My October 2014 Reading List.

Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston
Controversial in subject matter but with a muted and nuanced delivery, Gabriel Weston’s Dirty Work examines the inner life and quiet motivations of an accomplished surgeon and abortion provider in the aftermath of a near-fatal surgery, during the medical hearing that will decide her career. Weston skillfully escapes rendering a pro or con verdict on the big issue, but instead reveals matter of the heart;  the intricate and flawed means by which we determine identity, make crucial personal and professional decisions, and navigate their joys and consequences, both big and small.

Her by Harriet Lane
Recounted in the intriguing alternating perspectives of a struggling mother of two and the stylish, sophisticated artist she meets by chance on the street, Her is a harrowing and suspense-ridden tale of female friendship, fraught marriages, and the bittersweet dramas of motherhood. Guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat, you’ll also cast a wary eye towards new friends you’ve recently made.

Us by David Nicholls
When his wife announces that she will leave him after their son leaves for college, a devoted but emotionally inept husband is desperate for a reprieve. By turns hilarious and thoughtful, Us is the poignant examination of the joys and heartbreak of marriage as one man tries to save his relationship on what could be his family’s last holiday.

Respect by David Ritz
Ritz’s role as ghostwriter of Aretha Franklin’s earlier autobiography provides him a unique position from which to write a more definitive version of the singer’s fascinating and tumultuous life. Rich with intimate personal details and perspective contributed by Franklin’s sisters and confidantes, Ritz’s portrait gives new reasons to admire Franklin’s artistry in crafting an astounding body of work in the amidst of profound personal and professional challenges. Franklin, and this rendering of her, is an inspiration.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore 
Historian Jill Lepore’s impeccably researched, and finely crafted, expose of Wonder Woman’s origins reveals the absorbing and peculiar life of William Moulton Marston, an often disgraced psychologist and researcher whose invention of the lie detector test was eclipsed by the creation of the iconic Amazonian superhero. Written with access to Marston’s private papers, The Secret History of Wonder Woman presents a man surrounded and immersed in complex and unconventional relationships with fascinating and influential feminist women. Lepore’s book offers new insight into the comics, the true-to-life and often stranger-than-fiction basis of Woman Woman’s thoughts and agenda, as well as a stunning cultural and feminist history of America. Lepore’s latest offering is must read for any American History buff. An abiding love of Wonder Woman adds to the appreciation of Lepore’s talents, but is entirely optional.

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann
After World War I America flocked to the movies, but the public’s love also spurred condemnation of the movies on the part of moral crusaders. In Tinseltown, Mann tells the story of the movie industry’s attempts to halt censorship and the difficulty of doing that in the wake of a number of scandals, including the infamous murder of director William Desmond Taylor. This is an incredibly well-crafted story that reads with the speed of a murder mystery.

Empire of Sin: A Story of Sex, Jazz, Murder, and the Battle for Modern New Orleans by Gary Krist
At the end of the 19th century, New Orleans was perhaps the most integrated city in the South.  Empire of Sin recounts the story of the culture war between New Orleans’s underworld of vice and its elite that resulted in a city segregated like any other Southern town. Krist tells this history by weaving together the stories of a number of individuals, structured in such a way that all of the stories are easy – and fascinating – to follow and all illuminate each other.

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