Gayle's Picks (page 1)
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When she's not working in her garden, Gayle is usually reading or watching reruns of West Wing and ER. She loves contemporary fiction, mysteries and memoirs. Occasionally you'll find her reading essays by people like Malcolm Gladwell, Paco Underhill, Daniel Pink or John McPhee.
Bill Clegg's book is a masterpiece--quiet at times, loud at others, but brilliant. All his characters, with no exceptions, are fully realized and speak with voices that come from the depths of their being, formed by circumstance, happenstance, pain and joy. The intersection of disparate lives is fascinating and so true to how humans connect, disconnect, and move through the world but Clegg manages to shape and bend the lives to a cohesive whole without compromising the truth of any of their stories. This is going to be my favorite handsell when it arrives in our stores in September.
In today's world of foodies, famous chef inspired dinners and truffles, you might not imagine that chocolate habaneros, lutefisk and Minnesota would be of interest to readers, but you would be wrong. The narrator, Eva, is abandoned by her mother before she is one and her father decides he can compensate by educating her palate and not with babyfood but with bits of bison, smelly cheeses, and spice! Unfortunately, he, too, is gone in a flash and Eva is left to her own devices. She fights her way through school, meets a cast of curious and lovable characters and in the end, becomes a famous chef herself. The characters were well developed and given that the author is a man, the women were extremely well portrayed. The story is a tender, poignant and remarkable one. You will read this and give it to your friends.
We go through life meeting people, forming relationships, ending friendships, suffering illnesses of our own or our family members, losing dogs and cats, participating in life’s transitions—weddings, births, celebrations—and rarely do we read about these in the way that Abigail Thomas writes about them. Some pages are a paragraph long, others a few pages but every entry conveys emotion, rich complex thoughts that take her content, moving from middle age to older age, to a new level of memoir writing. I devoured this book.
Grief is never pretty but in the words of poet, Elizabeth Alexander, it is made tactile, understandable and movingly felt. Her husband, the love of her life, the father of her children, dies suddenly in his mid-forties and she is left to navigate this profound, life altering experience alone--as any of us might. But in her prose we find solace and a deeper understanding of what it means to love, lose and move forward again. Like Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, this book will become a classic.
I'm not sure exactly how many children the dying mother in this beautiful novel gave birth to in her too-short life, but they range from under two years old to twenty, with few years between. This sweet, steadfast family takes a roadtrip to visit pieces of their parents' past, and in doing so they reveal themselves in a pithy and magical way. The writing is poetic (Huddle is a fine poet whom I've read for years), funny, and poignant. As the mother fades, her children and husband shine in their own reconstructed orbits. A family saga like none I've ever read. I loved it from beginning to end.
This is a quiet book. Toibin slowly creates a character that evolves, despairs, contemplates the meaning of life, and then ultimately blooms. But not without anguish and self examination. Nora's husband dies when she is only 40 and leaves her with little money, four children and a sense that the world she thought would always shelter her is in fact harsh and bleak. She must regroup, restore her children's faith — and her own — in the possibility of normalcy that only comes a glimpse at a time. Beautifully written, a joy to read and savor.
A crazy romp with a misconstrued family and various hangers on — a Mexican make-up artist, a daughter who learns to read tarot cards, another narcissistic daughter who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, a nightclub singer, and a father who steals from his children, pretends to be a butler and ultimately dies not knowing what he might have done to hold his family together. Bloom's story is told through letters, diary entries and several narrative perspectives, and it is up to readers to form their own opinion of the characters' lives. Fun, heartwarming and poignant.
Four of us read this at the beach this year and all loved it. McEwan's prose is exquisite — not a wasted word and some paragraphs so beautifully written you want to read them out loud to a friend. The story centers around a family law judge who makes life and death decisions in her professional life and whose own family life is in crisis. She is forced to decide if an underage boy should be forced to receive medical help against the wishes of his parents and church. In making the decision, she must also confront her own emotional issues and life choices.
A fictional look at cultural anthropology in the 1930s inspired by three famous figures — Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson — who have three entirely different ways of studying the native peoples who they live with and observe. The novel explores not only the culture but the lives of the three who compete both professionally and personally with one another. Beautifully written, provocative and a stay up late page turner. I loved it.
If I had an illusion of separateness before reading this book, it was dispelled in the pages as I read, mesmerized from the first paragraph. This novel is evidence of why people read books. The prose is extraordinary, poetic, and in a sense revolutionary as it weaves through time and history dispelling any sense of linear thinking but allowing one to react, feel and ponder the meaning of Life with a big L. I finished the last page and marveled at the power of the writing and then almost immediately, I started it from the beginning and read it again.
This is the perfect beach book which is where I read it. Actually, it's the perfect book. Period. Given that this is Bonert's debut novel, it's even more astounding. He uses apartheid in South Africa, where blacks are treated like the Jews of Eastern Europe, to convey the drama of a family's emigration to escape the very debasement that they then perpetrate on those who live in their community. It's a complicated story well-told, emotional, fraught with angst but also with some of the most memorable characters in recent fictional history.
Of course you all know by now that Galbraith is really J.K. Rowling, but what you probably don’t know, if you haven’t read this murder mystery yet, is that the writing is in Ms. Rowling’s classic style. This time, however, it’s clearly for adults, peppered with many four-letter expletives throughout. Her descriptions of her characters and the places they inhabit fit right into the Muggle neighborhoods, with her precise descriptions of lampposts, train stations, stairwells, bars. The story itself is complicated and contains interesting characters who make it totally worth reading or listening to on audio, which is what we are doing. The reader isn't Jim Dale but he’s terrific.
Bobby read portions of this great novel to me as he came upon them and I worried that it would ‘ruin’ it for me but those bits just added to the anticipation and my appreciation for Ron’s writing skills. He is a master of dialogue, creating a sense of place and his reading of human nature that he embodies into his extraordinary characters. He is a wonderful novelist, unsurpassed in most of modern fiction being written today.
One sign of a good book is that the person reading it starts referencing it in their daily lives and referring to the content or ideas in conversations. This has happened to me with The Rise of the Naked Economy. It has struck a chord and I think Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner have encapsulated the changes facing employees and their employers in today's marketplace. It is insightful, humorous and filled with stories and opportunities for instant application. I think it nothing less than revolutionary in how they approach and describe the changes facing our economy.
I just finished Heart of Palm and absolutely loved it. I've been bereft for two days that I don't have it to read when I hit the pillow. The quote from Russo on the cover is a reminder of his writing but I must say, she is his equal. This book will be perfect for his fans, but also for anyone who loves great characters, an interesting plot but mostly the power of love to overcome dysfunction in families. And not the gushy kind of love but the kind fraught with pain from past transgressions tempered by remorse and, ultimately, forgiveness. Laura Lee Smith is a wonderful writer and captures the humid weather of Florida complete with bugs and an overabundance of plant life that threatens to strangle its human inhabitants, as do the emotions charged by a lifetime of pain and guilt.
Any new novel by Haruf is cause for celebration, but for those of us who have been waiting patiently to reconnect with the Front Range of Colorado and its quirky inhabitants since reading Plainsong and Eventide, Benediction is the answer to our literary prayers. The main character is dying, but that doesn’t set a tone of great remorse or regret for a life in its last stages on Earth. Instead, it becomes a reflection of a family, of the place where they live, of the forces that formed them and made them into the strange, angry, resourceful, and engaging people who they have become. Haruf is a wonderful writer, and I can’t wait to celebrate the publication of this book with him and with our customers. —Gayle
I don't read many blogs, but I never miss this one when it comes into my inbox. Now there is a cookbook with many of the recipes and the gorgeous pictures that I have come to love from Deb Perelman's blog. For example, a recipe for Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones. Who can resist trying these? Perelman is not a chef, she's a mom who cooks in a tiny Manhattan kitchen. Here is what she said she wanted to create with her cookbook: "approachable recipes made with accessible ingredients that exceed your expectations." My favorite fall cookbook choice.
This lovely novel spans two World Wars and takes the reader to Normandy, Paris and the wilds of West Africa. It is about ordinary people living through extraordinary times, and about biking through the countryside and drinking a bottle of wine at a picnic lunch and falling head over heels in love. It’s about the arbitrariness of our lives and how sometimes an early romance can remain with us for all our days and, in this case, reassemble in ways we could never have dreamed. Capus is a wonderful storyteller and this is the perfect book for a bookgroup or to read while sipping a cup of tea.
The unforgettable characters in Ms. Roy's novel span three generations. Like planets, asteroids and comets, they move on separate paths which, in time, inevitably cross, pulled to the center by the force of love of family, of truth, of beauty and, ultimately, by the force of romantic love. We read this aloud to each other in the car, hardly able to wait for our next ride together while at the same time wishing the story would never end.
Sweet is a wonderful writer. With this book she will join the ranks of others like Oliver Sacks, Tracy Kidder, Abraham Verghese, and Jerome Groopman. She is a remarkable storyteller and her stories speak to our hearts and minds. Not only did I think it was the best creative non-fiction book that I had read in many, many months but my niece who is an intern at Georgetown Hospital in Washington DC told me that she thought it was remarkable and helped her remember why she wanted to be a doctor. Sweet reminded her that medicine can be practiced one patient at a time and that doctors learn from their patients how to treat the whole body and mind not just the diseased organ or ailment.
I was caught up in this book from the opening pages. Cash’s voice, heard through his three narrators, is extraordinary, pitch-perfect—he is a natural storyteller. It’s a tragic tale of religious faith used with evil intentions rather than for the glory of God, but more than this it is a story of family connections gone awry. Past losses reconfigure the present; an innocent observance becomes the catalyst for ritual sacrifice.
This is a story that is good to the last drop! I love his writing, his characters and the tension he creates in this novel set in Seattle in two eras--the 60s and the 2000s. There are no right answers; cities are built on dreams and graft and vision; humans have gifts and failings. We all want heroes but they are flawed when you dig deep enough. This is the perfect book to read thinking ahead to the presidential election. We wonder why the people who run for office do so knowing there is such peril to their families and friends and in a world of sound bites and innuendo circulated in 140 characters on the likes of Twitter, I wonder what, if anything, they think they can communicate. In spite of this, Lynch's book is a hopeful book--there are those men who, rather than seeing the world as bad and demoralizing, still can enjoy a ferry crossing the river, can imagine ripe blackberries and small boys and grown men comforting their mothers. Such a lovely novel.
This novel has been a bestseller for years in Europe and I understand why. The story may sound cliché—a blind boy abandoned by mother falls in love with crippled woman, but is then is torn away from her and continues to love her the rest of his life—but it’s beautifully written. I only wish that I could read German, so that I could read the original novel without a translator—although Kevin Wiliarty did a fine job in this English version. I also learned so much about Burma, what it’s like being blind, and how to listen intently—in a whole new way—to what is going on in my world. I now have a new appreciation for living with heating and electricity even though I also learned that people can live spiritual, enchanted lives without the comforts of our modern world. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats is magical and hopeful and appeals to a wide range of readers. —Gayle
When I finished this book, I felt like I needed to start it over immediately to figure out what I had missed the first time. I was confused, but in that wonderful way you sometimes are when you finish a great novel—did the author purposely add an element of mystery so that his protagonist, too, had to figure things out as the book progressed? Did he give him memories that betrayed him in the end? Do memories always betray us? Or do we change our memories to fit our notion of who we want to be? The writing is exquisite in this short novel—you’ll want to read passages out loud. Barnes won the prestigious Booker Prize for this novel, and I think he totally deserved it. —Gayle