Book Review

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75% of the newly published books I read were in that category. If you enjoy terrific true stories,
this is your month!

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande is this year’s must-read non-fiction. The author, a surgeon, professor, and staff writer at The New Yorker, takes on the question of end-of-life care with his usual compassion and precision. From the limits of medical science to the way nursing homes and assisted living facilities are run, Gawande describes how many of our institutions and hospitals are structured in a way not that is best for the elderly, but in the way that is best for their caregivers. Using stories about his father’s last years and anecdotes from elderly patients and their families, he presents an alternative vision of how we could spend our golden years more happily if we would just have honest conversations about what is important to us before becoming incapacitated by illness. Anyone who plans to attain old age should read this book, and anyone with a parent who might need care in the future should read it, too.
I stopped reading comic books back in the ’60s, before I hit double digits. Despite that, I was fascinated by The Secret History of Wonder Woman By Jill Lepore. The author is a Harvard professor and a staff writer at The New Yorker who has written several scholarly works and one novel; her writing is straightforward and entertaining. This is the first history of Wonder Woman to include information from the private papers of William Moulton Marston, her creator. This book also is effectively a biography of Marston, his wife, Sadie, and his mistress, Olive. Whether or not you are a comic book fan, Lepore’s depiction of the circumstances of Marston’s life and how they gave birth to the feminist icon is worth reading. He lived with his wife, mistress and four children (two by each woman) and after his death, the two women continued to cohabit until Olive’s death. If you want to read about strong women, try The Secret History of Wonder Woman.
 Two years ago, I read The Plantagenets by Dan Jones, and I was blown away; this October the sequel, The Wars of the Roses is out and I am just as dazzled. He begins not with the first battles of the war, but with the reign of Henry VI, in which the groundwork was laid for the power struggles that fractured England. Sometimes histories of this time period can be confusing, what with all the Henrys and Margarets and Edwards populating the nobility, but Jones does a good job of differentiating the characters and the multiple family trees are helpful tools when confusion strikes. If you read historical fiction and want to know the facts behind the fiction, this is your book.
Jodi Picoult has a new novel out this month. Leaving Time is a beautiful novel about love, loss, grief, faith and science. It is told in multiple voices: Jenna, a 13-year-old girl who is searching for her mother who abandoned her over 10 years ago; Alice, whose elephant research and love for her daughter are the anchors of her life; Serenity, a psychic who is enlisted by Jenna to help in the search; and Virgil, a private detective hired by Jenna. Woven into the story are facts about elephants and their habits, how they grieve, how they raise their young, and how they are being cruelly hunted by poachers who take their tusks and leave baby elephants to die. Even if you think you don’t like Jodi Picoult, give this book a try. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Susan Taylor has been in the book business since 1982.

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