It has been a bizarre winter here in Vermont. Classic, picture-perfect snow storms, with lots of great powder for our famous ski slopes, have been followed by sleet, freezing rain, and March-like weather with thawing and balmy days. And then it snows all over again. And then it drops far below zero. So this means that we have been making sure we ski or snow shoe while the opportunity exists; and, we have been reading a lot of good fiction by our respective wood stoves and fireplaces to keep warm. As Mark Twain said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait five minutes.” Good thing it’s always the perfect weather for reading.
Two recommended books from our most recent reading are reviewed below. And, because we have been reading so many good books lately, and we never know what you all are in the mood to read, we put in a bonus pick or two.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013) – Just in time for Valentine’s Day comes this review for Simsion’s international bestsellerThe Rosie Project. I loved this crisply smart romantic comedy that takes you into the world of socially challenged Don Tillman, a 39-year-old geneticist looking for love in all of the wrong ways. It doesn’t help that he has designed a 16-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner, that he “speed date” eliminates those who answer incorrectly, and that probably no one would meet his criteria. When he meets Rosie, a sharp, beautiful “barmaid” 10 years his junior, he doesn’t know quite what to make of how he feels and of the ensuing series of unplanned, wacky events. This is sort of a “When Harry Met Sally” story with a Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime narrator. Throw in a DNA matching side plot and you have yourself a love story with a little science on the side.
And for those TEDx fans, when you’re finished with the book, make sure to check out Simsion’s talk. As a former physicist and IT guy, he comes to writing screenplays and novels later in life. As you will learn, however, all of this experience contributed greatly to the crafting of The Rosie Project. ~Lisa Cadow
Radiance of Tomorrow by Ishmael Beah (2014) – This is Mr. Beah’s first novel, but not his first published work. His acclaimed memoir A Long Way Gone, about his life as a child soldier in Sierra Leone, soared to the top of bestseller lists, becoming an instant classic that “everyone in the world should read” (The Washington Post). So with that build up, our thoughts on his fiction. Yes, Radiance of Tomorrow is set in Africa. And yes, the other Lisa and I seem to pick books with this setting often. But unlike many novels with African settings that focus on life during a civil war or leading up to a war, this novel looks at what happens AFTER a civil war, with insight and grace.
In Radiance of Tomorrow, Mr. Beah explores what happens when people return to their villages when fighting is over. Yes, it was a bit depressing to read his descriptions of what foreigners do when they arrive post-war to “help”. Yes, when I assumed most of this novel was based in the reality of the author’s own experiences in Sierra Leone, it was even more disturbing. But, trust me please; somehow, this book is also up-lifting. Perhaps because the characters – the children, the elders, the mothers and fathers - are superbly memorable, the hope they carry with them is inspiring, and the prose is well-crafted. ~ Lisa Christie
Some other books worth mentioning from our 2014 wood stove reading
The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen (2013)- The latest Department Q novel shows how the misfit threesome stuck in the bowels of the Copenhagen Police Department have become an effective cold-case solving unit, and a worthy (and unique) family. ~ Lisa Christie
Mythology by Edith Hamilton (1942) – I have been inspired to re-read this by an amazing Greek unit from my son’s fifth grade English and Social Studies classes. What a great gift to me! I am loving spending some time with Perseus, Medusa, Hercules, Theseus, and the Gods. ~ Lisa Christie (with Lisa Cadow seconding the staying power and fun of this book)
Posted in Book Clubs, Closet Mystery Lovers, Fiction Fanatics | Tagged A Long Way Gone, African novels, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, Edith Hamilton, Graeme Simsion, Great books for January 2014, Ishmael Beah, Mythology, Radiance of Tomorrow, Sierra Leon, The Rosie Project, valentine's Day, When Harry Met Sally, winter reading | 2 Comments »
Confession time: Neither of the Book Jam’s Lisas usually reads self-help books, or makes a big deal out of New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, we think about them and make promises to do better, but lists and perfectly executed plans are not our norm. However, when we started the Book Jam we did vow to try to read books that we would not normally pick up on our own in order to reach as many readers as possible. And, as we thought about posts for the 2014, and specifically a New Year’s themed post, we picked up a few books from a genre we rarely visit (or at least not since we quit dating) — the self-help genre. Honestly, they helped. How? Well, both caused us to think a bit differently about conflicts and concerns in our life, and they provided a bit of comfort in that we could relate to aspects of each of our chosen author’s lives. Here are our two recommendations.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, PhD and LMSW (2010) – We first heard of Ms. Brown because of a TED talk. Then she seemed to be everywhere – on multiple NPR interviews, in magazines, books in friends’ homes. So we picked up this book of hers and read. In it, she takes her research studying difficult emotions such as shame, fear, vulnerability from her career at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and adds insights from her own “mid-life unraveling”. (This is her term for the more typically named mid-life crisis.) She defines the unraveling as a time when you are “challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and embrace who you are“. Her conclusions from this research and work? Well, we would sum it as follows — that courage, compassion and connection are gifts that only work when exercised. In this book, she shows both how this exercise is possible, and how it changes those who practice these gifts.
The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist (2010) – A great entry into thinking about how you interact with money and how it interacts with your life. And, since money is everywhere and determines so many things in one’s life – job, food purchases, type of home, type of neighborhood one’s home is in – thinking about how you approach and relate to money seems important. Using anecdotes from her work as a fundraiser for large non-profit organizations and her personal life, she shows how one’s thoughts about money filter one’s interactions with the world. Groundbreaking? Probably not, but we found it useful as she caused us to think about money — a topic we honestly find uncomfortable discussing during out best moments. She also has us thinking about our own work and how we value it. Stay tuned for any ways this thinking affects our future reading choices.
Disclosure: We did not read these books straight through, but instead picked them up a bit at a time over the past few months. For us, this felt like the right way to approach these authors. We mention this only to give you “permission” to dabble, rather than immerse yourself in self-help genre, in case you too usually avoid this genre. And, we promise our next post will delve into the power of fiction.
Posted in Amateur Philosophers, Just the "facts", Two Peas in a Pod: Similar Themes | Tagged Brene Brown, Lynne Twist, New Year's Resolutions, Resolutions, Ted Talks, The Gifts of Imperfection, The Soul of Money | Leave a Comment »
There’s STILL time to find a great gift for those hard-to-gift-people on your list. Remember – size does not matter, substance does, and books are the perfect fit for anyone. You don’t even have to ship them because you can simply gift them to an iPad.
Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, and a Joyous New Year to all. We truly look forward to sharing more recommendations in 2014. We wish you a great year’s end full of good books and fun with friends and family. Thank you for being a part of The Book Jam in 2013 – 2014 promises to be a year full of fabulous paragraphs and plots.
But before you finish up your wrapping, wait! – here are just a few more ideas before Santa heads out with his sleigh…
For non fiction readers
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (November 2013) - We love essay collections, and this one by Ms. Patchett is truly superb. And it’s not simply about happy marriages, but about life’s trials and the wisdom that comes with age. Patchett’s writing is clear, funny, insightful and causes you to think a bit differently for a time about owning a bookstore, divorce, friendship, censorship, and life in South Carolina. We truly think this would make a thoughtful gift for mature readers on your list. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
For fiction lovers
Sycamore Row by John Grisham (October 2013) – When I saw this novel on a “best books of 2013″ list – a list that also included Donna Tartt and other authors whose novels tend not to become blockbuster movies, I decided to give it a read. I am so very glad that I did! Mr. Grisham is a master at plot and suspense. And, since I am a fan of the movie A Time To Kill, spending time with Jake Brigance years after the trial from that first book, felt like a mini-reunion. My recommendation? Get this for anyone you know loves to read, but for whom you don’t know what types of books they like. But, please use this next bit of advice, and before you gift Sycamore Row to someone else, read it yourself and enjoy the treasured gift of time with a page-turning story. ~ Lisa Christie
For young adults or sports fans or adults who like young adult novels and/or sports books
Foul Trouble by John Feinstein (November 2013) – This is another great young adult book from Mr. Feinstein. This young adult outing is not one from his mystery series, but is about the corruption in college basketball. He definitely has an ax to grind with the NCAA and some colleges, but with this book, he does so in a good story. Reading it with your favorite sports fan or young adult could be a great way to engage in a conversation about abuse, trust and doing the right thing. ~ Lisa Christie
Poetry, or a great gift for anyone who needs a chuckle
God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Marla Frazee (2013) – This collection is going to be a go-to gift for a while, especially for those people whose preferred reading genres are unknown. Hilarious illustrations accompany amusing poems about God and what she/he does every day (e.g. take a desk job, make dinner, ponder advice from Buddha). ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow
Posted in Amateur Philosophers, Fiction Fanatics, Just the "facts", Tough GIfts | Tagged A Time to Kill, Ann Patchett, Cynthia Rylant, Foul Trouble, God Got A Dog, Great Gifts, holiday books, Holiday gifts, John Feinstein, John Grisham, Marla Frazee, Sycamore Row, This Is The Story Of a Happy Marriage | Leave a Comment »
Luckily for anyone still looking for great books to give to friends and family this holiday season, our 2013 holiday gift themed Pages in the Pubs continued in Hardwick, Vermont on December 3rd.
Once again, our goals were to uncover great gifts for our readers, raise money for libraries (this time, Jeudevine Memorial Library), increase sales for superb independent bookstores (Galaxy Bookshop), and gather a community of book-lovers together, bringing business to a local restaurant (Claire’s). Once again, the list the presenters came up with is eclectic, and full of superb ideas for giving.
This post lists all 21 books that at least one of the four Hardwick presenters picked as a superb holiday gift. Each has a special six word review written by the presenter. Their selections are linked to the Galaxy Bookshop’s web site where you can learn more about their picks and order your selections. Our Hardwick presenters included:
- Jerry Schneider – Jerry was born and raised a few miles from “Winesburg”, Ohio and taught English a few years before heading to Montana. He is a children’s librarian/educator in schools. In summers does nature programs in libraries. He is working on a YA novel about a father, son, and baseball.
- Lisa Sammet – Lisa is the Library Director at the Jeudevine Memorial Library in Hardwick. She’s been a librarian, youth librarian, English teacher, farmer, and Peace Corps volunteer. She also has been a professional storyteller performing in schools and libraries for over 30 years.
- Linda Ramsdell – Linda opened The Galaxy Bookshop in 1988 and has enjoyed opening boxes of books and putting them in the hands of readers ever since. Linda considers herself extraordinarily fortunate to have spent half of her life in a place where books, people, ideas and imagination meet.
- Lisa Christie – Lisa is the co-founder/co-blogger for the Book Jam Blog. In previous times, she was the founder and Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and USA, literacy programs that help children love books. She currently works as a non-profit consultant/independent bookseller.
Have fun looking at the selections. We truly hope you enjoy getting some holiday shopping accomplished from the comfort of your computer/iPad/cell-phone (you can download from the link), or from an in-person visit to your local independent bookstore. Enjoy!
MEMOIR FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO LIVE VICARIOUSLY THROUGH OTHERS’ EXPERIENCES
End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe. Selected by Lisa S. – As mother dies, she and son read.
NON-FICTION/REFERENCE BOOK/POETRY: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK AND CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOOD STOVE
Maps by Aleksandra & Daniel Mizielinska. Selected by Lisa C. - The world unfolds through fun illustrations.
Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics by D. J. Brown. Selected by Linda – Gripping and inspiring window to a world and time.
50 Foods by Edward Behr. Selected by Linda – Opinionated culinary guide with fun illustrations.
ADULT FICTION: FOR A MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH TECH TOYS BUT NOT ENOUGH GOOD FICTION
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. Selected by Jerry - Classic glimpses of small town lives.
Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Selected by Lisa S. – Two friends. Iraq War. Poetic. Tragic.
Where I’m Calling From: Selected Stories by Raymond Carver. Selected by Jerry - Shows why Carver is the best!
ADULT FICTION: FOR A WOMAN WHO ONLY HAS TIME FOR THE BEST FICTION
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. Selected by Lisa S. - Follows friends from camp. They mature.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Selected by Lisa C. - Not Eat Pray Love. Just great fiction.
Bitter Almonds by Cosse. Selected by Lisa C. – French woman tutors. Immigrant teaches. Sparse.
ADULT FICTION FOR ANYONE
11/22/63 by Stephen King. Selected by Jerry – Can Jake alter events around JFK?
Transatlantic by Colum McCann. Selected by Linda - Spectacular storytelling, expansive scope, real and imagined.
Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen. Selected by Linda - Pure laugh out loud fun.
YOUNG ADULT FICTION: FOR TEENS & TWEENS AND THE ADULTS WHO LOVE THEM
The Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier. Selected by Lisa S - Time Travel, Mystery, Adventure and romance.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Selected by Jerry - Can classmates get beyond extraordinary face?
BOOKS FOR YOUNGSTERS: THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS & TEA PARTIES, BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS
Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill. Selected by Lisa C. – For Little House Fans. Gold Rush.
True Colors by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. Selected by Linda - Heartwarming, historic, memorable characters & mystery.
PICTURE BOOKS: FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS
The Christmas Wish
by Lori Evert. Selected by Linda - Horses! Reindeer! Travel with Anja. Magical.
Journey by Aaron Becker. Selected by Jerry - Red marker, imagination, & her spectacular journey!
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Tom Lichtenheld. Selected by Lisa S. - For littles who love machines & need sleep!
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. Selected by Lisa C. - Crayons protest. Readers laugh. Great gift!
Posted in Belly Laughs, Fiction Fanatics, Food Lovers, Historical Fiction Buffs, Just the "facts", Kids at Heart, Must Read Memoirs, Tough GIfts | Tagged 11/22/63, 50 Foods, Aaron Becker, Aleksandra Mizielinska, Bad Monkey, Bitter Almonds, Bo at Ballard Creek, Carl Hiaasen, Claire's Restaurant, colum McCann, Cosse, Daniel Mizielinska, DJ Brown, Drew Daywalt, Edward Behr, Elizabeth Gilbert, Everybody Wins!, Galaxy Bookshop, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, Holiday gifts, Jerry Schneider, Jeudevine Memorial Library, Journey, Kerstin Gier, Kevin Powers, Kirkpatrick Hill, Linda Ramsdell, Lisa Christie, Lisa Sammet, Lori Evert, Maps, Meg Wolitzer, Natalie Kinsey Warnock, Ohio, Palacio, R.J. Palacio, Raymond Carver, Ruby Red, Sherwood Anderson, Stephen King, The Boys in the Boat, The Christmas Wish, The Day the Crayons Quit, The End of Your Life Book Club, The Interestings, The Signature of All Things, Tom Lichtenheld, Transatlantic, True Colors, Where I'm Calling From: Selected Stories, Will Schwalbe, Winesburg, Wonder, Yellow Birds | Leave a Comment »