New Africa, Shutterstock Book Club: 4 books we read in April

By Yvette Cruz, | Posted - Apr. 24, 2020 at 3:36 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we do a lot of things.

From grocery shopping to seeing friends to how we “attend” school, work or other events, many things are different.

A lot has changed, but books haven’t. They’re even more comforting now as many of us try to hold on to something that reminds us what normalcy felt like pre-pandemic.

Welcome back to the Book Club. It’s a book club with a twist where some of the team members read a different book and then recap our picks on the last Friday of each month.

This month's Book Club features book picks from social media manager Yvette Cruz, reporter Graham Dudley, news director Whitney Evans, and copy editor Jordan Ormond. If you think of a book one of us might like based on our book choices and reviews, feel free to let us know!

Yvette’s pick: “Andrew’s Brain” by E.L. Doctorow

“Andrew’s Brain” is just that. The reader is inside narrator Andrew’s brain throughout the book as he recalls some pretty disastrous moments from his life that led him “here” to someone he calls Doc. Where “here” is and who Doc is, remain a mystery.

This book was confusing more often than not and I felt it hard to follow. Andrew is a cognitive scientist with a great deal of knowledge but a lot of his memories were hard to believe, or understand. This made him an unreliable narrator for me. While I finished the book with a lot of unanswered questions, there were several passages in the story that moved me, and moments where I caught myself wondering how much any of us can rely on our own brains.

Genre: Fiction

Who would like this book? People interested in cognitive science may like this book.

What else I'm reading: Right now I'm rereading "The Four Agreements," by Don Miguel Ruiz. After that I'm hoping to get to one of the neglected books on my book shelf.

Graham’s pick: “The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West” by John Branch

In "The Last Cowboys," a southern Utah family of legendary bronc riders feels the squeeze as its timeless Old West lifestyle meets the 21st-century realities of increased tourism, public lands and a changing climate. The Wright family raises cattle in the shadow of Zion National Park and spends the year traveling the West to compete in rodeo after rodeo, all for a shot at the title in Las Vegas. Two-time world champion Cody Wright is a perennial Vegas contender, and as he pushes 40 years old, he finds himself competing alongside not only his brothers, but his sons.

Meanwhile, Cody's father, Bill, must deal with his own aging as he fights to pass down the cowboy life to a new generation in a changing world.

"The Last Cowboys" is a true Utah story about some of the state's most famous sporting ambassadors and icons of a shifting American West. The Wrights live just hours down the highway from Salt Lake, but inhabit almost a different world. They're timely reminders of our pioneer heritage, embodying the best of Utah grit, determination, industry and family.

Genre: Nonfiction, western

Who would like this book? Fans of nonfiction and westerns will like this book.

My next read: I'll be switching to fiction and trying to conquer the long and legendary "Infinite Jest," by David Foster Wallace.

Whitney’s pick: "The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, The FBI, The Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle" by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen

This book follows Richard Jewell, who was a former cop who worked security at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. He spotted a suspicious bag in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park, and prevented many deaths of those around him by quickly alerting people before the bomb detonated. Within a few days, however, Jewell became the FBI's main suspect in the bombing. The events leading up to, during and after the bombing are reconstructed by a former U.S. Attorney and a former Wall Street Journal reporter. The book is a fascinating insight into law enforcement, journalism and public opinion.

I loved this book. It was fascinating to see all angles of this ordeal and how it played out. As a journalist, I especially enjoyed seeing the thought processes of the reporters and editors, and how they decided whether or not to publish certain information. I also loved learning about Richard Jewell, who you could tell was just a little socially awkward, but just wanted to have friends and be a cop.

To be clear: The book details some serious lapses in judgment and immaturity on his part, but overall he seemed to be endearing and sincere. By the end, I felt myself rooting for him and hoping he could finally have a friend he could trust, and maybe a girlfriend, too.

Genre: Nonfiction, True Crime

Who would like this book? Most journalists would love this book. I would also recommend it to anyone who enjoys learning how and why historical events played out the way they did.

What else I’m reading: I'm wrapping up a book called, "A Woman in the Polar Night," by Christine Ritter. The women in my book club have raved about this one for years, and so far it's held up to the hype!

Jordan’s pick: “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” by Alan Bradley

I heard about “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” from my mother-in-law. It’s not new — 11 years old, in fact — but after her raving review, I thought I should give it a try. I’ll admit it took me a little bit to get into, but I was soon hooked. I love the wit, charm and absolute absurdity of the main character, Flavia de Luce. The 11-year-old is a chemistry expert with her own chemistry lab (thanks to her late uncle Tarquin) and spends her free time helping the local police department solve the suspicious death of a man whose body is found in her yard — whether they like it or not.

But things get intense when Flavia figures out who the murderer is before the police do. Will she be able to get herself out of trouble to live to fight crime another day? Well, yes, because there are 10 books in this series. But HOW she does it will have you giggling all the way through and leave you satisfied with the ending.

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Humor

Who would like this book? This book is a great read for teens and adults; really anyone who loves a good “who done it?” And if you love books that make you laugh out loud at times, this one is definitely for you.

What else I'm reading: I’m right in the middle of “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much,” by Allison Hoover Bartlett. It tells the story the hunt for a rare books thief, and the man who caught him is Salt Lake City’s own rare books dealer Ken Sanders.

Which book are you most interested in?
“Andrew’s Brain”
“The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West”
"The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, The FBI, The Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle"
“The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”
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