A semester in (book) review

By Anna Weisel

Pia Contreras

“Nothing To See Here” by Kevin Wilson

I began my semester off with a bizarre read. “Nothing to See Here” follows a nanny tasked with taking care of a U.S. senator’s two children. At first glance, the twins appear to be normal kids, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Bessie and Roland spontaneously combust when they’re upset, a rather inconvenient trait for the children of a well-known public servant. 

This book is a wonderful read. Lillian, the nanny, is tasked with keeping the twins from catching fire. However, she comes away having learned much more than she expected. Lillian desperately needs these children, and they desperately need her. I loved this book and found it both heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny.

Nothing to See Here is a great book for people who like character-driven stories with a twist. 

 

“Catch and Kill” by Ronan Farrow 

I devoured “Catch and Kill” while living in a cabin in the woods, which somehow felt fitting, as I wanted to be alone with it. In “Catch and Kill,” Ronan Farrow investigates allegations against Harvey Weinstein and attempts to bring them to light via NBC News. However, it was shockingly difficult for Farrow to publish the allegations. Influential people backed Weinstein, resisting any effort to bring this predator to justice. “Catch and Kill” gives horrific insight into how powerful, privileged and wealthy people can intimidate journalists and silence victims of abuse. 

This book made me very frustrated with celebrity culture. When I first read the allegations brought against Weinstein, I naively assumed that it would be easy for Farrow to expose him. At times it felt like “Catch and Kill” was going in circles and that Farrow was not going to succeed in publishing Weinstein’s abuse. However, I came away with deep admiration for Ronan Farrow. He sacrificed his physical safety and the future of his career in order to give a voice to these women. His investigative journalism is brave and important. 

 

“Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell 

Wow. This book is truly a work of art, and it was appropriately named one of The New York Times’ Top 10 Books of 2020. Allegedly, William Shakespeare had a young son named Hamnet, who died in 1596 at the age of 11. His cause of death remains unknown — Shakespeare noticeably fails to mention the bubonic plague in any of his plays, leading some to believe that it was the cause of Hamnet’s death. Maggie O’Farrell crafts a fantastic novel from this theory. She imagines that Hamnet died of the plague, and the novel revolves around that pandemic and its repercussions. The author also crafts a larger narrative of what the family of one of literature’s most famous men might have looked like had more information been shared.

 

“The Four Winds” by Kristin Hannah 

It is not easy to make me cry. Well, that’s a lie, but books do not usually make me cry. This one is an exception; I had tears streaming down my face as I turned the last page. And it goes to show author Kristin Hannah’s skill for historical fiction writing. 

“The Four Winds” is about a family living in Texas in 1934, during the Dust Bowl. The Martinelli family is hanging on by a thread. The dust storms have destroyed their crops, and they must decide whether to suffer at home or journey out to California, the “land of opportunity.” 

Ultimately, this book is about a mother and the lengths she will go to to protect her children and create a better life for them. Elsa and her children are vibrant characters that you can’t help but root for. 

 

“Know My Name” by Chanel Miller 

“Know My Name” is a must-read, and its importance cannot be overstated. Before she wroteKnow My Name,” Chanel Miller was known as the Emily Doe in the Brock Turner Stanford rape case. In “Know My Name,” Miller tells her story and reclaims parts of her identity after being reduced to a victim in the public eye. She discusses her assault and the grueling experiences that followed. She shares how she was not believed nor supported by Stanford or by the legal system as a whole. 

Chanel Miller stands up for survivors everywhere and, at the same time, refuses to be defined solely by the worst thing that has happened to her. I was inspired and humbled by her strength, resilience and vulnerability. 

 

“The Silent Patient” by Alex Michaelides

John Faber is a psychotherapist in London with a particular fascination for Alicia Berenson, a woman who shot her husband five times and has not spoken a word since. Why did she pull the trigger? Why did she become silent after she murdered her husband? These questions and more make an unputdownable thriller. 

This book is absolutely bone-chilling. If you’re a fan of unreliable narrators or books that make the hair on the back of your next stand up, this one’s for you. 

 

“People We Meet on Vacation” by Emily Henry 

Now on to summer reads! If you enjoy romance (even a smidge), run — don’t walk — to pick up an Emily Henry book. She is the master of beach reads (funny, considering one of her books is even called “Beach Read). 

“People We Meet on Vacation” is about Alex and Poppy, two longtime best friends who go on vacation together every summer. However, they have not spoken since an incident that occurred two summers ago. Poppy feels like she has one last chance to repair their friendship, and find out if they could be more than friends. This book reminded me of “When Harry Met Sally” and “Love, Rosie.” It is the perfect book for fans of friends-turned-lovers.