There has quite literally never been a better time to make a cup of coffee, curl up on the couch and spend the entire day with your nose in a book. And what better way to take your mind off the chaos of the real world than by delving into a fictional world. Here then, is a compilation of books recommended by local authors and, of course, Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan.
Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books
Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson
This work of non-fiction is set in 1900 in Galveston, an island off the coast of Texas that used to be the main port in the state. Meteorologists predicted the hurricane would track toward Florida after hitting Cuba, but it heads straight for Texas, uprooting half the island and killing thousands. The narrative is supported by letters and telegrams surrounding the storm.
Last Train to Paradise by Les Standiford
In 1904, Henry Flagler dreamed of connecting the island of Key West to the mainland of Florida, which he did by building a railway that crossed over 150 miles of open ocean. The railroad was considered the Eighth Wonder of the World for 22 years. A fast-paced, true account of both the extraordinary creation and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad.
LaBrava by Elmore Leonard
Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1984, LaBrava follows the story of Joe LaBrava, a former Secret Service agent, who gets involved with a former movie star and his childhood celebrity crush. Set in South Beach, LaBrava soon realizes that she is being harassed by two thugs.
Mamta Chaudhry, Gables resident, author of Haunting Paris
“For those who dream about spending springtime in Paris while we’re all housebound, five fantastic books to transport you there,” says Chaudhry.
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
“A riveting memoir about art, history and a hidden family inheritance.”
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
A story about “what it is like to be poor and happy and in love in Paris.”
Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys
Contrary to Hemingway’s book, a story about “what it is like to be poor and sad and alone in Paris.”
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart
“A discovery of a dusty atelier sheds new light on both pianos and Paris.”
Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky
“Parisians are forced to flee their beloved city on the eve of the Nazi occupation.”
J.K. Franko, Gables resident, author of Eye for Eye and Tooth for Tooth
For something inspirational with a positive spin: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The children’s book follows a young prince who visits various planets in space. Its themes address loneliness, friendship, love and loss. Though written for a younger audience, even adults today can appreciate the timeliness of its message.
For something topical with a bit of dark humor: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
A satirical, postmodern novel that explores issues of science, technology, religion and the arms race. While doing research for his upcoming book, the narrator visits the hometown of the late Felix Hoenikker, a co-creator of the atomic bomb, to interview the Nobel laureate physicist’s children, coworkers and acquaintances.
For a classic that will truly transport you: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
This classic tale starts right before the Hundred Days period when Napoleon returned to power after his exile. On the day of his wedding, Edmond Dantès is falsely accused of treason and imprisoned. He escapes from jail, acquires a fortune and seeks revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment.
Christopher Demos-Brown, Gables attorney, playwright of American Son
The Stand by Stephen King
“If you want to lean into COVID-19 with all your might, try The Stand. It’s about a deadly virus that kills most of humankind pitting the survivors in a Manichean struggle between good and evil for the future of the race. I read it many years ago and loved it … We think of Stephen King as a horror/thriller writer, but he’s also gifted at drawing complex, vivid characters. For something shorter that also deals with pandemics, The Plague by Albert Camus is excellent.”
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
“For something beautiful, elegiac and profound, one of my favorite books.” 76-year-old Reverend John Ames writes an account of his life to share with his 7-year-old son, who will not have many memories of him. Written in a single narrative over several occasions, creating a journal or memoire tone.
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
The Plot Against America is about an alternative history where Charles Lindbergh wins the presidential election of 1940 over Franklin D. Roosevelt. The book was made into a mini-series, which was just released on HBO.
Lauren Rigau, Gables resident, author of The Adventures of LaLa and Her Papa
All The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider
“It’s a #1 New York Times bestseller where a few women share their time-tested techniques to finding the man of your dreams, and there are ‘35 rules’ or do’s and don’ts, if you will. Some of the rules might be thought to be outdated, but I think it’s still an intriguing read. Especially in the day of modern ‘social’ dating, sometimes we can learn from the truth of what was.”
Patrick Alexander, author of many books including The Nigerian Letter, Death on the Eighth and The Booklover’s Guide to Wine
Until the End of Time by Brian Greene
A popular science book by an American physicist, which was just published in February of this year. “[It] promises to explain the meaning of everything. I’ve always wanted to understand the meaning of everything. Now seems a good time to learn.”
Dark Towers by David Enrich
“It describes the history of [Deutsche Bank] from its association with Hitler, providing funding for Auschwitz, to its current role funding Donald Trump and catering to Russian money launderers.”
The Man in the Red Coat by Julian Barns
In the summer of 1855, three Frenchmen (a prince, a count and a commoner) arrive in London. The author tells the story of their lives and their renown set against the backdrop of the Belle Époque in Paris.
Lizzie Wilcox, Associate Editor of Coral Gables Magazine
I personally have been flying through books while staying at home, so I thought I’d share a couple that I just couldn’t put down.
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The story of a fictional rock and roll band during the 1970s. It follows their rise from the L.A. music scene playing in bars along the Sunset Strip to becoming one of the most famous bands in the world. The author captures an unforgettable time and place in music history in a distinctive voice.
How to Get Run Over by a Truck by Katie C. McKenna
This memoir will make you laugh during this very serious time. After being run over by an 18-wheeler in Brooklyn, 24-year-old McKenna details her long and painful recovery through a comic lens.