by Joel Cunningham)
If you enjoyed the romance and wartime verisimilitude of All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, you’ll appreciate the epic sweep of Julie Orringer’s The Invisible Bridge, which made a big splash a few years ago. Both books manage to encompass both the large-scale impact of World War II and the more intimate effects it had on individuals living through it.
If I Stay, by Gayle Forman, is a YA phenomenon. Soon to be released as a movie, it’s won a legion of fans for its frank portrayal of the life of modern teens, and how it can be a struggle just to decide to go on living day after day. Musing on the same topics, 13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher, examines the ripples left in the wake of a teen girl’s suicide, as a boy who barely knew her discovers the impact he unknowingly made on her short life. Oh, and if you’re a book crier, consider this fair warning for either one of these.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand, does pretty much what it says on the tin: her account of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic runner whose plane was shot down during WWII, leading to a two-and-a-half-year stint in a series of harsh Japanese prison camps, is equally horrifying and uplifting (perfect material for the forthcoming film adaptation, to be directed by Angelina Jolie). If you’re looking for another tale of wartime heroism (albeit one that ends on a far more somber note), Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, by James Bradley, is a captivating tribute to the lives of eight young pilots who were captured and killed after their planes were shot down over the Pacific island of Chichi-jima.
The story of the unusual relationship between a suicidal wheelchair-bound man and his caretaker, Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, has won over readers with a life-affirming story that manages to be about much more than just romance. Likewise, John Green’s celebrated The Fault in Our Stars is, on one level, yes, a quirky YA romance, but it is also about the challenge of living when every day is a struggle, and finding that the struggle has value, and that life is beautiful and worth fighting for. And if you’ve been putting off reading it because it’s YA, stop: John Green recently explained why you’re never too old to read books for young readers.
William Kent Krueger’s Ordinary Grace is a fascinating thing, as much a compelling murder mystery as a nostalgic look back at a young boy’s coming of age during one long summer in the early 1960s. Though we think of it as a simple time to be a kid, filled with soda fountains and comic books, those months are anything but for Frank Drum, whose life is touched by a series of tragedies, from accidents to suicide to murder. Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon, twists a little bit of magic into the mysteries (though only slightly supernatural, it won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel), but is a similarly heartfelt look back at the light and shadow of boyhood for Corey Jay Mackenson, an aspiring writer whose idyllic childhood is shattered when he and his father stumble upon the scene of a murder and everything changes. If you’ve read this far, I’ll also mention that it’s one of my favorite books ever.
What are you reading this week?
Joel Cunningham reads a lot. Mostly Dr. Seuss. Mostly out loud. It's a better use of time now that he has a child. Chances are good that at this moment, he's either listening to an audiobook while driving, reading during lunch, or ruling over his book club with an iron fist. You can find him neglecting his Twitter account @je_cunningham. He would like to thank the internet. For everything.