The Year In Reading: WLRN Staffers Share Books They Loved

Dec 27, 2019

At WLRN we love to talk about the books we're reading — what we're liking, why we like them, why our friends and colleagues should give them a try. And we hope our Sundial Book Club is connecting you with books and authors and each other.

So we thought we'd share some of our favorites from this year with you.

Alejandra Martinez, producer for Sundial: Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T. Kira Madden

It deals with some really tough issues, like sexual assault and grief. And it's written almost as diary entries, or these memory flashes. In the book, both of the author's parents dealt with alcohol and drug addiction. It shows you how T. Kira navigated through these hard times and spaces. Like, what she would do when she would feel neglected. Or how she would come to the rescue when her mother or father just couldn't hold themselves up. And what she did to cope and feel safe, as a child, as a teenager and as an early or young adult. But the book is also filled with beautiful memories and tons of pop culture references. These memories are about friendships, girl nights and middle school dances. It shows you what life was like for her in Palm Beach County. Free and infinite.

Alicia Zuckerman, editorial director: Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell

I think one of the things I love about these stories and what I love about Karen Russell's writing in general is that it starts off as one thing and then it goes into these unexpected directions. It starts off feeling like really good writing, really interesting characters, very interesting settings. And then, they veer off into something — in a way it really kind of reminds me of "Black Mirror," the television show. It starts to go off into these more unusual and strange places. And Karen Russell is from here in Miami. She lives in Portland, Oregon, now but she grew up here and I saw her talk once and she said one of the things that she thinks gave her this love of weirdness is growing up in Miami and how surrounded this place is by weirdness. Which I think probably a lot of people would not argue with.

Nadege Green, race and justice reporter: Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

At one point this book had me crying on a plane. Patsy, actually when she came to the U.S., ended up working as a nanny and there was this irony of leaving your child behind in Jamaica to raise other people's children in the U.S.

I think what really resonated for me in this story is, I normally don't see pieces about Caribbean-identified folks and queerness. And certainly not someone like Patsy. Patsy is someone's Auntie and here is Auntie grappling with these issues but also talking about just loving women and what that means for her. To be a woman who loves women. To be a Jamaican woman who loves women. And you have all of these layers of what it means to come to America. What it means to be reunited with the love who may have moved. There's just so much joy in Patsy. There is reconciliation and there is the idea of new love. 

Nancy Klingener, Florida Keys reporter: Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman, A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

I'm a big reader of historical fiction and this year I got to read three books by three writers whom I really admire.

They're set in really different times and places. "Lady in the Lake" is 1960s Baltimore. "A Single Thread" is 1930s Britain. And "City of Girls" is 1940s New York. But I read them pretty close together and I realized afterwards that they were all stories of women in the 20th century and they all do what I always want from historical fiction, which is to illuminate a time and a place through one person's story. They were also telling the stories of a woman from her perspective and showing them figuring out how to live life on their own terms.