Betty's Picks

   the way through the woods

The Way through the Woods: On Mushrooms and Mourning by Litt Woon Long

A contemplative book that will appeal to naturalists. Long, recently widowed, takes up mushroom hunting as a hobby and finds her way back to the world of the living. Long wanders the Norwegian forests and woods of Central Park in search of rare mushrooms. She gives us a primer on the art of mushroom hunting and tasting and, also, a heartfelt exploration of the landscape of grief. A gentle and satisfying read.

   lillian boxfish

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

The classic gentle read – no violence or salty language – just a story narrated by an 85 year old woman reflecting on her not-so-perfect life. If you have wandered around Manhattan and loved its ambiance, this book offers you Lillian’s New York touchstones. It’s an homage to New York City and, more than that, a grand reckoning of a life well lived.


Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Atkinson has another top notch novel that, true to character, develops the storyline in unconventional ways. She tells the story of a woman who, during WWII, transcribes conversations from a bugged apartment for the British secret service. The story unfolds through both the transcripts and inner thoughts of the main character. Listening to the story on an audiobook compliments Atkinson’s choice to include the transcriptions which, though often mundane, act as a clever device to move the story.


Pre-Raphaelite Girl Gang: Fifty Makers, Shakers and Heartbreakers from the Victoria Era by Kirsty Stonell Walker

With illustrations by Kingsley Nebechi this slim volume will excite the reader who likes their history in limited doses with lots of illustrations. Here you will find a host of women you have never heard of who, nonetheless, made history. Sit down for a few minutes or an hour, plenty to engage you. Love this illustrator! 


Passing by Nella Larsen

Larsen, a rediscovered novelist of the Harlem Renaissance period, penned a novella that deftly explores the shifting lines of identity. Passing is a multi-layered look at racial, class, and sexual identity, remarkably contemporary given it was written over 90 years ago. The novel is a masterpiece, tightly constructed with a visual narrative that brings tone and nuance to the period. Larsen’s own history seems likely to have influenced this novel’s storyline and sensibilities. 


Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

Filled with a naturalist’s eye for detail, this novel delivers on suspense, character development, and a clever plot line. The main character, on the run from the drug cartel, has a back story that hounds his consciousness. As his reality seems to shift to the surreal, the natural world around him takes center stage.  


Midnight: Three Women at the Hour of Reckoning by Victoria Short

Short explores decisive moments in the lives of three famous women - Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, and Joan of Arc. She uses a you are there style of narrative that muddies the water of what is truth and what is supposition but I find these stories compelling and insightful. Written history is always a story told by the narrator and Short does include a bibliography for those who want to see what she used to construct the history.


The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

This book is a modern day Gothic thriller complete with a rundown English countryside manor house and a host of very British characters. The plot line has a range of twists and maintains a suspenseful and menacing undertone right up until the end. Good for a stormy night. On a side note the bits about Tarot card reading were insightful and informative.


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