Three Fantastic Books to Read Now That It’s Getting Dark
Once the nights start to close in, there’s no substitute for finding a warmly lit corner and curling up comfortably with a thrilling book; something hot to drink nearby and muted jazz piano on the stereo. Reading a fantastic book is a healthy change of pace from all those Netflix series that give you palpitations.
Now that the Northern Hemisphere is well and truly autumnal, do something good for yourself and find that reading nook, put the kettle on, cue up your jazz piano playlist and pick up a wonderful book. Here are three I’ve read recently that might fit the bill.
I Alone Can Fix It – Carole. D Leonnig and Philip Rucker
I Alone Can Fix It is the most thrilling and riveting book I’ve read this year. I couldn’t put it down. Can you remember last year? Reading and watching the news coming out of the US? Not only the pandemic but Donald Trump’s final year in power, the storming of the Capitol, those crazy press conferences, the “elements of medical” quote – one of the many clips sent up by Michael Spicer in his hilarious video commentary.
I remember one particular press conference – infamous now – in which Donald Trump posited that one might be able to inject disinfectant to cure Covid. Watching respected medical professional, Dr Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, squirm in her seat during this press conference made me wonder – “What on earth’s going on behind the scenes.”
Well, now we can know. In I Alone Can Fix It, two Washington Post journalists, Carole. D Leonnig and Philip Rucker, have painstakingly recreated Donald Trump’s final year in office in almost forensic detail. Although the book is factual, it reads like a political thriller. The fact that it is real, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with people at the very top of the administration, including with Donald Trump himself, makes it even more riveting.
All scenes and conversations were corroborated by multiple sources including by reviews of calendar, diary entries, slideshow presentations given at the time, internal memos, personal correspondence as well as videos of events, and archival C-SPAN footage.
Everything you ever wondered about is there – Sacha Baron Cohen’s punking of Rudy Giuliani, Giuliani’s utterly bizarre press conference in front of the Four Seasons garden supplies store, Trump’s uber weird rantings to the media, Trump’s fourth press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Ivanka and her husband, Giuliani’s strange hair dye malfunction, how Trump’s legal team tried to overturn the election results and the list goes on….
The authors have done a particularly exceptional job in recreating the events during the storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters. Watching from the UK, it was hard to understand exactly what was going on but the authors, with their extraordinary inside knowledge, have clearly and methodically, laid out the sequence of events, including conversations that happened on that day. It is rather terrifying to understand just how real the threat to American democracy was that day.
Everyone who loves democracy should read this book.
Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey
Unspeakable Things is based on the true story of the multiple abductions and murder that happened in and around the author’s hometown in Minnesota during her childhood in the 1980s. While Lourey has created a fictionalised version of the story – told from the perspective of a 13-year-old girl – the essential elements of the historical story remain – and it is brutal.
Having grown up at the same time as the author, albeit on the other side of the world, I recognised the attitudes of some adults toward children at that time; the complete dismissal of a child’s point of view, the expectation that seniority commands respect and unquestioning compliance, and the attitude that children should be at the service of adults.
These attitudes are so vividly recreated in Unspeakable Things that it makes for uncomfortable reading and yet, it is a riveting book – I read it in one sitting. The way the author speaks in an authentic and innocent child’s voice yet manages to conjure up an overwhelming sense of dread, fear and foreboding is masterful.
This is not a light-hearted read – it is dark and bleak and yet finishing it felt cathartic. I think anyone who grew up in the 80s and who are parents now will get an enormous amount out of this book. I think this book may also be a good gateway novel for fans of horror who want to expand their reading horizons.
I’ve heard many people complain that children today are spoilt. When I listen to what they are really saying, it seems to me they mean that children are given too much say, too much choice in the way they live their lives. Perhaps that’s true, but Unspeakable Things shows in the starkest terms possible what happens when the dial is turned to the other extreme….I know which way I’d rather err.
Old Man’s War – John Scalzi
I’ve read many of John Scalzi’s books but my favourite is his very first novel, Old Man’s War, published in 2005. I recently reread it and it’s so much fun. Old Man’s War is the story of future earth and the Colonial Defence Forces that protect it. The Colonial Defence Forces are humans’ intergalactic army – defending the earth against alien threats, of which there are many.
This is all fine – but the reason anyone over 30 will want to read this book is the rejuvenation process by which the CDF takes earth’s old people as recruits and gives them a mysterious (it’s revealed in the book – I just don’t want to spoil it for you) procedure that makes them young, super fit and even better looking than they were before.
The CDF does not share its technological advances with earth and on earth the procedure is shrouded in mystery, which is compounded by the fact that once the recruits, they can never return.
This is such a fun book – it’s exciting to read about the rejuvenation procedure, it’s thrilling to read about the tech, the training, the aliens and the battles.
Old Man’s War was inspired by some classic sci-fi novels such as Forever War by Joe Haldeman and Starship Troopers Robert A. Henlein – both of which are anti-war novels and, in that tradition, if you want to, Old Man’s War can also be read as an anti-war novel.
This book has so many elements that I think it will appeal to lots of different types of people; tech nerds, health and fitness fans, military buffs, sci-fi geeks, thriller lovers, pacifists, there’s even a romance, of sorts. It’s not a long novel and it’s an easy read…my bet is that you’ll enjoy it.
Feature image by Rafael Leão.
If you enjoyed these recommendations, you might enjoy my other posts which have book recommendations including: