Bumper sticker wisdom: Instant Karma is going to get you…eventually. We all make bad decisions. Usually, the ramifications of our choices aren’t immediate or with lasting effect, though—one more cookie probably isn’t going to be life changing. Bigger bad decisions, however, do make for interesting storytelling. It’s been an unintentional, but reoccurring theme in my reading lately. If you’re looking for a good (bad?) book, here are a few I recommend:
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This is a fictional story of a 1970’s rock band a la Fleetwood Mac, The Band, and Janis Joplin. With comparisons to groups like that, you can imagine that bad decisions are plentiful. While they made some of my favorite music, they also championed the notion that great artists suffer. This book is written as a transcript of interviews conducted with all the major players. It’s almost like reading the closed captioning for an episode of Behind the Music, but without the video. I will admit that after a while, the format got tiring for me, but never enough to make me quit reading. There is a narrative twist towards the end of the book that refreshes the format, so stick with it. The audio book (read by a cast) is apparently the best way to experience this book. If you enjoy characters and music, this one satisfies that itch.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Sometimes a bad decision (such as a false accusation) is made by someone else and is only exasperated by the protagonist. An American Marriage was an Oprah pick when it was published last year. It’s no surprise that this is a favorite with book clubs—there is a lot to discuss. The middle section of this book is in epistolary form, which I’ve always found fascinating; you really have to read between the lines. While this book may not be for everyone (I found the ending especially challenging) it is an interesting story with a lot of character development and excellent writing.
Southernmost by Silas House
House is a contemporary Appalachian writer. Exploring place and challenging heritage are reoccurring themes in all of his writing. His newest novel starts in the Tennessee Valley during a great flood and travels (through the baddest of bad decisions) to Key West. The protagonist, Asher, is a lay-preacher having a crisis of faith. Not unlike Jones’ book, the story explores marriage and love and what it means to be a family. House writes about serious topics with a light touch that never weighs the story down. He creates real characters that grapple with real consequences. Highly recommend.