Discover more from Read More Books
What to Read Next: Covenant of Water and Blacktop Wasteland
Issue #291: Two of my summer favorites.
Happy Friday, readers!
Last week, I shared my favorite reads of the summer. There’s often a bit of time between when I finish books and when I write about them in this newsletter, which means there are a few titles on the list that I haven’t covered yet. In today’s edition, I’m closing that gap with two books that will stay with me long after this summer has passed.
As always, I’d love to hear what you’re reading and enjoying these days!
The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
Published: 2023 | Pages: 724 | Genre: Fiction (Historical)
Abraham Verghese’s first novel, Cutting for Stone, made such a strong impression when I read it a dozen years ago that I knew I had to get The Covenant of Water as soon as it came out. I’m happy to report that the story hooked me from the start and never let go throughout all 724 pages.
The Covenant of Water is a family epic set in Southern India. Spanning decades of twentieth-century life in the village of Kerala, Verghese probes the depths of human love, compassion, devotion, and meaning.
At the heart of the narrative is matriarch Big Ammachi, whose life anchors the various interweaving threads of the plot: from when she meets her forty-year-old husband for the first time at the tender age of twelve, through the plague of drownings that affect their homestead, and later, to the modern realms of medical science and feminist independence.
Verghese’s lyrical prose evokes a visceral sense of place that’s as powerful as anything I’ve read — both the scorching landscape of Ethiopia (in Cutting for Stone) and the damp jungle of Southern India in this book have stuck with me.
The characters, though, are the highlight. They’re complex, unpredictable, and overflowing with life — even when making unlikable choices. There are no human villains here; everyone is fighting against a nefarious disease, a caste system rigged against those with the greatest need, and a general sense of the unknown.
It’s worth noting that Verghese is a doctor first. Writing is a side gig for him, which makes his unforgettable writing all the more impressive.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Don’t be intimidated by the page count; give it 50-75 pages and I’m sure you’ll want to keep going. I won’t make any guarantees, but there’s a good chance that The Covenant of Water lands on my year-end favorites list.
Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby
Published: 2020 | Pages: 288 | Genre: Fiction (Thriller)
S. A. Cosby has been on my reading radar since his debut novel, Blacktop Wasteland, won a couple of handfuls of awards when it was published in 2020. After Cosby’s latest novel was published earlier this year, I decided to read all four of his books in a 10-day binge of thrills.
Though they were all fantastic, Blacktop Wasteland was my favorite of the group.
“Bug” Montage used to be a getaway driver — a damn good one. Nowadays, though, he’s a mechanic, a husband, and a dad. As you might expect with that lead-in, one day his old life comes back to find him and Bug gets roped into one last job.
I love the action, to be sure, but what I appreciate most about Cosby’s novels — which I also mentioned in my review of All the Sinners Bleed — is that his characters are genuinely earnest (even while beating the daylights out of the bad guys). For a male author writing male characters, this is a rare quality. Sure, I love the likes of Nelson DeMille and Clive Cussler, but their protagonists are sarcastic and sardonic almost to the point of being smarmy and unlikable.
Not so with Bug Montage. He’s authentic, humble, and always utterly real.
He’s also a kick-ass driver, which made for the best car chase scenes I’ve ever read.
Overall, this story was just so fun. There’s violence, to be sure, but it’s not as gruesome as Cosby’s other three books — and I mean that in a good way. The stakes in Blacktop Wasteland are on the level of an exciting car chase after a heist (whereas his other stories venture into violent revenge and serial killers). If you want a jaw-dropping summer thriller, look no further.
Thanks so much for reading! I deeply appreciate your time and inbox space.