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February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
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We perform this exercise every January—choosing our favorite, non-work-related reading of the past year—and, typically, I’m at a loss to find any kind of pattern or trend in the books we select. This year it’s the opposite: I’m surrounded by contradictory patterns, one swimming against the tide of the other. First up is pure escape; whether in the form of romance, adult or teen, or comedy, silly or surreal, some of us were clearly looking for something to take us away, not only from work but also from a crazy outside world that, in 2017, was definitely “too much with us,” as Wordsworth said more than 200 years ago. Then there were the gluttons for punishment who craved still more horror, be it in the form of mining disasters, carnivorous plants, the real story about Roswell, or—God help us all!—a clown motel!
Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, by Annie Jacobsen
Holy moly! This highly unsettling history of Area 51—from a Pulitzer Prize finalist, no less!—induced more paranoia in me than mainlining all 10 seasons of The X-Files (which I’m still in the midst of). The nuclear tests are the true horror revealed here, but what Jacobsen turns up about the purported Roswell crash is more gruesome than anything any movie has imagined. You don’t want to know. (But I did.) —Daniel Kraus
Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
A twist on the old Prince Charming trope, in that Nick’s extreme wealth is the main barrier to his and Rachel’s happiness. Does that make it sound like I read it for smart reasons? Good. That means I don’t have to admit that I read it for the outrageously dishy storytelling and that I picked up the sequel and glommed right on through that one, too. —Susan Maguire
Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham
A meteor shower promising to be the light show of the century blinds most of humanity. And, to make matters worse, carnivorous plants now roam the countryside devouring folks willy-nilly. Fortunately, our hero is safely tucked away in a hospital room in London, his eyes bandaged. Though dated, this cozy catastrophe novel from 1951 is, unfortunately, still relevant today. —Ben Segedin
Double Date and Double Feature, by Rosamond Du Jardin
While strolling down memory lane (my basement), I came across Rosamund Du Jardin’s series about twins Penny and Pam—1950s precursors to the Sweet Valley girls. All work-related books were immediately pushed to the side. Biggest surprise? The twins’ widowed mother ran her own business and was in no hurry to find a husband! —Ilene Cooper
Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917, by Michael Punke
I don’t know why I had never read this before—it’s just my kind of book!—and when the graphic adaptation of Anderson’s debut landed in my office this fall, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to right that wrong. Happily, it was just as heartachingly good as I had hoped. I only wish I could time travel to 1999 and hand a copy to teenage me. —Sarah Hunter
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