The best cocaine books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about cocaine and why they recommend each book.

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Cocaine Blues

By Kerry Greenwood,

Book cover of Cocaine Blues: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Phryne Fisher’s 21 mysteries take place in Australia, which means they lack the extra criminal/cultural dimension that Prohibition gave the US in the 1920s. However, while Australia did not prohibit alcohol consumption, there was still plenty of crime, gangsters, jazz, and flapper fashion to spice up every murder investigation. Miss Fisher, who through accident has inherited both title and fortune, stylishly sleuths her way through Melbourne’s underworld. Her adventures are relatively short and a fast read, but if you tire of reading, you can watch Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on television. I enjoy comparing books to movies—which is better? For me it’s usually the book, but still fun seeing the film version.  


Who am I?

Historical fiction, specifically historical mysteries, is my favorite category whether I’m reading for pleasure or writing my own stories, and the decade of the Roaring Twenties is certainly the most colorful era in American history. As a historian, I want to learn; as a writer, I want to teach. But—and this is a big “but”—it’s critical that historical novels are both accurate and subtle. If I find the author has misrepresented the history or larded the story, I’m done. Which is why I can recommend the following five Roaring Twenties series. All feature characters that grow as the series progresses so it’s best to begin at the beginning and proceed mostly in order.


I wrote...

The Mystic's Accomplice

By Mary Miley,

Book cover of The Mystic's Accomplice

What is my book about?

It's 1924, and Maddie Pastore has it made. A nice house, a loving husband with a steady job - even if it is connected to Chicago's violent Torrio-Capone gang - and a baby on the way. But then Tommy is shot dead, and she learns her husband had a secret.

Penniless and grieving, Maddie is only sure of two things: that she will survive for the sake of her baby, and that she'll never turn to the mob for help. So when she's invited to assist a well-meaning but fraudulent medium, she seizes the chance. When Maddie unearths potential evidence of a dark crime she faces a terrible dilemma: keep quiet and let a murderer go unpunished, or follow the trail and put herself and her baby in danger . . .

Kings of Cocaine

By Guy Gugliotta,

Book cover of Kings of Cocaine: Inside the Medellín Cartel, an Astonishing True Story of Murder, Money, and International Corruption

Decades before Netflix’s hit series Narcos, Gugliotta and Leen turned their prize-winning series of articles in The Miami Herald into a highly original book, Kings of Cocaine. What astounds me is how well the author’s uncovering the psychopathic violence, unimaginable profits, and political and social corruption of the Colombian cocaine trade. And this rot and bloodshed were not just occurring in the less developed Colombia but right inside Ronald Reagan’s America. 


Who am I?

Over my two decades as a scholar of American foreign policy and international politics, I had multiple opportunities to serve as a Latin America foreign policy aide. Given that Latin America plays a central role in the U.S.-hatched modern war on drugs, much of my policymaking was directly or indirectly tied to drug policy. I thus wrote Drugs and Thugs above all to make sure that I had a good sense of the history of this seemingly eternal conflict, one that is “fought” as much at home as abroad. 


I wrote...

Drugs and Thugs: The History and Future of America's War on Drugs

By Russell C. Crandall,

Book cover of Drugs and Thugs: The History and Future of America's War on Drugs

What is my book about?

How can the United States chart a path forward in the war on drugs? In Drugs and Thugs, Russell Crandall uncovers the full history of this war that has lasted more than a century. As a scholar and a high-level national security advisor to both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, he provides an essential view of the economic, political, and human impacts of U.S. drug policies. Backed by extensive research, lucid and unbiased analysis of policy, and his own personal experiences, Crandall takes readers from Afghanistan to Colombia, to Peru and Mexico, to Miami International Airport, and the border crossing between El Paso and Juarez to trace the complex social networks that make up the drug trade and drug consumption. 

Theft by Finding

By David Sedaris,

Book cover of Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)

For forty years, David Sedaris kept a diary filled with his successes, failures, overheard conversations, and secrets confessed by strangers. He adds humor to his memories which is a wonderful change from the traditional memoir. Even a boring day can make us laugh. This is the first of two volumes and is the better of the two.


Who am I?

I was born in South Korea and moved to The United States when I was three years old. I grew up in Detroit where I was often the only yellow face in school. The trauma of trying to fit in played a significant role in my adult life. I have thought about writing a memoir for years. Several family members asked me not to name them. I decided to tell my truth through brief snapshots of a feeling or event. This way, I could show my journey from my perspective as I learned to walk between two opposing cultures. Observations Through Yellow Glasses: A Memoir Through Poems is the result.


I wrote...

Observations Through Yellow Glasses: A Memoir Through Poems

By Yong Takahashi,

Book cover of Observations Through Yellow Glasses: A Memoir Through Poems

What is my book about?

Yong Takahashi moved to The United States with her parents when she was three years old. She grew up in a traditional household where her Korean and American worlds pulled her in opposite directions. Shortlisted for The Sexton Prize for Poetry, Observations Through Yellow Glasses invites you to follow her journey as she learns life’s bitter lessons, longs for love, and attempts to heal the wounds she collects along the way.

The Address

By Fiona Davis,

Book cover of The Address

Davis is well-known for basing her meticulously researched stories in famous NYC buildings and The Address, set at The Dakota, the famed apartment building on the Upper West Side, is no exception. It’s the story of Sara Smythe who comes from London to work for the Camden family upon the opening of The Dakota in the late 1800s. Her station rises along with opportunities, and her relationship with her employer becomes more complicated. Davis alternates this story with one set in the 1980s and masterfully connects the two in a way the reader will not have seen coming.

Who am I?

I love being entertained while I read, but I equally love to learn something. That has led me to fall in love with the historical fiction genre, and is what also led me to write We Came Here to Shine and The Subway Girls. Part of being able to write good historical fiction is to learn from the masters in the genre. I am drawn to historical fiction that features ambitious women who were notable in their time for going against the strictures and conventions forced upon them, and I have chosen all of these books for you because they feature women like that. I hope you enjoy!


I wrote...

We Came Here to Shine

By Susie Orman Schnall,

Book cover of We Came Here to Shine

What is my book about?

Set at the iconic 1939 New York World’s Fair, We Came Here to Shine features two bold women in a story of ambition, friendship, and persistence with a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the extraordinary New York World's Fair.

Gorgeous Vivi is the star of the Aquacade synchronized swimming spectacular and plucky Max is a journalist for the fair's daily paper. Both are striving to make their way in a world where men try to control their actions and where secrets are closely kept. But when Vivi and Max become friends and their personal and professional prospects are put in jeopardy, they team up to help each other succeed and to realize their dreams during the most meaningful summer of their lives.

How to Get Rich

By Felix Dennis,

Book cover of How to Get Rich: One of the World's Greatest Entrepreneurs Shares His Secrets

The title is a trick, probably the publisher's idea. Dennis (who passed away in 2014) expresses qualms about the whole getting rich idea. Before becoming a magazine multimillionaire (The Week, Maxim, Stuff) he was a poet, jailed in 1971 for editing an obscene humor magazine. He borrowed to start his publishing empire with Cozmic Comics and Kung Fu Monthly. He writes that anyone can raise capital -- you just need enough confidence in your plan to grovel and risk your friends' money. I forever carry his advice on negotiation: whoever cares less wins. Negotiate hard, be sure about what you'd like, but be ready to walk away, because no deal is a must-do.


Who am I?

Sometimes I feel like we know more about the anthropologies of ancient civilizations and remote tribes than about the business most people do every day. There's mystery behind the curtain. To me, good nonfiction that goes deep inside a business is about our culture and how our world works. It's a way to understand everything we interact with and how it got there. I have enjoyed telling specific business creation stories as a business journalist, but understanding what truly turns the gears has informed writing I have done on every subject, including my humor.


I wrote...

The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Crowdfunding Success Stories

By Don Steinberg,

Book cover of The Kickstarter Handbook: Real-Life Crowdfunding Success Stories

What is my book about?

I like to mix useful information with engaging stories. So I tried to make the Kickstarter Handbook a fun read and a hands-on resource for entrepreneurs. Every Kickstarter campaign is its own thrilling adventure, a story of desire and obstacle, creativity, perseverance, denial, anger, bargaining, failure and success. I think these tales help make the book a pleasant and enlightening read, no matter what you actually wanted to read about.

The Lonely Silver Rain

By John D. MacDonald,

Book cover of The Lonely Silver Rain

This is the last book in the famed Travis McGee series that MacDonald wrote before his death in 1986. At the time, this was the ultimate coastal adventure series, and it cultivated a lifelong obsession for me in this genre. I wish there had been more installments, but it wasn’t meant to be. Throughout the series MacDonald’s style continually evolved and improved, ending with his having become the dean of all the living coastal writers of the time. If you ask the top-ranked coastal adventure writers of today to list three authors that inspired their work and/or styles, MacDonald will always be at or near the top.


Who am I?

I’m an entrepreneur who was born literally within sight of the Intracoastal Waterway in South Florida. Got my first boat (a dinghy) when I was six. I used to drive an airboat on Lake Okeechobee and learned to fly back when I was a teenager. Since then, I’ve flown over a dozen different types of planes and even a helicopter. As a kid, I spent a lot of time in the Bahamas, Virgin Islands, and the Antilles. In my late teens I worked on various private sportfishing boats in Florida, Georgia, and the Bahamas. With this much time spent on, in, under, or around the water, I was destined to write coastal novels. 


I wrote...

Coastal Jury: Coastal Adventure Series Number 9

By Don Rich,

Book cover of Coastal Jury: Coastal Adventure Series Number 9

What is my book about?

Some crime figures consider avoiding indictments to be a deadly serious business, with murder as the best solution to the problem. One recently reformed man is determined to save the lives of his friends as well as the new woman in his life, even though it means exposing his own criminal past. He could end up going to prison, though first, he’ll need to survive. But sometimes people with everything to lose can be more dangerous than those with nothing to lose at all. “Rut” Rutledge is determined to prove it.

Frank and Bean

By Jamie Michalak, Bob Kolar (illustrator),

Book cover of Frank and Bean

Frank and Bean opens with Frank, who visits the great outdoors to find peace and quiet. Then, Bean shows up. He is literally a one bean band, with a drum, trumpet, triangle and more. Needless to say, they don’t initially hit it off. But then it gets dark, and fears bring them together. Before you know it, they are making beautiful music together. The text is full of wry humor presented with a wink for adults, while the illustrations are pitched perfectly to make five- to eight-year-old readers giggle along. I love this friendship story because it’s so much fun to read out loud. 


Who am I?

I hold a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. In addition to the usual two-year program, I studied an extra semester, where I read all the best children’s books about friendship. I wanted to learn how the great authors such as A. A. Milne, James Marshall, and Arnold Lobel wrote stories full of so much heart and humor. My love of friendship stories burgeoned from there. And now, it’s with great delight that I offer you my Best Children’s Books About Friendship—and, of course, my very own friendship story, Big Bear and Little Fish.  


I wrote...

Big Bear and Little Fish

By Sandra Nickel, Il Sung Na (illustrator),

Book cover of Big Bear and Little Fish

What is my book about?

Bear Loves Being Big. At the carnival, she wants to win a teddy bear as big as she is. Instead, she wins a fish. A very little fish. Bear doesn’t quite know what to do. She worries and makes lots of assumptions. But with the help of Fish, Bear learns that although she and Fish are different, they are also a little the same.

Gentle, accessible prose by Sandra Nickel is paired with richly textured illustrations by Il Sung Na in this sweet story about accepting others for who they are.

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