The Best Book I Read This Month: Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

The best book I read this month was a captivating murder mystery--and a completely true story. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann tells the story of  murders of members of the Osage nation in the 1920s and how the fledgling FBI solved them.


In the 1920s, the Osage in Oklahoma were among the richest people in the country, thanks to their shrewd management of the oil resources beneath their land. Then they started dying. Some deaths were blatant murders; others were suspicious accidents. Local law enforcement got nowhere. The FBI was brought in.

At the time, the FBI was relatively new and J. Edgar Hoover was newly appointed as director. Both the agency and its boss had a lot to prove. They needed to prove not only that they were a capable law enforcement organization, but also that they were free of corruption. The Osage murders tested them on both fronts.

One recurring theme in the  book is the rampant institutional infantilization of and discrimination against Native Americans to serve the white community’s unquenchable greed for wealth and power. It's a combination that has plagued Native American communities since the first European colonists set foot on North American soil. It reached fever pitch in the story of the Osage murders.

I could not put the book down. Grann crafted a page-turner, with dramatic descriptions, vivid turns of phrase, and well-timed cliffhanger chapter endings. And the wild, almost unbelievable story that Grann uncovered through his research and interviews prove the adage that truth can be stranger than fiction.

The Best Book I Read This Month: The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

The British cover of the book. The cover of the American edition features a sheep.

The British cover of the book. The cover of the American edition features a sheep.

I love Bill Bryson. His books fill almost an entire shelf of my bookcase. Every single one has made me laugh out loud. When I was in Wales last year, he had just released a new book--The Road to Little Dribbling. At the time, it hadn't been released in the United States yet, so I bought a copy at the nearest Waterstone's (the British equivalent of Barnes and Noble). It took me until this month to get around to reading it.

About twenty years ago, Bryson published a book called (in the US) Notes from a Small Island. It was a travelogue of sorts. Bryson was--and still is--an American living in the United Kingdom. In Notes from a Small Island, he traveled around his adopted country and shared his impressions. It was hilarious. The Road to Little Dribbling was intended, I think, as a celebration of Small Island's anniversary. Once again, Bryson ventures around the British Isles and shares his remembrances and impressions. (That said, you don't have to have read Small Island to enjoy Little Dribbling. However, if you've never read Bryson before, please start with A Walk in the Woods, which recounts his misadventures hiking the Appalachian Trail.)

My favorite illustration in the book

My favorite illustration in the book

Bryson's humor is dry, sarcastic, and self-deprecating. I laughed out loud through the first thirty pages. I giggled through the rest--often at something Bryson said, but sometimes at one of the illustrations that opened each chapter. The illustration that opened Chapter 16 was my favorite. At first glance, it's a dodo with a wicked case of body odor. Later in the chapter, though, I learned I was wrong. It's a dodo, all right, but body odor was not its problem. By the time I finished the book, I was overcome--not for the first time--with a desire to move to the UK.