I love deep dives into common subjects that people know surprisingly little about, and this book about blood has been one of the most interesting of that genre that I’ve read. We all have blood (nine pints, usually) but I hadn’t ever really considered how extraordinary it is until reading about the history of transfusions, menstruation, leech therapy, HIV/AIDs and all of the other ways that blood sustains and confounds us. George has a wonderfully engaging writing style that was never boring, often funny and always easily informative.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
Wow, I LOVED this book and its titular character, the awkward but infinitely lovable, Eleanor Oliphant. Miss Oliphant, as she prefers to be called by strangers, is completely fine with her routine of work-grocery store-home, until a few people and circumstances force her to reexamine her current life and traumatic past. I can’t remember loving a fictional character as much as I loved Eleanor and I found myself completely relating to her comments and confusion on social interactions. Her inner thoughts made me simultaneously laugh while also breaking my heart. I didn’t mind the somewhat controversial ending as much as I was just deeply sad to leave Oliphant’s world. Good news for anyone who felt similarly attached: Eleanor Oliphant is being developed into a movie by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, Hello Sunshine.
This book was a bit different than I expected but it was a fascinating look at an extraordinary woman. Sandra Pankhurst is the titular “trauma cleaner,” the owner of a cleaning business that cleans and organizes houses that come under her care due to a variety of grim circumstances including years of hoarding, natural deaths, murders and grisly suicides. Pankhurst, who also happens to be transgender, has led a traumatic life herself and the narrative alternates between telling her back story alongside the stories of her clients. I could have done without some of the author’s personal commentary and attempts at colorful storytelling, but only because Pankhurst is a character in her own right with no need for further embellishment.
I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it through this nearly 300-page book by my library due date, but I needn’t have worried. I couldn’t put this one down, and if you’re a fan of dinosaurs, passionate collectors or The Orchid Thief, you’ll love this account of the people who hunt, and collect fossils (including a brief mention of everyone’s favorite financially irresponsible celebrity, Nicholas Cage).
In 2012, a nearly complete Mongolian T. bataar skeleton (a close relative of the American T-Rex) appeared in a New York auction catalog and Williams does a deep dive into all of the players who helped get it there, from the Florida man who imported and mounted it all the way to the Mongolian government (who, spoiler alert, eventually got their skeleton back). Comparisons to Susan Orlean’s tale of obsession and the dark world of specimen collecting are inevitable, but well-deserved and I hope Williams continues to write more behind-the-headlines sagas which continually prove that fact is often just as strange—or at times, even more so—than fiction.
Two Girls Down, by Louisa Luna
I love a good whodunnit thriller, and this story of two missing sisters and the private investigator and ex-cop who are searching for them was an easy read. The story veers into some pretty dark places, but it felt true to life and never exploitative. Try as I might I didn’t guess any of the twists before they came, but I read it quickly enough that I didn’t need to flip ahead to calm my anxiety that comes when I feel like I’m in the dark. I wasn’t invested in the main characters—Alexa Vega, a no-nonsense bounty hunter and Max Caplan, a disgraced ex-cop—enough to hope for another installment, but I think of books like this as a brain cleanser in between all of the educational nonfiction I read, and Two Girls Down definitely served that purpose.