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January 8, 2021

George Ernsberger - Columnist
Posted 1/8/21

KEEP SHARP by Sanjay Gupta (Simon & Schuster). The most practical-minded book on this general subject that I've seen. Dr. Gupta is a neurosurgeon, and that's an OK credential—he does hold the …

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January 8, 2021

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KEEP SHARP by Sanjay Gupta (Simon & Schuster). The most practical-minded book on this general subject that I've seen. Dr. Gupta is a neurosurgeon, and that's an OK credential—he does hold the reader's interest for a bit, explaining how all about the brain's makeup and functioning relates to the practical issues that are his book's real point, and indeed bolstering our confidence in their good sense. But that real point is the practical one: not brain but mind, just as the title suggests. His presentation of what's normal and manageable is thorough and clear (and reassuring), and the achievable habits and practices that he suggests seem well considered. It's been about five years since the column has covered a book like this (see how the old memory, and a search of files, works?); this one is even better, and maybe more fun. If I'm remembering rightly. As of course I am.

PICKARD COUNTY ATLAS by Chris Harding Thornton (MCD-Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Engrossing small-town first novel, dark enough to be called “rural noir” by some early reviewers. Accurate enough as to its structure and story, but rather slights the warmth of life in the characters and the light-handed and yet irresistible evoking of emotion and, well, just, the quality of the book (have I mentioned the quiet elegance of the writing?). Nothing grabs your shoulders and shakes you, but you find yourself unwilling to put it down, to step out of it even for dinner. This is a writer with a career for us to look forward to (well, if I've anything to say about it).

THE WOMAN OUTSIDE MY DOOR by Rachel Ryan (Gallery). And another first novel whose author we'll stay alert for; this one distinctly psychological suspense. A young boy begins talking about a new friend who turns out to be not imaginary, and not necessarily a friend. Nicely knits in a troubled marriage of likable people (the boy's parents) and a twisty ending you won't see coming but will nevertheless believe.

And so, how about a coin-flip choice of thriller-series lawyers?

TWENTY by James Grippando (Harper).

HUSH-HUSH by Stuart Woods (Putnam).

Column favorites since the turn of the millennium, and far beyond needing an introduction: Grippando and his lawyer Jack Swytek, and Woods and his, Stone Barrington, neither ever slackening or cheating their readers. Both very talky (lawyers, right?). Both Florida guys, but different Floridas, beginning with the fact that Swytek's spirited wife is very much a participant in the action (not for the first time, here) and Barrington is nothing like a family guy; both brainy, Swytek maybe more cerebral, Barrington more wiseguy. Grippando is more tense, Woods more action-packed. You might prefer one or, with only the slightest shift of gears, enjoy both.

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