Tried and tested book recommendations from readers

Looking for excellent books to read this spring? Check out these proven favorites recommended by Monitor readers.


New releases are exciting, but books that have stood the test of time can be even better. Here's a roundup of recommendations from Monitor readers that are sure to deliver satisfaction and edification.


I just finished “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Kadish. It is the story of a young Jewish woman in the 17th century, Ester Velasquez, who yearned for intellectual discourse with the great minds of her day. Restricted by both gender and the shadow of persecution, she assumes various male pseudonyms to engage in clandestine correspondence. Interwoven with Ester’s story is that of a modern-day historian, Helen Watt, who is researching those letters. Helen experiences self-discovery and strength through the bond with this kindred soul who lived centuries earlier.

Richard Boatman
Pleasant Hill, Iowa

In “The Deagon Deviation,” Rob Cramb portrays a fictional research institute in Brisbane, Australia, threatened by an algorithm-driven management scheme. Cramb, who is a professor at the University of Queensland, writes with authority and dry humor. This work will especially resonate with readers who have experienced institutional dynamics. All the parts of the story fit smoothly together into a finely crafted, rewarding read.

Richard Montgomery
Gig Harbor, Washington

I’m currently reading and enjoying “The Midnight Library,” a magical realism novel by Matt Haig that explores the idea of considering what our lives would be like if we had chosen various different paths.

Cindy La Ferle
Royal Oak, Michigan


I revisited “The Voyage of the Cormorant” by Christian Beamish, in which he tells about building a boat in his garage and sailing the coastal waters of the Pacific. Beamish, who signed up for the U.S. Navy two weeks after graduating from high school, is a writer for Surfer magazine. His book offers refreshing writing about real-life experiences.

Martha Barkley
Charleston, South Carolina

“Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard” by naturalist Douglas W. Tallamy is the more practical sequel to his earlier book “Bringing Nature Home.” It’s more practical because his area of concern has increased to the Midwest. It’s more interesting because it includes more photos of caterpillars.

John Bell
Manchester, Missouri

Although quite scholarly, “The Long Public Life of a Short Private Poem: Reading and Remembering Thomas Wyatt” by Peter Murphy is delightfully accessible. Murphy chronicles the cultural life of the nearly 500-year-old poem “They Flee From Me” and uses it as a scaffolding to investigate the evolution of poetry across the centuries.

Julie Naslund
Bend, Oregon

Andrea Wulf’s “The Invention of Nature” follows explorer Alexander von Humboldt. For anyone who has traveled in South America, or wants to go there, this is a must-read. His five years tramping through the jungle collecting specimens is a page turner.

Muriel Horacek
Altadena, California

Frances Perkins is the unheralded architect of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s social programs and economic reform and is the longest-serving secretary of labor (1933-45). Several good books are out about Perkins, but her autobiography, “The Roosevelt I Knew,” offers an intimate glimpse into nothing short of a cultural revolution. Shy, determined, and able, she had a partner in Roosevelt to enact Social Security, fair labor laws, public works projects, and minimum wage. Her book is an admiring portrayal of an icon, but Perkins understood the importance of her ideas and their urgency. I am also giving the picture book “The Only Woman in the Photo, Frances Perkins & Her New Deal for America” by Kathleen Krull to my young granddaughter.

Ann Hymes
Laguna Woods, California

I recommend David Brooks’ “The Second Mountain.” He describes the first mountain that most young people begin to ascend as the lesser of the two: acquisition of material possessions, advancement, and status. The second mountain touches deeper parts of our humanity, including family, community, and a purpose beyond ourselves. During these divisive times, it was a pleasure to read.

Louise Schullery Cox
Windsor Locks, Connecticut

“Augustus: First Emperor of Rome” by Adrian Goldsworthy is a well-written biography of Rome’s first emperor. The author brings together ancient evidence with modern scholarship to describe a man whose life continues to influence Western history.

William Curtis
Olympia, Washington

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