Things are still a tad chilly, wet, and gray, but I’ve bagged a few great reads at the start of 2023. Here are a few short reviews as I’d love the chance to chat with folks about any of these books.
River of the Gods by Candice Millard.
This book is a straight-up history of the search for the source of the Grey Nile portion of the Nile River. River of the Gods is one of those books I would never have picked up had it not been selected as a book club pick. In less skilled hands (which many history books suffer under), this would have been bone dry and b-o-r-I-n-g. Still, Millard did a masterful job weaving in the characters, the political and social climate of the times, and the expeditionary journeys. It was time well spent. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.
This Isn’t Going to End Well: the True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew by Daniel Wallace.
Nothing I’ve read online about this book has done this one justice. Coming out in April 11, 2023, Wallace’s book is a unique first-hand account and dive into what it means when we find out those we love, learn from, and share life with, are flawed and have real struggles of their own.
Up front, Wallace shares that his brother-in-law William Nealy committed suicide. The rest of the book explores the lives, the stories, and the conditions that were to this tragic event. Much of This Isn’t Going to End Well is set in Birmingham, AL. Nealy was an artist, author, handyman, paddling instructor, and adrenaline junkie. He was a master of everything he attempted. Memoirs are pretty standard. People using primary source materials in writing about others is pretty standard.
But, finding a memoir that tackles some of the most challenging topics, filled with the primary source material, plus having first-hand knowledge of the subject AND being in the skilled wordsmith-y hands of an author like Daniel Wallace is unheard of.
This book is a fast read. It hits you in the head and the heart. Sometimes at the same time. Throughout this rollercoaster the book shows off some of Nealy’s more famous as well as lesser known comic illustrations.
This book is for you if you like Hollywood memoirs about larger-than-life folks. If you enjoyed Big Fish, this book is for you. This book is for you if you enjoy reading about creative people, art, and the creative process. If you now live in or lived in Birmingham, AL, in the 1980s-2000s, this book should be required reading.
It’s my first 5-star read of 2023, and I can’t wait to be able to talk with other local folks about this book.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Zevin’s newest novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow was an entertaining read. The cover is excellent, and the story lives up to the hype. The story follows some college buddies who code a video game together and build a gaming company. Zevin (The Storied Life of AJ Fickry) creates some characters here that are so fun to follow. Their conversations are sincere, and with some much love and closeness, their losses feel natural to the reader as well. The whole story is dripping with techie talk and retro video game references. So all that was fun for someone my age.
This book scratches the same itch as Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, combined with the charm of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One—lots of fun. It is definitely worth picking up. This is a 4 out of 5 stars read.
How about you? Have you read anything worth recommending lately?