We’re finally having a spate of gorgeous weather in NYC, but in case your weather’s not as nice as mine, here are 15 books for your wintertime reading. The list is almost evenly split between fiction and non-fiction.
As usual, the links are to Amazon. As you know, Cold War is an Amazon affiliate and we receive a small commission on each of your purchases. You never pay more than you would if you weren’t buying through our link. (You may wonder why I always go through this spiel. Because it’s required by law, that’s why!)
Despite the Amazon ‘thing’, you should know that my first “go to” is always the New York Public Library. Since librarians are definitely under siege these days, I hope you’ll give your local library a try before you buy. They deserve our full support! Can’t find what you’re looking for in the library? What about your local bookstore? They’re facing challenges too!
Book descriptions are drawn from Amazon and New York Times book reviews.
I think this is the first time I’ve posted books for kids, but I came across these two middle grade novels about the legacies of partition and thought it was worth putting them on the list.
American Girls: One Woman’s Journey into the Islamic State and Her Sister’s Fight to Bring Her Home
Jessica Roy’s “American Girls” explores the story of how a young woman from the Ozarks wound up an ISIS wife in Syria. In a tale of religious extremism, radicalization, and the bonds of family, the book traces the divergent fates of two sisters through a saga of poverty, misogyny, abuse and terrorism. Central to the narrative is the sister back home who works tirelessly to help her Jihadist controlled sibling escape.
Medgar and Myrlie: Medgar Evers and the Love Story That Awakened AmericaThe MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid tells the story of the civil rights activists Medgar and Myrlie Evers. Reid follows Myrlie beyond Medgar’s 1963 assassination and into her struggles during the succeeding decades, a time when she found her voice as a public speaker in the movement for racial justice.
Marguerite Higgins Hall was an American reporter and war correspondent (who) covered World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, and in the process advanced the cause of equal access for female war correspondents.
(I love to read about women war correspondents. Can’t wait to get my eyes on this.)
If you grew up in the 1980s, the Vietnam redemption arc was imprinted on your gray matter by a stampede of young novelists and filmmakers coming to grips with their foundational trauma: patriotic innocence shattered by the barbarity of jungle warfare; the return home to a hostile nation; the chasm of despair and addiction; and finally, the healing power of activism. This was the generational narrative, told and retold in classics like “Born on the Fourth of July” and “The Things They Carried” — the ballad of the boomer, a masculine coming-of-age cri de coeur.
Now Kristin Hannah takes up the Vietnam epic and re-centers the story on the experience of women — in this instance, the military nurses who worked under fire, on bases and in field hospitals, to patch soldiers back together. Or not.
I’m not a real fan of Hannah, but I’ve read she’s in top form here and I’m anxious to read a female perspective on the war. My copy arrives today.
Andrew X. Pham’s first novel, Twilight Territory, imagines an unlikely romance during a nation’s fight for independence. Described as “a sweeping first novel of love, war, and resistance in post–World War II Vietnam,” this book takes place during Vietnam’s fight for independence from France.
Brotherless Night, V.V. Ganeshananthan’s 2023 novel, is a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and an NPR Best Book of the Year. It’s the story of “a courageous young Sri Lankan woman (who) tries to protect her dream of becoming a doctor. On the cusp of Sri Lanka’s civil war, Sashi’s community endures brutal state repression. As her brothers join the militant Tamil Tigers, Sashi’s shifting relationship to violence shows, “with meticulous accuracy, what it feels like to inhabit a day-to-day life onto which someone else, from the privilege of great distance, can throw a word like ‘terrorism’ and be done . . .”
Forgiving Imelda Marcos by Nathaniel Go is the story of two women whose choices shaped their country’s history, Imelda Marcos and Corazon Aquino. Amazon notes:
Imelda, best known for her excessive shoe collection, was the flamboyant wife of the late Philippine dictator; Corazon was the wife of the opposition politician who was allegedly killed by the Marcoses. An unassuming housewife, Corazon rose up after her husband’s death to lead the massive rallies that eventually toppled the Marcos dictatorship.
I found this book quite by accident the other day and started it this morning. It’s a quick read, only 167 pages.
I hope you find something in the selections to read while you stay cozy and warm. If you have books you’d like to add, feel free to list them in the comments!
Photograph: Bookstore by Koen Jacobs (Flickr)