Yay! We're in the middle of the holiday season and after all the hullaballoo, you might have a moment to dig into some good books. Every Wednesday until the end of the year we will feature three favorite book recommendations. Today our book recommendations come from Matthew FitzSimmons, author of The Short Drop and Poisonfeather. Matthew was born in Illinois, raised in London and now lives in Washington, DC. Let's see what books he loves.
Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
It wasn’t always the case, but American literary novels rarely indulge in high concept. Quite the contrary, there seems to be a preference for familiar, basic storylines. The elegant simplicity of Colson Whitehead’s central conceit – that the underground railroad, the network of southern abolitionists who shepherded runaway slaves out of the South was not metaphoric but a literal subterranean rail service – is why I love novels. With one audacious choice, Whitehead takes a piece of our familiar history, turns it on its head, and makes it new. Yet somehow it remains true. A brilliant book.
Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
Science fiction and fantasy were my first loves as a kid, but they have long been niche genres that rarely made much impact on mainstream audiences. That’s been changing in recent years as the success of authors such as George R.R. Martin and Andy Weir can attest. Blake Crouch’s latest novel, Dark Matter is another great addition to that list. It’s exciting for me to see a novel steeped in quantum mechanics and the dangers of meddling in the multiverse find such crossover success. And it’s well deserved, because Crouch does a masterful job of making his subject accessible and comprehensible to a lay audience. And more than that it’s a great ride – some of the late story twists and consequences are so wonderfully unexpected yet undeniably right. It reminds me why science fiction remains a vital genre.
Before the Fall – Noah Hawley
Noah Hawley came onto my radar through his work adapting the Cohen Brothers’ Fargo for television. It seemed like a thankless, doomed project but he’s done the impossible – channel the Cohen’s sardonic tone without aping it. His recent thriller, Before the Fall – a character study set around a private plane that crashes into the Atlantic shortly after takeoff – shows exactly why Fargo has been so brilliant. Hawley has a terrific eye for detail about his characters; he turns one hell of a phrase; and his nonlinear plotting and structure add so much complexity to the story. This is what a thriller should be.
Come on back next Wednesday for more book recommendations and don't forget to check out Matthew's Drinks with Reads post. The drink is super interesting.