My final books of 2017 (and my first book of 2018) are all surging on the best seller lists, and I will say, I would recommend all of them:

*Artemis by Andy Weir

*Promise Me Dad by Joe Biden

*The Power by Naomi Alderman

I’ll start by saying that I didn’t enjoy Artemis as much as I like The Martian.  It’s a very interesting concept, a city on the Moon and the plot is basically a heist, IN SPACE!  It is a pretty entertaining book and a fast read, but I probably won’t read it again. I will say that Artemis fit in very well with my light holiday reading, so if you’re looking for a fast read for vacation or for the beach this summer (Yes, it was 11 degrees yesterday, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about my beach vacation which is coming in about…six months) this could be your book.

Promise Me Dad is probably not your vacation book. Instead it is a beautiful book talking about Joe Biden’s loss of his son Beau.  I have read a lot of wonderful book about death and dying and grief, and I will say that Biden doesn’t let you in quite as much as some other writers do.  He clearly loved his son.  Honestly reading this book will make you wish Joe Biden loved you or that you were part of his family, they appear in these pages to be an amazingly tight knit group. And if you are not fully taken into his confidences, Biden gives some wonderful advice about the power of time  over grief and the power of helping others to get outside your own grief, which you feel like, since he lost a wife and a child (and now another child) and he hasn’t given up yet, well, there must be something to it. Because how else has Biden been getting out of bed every day for the last few decades?

I also know from experience, that the time will come, the time will come when Rafael [a police officer killed in NYC]’s memory will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes. That’s when you know — it’s going to be OK. I know it’s hard to believe it will happen, but I promise you, I promise you it will happen.

Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for. [This is an Immanuel Kant quote].

But he doesn’t detail how he felt with the same rawness that you find in Joan Didion’s My Year of Magical Thinking.  I don’t know, maybe his loss didn’t make him feel crazy, maybe the sadness he refers to is all there was for him.  You do get a lot more about the policy work he was doing while his son was dying.  And I don’t want to sound like I’m judging him for being vice president and not just sitting by his dying son.  I know I recently left a job because I realized it was literally and figuratively killing me (stress kills you, crying all the time does not kill you it just feels like it will) to be giving my life to do this work that felt meaningless instead of being with my dying mother.  But I’m not the vice president, and I’m thinking that Biden felt like what he was doing something worthwhile with his time:

So how do I want to spend the rest of my life? I want to spend as much time with my family, and I want to help change the country and the world for the better. That duty does much more than give me purpose; it gives me something to hope for. It makes me nostalgic for the future.

I will not be surprised to see Biden run for president having read this book, although I also wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t — he will be 77 in 2020.  What’s up with Gen X? Is Barack Obama the only guy they had ??

The Power falls somewhere in the vast chasm between Artemis and Promise Me Dad.  It is fiction and at times it is entertaining.  I was very invested in the characters.  It is a brutal book, but an interesting one.  The basic premise is this, suddenly women have the ability to generate electrical power with their bodies, which they can use to injure and kill others. This allows women to be more powerful than men, and so the central question is, would women really do things any differently if they were the more physically powerful gender, or would you just have rape and violence and murder and generally treating the other gender like they aren’t also human beings?  But again, the characters make this much more than a fun thought exercise.

You’ve got a middle aged woman with daughters who is in government, the story of one of her teenage daughters who has sort malfunctioning power, two teenage girls with immense power of different types, and one man, a journalist trying to get the store — and their stories intersect in places, but not in  a way that feels contrived.

If you’re only going to read one of these best sellers, I’d recommend The Power.  I was mulling it for days after reading it. It was more entertaining that Promise Me Dad (okay, pretty low bar since you don’t read that book to be entertained), and packed a lot more into a few hundred pages than Artemis.

Currently reading: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays by Mandy Len Catron (related to her NYTimes piece).