Critical Mass

What to Read This Fall (Some Unpredictable Choices)

By Rigoberto Gonzalez

Fiction or poetry, fiction or poetry, it’s a bit embarrassing that I limit myself to the same two choices as I sift through the piles of books for review. It’s a necessary strategy, however, since every day at least five more books arrive in the mail and I can’t possibly read and/or review them all. But every once in awhile, to keep the reading experience a little more diverse, I shift over to the “other genres” pile to mine for gems. And this season, I have picked up three titles that I’m particularly excited about:

The Devil’s Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century by Harold Schechter. (Ballantine Books)

Known as America’s foremost historian of serial killers, Schechter works diligently to reconstruct the New York City landscape of the early 1900s, which is also the scandalous mise-en-scène to that century’s first sensational courtroom drama involving high society’s Roland Molineux. Schechter’s research is thorough, his prose is exquisitely detailed, but it never slows down this narrative that reads like a compelling eyewitness account.

The Art of Political Murder: Who Didn’t Kill the Bishop? by Francisco Goldman. (Grove)

Goldman’s chronicle of the investigation into the 1998 murder of Bishop John Gerardi Conedera in Guatemala City is an absolute page-turner. This book offers a surprising and revelatory glimpse into the human rights efforts in Central America, into the unconventional reportage necessary amidst the corruption of a country, and into the flawed morality of the Catholic Church.

Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story by LeAnne Howe. (Aunt Lute Books)

Howe is a Native American writer of aggressive politics and stylized prose. With this historical novel, she recounts the participation of the Native American league during the baseball fever of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and how the mythology constructed around the Miko Kings shaped Native American-White American relations into the Vietnam era. Howe’s narrative defies easy categorization but her mission is clear: to elevate this sports footnote into the position of prominence it deserves.

Rigoberto González is a board member of the National Book Critics Circle.