Ok, another round-up of book reviews. This time we turn to non-fiction. I love a good true crime but I also love biography and memoir, so this is a bit of all three. Enjoy.
Blood Lands Series by Harold Schechter
I thoroughly enjoyed these short works by Harold Schechter. Each one focused on a lesser-known true crime story in American history and only took around an hour to read. I especially liked the one about the family of murderers living across the prairie from Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was aptly titled Little Slaughterhouse on the Prairie. The other one I liked was The Pied Piper about a young man in the 1950’s who committed Manson-style murders by holding other young people in thrall. I would suggest this series of short reads for anyone just getting into true crime. They get in and get out and don’t have time to get dull and repetitive like so many I’ve abandoned over the years.
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Before I traveled to Taiwan I felt that I needed to read Cheryl Strayed’s memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone. It was well-written and quick and deeply poignant. There’s something about solitude that really centers us. One thing that stood out to me was the mental toughness it took to do something like that. It wasn’t just physical. It took a lot of “mind over matter” to get through it. That idea of pushing through and overcoming really spoke to me. I definitely suggest this one even if, like me, you have no intention of hiking anywhere, alone or otherwise.
In Search of Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson
I realized recently that while Frankenstein is a masterful work and is still relevant today, I knew very little about the woman who wrote it. So I read In Search of Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson. It was a little long but it kept me engaged throughout. I think it’s amazing that Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was only nineteen. People have mocked Shelley for being obsessed with death but death was all around her. Her mother died at Mary’s birth, her half-sister committed suicide, her husband was killed in a boating accident, and only one of her four children lived to adulthood. I think Mrs. Shelley can be forgiven for having a preoccupation with death. Frankenstein is much more than a monster story. It goes to the heart of what it means to be human and what happens when humans attempt to create life. In Search of Mary Shelley is a good read and I recommend it for biography lovers.
The Dark Heart by Joakim Palmkvist
This is the best true crime I’ve read in awhile. Set in Sweden, it follows the missing persons case of Goren Lundblad in 2012. An interesting twist to the story was the role of Therese Tang, an investigator with non-profit organization Missing Persons Sweden. Though not law enforcement, Therese blows the case wide open. But the best thing about this one was the dramatization of scenes without straying into fiction. I never thought Capote was successful in mashing up true crime and fiction in In Cold Blood. This seemed to be much more fluid and engaging, without crossing any lines. I recommend The Dark Heart for true crime buffs and anyone looking for a good whodunit.
That’s all for now. Happy reading, y’all!