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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Weekend Reading

The weekend is here and I, for one, can't wait to get under a blanket and dive back into the freezing cold of Colin O'Brady's epic 932 mile quest to traverse Antarctica alone. Erin is reading about a different kind of extreme - the true story of a doctor who convinced eight healthy patients to check themselves into mental hospitals. To get out they must prove they are sane, which of course, they are. Chris, on the other hand, is returning a novel he read earlier this year and finding that the second reading is perhaps even more profound the second time around. Seira is excitedly beginning the new book in Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine series, and a couple of new mysteries are keeping Vannessa company as she flies home to Seattle.

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The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice—Crossing Antarctica Alone by Colin O'Grady

I love reading adventure stories of men and women pushing themselves to the limit in extreme terrains and conditions. There’s something about the grit, living on the edge of life and death, hubris and humility, defiance and exposure that I find absolutely riveting. And let me tell you, Colin O’Brady is one such heroic explorer. After a crippling injury that should have sidelined him from even walking, Colin O’Brady climbed the seven highest mountains on Earth and then set his sights on the impossible. The Impossible First is his gripping memoir of racing across Antarctica – the first ever, solo, unsupported, unaided crossing of the frozen continent (932 miles of it). It’s a thrilling ride, and I am in awe of his determination and the landscape of white that surrounds him.—Al Woodworth

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The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

The bestselling author of Brain on Fire does a deep dive into an infamous 50-year-old experiment, whereby sane individuals were institutionalized to vet the veracity of psychological diagnoses (I mean, can you imagine?). What she gleaned from this experience has ramifications for the quality of mental healthcare going forward. My colleague, Chris, has been talking this book up, and so far it’s a nerve-racking but fascinating read. —Erin Kodicek

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The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

I’ve already read this book, and not that long ago, but the other day I started reading it again. Just about every time I talk about The Topeka School, I include the disclaimer that it’s not for everyone. But it’s certainly a novel that I revisit often in my head, and I’m looking forward to spending some time with it on a long flight tomorrow. My first impression upon rereading is that the first time I started the book it took some time for my mind to fall in sync with the story, but that’s not the case on this second reading. The first time, I spent a number of pages trying to figure out how I should be reading the book, if that makes sense. Now that I know the characters so well, The Topeka School is both a smoother and more profound re-read. And it was profound the first time. I doubt I’ll reread another book any time soon, but I’m really enjoying this one.—Chris Schluep

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The Conference of the Birds (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children) by Ransom Riggs

Nearly a decade ago I received an early copy of an unusual young adult novel called Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and I fell into Ransom Riggs’s strange and imaginative world instantly. The rest, as they say, is history. In his most recent book, Map of Days, the continuing story of Jacob Portman brought his peculiar friends to America, definitely the Wild West for peculiars, where they discovered more about the secret life of Jacob’s grandfather, Abe. This January (the 14th to be exact) Riggs adds the next layer of the America story in the upcoming fifth book of the Miss Peregrine series, called The Conference of the Birds. More strange photographs, twists, and wonder is in store. I’ve got an early peek waiting in my carry-on bag for a nice long flight home, making me weirdly excited to sit on an airplane for six hours and hopefully read most or all of it. --Seira Wilson

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All That's Bright and Gone: A Novel by Eliza Nellums

I’m about to get on a plane, traveling back to Seattle after visiting New York to attend the National Book Awards. On a plane ride, if I’m not dozing I’m either reading or watching a movie. If I’m reading, it needs to be a book as engrossing as the movie I might otherwise be watching so for this trip I have All That's Bright and Gone, about a little girl who decides that the key to bringing her mentally ill mom home is to figure out how her older brother was killed. On the lighter side, I’m also going to read Oona Out of Order, a book described as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Where’d You Go, Bernadette It’s about a woman who wakes up each New Year’s Day at a completely different period in her life.

Once I land, I’m booking the couch for a few hours to read a book Chris has been raving about, Long Bright River. I’m a huge fan of Julia Keller’s Bell Elkins series, especially A Killing in the Hills, which also places the relationship between two sisters at the center of a mystery that plays out against the backdrop of the opioid crisis, so I can’t wait to get stuck into Long Bright River.--Vannessa Cronin

Looking for more book recommendations? See the 100 books the Amazon Books editors named the Best Books of 2019. Happy reading!

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