It’s cold and gray; icy drizzle falls from the sky, which makes a hot cup of tea, a fuzzy blanket, and a chunky book the best accompaniments for a day spent inside. Winter is a wonderful time to hunker down and get some serious reading done. The editors and staff at Literary Mama would like to suggest some books in case you’ve already finished up the ones you received as holiday gifts. Everyone needs an endless TBR list, right?
What book are you loving right now? Let us know!
Senior Editor and Literary Reflections Editor Andrea Lani writes, “I recently finished Demon Copperhead, Barbara Kingsolver’s retelling of David Copperfield, situated in rural Appalachia in the midst of the opioid crisis. Through the engagingly delightful voice of young Demon–which never resorts to dialect or other cheap tricks to convey regionality–the reader is taken on a journey through systemic poverty, a failed social services system, and drug addiction. Born in a trailer in western Virginia, raised by an unstable mother, subjected to a cruet stepfather, shunted through a series of foster homes, and put to work too young in dangerous jobs, Demon has the deck stacked against him from the beginning. As with Dickens’s character, despite the many ways life goes wrong for Demon, his fortunes often rise, and though he’s forced to confront multiple villains, he is also blessed with good people in his life who help to steer him in the right direction.”
“As a narrator, Demon is both innocent and wise in the telling of his tale, and through his voice and his life history, Kingsolver manages to convey the ravages that centuries of institutionalized poverty and exploitation and abuse by the tobacco, coal, and drug industries have wreaked on the region, while neither romanticizing the people nor condescending to them. She also celebrates the natural beauty of the landscape and the values of hard work, strong family ties, and attachment to the land that characterize the area. This book gripped me more than anything I’ve read in a long time–I stayed up way too late several nights in a row because I couldn’t stop reading–and before I was even done I went out and got a copy of David Copperfield. It’s been a delight to read the original and see the ways Kingsolver turned a Victorian lawyer into a Virginian football coach, an honest and determined old fisherman into a feisty young nurse, and, of course, the ghastly Uriah Heep into the equally ghastly U-Haul Pyles.”
Editor-in-Chief Amanda Fields writes, “I’m reading Shawna Potter’s Making Spaces Safer: A Guide to Giving Harassment the Boot Wherever You Work, Play, and Gather. Potter sings for the band War on Women, and she has taken on issues of harassment in her music. She has also used her experiences with harassment in gigs and community spaces to advise others on creating safer spaces for marginalized individuals. This book is an expeditious guide for responding to harassment and honoring the needs of the person who has been harassed, in addition to challenging readers to design spaces for accountability. Potter offers practical advice and concrete actions for disrupting harassers and understanding how to shut them down in any setting.”
Blog editor Carrie Vittitoe writes, “I recently watched the 2022 film version of Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and decided to finally read the novel. It is the story of Constance Chatterly, a young woman whose new husband is injured during World War I and comes home paralyzed, unable to walk or produce an heir. The two of them move to his childhood estate, Wragby, and the decline of their marriage commences. Constance begins a series of affairs upon recognizing that her marriage to her husband cannot survive on intellectual stimulation alone, especially when her husband’s interests and hers do not in any way align. Not only does the book look at the different types of marriages that make or break individuals, it is also an examination of the social classes of England during the 20th century and a criticism of the way industrialization strips away the natural beauty of the land and the humanity of those who endure seeing their homeland ravaged.”
Fiction editor Sarah Dalton writes, “Over the holiday break I read The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo. It’s an historical fiction novel set in 1930s colonial Malaysia, and is part murder mystery, part romance, part magical realism, part sumptuous historical fiction with vivid sensory imagery. In Choo’s prose, the supernatural and the natural world blur with dreams, superstitions, weretigers, and cursed, severed fingers. The tension and conflicts the main characters face never let up until the final pages. This absorbing novel has the evocative description of the best historical fiction combined with the propulsion of a murder mystery and a romance. Choo masterfully weaves these genres into a compelling book.
Managing Editor Jenny Bartoy writes, “I discovered the mystery-thriller Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner randomly on Bookshop.org, and I’m so glad I gave it a chance. This English novel is told in three POVs: Helen, the central character, lives with her architect husband Daniel in a gorgeous Victorian house she inherited from her parents, and is pregnant with her first child after many miscarriages; her sister-in-law Serena, a posh and picture-perfect photographer and Instagram influencer, is also pregnant with nearly the same due date — everything seems to come easy to her; Katie, the girlfriend of Helen’s younger brother, is a journalist covering a sensational rape trial. These women and their significant others are not only related but have been part of the same friend group since their youth. The story begins and unravels around the arrival of Rachel, an edgy young woman who befriends Helen in a birthing class and soon becomes a fixture in Helen’s life, until one day she disappears. Rachel’s presence and disappearance precipitate a variety of unsavory discoveries and betrayals as Helen determines to find her. With three pregnant characters, this novel features pregnancy like a character all its own, adding layers of fear, claustrophobia, stress, and deep emotion to the story. High stakes, indeed. This page-turner delivers twists until the end.”
Profiles Editor Brianna Avenia-Tapper writes, “Nora is an ambitious literary agent, devout New Yorker, and jilted single woman. Emily Henry’s steamy and fabulous Book Lovers kicks off when Nora is coaxed by her beloved younger sister Libby to take an extended girl’s trip in a tiny North Carolina town. On their trip, Nora launches a campaign to reconnect with Libby (a pregnant mother to two young daughters), who Nora feels is mysteriously slipping away. At the same time, Libby is on a mission to shake up Nora’s status quo, to make as much fun as she can out of small town living, and to find her sister a boyfriend or at least a hot date.”
“What really kept me turning pages was the super steamy sexual tension between Nora and the man from her publishing life back in NYC. She bumps into Charlie by mistake while on her vacation with Libby. And yes, everything you are thinking now is true, but it is so fun you won’t care. Charlie is (of course) gruff, (of course) crazy hot, and (of course) Nora hates him at first. Henry brings Nora and Charlie together with nuanced portraits of their interaction and draws out their developing relationship with a tantalizing restraint that kept me gasping for more. Read Book Lovers for its portrayal of literary agent life, insight into the magic of NYC, multilayered sister relationship, and grade-A, top-notch, sweaty-palmed romance– a romance in which the heroine’s professional skill and ambition are sexy, and she asks for what she wants.”