we get to see the faces behind the Swoosh, the early innovators who made Nike possible. All this is done in candid, humorous fashion.
Boy Swallows Universe (Trent Dalton). A bit of a departure from Shoe Dog, the writing style being more challenging. However, this debut novel is just as much-loved as the latter, and is a national bestseller. Dalton’s debut has a bit of everything: bildungsroman, love story, family ties, crime fighting, law breaking, death, and so on. No doubt it packs a lot in its pages. Unlike millions of others, the opening chapters didn’t immediately enrapture me. Boy is something that’ll grow on you. While promoted as a coming-of-age story, the Queensland town could represent Oz in miniature. The actors, players, set designers and director all highlight the concerns, hopes, and dreams of a nation. Dalton uses flawed characters such as August (the mute elder brother) and Slim (the grizzled inmate/escapee) in relaying a message that resonates beyond the limits of this text. I would recommend this book for any adult seeking a challenging but very rewarding read.
The Crossing (Michael Connelly). It’s back to my fave author; hard to believe but seven books have passed since my last Connelly (The Poet). In this edition, Harry Bosch returns to team up with criminal defence attorney Mickey Haller as they try to vindicate their black client. Newly retired LAPD cop Bosch is adjusting to his new life when Haller approaches him. Doing so (working with the felon) would make Bosch betray everything he believed in, never mind being a pariah in his former department. Horror gives way to intrigue and Bosch enlists the help of Lucia Soto his former partner to get to the bottom of this once and for all. Bosch proves invaluable to the case, getting angles that the defence has so far overlooked. He not only faces opposition but may unearth corruption and a dark side to the department he holds dear. Side note: I saw this novel on the shelf in 2016, but it was far from the first Connelly I read.
The Storyteller (Picoult). I haven’t read a Picoult since two lists ago. This would be her third book that I’ve examined, and my twentieth book of the year overall. I am only a quarter through this one, and it reminds me of Boy. The writing is not like The Pact, and more like Small Great Things. This is unsurprising since she deals with two heavy themes: The Holocaust and euthanasia. In a quiet town in New Hampshire, Sage works the night shift in a bakery to escape from a judgmental world. She was involved in a car accident that left her with scars – both physical and emotional. Crafting bread is the thing that gives her joy and purpose. She would meet Josef, a nonagenarian who frequents their bakery with his dog. All is not what is seems and everyone’s favourite coach turns out to be a former Nazi guard. He singles out Sage, knowing she is Jewish, and asks her to kill him. When does justice spill over onto revenge? Whose is justice to give? Would killing an SS agent ‘be murder, or justice?’ Storyteller is definitely one of Picoult’s stronger efforts. She even uses different fonts for her characters. You’d be wise to pick this up.
So, there you have it: five books, five different authors; four novels, one memoir. Two books were from last year, one was released this fall, and two were from earlier times. I finished Beekeeper in a week, while Boy was done in two. Happy reading!
Next picture: Rosie Result