Covers of Cloud Cuckoo Land, Bewilderment, Harlem Shuffle, and Interior Chinatown
Murder, Coleen Wrote
Coleen Grissom's "Lit Picks" for Summer 2022

With some embarrassment, I admit that I spent most of my reading time during this quarantine with murder mysteries, the likes of which would simply repel most of the people associated with Trinity University. So, I have culled my “finished reading” list and came up with these few that are truly worth your while:

  • My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman. Those who’ve read Backman previously will not be disappointed in this short, sweet story which, to me, resembles a fairy tale. As with all stories from that genre, there’s a moral and a lesson. Luckily, here they are ones about which we all occasionally need reminding.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. This book takes the reader far into the past as well as far into the future. I guess, ultimately, it is a book about books, and Doerr’s approach to celebrating the joys of reading—no surprise here—resonates with me.
  • Bewilderment by Richard Powers. Though prose, the writing here is quite poetic, and many of us share Powers’ concerns about climate change and the way in which humankind has treated and is treating this earth. Since it is partly about climate change for which we’ve hardly prepared, it’s a sad, poignant novel, but also one that inspires the reader to look around them—and do something.
  • We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker. Most memorable for the child character, who reminds the reader of Scout from Harper Lee’s beloved novel To Kill a Mockingbird, this is a murder mystery with some interesting moments, but the prose is uninspiring.
  • Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. New York City in the 1960s is, as English teachers like to say, “a character in the novel,” and, in this case, a fascinating one. It’s fast paced and multi-leveled with mystery, adventure, racism, economic disparity, and lots of delightful humor.
  • Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu. Although I sometimes felt ashamed of myself for laughing at the stereotype of “generic Asian man,” I finally realized that this was one of the messages of Yu’s quite funny and impressive novel. Frankly, it is one of those books that causes the reader to reassess their own attitudes toward those from other ethnicities.

Coleen Grissom, Ph.D., is a professor emerita of English at Trinity University. 

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