This book of essays is the loveliest love letter to the State of Michigan I have ever read. Writer Jerry Dennis grew up and continues to live in the Traverse City area, what we Michiganders refer to as “Up North.” His descriptions of the rivers, lakes, and woods he has spent his lifetime fishing, playing in, and camping in and canoeing on took my breath away. The four chapters illuminate on each season in which Jerry Dennis creates picture-perfect images for the reader to ride with, as he eloquently details the sights and sounds of Michigan’s seasons. If you’ve never been Up North, become curious by reading this book. I assure you that you will find it necessary to get up there as soon as possible. Jerry Dennis doesn’t give away any of the exact locations he writes about . . . you’ll have to discover your own special spots to put to memory and to return to once you’ve become hooked, which, I also assure you, you will be!
We know them as the four women of NPR, the names and voices who branded radical change in American news broadcasting. This impeccably-researched and detailed group biography shares the defining back story of each woman, their differences and the similarities that led them to work together on the best job anyone could ask for in public radio. A truly inspiring read and captivating inside look at four utterly fabulous and brilliant women.
A young virtuoso violinist from rural North Carolina, being Black as that violinist, and the violin he was gifted by his grandmother that turns out to be a Stradivarius. This captivating read about the world of classical music and musicians develops into a head-scratching twister when the Strad, valued at $10 million, is stolen early on in the novel. Was it the wealthy Southern descendants of the man who enslaved his great-great grandfather who claim the violin as theirs or his own greedy family who feel contempt towards his rising career? Shameless racism is as much a part of the story as is the violinist’s outstanding skill and his passion for the exquisite music he performs. I highly recommend this genuinely original story.
Composer Steve Reich, pioneer of the 1960s minimalist movement and a legend in the world of contemporary classical music, sat down with fellow composers, colleagues, and musicians to reflect on his career and how his work had impact on theirs. I found these conversations absolutely captivating — to the point that, while reading the book, I was compelled to listen to each piece of Reich’s beautifully mesmerizing music as it was being discussed
The author recounts her year-long experience, at age 21, as a homeless vagabond, drifting from Venice Beach to Big Sur to Slab City, the famous California squatter community, hanging out with other stoner drifters she took on as "family." Though weed and alcohol were always at her fingertips, Michelle reveals the hardships of not knowing where she'd find her next meal or place to sleep, who was a physical danger to her and who she could trust. I found this to be an intriguing slice-of-life memoir of a lifestyle I'm grateful to have never had to experience.
The quiet setting in an old rustic cottage on a small Michigan inland lake will appeal to anybody who has summered in Northern Michigan. This heart-wrenching story of childhood friendship, found and lost, is told through the voice of a writer struggling to begin her next book, which she can’t write until she comes to terms with that friendship and the ravages her first novel caused to her friend and her friend’s family across the lake. Really good writing and really good story-telling, and really nice to spend time up north while immersed in this story.
An epic character-driven love story to the city of Florence, Italy and the captivating bohemian stars of Sarah Winman's new novel, a saga spanning 40 decades. Good luck not falling in love with each and every one of them, to wish you were seated at their table dining on every delicious meal they cook together, and to fantasize that these are the people you get to call "family." If you aren’t already a fan of her writing, Sarah Winman’s "Still Life" will win you over! This very special novel is my Literati Bookstore Favorite Book of 2021.
The inspiring foodie (oh, and actor!) Stanley Tucci makes dining on Italian food look oh-so-delectable. Author of three cookbooks, Tucci’s autobiography begins with stories about growing up in an Italian American family who took to heart cooking and eating together around the kitchen table as a family. But, there’s so much more to his life story than that, though it’s always been in and out of a kitchen. This is a lovely memoir full of sweet anecdotes and delicious recipes. Buon appetito!
Illustrator and graphic/collage artist Nora King’s extraordinary talents offer a clever graphic take on Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny, which depicts the 20th century’s most somber moments. Klug’s interpretation of Snyder’s twenty lessons on resisting modern-day oppression goes hand-in-hand with her graphic book Belonging in which she addresses her own family’s connection to Nazi German, creating collage art through the use of archival materials, family photos and letters, and Nazi paraphernalia.
A curious psychological thriller about Scarlet and her teenage daughter, Blue, who have spent Blue’s lifetime as nomads, fleeing from HIM, though Blue hasn’t a clue who or what they are fleeing from. They wind up in the Lake Michigan beachtown of South Haven where Blue becomes determined to figure out what her eccentric artist mother has been afraid of and why her mother’s paintings are getting weirder and weirder. Get ready to be thoroughly captivated by this terrific page-turner.
A scintillating historical novel that brings to life the famous unsolved mystery of Agatha Christie’s eleven day disappearance by creating it into a love story and murder mystery, a la Agatha Christie herself. A fun read!
I don't think it's possible for me to not be moved beyond measure by anything written by novelist and essayist Ann Patchett. Her latest collection of personal essays, some of which have been previously published in various periodicals, is a precious unzipping from moments in Patchett's life and a precious privilege for her readers to come away with a much deeper understanding of her. The most profound is her laying bare her admiration for and friendship with Tom Hanks' assistant Sooki, an elusive woman who is at the heart of this collection, a friendship that explores “what it means to be seen, to find someone with whom you can be your best and most complete self.” Moving and utterly worth the exploration into the private Ann Patchett.
Street photographer/nanny Vivian Maier was an unknown artist until 2007, when her body of work was discovered in a Chicago storage locker. That discovery opened up a mystery: who was Vivian Maier and why did she shoot 140,000 images over her 85 years and not do anything with them? Through meticulous research and interviews, writer Ann Marks has brought Vivan’s history and story to light in a most fascinating read, complete with explanations for the 400 photos included in the book. If you’re not familiar with this world-class photographer whose work and keen eye are compared to those of Robert Frank, Weegee Lisette Model, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, introduce yourself to her photographs with the knowledge that every picture she shot were kept to herself until after her death, and be grateful that we now have access to see what she saw behind her camera lens.
Not well-known as a poet, author Barbara Kingsolver published her first poetry collection in 1992, after the success of her first two novels Bean Trees and Animal Dreams. When I discovered the collection, when it was first published, I spent many hours outdoors seated in a quiet place, reading the poems out loud to myself. This early collection in Kingsolver’s career is timely: the poems, written while she lived in the borderlands of Tucson, Arizona, target racism and the inequities of the U.S. immigration system. This 2nd edition features an introduction by Kingsolver that touches on the current border crisis. The book is in duo languages with English on the right side of the page and Spanish on the left.
This delightfully lovely book is a peek inside 17 artists’ homes, featuring the sweetest illustrations by Chicago artist Kate Lewis and charming descriptions by author Melissa Wyse. Enjoy a little glimpse into the living spaces and gardens of such artists as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. A dear little inspiring walk through some pretty places.
I am a big fan of Oliver Jeffers. I adore his illustrations and his dear little stories. This sweet new book by the master of picture books features transparent pages that are a major part of the storytelling. This is a fun interactive book for children . . . and demystifies the mystery of ghosts in a cute clever way!
Author of the Pulitzer Prize Awarded All the Light we Cannot See, Anthony Doerr's writing skills shine brightly in this mind-boggling novel that is utterly unique to his other writings. Is it historical fiction, fantasy, suspense, or science fiction? In fact, it's all of them! The story follows five children on the brink of becoming adults, during three different timeframes in which the reader travels from ancient history and mythology to modern times and far into the future. Built around an ancient Greek text that each child encounters in their journeys, the reader is as curious as the children are in seeking an interpretation of the text's story of Aethon, who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky. Doerr brilliantly ties everyone and everything together, concluding this epic story with a sigh of relief and a perfect ending. Dedicated to "the librarians then, now, and in the years to come," get ready for a rare novel about the meaning and preservation of the ancient text's message that is tied to the preservation of humanity and Mother Earth.
This charming story takes place in 1954 over ten days, though it feels like it's a lifetime as each character's background stories are revealed in the novel's process. Besides learning about the Lincoln Highway, which stretches from Times Square to San Francisco, a great deal of fascinating data is shared through the voice of the delightful 8-year old Billy Watson. I devoured the hefty 600-page book, though I wished I could have made it last longer . . . but I was too drawn in to not soak up every word. It's a treasure of a read.
“The Wicked Deep” YA author Shea Ernshaw is quoted as saying: “I live in an imaginary world. And sometimes, I live in a small mountain town in Oregon. I have been writing stories and crafting characters since I was young — filling notebooks with stories about magical horses and eerie underworlds.” Her new adult fiction novel is at first a seat-of-your-pants mystery that slowly reveals itself to be a story about one strong-willed person who turns a group of gullible cult followers into brainwashed weaklings. The setting is as beautiful as the story is haunting.
Heather Morris’ “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” is an historical novel, written in 2018, that has to be remembered through time. It wasn’t until the end of her newest book “Three Sisters” that I was fully able to grasp that YES! this is another true story, narrated by three Jewish sisters who, miraculously together, survived the death camps. Morris documented their childhood Slovakian lives and the lives they endured while imprisoned for three years: how they were deathly ill and starving and petrified and constantly on guard, yet determined to survive. The novel ends with a lifeline update on each sister, their spouses and their extended families. How remarkable these victims of Nazi persecution were able to recount the brutality of Birkenau and Auschwitz to Morris and the “happy-ending” story that the hell they endured eventually led them to their freedom and lives in Israel.
I admire Ruth Ozeki for the quirky characters she creates, people I am compelled to reach out to and take care of. In her newest novel, misfits are shaped by the tragedies that take them down, cause them to wallow in their weirdness. Benny Oh is a likable 14 year-old boy who begins to hear voices after his beloved jazz musician father dies in a stupid disastrous manner. Those voices have emotions that range from pleasant to painful; they are insistent and belong to everyday items (like his shoes) and they are making him freakier by the day. Meanwhile his mother, a well-meaning over-bearing woman, becomes a hoarder in her grief, making Benny even more agitated and dysfunctional. He finds solace and friends who are just as flawed in the public library where he escapes to where he gives in to the voices that are taking over his mind. The main voice he hears is The Book, a "character" in the novel we eventually realize is the narrator of the story, and that eventually helps Benny make sense of his madness. Ozeki's vivid imagery jumps off the page and into the heart of the reader. It's easy to feel compassion rather than pity for the eccentric people we encounter, which is a lovely gift from Ozeki. I am grateful for the glimpse I had into her respect for humanity.
My curiosity about the Norwegian fjords in the Arctic Circle has been sated with this stunningly honest historical novel that depicts the hardships of life in the frigid far north. Stockholm Sven's story of his self-banishment in the 1900’s to a life of solitary confinement in the frozen wild is a moving tale of the people and family who come and go in and out of his life and give him strength as he struggles mentally and physically to make a go of the harsh environment he calls home. Written with the kind of tenderness that makes you want to put your arms around the people who make this lovely book a treasure to read.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti founded City Lights Bookstore and its publishing house in San Francisco in 1955, launching the press with the Pocket Poets Series. Allen Ginsberg's "Howl & Other Poems," Number Four in the series, was such a success, the Pocket Poets Series became the vanguard of the literary counterculture. This 60th anniversary edition is a milestone retrospective of City Lights’ 60-year history of publishing, representing poets from each of the 60 volumes, many of whom were members of the Beat Generation and the San Francisco Renaissance, as well as writers translated from Spanish, German, Russian, andDutch. A gem of an anthology.
As a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, Lizzie Johnson reported on fifteen of the deadliest, largest, and most destructive blazes in modern-day California history. Garnered from interviews of some of those who managed to find safety, on-the-ground reporting, and public records and 911 calls, this book is a spell-binding minute-by-minute firsthand account of the California Camp Fire that burnt to the ground the mountain community of Paradise, California. Along with revealing what went wrong, she provides the reader with intimate details of a handful of residents and first responders and the ordeals they went through to get out alive and unscathed by the fires.
This book is singer/songwriter Grammy nominated Mary Gauthier unzipped, where she reveals everything and all about her journey away from alcohol, drug, and sex addiction to learning how to, and becoming, a successful songwriter and singer who found herself on the Stage of Success. Mary is one of those few storytellers whose down to earth words ring true and familiar to other creative minds, words that do not proselytize or reek of ego. This is a fine confessional autobiography that has a way of calming the soul as we witness the life lessons Mary picked up along the way. Her voice is strong and enticing. The reader cannot help but feel invited to sit by her side as she takes us onto the ride that is her life story. For the uninitiated, Mary’s voice and messages....and now her book....are not to be overlooked. This moving and honest autobiography/memoir by one of America's most talented singer/songwriters is a must-read. If you've ever wondered how a songwriter's song is born, here’s the answer.
Get ready to have the rug pulled out from under you with this rollercoaster of a who-dun-it. Paula Hawkins has yet again come up with an entangled thriller complete with a bloody murder on page one, and full of creepy people, seemingly normal people, and truly messed up people who fill the pages of this brilliant page-turner. Needing to put all the pieces together in my head, I read it in one day, getting more and more creeped out as the truth started to unravel. Wow! What a thrilled!
Founded in 1946, the small independent publishing house Farrar and Straus added literary editor Robert Giroux to their firm in 1955. He brought with him leading writers, especially poets, which elicited FSG’s identity as publishers of poetry. This collection marks FSG’s 75th anniversary to honor Robert Giroux and includes nearly all the poets they published from the 1950’s to present. What a treat.
This is a powerfully honest novel that takes place between 1827 and 1861 about the founding of Texas and the appalling hatred, racism, and violence towards slaves, Indians, and anybody who didn’t think like the Evil White Men who formed this country. The protagonists both fled their homes for a better life: young Duncan fled his Kentucky home and parents after his father discovered him having sexual relations with another man and Cecilia, a Virginia slave who fled to find her freedom. Thoroughly researched with strong character development, the story read so accurate, Western actor Sam Elliott was Duncan’s voice in my mind. I highly recommend this book as a significant read, as well as being a slice of life from American history.
A biographical novel imagining/recreating the life of the renowned writer Thomas Mann, who lived a life of prosperity and deep dark secrets. The Mann family saga spans 50 years in this deeply private portrayal of Thomas Mann, his commanding wife Katia (who bore 6 children during their lifetime), and how they endured living through WW I, Hitler's WWII, the Cold War, and Thomas Mann's sexual desire for men. An exquisitely written novel.
"Migrations" author Charlotte McConaghy's new novel takes place in a remote area of the Scottish Highlands, where conflict builds between the sheep-farming residents and the team of biologists who have reintroduced wolves in the Highlands in hopes of saving the dying landscape. Stories like these tug hard at my heartstrings, as it's usually the case that man wins over nature and the wold animals, which is the case in this dual love story between biologist Inti Flynn and the wolves, and Inti Flynn and the local police chief. I learned a great deal about wolves and their ways and their disappearance around the world and am grateful to Charlotte McConaghy for opening my eyes to this beautiful animal who adds so much to the survival of nature's ecosystem. Sadly, it's timely, as we wait for our current administration to return restrictions on the hunting and killing of wolves that our previous president removed.
An historical novel spanning generations of a family that is connected to a magical secret circus located in Paris of the 1920's . . . and the decades-long mystery surrounding the disappearance of their loved ones. Gorgeous descriptions of the most beautifully bizarre circus one could ever imagine witnessing abound in this fantasy mystery that does not fail to grab every bit of your attention. Have fun being transported to the “Annees Folies” of Paris.
Sad, unbelievably sad, who-dun-it, but a page-turner that I was so drawn in to, I read it straight through in one sitting (it helps that I have a hard time sleeping.) We learn at the very start about the beautiful red-head teenage Abigail going missing and we assume she's not coming back — from the dead or wherever she ran off to. Our reading time is spent suffering the racist, homophobic, misogynist, abusive, and out-right despicable bible-thumping residents, who go back generations, of Whistling Ridge, a small town near Estes Park, Colorado. The kids party, the poverty is deep, and the line between good and evil is strong, especially when all the town's secrets are revealed. I won't give the ending away, but justice does prevail, after lots of spilt blood and spewed wicked anger.
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It's hard to believe this is a debut novel for writer Eileen Garvin. This book has been compared to author Gail Honeyman’s “Eleanor Oliphant.” A lovingly told story, rich with characters I would enjoy having as my next-door neighbors or best friend's kids, the story takes place on a bee farm in rural Oregon. Having the utmost respect for bees and beekeepers, it was an extra special treat to be taken into that world. The protagonist's father's destructive revilement of his son is utterly horrific and distressing to read, but that's what makes the story the story. It is heartbreaking, yet this tender novel redeems itself in a heartwarming way.
The sadness of this book remained in my heart from page one, to the very end. Fifty-one year old twins Julius and Jeanie, living in a small rustic cottage in the remote English countryside they share with their mother, wake one morning to discover their mother dead from a stroke in the parlor, turning their entire lives upside down. One unfortunate event after another quickly leaves them homeless, penniless and hungry, misjudged and mistreated. Wanting to scream at them to do something to help themselves, we witness their situation get worse . . . and worse. Deep into the story we learn they have been fed one lie after another from their mother, who was trying to protect them and to keep them in her company, lies that forever impacted the "normal' lives the twins might have led. One pitiful affront to the twins leads to another and another, and when you think it can't get worse, it does. The story ends with a teeny bit of salvation. but not enough to erase the feeling of hopelessness and sorrow for these poor people. Incredibly well written, but not for the weak of heart.
THE GIRLS IN THE STILT HOUSE - Kelly Mustian
This book deserves to be up at the top of the list of must-read Southern writers. Remarkably, it's a debut novel! Set in the Natchez Trace of the 1920's, not far from the author's Mississippi childhood home, she painted vivid pictures of the Trace, not exactly romantic because of the abject poverty in which most of the people lived, but lovely images of the natural environment. I felt an affinity to the two females characters, a single poor abused pregnant young white woman and a headstrong poor Black women ‑ finding myself captivated by the way their disparate, yet sadly similar life stories were intertwined. A distressing story about male chauvinism, racism, and abuse, "The Girls in the Stilt House" is also moving and truly beautifully written, giving insight into the bonds women are capable of creating despite their cultural, physical, and economic opportunities and differences.
What a story, what a page-turner, what a surprise outcome. The pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you shocking death of childhood best friends and the homeless teenage girl who may or may not have had a part in their deaths makes for a story not to be believed. The girl, pregnant from one of the boys — or not ‑ pretty much adopts one of the boys’ grieving father who has a heart of gold and a need to take care of this girl who appears at his doorstep from nowhere, from the woods of the great Northwest where the story takes place, with no knowledge of where she came from or her history with his son. This is a moving story and a really good cliffhanger. Enjoy and embrace. Love is love.
Nora Seed is facing a life-or-death decision, literally, when she suddenly finds herself in an otherworld “library” in which she is forced to search deep within herself. In The Midnight Library she travels through different times in her life, where she is exposed to the what-if’s we all ponder over . . . and how her life impacted others. Much like Frank Capra’s holiday film “It’s A Wonderful Life,” she learns why life is worth living and how those she met along the way would not have been the same without her. This Big Hit of a book is ultimately a feel-good reminder to embrace the choices we make and to not live a life full of regrets.
This homage to the beloved chef, food writer, and food travel guide is written/edited by his assistant Laurie Woolever. Gathering quotes and details written by Bourdain about some of his favorite restaurants and hotels worldwide, we get another opportunity to relish in Bourdain's discoveries, in his words, and, along with info on how to get there, where to stay as well as what to order. Lovely graphics and illustrations make this book even more of a gem.
This novel is on par with every literary novel I've read over the past 40 years that has remained a part of me. Beautifully written with an obvious love and admiration for strong families, the story is a microscopic unzipping of a family at the end of the 1950's and the tumultuous 1960's on their entire family structure. The story takes place on the nature-battered coast of Maine, in the home of Margreete, the matriarchal grandmother who the story is built around, and each member of the family's relationship to and with her. The children are young when they move into their grandmother's home. We witness their growth, their insecurities, and the changing family dynamics that are impacted by the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the Vietnam War on this loving family. I found nearly every sentence worthy of re-reading.
Page-turner alert! Paula McLain, bestselling author of "The Paris Wife," has written a tragic suspense novel that captured my attention starting on page one. With breathtaking descriptions of the coastline and woods of Northern California and harrowing images of a desperation for survival, the real-life tragedy of Polly Klass' abduction makes for a nail-biting first-rate novel. Part autobiographical, McLain allows us a glimpse at her own childhood as she uses that memory, along with her imagination, to build a sense of healing and to construct honest-to-goodness good storytelling.
This story is a deeply haunting, heart-pounding thriller about two young boys who flee into the woods of northern Wisconsin, absolutely sure that they've committed a horrific crime. It is also a deeply touching story of friendship and love, and how blindfolding fear can be. Andrew Graff does a terrific job pulling the reader into the minds of the two ten-year olds, building tension between them, along with building tension around the underlying story of what led them to wind up escaping to the woods. A page-turner written with the skill one would expect from really good literary fiction.
Every morning my iPhone receives a recipe from the New York Times. Throughout the past year of shutdowns and avoiding restaurants, I've used these recipes to make meals I otherwise would not have considered creating. Not one to use cookbooks or recipes, I've always made "refrigerator meals" in which I use what's on hand in the fridge and cupboard to make my made-up dishes. In his "No-Recipe Recipes" cookbook, Sam Sifton of the NYT newsletter "What to Cook," shares this same method of using what's on hand to create meals. The book opens with a list of must-have ingredients and their versatility and function. Each dish features a simple list of ingredients and even simpler cooking instructions and a gorgeous full-page color photo of the finished dish. "Join me in cooking this new, improvisational way, without recipes," says Sifton, who also provides tips and modifications so you can truly come up with your own interpretation of his 100 delicious dish suggestions.
A love letter to an 800-year old oak tree in North Essex, England, and moving a meditation on nature's beauty, curiosities, and healing powers. James Canton writes poetic descriptions along with a history lesson of this great tree. His journal entries detail changes in the air, the birds, and the insects who inhabit, feed on, and nurture the tree. I could write on and on about the majesty of the tree and more so on the joy of reading Canton's discoveries and what he's learned about this colossal tree (that would have been a sapling when the Magna Carta was signed.) Treat yourself to an ode to the natural world with this perfect companion for walks in the woods, bird watching, or simply embracing the beauty and mysteries of old trees.
A picture book allegory drawing an analogy between people and trees, as individuals and as living within a community. With sweet illustrations, this is lyrical lesson for children includes the anatomy of trees and humans!
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As painful and horrific as it was to read the story of this family of seven children and their over-the-top-dysfunctional and diabolically abusive parents, it's beautifully written, with impeccable emotional insights. One can't help but feel like a voyeur reading the details of the childhood abuse in this novel that doesn't reference to the real-life crimes that inspired the book. Abigail Dean leads the reader to care deeply for Girl A, compelling you to root for her rather than pity her. This is Abigail Dean's debut novel and is sure to be passed through the hands of many readers who will be grateful for the skilled writing and storytelling and pining for more!
It's been many years since author Jane Smiley, whose 1991 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award bestseller "A Thousand Acres," has been in my book radar. What a Big Treat it was to discover that not only has Jane Smiley published a new novel to share with her fan base, she's written a story with delightfully unique voices who have a timely message to share with the world. From page one and through the last page, I found myself utterly hooked, falling head over heels in love with each and every character who include a racehorse, a raven, two ducks, two rats, and an 8-year old Parisian boy. Smiley rejoices in the animal world and their commanding communication skills, showing her readers that all living things desire freedom, love, and understanding. I highly recommend this absolutely charming read and can't say it loud enough: I named "Perestroika in Paris" Literati Bookstore All-Time Favorite for 2020!
This is an incredibly moving and enlightening memoir honoring the life of Ruth Coker Burks, who dedicated herself to recognizing and caring for AIDS-inflicted men who, left utterly alone, literally battled for their lives during the heinous and ignorant time in America when AIDS patients were viewed as having the cooties. Ms. Burks is not a household name in the history of AIDS, but she should be — her altruistic advocacy led her to advising Governor Bill Clinton on the national HIV-AIDS crisis.
Kristin Hannah's newest historical novel is painfully accurate about a time in US history that beat people to a pulp and literally filled their mouths with the dust of dry earth, rather than food: the Dust Bowl storms and the Great Depression of the 1930's. As achingly honest as "The Grapes of Wrath," Hannah has written a quiet tear-jerker about Elsa Martinelli, her daughter Loreda, and her mother-in-law Rosa's dysfunctional personal and family relationships and their struggle to survive the unrelenting storms, with descriptions so real you feel like the dust is swirling around you as you read.
I am grateful to Justine Cowan for writing this painful and difficult biography of her mother's life. It's hard to believe that human beings — children — can be so ill-treated, so unloved, so uncared for, and so disrespected, as was her mother's childhood experience. Cowan's brutal honesty might provide strength to all of us children who, like Justine, and like Dorothy, suffered from the cruelty described as she reveals her mother's regrettable story. "Without tenderness and security in early childhood, the ability to form meaningful and healthy attachments is irrevocably damaged" was my very own mother's childhood reality. Cowan's discoveries lit a lightbulb for me that finding forgiveness is never too late.
Una, you got me with the first sentence: "The night we left Ellen on the road, we were driving north up 252 near where it meets 2020 and then crosses the Pennsylvania Turnpike." I knew instantly this was going to be a page turner and would be about either a dog or a girl. Either way, I was ready. Oh, and it probably would be taking place in the mountains, and it would take place outdoors. Una Mannion, how can this be your debut novel? It's got so much depth to it, yet it's like an old familiar story. Suspenseful, yes. Empathetic, yes that too. Admiration for nature, totally. Spending time with this small community of young people who are witness to family dysfunctions based on fears and deep needs for privacy is like reading about any neighborhood, USA. The bonds and the bitterness, the grief and anger, the secrets . . . all these emotions are so tenderly expressed — in the voice of coming-of-age teenagers who could have been me or my brothers or my friends. Well done Una.
At a time when more people than ever are on the edge of homelessness due to the pandemic and 2021's catastrophic winter storms that are causing devastation the country, this novel is an eye-opener into an out-of-sight/out-of-mind population. A timeless story, reading this book one can't help but assume this book is about the homeless and drug abuse culture of the Haight of the 1960's, though the novel actually speaks to the current day culture of homelessness in SF. The story follows Maddy, a homeless 20-year old young woman who becomes caught up in the drama of identifying (and staying clear of) the killer of a murder she happens upon, and the "family" she creates on the streets of San Francisco and in Golden Gate Parks. One can't help but embrace and cheer on many of the characters who we come to know, youths who choose to live off the grid and find their own way.
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It's not hard to appreciate historical fiction when it is as well-researched and captivating as Janet Charles' The Paris Library. As an obsessive reader and lover of libraries — I grew up visiting Detroit's beautiful downtown Main Library, on Woodward Avenue, every Saturday and Sunday while a Detroit high school student — the story of Odile Souchet's pains and joys as a Parisian librarian before and during the Nazi occupation of Paris is vividly descriptive of her library patrons, her own personal struggles, and the bookshelves themselves. A heart wrenching story that switches from Odile's 1939 through 1944 France and the heartwarming relationship we watch develop with her teenage next door neighbor, Lily, and Lily's family, in rural Montana of 1983-1989.
Ann Arbor writer Keith Taylor spent several weeks, at two different times in his life, on Isle Royale in northern Michigan as a part of the National Park Service's Artist-in-Residence program, in 1991 and again in 2019. This sweet chapbook, published by Alice Greene & Co., is Taylor's prose and poetry ruminations written during his wilderness immersion and his reemergence into "Twenty-first Century Wild." From the gorgeous front and back cover painting by Kathleen M. Heideman to the lovely and visually alert words on each page, this little gem of a book is a must-have companion to take along on hikes and camping out in the Michigan woods.
Last weekend I was desperately in need of a certain kind of read that would me take to a place unlike where I've been spending the last fews month with the books I've been reading: all novels about climate crisis, pain, and angst. Thank goodness for Ann Patchett, one of my very favorite authors, for her charming quirky five decades-long story about the Conroy family. Patchett, so adept at character development, has once again painted for the reader relatable, larger-than-life people. Except for Andrea and Celeste, who we are not meant to like, I instantly felt at home with each member of the extended Conroy family, as well as fantasizing about moving into the Dutch House with them. "The Dutch House" is a love affair with the Conroys, as much as it is a love affair with the glorious Philadelphia mansion in which it takes places. I'd love to live with this delightful group of people in the house Ann Patchett created with great imagination. Now what am I going to read?!
Alice Quinn, former executive director of the Poetry Society of America and poetry editor at The New Yorker contacted poets around the country to see what they were writing while under the covid-19 quarantine. What she gathered is this collection around grief, strength, anger, worries, politics, wisdom, and humanity as poets expressed their experiences while sheltering in place. This is an important collaboration of American writers sharing their voices during this year of surreal reality.
A different take on story-telling, it is a pleasure to be treated to fiction writers works of poetry. Margaret Atwood's new collection begins with a glance back at her life, losses, and the things we collect throughout a lifetime. Moving on from human life she addresses nature with both humor and tenderness as in "Cicadas," her recognition of the orchestra we are treated to in the heat of the summer. The 8-part "Songs for Murdered Sisters," a song cycle written for baritone Joshua Hopkins in honor of his murdered sister, is in-your-face real and tragic. What I appreciate in this collection is how Ms. Atwood moves from aging and life's endings, to her gratefulness to life's treasures.
There couldn't be a more timely novel to read during the world-wide coronavirus crisis. "Room" novelist Emma Donoghue has written an eye-opener of a story about midwife Nurse Julia Power on the frontline of the devastating 1918 flu epidemic in the maternity ward of the Dublin hospital where she works. Riveting no-holds-barred descriptions of birthing, and life and death scenarios, this is a deeply compassionate book of hope and courage against all odds.
I do alot of backyard and neighborhood bird watching. I own more bird books than one person needs, but my very most favorite is nature photographer Stan Tekiela's perfect pocket-size Field Guide to the Birds of Michigan. His clear and concise color photos are spot-on, making it easy to quickly identify birds. The book is sensibly organized by color of birds. A color-coded range map of Michigan identifies the seasons birds can be seen around the State. Stan's Notes, featured on every page, add even more helpful information.
This middle grade reader story, told entirely in letters written from one sister to her other sister, is tender and beautiful and sad and hopeful and a brilliant homage to Jews attempting to flee Europe before it was too late. Based on the author’s family history, the novel gracefully honors and speaks to the resilience of displaced Polish Jews and the country they came to call home, Cuba.
The original version of Baba Ram Dass’s spiritual manifest was first published in 1971 by the Lama Foundation. I remember it was a long, thick, oversized (think coffee table book) paperback book that was given away free of charge to yoga and spiritual disciples around the world. Now in its 40th+ printing, it is the same cherished treatise as the original. I especially adore that the publishers still use the same large all-caps rubber-stamped font and beautiful hindu graphics printed on the same brown kraft paper, and still spread the concept of love and meditation. “Jai Hanuman!”
New York Times bestselling nature writer Sy Montgomery's "The Soul of an Octopus" is a tender and heartwarming exploration of the physical and emotional world of octopuses. One of nature's most incredible creations, Montgomery reveals the brilliant minds of octopus, their sense of humor and curiosity, and their mindblowing ability to connect with humans. The book is a moving love story and a fascinating revelation on what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two different minds. I can't recommend this book highly enough — it is simply a delight to read about Montgomery's visits with Athena, an octopus who resides in Boston's New England Aquarium.
What initially caught my attention to this wonderful exploration of the lives of birds was the gorgeous cover . . . and of course, the title. How fascinating it is to learn why birds sing, the phenomenon of their ability to fly, what they are able to tell us about seasons, their place in the world, and much much more. This beautifully illustrated book scratches at our itch and curiosity in wanting to understand what it is to be a bird.
I've never given an ounce of thought to ancient Egyptian history. After devouring this complicated love story built around an archeological dig site, I'm totally in! Incredibly fascinating behind-the-scenes who/what/where/how data surrounding Ancient Egypt and digs are detailed thanks to Jodi Picoult's thorough research on everything Ancient Egypt: death and dying, mummies, grammar and prose and hieroglyphics, Egyptian society, the gods and goddesses of Ancient Egypt, plus physics and so much more. First and foremost "The Book of Two Ways" is an entangled love story complete with intrigue around the fully-developed cast of characters. The captivating Egypt I lesson is an added treat. I tend to avoid mushy-gushy love stories, but this is one I can say "read on and enjoy the ride!"
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I've said it before, I'll say it again: I am a huge Billy Collins fan. I find his writing to be comforting and . . . "natural." He writes about everyday things, like watching an ant walk across a kitchen table, or the annoyance of the neighbor's barking dog. Collins has a delightful sense of humor, though his work is in no way "comedic." This is his 13th book of poetry and every bit as good and delightful as the last one — which is always my most treasured — until the next collection comes out. I can't say that any one of them is my all-time favorite, although currently this new collection just knocks me out. I do adore them all equally. Read "Anniversary" on page 99 to get a sense of the serious and sentimental side of Billy Collins. Then, go to page 42 for a good chuckle over "Listening to Hank Mobley Around 11 O'Clock After a Long Fun Boozy Dinner, the Four of Us, at Captain Pig's, Our Favorite Restaurant in Town." There you go. Enjoy.
This is Barbara Kingsolver's second collection of poetry. I carried with me and read in parks, in trees, on benches, in bed, on a little boat her first collection, published in 1992, "Another America: Otra America." I read it out loud for only myself to hear. At that point Ms. Kingsolver had published four books: two novels, "Animal Dreams" and "Bean Trees," a collection of short stories, and a book about the women of the 1983 Arizona Mine Strike. I fell in love with her writing. Now, dozens of years and bestsellers later, she has written her second poetry collection, in which she reflects on the practical, the spiritual, and the wild. The collection opens with how-to poems that touch on everyday life such as marriage and divorce, shearing a sheep, doing absolutely nothing, and flying! In the middle are poems about making peace. She finishes the collection with poems honoring the natural world. As she has done throughout her accomplished writing career, Barbara Kingsolver has presented the reader with questions and answers that are ultimately about evolution and hope.
No book about the wild west compares to Larry McMurtry's epic novel that follows two aging Texas Rangers who embark on one more cow herding adventure. You'll find yourself laughing on one page, crying on the next, and hoping the story never ends. McMurtry is at his best building picturesque characters who pull at your heart and become larger than life. I look forward to a break in my life so I can get utterly lost in this wonderful book all over again.
Naturalist writer Helen MacDonald shares her deep love for birds and nature in this new essay collection of her observations of the world of birds. Each piece is a delicate vignette of minute, sensitive discoveries in the natural world. I so admire Helen MacDonald for her heatfelt appreciation of all the things in nature that pull at my own heart. I nominate her "Queen of Nature Writing."
Bestselling author Christina Baker Kline does it again! The prolific author of "Orphan Train" and "A Piece of the World" has written another compelling and emotional historical novel. "The Exiles" follows the horrific overseas journey young imprisoned women, many pregnant, of 19th century London are forced to take when they are moved away from the UK to a penal colony in Australia. Revealing the oppression, sexism, hardship, and hope of three women’s lives who intersect on the ship, it was eye-opening to read Christina Baker Kline's take of the vile treatment of underprivileged women. I highly recommend this book that is a sad reminder of misogyny that continues to exist yet ends with hope and faith that good people do exist.
Such a sad little story. Hamnet was the only son of William Shakespeare and the fraternal twin of Judith Shakespeare. Sweet to read of the deep love between Shakespeare and his naturalist wife Agnes, a woman disliked and misunderstood for her affinity to the natural world, and bittersweet to read this short tale of Hamnet's early death at the age of 11 during the plague of the 1500's. According to Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt, the names Hamnet and Hamlet were entirely interchangeable at the time, though there is no definitive clue that they were one and the same. I found the beautiful writing to be a perfect tonic to the news of the day, an escape from the political reality one finds difficult to ignore. If you find yourself drawn to real life stories, fiction or not, about life's hardships, be sure to read Maggie O'Farrell's newest novel.
I've been a fan of Ursula Hegi's writing since reading "Floating in My Mother's Palm," just one of her many novels that take a unique look at mother/daughter relationships. Her writing is exquisite, her storytelling captivating. I was immediately drawn into the tragic beginning of "The Patron Saint of Pregnant Girls," finding St. Margaret's Home for Pregnant Girls to be a sweet distraction from the story's start. Hegi is adept at building and intertwining characters, but I had difficulty keeping up with who was connected to whom and how. The dramatic build-up to the ending was rather anti-climactic after the melodrama throughout the story. I recommend reading it, but don't expect it to be your most favorite Hegi novel.
This was one of the hardest books for me to read. I started reading it months ago but had to put it down. I would see it in on my shelf, wanting to return to it but afraid of it. This week I finally made myself commit to reading and finishing it, despite the wrenching pain and anger I knew it would cause. OK . . . not the most positive beginning to a review, but the subject matter is heartbreaking. I'll just point out that I am a fanatic bird lover. Migrations is a novel about loss in the largest sense: mass extinction of the natural world. Charlotte McConaghy's perspective on our world's future is not in any way far-fetched; sadly it's only too true. She does a fine job weaving a love story around a bit of intrigue and a lot of science-world reality. I'm ready to start her newest novel about wolves, Once There Were Wolves, which will be another hard read for me, but necessary for accepting our changed world.
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Pultizer Prize awarded Hector Tobar culled together vagabond world-traveler Joe Sanderson's lifetime of writing in "The Last Great Road Bum." Joe's journey began in Mexico City in 1960 at the age of 18. He spent the next 22 years traveling to war-torn countries from Vietnam to Nigeria and everywhere in between, in his quest for a life worth writing about. Joe died in El Salvador, writing about and fighting side by side with the guerilla rebels during the Salvadoran Civil War. Tobar has posthumously created Sanderson's great American novel taken verbatim, and with extrapolation, from the two decades of writing about Sanderson's world travels and experiences as a road bum, as well as interviewing the people across the globe who Joe wrote about in his journals. I predict this epic novel will be a Big Book in 2020. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Reading Mikel Jollett's memoir made me feel like I was a voyeur at the scene of a horrific accident. It is a candid, somber account in which Jollett shares his heartbreaking childhood memories and lifetime struggle with severe depression and emotional insecurity. We learn early on that he and his older brother, Tony, were born in the commune that became the famous California Synanon cult, where children were removed from their parents at birth and housed in the commune's "orphanage." Jollett takes us deep inside his head as he confronts he and his brother's painful years of attempts and failures at trying to cope with the biological family they were born into: poverty, alcohol and drug addiction, and their mother's undiagnosed mental illness. The honesty of the writing kept me deeply enthralled in this slice-of-life story. Mikel Jollett is frontman for the LA indie rock band the Airborne Toxic Event.
Karen Dionne is the bestselling, award-winning author of "The Marsh King's Daughter." Her latest novel, built around two sister's lifetime dysfunctional and tormented relationship, is a kind of fun who-done-it, but there's nothing funny about it. The suspense builds and builds, as we come to fall for one sister, despise the other, and wonder what the heck happened here . . . and why? Taking place in the woods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, let your imagination run wild while reading of the beautiful natural surroundings of northern Michigan, as you get truly freaked out while inside the big, spooky house in which the story takes place.
"I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth." So begins bestselling author Sue Monk Kidd's newest novel. Crafted around the premise "would the Judea/Christian world have been different if Jesus had had a wife like Ana?" Ana is an erudite and spirited first-century woman with the "chutzpah" to speak her mind. The power of Ana's tenets, the patriarchal efforts to silence them, and the tender depiction of Jesus and their marriage together make this a riveting novel. Follow Ana's journey, from the betrayal of her family, to finding true love in Jesus, and in the remarkable women she shares her life with after Jesus' death. This is an incredibly intriguing story. Go beyond the religious history you've known and visualize Kidd's premise.
If you are a fan of Isabel Allende's writing, as I am, you will find A LONG PETAL OF THE SEA will remain with you long after reading. A bittersweet love story spanning decades, entwined around the battlegrounds of the Spanish Civil War, Pinochet's take-over of the liberal Chilean government, and a finding of place. I found this novel to be a beautifully written historical fiction of love and family, war and tolerance, hope and forgiveness, and the determined will to survive. Inspired by the true story of Spanish and Chilean exiles' excape to freedom, with a poingnant love story built in. Give that the political and economical environment is still unsettled in these countries, the book is timely and informative of the horrific battles people still endure to gain civil and human rights.
Anybody who delights in collecting and using typewriters will adores this book, a love letter to typewriters, typists, and most especially to on-the-road typewriter poets who busk poetry for cash. I had no idea a culture of writers who travel to random places, turning stranger’s stories into off-the-cuff poems existed. Asking strangers “What do you need a poem about?” led Poet Brian Sonia-Wallace to “wow, really, you can do that?” gigs, i.e. a residency at the Mall of America; writing in the Poetry Brothel at Electric Forest in Rothbury, Michigan; winning an Amtrak contest in which he did what he does best while riding the rails; and composing poems at weddings, showers and parties. Brian’s memoir is full of delightful anecdotes and proof that he’s damned good at coming up with a good poem on the spot.
This book screamed at me "READ ME!!" It's writer, illustrator, film animator, German-born American artist, Nora Krug's beautiful scrapbook around her discoveries of her German family's WWII connection to the Holocaust. Each page of Krug's graphic memoir integrates her hand-drawn images with the archival materials, family photos and letters, and compelling Nazi paraphernalia she uncovered in her search for the truth about her ancestors. Speaking to my fixation on the Holocaust and to my love of collage work, I was drawn in to the artist's shocking discoveries and the visually engaging illustrations and materials she used to document her findings. I've been recommending this book to readers who have a curious itch to collect and absorb information about the Holocaust.
You know that feeling you get when you're caught up in a book, a really good telling of a story, and you just want to move in with it and stay there? That's how Sarah Winman's TIN MAN makes me feel. A dear love story that celebrates love, kindness, and friendship while speaking the truth about heartbreak, pain, and loss. This book is so quiet, it's like poetry in its simplicity in the writer's choice of words. Having just re-read the book after its 2017 publication, it gives me joy to share this lovely story . . . that I'm sure you will cherish as well. Now that I've re-read it, I look forward to bringing the story back into my heart in a few years, when I'll read it all over again. It's that precious.
Artist Maira Kalman, my all-time favorite artist/illustrator/writer is also my hero. Oh, if only she and I could sit together in a cleverly-designed room or garden to share our life stories and appreciate the wonderful art-filled lives we’ve both experienced, I would be one happy camper. Known for her no-longer published “Max” chidrens books, her view of the world is probably considered quirky and colorful, though to me it’s utterly enchanting, fun, and very important art. This lovely book features hundreds of her paintings, drawings, sketchbook pages, doodles, and journal entries, as well as rarely seen photographs, stills from performance pieces and examples of her embroidery. This celebration of Maira Kalman, who has lived a life dedicated to the making and experiencing of art, is a book I cherish . . . and hope you will too!
A brilliantly witty, laugh out loud, absolutely perfect piece of literature about aristocracy, bolshevik russia, gentlemanly manners, the courtesy of good manners, and the preparation of and dining on fabulous meals while drinking the perfectly paired wine. "A Gentleman in Moscow" is exactly the kind of charming novel I seek, to remind me that such writing exists. Just read it. You will thank me for my encouragement and, like me, wish it would never end.
This is a story to be read with a good imagination and a love for the outdoors and wilderness. It is simply lovely, exquisitely written, and deeply touching. The descriptions of 19020’s frontier Alaska and homesteading are woven into a bittersweet tale of hard work, loneliness, love, belief, and faith in people and animals, making this magical debut a warm page-turner. I am ready to read the book all over again.
I love love love this precious book that Oliver Jeffers wrote and illustrated to welcome his son, his first child. Jeffers, a talented, charming, and clever writer/illustrator, is one of my all-time favorites (alongside Maira Kalman!) Ths picture book is a beautifully magical introduction to the wonders of Earth and everything beyond ,with the most gorgeous images and sentiment. Did I say I love this book?! Yes, I did!
Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook was my very first health-food bible in my early 20's. My original 1977 version became so stained and over-used it was barely readable. In 1992 I broke down and purchased the 2nd edition, a huge improvement over the first edition's confusing index. The newer 2014 edition features the same familiar cover, hand-written recipes and graphics, with even more recipes and an even better index. Mollie Katzen was a trendsetter for the farm-to-table, organic, vegetarian recipes we now take for granted, dishes served in the nearly 50-year old Ithaca, NY collective-owned Moosewood Restaurant that inspired the cookbook. The New York Times named Ms. Katzen as one of the best-selling cookbook authors of all time. Share this must-have cookbook with your children and grandchildren! It's quite delicious!
I love this poetry collection! Written in a cabin on a pond in rural Vermont during three seasons, these little (and not so little) jots of thoughts are a delightful read. “Big Cabin” on page 3 is why I had to take this book of poetry home with me. It simply says it like it is. There are silly poems here, as well as deeply canny. You get the sense that each poem is entirely written in the moment, in a matter of moments, and something you might very well have come up with.
A totally frightening yet utterly transfixing non-fictional narrative that takes place in Chicago of 1893. The White City was architect Daniel Burnham's creation of the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition. The Devil, using the fair as a draw, was murderer H.H. Holmes, a Svengali-type who lured young women to a building near the fairgrounds, where he did horrific things to them before murdering them. Not knowing each other, their simultaneous stories are vividly detailed in this white-knuckle page-turner. With meticulously researched historical facts and people of note at the time, this book is truly stranger than fiction.
2004 Edgar Award for Best Fact-Crime Writing
No. 1 New York Times bestseller.
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Of the thousands of reasons I love NYC, riding the subway is at the top of my list. This book -- and the project -- is the reason why. Imagine you are standing or seated in a crowded dank subway, trying to not read the awful ads above the seats, making sure to avert your gaze from other riders, when your wandering eyes alight on a framed poem attached to the subway car wall. Oh what a treat! I search for this brilliant art installation every time I ride the subway, especially for my favorite poem that I've sat next to on many subway rides. It never fails to remind me how rich life can be. Turn to pages 98/99 to former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith's poem "The Good Life."
A rather delightful anthology inspired by poet laureate Billy Collins and the Library of Congress' poem-a-day program, in which high school students around the country are read one poem a day during the 180 days of a semester. Published in 2003, this diverse collection was selected by Billy Collins to present short, clear contemporary poems which any listener could "get" on first reading. Featuring such poets as Marie Howe, Charles Bukowski, Robert Bly, Naomi Shibab Nye, and Mary Ruefle, among others, it's a gratifying read. I found Poem 001, Billy Collins' "Introduction to Poetry" on page 3 to be a perfect introduction to this collection, encouraging readers to look, listen, and react to a poem's nuances, rather than disssecting it. Just as perfect is Ted Kooser's "Selecting a Reader" on page 4, which is self-explanatory and quite amusing.
leaving no stones unturned, music critic david yaffe reveals ALL about beloved folk icon, joni mitchell, who opened our hearts and ears to a singular style of beautiful music and lyrics. immerse yourself in your own joni song memories and discover why she wrote them. connect the songs to the lovers they were written about, the hearts she broke and those who broke hers. learn about the singer/songwriter who changed our lives when we were young and innocent to the world.
"we are stardust
we are golden
and we've got to get ourselves
back to the garden."
What a sweet way to introduce a youngster to the life and music of Joni Mitchell. This picture book captures Joni’s creative life as a painter and as a singer using lyrics from her songs and images from her albums in the lovely illustrations that are a dear homage to the great Joni Mitchell.
Written in 1967, this was my very first John McPhee discovery. I instantly became his biggest fan and have read (nearly) everything of his since. A staff writer at New Yorker since 1953, Pulitzer Prize awarded McPhee manages to take the must mundane subject and make it larger than life. He is rightfully considered one of the pioneers of creative nonfiction, so gifted he can take one very simple subject and turn it into the most juicy, delicous, and vivid read. This brilliant little bok tracks the uses and myths of oranges, from 6th-century China to Florida's booming citrus industry -- so mouth-watering it causes one to actually smell the ripe oranges he's writing about!
The little bit of time I spent with the two main characters in this novel left me feeling calm and safe. It’s a quiet read that takes one far far away from the crisis in which we are currently living. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is an honorable elderly widower who earns his living in northern Texas giving newspaper readings to live audiences who are eager for news of the world. In the winter of 1870 he agrees to transport a 10-year old white girl captured as a child by an Indian tribe back to her family, undertaking a dangerous 400-mile mission in post-Civil War Texas. Having to learn how to communicate with this girl who does not remember the English language, we witness Captain Kidd's vulnerabilities as he tenderly cares for his young passenger on their long journey. This gentle and comforting story, so elegantly written, explores the limits of trust, responsibility, and honor. It is a hopeful book, the perfect read during these weeks of coronavirus self-isolation.
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On August 5, 2010 in Copiapó, Chile, thirty-three San José miners became trapped under thousands of feet of rock for sixty-nine days. It tooks months of experts worldwide to configure a means to save the starving men, as the world mourned for and then witnessed them being brought to surface one at a time from the depths of the mountain at the end of their ordeal. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar received exclusive access to the miners and their stories in this eye-opening testament to the horrors of imprisonment inside a pitch-black crumbling mountain and the power of the human spirit. Tobar proves his skills as a journalist as he retells the incident in this honest, non-sensational page-turner true story.
I adored this book. There's nothing complex to it, despite it's being about two children who self-combust. It is a charming and ultimately happy story that features characters you simply relish spending time with. The premise is a surprise but by the time you discover that, it's impossible to not be sucked in to this endearing quirky story that has a wonderful ending . . . and beginning and middle. Kevin Wilson is a brilliant storytelller.
Written 10 years before being awarded a Pulitzer Prize for All the Light We Cannot See, the author's first novel, About Grace, is just as word-perfect a book and as stunning an accomplishment. Doerr's moving storytelling captures a world of human frailties, full of grief and longing, along with the power and mystery of nature. Burdened by agonizing dreams that later come true, David Winkler lives despite every reason for him to die. In his journey to find truth he brings tiny bits of joy to the people he encounters. Full of so many sentences I wish I could carry around with me in my pocket, this is one of my most recommended books.
If you are a reader of WWI and WWII, you will find this historical novel absolutely fascinating. The book is based on the true story of the WWI female spy, Louise de Bettignies, codenamed Alice, and the undercover Alice Network that infiltrated the German lines in rural France. Alice was so good at her work she became known as “queen of spies” and “a regular Joan of Arc.”
A wonderful lesson about change, this story of a single father and his son who have to accept moving out of their beloved blue house into a new home has a hopeful conclusion, as they find a way to honor their old home by making it a part of their new one.
A compelling somber graphic story about an immigrant man’s journey to a foreign, imaginary land, told entirely in drawings without the use of words or text. The beautiful sepia-toned illustrations contribute to the melancholy and surreal tone of the novel. This book is lovely in how each frame vividly and poignantly portrays the story’s emotions. Not a fan of graphic novels? This one is a very special addition to the genre and not to be overlooked.
An epic trilogy of Philip Pullman’s fantasy novels “The Golden Compass, “The Subtle Knife,” and “The Amber Spyglass.” The books star Lyra and Will who travel through riveting and terrifying “otherworlds” where they endure all kinds of menacing people and non-humans and situations. I found the series thoroughly spell-binding and was devastated to reach the end of the final book: I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Lyra and Will!
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Each and every one of us has an object we hold dear that has deep meaning, that speaks to our past or carries with it a lifelong story. Interviewing people from famous actors and writers, to musicians and engineers, teachers and nuns, truckers and artists, to mayors and CEO’s, this fascinating collection of 150 personal treasures and the stories behind the memorable objects is a tender glance at and recognition of he things of everyday life. The production value and photos are spot-on.
I am a sucker for a colorful, cleverly illustrated children’s picture book, especially if it tells a good story! This one is, simply, about the diverse possibilities of structures and places that can be referred to as “home”, conveyed through wonderful drawings that have a vintage folk-art feel.
This delightful children’s classic received a Caldecott Medal in 1942, only six years after the award was created by the American Library Assocation. I’ll never forget, as a child, staring at the stunning gold-embossed seal on my copy of the book, thinking this book was Very Important. And it is, still in every way possible that a vintage children’s book is able to stand up to time! It’s a lovingly illustrated story about how a family of ducks tries to find the perfect place to live and raise a family in Boston and still a winner!
For tree lovers and huggers worldwide, Lucille Clerc’s beautifully illustrated study on trees is a tribute to 80 different tree species found throughout the world. Illuminating how the botany of trees plays a role in all aspects of human life, Jonathan Drori reveals strange and true tales about these wonderful reaching-to-the-skies parts of the natural world. Drori’s latest book, “Around the World in 80 Plants” makes for a lovely two-set gift for the nature-lovers in your world.
Author/illustrator’s delightful adaptation of the classic 12th century Persian epic poem is, simply, a joy and a treasure of a book. The Sufi poem is the story of a flock of birds in search of the “true king” Simorgh who lives on the mountain of Kaf. The birds that make it learn a profound lesson that this king is, in fact, each of and all of them. This edition is full of charming illustrations that add to the beauty of the lyrical poem.
There isn’t a more accomplished historian than David McCullough to have written this engaging story of the 2nd President of the U.S. This epic biography of John Adams’ life uncovers his life values and the fierce patriotism that led him to the presidency. Most fascinating is the treatment of his wife, Abigail Adams, the love of his life and closest advisor and considered by some to have been a Founder of the United States. This is a huge book, daunting in its length, yet I found it an eye-opener about this most important and intriguing man in our country’s history.
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On April 20, 1986, a fire alarm went off at the Los Angeles Central Public Library, destroying and damaging hundreds of thousands of books. Chronicling the library employees, patrons and volunteers who passed each and every book down a human chain in the attempt to save what could be saved, Susan Orlean (“Rin Tin Tin” and “The Orchid Thief”) has written another masterful behind-the-scenes examination of yet another who-would-have-thought-to-write-about-this subject. “The Library Book” is an investigation of the fire, a history of the LA library system, a tribute to her mother who took Susan to their suburban Cleveland public library throughout her childhood, and also an account of the person who set the fire. Susan’s lifelong love of books and reading is part and parcel to this enthralling story of libraries and librarians.
“Darwin: A Life in Poems” poet Ruth Padel presents another poetry collection about a larger-than-life person, this one about composer Ludwig von Beethoven. She reveals Beethoven’s life and his lore in four movements, touching on the man behind the music. I enjoyed this unique biographical method, in the form of poetry, and Padel’s honoring the man whose work is music to many ears.
I'm not a circus fan nor am I into magic, but this magical book about a circus set in the Victorian era totally blew me away. Elegantly and ethereally written, it is charming and mystifying, poetic and lyrical, a vividly dream-like and magical tale. Oh if only I could attend this spectacular circus that only takes place in the dark of the night. This is one of those books that I look forward to re-reading. It's an enchanting read that I cant recommend highly enough.
This utterly intriguing historical novel is the true story of one of the oldest Sepharic Haggadahs that originated around 1350 in Barcelona. After being taken out of Spain during the 1492 Inquisition, the Hebrew codex became lost. It mysteriously turned up in Italy in the 17th century where it was kept in hiding until it found it’s way to the National Museum of Sarajevo in 1894, becoming known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. Again, mysteriously, it escaped the hands of the Nazis during WWII when all Jewish books were being burned. Yet the puzzle still remains: how and when did the haggadah make its way from Spain to Italy to Sarajevo, who created its beautiful illustrations, and who saw to all those safe-hidings? Geraldine Brooks took these questions and created a most fascinating tale around the haggadah, using her thorough research skills to give us a great story and an amazing unfolding of a piece of history.
Styron's 1979 novel about three people sharing a boarding house in 1940's Brooklyn is a tear-jerker of a love story with its brilliant plot and retelling of Sophie's gut-wrenching story of her Auschwitz internment. Full of love, despair, lust, grief, guilt, coming-of-age, and madness, this book is a masterpiece of American Southern writing. It's an amazing story, it's beautifully written, and it's incredibly sad sad sad. I cried my heart out. The 1982 film starring Meryl Streep as Sophie was a big-time tear-jerker and worth watching if you never have.