Every few weeks I share a few good reads I have enjoyed lately.
Devil in the Grove
By: Gilbert King
It is not often that a 17-hour audiobook flies by, or that I am riveted by non-fiction. This book is excellent. I recommended it to Mom as, “Kind of like historical fiction because you love the characters and want to keep reading to see what happens next and stuff but absolutely awful because it actually happened.” As a teacher, I am most familiar with Thurgood Marshall in his role in Brown v. Topeka. Devil in the Grove follows him and his defense of a 1949 rape case in Lake County, Florida, but is so much more than that.
I felt stupid reading Devil in the Grove, and I don’t know how to put into words quite why. I think it is because I have had the privilege to be far removed from the terror of racism. I know that lynchings happened, but I didn’t realize they were downright common. And I know that that interracial marriage was discouraged, but I didn’t realize a boy could be pushed off a cliff for sending a girl a holiday card. And I know people in power can be prejudiced, but I didn’t believe they would let the Klan run their city (Or actively participate in Klan activity!). This book is one of the most powerful I have read and it has fueled an urge to learn more.
I enjoyed the audiobook fine, but I think this book is best enjoyed in print. The storyline bounces between Florida, Washington, D.C, and New York; Between the time of the case and backstories on the people involved; and between the perspectives of people involved. It was difficult at times to keep it all straight in my head and I think the visual divide of chapters and the ability to flip back and easily re-read would have helped.
By: Diane Chamberlain
Devil in the Grove left me with a book hangover. Do you ever read something so excellent you are afraid to start something new because it can’t possibly be as good? I went with Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain. It is in the vein of social justice but is a light historical fiction read. Also, Mom promised it had a good ending which I really needed.
Indeed, this book just right. Necessary Lies is a historical fiction novel set in rural North Carolina in the 1960s. The story goes back and forth between Ivy, a 15-year-old girl in desperate poverty, and Jane, a social worker who faces ethical dilemmas with her rural clients and a tumultuous personal life. I was able to guess the twists in the plot line but it still kept my interest throughout. I remember the exact spot I was at on my crocheted potholder when I started bawling when the ending I was hoping for happened. It was just perfect. You’ll see.
I read a few more books by the same author after this, but the characters just weren’t quite as lovable as Ivy, and the plots were a little too guessable. I don’t regret reading them and I finished each one, but they didn’t feed my soul like this book.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood
By: Trevor Noah
I don’t quite remember how Trevor Noah came on my radar- if it was Jon Stewart introducing him as his replacement on The Daily Show or Trevor’s documentary, You Laugh But It’s True. Either way, I find him to be a super interesting person and was excited to find his book.
Born a Crime is a memoir of growing up biracial in Apartheid South Africa. The book manages to be at once heartbreaking and hilarious. But not too hilarious. Although Trevor works as a comedian, the book is very much his personal story with a hint of irony and wit. I would recommend this even to someone who doesn’t enjoy comedy. I know very little about Apartheid or South African history so that element of his story was interesting.
Definitely get the audio of this book. His spot-on impersonations of different accents are what attracted me to him in the first place, and they come out in the book. He also speaks in the languages he refers to in the book, which I would probably just skim over in text.
What good books have you enjoyed lately?
Audiobooks are my favorite “reading” format for getting things done. I love my Hoopla Digital membership which is free from a local library. If a book I’m excited to read isn’t available to free, my favorite platform is Audible. I find the best value is to purchase 24 credits all at once if you read as much as I like to.
For print books, besides the local library, I always check Better World Books before purchasing secondhand through Amazon.