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.
Lucky for us Bill Hayes is an insomniac. This book is a gift to readers. It is a paean to New York City and to love in all its guises and intimacies. The journal entries, photographs and short creative pieces left me teary and laughing and reminded me that great writing comes in my forms. I want to meet Bill Hayes on the streets of NYC, ride with him on the subway, have a drink with him at a party that neither of us were invited to, go onto the roof of his building, eat fresh grilled salmon and drink from a bottle of wine with a straw, and talk about Oliver Sacks--the sweet time he spent with this brilliant scientist, musician, writer, and human being.
Magda Szabo is one of Hungary's most notable novelists but I confess to never hearing about her before I read this amazing novel. It's a quiet book but the impact is loud and disturbing. Iza, a famous doctor, has been in control of everything and everyone around her since her early childhood. She compartmentalizes her emotions and the pieces of her life so carefully that even those who love her fear breaking into her boxes. Her beloved father's death brings her mother into her life in a huge way and as she tries once again to be all and do all for her, she fails and her life collapses. A novel about families, mothers and daughters, trust, careers and Budapest. I'm on the hunt for the rest of Szabo's writing.
Andreas Egger lived his whole life with nature as his most trusted companion--when humans, war and debilitating events threatened him, he quietly climbed mountains, bathed in icy streams, watched the sun streak its intense color into the sky, put his head down and forged ahead. He lived eight decades, mostly alone, and faced death and privation with heroism, stoicism and a depth of character rarely experienced in the 'modern' 20th century. Egger was of the opinion, "when someone opens their mouth, they close their ears." Fortunately for us as readers, when Robert Seethaler penned this sparse 160 page novel we have no choice but to open our ears and listen. He has poetically created a character and a way of looking at the natural world that you will never forget for the rest of your life.
One of the best mysteries I've read in years. Smith's work is usually brilliantly written, but often dark and brutal. This novel, set at the end of WWII in Venice, is not so dark, but funny and compelling at the same time. Mussolini, Hitler, their mistresses, and their gold are characters in the story, as is a lovely young Jew hiding from the Nazis, and a fisherman who not only teaches her about fishing but about life, discovering unknown parts of himself in the process.
Political cartoons and caricatures in particular can change the subject’s life dramatically and drastically. They can also change the course of an election, the fate of a corporation, or a law getting passed. But, what are the constraints on an artist--is he allowed to destroy someone’s life in the process? And what if there is a chance that an artist with his pen and ink has made a mistake? This novel examines these issues in an absorbing, brilliant way--the famous caricaturist, Javier Mallarino, at the apex of his career is suddenly confronted with the implications of his holier than thou, although in my mind, politically correct, attempts to get Bogota’s corrupt government back on track. His world implodes and he if forced to examine it from the inside out.
Borba argues that we can change our world, one child at a time, if we can teach them empathy and compassion and get them off of electronic devices. This is one of the best parenting books I've ever read. As I am once again helping to raise a school-age child, Borba reminded me how important teachers and parents and grandparents can be, and that teaching children to take care of others might be the best thing we can do for them.
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.