What We’re Reading 2023

By Smith Communication Partners February 3, 2023 Trends

Don Sanford 

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I’m half way through Michener’s sweeping historical human drama novel, Caribbean. It starts with the early settlers landing in the West Indies and barrels through 500 plus years of life in the peaceful ocean concentrating mainly on the stretch of tiny islands from Cuba to Trinidad, and many related places along the coast in Central America. We become familiar with pirates and famous buccaneers (Captain Morgan of the famed rum), military leaders and sailors fighting for land (from Spain, England and France), and barons who manage powerful sugar plantations with abusive slavery as a backbone of their operations. Sometimes inspiring, sometimes sad, sometimes horrific and other times beautiful … with Michener you will run the gamut of human emotions while also coming to understand how we got where we are today. He is a master of bringing history to life.

The Road is a Pulitzer Prize winning book by Cormac McCarthy (he also penned All the Pretty Horses) set in a post-apocalyptic 2006. It follows the journey of a father and son as they move south in a desolate world fraught with danger and mystery at every turn. It’s a quick, edge-of-your-seat read and you really aren’t sure what will become of these two characters until they reach their final destination. Creepy and yet captivating at the same time, I marvel at how this tale parallels the feeling we had living through the pandemic, even though it was written fourteen years prior to Covid.

Julia Wolf

A friend gave me this book for Christmas. If you followed the Olive and Mabel videos during the COVID-19 shutdown (which I obviously did!), you’ll love Cotter’s loving explanation of how his Labrador Retrievers, Olive and Mabel, inspired him and translated into videos that uplifted us all!

Provides an important understanding of the Federal Reserve Bank and its impact on the U.S. economy.

Glen Gonzalez

A.E. Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia, and now lives in Athens, Greece. Fitting, since her poetry is known for use of classical forms and allusions. I think I discovered Stallings while searching for translations of The Nature of Things by the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius. (Her translation was published in 2007.) While all this may sound like the kind of stuffy academic prattle that turns most people away from poetry, Stallings work is accessible, fresh and modern. Check out the opening stanza to Pop Music:

The music that your son will listen to
To drive you mad
Has yet to be invented. Be assured,
However, it is approaching from afar
Like the light of some Chaldean star.

Rhyme, rhythm, form and a reference to ancient Mesopotamians all in a mother’s lament about the state of popular music. That’s Stallings.

Or take her poem Olives. Each line includes an anagram of the word “olives” and it’s 19 lines long. Is love / so evil?

Her work seems so simple, but it’s a masterclass in the art and craft of poetry. Once I started reading her work, I was hooked and have started buying every one of her collections I can get my hands on.

Trey Wood

I fell in love with noir early on – books and movies. In a college class many years ago, my first exposure to the ideas expressed in this broad category of cynicism and moral ambiguity came in the form of Dashiell Hammett’s writings. My first reads were his Red Harvest, The Big Knockover and The Dain Curse—all these focusing on his iconic character the Continental Op, a short, fat, unimaginably tough private investigator whose name we never learn.

A new year’s resolution has been to revisit some of the books, characters and movies that first struck my interest in noir and the modern response to its fatalism that has come, in my view, in the popularizing of Marcus Aurelius’ stoicism. Well, I’m beginning where I started—with Red Harvest. It’s not only a fabulous detective story, it’s a classic tale of corruption that is purely American in its violence and lonely individual hero.

Gretchen Vaught

This year my kids and I together read (“Chariots of Fire”) Eric Liddell’s biography. It was an inspiring example of Divine talent “wasted” for others instead of self. A poignant contrast to current cultural messages teens are overwhelmed with.

Though I don’t usually enjoy fiction, The Songbook of Benny Lament was both captivating and entertaining.

Allison Artnak

I came across a podcast from neurologist Dr. Perlmutter on dementia that touched on the link between purines, high uric acid and dementia (not to mention a host of other conditions that can be influenced by inflammation) that I found quite fascinating. I have only gotten through the first chapter but have already learned a bunch.

I wasn’t familiar with Mary Reynolds until I recently watched the movie Dare to be Wild, the journey of how Mary won the Chelsea Flower Show. I enjoyed her passion for restoring native ecosystems to develop beautiful spaces and sanctuaries. I researched her a bit after watching the movie and found she had just published this book that also incorporates lovely illustrations. I can’t wait to dig in!

A humorous novel about a woman scientist in the 1960s that becomes a star of a TV cooking show.

Amy Crowell

A novelist scratching for his second bestseller uses the idea of a former student, newly discovered dead, as the premise of his book and then suffers at the threat of being exposed. If you are in it for the mystery, you may be disappointed as it likely will be prematurely solved. But the writing is fine, and the main character’s angst is sympathetic. Thoroughly enjoyed.

One morning, at exactly the same moment, every person in the world receives a box that holds the answer to the exact number of years they will live. Everyone faces the same dilemma: Do they wish to know how long they’ll live? And, if so, what will they do with that knowledge? I’ll find out when I’ve read more than 3 chapters.

Norine Cannon

Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus
An historical fiction book about an independent, strong woman in the 60s. She’s a scientist whose career takes a detour when she becomes the reluctant star of a TV cooking show. It’s funny and poignant at the same time, addressing issues faced by so many women today.

Fun, firsthand accounts from 100 years of Hollywood history. It’s a compilation of interviews with the biggest names in front of and behind the camera, as well as lesser-known individuals who shaped what was seen and heard on screen—from the archives of the American Film Institute.

Michael Garcia

Yes, the same Michael Mann who wrote and directed the 1995 movie Heat with Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, wrote this novel—his first—as a 466-page prequel and sequel to his original story. I had to read it, at least to find out what happened to a heartbroken Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer) after he got the no-go sign from Charlene. If you’re following, welcome, you’re a Heat devotee like me. The book didn’t disappoint. I encourage you to read it…or don’t. It’s a free country, brother.

Truth be told, I received this book for Christmas and haven’t started it yet. McCarthy is one of my favorite authors. I’m more than ready to soak up another of his stories, even if a little nervous that his new work (it’s been since 2006!) won’t live up to the greatness of his past.

Rick Cole

A quirky little book (The cover is on backwards.) promoting the courageous pursuit of creativity and innovation. With a dizzying array of historical examples, quotes and photographs, Kessels (a successful adman and provocative artist) takes dead aim at the myth of perfection and its stunted offspring—safe mediocrity.

I found this in our voluminous used bookstore, Chamblin Bookmine. It caught my eye for two reasons. First, Disney and the State of Florida are having a protracted falling out for the first time. Second, native son Carl Hiaasen is a witty and deeply knowledgeable chronicler of Florida’s transformation over the past 50 years.

As a third generation Floridian born in 1965, my life has run parallel to Disney World’s inception and its unimaginable impact on the natural, economic and cultural nature of Florida. For the record, I miss Old Florida.

Scott Walters

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