A couple of weeks ago I posed the question on Facebook asking what people were reading. I expected a few responses, but instead got dozens, with some great suggestions. 

I planned to eventually put the whole list together, and so that’s what this column is, including the newest entrees. 

These days, you can’t take the books out of a library, or go to your local bookstore, but there are options online. Here are some free sites:  Openlibrary.org, manybooks.net/ read.gov (library of Congress, classic books), gutenberg.org, There are more, some of which offer a combination of free books, some of which you pay, some ask for donations. There are also audio books that offer a few free books initially, but then a monthly subscription.

So, if you’re looking for something to read, perhaps there’s something on this list that will interest you. 

  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This historical novel was published in 2006 and tells the story of the Biafran war through the eyes of a family and the small group that surrounds them. The historical references are quite accurate, the writing compelling.
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. “Ocean Vuong’s devastatingly beautiful first novel, as evocative as its title, is a painful but extraordinary coming-of-age story about surviving the aftermath of trauma…Vuong’s language soars as he writes of beauty, survival, and freedom, which sometimes isn’t freedom at all, but ‘simply the cage widening far away from you, the bars abstracted with distance but still there’… The title says it: Gorgeous.” – Heller McAlpin, NPR.org.
  • The Stand by Stephen King. Here’s how Penguin books describes The Stand: “Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published. “–Penguin Books.
  • I’ll make an exception here and name the contributor. It’s Elliot Krieger, former Book Editor at the Providence Journal who continues to write a blog called Elliotsreading:https://elliotsreading.blogspot.com. Light in August by William Faulkner. A quick hint, it was written in 1932. The novel is set in the American South, during Prohibition , and Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation in the South. 
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Creativity on “sheltering in place.” Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin.
  • Rules of Civility, also by Amor Towles. “A ‘sharply stylish’ novel of a young woman in post-Depression era New York who suddenly finds herself thrust into high society.” – Boston Globe.
  • All I Know and Love by Judith Frank. “A searing drama of an American family on the brink of dissolution, one that explores adoption, gay marriage, and true love lost and found.” – Author’s website.
  • Code Girls by Liza Mandy. Non-fiction account of women working in code breaking during WWII.
  • The Button Man by Andrew Gross. Morris, Sol, and Harry Rabinowitz grew up poor but happy in a tiny flat on the Lower East Side, until the death of their father thrust them into having to fend for themselves and support their large family… equal parts historical thriller, rich with the detail of a vibrant New York City in the 1920s and 1930s, and family saga.” – Goodreads.
  • In the Hurricane’s Eye by Nathaniel Philbrick. The third book in a Revolutionary War non-fiction trilogy. Not the story you think you know.
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and #1 New York Times bestseller. A magnificent book that chronicles a young slaves flight to freedom. 
  • The Night Fire by Michael Connelly. Another of Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. This time he is reunited with his mentor, the LAPD detective who trained him to be a homicide detective.
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. A New York Times Bestseller, National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, one of Time Magazine’s 10 best fiction books of the decade. Follow up to The Underground Railroad tells the story of two boys sentenced to what is described as a “hellish reform school” in Jim Crow-era Florida.
  • Long Bright River by Liz Moore. A New York Times bestseller. “[Moore’s] careful balance of the hard-bitten with the heartfelt is what elevates Long Bright River from entertaining page-turner to a book that makes you want to call someone you love.” It’s about two sisters who travel the same streets, though their lives couldn’t be more different. Then one of them goes missing.” – NY Times.
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Richardson. Set in the 1930s, one feels the extreme poverty of mountain folk, learns about the federal government’s efforts to support women willing to deliver books and other forms of writing, including old newspapers, to the poor, and one discovers the existence of a group of people who are not white, not black, but blue. It’s true.
  • The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer.
  • Educated by Tara Westover, a memoir of her upbringing, and one in which critics have questioned its veracity.
  • The Guarded Gate by Daniel Okrent. “the powerful, definitive, and timely account of how the rise of eugenics helped America close the immigration door to ‘inferiors’ in the 1920s.” – Amazon
  • The Island of Sea Women and The Huntress by Michael Connelly. Bosch series.
  • Writers and Lovers by Lily King. “Writers & Lovers follows Casey–a smart and achingly vulnerable protagonist–in the last days of a long youth, a time when every element of her life comes to a crisis. Written with King’s trademark humor, heart, and intelligence, Writers & Lovers is a transfixing novel that explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another.” – Goodreads
  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. “Ken Follett is known worldwide as the master of split-second suspense, but his most beloved and bestselling book tells the magnificent tale of a twelfth-century monk driven to do the seemingly impossible: build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has ever known.” – Goodreads
  • Mayflower. by Nathaniel Philbrick.  “Vivid and remarkably fresh…Philbrick has recast the Pilgrims for the ages.”–The New York Times Book Review. Much of this book is centered in Rhode Island.
  • The Mulligan series by former Providence Journal reporter Bruce DeSilva. These mystery books primarily focus on an investigative reporter for a fictitious newspaper, the Providence Dispatch
  • Any mystery by Peter Lovesey. He’s done several series; the latest, featuring Inspector Peter Diamond of the Bath police force, is a delight. 
  • The Doctor Broad by Dr. Barbara Roberts. Dr. Roberts tells her story of being the cardiologist to Raymond Patriarca, the head of the New England mafia. This is a compelling true story that takes us through her relationship with Patriarca, with the mafia, a mafia romance, her becoming the first cardiologist in Rhode Island, and an activist for women’s rights.
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. “Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.” – Goodreads 
  • Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan, based on a true story and set during World War II Italy. Filled with intrigue, this is the story of a young man who becomes a spy for the allies.
  • The End of Faith by Sam Harris. Winner of the 2005 Pen Award for nonfiction. “This important and timely book delivers a startling analysis of the clash of faith and reason in the modern world.” 
  • This is Happiness, a new novel by Niall Williams, poignant, hilarious portrait of a season in a teenage boy’s life in rural western Ireland in perhaps 1930s. Especially recommend the audio narration by Dermot Crowley.
  • Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, set in 1666 England during a plague. “A housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer.” 
  • Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World by Admiral William H. McRaven. Based on a Navy SEAL’s inspiring graduation speech. A #1 New York Times bestseller. 
  • Very Stable Genius by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. “This taut and terrifying book is among the most closely observed accounts of Donald J. Trump’s shambolic tenure in office to date.” –  Dwight Garner, The New York Times 
  • When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neil. “An emotional new tale of two sisters, an ocean of lies, and a search for the truth.” – Goodreads.
  • Up In the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. It’s a collection of short stories he wrote for the New Yorker. 
  • Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs (on audiobook) – by epidemiologist Michael T. Osterholm. This writer has been on many morning shows lately. Book came out in March 2017.
  • American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump by Tim Alberta. A New York Times bestseller “Politico Magazine’s chief political correspondent provides a rollicking insider’s look at the making of the modern Republican Party—how a decade of cultural upheaval, populist outrage, and ideological warfare made the GOP vulnerable to a hostile takeover from the unlikeliest of insurgents: Donald J. Trump.” – Amazon
  • Piety & Power: Mike Pence and the taking of the White House by Tom LoBianco. “An AP News political analyst presents an in-depth portrait of the vice president, covering Pence’s devout Christian faith, his meteoric political career, and the rumors about his ambitions to succeed Trump.” – NPR
  • The Soul of America by John Meacham. A review of the presidency with emphasis on how past Presidents addressed the major issues of their time and how their leadership formed the basis of the presidency.
  • Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin.” Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has spent decades chronicling four consequential US presidents – Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. 
  • Jesus the Magician by Morton Smith. “Drawing on obscure fragments of ancient documents, the late author of The Secret Gospel challenges the orthodox version of the life of Jesus Christ with a portrait of Jesus as a feared practitioner of black magic.” 
  • The Complete Stories of Truman Capote. “A landmark collection that brings together Truman Capote’s life’s work in the form he called his ‘great love,’ The Complete Stories confirms Capote’s status as a master of the short story…Reading them reminds us of the miraculous gifts of a beloved American original.” – Amazon
  • There are several terrific articles in the New Yorker Magazine on the history of Coronaviruses through many years of sleuthing by medical experts and its proficient attack on human body in particular the respiratory system. Connecting the related cousins Sars and Mers. Very informative.
  • A Very Stable Genius—About President Trump.
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth. What if Charles Lindbergh had been elected president in 1940 instead of FDR? 
  • The First Mrs. Rothchild – “In this award-winning historical saga, passionate young lovers in a Jewish ghetto rise to become the foremost financial dynasty in the world.” – Amazon

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.