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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.
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.
A customer showed me this book a few weeks ago saying that she buys it for every child she knows. I read it and agree with her and plan to do the same. I can think of ten kids right now that I want to give this to for the holidays. It’s a lovely, poetic, multi-cultural, beautifully illustrated look at the natural world and the people who live in it. It ends with “Hope & Peace & Love & Trust. All the world is all of us.”
I loved it. It's been haunting me since I finished it. How did LaPlante figure out how to construct this novel so perfectly? I was pulled, pushed, repulsed, delighted." -Gayle
I love finding a great new author whose first book draws me in, keeps me reading, and whom I can recommend to our customers. S. J. Watson is just such a writer. Before I Go to Sleep is a literary thriller that is both well written and scary, but not too scary. And if you are a wannabe author and like movies such as Memento, Ground Hog Dayand Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—movies that feature memory and suspense—this debut novel will drive you crazy with envy for its author. The heroine, Christine, has lost her memory in an accident; she wakes each morning having forgotten who she is, who she is sleeping with, what her former life had to do with her current reality. She doesn’t know if she can trust the doctor she is secretly seeing, or the husband who tells her every day what happened twenty years ago. She writes in a journal, and each day rereads the entire book so she can make sense of her crazy existence. Did she have a child, was she injured in a car accident, is her best friend living in Australia or someplace nearby trying to find her? Who are the people in the pictures that surround her bathroom mirror? I couldn’t stop reading this novel and think it would make a great movie! —Gayle
I avoid books about sociopaths who kidnap, rape and put women into escape-proof rooms for seven years. But I heard from several bookseller friends that this book was not one to miss in spite of the topic and saw that it was also nominated for a Booker Prize. It’s told through the eyes of a child, conceived & birthed in a tiny, 11-foot-square soundproofed cell in a converted shed in the kidnapper's yard. The boy’s perceptions are insightful and there are enough plot twists to provide a dramatic arc of breathtaking suspense. It kept me reading late at night -- highly recommended. -Gayle
Aaron Burr, Vice President under Thomas Jefferson, had a daughter who was lost at sea following his famous 1804 duel with the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. She may have drowned, but it has long been thought that she might have been abducted by pirates. Michael Parker suggests that there were pirates involved and she was abandoned on an island off the coast of North Carolina. His novel travels back and forth between her life and and that of her 20th Century descendants—two unmarried aunts living a strange and lonely existence in a house that barely protects them from rain and hurricanes. Their welfare is dependent on another reclusive inhabitant of the island, whom may also be related to Theodosia Burr’s husband—a black man who grudgingly cares for them. This is a story of madness and devotion filled with love and a great sense of place and community. I loved the characters—their often tortuous bonds of family and community—the writing, the historical context and the author’s ability to bring the early 1800s into the present.
One minute she was there, walking the requisite four steps behind her husband, the next minute she had disappeared as he rushed to catch the subway. Where had she gone? Was she killed? Did she run away? Who was she anyway? Her daughter, her son, and her husband all have their own recollections about who this Mom was and she has her own story to tell as well. A compelling mystery set in the Korean countryside with visits to the big city, composed almost entirely in second-person narration, the writing is intensely moving. The characters continually battle with their own guilt for not taking better care of her while remembering the times when they were young, growing up in incredible poverty in the countryside. You will never think about a mother’s love for her family in the same way again.
A collection of stories, stand-alone vignettes, set on the military base in Fort Hood, Texas. Children wait for their fathers to come home—and leave again—and wives hope they will come home and will not be too much changed by what they have experienced. It’s haunting and captures the war that is fought at home—the emotional stress undergone by the women who also serve as they wait—as well as the impact on the men who leave their wives and children. These are ordinary people’s lives told by one who lives this very life herself. Fallon says, “You get used to hearing through the walls. You learn too much. You know when the men are gone. And without them there is a sense of muted silence, a sense of muted life.”
If you are a parent -- thinking you're doing all the right things -- you will never look at your children the same way again after you read Amy Chua's book. You'll find yourself questioning whether pushing then might have made them musical geniuses, math wizards, prolific writers, or all of the above. Pushing, prodding, threatening, demanding, and sacrificing -- but always loving -- your children in what Chua calls the "Chinese Style of Parenting" might have been their ticket to success. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is disquieting -- it is hard to read if you empathize with her children or you find yourself thinking about your children's abilities and potentials in a new light. I read this in two nights, and now I can't stop talking and thinking about it.
How well do you know your neighbors; those people who live on your block, in your apartment complex? As they come and go do you ever think they might have lives that are not revealed by their choice of car, the way they prune their hedges, or how they treat their children? Ginsberg looks inside the windows of a typical suburban neighborhood and what she finds are pregnant teens, drug-addled adults, deep, dark secrets clothed in polyester pant suits and people trying to maintain the semblance of normalcy. A mini mystery, great characters, and an absorbing plot. The makings of a good novel, to be sure.
I'm very excited about Jeannette Walls' new book. Walls' descriptions of life in the early 20th century are like reading a wonderful history book filled with amazing people. It is set in southern Arizona and features Jeannette's strong, resourceful, often funny grandmother who bootlegs liquor, rides horses and plays a mean game of poker. This is the prequel to Jeannette's unforgettable memoir, The Glass Castle.
This is the perfect book for balmy fall days. It begs to be read with a cup of tea and a scone by your side. It is hard to put down and I was sad to finish it. Byatt is an incredible storyteller—she uses myth, psychology, and fairytales—and this novel has stories within stories. You learn about the beginnings of the Arts & Crafts movement, British aristocracy, the friends of Oscar Wilde, early Fabians, nudists, and most importantly the strange and convoluted relationships that develop among family members and their immediate sets of friends. She's an amazing novelist.
I love the Vegetarian Epicure—it’s still one of my favorite cookbooks. This new one, all soups, any time, any season, is wonderful and the 160 enticing recipes may charm even a die-hard carnivore. She also has recipes for breads, dips and spreads, salads and a collection of desserts, as well as sample menus at the start of each chapter that make it easy to plan a full meal. Before it gets too hot again, try some cool weather soups; perfect to keep in the fridge and warm up for lunch or dinner.
When editor Gary Fisketjon sends out a manuscript, I always read it and am rarely disappointed. Border Songs was no exception and I savored every chapter, every character, every lovely sentence, every plot twist and turn. It is a superbly crafted novel—there is the necessary tension to keep the reader worried about what might happen to the big lovable Brandon whose connections with the natural world is so surprising and touching and whose relationships with humans is so unsteady and unsure. And the dialogue is pitch perfect; the characters come to life in a few deftly written paragraphs. Reading this novel was pure pleasure and reminded me once again, that books that are well-written and well-edited will become the bookseller’s next favorite book to recommend. This certainly is mine.
This book is a book lover’s dream, and I am certain that it will become a classic and referred to by generations of readers. Abraham Verghese wrote The Tennis Partner several years ago and, although a work of non-fiction, it read like a novel. Attempts by skilled non-fiction writers to move into the realm of fiction often fail, but this is a glorious triumph. It is a saga of dedicated doctors and their passion for saving lives. It opens with a nun giving birth, in a third world country, to conjoined twins, and it is about family—fathers, sons, mothers, and community—convents, impoverished city dwellers, charity hospitals, war, and Ethiopia. It’s absorbing, wild, perilous, evocative, and tender.
Van Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy, has been named Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Jones, who is founder and president of Green For All, possesses "a unique ability to inspire people of all colors, classes, and generations to uplift vulnerable people, while protecting our vulnerable planet." Publisher Mark Tauber called The Green Collar Economy: "A book we all believed in from the start, and it has been both exciting and rewarding to see Van and his message embraced by so many. All of us here at HarperOne are proud that the work and ideas that were presented in The Green Collar Economy will continue in Washington, D.C."
When you think the world is hopeless, this book might give you cause to be optimistic. What would it take to change the lives of poor children—not one by one, through heroic interventions and occasional miracles—but in big numbers, and in a way that could be replicated nationwide? Paul Tough's stories about Geoffrey Canada's bold effort to offer a cradle-to-college program for thousands of underprivileged children in Harlem is anything but dry theoretical rhetoric. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the dramatic ups and downs of the Harlem Children's Zone, a $58 million project encompassing 97 city blocks and serving 7,000 children, and includes personal stories of the staff, students, and their parents and teachers with expert opinions and the broiling debates over poverty, race and education. Geoffrey Canada is a driven, brilliant crusader argues that to change the lives of poor children, everything has to change—their schools, their families, their neighborhoods—all at once. Barak Obama says if he becomes president, he will work to replicate this amazing program in cities all over America. Read it and weep, laugh... and find hope.
Amy Irvine writes with integrity and insight about the natural environment, much like, Edward Abbey and Terry Tempest Williams do. She lives in the southern part of Utah with Mormon ranchers who hate environmentalists almost as much as they hate coyotes. Irvine comes from Mormon pioneer stock, but finds herself on the outside of Mormon culture, shunned by those she would love to befriend. The memoir attempts to reconcile a modern woman’s non-conformist sensibility with the longing to belong to a community whose values are diametrically opposed to her own. An avid hiker, Irvine takes the reader into slit canyons, desert washes, and old Indian ruins with her lyrical, bold writing, allowing us to “see” what she does and grow our own sense of urgency about protecting pristine lands. This is a memoir not to be easily forgotten.
I’m a foodie and love books that talk about food lore, ingredients, and exotic tastes. I also read memoirs. This book combines all of these elements in a remarkable way. At the age of three, Kim Sunée was abandoned on a bench in a marketplace in Seoul, South Korea. A young GI and his wife brought her to the States, and she grew up in New Orleans amongst an extended family that included maternal grandparents who taught her how to cook. She never felt at home in her adopted country and, while still in her teens, moved to France where she continued cooking lessons under master chefs. This is her story, complete with recipes and anecdotes, of finding her rightful place in the world, and using food to lead her home.
As the granddaughter of Polish and Russian immigrants, and having grown up with stories from "the old country," this book of twelve connected short stories spoke to my heart. It made me laugh, it make me cry, it made me indignant. Immigrants have always added so much to our culture in America, but they often struggle with our language, with the nuances of our culture, and with the way they are treated by those who got here first. The stories are about adjusting, adapting, and most of all retaining a sense of who you really are, not how you're seen by others. You'll not soon forget the characters and you'll grow to appreciate how impossibly hard it is to adopt a new country whether you're in your teens or as an aging adult. This would be a great book club choice.
A literary mystery set in the late 1800’s with characters that stay with you long after you finish. The author’s screenwriting experience shows in this riveting novel told in powerful short takes. I read this book in one long, wonderful vacation day under an umbrella on the beach. What a treat!
Marianne Wiggins has created a fictional namesake whose father died when he was fifty, leaving his family unclear as to what part any of them played in his life. At the same time she tells the story of real-life photographer Edward S. Curtis, the famous chronicler of early-twentieth-century North American Indian life, who abandons his family, but leaves behind a legacy of photographs, Indian artifacts, and a scandalous secret life. Included are Curtis's beguiling photographs, as well as snapshots from Wiggin's own family albums. Magical, mystical, and magnificently written, The Shadow Catcher offers an unforgettable look at how people live their lives, both in the foreground and in the background.
Men's friendships are at the heart of Carlson's latest novel. The characters are sensitively drawn, and their relationships begin silently and evasively. As three men work together creating a bridge across an Idaho gorge, they open up to one another, sharing their pasts and aspirations. Humor and anger are mixed with the work they do together—details of carpentry providing the basis for their interactions and weaving together the fabric of their past lives. In sharing their stories, the three come to understand themselves and allow the guilt they each feel about past transgressions seep away.
Linda Olsson's book is perfect—the gentle flow of the story, the tension created with hints of the characters past lives which only get revealed when the women are comfortable enough with each other to talk about the details. The author adroitly draws the reader carefully and slowly into the story using the the voices of her characters and the setting, which becomes another of the characters. This book is still at the top of my list for recommending to bookgroups. It is simple in its scope but manages to capture the whole realm of women's friendships and their importance in our lives.