I love to read and am constantly sifting through best book lists for suggested titles. I avoid books that feature rapes, cruelty, unhappy endings, slavery, the holocaust, children dying, slavery, mistreatment of Indians, environmental degradation, tales of discordant family life and post-apocalypse tales that offer no hope and where people are eating each other.
Needless to say, it is sometimes hard for me to find a good book. Here are a few favorites from 2017.
Fiction: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is placed under permeant house arrest at the luxurious Hotel Metropole in Moscow in 1922. The leaders of the Russian Revolution placed a death sentence on members of the nobility but the Count is spared because of his pre-revolutionary achievements. The Count is not at all unhappy with his confinement to the Metropole. He has lived there in luxury for years, ensconced in a very spacious apartment. Then he finds out his place of exile is a 100 square foot space in the attic of the hotel.
The book follows the Count’s adventures inside the hotel from 1922 to the 1950’s. The count is a wonderful character, so kind, so optimistic, and so calmly observant of the changing political times. The count’s outlook is a welcome respite from the political nastiness and bitter commentary we are now experiencing. His adventures in the hotel are fabulous; who knew being stuck in the Metropole could be so interesting? I cared very much about what happened to the Count and the ending is absolutely perfect.
Non-Fiction: I am not a big fan of this genre because non-fiction usually makes me think too hard. I read to escape. However, I did very much enjoy Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America by Wil Haygood. The story of how Marshall and President Lyndon Johnson overcame resistance by southern senators to the nomination of a black man to the Supreme Court is inspiring. Sadly, Senator Robert Byrd, from my adopted state of West Virginia, voted against Marshall.
Mysteries: After reading nonfiction, I escape to mysteries. I read many well reviewed mysteries in 2017 and found them all rather disappointing (especially The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware). My favorite mystery of 2017 is by local author Ginny Fite: No Good Deed Left Undone. Detective Sam Lagarde is engaging (I do enjoy likable main characters), the story line is compelling and Ginny definitely knows how to build suspense. Best of all, the mystery takes place in Jefferson County, WV, where I have lived for 37 years. A piece of evidence is taken for identification to Feagans Jewelry store, the same place I get my watch repaired. One suspect’s alibi is a receipt from Grandma’s Diner in downtown Charles Town. The murder victim has sex with a lot of people, including liaisons in the Jefferson County Courthouse. When I was a county commissioner, lots of residents complained we were screwing them but to imagine someone actually doing the dirty deed in the courthouse spawned very unwelcome images!
Cromwell’s Folly, another mystery by Ginny Fite featuring Detective Sam Lagarde , joins Rules of Civility by Amor Towles as my must reads for 2018.