I like to include what I’m currently reading in my work email signature. As a school librarian, I think of this as a handy mini-recommendation.

During the academic year, I constantly remind myself to keep it up to date. It has to be changed on both the application version on my work computer and the online one, which I would be using if working from home.

It takes me about a week to read anything in my favorite genre (mystery and suspense novels and thrillers), so frequent upkeep is necessary. This summer, however, my signature has remained the same for weeks: “I am currently reading ‘Grant,’ by Ron Chernow.”

Since I’m on page 316 of more than 1,000 pages, I won’t have to worry about changing that signature for another month.

I’ve written a couple of columns on what I think of as “pandemic reading.” Some people have had trouble concentrating enough to read much in the past 18 months; I went from being a voracious reader to a voracious reader-plus.

I’ve read 49 books since the first of the year. I keep a list in the back of my agenda.

In response to one of those previous columns, a reader suggested I might like the mysteries written by Donna Leon. They are set in Venice and feature police Commissario Guido Brunetti.

Actually, the first in the series was sitting on my “to be read” pile. In April, after reading several disturbing psychological thrillers, I felt I needed the comfort of a traditional mystery. Leon’s “Death at La Fenice” seemed just the ticket.

It was. I then read the next seven in a row. During this time I also read “Keep Sharp,” by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. (I read fiction and nonfiction at the same time.)

Then it was time to read some new books that I had ordered on inter-library loan, and so demanded my immediate attention. M.E. Hilliard’s “An Unkindness of Ravens” was an enjoyable light mystery with a librarian protagonist. I also enjoyed “Northern Spy,” by Flynn Berry, which was the exciting tale of a young mother who gets embroiled with the Irish Republican Army.

Author Paula McLain took a break from her historical fiction with “When the Stars Go Dark.” A troubled detective returns to her hometown and investigates the case of a missing teenager. This book was both atmospheric and heartrending.

Then I was back to Donna Leon’s next three.

They are not just good mysteries. Bruno is an interesting character and his family relationships are always part of the story. Venice as a location can’t be beat. And did I mention the food? There is even a Bruno Giamatti cookbook available.

Once in a while I read literary fiction. I loved “Whereabouts,” by Jhumpa Lahiri. This is the episodic story of a woman who is questioning her life as she visits various locales in her Italian city.

It was now time for my husband, Paul, and I to head out for a week at our vacation rental on Penobscot Bay. I didn’t want to bring “Grant,” as it weighs about 3 pounds. That’s too much heavy lifting for vacation.

Instead, I read “The Plot,” by Jean Hanff Korelitz, which I’d been looking forward to for weeks. It did not disappoint. The protagonist had a hit first novel, but it’s all been downhill since then. He now teaches writing and is pretty miserable. Then a student claims he has created the perfect plot … I read that one in two days.

Christine Mangan’s first book, “Tangerine,” is one of my favorites. I didn’t like her second, “Palace of the Drowned,” quite as well, but it was an intriguing story with fascinating characters — and it was set in Venice.

Paul and I visited four independent bookstores during our week away and spent money at all of them. I was glad he bought Paul Doiron’s latest, “Dead by Dawn” at BookStacks in Bucksport because I needed something for the end of the week. Last summer I’d read right through the series featuring Maine game warden Mike Bowditch, and was eager to return to his world. This one was a page-turner with an innovative structure.

Post-vacation found me not just back with Ulysses S. Grant (Vicksburg is taken!), but in France. Jean-Luc Bannalec writes mysteries set in Brittany (another fascinating location). In his latest, “The Granite Coast Murders,” Commissaire Dupin is on vacation, but he can’t help but get involved in some local investigations. Dupin is a likable curmudgeon who enjoys a good meal and lots of espresso.

Serena Kent’s “Death in Provence” was a light mystery featuring a woman who takes on the restoration of an old farmhouse. Things go sideways when a body is found in her pool.

I was ready to continue my fictional foreign holiday with M.L. Longworth’s latest entry in her series set in Aix-en-Provence, when Louise Penny’s “The Madness of Crowds” arrived in the mail for Paul to review.

Well, since he was in the middle of something else and it only takes me a week to read a novel…

All I can say about “The Madness of Crowds” is, so far, so very good.

Liz Soares welcomes email at [email protected].


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: