Messenger staffer reading suggestions

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(Posted Dec. 23, 2015)

Here’s a look at what Madison Messenger staffers are reading and what other books they hope to curl up with this winter.

• Sandi Latimer, staff writer

Of the nearly 50 books I read in 2015, it’s hard to single out one as my favorite.

I discovered author Erik Larson this year when his “Dead Wake” came out. I chose this because I wanted to learn more about the sinking of the Lusitania, the British oceanliner sunk by German U-boats during World War I. In doing so, I discovered a writer whose work is filled with tension. I also read Larson’s “Isaac’s Storm” and “The Devil and The White City.”

Each of the three books is written in alternating-chapter style while telling the story. “Isaac’s Storm” tells about the strong hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas, in 1900 and the development of the National Weather Service. “The Devil and The White City” is about the building of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and an unscrupulous man posing as a doctor who killed many people, some of whom came to Chicago seeking jobs at the fair.

For the sports minded, especially with the Olympics coming up, “Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown is a sure bet. It’s a gripping story of the young men from the University of Washington who won gold in rowing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Brown explains the sport of rowing through these young men.

Sitting in a stack beside my reclining chair waiting to be read is “The Chase” by my friend Bill Rabinowitz, the story of Ohio State University winning football’s first national championship. On my wish-to-read list are “Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter” by Kate Clifford Larson and “Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America” by Wil Haygood.

• Becky Barker, office assistant

I just finished a 22-book series by Janet Evanovich. The final book is titled “Tricky Twenty-Two.” It features a heroine named Stephanie Plum who works as a bond enforcement agent in Trenton, N.J. Plum is a really bad bounty hunter, but has great intuition and a lot of luck when it comes to catching the bad guys. The series would be rated R due to raunchy language and non-stop violence, yet all the stories are told in a first-person comedic tone. The violence is more vaudevillian than realistic and the characterization is great. Nearly every book has laugh-out-loud scenes. There’s also ongoing romance while Plum tries to decide between the two men who love her.

• Christine Bryant, staff writer

I’m reading “Black Cat 2-1” by Bob Ford. It’s the true story of a Vietnam helicopter pilot and the men with whom he served who risked their lives for the troops serving on the ground. The book is written by the pilot who flew over 1,000 missions in Vietnam, generally under fire, including the Tet Offensive. For those who don’t know a lot about the Vietnam War, this book is a great place to start and is so far full of action and even some humor.

• Kristy Zurbrick, editor

A couple of months ago, my brother posted a query on Facebook, asking his friends to supply him with suggestions for the next book he should pick up. I plucked from the responses a book that sounded intriguing to me, “There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America.”

Written by journalist Alex Kotlowitz, the biography chronicles two years in the lives of Lafayette and Pharoah Rivers, ages 11 and 9 at the start, and their struggle to survive the violence, gangs and abominable living conditions of Chicago’s public housing projects in the late 1980s. Kotlowitz combines the data and politics of the bigger picture with the raw specifics of two tender lives enduring the unimaginable.

Next up on my to-read list, something light: “Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters” by Mark Dunn. It showed up on a list of books deemed to be “seriously underrated.” The title and premise made me smile, so I’m giving it a go.

According to the summary, the story is about Ella, a girl living on a fictional island off the coast of South Carolina who “finds herself acting to save her friends, family and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet.” As the council bans letters, they also disappear from the novel. I can’t wait to see how the author pulls this off.

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