The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle (William Morrow Paperbacks) Books about student-teacher relationships aren’t exactly rare (such as Zoe Heller’s What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] or Alissa Nutting’s wonderful but disturbing Tampa), but Riggle’s take on the subject is notable for its three narrators, Morgan, the 18-year-old student desperately in love with her teacher TJ Hill, Morgan’s mother Diana, and Hill’s wife Rain. These three perspectives, taken together, give the reader a nuanced look at this situation, which is both simpler and more complicated than it seems.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (various) Perhaps the most famous work of American literature about a sexual scandal, The Scarlet Letter is a book we probably all had to read in high school. AtReaderly we recommend that you don’t let the stench of required reading taint your recollection of this book. Go back and read it again for yourself. Prepare to be amazed at just how insightful and fascinating Hawthorne’s work really is.
The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson by Greg King (Kensington) For many people, the story of Edward VII and Wallis Simpson is incredibly romantic. Who wouldn’t be charmed by a partner willing to give up the throne to pursue a relationship? At the same time, the royal family vilified Simpson for causing Edward’s abdication. King gives a biography of Simpson that is both comprehensive – examining her life beyond just her relationship with Edward VII – and sympathetic. The Duchess of Windsor isn’t perfect, but it makes a nice counterpoint to the histories endorsed by the royal family.
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton and Company) The relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings is perhaps the single most scandalous relationship in American history. For an imbalance of power, it beats even Clinton/Lewinsky by a good margin, and many will have a hard time reconciling Jefferson’s commitment to freedom with the fact of his legal ownership of his mistress. Still, it is difficult not to be fascinated by Jefferson and Hemings while still wondering about the sort of reality Sally Hemings must have lived. Gordon-Reed is both a historian and legal scholar, and her book is just as impeccably researched as you would expect. The writing may be a bit scholarly for the tastes of some, but it is well worth a read.