How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS

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A Year in Reading: Richard Russo

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction, some terrific stuff.  Say you’re writing a sentence and the noun you’ve chose is “ferocity.”  Some writers would let that noun stand on its own, but you decide to intensify it with an adjective.  Which one?  Well, if you come up with the word “warthog,” then your name is Michael Paterniti and you’re the most talented essayist in the land.  Your latest book of essays is called Love and Other Ways of Dying, of which too much good cannot be said.  I was also blown away by David France’s chronicle of the AIDS epidemic, How To Survive a Plague.  The subject matter is too bleak for you?  Actually, no.  You’d be selling yourself short.  Yeah, it’s a heartbreaking story, but it’s also a funny and, in the end, uplifting.  Susan Faludi’s terrific memoir In the Darkroom is ostensibly about her transgender father, who becomes a woman at age 70, but it’s about so much more — the weight of history upon individuals, the interconnectedness of all the forces that make us who we are.  It’s also a study of fascism: how its seeds are sewn and nourished through fear and scapegoating.  Need I say that it’s timely reading?

Fiction?  Well, the best novel I read this autumn is a bit of a sleeper, though its fans are oh-so-passionate.  Derek B. Miller’s Norwegian by Night is one of those books that completely transcends its genre and offers us one of the most memorable characters — Sheldon Horowitz — that I’ve encountered in years.  If you like those other Scandihoovian thriller writers, this is your book.

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