Three fascinating books leapt to the top of the pile at Christmas. While in different genres, they all shed some light on some of the issues facing us all in 2019.
In the novel The Great Believers Rebecca Makkai brings the world of the mid-1980s Chicago gay community vividly to life. While protagonist Yale Tishman watches helplessly as his friends die from AIDS, a parallel story unfolds in Paris in 2015 in which a middle-aged American woman, Fiona, seeks to track down her wayward daughter. At the denouement the plot lines coincide.
In The Fifth Risk the inimitable Michael Lewis, author of such great non-fiction exposés as Moneyball, Liar’s Poker, The Big Short,and Flash Boys, examines the trouble brewing thanks to the deliberate understaffing of the US Government under President Trump.
In Chernobyl, Harvard professor Serhii Plokhy, an American citizen born in Russia and brought up in Ukraine, shows how, for citizens of the Soviet Union (and Ukraine in particular), the flaws in the failing communist system crystallised in the explosion of the nuclear reactor in 1986. He argues convincingly that this tragedy sheds light on how and why the Soviet Union imploded only 5 years after the Chernobyl explosion. Plokhy’s Chernobyl won the Bailey Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction in 2018.Continue reading