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the LITERARY HILL A Compendium of Readers, Writers, Books, & Events by Karen Lyon
hen you make your New Year’s resolutions, be sure to include some books by local authors on your 2020 reading list. To help you out, I’m offering some suggestions from the many books that I reviewed here in 2019, as well as a few titles from my extracurricular reading list.
From 1840 to 1986 Any year that features new books by both Louis Bayard and Gene Weingarten is a winner and we hit the jackpot in 2019. Bayard’s “Courting Mr. Lincoln” is historical fiction of the highest order, presenting a fresh perspective on the fuIf you haven’t read it yet, put Louis Bayard’s Lincolnture president from inspired work of historical two people who knew fiction on your 2020 readhim best, Mary Todd ing list. and his friend Joshua Speed. With a wealth of intimate detail and penetrating character studies, this book is a revelation that will have you looking at Lincoln in a whole new way. www. louisbayard.com. For his new book, “One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gene Weingarten selected a day at random—December 28, 1986—and tracked down 18 stories that typified what was going on in the country at the time. From a ground-breaking heart transplant to the state of race relations, the AIDS epidemic, and a disfiguring fire, the stories are compelling and insightful, offering a powerful glimpse of who we were on one particular day in 1986. Twitter @geneweingarten. 94 H HILLRAG.COM
Murder, They Wrote Local mystery authors Colleen Shogan and Con Lehane kept us in suspense in 2019 with two new whodunits. Shogans’s “Gore in the Garden” is set in the US Botanic Garden, where the new Architect of the Capitol has been strangled with a fig vine during a reception celebrating the blooming of the conservatory’s famous corpse plant. Hill aide Kit Marshall and her “merry band of politicos-turned detectives” set off on the trail of the killer, but not without taking some time out to indulge in happy hours all over Capitol Hill. www.colleenshogan.com “Murder Off the Page,” the latest installment in Con Lehane’s 42nd Street Library Mystery Series, finds librarian Raymond Ambler in a tough spot. A man is found murdered in the hotel room of a mysterious woman who has been doing research in his Ambler’s crime fiction collection. Then she disappears along with his friend, bartender Brian McNulty, and the amateur sleuth is obliged to get to the bottom of things. www.conlehane.com
Lives Examined One Hill author shared her life in a powerful memoir in 2019 and another brought a local librarian to life. In “Love You Hard: A Memoir of Marriage, Brain Injury, and Reinventing Love,” Abby Maslin tells the intimately painful story of how her husband TC survived a vicious 2012 mugging Abby Maslin’s memoir the aftermath of and how the two of them about a grievous attack on her dealt with the changes in husband is a moving tribtheir lives—and their mar- ute to the power of love. riage—that came about as a result. A moving tribute to the courage and resiliency of the human spirit, her book is a heart-wrenching account of the challenges
they faced and, in the end, an acknowledgment of the power of love. www.LoveYouHard.com. Kate Stewart’s biography of a local librarian, “A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves, and Legacy of Ruth Rappaport,” focuses on the long and adventurous life and career of an independent, outspoken woman. Among other accomplishments, Rappaport was Israel’s first photograph archivist, created a library for the US military in Vietnam, and served for more than two decades as a cataloguer at the Library of Congress. She purchased a townhouse on Capitol Hill in 1970 where she lived until her death in 2010 at the age of 87. www.katestewart.com
For the Little Ones Children need reading lists, too, and local authors rose to the challenge in 2019 with a pair of worthy additions. In “Saffron Ice Cream,” artist and writer Rashin Kheiriyeh takes a bittersweet look at the challenges of immigration through the eyes of a little girl who reminisces longingly about family outings in Iran. Her new home in America just isn’t the same and she misses her friends and her saffron ice cream, but ultimately discovers that new flavors—and new friends—can be pretty amazing, too. www.rashinart.com. “Ben’s Tale” is the first in William S. Kurtz’s read-to-me Animal Post Office stories based on a tradition in the islands of northern Lake Huron, where local animals are known to leave letters in a tree trunk for visiting children. They take turns describing their adventures—how Ben Beaver’s lodge washed away and Terrance Toad organized the rebuilding effort— and chime in with their unique perspectives on the disaster and its aftermath. www.wildwoodbook.com.
For the Middle Ones Local authors didn’t neglect young readers in 2019 either, penning adventures to appeal to a variety of interests. In Kitty Felde’s novel, “Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza,” the ten-year-old daughter of a California congressman has been yanked from her
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