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Posts Tagged ‘Jess Walters’

Over three Saturdays this spring in an event called Tables of Content, generous friends of the Norwich Public Library – our local library, will host dinners in their homes to raise money for our superb librarians and the building they inhabit.  Each dinner is based on a book the hosts selected as the theme for their evening.  To add excitement to the event, dinner guests choose their dinner assignment by the book selections — the location and hosts are revealed only after the books and all the guests have been matched.

Photo: You're invited to a literary dinner! "Book" your table here: http://tablesofcontent.weebly.com

How does this relate to books for you to read?  Well, the event offers a diverse group of hosts, and wow did they provide an eclectic selection of books to read.  There is great fiction, some nonfiction sports books, a memoir or two, even Plato.  We realized that the books they selected will provide hours of inspired reading no matter what your reading preferences.  So, we asked the hosts to give us their selections, with a brief review of why they picked the book that they did. And now, we share their selections and rationals with you. Happy reading!

Themes for Saturday April 5

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (2004) – Nothing piques an appetite like “an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.”  From the opening scene in the “Cemetery of Forgotten Books” to the dungeons of Montjuic, The Shadow of the Wind twists and turns through post civil war Barcelona.  Join us in a dimly lit cafe off Las Ramblas where the Catalans hold court and partake of the delicacies and intoxicants of a dangerous and mysterious world.

“Beans Green and Yellow” a Poem by Mary Oliver from Swan: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver (2011) – Reading Mary Oliver’s “Beans Green and Yellow” suggested a dinner menu for the “Tables of Content” event at our house. Beyond that, though, we envision that an evening with people who enjoy Oliver’s poetry will be fun, relaxed, and inspirational.  We encourage dinner guests to bring along a personal favorite if they’d like.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2009) – In rural Mississippi 1962, three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step. This book was loved by all members of our family. A great summer read or beach book. We will toast the coming of summer and indulge in southern style cuisine, but there will NOT be chocolate pie for dessert!

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle (1990) – A Year In Provence is the true story of how a London advertising executive and his wife moved to a remote village in south-eastern France. The book documents their attempts to renovate an old farmhouse, but the heart of the story – and the inspiration for our dinner – is all the long lazy meals under the Provençal sun. Think romantic hill villages, cobbled market squares, fields of purple lavender, a canvas full of irises, scents of wild thyme and orange blossom, fat black olives, red tomatoes, and starry, starry nights.

My Life in France by Julia Child & Alex Prud’Homme (2006) – My Life in France is a delightful and delicious account of Julia Child’s love affair with French cuisine and culture.  Julia broke away from her narrow conservative upbringing when she moved to Paris with her new urbane husband.  There, she fell in love with all things French.  With grit, determination and an indomitable spirit, she recounts her tale of learning to speak the language and cook the food.  You can almost taste each dish as she lovingly describes it.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking, originally rejected for publication, took her eight years to complete.  But, American cooks lovingly embraced and emulated her.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (2012) – This story begins in the early 1960’s in a small, isolated town along the Italian coast near Genoa, where a young innkeeper looks up from his work to see a beautiful American actress approaching his dock by boat. Direct from the scandal-laden set of “Cleopatra”, she was sent by the film’s heartless producer for reasons that slowly become apparent. Spanning 50 years with stops in Edinburgh, Hollywood and the Pacific Northwest, the author spins a tale of love and following one’s dreams.  The book describes coastal Italian comfort food — simple, fresh and slow — this will be the inspiration for our meal.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger (2003) – This non-fiction book is so fascinating it’s been made into a movie, a television series, almost another movie and inspired legions of cult-like followers.  In it, a Texas high school football team is challenged as their season careens toward “state.” We find that nothing in Texas is as important as high school football, where the players are gods, the schools are “football factories”, and the coaches are above reproach – until they lose.  At our dinner, you get all that, a Texas-sized helping of barbecue brisket, and other “only in Texas” foods! (This BBQ will have vegetarian options.)

Heidi by Johanna Spyri (1880) – Do you remember falling into the pages of Heidi, dreaming of the golden cheese grandfather would melt over toast in the fireplace of his mountain hut? If so, this literary evening is for you. Please join us for traditional Swiss raclette, freshly baked Fladen (Swiss apple tart) and Sven’s Schoggikuchen (Wet Chocolate Cake).  A real, live yodeler has promised to make an appearance to send out his call over the Vermont hills and valleys. Please feel free to wear your lederhosen or just come as you are.

Books for Saturday April 26

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2009) – This is a “Song of New York City” — the high, low, rich and poor, black, white and Hispanic. The author wanted to transport even those who have never been to NYC to that fabulous city.  The dinner? A NYC style one, perhaps with an Irish influence.

Life Is Meals: A Food Lovers Book of Days by James & Kay Salter (2006) – We chose Life Is Meals : A Food Lover’s Book Of Days because it is a wonderful book about eating and celebrating food and friends. Whether or not we serve something directly from the book remains to be seen, but we promise a delicious time.

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010) – “The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.”  – Jonathan Franzen, Freedom.  There’s so much to discuss in this book…from the complicated and often unlikable characters to the detailed examination of life in America in 2010.  While reading Freedom, I had to retreat to my bedroom to read, ignoring my children, my spouse and even the poor dog so I could tear through all 608 pages.  If you loved Freedom, or better yet, if you hated it join us for a lively discussion of this ambitious novel.

Symposium by Plato (c. 385-380 BCE) – Come eat food appropriate for love, and discuss this ancient version of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walking”.

Books for Saturday May 10

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. We chose Death at La Fenice because Donna Leon portrays Venice in such wonderful detail in each of her books, always providing readers with a map so that we can follow Inspector Brunetti as he solves the crime.  Also, his wife Paola is a splendid cook and we will try to recreate one of her mouth-watering Venetian meals for our dinner.

One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, An Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season by Chris Ballard (2012) – I chose this book because I always read a baseball book in the spring.  For me, the last days of winter are agonizing, but reading about baseball always makes me think of summer, childhood, innocence…… and the heroes of my youth.  So much of sports conversation now is about cultural issues and how they fit into sports, and vice versa — will a gay player be welcome in the NFL?  Sports, especially baseball with its special place in our nation’s history, help us relate to one another in a different way, and perhaps can bridge gaps that otherwise wouldn’t be bridged. If there is a theme to this dinner, it’s not just this specific book, but the effect that baseball and other sports can have upon us as we enter the second half of our lives.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2010) – Hunger Games is a fun, fast-paced read that leaves some thought-provoking questions about the future of our society.  Most importantly, this book features fabulously extravagant food, drinks and table settings.

Hungry yet?

For those of you near Norwich in April and May, please join us for these fun and book-infused evenings. For more details and to purchase your tickets, visit the Norwich Public Library or call them at 802-649-1184.

If you can’t join these dinners, we hope you can enjoy this extensive and eclectic list of fifteen books to read.

BONUS: For people attending the dinners, if you wish to read the book before the dinner and you purchase the books from the Norwich Bookstore, the store will generously donate a portion of those sales (both online and in person) to the library as part of this event.  To activate this donation, you only need to indicate when you make your purchase that you are attending one of the dinners.

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The Book Jam’s Official 2012 Holiday Gift Guide

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We got off easy in our last post by recapping “Pages in the Pub” and publishing holiday gift ideas from other bibliophiles.  Now it’s time for our take on the season. This post is focused on what we think are some of THE VERY BEST PICKS for the readers on your list.  So sit back and enjoy the literary ride – great holiday gift ideas are only a click away.

And just in case you need any more convincing, now might be a good time to remind you why books make such wonderful presents. Here are our top five reasons in descending order:

5) With a book you can never buy the wrong size! One size fits all.

4) Books don’t need batteries, won’t break, and don’t require troublesome instructions for assembly.

3) They are oh so easy to wrap.

2) Because “curling up on the sofa with your iphone” just doesn’t sound as cozy as “curling up on the sofa with a good book.”

1) And finally, the number one reason why books make the best presents: How amazing is it to give a gift that has a whole new world inside of it?

Please Note:  While most of these selections are 2012 titles, we’ve also listed a few “timeless” treasures as well as some less expensive paperback selections published in 2012. And yes, this list is looooong, but there are so many great books to give, why limit ourselves – or your giving options? We’ve kept many of our categories from last year, some with a Vermont “twist” and added some new ones as well.

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For the Curious Reader, the Style Maven, or the Cerebral Type in Your Life – Books that Make for Interesting Conversations around a Woodstove:

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Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything by Randy Cohen (2012) – We LOVE the original ethicist from the New York Times Magazine.  We love his humor. And, we love his takes on sticky situations, even when we don’t agree.  Get this, open it randomly and use Mr. Cohen’s answers to the submitted questions to start conversations about how you and your friends and family would handle each situation and others you come up with on your own. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount (2012) – This book answers what books would favorite authors/other famous folks include if their choices were limited?  It causes the reader to ask, what books would you include in your home if you could only have so many books? Why? What would your bookshelf look like?  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

My Cool Shed: An Inspirational Guide to Stylish Hideaways and Workspaces by Jane Field (2012) – This is a wonderful, inspirational little book for those fascinated by how to make the most out of small spaces. Or it would make the perfect gift to someone dreaming of downsizing as it’s full of ideas for how to create a whole world, an ambience, in just a few square feet.~Lisa Cadow

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life by Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (2012) – Who knew advice columnists could write like this? And these aren’t just your one paragraph “Dear Annie” responses to life’s difficult questions. These are roadmaps, gems of responses considered from every angle and reflected back with grace and beauty. This book took our breath away and then gave us back enough back to laugh and cry. You will want to keep a copy of this on your bedside table to help you navigate life a little better. Written by Wild’s Cheryl Strayed you know you’re in the hands of a master writer. Perfect for anyone looking for insight into the “wild” ride we call life. ~Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For the Artists Among Us (And There Are Many in These Here Mountains):

 

SnApp Shots:How to take great pictures with smart phones and apps by Adam Bronkhorst (2012) – We didn’t know we needed this book until we saw it on the shelves at the Norwich Bookstore.  But, we DO need it  – as bloggers, as iphone users, as parents – since it is packed full of helpful tips and clever images for inspiration. We are ready to pull out our phones and start getting results today – but first we have to buy it. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Just My Type: A book about fonts by Simon Garfield (2011) - How to look at the written word just a little bit differently. Type choice, their histories and the effects they have on readers come to life with this fascinating, page-turning read. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special by James Sturm and Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost (2012) – This sequel to the hit Adventures in Cartooning, continues the authors’ efforts to make cartooning accessible to all. While I must admit I like the original book a bit more, buy this sequel for anyone who could use a new Christmas tale and the original for your favorite budding artist. ~ Lisa Christie

We Don’t Know How We Missed These – Books Published Prior to 2012: 

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The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (2007) – In this year of all things British (Queen’s Jubilee, The London Olympics) it was wonderful to discover this gem.  Author Bennet’s (imagined) Queen discovers, for the first time, the joys and sorrows of reading, reminding the reader of this as well. A superb book about what books offer – if we could have a literary “mascot” at the Book Jam, this would be it. For all those who understand the power and life-changing aspects of reading! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2009) – While the topics are varied, ultimately these essays, often simultaneously poignant and funny, are about the questions one encounters in trying to live a life.  Read this if you are questioning things yourself — his insight and experiences might propel you in an unknown direction. ~ Lisa Christie

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2007) – While this tale of the Holocaust as narrated by Death is now required reading for many high schoolers, you should read it because it will change you, because it is well written, and because it reminds you in the heart of the worst darkness there is hope and there are good people. I finished the last six pages or so with tears pouring down my face.  Now I am sad only because I can never read this again for the first time. This may seem like a strange holiday gift, but the recipient will be richer for receiving it from you. ~ Lisa Christie

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010) – I had been meaning to read this for a while and managed to do so when my friend Stephanie loaned me her copy. This work of nonfiction reads like a novel, and does an amazing job telling the extraordinary story of medicine, medical ethics, and th woman responsible for it all — Henrietta Lacks. ~ Lisa Christie

Happens Every Day: An all too true story by Isabel Gillies (2009) – At first glance this may not seem like an ideal “gift” book and only an excellent and engrossing read, perfect for those who crave the well-written memoir. But, actually, it might be perfect for someone who’s gone through a difficult breakup and would find solace and understanding in another’s experience. Gillies recounts the year of her divorce, how it hit her like an oncoming train, and how she weathered it all with humor, good friends and family.  ~ Lisa Cadow

Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet by David Mitchell (2010) – I must admit that I had to persevere through the first 50 pages, but once I did I was hooked. Although reading it was often like watching a train wreck – you knew horrible things were coming but could not look away – this is a fascinating look at Japanese life and Dutch trading in the 18th century and human love.  ~ Lisa Christie (Seconded by Lisa Cadow)

Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (May 2011) – The other Lisa discovered this gem long ago.  And once I finally read it, I loved this novel about three sisters and their lives as twenty-somethings after they end up living with their parents again due to some failures in their post-collegiate lives and their Mom’s cancer. When you finish reading you just feel good.  Bonus – the Shakespeare references. ~ Lisa Christie

For Men Who Have Enough Flannel Shirts, but Not Enough Good Fiction:

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Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison(2012) – It can be challenging to find good reads for the men in your life but this year has provided an incoming tide of excellent titles, including Evison’s new work. This book has tragic components – the main character has lost much, including his children – but things look up (slightly) when he finds employment as caregiver to 19-year-old boy with a degenerative condition. As only the most talented of writers can, he finds beauty and comedy in his characters’ lives and even adds in a wonderful road trip to boot. Excellent.  ~ Lisa Cadow

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2012) – This book strikes me as being an adult version of A Separate Piece by John Knowles. Short, sparse, reflective and to the point, Barnes tells the story of a man making sense of an incident earlier in his life and understanding his actions from a more mature perspective. ~ Lisa Cadow

Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012) – This was a surprising find. Though Dog Stars is  about a man and his dog surviving in postapocalyptic Colorado, this novel is really a love story. Heller writes masterfully about relationships, meaning, hunting, nature, and, yes, love. Really. ~ Lisa Cadow

House of the Hunted by Mark Mills (2012) – This could be described as Maisie Dobbs with an edge, but that might turn off some potential audiences for this great read. So what it has: a strong main character – Tom, a young British Secret Service Agent who has retired to the coast of France; a great setting; a handful of Russians; some Italians; a few sexual escapades; and history of Europe between the two world wars. A great thriller. ~ Lisa Christie

Smart Lady Fiction:

   

Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012) – One of my favorite novels of 2012, if not the favorite.  Here, Ms. Mantel continues her chronicle of the life of Thomas Cromwell. To help the King bring down Ms. Boleyn, Mr. Cromwell must play dangerous games with both his enemies and his friends. Because this account of Queen Anne’s downfall is told from the perspective of Mr. Cromwell, the famous story surprises you. For those of you who have not yet discovered Ms. Mantel’s stories of Cromwell, start with Wolf Hall and know this fascinating sequel awaits. ~ Lisa Christie

Light Between the Oceans by ML Stedman (2012) – As its title suggests, this story takes place far out to sea on a remote Australian island where Tom, a lighthouse keeper, and his wife Isabelle are stationed. Everything changes one day when a rowboat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying baby. Having tried for years to conceive a child, this offering from the sea seems to be the answer to Isabelle’s prayers. Despite Tom’s reservations, she convinces him they should claim the baby as their own. They name her Lucy and the drama is set in motion as the reader learns of the effect that decision will have on many families as well as on future generations. ~Lisa Cadow

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012) – With poignancy and beautiful prose, Brunt tells the coming of age story of fourteen year-old June who’s grieving the loss of her beloved uncle Finn – a famous painter who’s recently died from a mysterious illness – who was the only one who ever really understood her. Set in the late 1980’s and full of cultural references to that era, June tries to continue on with a “teenagerly” (we may have coined a new word here) existence in Westchester Country – studying, fighting with her sister, going to the occasional party, listening to the “wolves” howling in the woods  – but it is only through a most unlikely friendship in New York City, with a friend of her uncle’s, a young man named Toby, that she finds solace. This is a book about love, loss, acceptance, sisters, family, art, and what is means to truly care for someone~ Lisa Cadow

The Cove by Ron Rash (2012) – This haunting tale about the power of prejudice and of love may be an unusual holiday pick, but trust us. Set during in a dark cove in the rural Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, the book follows the life of Laurel and her brother Hank, newly returned from the war in France.  The story begins as they offer shelter to a mute wandering musician. Due to abundant local superstitions about the Cove and Laurel’s birthmark, a visitor is eerily unique and of course tragedy strikes. However, you will enjoy the story that gets you to the tragedy and the small piece of hope you are left with. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For Fast-Paced, Insightful Reads:

   

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters (2012) – Please read and enjoy this. It has romance, gorgeous scenery, intelligence, all interwoven in a tale of the lives, loves, choices, and losses of a cast of characters as diverse as an Italian hotel owner living in a town on the Italian coast so small Cinque Terra doesn’t claim it, a lovely American actress, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor and their filming of Cleopatra, a few young men overcoming addictions, and a modern-day woman trying to figure out when her life will begin and many more. The story jumps from 1962 to today and back again and back again, each time unveiling another layer of connections and dreams. A tale that ultimately shows that your life emerges from your choices. ~ Lisa Christie

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipman (June 2012) – A well-written book about the lead up to a wedding on an east coast island with humor, insight and thoughtful prose. Although, we must say we were a bit depressed when we finished. Question – will anyone ever write a book about WASPs that makes them look good? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)  – Just when you think you know what’s going on in this thriller, think again. Gone Girl will keep you on your toes – and out of commission since you won’t be able to put it down – until you turn the very last page. Meet Amy and Nick, a seemingly golden Manhattan couple (Amy with her Harvard degree and Nick with his good looks and writer’s talent), trapped in a marriage that’s gone terribly wrong. The story starts with Amy’s sudden disappearance from the house they’re renting in Missouri. All eyes turned to Nick as the clues start pointing in his direction. The story is told from Amy and Nick’s alternating points of view so the reader learns about their relationship from its romantic beginnings to its present difficult place. If you’re a fan of Tana French, you’ll appreciate Flynn’s story telling style and mastery of the psychological thriller genre. ~ Lisa Cadow

The Writing on the Wall by WD Wetherell (2012) – Three different women from three different eras inhabit a New England house. Each is trying to deal with the hand life has recently dealt them. Along the way, the latter two residents discover the stories of the woman(en) who came before them. A gem of a book that shows the power of words and stories. ~ Lisa Christie

Mysteries for When You Just Have to Have One:

   

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James (2011) – OK this is just clever writing and truly fun for any fan of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, English period pieces, and/or PD James. In it, Ms. James imagines Elizabeth Bennet’s life years after she has become Mrs. Darcy and provides a murder to complicate their wedded bliss. Enjoy the writing and revisiting characters from Pride and Prejudice that you may or may not remember so well. Better yet re-read Pride and Prejudice first. ~ Lisa Christie

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker (August 2012) – In this latest installment of Walker’s Bruno series, Bruno must learn to work with the new magistrate – a young woman whose need to prove herself outpaces her experience – as PETA protests against foie gras, a staple of the local economy, come to town. A simultaneous problem with Basque terrorists brings back Bruno’s former flame and other issues. Add some information about our species’ origins from an archeological dig and you will find your self learning while being entertained by this gifted writer of thrillers. ~ Lisa Christie

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (2012) – The latest Inspector Gamanche mysteries once again planted me firmly in her continuing tale of Gamanche and his team of investigators. This time we all inhabited a monastery where a monk has been murdered.  One of the most thought-provoking stories I’ve read in a while emerged on the final page – a Montagnais tale (Native Canadians) of two wolves inside of a man: one wolf wants the man to be courageous patient and kind, one wants the man to be fearful and cruel.  The one the man feeds wins. ~ Lisa Christie

For the Mountain Man or Mountain Woman (A Perfect Pairing for the Outdoor Enthusiast):

WILD: From lost to found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed (2012) – Hiking boots: too small. Adventurousness: infinite. Since I’ve enthused so much about this already, I’m just including a link to my previous review. One of the best books of 2012. ~ Lisa Cadow

Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail foreword by Bill Bryson (2012) – A coffee table book filled with gorgeous pictures that will provide any inspiration needed to get out and see some of the many things this amazing trail has to offer.  Great for those winter days when you want to dream a bit about summer and all things green.  Perfect for the hikers in your life.  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Poetry for Everyone:

 

Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove (2012) – In a gorgeous volume, Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U .S. Poet  Laureate, introduces readers to her selection of the most significant and compelling  poems of the past hundred years. Whether you agree with her choices or not, you will, at the very least, enjoy some of these poems. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey (2006) – This Pulitzer Prize winning volume of poems was my introduction to our Poet Laureate. In Native Guard I found a moving testimony to the complications of life in “The South” and of being bi-racial in the USA. Her words are perfect and her willingness to tackle the personal so publicly is inspiring and fearless. ~ Lisa Christie

What to Make of It by Pamela Harrison (2012) – Our fellow Norwich resident Ms. Harrison continues a wonderful string of books of prose poems about life.  Yes, life.  This latest collection is a love letter to her husband. Buy it to remind yourself that love has its bad days too and that is OK, buy it for someone you love to remind them love is amazing. ~ Lisa Christie

For Those Who Adore All things France:  

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French Flair: Modern Vintage Interiors by Sebastian Siraudeau (2012) –  A view into the homes and interiors of this ageless, timeless, stylish country. ~ Lisa Cadow

Eugene Atget: Old Paris (2011) – For inspiration that comes from beautiful photos of gorgeous sights in the most beautiful of cities. This will bring tears to a Francophile’s eyes.  Great to linger over with a cafe au lait. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart  (2012) by Janelle McCulloch (2012) – Take a tour, arrondissement by arrondissement with a masterful guide. You just might want to pack it for your next trip. I know I will.~ Lisa Cadow

For People Who Like to Cook Up a Culinary (Snow) Storm:

The main course of our cookbook picks for 2012 was already posted in November.  But for those of you who can’t get enough, we have another little “snack”:

Dolci: Italy’s Sweets by Francine Segan (2012) – Absolutely scrumptious. How would you like to bake an Olive Oil Apple Pie? Or perhaps whip up a batch of Bourbon caramel Sauce? A Fig, Rosemary and Honey Foccacia? A baker and dessert lover’s choice with a sweet, Italian twist. ~ Lisa Cadow

For People With A Subscription to the New Yorker:

 

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012) – This work is hard to read. It opens with a child hiding, naked under a pile of garbage, from the police for a crime he did not commit, and continues with harrowing details of life in a Mumbai slum. But it is important to keep reading as it effectively puts faces on the dilemmas of global change, and most importantly brings visibility to the invisible – the poor. ~ Lisa Christie

Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Natasha Trethewey – US Poet Laureate Ms. Trethewey combines prose and poetry to describe the Gulf Coast, bookmarked by Hurricanes Camille and Katrina. The combination of the community’s and her family’s own stories is haunting and informative. And this book reminds people that Katrina affected so so so much more than New Orleans. ~ Lisa Christie

For People Who Enjoy Living Vicariously Through Other People’s Memories:

  

 

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – Through laugh-out-loud and sometimes painful humor,  Mr. Thurston, of Jack and Jill Politics and The Onion, speaks about serious and important aspects about race in this country and does so with intelligence and compassion.  And, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am appreciative of the source that started that thinking.  Oh, and did I mention this book is funny? Buy it for someone who needs a laugh, or who wants/needs to think a bit about race and growing up.  ~ Lisa Christie

Sleepwalk with Me by Mike Birbiglia (2011) – Just out in paperback, this memoir chronicles what it takes for one man to become a successful stand up comedian (This American Life, Thurber Prize for American Humor). Read this to remember (or discover) what growing up in the 80s and 90s really meant, and how to be funny in the midst of poverty and often while in pain. ~ Lisa Christie

Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011) – While enjoying her amazing humor and self-deprecating outline of her life to date, I irritated my poor husband by laughing out loud when he was trying to sleep.  In my defense, I fell asleep with this book on my chest and woke to him having stolen it and laughing out loud.  Pick it up, read and laugh. ~ Lisa Christie

How to be a Woman by Caitlyn Moran (2011) – Every sentence in this raucous, side-splitting book offers exquisite insight  into subjects such as women’s shoes, Germaine Greer, strident feminism, motherhood, handbags, hair styles, pornography, surviving puberty, and making it through dating with your self-worth intact — in sum, how to be a woman. Moran has much to offer women as they reflect on their own journeys, and those of their daughters. ~Lisa Cadow

Travels with Epicurus  by Daniel Klein (2012) – Though this book is written by a seventy-year-old man searching for insight into how to age well, this pocket-sized read offers wisdom for all ages. Klein travels solo to an island in Greece to reflect on the words of  great philosophers and their ideas about aging while observing the older villagers around him. A travel book, a memoir, a philosophical inquiry. Lovely.  ~ Lisa Cadow

Literary Gifts for your host/administrative assistant/coworkers/boss

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New Yorker Puzzle series – The New Yorker has turned hundreds of covers into great puzzles.  Some are 500 pieces, some 1000, but all are fun for anyone. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Spot It – A game that everyone in the family will enjoy. And, which to be honest the younger you are the better you play; so kids will enjoy beating grandma at this card game. It comes in many versions – classic, sports etc…  Find one for the person in your life who has everything, but needs some fun.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For Families to Read Together During the First Snow Storm:

  

Andrew Drew and Drew by B. Saltzberg (2012) – Reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, but not quite.  A clever book about the pleasures of drawing and doing what you love.  And, a great reminder for kids that what you love will be there the next day right where you left it, so you should go to sleep (PLEASE). ~ Lisa Christie

A Perfect Day by Carin Berger (2012) – While the picture style is completely different, the plot reminded me on one of my favorite picture books ever – Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Try this new version the reminds you how great a snowy day can be. ~ Lisa Christie

Oliver by Birgitta Sif (2012) – A fun reminder that making a new friend = a VERY GOOD day. ~ Lisa Christie

For Those Beyond Tonka Trucks and Tea Parties but Not Yet Ready for Teen Topics:

     

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (2012) – I am one of the few readers I know who did not love Ms. Stead’s award-winning first book.  I hope that makes my recommendation for this book stronger.  A special gem of a book in which a boy faces a few of life’s challenges with wisdom and aplomb: bullies, moving, a father who lost his job, a mother in a hospital, and a name – Georges (with an s) that not everyone appreciates. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2012) – In a faraway land, a nobleman purchases four orphans in a scheme to set one and only one of them on the throne as the long-lost Prince Jaron. The catch — the ones not chosen will probably not survive the “training”. When you add a clever housemaid as a friend, a castle with secret passageways, and the fact the entire scheme can have them all killed for treason, you have a great adventure for elementary school readers and the adults who love them.  ~ Lisa Christie

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon by SS Taylor (2012) – Make way for the Wests – Zander, Kit and MK – three orphans living in the near future where computers and electricity have failed, and who must lay low so that government officials miss the fact that they no longer have adult supervision. The plot thickens when a mysterious stranger finds Kit and hands him half of one of their father’s old maps, and the trio sets off to discover why this map is so important.  Get out your atlas and read! ~ Lisa Christie

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke (2012) – When Jon is sent against his wishes to boarding school, he discovers he is a kid marked by an old family curse to die at the hands of a ghost. When he befriends Ella, hope for belaying this curse emerges.  Of course, first he has to learn how to summon a ghost knight, earn the right to be a page and find many, many ways to successfully break curfew. A GREAT adventure for elementary school readers. ~ Lisa Christie

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley (2012) – By viewing slavery, plantation life and President Jefferson through the eyes of three of his young slaves, Ms. Bradley personalizes slavery and addresses the particular controversies of Mr. Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings. None of the viewpoints are simple, and all of their feelings are complicated.  A great book to read with your children to start discussions about slavery, and how people can simultaneously act in honorable and dishonorable ways. ~ Lisa Christie

My Pop-up World Atlas by Anita Generi (2012) – Colorful maps, interactive pieces and small facts make this book fun for your future world travelers. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Tales For Teens Who Still  Drink Hot Chocolate and Spend Stormy Days Reading and Aren’t Quite Ready for Adult Fare:

 

Unspoken: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan (2012) – Jane Eyre fans rejoice!, the Gothic novel has been revived in the form of a book for pre-teens and teens.  Kami Glass lives in a quaint town in the English countryside with a loving mother and father and two energetic younger brothers.  All is idyllic really, with one small exception – she has lived with a boy’s voice in her head for as long as she can remember.  Then, one day the voice in her head becomes too real to be comfortable.  Oh, did I mention it is funny? ~ Lisa Christie

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012) – OK, this is a book about cancer, sort of.  More importantly, it is a book about friendship.  Read it and weep. Basically, this is another superb novel by John Green.  ~ Lisa Christie

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Happy final days of summer everyone. Sadly, we have only about five of them left, but luckily we have three literary gems to suggest that will help distract you – and keep you mentally warmed – as we transition to the chillier days of autumn.

It was hard to winnow our summer reading down to just a few picks as many excellent titles passed through our hands over the past few months. But  never fear, we will find ways to tell you about all of the special stories we encountered as many of the ones we truly loved will find their way into future posts.

So for now, three of our favorite picks from our summer reading; stay tuned for more later in the fall.  In the meantime, grab a comfortable chair, a cozy blanket, a steaming cup of tea, and start reading. And, Happy Rosh Hashanah; the plot of Beautiful Ruins will definitely fit into any thoughts of atonement and new beginnings.

 Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters (June 2012) – My favorite page-turner from this summer.  Just when I thought I had anticipated all the possibilities of this book, the author slipped in a surprise.  Please read and enjoy this well-written tale.  It has intelligence, romance, gorgeous scenery, coming of age themes, and dealing with death themes all interwoven in a tale of the lives, loves, choices, and losses of a cast of characters as unique as any you will ever encounter.  This tale includes an Italian hotel owner living in a town on the Italian coast so small Cinque Terra doesn’t claim it, a lovely American actress, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor and their filming of Cleopatra, and aging movie mogul, a few young men overcoming addictions, a modern-day woman trying to figure out when her life will begin and so many more (you will not be bored and somewhere in there you will relate to someone).  The story jumps from 1962 to today and back again and back again, each time unveiling another layer of connections and dreams.  What results?  A tale that ultimately illustrates how your life emerges from your choices.  The characters and scenery will remain long after that last page ends. ~ Lisa Christie

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012). This is simply a lovely book. With poignancy and beautiful prose, Brunt tells the coming of age story of fourteen year-old June who’s grieving the loss of her beloved uncle Finn – a famous painter who’s recently died from a mysterious illness – who was the only one who ever really understood her. Set in the late 1980’s and full of cultural references to that era, June tries to continue on with a “teenagerly” (we may have coined a new word here) existence in Westchester Country – studying, fighting with her sister, going to the occasional party, listening to the “wolves” howling in the woods  – but it is only through a most unlikely friendship in New York City, with a friend of her uncle’s,  a young man named Toby, that she finds solace. This is a book about love, loss, acceptance, sisters, family, art, and what is means to truly care for someone. ~ Lisa Cadow

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012). Just when you think you know what’s going on in this thriller, think again. “Gone Girl” will keep you on your toes – and out of commission since you won’t be able to put it down! – until you turn the very last page. Meet Amy and Nick, a seemingly golden couple (Amy with her Harvard degree and Nick with his good looks and writer’s talent who met and courted in Manhattan), trapped in a marriage that’s gone terribly wrong. The story starts out with Amy’s sudden disappearance from the house they’re renting in a Missouri developement. All eyes turned to Nick as the clues start pointing in his direction. The story is told from Amy and Nick’s alternating points of view so the reader learns about their relationship from its romantic beginning to its present difficult place. If you’re a fan of Tana French, you’ll appreciate Flynn’s story telling style and mastery of the psychological thriller genre. ~ Lisa Cadow, with Lisa Christie seconding this review

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