Reflections from a biology major bookworm: Part 1

As the school year winds down and my time at Transylvania comes to a close, I am inspired to reflect. So it is my pleasure to turn these last few columns of the year into a retrospective: a list, in no particular order, of the best books I didn’t get to review during my time writing “Notes From My Bookshelf.”

“Havemercy” by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett is the first book that came to mind when I thought of making a list like this. This is one of my favorite books that not many people know about, and I always intended to write a review of it, which somehow never happened.

“Havemercy” is a fantasy novel set in a vividly painted world where magicians build flying metal dragons for military use. This book has something for everyone — at turns gripping, funny, romantic and intriguing. The characters are realistic and thoughtfully written, and the plot is tense and interesting. I can’t recommend this book highly enough; it’s a gem of a first novel, with a series of equally compelling sequels.

“The Ghost Map” by Steven Johnson is a nonfiction chronicle of a London cholera outbreak that combines epidemiology, history and narrative to be unexpectedly engaging. It tracks the spread of the disease from one sick baby to an entire neighborhood, and details the work of doctors and scientists to determine the source as they figure out that the pathogen is waterborne and then how the patients were being exposed.

“The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell: This is a weird one, and its plot sort of defies any attempts to pin it down. At its core, it is a book about religious inspiration for both good and evil purposes, as well as a science fiction epic about space travel and colonization.

Somehow, this combination manages to be not at all ridiculous. Emotionally dynamic and at times fraught, it follows the scientific exploration of a newly discovered planet by a Jesuit organization, which comes ultimately to a bad end despite the support of the natives of the planet.

“The Sparrow” got off to a slow start for me, but once it got going it was impossible to leave behind. The chilling denouement of this novel has haunted me since I finished it.

“Bitter Blood” by Jerry Bledsoe serves as an account of a spree of murders in 1984 and 1985, linked by bizarre family dynamics and eccentric characters. Deeply researched through media reports and interviews with surviving family of the victims and perpetrators, “Bitter Blood” is surprisingly entertaining and even makes readers forget its excessive length — 575 pages.

“The Fates Will Find Their Way” by Hannah Pittard is a series of vignettes concerning possible fates of a missing teenage girl and the people who knew her. Is she murdered? Did she run away? Is she sad or happy? What effect does her disappearance have on her little sister and the other neighborhood children? No conclusive answers are given, but the book offers a series of entertaining and emotionally resonant possibilities.

Check back next week for more of my favorite unreviewed books!Image

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