Having read Treasure Island and The Adventures of Robin Hood as a child might explain Mark’s passion for novels with a dose of escapism and suspense. He’s also a fan of irreverent writers like Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore, and Carl Hiassen. All told, Mark’s reading tastes are eclectic: historical fiction, engrossing non-fiction stories that read like novels, biographies about fascinating people, the occasional personal growth selection, and laugh-out-loud stories.

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Set in 1873, an acclaimed spiritualist and her understudy travel to London to investigate the death of a member of an exclusive gentlemen’s club. As they begin to solve the mystery, they find themselves entangled in the very crime they’re hoping to solve. You’ll love these two daring women who hunt for truth and justice in the perilous art of conjuring the dead.

The main characters in this story have one thing in common: they know what it feels like to start over. It’s a story about two young adults in love. When Lily is found dead in her home, her boyfriend Asher is accused of murder. But the heart of the story is the secret that Lily finally reveals to Asher: she’s transgender (as is one of the authors). Both eye-opening and captivating, Mad Honey adds another contemporary issue to Picoult’s impressive repertoire.

When every person, all over the globe, receives a small wooden box bearing the same inscription and a single piece of string inside, the world is thrown into a collective frenzy — because the box holds your fate inside: the answer to the exact number of years you will live. You’ll wrestle with the same question as the characters in this story: “Would you choose to find out how long you’ll live by opening the box? The Measure will encourage you to live life to the fullest.

Haven’t we all wondered how life might have turned out if we had chosen a different path along the way? Before attempting suicide, the main character finds herself in a library where every book she pulls from the shelf allows her to see what might have happened if she chose differently. As she pulls book after book, she must decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Simply Lies is a twisting new psychological thriller in which two women–one a former detective, the other a dangerous con artist–go head-to-head in an electrifying game of cat and mouse. When the detective becomes a prime suspect in a murder investigation, she must prove that she was set up and becomes locked in a battle of wits with a brilliant woman with no name, a hidden past, and unknown motives–whose end game is as mysterious as it is deadly.

A family’s vacation in remote Long Island is interrupted by a knock on the door of their rental home. An elderly Black couple, claiming to be the home’s rightful owners, have fled New York City after a sudden blackout. With no TV, internet or phone service, it’s impossible to know what (or who) to believe. This novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. In a world where anything could happen, a possible apocalyptic end of the world is unsettling.

After an unnamed calamity wipes out most humans, a diverse group of animals convenes to debate whether to aid the small band of survivors nearby, or to eat them. But first they need to set some rules to keep them from turning on one another. The pros and cons are compelling enough to make me wonder how I would vote under the circumstances.

The 1909 Free Speech riots in Spokane may be the backbone of this unforgettable story, but the plot eerily echoes our own time – the disparity between rich and poor, exploitation of workers to maximize corporate wealth, police brutality, attempts to suppress free speech. An intimate story of brotherhood, love, sacrifice, and betrayal, featuring an unforgettable cast of cops and tramps, suffragists and socialists, madams and murderers. Among the best books I have read all year!

Another riveting story based on the real-life heroism of Nancy Wake, an Australian expat living in Paris who becomes a spy when the Germans invade France. Her ability to evade capture as she smuggles people and documents to safety forces her to leave her husband and France behind and assume an alias. After training with Britain’s Special Operations, she is parachuted to France, and organizes and commands French forces. Equal doses of wit, ferocity, bravery and passion make for a terrific read!

Always irreverent and deeply respectful, Moore ponders the early life of the Son of God – those missing teenage years – through the eyes of Biff, the Messiah’s best friend. The story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Josh/Jesus from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more — except maybe “Maggie,” Mary of Magdala. The greatest story never told is hilarious!

When Duncan resurfaces in school librarian Samantha’s life as new headmaster, he’s nothing like the playful man she once knew. Duncan is now obsessed with school safety, and intends to turn Sam’s joyful, offbeat school into a prison. Themes like how we deal with loss, the determination involved in personal transformation, what it takes to be an effective leader, and what makes for a safe school environment kept me engaged throughout the story. An entertaining as well as thought-provoking read!

When young veteran Cam Harris, rendered paraplegic after serving in Afghanistan, suddenly rises from his wheelchair one hot afternoon in Biloxi, the miracle becomes national news. His doctors at the VA are convinced of a scientific explanation, while the Church embraces the miracle. The author does a remarkable job reporting the unfolding of events as a good journalist would, though writes scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny as American culture intersects the collision between faith and reason.