What they’re reading when they’re not writing

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(Posted Jan. 2, 2019)

For those days this winter when curling up with a good book sounds better than venturing into the frozen tundra, here are some reading suggestions from staffers at the Columbus Messenger Co. The company publishes the Madison Messenger, Southwest Messenger, Westside Messenger, Southeast Messenger and Eastside Messenger.

Sandi Latimer, staff writer

I’m a readaholic and seek out non-fiction with historic value. Two books I chose in 2018 left an impact on me. I had read a magazine article about why Nova Scotia sends Boston a tree for Christmas. A few months later, I saw The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon at the library. This is the story of an empty ship leaving the Halifax harbor on Dec. 6, 1917. It collided with a ship loaded with ammunition. The result was an explosion, the greatest until Hiroshima. I got so involved with reading this book, I couldn’t put it down.  I had to know what happened next. Who helped out? Why does Nova Scotia send a tree to Boston?

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore, is the story of young women who, from around 1917 into the 1920s, painted watch dials with glow-in-the-dark paint at three locations. When they became ill, they claimed radium poisoning which the company denied. Reading about the plight of these women as their health deteriorated and they fought against the company made me want to join them. When the women died horrible, premature deaths, their families picked up the fight. By the time it ended, the girls’ families were given a pittance, but we workers may be the real winners. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was formed.

Becky Barker, Madison Messenger office assistant

I’m listening to a book titled All the Queen’s Men by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Linda Howard. It’s an older book with a copyright in 1999. I read it when it was first released, but I’m listening to the audio version now.

It’s a romantic suspense featuring a hero and heroine who are covert operatives for the CIA. Their mission is to neutralize an international arms dealer.

The book has one of the most unusual opening chapters I’ve ever read in romance. The first time I read it, I was a little disappointed with one of the plot devices at the end of the story, but very much enjoyed the characterization, author’s voice and overall complexity of the plot. It’s well worth the second read/listen.

Rick Palsgrove, managing editor

The book that I read in the past year that had the biggest impact on me is Time Warped by Claudia Hammond.

Hammond addresses many of our perceptions of time, including our views of what constitutes the past, present and future; why time seems to speed up as we age; time’s relationship to memory; time’s illusions; how we mentally time travel; and how we visualize time. Hammond notes that, while not everyone “sees time” in their mind, many people do have their own unique time map in their head they use to reference their place in time and space.

It’s interesting to think about time and our interaction with it. We can’t control time, but then again, time can’t control how we choose to use it. We’re all time travelers.

I also found myself this year going back and re-reading some books I read 40 years ago when I was in my 20s. It’s interesting how these books can seem fresh and new again after the passage of time and how they can speak to the experience I’ve gained over the years.

One of these books is Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac, written a few years before he hit it big with On the Road and became a literary figure of the Beat Generation. Maggie Cassidy tells of Kerouac’s teenage years in Lowell, Mass., and deals with his adolescent romance with the title character as well as his own growth, but also provides a wonderful snapshot in time of the Lowell of his youth.

I bought my copy of Maggie Cassidy in a Lowell book store nearly four decades ago when a friend and I, both Kerouac fans, made a side trip to Lowell, a sort of pilgrimage, while we were on our way elsewhere to other youthful adventures in Massachusetts. Re-reading the book not only allowed me to re-discover Kerouac’s youth, but also my own.

While books hold a special place in my mind, over time I also have become an avid reader of magazines. In the past year, I’ve regularly read the literary magazine, “The Sun,” which features essays, short stories and some wonderful photography. I also read history journals such as The Canal Society of Ohio’s “Towpaths,” the “Smithsonian,” and the Ohio History Connection’s “Echoes.” I must say “Echoes” is but a shadow of the late, great “Timeline” magazine the Ohio History Connection ceased publishing in favor of the shorter, “Echoes.”

One thing I found as I have grown older is that I read less fiction and more non-fiction. The twists and turns as well as the highs and lows of reality never cease to amaze.

Andrea Cordle, Southwest and Westside editor

I recently started keeping a book journal. After reading each book, I jot down a bit about the plot, write my opinion and give it an overall grade. Only a few of the novels I read over the past several months earned an “A.”

The best of them is The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. If you take my recommendation and read this book, be warned –it is a dark one. It begins with a grizzly and life-alerting crime committed against two teenage sisters. Because of this tragedy, the characters are deeply damaged and flawed but you root for them to overcome their many obstacles. It’s a story about revenge, justice, finding the truth, forgiveness and the importance of family. The Good Daughter is very disturbing and may be tough for some to read, but it does carry a sense of hope. I am a fan of Karin Slaughter. Everything I’ve read from her features characters that are rich and well developed. Even her minor characters are full of life and personality. I also recommend her Pretty Girls.

Another good read is The Blind by A.F. Brady. This novel is about a woman (Dr. Sam James) who is a highly-regarded physician in a center for the mentally ill. She takes on the most difficult cases, including a mystery man who was in prison for unknown crimes. While trying to tackle her latest tough case and maintain her reputation as the most reliable and results-oriented counselor around, Sam begins to lose her own grip on reality. This book revolves around this one character, but the character is so good and troubled that you want to see what she’s going to do next. Sam makes everyone think she has it all together, but privately she is unraveling. Who can’t relate to that?

Occasionally, you need to read something different. I tried My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix and I’m glad I did. This novel is set in the 1980s and is about two girls who become friends at a very young age. The book follows them through the difficult teen years. After a night of partying, one of the girls disappears. She returns but her behavior is different and sometimes dangerous. This book was many things all wrapped into one. It was scary, gross, disturbing, witty, funny, sad and bittersweet. I was really impressed with how well this male author wrote for a teenage girl. He captured many of the complexities of female adolescence. According to my sister, the Messenger’s movie critic, there are talks to make this novel into a movie. It would be interesting to see how this story would translate to the silver screen.

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