Even in fiction I am drawn to mystery and the search. My favorite part of Stieg Larsson’s bestseller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the research. Larsson sketched interesting characters; he included enough darkness and evil to more than satisfy my macabre side. But it’s the scenes in the stacks or poring over old photographs that grabbed me. Probably not the scenes the rest of my family remembers.
A quick glance at my bookshelf yielded another three books (all non-fiction) I loved for the same reason.
The Family That Couldn’t Sleep: A Medical Mystery by D. T. Max
From the book jacket – “For two hundred years, a noble Venetian family has suffered from a progressive insomnia that kills…. In Papua New Guinea, a primitive tribe is struck by a lethal illness whose principal symptom is uncontrollable laughter. In England, once-placid cows attack their owners….”
I know prions and Mad Cow Disease don’t seem the stuff of a good read, but I devoured this book. The only lingering effect has been to my eating habits. Great research and gripping story.
After Long Silence by Helen Fremont
Fremont’s 1999 memoir about discovering her family’s hidden history and her parents’ lives as Holocaust survivors is extraordinarily well-written. It was completely absorbing, heartbreaking and affirming.
The Lost by Daniel Mendelsohn
Huge, wandering, reflective memoir about his search for information about six family members who died during the Holocaust. I adored it – every page – but it is a challenging book. A friend told me that my admiration of the book revealed much about my own mind. She was not complimenting me. Ruth Franklin’s 2006 review is fair and accurate. That said, Mendelsohn is an eloquent, elegant writer and his is an amazing book.
Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times about Isabel Wilkerson’s new book about black migration in 20th century America, The Warmth of Other Suns. Santa dear, if you’re reading, it needs to be on my bookshelf. Please.