Bedtime Stories: Sept. 2020

  • September 24, 2020

What do book lovers have queued up on their nightstands and ready to read before lights-out? We asked one of them, and here’s what she said.

Bedtime Stories: Sept. 2020

Gilly MacMillan:

I recently finished The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since and I’ve recommended it to so many family and friends. It’s the fascinating story of how Konnikova, a writer and psychologist, decided to try to master playing professional poker in one year.

One of the book’s greatest strengths is Konnikova’s disarmingly forthright storytelling, but there’s so much more to get your teeth into. She leads you into the world of international poker alongside her as she makes progress toward her goal, a goal that seems unreachable more often than not, even as she manages to convince Eric Seidel, a poker legend, to mentor her. 

The book is full of fascinating psychological insights as she embarks on an incredibly steep learning curve and explores whether her training in studying human behaviour can help her win. It’s also a fine and gripping story about someone throwing their all at chasing a goal that might well be impossible to attain. I found it to be full of wisdom, honesty, grit, and surprises.

I’m almost at the end of Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars. Set in an understaffed maternity ward in war-ravaged Ireland in the midst of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, this novel could hardly be more relevant to contemporary life. I’m loving the period detail, the unflinching medical drama, and the intense and affecting portrayals of female solidarity, all told through the compassionate, compelling voice of Nurse Julia Power.

I’ve also been rereading a thriller by Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk (winner of the 2018 International Man Booker prize) called Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, in a brilliant translation by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. It’s a masterpiece of beautifully written literary crime fiction with surprising notes of comedy, one of the best and most complex unreliable narrators I’ve encountered and a vivid, wild setting on the Polish-Czech border.

Elements of it remind me of a thriller that sits near it on a shelf of favorite and well-thumbed novels beside my desk: The True Deceiver is another masterclass of European crime fiction and is written by none other than Tove Jansson, of Moomins fame.

Gilly MacMillan is the New York Times bestselling author of What She Knew, The Perfect Girl, and Odd Child Out, among many others. Her new novel is To Tell You the Truth.

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