February's Best Books of the Month: Love, Life, and Money
At first glance, you might think Amazon’s got the winter blahs, that there’s a cold melancholy among this month’s best books: families struggling in a Mumbai slum; a high schooler accused of murder; a father seeking a cure for his heartsick son. But look closer and there’s something beautiful in each of these books, in both the lyrical writing and in the stories of hope, love, and a belief in a better world.
∙ Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity, by Katherine Boo
Katherine Boo spent three years among the residents of the Annawadi slum, a sprawling, cockeyed settlement of more than 300 tin-roof huts and shacks in the shadow of Mumbai’s International Airport. From within this “sumpy plug of slum” Boo unearths stories both tragic and poignant--about residents’ efforts to raise families, earn a living, or simply survive. These unforgettable characters all nurture far-fetched dreams of a better life. As one boy tells his brother: “Everything around us is roses. And we’re like the s**t in between.” A New Yorker writer and recipient of a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur “Genius” grant, Boo’s writing is superb and the depth and courage of her reporting from this hidden world is astonishing. At times, it’s hard to believe this is nonfiction.
∙ Delicacy: A Novel (P.S.), by David Foenkinos
Sly and funny, Delicacy traces the relationship between an ambitious young beauty and a kind, bumbling introvert. She, recently widowed, seems untouchable; against all odds, he manages to touch her anyway. We get the pleasure of watching their affair unfold.
David Wolman, author of the Kindle Single The Instigators, embarks on a quest to explore the coming obsolescence of cash while living for a year without using it. The result is a fascinating look at our doomed love affair with coins and paper.
∙ The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, by Jan-Philipp Sendker
An uncynical tale for cynical times, follows a daughter's quest to solve the mystery of her father's disappearance. What she finds will suspend your disbelief and renew your faith in true love.
∙ Defending Jacob: A Novel, by William Landay
The story of a district attorney’s efforts to prove the innocence of his son, who is accused of killing a classmate. A fast, compelling, and compulsively readable courtroom drama that captures the taut nuances of a packed trial room, where a small rustle or murmur can signify a lot.
The history of Leonardo da Vinci and his famous drawing of a man standing inside a circle and a square—Vitruvian Man. One of history’s most recognizable images, Vitruvian Man was born of ideas that preceded Da Vinci’s time. But his image perfectly captured the moment when the Middle Ages were giving way to the Renaissance.
∙ A Good American, by Alex George
Old-fashioned storytelling. An epic, poignant novel about an immigrant family becoming an American family. Multigenerational and multilayered, full of music and tenderness, A Good American is about people endure in the search for “home.”
∙ Flatscreen: A Novel, by Adam Wilson
Follows Eli Schwartz, a stoned, bathrobed, doughy slacker. He hangs out with a suicidal paraplegic sex addict, fantasizes about the girl who parks cars at his synagogue, mooches off his parents, and gets mocked, beat up, and shot at (mostly by his friends and family).
∙ The Snow Child: A Novel, by Eowyn Ivey
Eowyn Ivey takes a Russian fairy tale and makes it entirely her own, layering it with the harsh reality of pioneers unprepared for Alaskan winters--or for the intense love and hope of one small girl.
∙ Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir, by Doron Weber
Doron Weber lost his brilliant son Damon far too soon. Now he has channeled his grief and rage into Immortal Bird, a heartrending memoir about the struggle to manage Damon's rare heart condition while fostering his talents.