If you read thrillers and you’ve been reading a large number of them in lockdown, the odds are high that you may be a tad depressed. This is because modern thrillers and police procedurals are filled with self-absorbed losers. And that’s just the heroes.
If you want to have a newly caring relationship with your induction hob and immersion heater, your summer reading should include The Way Home by Mark Boyle, published by OneWorld. Boyle lives without induction hobs, freezers, phones, computers, and the power grid. Not to mention cars and a TV. He’s not an eco-evangelist and he doesn’t try to make his laborious life attractive. But it is a chosen life and his somber honesty has to make the reader question the unquestionable: The technologies rendering us more efficiently sad.
If you have never read a western, you cringe at the very notion of beans and shootouts and swinging saloon doors. But a former professor of English named Robert B Parker reinvented this genre ten years back with two offerings, Appaloosa and Resolution. The books are told by a character named Everett Hitch, who serves as a second in command to a wandering lawman named Virgil Cole. They’re told with dialogue so true, you find yourself mouthing the words as you go. On the face of it, the two novels are fast simple thrill-a-minute jobs. Until it becomes clear that Hitch and Cole, the pivotal characters, have deep complex feelings they don’t articulate. Neither of them has ever met a one word sentence he didn’t like. Yet, despite this, the reader still gets enmeshed in their loves, loyalties, their evolving moral codes around killing people, and their shared understanding that life’s central relationships are based on collusive silences as much as on passionate declarations.
If you want your heart broken and your understanding of race deepened, grab the Virago reissue of The Street, published in New York in the 1940s by a black author named Ann Petry. It’s about a bright young woman incandescent with ambition for herself and her eight year old son and the discrimination that burns that incandescence right down to nothing.
Finally, if, in the midst of this medical maelstrom, you want a laugh lightly wrapped in insights, buy anything by Adam McKay, former doctor turned comedian. He is a wonder and a joy.