Welcome to Kay's Recommendations! Bookselling is Kay’s fourth career but it might have been her first and only career if she roughly followed grade-school aptitude testing that said she should become a librarian. An avid reader, Kay’s go-to is science fiction, but she often dips into off-beat (i.e. dark) fiction, and both fiction and non-fiction about nature, the environment, art, gardening, adventure and unusual minds. Her favorite book changes about every five years; most recently it would have to be the MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood.
Check out what Kay has been reading below!
Heads up psychological thriller fans, there’s a new name in town: Alex Michaelides, who clearly commands an intimate understanding of tortured souls. Artist Alicia kills her famous photographer husband Gabriel then refuses to speak. Six years later, Alicia still hasn’t spoken a word at The Grove, a psychiatric care facility. A new psychoanalyst joins the team, specifically to treat Alicia. His use of disallowed psychoanalytic practices sends him down a dark road that slowly peels back Alicia’s story, ultimately much to someone’s surprise. The reader is deliciously spun around and around in this perfectly paced thriller.
How is genetic engineering used today? How sophisticated and available is it? Read and find out. But given the rate of development is this field (which is about to outpace exponential change), today’s use is child’s play when compared to how and who will be using genetic engineering tools in the not-very-distant future - unless substantial guidelines are agreed upon and put in place. Worldwide. Today. The variety and scale of the implications, and their potential effect on our future, are portentous. Read - or don’t read - at your own risk.
Shields’ bewitching and illuminating tale is set at one of the Manhattan Project’s three primary sites: Hanford, WA. In 1944 the urgent call for women workers a few hours south of Mildred’s home gives her the opportunity to escape a domineering and manipulative mother. As an exceptional typist and unusually out-spoken woman, Mildred is hired as secretary for a highly ranked physicist. Mildred loves her job. But aptly called Mad Mildred and other similar names since childhood, Mildred’s uncontrolled visions of the future eventually spill out in her new, crowded surroundings. Powerful and devastating, this story is a stunner.
The book begins as a warm story of two college buddies on a wilderness trip in northern Canada. A distant wildfire and encounters with two other twosomes quickly move the story into thriller territory. Tender highs and grim lows make for another can’t-put-it-down book by Peter Heller.
Psychedelics’ adoption by the counterculture in the 1960s led quite rapidly to complete stoppage and then virtual erasure of what had been a promising field of research in the 1950s-60s on therapeutic uses of psychedelics. Research quietly regained some acceptance in the 1990s, and today there is a surprisingly large field of research on psychedelics in progress, some of which is well along the multi-staged process that precedes FDA testing. Psychedelics are being tested to treat addiction, depression, patients facing death, and other medical issues. It is thrilling to read how psychedelics can change a person’s perception of the world so radically that, for example, they no longer fear death. This is an exceptionally well-written history and thought-provoking review of issues surrounding the resurgence of psychedelics as a potentially valuable medical therapy.
Following civil wars and epidemics, an older woman lives alone on her father’s homestead between other small, uneasy settlements. She gets by via gardening, bartering with locals, and the occasional bartered service as a scribe for strangers passing through. Pressed into service by a man who she thinks cannot possibly meet her steep barter demands but quickly does so, she is reluctantly forced to leave home to fulfill her end of the bargain. Painful and terrifying trials test her on her travels, but eventually she successfully faces her own demons and more than fulfills the contract. Hagy vividly evokes the gritty, pungent, gory grayness of this ruptured world while she simultaneously conveys in beautiful, aching prose just what is required to survive as a decent human being in a truly brutal world.
The book begins with a section called Roots containing eight chapters, each devoted to an individual’s or couple’s backstory from 1950s-70s. In the next section, called Trunk, Powers picks up where the individual stories ended and starts weaving them together with a common thread: trees. Powers imparts a great deal of genuinely astonishing and fascinating history and science of trees and forests, seemingly effortlessly providing the reader with a completely new understanding of these usually ignored living beauties (with whom we share 25% of our genes) and their place in the earth’s biome. Sections called Crown and Seed bring us to the current and future state of trees, and humans, on earth. Overstory is both an exciting tale with compelling and moving narratives about people the reader comes to care deeply about and an education about trees as (or more) engaging and informative as the award winning book Hidden Life of Trees. I absolutely love Overstory.
This is fabulous fiction for art lovers. Set in Boston years after the Isabella Gardner Museum heist, a stolen Degas is delivered to a very talented but struggling artist who is asked to reproduce the painting in exchange for a desperately needed gallery show. She has the technical training and the talent to pull it off. Interesting facets of the art world are showcased in this page-turner.
This is a romping, sometimes funny spy thriller set during WW2 in Cuba. Blending fact and fiction, it stars Ernest Hemingway as a mostly self-directed U Boat hunter and spy during WW2. Cuba, Hemingway, and the characters Hemingway surrounded himself with all come vividly alive and stay with you long after you have finished the book.
The funniest, certainly most self-deprecating physicist of the 20th century is also one of it’s most brilliant. I’m a physics flunky (well, the truth is I never even tried), but I had a blast reading about one it’s most renowned characters. Impress your friends at parties by regaling them with Feynman tales.
The Gelding has left few people alive after a century of near-zero birth rates. Griz, his parents, and two siblings live on a small Scottish island; the only other folks they know live several islands away. One day a trader stops at Griz’s island. The family guardedly welcomes him to dinner, after which the trader tricks the family into eating drugged sweets. The trader departs at dawn with Griz’s beloved dog Jess and other stolen goods. Griz wakes just in time to see the trader slip out of sight. Without hesitation, Griz grabs their other dog, Jip, and goes after the thief. Griz and Jip have one heart-wrenching adventure after another on their quest to track down the thief, yet the story is told with such piercing self-reflection and urgent purpose that it’s impossible to put down. READ THIS BOOK TODAY!
The stresses of caring for two very young children while working have kept Molly from taking the occasional misinterpreted sound or sight too seriously. But since David was suddenly called out of town for a week, the odd hallucination has transformed into a very real, um, problem. Perfect pacing, exquisite portrayal of the relentless demands of young children balanced by rare moments of perfect joy, coupled with Molly’s wavering interactions with her antagonist make The Need a beguiling read.
Eggers’ spare prose is so sharp, taut and vivid in The Parade that I’m nearly certain it burned a long series of permanent afterimages in me. Check back in ten years or so for proof.
The author, a renowned quantitative futurist, seems uniquely qualified to pen three wide-ranging and believable scenarios about what our world might look like in the next ten to fifty years given where the nine companies that essentially control artificial intelligence development are directing their efforts today. Six of the companies are American and three are Chinese. The involvement - or lack of involvement - of American and Chinese political leadership very significantly affects the scenarios’ outcomes. We have but a handful of years to shift the balance in our favor.
Crouch’s new sci-fi/thriller is a gem. Led by a neuroscientist with single-minded focus, researchers are learning to capture and replay memories. In the process, they have stumbled on a way to travel in time, with unfortunate repercussions. The future becomes more scrambled even as attempts are made to fix it. As un-put-down-able as Dark Matter, Crouch has concocted a hugely entertaining, mind-bending approach to time travel.