One of my methods for relaxation is reading through cookbooks; another is baking. This book satisfies the best of both worlds. There are some great recipes for small pies that you can eat with your hands. I still haven't made them, but I'm looking forward to the PB&J pop tart.
The Art of Fielding—an amazing debut novel that took ten years to write—is one of the best books of the year. I could not put it down, and missed it when I wasn’t reading it. The Art of Fielding is the story of a baseball team at a small college near Lake Michigan, but this not a book about baseball. This is a story about people, and how psychological barriers and self-doubt can spin interconnected lives out of control. Harbach’s characters are so realistically rendered that you begin to love them for their flaws. This is a book about communities and commitments to oneself and to others—and good enough to consider reading it a second time! —Cindy
Our unreliable narrator is Rosa—a relentlessly interfering, self-centered matriarch of a Tartar family living in the former Soviet Union. The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine is the story of three women—Rosa, her daughter Sulfia, and her granddaughter Aminat. Their roller-coaster relationships with one other are funny and very dark. The narration continuously takes unexpected turns through impoverished USSR and into industrious West Germany. But as soon as the family is settled in the West, the dysfunctional ties that bind mother, daughter, and grandmother begin to come apart. —Cindy
This autobiography rises above a single genre. It’s a story about Grant Achatz—an artistic, culinary genius who puts everything into his work, becoming one of the youngest award-winning chefs in the world. But during his greatest success, Achatz is diagnosed with Stage IV tongue cancer. He chooses to reject treatment that could jeopardize his tongue and sense of taste. His partner, Nick Kokonas, refuses to give up; he researches alternative treatments and pushes Achatz to see specialists. When an article in the Chicago Tribune appears about Achatz’s diagnosis, the University of Chicago offers Achatz a spot in a pioneering medical program, which could save his tongue, and his life. This is a compelling read and I could not put this down for three days. —Cindy
A memoir in second person! I didn’t think it could be done, but leave it to Mark Richard to tell his story from a new viewpoint. Richard grew up in the South and was called a “special child”—an euphemism for mentally and physically challenged. Richard learned about racial tensions and social norms from a state hospital bed. His mother sought comfort in scripture, while his father was
How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu is a remarkable multi-layered novel about the fictions we create and the lies we tell to create our identities for the sake of love and family. Mengestu's prose is beautiful. He tells a grand sweeping tale of an immigrant experience, an African experience. He also tells a deeply intimate story, one that illustrates a second-generation immigrant's American experience as he negotiates our landscape seeking his footing and a sense of place. —Cindy
T-Shirts have become a lifestyle. This book celebrates the uniquess of the designs created by the small start-up company: Threadless. Threadless is an essential read/gift for any creative. Not only is this book filled with graphic images from the Threadless portfolio, but it also tells the story of a company founded by two people who stumbled into success and created a community of designers and consumers bonded by good design. —Cindy
Brilliant! Each chapter of this first novel is written from the viewpoint of a different teen attending an end of school year party. There is the cool kid, the wallflower, the athlete and the rest, and each chapter continues and expands the story, by not only giving you one characters’ personal experience, but their view of their peers. —Cindy
The title alone summarizes this book. It is laugh-out-loud funny and full of sad and bittersweet moments. Despite the fact that The Lonely Polygamist is a story about a man in a mid-life crisis, with four wives, 28 children, and one dog in need of constant attention, it is a universal story. Any reader can recognize the “sister-wife” or “plural-child” in each of us. Udall's skill is not only his fine prose, but the treatment of his characters. He writes them equally and without judgment, because they are all flawed. The novel goes to unexpected places, as everyone finds a way to fit in without alienating everyone else around them. —Cindy
Indignation is a powerful book that draws upon Roth’s familiar themes–an overbearing religious family and injustice in the world at large. The Korean War looms overhead while young men and women pursue the boundaries of sexual mores. As always, Roth's words are impeccable and his characters complex. It’s a must read for his fans and highly recommended for all who appreciate great writing and storytelling. —Cindy
When You Reach Me is a wonderful story with a great voice. Miranda is a New York City kid who knows how to navigate her way through her neighborhood, but she is suddenly thrown off by some mysteries—her best friends stops speaking to her, the extra apartment key her mother hides for her has gone missing, and scrawled notes referencing the future start arriving. This is an original story with that is also a tribute to A Wrinkle In Time. —Cindy
The Help is set in the state of Mississippi in the late 1960’s. Slavery has been abolished and black and whites have been deemed equal, but this novel goes deep into the homes where black maids work for white women. Despite the fact that the maids prepare the food, care for the children, and clean the home, the white community still sees their black neighbors as an alien race. This novel captures the ironies and hypocrisies of southern hospitality at the cusp of changing times. —Cindy
The History of Love is a beautiful novel about two main characters whose lives are woven together in complex ways. Each main character, from adult to child, deals with the issue of loneliness and the desire to understand and experience love. All the characters have been damaged by loss, and yet struggle to define their damage. The prose is astonishingly breathtaking. I re-read passages, in an effort to commit her language to memory.
This book has been on my nightstand for five years. Finally, running out the door to catch a plane, I grabbed it. What took me so long? I read it straight through the plane ride, barely stopping to put on my safety belt. The Devil in the White City is a historical account of the building of the 1853 Chicago World’s Fair. This is a story about architecture, engineering, the success, and failure of the World’s Fair, the plight of a second tier city during a depression, and a serial killer who prays upon the visitors to the city and fair. Each chapter delivers a cliff hanger at its end, which reads like a mystery novel.
The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John leave a big hole in the story of Jesus and those missing teenage years. Christopher Moore fills in the gap. Jesus, as expected, is a good guy, but happens to have a best friend named Biff who is an idiot, sponging off of Jesus’ magnetic personality. This book is laugh out loud funny! One of my favorite books to re-read and gift to anyone in need of a laugh. It is the perfect holiday gift, especially for those who get a bit burnt out on the Holiday spirit.
Mr. Ives' Christmas is a timeless story about faith and forgiveness told like no other before. The unlikely hero, Mr. Ives must find spiritual peace in the midst of crises. On the first few pages we discover that his son is murdered on the street just before Christmas, yet this is not a novel about loss, but one of forgiveness and the quest for enlightenment in the wake of tragedy. The story transpires over decades, with the pat and present colliding brilliantly on the page.