Being retired means you have more free time to devote to enriching things you simply want to do. You may be unsure of how to spend that free time at first, but over time, you will come to find there are numerous ways to bolster your life in retirement.
One such thing we get to do more after we’re through with the hustle and bustle of work life is enter the wondrous world of literature. Whether it be with a group or under the simple light of your bedside table, delving into a great story brings us both emotional and cognitive benefits. If you’re looking to add some books to your list or do some extra reading while social distancing, check out the following five award-winners and recent releases:
The Nickel Boys: A Novel by Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead’s dramatization of a real juvenile reform school operating in Florida during the Jim Crow-era South is explored through the eyes of Elwood Curtis, a young black man living in segregated Tallahassee who takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to heart. He believes he is “as good as anyone” and is about to attend a local black college. One innocent mistake changes Elwood’s trajectory, and he is sentenced to the Nickel Academy, a juvenile reformatory whose mission statement claims to turn delinquent boys into “honorable and honest men.” As Elwood encounters a sadistically abusive staff, he clings to Dr. King’s words: “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His ideals clash with his friend Turner’s, who believes scheming and avoiding trouble is the only way to make it in a corrupted world. The results of this ideological clash will echo for decades.
The Nickel Boys: A Novel explores the devastating history of a real reform school operated for 111 years in Florida during one of its darkest periods. The Florida School for Boys, or the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, would be completely shut down in the 21st century, but not before warping the lives of thousands. Whitehead’s dramatization is a New York Times Bestseller, winner of the Kirkus Prize, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and was listed on Time Magazine’s list of the 10 Best Fiction Books of the Decade.
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker
Author Robert Kolker uncovers and weaves the tale of the Galvin family, one of the first families studied by the National Institute of Mental Health, whose DNA has offered important information leading to decades of headway into understanding and combatting schizophrenia.
Don and Mimi Galvin are purportedly living the American Dream. After World War II, the Air Force moved Don to Colorado where he and Mimi had twelve children throughout the baby boom from 1945 to 1965. They seemed to be happy—a poster family for the new American Dream—but behind closed doors, the story was vastly different.
Being subjected to the hidden psychological, physical and emotional abuse took a major toll on the Galvin children. By the mid-1970’s, six of the ten Galvin boys had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, baffling the medical community.
The untold story of the Galvin’s offers a look through the often-dark history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization and lobotomies to the modern searches for genetic indicators of the disease. The happenings within the Galvin’s home on Hidden Valley Road and their DNA continue to play vital roles in the continuing effort to treat, protect from and even eradicate schizophrenia.
Code Name Hélène: A Novel by Ariel Lawhon
Ariel Lawhon explores the captivating story of real-life socialite-turned-spy Nancy Wake during World War II through four interweaving timelines coinciding with the four different names Wake used, starting with the time she married wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca in Paris.
After the Germans invade France, Mrs. Fiocca adopts a code name: Lucienne Carlier. She begins smuggling people and documents across the border to safety. As Ms. Carlier, she was dubbed The White Mouse by the Gestapo for her ability to both avoid capture and keep her identity secret. Eventually, a bounty of five million francs was placed on Nancy’s head, and she is forced to leave France and her husband behind.
After escaping to Britain, Nancy Wake trains with the Special Operations Executives in Britain and is given a new code name to use only with comrades: Hélène. Upon completion of her training, Nancy receives a mission and is airdropped back into France.
Back in France, Nancy now goes by Madam Andrée. She goes on to become one of the most influential and dangerous leaders of the French Revolution. She was witty, cunning, and known for both her signature red lipstick and ability to summon weapons straight from Allied Forces. Nancy only remains safe as long as the enemy cannot connect the dots and link her four identities. As France nears liberation, Nancy becomes more exposed and keeping her identities separate and secret from her enemy becomes more difficult and more imperative.
This novel was just published on March 31, 2020, and is already generating excellent reviews and substantial buzz. Kirkus Reviews says, “A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.”
Valentine: A Novel by Elizabeth Wetmore
In February 1976, the next great oil boom is about to hit Odessa, Texas. Wealth and prosperity are on the horizon, and the town is abuzz. Suddenly, the morning after Valentine’s Day, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramirez appears on Mary Rose Whitehead’s front porch, barely alive after suffering a vicious attack in a nearby oil field.
What happens when justice is difficult to achieve? When a case has already been tried on the local barstools and in the local church pews? Valentine explores the intersections of violence, race, class, religion and industry during the West Texas oil boom, painting a dark yet hopeful tale.
The number one new release on Amazon, Elizabeth Wetmore’s Valentine: A Novel has already received high praises, marking a wildly successful debut for Wetmore. Publishers Weekly says in a starred review, “Stirring … Wetmore poetically weaves the landscape of Odessa and the internal lives of her characters, whose presence remains vivid after the last page is turned. This moving portrait of West Texas oil country evokes the work of Larry McMurtry and John Sayles with strong, memorable female voices.”
The Mirror & The Light by Hilary Mantel
Recently released in March 2020, The Mirror & The Light brings author Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall Trilogy to a close. Following Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, The Mirror & The Light explores the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the once-poor boy who became one of the most powerful men of his time.
The latest installment picks up in May, 1536 after the decapitation of Anne Boleyn. Cromwell, the simple blacksmith’s son from Putney, is celebrating with the victors. His master, Henry VIII, weds his third queen, Jane Seymour. The regime faces many threats, both internal and external. Under Henry VIII’s watchful and ruthless eye, how will Cromwell go on to become one of the most feared and influential people of his time?
Crafting a story from a historical event in which the outcome is known can be very difficult, but that’s exactly what Mantel does expertly in closing out the Wolf Hall Trilogy. The Times Literary Supplement referred to it as “some of the most complex and immersive fiction to have come along in years,” while the New York Times hailed it “the triumphant capstone to Mantel’s trilogy.”
Not sure what to do with some of that previously social time during social distancing? Dive into a great story and visit a whole new world.