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Archive for the ‘Belly Laughs’ Category

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So Halloween, it’s a time where we dress up as things we fear, and a time where the things we don’t want to talk about come to our doorstep asking for candy — no not the children, but the grim reaper, or witches, or corpses, or (name your demon here).

The parade of costumes last week, and a recent conversation during which one of our teens lamented, “Why can’t I have parents who don’t talk about uncomfortable things?” has us thinking — How does one develop comfort talking about uncomfortable topics?

Our answer, of course, is reading great books helps get these conversations started. So today, we are recommending books to help you think and ideally talk about some uncomfortable topics. May they all lead to great conversations.

Three items to note: 1) We experienced frustrating technical difficulties yesterday, denying us the chance to keep to our posting schedule of Mondays. 2) In our attempt to include all readers, we generated a long list of books and topics for this post. 3) We are making lemonade out of lemons and using some creative flexibility, by posting on two Tuesdays – today and next week. Today, we tackle death, mental health, addiction, and sexual assault. Next week – race, sexual identity, and politics. We truly hope these reviews lead to books that help us all have difficult conversations more often (or at least to better understand the news of late).

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Death

FC9781632861016.jpgCan’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast (2014) – First brought to our attention by Lucinda Walker, town librarian extraordinaire, this memoir is funny, poignant, and helpful. It truly offers a superbly humorous way to approach failing health and ultimately death. As Lucinda said in her six-word review during the 2014 Pages in the Pub, “Laugh. Cry. Laugh again. Then talk”. ~ Lisa Christie

When Breath Becomes Air Cover ImageWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi (2016) – (First reviewed in the summer of 2016.) At the outset, we know that the author, 36-year old Paul will succumb to lung cancer at the height of his career as a neurosurgeon. Don’t let this deter you from reading his incredible story and from benefiting from the insights he gleaned during his short life. Dr. Kalinithi is a brilliant writer who was curious from a young age about the workings of the mind and it’s connection to our soul. He studied philosophy and creative writing before committing to medicine. These studies give him other lenses from which to explore profound questions. He is candid with the reader about his personal and professional struggles. Ultimately, I found this book hopeful and inspiring. When I turned the last page I immediately wanted to share it with loved ones. ~ Lisa Cadow (and seconded by Lisa Christie)

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Mental Health 

FC9780525555360.jpgTurtles All The Way Down by John Green (2017) – As someone for whom Mr. Green’s novel The Fault in Our Stars devastated and sustained me because I read it while a lovely, young friend died from cancer, and as someone for whom his An Abundance of Katherines, had me laughing aloud as I pictured the text as an old-fashioned buddy movie (with a Muslim teen in a starring role), I hesitated to read Mr. Green’s latest novel as I was afraid it would disappoint. It does not. The main character – Aza and her best friend Daisy – a writer of Star Wars fan fiction, meander through high school, first loves, and math in Indianapolis. However, Aza also suffers from spiralling thoughts that take over her life, a mental health condition treated in a straightforward and insightful manner as this lovely tale unfolds. The characters feel real, the situations are not cliche, and Mr. Green’s writing about teen life propels the reader forward faster than he or she might wish — savoring a good story is a gift we all can benefit from. Perhaps, what touched me the most was his matter of fact acknowledgement at the end of the novel that mental illness affects Mr. Green’s own life. I also appreciated his gift of providing resources in his end notes, and second his hope that those who suffer from mental illness are not alone in their journeys. ~ Lisa Christie

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Addiction

FC9780393608960.jpgThe Outrun by Amy Liptrot (2017) – When Amy Liptrot decides to confront her alcoholism head on, she makes a beeline from the bright lights and big city of London to her home in the Orkney Islands of northern Scotland. She grew up there on a farm;  the “outrun” refers to a remote pasture on her parents’ land. In this frank memoir (one reviewers and readers alike have compared to Helen MacDonald’s phenomenal 2015  H Is For Hawk) Ms. Liptrot reflects on her sense of place and the role her upbringing played in her addiction. Her journey shares her triumphs, learnings, and challenges. She brings us to the brink  — and to the northernmost reaches of Scotland, writing at one point from an isolated cottage on the island of Papa Westray, where Scotland’s oldest dwelling is located dating from 3500BC. Highly moving, haunting, and recommended. ~Lisa Cadow

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Sexual Assault

FC9780804170567.jpgMissoula by Jon Krakauer (2015) – It took awhile for this to get to the top of my bedside stack of books, but once I started I could not put it down. Mr. Krakauer’s rigorously researched analysis of 52 months of reported sexual assaults around the University of Montana is enlightening, sad, anger-provoking and most tragically could have been written in so many college towns. This is important, read it, ponder it, and somehow act to end a culture in which victims are punished over and over again. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781449486792.jpgthe sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur (2017) – Somehow we missed Ms. Kaur’s first best-selling book, but in a time where the news is full of people behaving horribly and many of us feel angst and hopelessness, Ms. Kaur’s honest poems about heart-break, loss, rape, love, relationships, and hope seem needed. This collection is divided into five sections wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming; falling deals with sexual assault and it’s aftermath. We leave you with a quote from this collection, “to hate is an easy, lazy thing, but to love takes strength everyone has, but not all are willing to practice”. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Well it is official; summer is almost over. By now most students have returned to school or are in the midst of buying supplies, the final vacations have ended, the air has cooled a bit, and the calendar says September is days away.  So, today we offer reviews of a few good books to read as summer fades (and to take on any Labor Day Weekend excursions).

A quick note — this is our last post for awhile was we spend the news few weeks “Gone Reading”. We look forward to sharing our picks with you again starting in mid- to late September.

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FICTION: Because getting lost in a good story is sublime

FC9780307959577.jpgSaints For All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan (2017) – Courtney Sullivan really knows how to tell a story, especially ones about family and the ties that bind.  I was hooked from beginning of this wonderful book and found myself caring deeply about each of her well-drawn characters until the very last page. Sisters Theresa and Nora, just girls when they journey across the Atlantic from rural Ireland in the mid-1950’s, settle in the strange, unknown City of Boston. When extroverted Theresa becomes unexpectedly pregnant, the fallout from this affects the rest of each of their lives. We join the family – matriarch Nora,  her grown children, and Theresa who is now a nun in Vermont – in modern day New England in the wake of a family tragedy and learn how their paths have brought them to this moment. An excellent beach, mountain, or desert read for the Labor Day Weekend and beyond. ~Lisa Cadow

FC9780735220683.jpgEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017) – This is one of the most original voices to emerge in recent fiction.  Funny, offbeat, quirky, troubled Eleanor Oliphant draws readers into her unusual world from page one. It is clear that this hard working thirty-year-old who lives in Glasgow struggles with social skills but we don’t exactly know why. When she sets her sights on wooing a grunge rocker, the story is set in motion. It is, however, her new friend Raymond from work who teaches her a thing or two about friendship and love. For me, this book was a wacky mash up of The Rosie Project, Room, and Jane Eyre. I. Loved. It.  P.S. Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon. ~Lisa Cadow

FC9781571310613.jpgMontana 1948 by Larry Watson (1995) – A sad, short, and powerful tale of a complicated family situation. (I can’t really provide more details without ruining the plot.) It reads like a powerful memoir; I had to keep reminding myself it is fiction. I promise this one will stay with you long after you turn the last page. (Thank you to Thetford Academy’s Mr. Deffner for sending it my way.) ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780062369581.jpgThe Baker’s Secret by Stephen Kiernan (2017) – Fans of World War Two and historical fiction, this book is for you. It is 1944 in Normandy, France, on the eve of D-Day, and defiant Emma, a strong willed woman and gifted baker, is determined to help her fellow villagers. When she is called upon to prepare the daily baguettes for the occupying German force she finds a way through cunning and her fierce determination benefit those in her community.  This is a story of survival and small acts of heroism during wartime that help change the course of history and the quality of daily life (and bread) ~Lisa Cadow

FC9780062484154.jpgWhatever Happened to Interracial Love by Kathleen Collins (2016) – I am so glad someone put this collection of short stories in my hands. The writing by Ms. Collins – an African American artist and filmmaker – is distinct and concise and paints vivid pictures of life in New York in the 1970s. The backstory to the collection is almost even better – these stories were discovered by Ms. Collins’ daughter after her death. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780393608595.jpgEvensong by Kate Southwood (2017) – This beautiful novel is a meditation on family. Told through the eyes of eighty-two-year-old Maggie Dowd who is just home from the hospital in time for the holidays, it is suffused with wisdom and memory, alternating through points in the narrator’s life from age five to the present. At the twilight of her life, we meet Maggie as she reflects on her youth, her choices, her motivations, her own children’s troubled relationship, her beloved granddaughter’s future, and what she sees as her pivotal decision to marry – an act that changed the rest of her days.  The simple beauty of Southwood’s writing can take a reader’s breath away, such as when Maggie remembers a long ago family picnic with her siblings, or sitting on an Iowa porch swing with a beau, or as a grandmother “running my hands over the baby like I’m rubbing butter into a Christmas turkey, giving the baby my pinkie to grab and suck on because I’ve done this before and I know. And here is that baby now, all grown with her woman’s bones, twisting my ring on her finger. And I haven’t a clue of what is to come for her, either, except for the certainty that it will surprise her.” This book is reminiscent of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. You won’t soon forget the voice of Maggie Dowd. ~Lisa Cadow

FC9780525427360.jpgDays Without End by Sebastian Barry (2017) – And now for a completely different look at the Wild West! Twice nominated for the Booker Prize, author Sebastian Barry crafts a truly original story that follows the life of orphan Thomas McNulty from the day he comes to North America from Ireland as a young boy in the mid 19th century. His far-reaching travels take him through the emerging West first as a gender-bending performer, then as a soldier in the Civil War, and eventually as a non-traditional father with his life partner John Cole. This is an unconventional love story and a tale of an unusual family gorgeously told. As New York Times reviewer Katy Simpson Smith observes, “Barry introduces a narrator who speaks with an intoxicating blend of wit and wide-eyed awe, his unsettlingly lovely prose unspooling with an immigrant’s peculiar lilt and a proud boy’s humor. But, in this country’s adolescence he also finds our essential human paradox, our heartbreak: that love and fear are equally ineradicable.” Highly recommended. ~Lisa Cadow

FC9780385490818.jpgThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – My first and definitely not my last foray into Ms Atwood’s work. This tale of the USA gone awry is powerful! ~ Lisa Christie and strongly seconded by Lisa Cadow

FC9781101971062.jpgHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) – WOW, it took too long for this book to get the top of my “to-be-read” pile. But, I am so glad I did finally read it.  I LOVE this tale of two sisters and their many generations of offspring as they live their lives in Africa and the USA from the times of African-USA slave trading to modern day. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781455537723.jpgThe Strays by Emily Bitto (2017) – This award-winning debut by an Australian author had me staying up late to discover what happened next.  Ms. Bitto uses research into depression-era Australia and an actual group of artists from that time as inspiration for a completely fictional tale of an artist colony and the ramifications of strangers living in close proximity. While I hate it when blurbs compare it to other books I love – in this case Ian McEwan’s Atonement – as that sets the bar far too high, I really enjoyed this first novel and truly look forward to what Ms. Bitto pens next. A great book for art lovers in particular, or for those interested in a novel about adolescent love, and/or the fallout from certain choices. ~ Lisa Christie

MYSTERIES: Because sometimes you just need for the bad guys to be caught

FC9781616957186.jpgAugust Snow by Stephen Mack Jones  (2017) – I so hope there is someone like August Snow – half black, half Mexican, ex-cop with a strong sense of justice and community – looking out for Detroit. The hope this book expresses for Detroit’s future weaves throughout the narrative, and Mr. Jones’s descriptions of Detroit’s decline and partial resurgence make the city an actual character in this thriller. Yes, he makes mistakes and, wow, by the end his body count is way too high for my tastes, but so few books take place in modern day Detroit. Enjoy this one! ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780735213005.jpgThe Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (2017) – I picked this up for two reasons 1) Carin Pratt of the Norwich Bookstore recommended it, and 2) it is set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where my grandparents grew up. I kept reading (but have not quite finished as we post), because as the New York Times said in its review, this book is, “Brilliant….In its balance of emotional patience and chapter-by-chapter suspense, The Marsh King’s Daughter is about as good as a thriller can be.” It still doesn’t take the place of Anatomy of a Murder as my favorite UP thriller, but that would be hard to do. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780062645227.jpgMagpie Murders by Anthony Horowtiz (2017) – It took me awhile to get into  this novel, but it smoothly rolled on once I was hooked (and kept me up one night so I could finish it). In what is truly a perfect book for Agatha Christie fans, Mr. Horowitz somehow manages to simultaneously honor and skewer the mystery genre in this book-within-a-book “who done it”. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781250066190.jpgFC9780802126474.jpgWe would be remiss if we did not note that Louise Penny (Glass Houses) and Donna Leon (Earthly Remains) have 2017 additions to their superb Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Commissario Guido Brunetti series.  As usual, these series provide dependable reading pleasure for those of us who enjoy a good mystery – with a superb lead detective – every once in awhile. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

MEMOIR: Because sometimes you need inspiration from others

FC9781455540419.jpgAl Franken: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken (2017) – A book for liberally minded folks to read as a reminder there are politicians working hard to helping others. A book for more conservative minded folks to read as a reminder that many liberal politicians are actually smart, kind, hardworking people who are doing their best for America; and in this case, they even have Republican friends :)! ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780062362599.jpgHunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxane Gay (2017) – I don’t think I have ever read such a well-written, honest, and brutal account of sexual assault and its aftermath. This sounds like a horrid reason to pick up a book, and it is horrid to think that the author endured a brutal and life-altering assault at age 12, but the story and Ms. Gay’s candid insight offer much more than that. Her analysis of her life after assault, as a morbidly obese woman in a society that abhors fat people, is brutal, filled with self loathing and big mistakes, but also hope, self love, professional accomplishments, friendships, social commentary, and always, always, her body and her relationship with that body. If, as a woman, you have ever tried to explain or understand your relationship with your own body, Ms. Gay will help. If, as a man, you have never understood this relationship women often have, Ms. Gay will help. If you want to better understand how people who are obese feel, Ms. Gay offers this gift of insight to you. If you have a complicated relationship with your body, Ms. Gay shows you are not alone. If you just want to spend some time with a talented writer, Ms. Gay’s Hunger is your chance. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9780399588174.jpgBorn a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016) – Funny, sad, and amazingly moving memoir about growing up as a biracial child in South Africa during and just after Apartheid. Mr. Noah is insightful and honest as he dissects his life and his choices and the choices that were made for him. Each chapter begins with an overview of life in South Africa that relates to the subsequent story from his own experiences. ~ Lisa Christie

FC9781501126345.jpgThe Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race edited by Jesmyn Ward (2016) – This collection of essays by a wide range of authors of color is powerful. Perhaps it will help you figure out how to advocate for equal opportunity for all; however, no matter what, it will definitely make you think about what life is like for those with black skin in the USA. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

So again, as of this moment, The Book Jam is officially on our annual “gone reading” hiatus. We look forward to sharing what we find when we start posting reviews again in late September. In the meantime, we hope you find the perfect book to read every time you are able to to sit with a good story. Previous Book Jam posts can help you – we promise.

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The convergence of the NBA finals, NHL finals, The French Open, baseball season, and golfing tournaments has us thinking about one of our favorite categories for BOOK BUZZ — sports books that are about so much more. Today we celebrate this current sports mania by highlighting some books about sports that are also about so much more. This list touches on running, basketball, crew, track and field, and football – both the American version and the kind the rest of the world plays. Please note that we include titles for adults, young adults, and children, but we do not label them as we don’t ever want to tell anyone that they are too old or too young to read a great book.

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The Golem's Mighty Swing Cover ImageThe Golem’s Mighty Swing by James Sturm (2017) –  This graphic novel tells the tale of the Stars of David, a barnstorming Jewish baseball team that played during the Depression. Using the true story of a team that travels among small towns playing ball and playing up their religious exoticism as something for people to heckle, this books combines baseball, small towns, racial tensions, and the desperate grasp for the American Dream. For those of you in the Upper Valley, Mr. Sturm will attend the Upper Valley Nighthawks game on June 10 to sign copies of this graphic novel.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Cover ImageBorn to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (2016) – No, this isn’t a Bruce Springsteen song but rather an inspirational book about long-distance running. Though we have yet to read it (behold, this is the second time we’ve ever included a book we haven’t read, see below!), one of us has ordered a copy due to her daughter’s utter enthusiasm about it.  After turning the last page, this daughter completely changed her own footwear and training regimen. So lace up your running shoes and start learning about a tribe that lives remotely and traditionally in the Copper Canyon of Mexico and  is renowned for its members who run 100 to 200 miles without a rest. By all accounts, this is a fascinating anthropological exploration of a little known people as well as a work that has the effect of getting readers running for the pure joy of it.

Soar Cover ImageSoar by Joan Bauer (2016) – We have recommended this before in numerous posts. However, since everyone we know who has read it has loved it, we feel no guilt whatsoever to adding this tale of how a boy’s love of baseball helps him adjust to a new school, a heart condition, and well life, to this post as well. Please read it if you haven’t already and enjoy!

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics Cover ImageThe Boys in the Boat (adult and YA versions) by Daniel James Brown (2013) – This story follows nine University of Washington students as they strive to become the rowing team representing the USA at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. These young men were never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, much less those attending the Olympics; their story is one of grit and inspiration.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Cover ImageUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (2010) – What is the sports aspect of this non-fiction book of surviving Japanese POW camps during WWII? Well, the amazing hero of this spellbinding tale was an Olympic runner long before he served the USA in the war. This book provides an incredible testament to the resilience of the human spirit. We recommend reading this and then joining your family to watch the movie version.

Fever Pitch Cover ImageFever Pitch by Nick Hornby (1998) – Fever Pitch is Mr. Hornby’s tribute to a lifelong obsession with English Football.  This award-winning memoir captures the fever pitch of fandom, coming of age stories, and the humor required to live a successful life.

Booked Cover ImageThe Crossover Cover ImageBooked and The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (assorted years) – Yes, we love Mr. Alexander’s books. Yes, we have recommended both these books before. But trust us, the youth readers you love will love these books about soccer (Booked) and basketball (The Crossover). They are poetic, perfect for reluctant readers, and both address how life happens while you have your eye on the ball.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream Cover ImageFriday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger (1990) – This book illustrates how sports – in this case high school football – can shape a community. It also inspired a pretty great television series (and a superb fundraising dinner for our town library). We recommend this book to football lovers (and lovers of small towns) everywhere.

The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life Cover ImageThe Playbook: 52 Rules to aim, shoot and score in this game called life by Kwame Alexander (2017) – This reminds us of another book of wisdom – 365 days of Wonder. But in The Playbook, Mr. Alexander uses sports and inspiring people such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama to offer advice about life. As with all his writing we have read thus far, Mr. Alexander uses humor and the well chosen word to get his point across. Bonus — this would make a superb elementary or middle school graduation gift.

Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback Cover ImagePaper Lion by George Plimpton (2009) – And now, for the second time ever (see above) we are including a book we have not yet read. But in our research about sports books we discovered that Book Week called this, “possibly the most arresting and delightful narrative in all of sports literature.” And we love the Detroit Lions; seriously Detroit could use a winning team people. So, we include this hoping someone will discover it as the perfect book for them, while we add it to our ever-growing pile of “to be read” book.

 

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Well, last week was quite the week for politics in the USA. Our first Black President vacated the White House after eight years of service. Our new President was inaugurated. And, millions marched on Saturday in rallies in DC, many state capitals, and cities throughout the world to remind our new administration that inclusiveness remains important — and that over half the US population is women.

So today, we shine the pink spotlight on books that will help to remind us all what is at stake. We have selected several titles that include short manifestos (Adichie), speculative fiction (Atwood), a turn-of-the-20th century heroine (Chopin), and a comedienne’s memoir (Moran) that reminds us that (still) “there’s never been a better time to be a woman.”images.jpg

A Room of One's Own Cover ImageA Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (1929) -It is our intent to read every book that is reviewed on this site. In this case, we make a slight exception because only one of us has read it and this reading occurred years ago, possibly most importantly years before she could understand the importance of a “room of one’s own” as every room she inhabited was hers — she was so very, very single. In this collection of essays, Wolfe essentially argues that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” She asserts that females cannot be a part of the literary conversation if they do not have the freedom and autonomy to write. Woolf also highlights the importance of education for women and their tenuous place in society without it. Though only one of us has had the opportunity to delve into this very, very important work, after this weekend the other Lisa has placed it at the top of her pile. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Handmaid's Tale Cover ImageThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985) – This work of speculative fiction has never once been out of print since it was first published over thirty years ago. The topics it tackles are so important and the construct so fascinating that directors have made in to a movie, an opera, and even a television series. It is set in a dystopian future New England where women have been stripped of their rights after a new government assumes power. Told through the eyes of Offred, a handmaid (the class of women assigned in this new society for reproductive purposes), Atwood explores the nature of power, fanaticism, resistance, and hanging on to hope in the face of great obstacles. ~ Lisa Cadow

We Should All Be Feminists Cover ImageWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014) – This gem of a book emerged from a speech by Ms. Adichie in which she outlines a twenty-first century view of feminism, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. In doing so, she succinctly and beautifully makes the case why we should all be feminists – feminism benefits all of us no matter our gender.  Read it; give it; live it. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Awakening and Selected Stories Cover ImageThe Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899) – In this slim, ground breaking work of fiction published at the end of the 1800’s, Chopin introduces us to Edna Pontellier, a white mother and wife from the South who is deeply unsatisfied with her life. When Edna falls in love outside of her marriage, she begins to ask new questions and push new boundaries alarming those around her.  It is hard to remember that this book was published before Woolfe, Wharton, and Welty started writing because its style is so modern, the subjects it tackles so ahead of its time. ~ Lisa Cadow

The Color Purple Cover Image The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982) – A book so important and complicated it won both the Pulitzer and National Book Award, and inspired a Broadway Musical. This compassionate novel, focusing on the lives of African American women in the 1930s, shows how two sisters one in the American South and one in Africa sustain their love across time, distance, and hardships. It garnered glowing reviews such as one from The New York Times Book Review,”intense emotional impact . . . Indelibly affecting . . . Alice Walker is a lavishly gifted writer,” and has frequently been the target of censors. ~ Lisa Christie

How to Be a Woman Cover ImageHow To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran (2011) – We end this list with humor because laughter and empathy help all conversations. 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 and Lisa Christie (excerpted from review from Book Jam Holiday Gift Guide 2012).
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While it is hard to top the list the Pages in the Pub presenters gave us in November or the one that BOOK BUZZ students gave us earlier this month, for those of you still needing gift suggestions, we have a few books for you to try. We truly hope our list helps you succeed with your last minute present shopping. Happy Holidays!

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Adults

Clever Novels for Fiction Lovers
Nutshell Cover ImageHomegoing Cover Image

The Nutshell by Ian McEwan (2016) – I heard about this retelling of Hamlet from the perspective of an unborn fetus while in the UK this summer. I was skeptical, but since I love most of Mr. McEwan’s work I read it as soon as it was available.  WOW!  As Lisa Cadow said in our previous review  – this novel is treasure. Told from the completely unique perspective of a 9-month-old fetus awaiting his birth, we witness his mother, Trudy, and her lover, Claude, plotting the murder of his father. As Lisa Cadow said, this modern-day interpretation of Hamlet, Nutshell is at once tragic and immensely amusing — with the baby boy simultaneously evaluating his mother’s wine choices while expressing his powerlessness to help his unsuspecting father. Told by a master writer at the height of his story-telling abilities, this is not to be missed.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) – A perfect debut novel to give to people who like to discover new authors. The work spans eight generations of characters living in Ghana, the UK and the USA. Thank you Liza Bernard for bringing this to our attention. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Must Read Memoirs, with Belly Laughs

You'll Grow Out of It Cover Image

You’ll Grow Out of It! by Jessi Klein (2016) – Recommended by Lucinda Walker, librarian extraordinaire, during Pages in the Pub, this laugh out loud, poignant, insightful memoir was exactly what I needed to counteract the vitriol of the recent election. ~ Lisa Christie

For Those Book Lovers Who Have Everything

Sense and Sensibility Cover ImageMadame Bovary: Provincial Lives Cover ImageGreat Expectations Cover ImageAnna Karenina Cover Image

Assorted Classics such as Sense and Sensibility, Madame Bovary, Inferno (for example),  from the Penguin Clothbound Classic series. Or, you might prefer the Word Cloud Classics faux leather series with  Great Expectations , Jane Eyre, and Anna Karenina to name a few. Titles in both these series are gorgeous and reasonably priced. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Closet Mystery Lovers (We review a few more of these as they make great gifts.)

A Great Reckoning Cover ImageThe Waters of Eternal Youth Cover ImageI Let You Go Cover ImageThe Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander Novel, Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series Cover Image

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (2016) – Somehow Ms. Penny cast of characters in her lovely Quebec Village of Three Pines makes murder comforting. The latest instalment of her Inspector Gamache series is well plotted, infused with poetry and just a great end of summer read.  Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon (2016) – Another superb Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery. This time a young girl is attacked and left for dead, but instead suffers severe brain damage.  Years later her grandmother asks Guido to investigate. The tale weaves illegal immigration, refugees and mental illness together.  It also allows us to spend time with Guido and his superb family. Enjoy. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

I Let You Go by Clare Macintosh (2016) – THE thriller for summer. Written by a retired UK police woman, this is better than than the books it gets compared to – Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. You will like the characters, you will feel each plot twist and you will lose a day of productivity as you finish this novel. Have fun! ~ Lisa Christie

Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (2016) – Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series will not be disappointed. This had me entertained for hours en route home from the UK. ~ Lisa Christie

For History Buffs
Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure Cover ImageThe Night Watch Cover Image

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006) – This one is for fiction lovers. Yes, another WWII novel, but worth reading.  This time the plot revolves around people in London just after WWII ends, during the nightly bombings of WWII, and at the start of the war, all told backwards chronologically.  May of the women have taken up important positions as ambulance drivers, the men are in jail for a variety of crimes; their adventures and connection they share link the tales. The prose is beautiful and the images Ms. Waters creates of life for civilians during war memorable. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Wine and War by Don and Petie Kladstrup (2002) – This one is for nonfiction readers. I haven’t finished this yet as someone (hello Langhus Family) just gave it to me as gift, but I am loving this true tale of how the wine industry in France was saved during WWII. Combine this paperback with a bottle from France, and voila you have a perfect holiday gift combination. ~ Lisa Christie

For Food Lovers 

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The easiest way to find great cookbooks is to visit our recent post on great cookbooks.

For Travellers and Others Who like Books about Cool Stuff

The Best Things in Life Are Free Cover ImageMap Stories: The Art of Discovery Cover ImageGreat City Maps Cover Image@Natgeo: The Most Popular Instagram Photos Cover Image

The Best Things in Life Are Free by Lonely Planet (2016) – Just when you thought Lonely Planet had covered all the travel book angles, they do it again. This time a guide to all things free as you travel this world. Have fun not spending money as a result of owning this book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Map Stories: The art of discovery by Francisca Matteoli – The author uses twenty places and voyages that inspired her to show how maps emerge from discovery and how discovery creates maps. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Great City Maps: A historical journey through maps, plans and paintings by DK Smithsonian (2016) – This is like a museum in a book. The authors take you through maps of various cities and show you how cities are shaped by events, geography, and the people inhabiting. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

@Nat Geo: The most popular instagram photos by National Geographic (2016) – This could be the perfect gift for your favorite photographer or explorer. Perhaps you could have it accompany an actual camera under the tree for your aspiring picture takers or a coupon for an exploration of a nearby, unknown territory during the holiday break? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Kids and Kids at Heart

For All Fans of Harry Potter

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay Cover Image

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling (2016) — This is terribly fun to read and really what is better than returning to the wonderfully magical world of Harry Potter? This time you visit in 1920 and hang out with a Hufflepuff hero. There is a reason JK Rowling once said that was her favorite Hogwarts house. Combine this screenplay with two tickets to see the movie, and you have a perfect last minute gift for almost anyone. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For Those Who Like Memoirs and Biographies

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition Cover ImagePrisoner B-3087 Cover Image

The Distance Between Us: YA version by Reyna Grande (2016) – This book seems especially important with all the recent talk about walls along the US border and hatred towards illegal immigrants.  Ms. Grande has adapted her memoir for young adults and in it she tells of her life as a toddler in an impoverished town in Mexico, her three attempts to cross into the USA with a coyote as a young child, her life in LA as an illegal immigrant, how her family gained legal status and how she managed college. This is not for the faint hearted due to themes of physical abuse and complicated relationships with parents who are always leaving.  But it is important to be informed, and this book will put faces on any political discussions about immigration that the teens in your life might encounter. ~ Lisa Christie

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz (2013) – An amazing book about the holocaust that my 13 year old just declared probably “the best book he’s read”.  Mr. Gratz takes the true story of Jack Gruener, who was moved through ten concentration camps including Auschwitz, and with slight poetic license creates a tale of survival amongst unspeakable horrors that must be remembered. ~ Lisa Christie

Just for Fun

The Trials of Apollo, Book One: The Hidden Oracle Cover ImageRaymie Nightingale Cover ImageJust My Luck Cover Image

The Trials of Apollo: Book One by Rick Riordan (2016) – Mr. Riordan’s treatment of mythology may be getting old for some, but not for me. Why? Well because his ability to capture teen angst and power remains spot on and perfect for narrating these tales. In his latest book, Apollo has fallen to earth as a teenage boy with flab and acne as punishment for his most recent sin against his father Zeus. He turns to his children at Camp Half Blood for help, and with his mortal enslaver manages to figure out what is going wrong on earth. The question is can he solve it? (Cliffhanger alert – Not in book one.) ENJOY! And thank you Augie Fortune for introducing me to this author all those years ago when you visited Vermont. ~ Lisa Christie

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016) – Ms. Camillo returns to 1970s Florida and creates a superb tale of three young girls who discover each other and themselves over the course of a summer.  The plot centers around Raymie’s plan to bring her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, back — she will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, get her picture in the paper and remind him he needs to come home. First though she must learn to twirl a baton and defeat the two other girls in her lessons. Delightful! ~ Lisa Christie 

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern (2016) – Truly a superb book that illustrates what it is like to be a 4th grader, have an autistic older brother, a distracted teacher, and feel as if you were the cause of your father’s life-altering accident. Basically it shows what it is like to be loved and to love. ~ Lisa Christie 

Great for Reluctant Readers

Booked Cover ImageWho Was Harriet Tubman? Cover Image

Booked by Kwame Alexander (2016) – Another hit by Mr. Alexander. This time a soccer player experiences family hardships (divorce) and teen angst (soccer tryouts).  The poetry format is winning. And my 13-year-old fan of The Crossover finished this in 18 hours (with school interfering.) We also highly recommend The Crossover .~ Lisa Christie

Who is What Was Who Is series (assorted years) – We recommend this series every year, but they keep adding great books.  Truly perfect for reluctant readers, and they will learn a lot. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Books Based in Historical Facts and/or People

The Seventh Most Important Thing Cover ImageThe War That Saved My Life Cover ImageSalt to the Sea Cover ImageAnna and the Swallow Man Cover Image

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall (2015) – Listened to with my ten year old and his friend on a long trip to Maine. We all loved this tale of a “trash man” who is actually making an amazing piece of art (actual artist James Hampton), the boy who hurts him and the penance he must pay.  There are lessons for all in this, but most importantly there is a good story of what happens when someone tales the time to get to know someone. ~ Lisa Christie

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015) — When Gary Schmidt (one of my favorite authors) blurbs a book with the words “I read this in two big gulps” I pay attention. This tale of two of the many children who were sent from London to the countryside for safety (think The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) is full of adventure, hardship, and ultimately love. I especially loved Ada and here feisty fight for her place in the world. ~ Lisa Christie

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016) – Just when you thought you WWII had been written about from every angle, an author proves we needed another WWII book. In this one four teenage refugees and their friends flee the Russians and the Germans.  Their tales will haunt you as you listen to today’s headlines about Syrian and other refugees. This one is important. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (2016) – This slim YA novel looks at life as a refugee – this time in Poland during WWII.  Anna’s father never comes home from work on day and she is befriended by a mysterious stranger who remains nameless throughout the book. Somehow, the author makes walking in circles in Poland compelling and meaningful, especially in light of today’s headlines from Syria. A great choice for fans of The Book Thief~ Lisa Christie 

Picture Books – We are going with the experts at Marion Cross School as heard during BOOK BUZZ

Chalk Cover ImageGo, Dog. Go! Cover Image

Chalk by Bill Thomson (2010). Selected by Ava B – Magic chalk drawings come to life.

Go, Dog. Go! by PD Eastman (1961). Selected by Mateo, presented with help from Drew – What is up in that tree?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!  May the final days of 2016 be filled with books and loved ones.

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On a dark, damp night in Norwich, book lovers converged on our beloved Norwich Inn to raise money for our treasured Norwich Public Library, and get a jump start on our holiday shopping. Our superb presenters spoke about their favorite picks for gift giving, and once again they sold a lot of books. We thank them for their book review skills. And, thanks to the generosity of the amazing Norwich Bookstore, the event raised around $1,400 for the Norwich Public Library. And in a huge bonus for all of us – their picks created a great list of books for all of us to give and get. (Note: I can personally attest to the laugh out loud (and poignant) funniness of Lucinda Walker’s pick – You’ll Grow Out of It which I immediately picked up and devoured. ~ Lisa Christie)

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This post lists all 25 books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review provided by the presenter. You’ll notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make gift-giving easier. We hope you have fun browsing these selections. We also hope that you enjoy holiday shopping from the comfort of your computer/iPad/phone using the direct links to each selection, and that you are inspired to visit your favorite indie bookseller and purchase some of these in person.imgres-2.jpg

And now, our superb presenters’ picks for holiday gift giving, with their intriguing bios at the end.

Enormous Smallness: A Story of e. e. cummings Cover ImageWho What Where? Cover Image

PICTURE BOOKS FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS 

enormous SMALLNESS: A story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess (2016). Selected by Rob – Poet learns to illuminate world’s beauty.

Who What Where? by Olivier Tallec (2016). Selected by Lucinda – Careful observation brings joy and delight.

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White Cover ImageThe Secret Keepers Cover ImageThe Crossover Cover ImageBooked Cover Image

BOOKS FOR YOUNGER READERS WHO ARE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS AND TEA PARTIES, BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS (perhaps ages 8-12) 

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet (2016). Selected by Liza -Thoughtful writer portrayed by artist fan.

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart (2016). Selected by Liza – Kid propelled plot high action, fun!

Books by Kwame AlexanderThe Crossover (2014) and Booked (2016). Selected by Lisa – Author uses verse, sports. Hooks readers.

Soar Cover Image
BOOKS FOR YOUR FAVORITE TWEEN: THOSE NOT YET READY FOR HIGH SCHOOL, BUT WHO ARE THINKING ABOUT BEING THERE (perhaps ages 12-14) 

Soar by Joan Bauer (2016). Selected by Lisa – Baseball-obsessed boy follows heart, changes lives.

March (Trilogy Slipcase Set) Cover Image

BOOKS FOR YOUR FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOLER OR TALES FOR TEENS WHO STILL LIKE TO DRINK HOT CHOCOLATE AND SPEND SNOWY DAYS READING 

March Trilogy by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (assorted years). Selected by Lisa – Amazing man recounts history. Uses pictures.
March: Book One 
March: Book Two 
March: Book Three 
March: (all three in a boxed set)

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COOKBOOKS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO COOK UP A CULINARY SNOWSTORM 

Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors by Diane Henry (2016). Selected by Liza – Elegant, creative ingredient combinations – be inspired!

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders Cover ImageBeing a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide Cover ImageHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis Cover ImageThe Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate--Discoveries from a Secret World Cover Image

NON-FICTION OR REFERENCE BOOKS FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK AND CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOODSTOVE 

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton (2016). Selected by Lucinda – Spider web farms to enormous sinkholes!

Being a Beast by Charles Foster (2016). Selected by Rob  – Guy lives like animals. Hold tight!

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (2016). Selected by Rob – An afflicted, troublesome America, piercingly explained.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (2016). Selected by Sara – Provocative, illuminating, magical, romantic, colorful, transformative.

Born to Run Cover ImageYou'll Grow Out of It Cover Image

MEMOIRS FOR PEOPLE WHO ENJOY LIVING VICARIOUSLY THROUGH OTHER PEOPLE’S MEMORIES 

Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen (2016). Selected by Sara – Honest, disarming, lyrical, funny, inspirational, insightful.

You’ll Grow out of It by Jessi Klein (2016). Selected by Lucinda – Honest. Raw. Laugh out loud funny.

Homegoing Cover ImageTo the Bright Edge of the World Cover ImageWar and Turpentine Cover ImageNews of the World Cover Image

ADULT FICTION: FOR ANYONE WHO JUST NEEDS AN ENGROSSING NOVEL TO HELP THEM RECOVER FROM THE NOVEMBER ELECTIONS

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016). Selected by Liza – Compelling history, interwoven lives, race, family.

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey (2016). Selected by Lucinda – Ivey Adventure and love in 1885 Alaska.

War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans (2016). Selected by Rob- Vanished Europe, war, painting, wondrously observed.

News of the World by Paullette Jiles (2016). Selected by Sara – Poetic, complex, vivid, heartbreaking, suspenseful, haunting.

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts Cover ImagePogue's Basics: Money: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) about Beating the System Cover ImagePogue's Basics: Life: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) for Simplifying Your Day Cover ImagePogue's Basics: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life Cover Image

COFFEE TABLE BOOKS AND/OR LITERARY GIFTS FOR YOUR FAVORITE HOSTS/HOSTESSES AND CO-WORKERS

The Illustrated Compendium of Amazing Animal Facts by Maja Safstrom (2016). Selected by Sara – Sweet, charming, playful, quirky, whimsical, unexpected.

Pogue’s Basics Books by David Pogue (assorted years). Selected by Lisa – Never knew you needed to know.

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Our Presenters

Lucinda Walker has been the Director of the Norwich Public Library since 2002 and is grateful for her colleagues and this remarkable community. Besides books, her favorite things include French roast coffee, skiing, Provincetown, storytelling podcasts and Saturday Night Live. Her favorite time to read is at 3 am. Lucinda lives in Brownsville with her poet husband Peter and two amazing kids, Hartley & Lily.

Sara Trimmer has worn many different professional hats, but has always been a reader, an eclectic one. From cookbooks to philosophy to literature and poetry, she chooses books that teach, inspire, transport – is wild about a good story and can read a well constructed sentence over and over and over again.

Rob Gurwitt works at dailyUV.com, where among other things he gets to enjoy three different book blogs as they come in to the site. He cross-country skis, thinks that after a decade of trying he might have figured out pizza crust, and suspects that he’s going to be spending a lot of time lost in books over the next four years.

Lisa Christie is the co-founder/blogger for the Book Jam. In previous times, she was the founder/first Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and USA, literacy programs that help children love books. She currently works part-time as a non-profit consultant, part-time Dartmouth graduate student, full-time mom/wife, and all-the-time believer in the power of books. She lives with her author husband, two superb sons, and a very large Bernese mountain dog. She often dreams of travel.

Lisa Cadow is the co-founder/blogger for the Book Jam, and the founder of Vermont Crepe & Waffle, a food cart serving authentic French crepes. When not reading, traveling or testing recipes for her food blog, Fork on the Road, she works as a health coach for Dartmouth Health Connect, an innovative primary care practice. She lives with her husband, three teens (all of whom are away at college most of the year now), three cats, and a fun border collie.

Liza Bernard is co-owner of the Norwich Bookstore, currently buyer, general manager and chief light-bulb changer. She believes in the power of words to enlighten and educate, as well as entertain, and is heartened by the abundant harvest of new books on a wide spectrum of topics.

Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you enjoy a joyous start to the Holiday Season!

May you find peace, love, friends, and good books. 

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So, school starts very soon and your 4th grader was supposed to read four books before seeing his teacher on day one. Your 11th grader was supposed to pick one book not on the required reading list and has no idea what to choose, and besides she would rather hang with her friend today (and tomorrow and forever). Your 6th grader has already consumed 20 books and you don’t have anything else to recommend to him.

Well, the Book Jam has some solutions to these and other reading dilemmas. We hope the books on this list help your kids (and you as these are great for adults too) out of your “Book Jams”. While we hate strict categories, to guide you on possible age appropriateness, we divided the picks into YA and elementary/younger middle schoolers. Again, please remember that these are merely guidelines. Enjoy these last days of summer!

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Novels for Elementary School Students and Younger Middle Schoolers

Soar Cover ImageSoar by Joan Bauer (2016) – Years ago, we fell in love with Ms. Bauer’s Newbery Honor Medal Winner Hope Was Here. But we haven’t read much of her work since. We corrected this yesterday when one of the Book Jam Lisas could not put Ms. Bauer’s latest novel – Soar – down, finishing it in one long swoop. Her main character and narrator of this tale – Jeremiah, is a heart transplant recipient and the world’s biggest baseball fan. He may not be able to play (yet) due to his transplant, but he sure can coach. And, he is just what his middle school needs after a huge high school sports scandal breaks his new hometown. Infused with humor, baseball trivia, and a lovely adoption sub-plot, this book is all about grit, hard work, and determination. It also does an amazing job of reminding readers that kids can be truly amazing people. We love all the books listed for this post, and we admit that some of Soar could be construed as corny, but the Lisa who read Soar hasn’t been so happy reading a kid’s book in a long, long, long time. We recommend it as an excellent (and possibly necessary) break from politics. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The War That Saved My Life Cover ImageThe War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015) — When Gary Schmidt (one of my favorite authors) blurbs a book with the words “I read this in two big gulps” I pay attention. This tale of two of the many children who were sent during WWII from London to the countryside for safety (think The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) is full of adventure, hardship, and ultimately love. I especially loved Ada and here feisty fight for her place in the world. ~ Lisa Christie

Raymie Nightingale Cover ImageRaymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016) – Ms. Camillo returns to 1970s Florida and creates a superb tale of three young girls who discover each other and themselves over the course of a summer. The plot centers around Raymie’s plan to bring her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, back; she will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, get her picture in the paper, and remind him he needs to come home. First though, she must learn to twirl a baton and defeat the two other girls in her lessons. Delightful! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

My Life with the Liars Cover ImageMy Life With the Liars by Caela Carter (2016) – I never thought I would write the next sentence – I loved this children’s book about a religious cult. But, I loved this children’s book about a religious cult. I have no idea how to sell this book, but after a retired elementary school librarian pointed out that kids will have no trouble with the content, it is parents who will have doubts, I decided to add this to our annual summer list of great books for kids to read. I truly, truly loved the narrator – almost-13-year-old Zylynn. I was spellbound as she explained her quest to return to the compound where she was born and lived up until her birth father recently brought her to his home. Her father’s home is “on the outside, in the darkness, and among the liars” and is far away from the “light” of the cult. As the book jacket states, “Caela Carter has created a stunningly unique and poignant story of one girl’s courage to decide who she is and what she will believe in”. If you are not certain if your kids can handle this concept, read it yourself; you won’t be sorry. ~ Lisa Christie

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook Cover ImageAll Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor (2016) – This kid will restore your faith in humanity and the art of doing the right thing. A superb middle grade book about a boy who is raised in a prison alongside his incarcerated mother and her fellow inmates. The love they share is inspiring and the forces trying to keep them apart are well-intentioned, but coming up against a kid they underestimated. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie (Seconded by Katie Kitchel of the Norwich Bookstore)

Just My Luck Cover ImageJust My Luck by Cammie McGovern (2016) – Truly a superb book that illustrates what it is like to be a 4th grade boy, have an autistic older brother, a distracted teacher, and feel as if you were the cause of your father’s life-altering accident. Basically, it shows what it is like to be loved and to love. ~ Lisa Christie

What Was Ellis Island? Cover ImageWho Was Jackie Robinson? Cover ImageThe Who Is, Who Was, What Was series (assorted dates and authors) – There are hundreds of these slim, entertaining volumes about significant people, places and events in US and world history (e.g, Harriet Tubman, Blackbeard, Winston Churchill, Underground Railroad, Pearl Harbor, William Shakespeare, Bill Gates). These are great first books to be read alone by beginning readers and provide a lot of great information in a fun manner for kids of all ages who are interested in “real” stories. Be careful, once you read one, your kids might want to start collecting them. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

As Brave as You Cover ImageBrave as You by Jason Reynolds (2016) – A slow tale of how life changes two Brooklyn boys who are spending summer vacation in Virginia with their grandparents. Their grandpop is blind, their grandma makes them work in her garden and sell sweet peas at the local flea market, the oldest brother Ernie meets a girl, and their parents are in Jamaica figuring out how not to get a divorce. The younger brother Genie and Ernie will show you that being brave sometimes means not doing something almost as often as as it means taking action.~ Lisa Christie

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Cover ImageRoll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor – THANK YOU Marion Cross School for featuring this as one of your “Battle of the Books” choices. Because of you, I have finally read this classic, and I am so glad I did. Ms. Taylor’s writing is superb, and apparently brought out my southern accent as I read this aloud to my youngest son. The tale of dangerous race relations in the USA is gripping, leaving my son to ask for one more chapter over and over again. Alone this book is superb; as a way to talk about today’s headlines with a 4th grader, it is priceless.~ Lisa Christie (Seconded by Lisa Cadow)

The Crossover Cover ImageBooked Cover ImageThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander (2015) – My 13-year-old son (who self describes as someone who hates reading) gave this to me when I was looking for a good book. I truly thank him. I am drawn to children’s books written in verse, and Mr. Alexander’s poetry did not disappoint. His lyrical, artistic, pointed, and poignant word choices expertly develop a narrative of closer than close twin brothers who are basketball stars, facing the first challenge to their relationship – girls, and trying to navigate their evolving relationship with their parents (a mom who is also their assistant principal complicates their lives quite a bit). This award winning book is haunting me days after the last page was read.  We combine this review with that of Booked by Kwame Alexander (2016), another hit by Mr. Alexander. This time a soccer player experiences family hardships (divorce) and teen angst (soccer tryouts). The poetry format is winning. And, my 13-year-old fan of The Crossover finished this in 18 hours (with school interfering.) ~ Lisa Christie

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YA novels, Plus Adult Novels and Books for Young Adults

Salt to the Sea Cover ImageSalt to the Sea by Ruta Spetys (2016) – Just when you thought WWII had been written about from every angle, an author proves we needed another WWII book. In this novel, four teenage refugees and their fellow refugees flee the Russians and the Germans. Their tales will haunt you as you listen to today’s headlines about Syrian and other refugees. This YA outing is important. ~ Lisa Christie

East of Eden Cover ImageEast of Eden by John Steinbeck (1952) – We think we learned all the nuances of good and evil from reading this book in our youth. East of Eden provides a spellbinding tale of two families in California’s Salinas Valley, in particular two brothers, who reenact the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Oprah reinstated her Book Club for this book; now that’s power. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

Interpreter of Maladies Cover ImageInterpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (1999) – A gorgeous collection of connected short stories that illustrates the power of love transcends borders, boundaries and cultural expectations. This was our first introduction to the work of Ms. Lahiri and we are glad we discovered her prose early in her career. Her insight into the lives of Indian immigrants to the USA is memorable. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Brave Companions: Portraits in History Cover ImageBrave Companions: Portraits in History by David McCullough (1992) – Gorgeous, insightful, interesting, and diverse essays about exceptional women and men who shaped the course of history, and whose stories prove timeless. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver (1958) – Set in the beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan, this book is based upon a real life murder. It unfolds as a gripping tale of suspense, and ends with an inevitable movie starring a young Lee Remick and James Stewart that won seven Oscars including best picture and best actor in a leading role and best screenplay. ~ Lisa Christie

All American Boys Cover ImageAll-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (2016) – Told in two voices in alternating chapters, this YA novel unravels what happens to a town when a white policeman beats a black teen. The authors wrote this in response to what they saw, while on book tour together, after Ferguson. And while some of the situations are convenient, overall, the book is a superb way to get your teen to talk about today’s headlines, how race, upbringing and situations all affect one’s perspective, and how hard it is to “do the right thing”. Oh, the fact both writers are award winning YA authors is an added bonus. ~ Lisa Christie

Anna and the Swallow Man Cover ImageAnna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (2016) – This slim YA novel looks at life as a refugee – this time in Poland during WWII.  One day, Anna’s father never comes home from work, and as she copes, she is befriended by a mysterious stranger who remains nameless throughout the book. The book tells the tale of what happens next from Anna’s perspective. And somehow, the author makes walking in circles in Poland compelling and meaningful, especially in light of today’s headlines from Syria. A great choice for fans of The Book Thief (2006)~ Lisa Christie

Hope in the Unseen Cover ImageHope In the Unseen by Ron Suskind (1998) – This book illustrates the obstacles faced by bright students from tough neighborhoods as they navigate their education. Read years ago, it has haunted me ever since. ~ Lisa Christie

 

Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn Cover ImageCounting Coup by Larry Colton (2001) – Mr. Colton journeys into the world of a group of Crow Indians living in Montana, and follows the struggles of a talented, moody, charismatic young woman basketball player named Sharon. This book far more than just a sports story – it exposes Native Americans as long since cut out of the American dream. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Let the Great World Spin Cover ImageLet the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2010) – Given to us by a friend, and read when we needed a reminder that books could be gorgeous and uplifting. This novel connects a diverse group of New Yorkers and addresses life in the 1970s in a timeless and lyrical fashion. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One & Two (Special Rehearsal Edition Script): The Official Script Book of the Original West End Production Cover ImageHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne (2016) – Listed because young adults grew up with Harry Potter and need to know what happened next. Also, because thinking about what Harry is like at 37 (19 years after the last book ended), will help young adult readers think about the grown-up choices they will face soon enough. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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