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Archive for the ‘Historical Fiction Buffs’ Category

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March came in like a lion in Vermont, and we hope it goes out like a lamb. In the meantime, we can celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with great books from Irish authors (and Irish Canadians). Thank you to our superb friend and great author Sarah Stewart Taylor for your recommendations; we are so looking forward to reading your next book, which we know is partially set in Ireland.

Conversations with Friends: A Novel Cover ImageConversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (2017). As a woman of a certain age facing a life with teenaged sons and trying to figure out what marriage after 20 years looks like, I realize I have forgotten how fraught, exciting, and lonely life as a college student/recent college grad can be.  This intense novel by Ireland’s Sally Rooney reminded me of that life phase in a delightful way. In it, Frances, an aspiring poet, and her performance artist partner / lover Bobbi are befriended by an older couple. Complications ensue, including the perhaps predictable affairs and strivings for more by everyone. I read it in one long sitting, as could have perhaps been predicted for a novel by the Winner of the 2017 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. Enjoy! (We have heard her next novel Normal People is even better and won the 2019 Costa Novel Prize; you’ll have to ask your friends in Europe to send it to you though or preorder it from your favorite local bookstore as it is not available in the USA until April 16.)

Milkman: A Novel Cover ImageMilkman: A Novel by Anna Burns(2018).  We highly recommend listening to the audio version of this Man Booker award-winning book. Not only does the narrator’s irresistible Irish accent transport the listener to Belfast in the 1970’s but her conversational delivery invites the listener into this difficult story of an18-year-old being sexually harassed by a much older man (the eponymous “milkman”). The author’s intentionally long, run-on sentences are delivered in a way that the listener is able to sink in her teeth and truly feel the Terror in Ireland – though the decade is never directly named –  a time when partisan politics came to a head (think America modern day), infusing daily life with bombings and fear. This book makes one wonder if the shaming of accused women will ever change or if perhaps continuing to spotlight an awareness of this timeless storyline will ultimately lead us to an age of equality.

FC9780140186475.jpgThe Dubliners by James Joyce (1914) – If you’ve ever wished to get to know Joyce in a more casual “meet and greet” kind of way before committing to a multi week journey with him through his denser works such as Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, this is the book for you. It is a stunning collection of short stories that concludes with his most famous (nearly) novella “The Dead.” There are echoes of the voices of Tolstoy and Chekov in these cautionary tales, many of which deal with themes of memories, regret, missed opportunities, and times gone by. It is fascinating to consider that Joyce wrote this work in exile while living in Trieste, a city where he spent most of his adult life, given how effectively he captures poignant scenes of middle class Irish life in the late twentieth century.

Our Homesick Songs Cover ImageOur Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper (2018) – The fish have left Newfoundland and so has pretty much every person in this lovely hopeful novel about how things change.  As the New York Times said  “Lyrical…the town is filled with magic, and so is Hooper’s writing…Our Homesick Songs is a eulogy not just to a town but a lifestyle – one built on waves, and winds, and fish, and folklore.” We include it here as the novel is peopled by Irish Canadians, and because sometimes you just need to read a book that leaves you hopeful about the human spirit. Thank you Susan Voake, retired elementary school librarian extraordinaire and current superb indie bookseller for this recommendation.

To finish, we highlight some Irish recipes from our local gem of a bakery King Arthur FlourIrish Soda Bread and Irish Brown Bread. Long may we all bake and read.


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Here in Vermont we are benefitting from a blizzard of recommendations of books for kids and young adults this holiday season. What is our source? Well, two BOOK BUZZes over the course of two days means that numerous students from area schools presented their favorite books to read, give, and get. On Friday we posted the selections from the middle school students at Crossroads Academy, today we post the selections from students from our own Norwich elementary school, the Marion Cross School.

We hope you (and the kids you need to shop for) enjoy the selections from these students. Their names and grades are listed at the end of this post.

The Secret of Platform 13 Cover ImageLast Day on Mars (Chronicle of the Dark Star #1) Cover ImageThe Unicorn in the Barn Cover Image

Books for your friends who don’t like to read but who would love a great story

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) Cover Image

Superb books you would assign to your favorite adult (teacher, aunt, parent) as required reading

  • The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (2018). Selected by Hannah. Another dimension with a hidden adventure.

Iron Hearted Violet Cover ImageThe Little Prince Cover Image

Best family read-alouds

  • Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill (2012). Selected by Twyla. Best friends, dragon, mirrored sky, war.
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1942). Selected by Mr. Bill. A little philosopher ponders life’s mysteries.

The One and Only Ivan Cover ImageWaiting for the Magic Cover Image

Perfect books to help you ignore the fact you are waiting for your sister or brother to finish hockey practice

  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (2012). Selected by Gavin. Silver-back Ivan and Elephant Stella.
  • Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan (2011). Selected by Mrs. French. Four dogs help family find comfort.

Who Is the Dalai Lama? (Who Was?) Cover ImageWho Is Jane Goodall? (Who Was?) Cover Image

Fun non-fiction books for kids who prefer TRUE stories

Refugee Cover Image

Fiction Books that do a great job of teaching history

  • Refugee by Alan Gratz (2017). Selected by Penelope. Three kids, all refugees, different times.

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives Cover ImageGrandpa's Great Escape Cover ImageAll's Faire in Middle School Cover Image

GREAT Books to give to your friends for their birthdays

Ballpark Mysteries #6: The Wrigley Riddle Cover Image

The BEST Book to give to your younger brother or sister because it was your favorite in 2nd grade

Mascot Cover ImageThe Contract (Jeter Publishing) Cover Image

Sports books that are about so much more

  • Mascot by Antony John (2018). Selected by Jacobi. Kid in wheelchair. Out with Fredbird.
  • The Contract Series by Derek Jeter (Assorted Years). Selected by Joe. A dad, a bully, & a nothing.

Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere Cover Image

Picture Books to read with your reading buddy (or younger sister or brother)

The Apothecary (The Apothecary Series #1) Cover ImageThe Zodiac Legacy: Balance of Power Cover ImageFriday Barnes, Girl Detective (Friday Barnes Mysteries #1) Cover ImageCalvin and Hobbes Cover Image

A series you won’t be able to put down, or what to read when you run out of Wimpy Kid books

  • The Apothecary Series by Maile Meloy (Assorted Years). Selected by Adeline. Potions! Flying! Chemistry! Stop the Bomb!
  • Zodiac Legacy by Stan Lee (Assorted Years). Selected by Benjamin. Zodiac Powers Return After 144 years.
  • Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R. A. Spratt (Assorted Years). Selected by Milly. Smart girl detective solves crazy mysteries.
  • Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (Assorted Years). Selected by Daniil. Calvin and Hobbes Never Grow Old.

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The Marion Cross presenters

4th grade

  • Drew
  • Ally
  • Harrison
  • Joe
  • Addy
  • Roxy

5th grade

  • Wyatt
  • Twyla
  • Milly
  • Daniil
  • Jacobi

6th grade

  • Penelope
  • Campbell
  • Benjamin
  • Gavin
  • Lucy
  • William
  • Hannah

Adults

  • Mr. Bill (Thank you Mr. Bill for your support of BOOK BUZZ and the MCS students always.)
  • Mrs. McCaull (Thank you Mrs. McCaull for all your help coaching the students. BOOK BUZZ would not happen without you.)
  • Mrs. French (Thank you Mrs. French – and the 4th, 5th and 6th grade teams – for your support of BOOK BUZZ; teachers like you make a huge difference.)

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Once again, students in a local K-8 school – Crossroads Academy – helped us find GREAT books to give to kids and teens (and adults honestly) this holiday season. Their presentations during BOOK BUZZ were superb, and their book selections should help all of us cross some of our holiday shopping needs off our lists. Thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore, they also raised some money for their library.

We hope you enjoy their selections.

Sparkers Cover ImageEverything I Know About You Cover ImageSpy School Goes South Cover Image

Books for your friends who don’t like to read but who would love a great story

Emily Dickinson Poems Cover ImageThe Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes Ppb Cover ImageTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea Cover Image

Superb books you would assign to your favorite adult (teacher, aunt, parent) as required reading

The Only Girl in School: A Wish Novel Cover ImageWhere the Sidewalk Ends Special Edition with 12 Extra Poems: Poems and Drawings Cover ImageTisha: The Wonderful True Love Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaskan Wilderness Cover Image

Best family read-alouds

  • The Only Girl in School by Natalie Standiford (2016). Selected by Mia. An adventurous novel full of friendship.
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (1974). Selected by Brynne. Poetry for children and adults alike.
  • Tisha by Robert Specht (1976). Selected by Hannah. A determined teacher in snowy Alaska.

Mascot Cover Image

Sports books that are about so much more

  • Mascot by Antony John (2018). Selected by Lisa. Accident changes all. Cardinals, friends help.

Hoot Cover ImageA Mango-Shaped Space Cover ImageThe Hunger Games Cover ImageStargirl Cover Image

Perfect books to help you ignore the fact you are waiting for your sister or brother to finish hockey practice

  • Hoot by Carl Hiaasen (2004). Selected by Rhys. Mystery of a boy saving habitat.
  • A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass (2003). Selected by Natalie. Girl with synesthesia copes with challenges.
  • The Hunger Games Series by Susan Collins (Assorted years). Selected by Hannah. Extreme dystopian world. I love it!
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (2000). Selected by Mia. Stargirl! A book full of love.

 

Sky Raiders (Five Kingdoms #1) Cover ImageThe Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) Cover ImageThe Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy Cover ImageThe Black Mage: Apprentice Cover Image

A series you won’t be able to put down, or what to read when you run out of Wimpy Kid books

  • The Five Kingdom Series by Brandon Mull (Assorted years). Selected by Rhys. Thrilling, fantasy, search for lost friends.
  • Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi (Assorted years). Selected by Jai. Trapped in darkness, can they escape?
  • The Penderwicks Series by Jeanne Birdsall (Assorted years). Selected by Thea. Heartwarming books filled with adventure and joy!
  • Black Mage Series by Rachel E. Carter (Assorted years). Selected by Eleanor. Magical competition. Love defeated. Last stand.

The Fault in Our Stars Cover Image

Books that are sad, but really, really good

The Invention of Wings: A Novel Cover ImageThe Brothers Karamazov: A Novel in Four Parts With Epilogue Cover ImageThe Parker Inheritance Cover Image
Fiction Books that do a great job of teaching history

  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (2014). Selected by Laura. Two women. Same beliefs. Different paths.
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1879). Selected by Daniel. Russian saga about brothers’ tumultuous relationships.
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (2018). Selected by Lisa. Civil rights. Buried treasure? New friend.

The Lord of the Rings Deluxe Edition Cover Image
GREAT Books to give to your friends for their birthday

  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Assorted Years). Selected by Gael .One hobbit to save the Middle-earth.

Not Quite Narwhal Cover ImageRescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship Cover Image

Picture Books to read with your reading buddy (or younger sister or brother)

  • Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima (2018). Selected by Ms. Brodsky. Unicorn born Narwhal. Discovers is unicorn.
  • Rescue and Jessica by Jessica Kensky (2018). Selected by Ms. Brodsky. Girl and dog. Love and teamwork.

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The Crossroads Presenters

Grade 6

  • Hannah
  • Jai
  • Laura
  • Natalie

Grade 7

  • Rhys
  • Thea

Grade 5

  • Mia
  • Gael

Grade 8

  • Brynne
  • Daniel
  • Eleanor

Librarian

  • Ms. Brodsky

THANK YOU!

best christmas jumper jingle my bells

 

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The snow stopped falling long enough for a lucky portion (we sold out yet again) of the Upper Valley reading public to attend the seventh annual Pages in the Pub: Holiday Edition in Norwich. We thank the terrific Norwich Bookstore for their generous donation of 20% of the evening sales to the stupendous Norwich Public Library, the Norwich Inn for hosting us, the terrific presenters (Lucinda, Penny, and Rob) for their work, enthusiasm, and the donation of their time, and all those who attended for once again making Pages in the Pub an incredibly fun evening.

This post lists all books discussed during the evening, each with a special six-word review written by the presenter, and each with a link to a longer review at the Norwich Bookstore web site. You’ll notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing and gift-giving easier. And, please note their are gift ideas for every age and genre preference. We hope this list helps your cross off some of your holiday shopping, including maybe a gift or two for yourself. Bios of the fabulous presenters can be found at the very end of this list.

Quiet Cover ImageNight Play Cover Image

For kids & for families to read together

  • Quiet by Tomie dePaola (2018). Selected by Penny. Peace, Happiness, Family, Contemplative, Just be.
  • Night Play by Lizi Boyd (2018). Selected by Lisa Christie. At night, stuffies play. Festive cutouts.

Anna, Banana, and the Sleepover Secret Cover ImageHarbor Me Cover Image

For middle grade & middle school readers, those beyond Tonka trucks and tea parties but not ready for teen topics

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures Cover Image

For your favorite ’tween & teen thinking about how to be an amazing adult

  • American Like Me by America Ferrara (2018). Selected by Lisa Christie. Famous voices find identity, place. Heartfelt/heartening.

The Maze at Windermere: A Novel Cover ImageThe Great Believers Cover ImageWhere the Crawdads Sing Cover ImageWhere We Live Cover ImageOn Brassard's Farm Cover ImageThe Cabin at the End of the World: A Novel Cover Image

For anyone who just needs an engrossing novel to help them recover from the news

  • The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake Smith (2018). Selected by Rob. A timeless tale of Newport, RI.
  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (2018). Selected by Lucinda. ’80s heartbreak leads to present survival.
  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2018). Selected by Lisa Cadow. Naturalist writes lyrical southern novel-mystery.
  • Where We Live by W D Wetherell (2018). Selected by Penny. Incredible plots; strong writing; interesting characters.
  • On Brassard’s Farm by Daniel Hecht (2018). Selected by Lucinda. Vermont dairy farm provides life lessons.
  • The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (2018). Selected by Rob. What would you do to survive?

Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way Cover ImageNow & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus  + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers Cover ImageOttolenghi Simple: A Cookbook Cover ImageSalt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking Cover Image

For people who like to cook up a culinary snowstorm

  • Aperitif by Rebekah Peppler (2018). Selected by Lisa Cadow. Serve hors d’oeuvres like a Parisian.
  • Now and Again by Julia Turshen (2018). Selected by Lisa Cadow. Activist makes hip food and leftovers fun.
  • Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi (2018). Selected by Penny. Simple, unique, quick, delicious, inspired flavors.
  • Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat (2017). Selected by Lucinda. Your taste buds will thank you!

Educated: A Memoir Cover ImageHow to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals Cover Image

For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories

  • Educated by Tara Westover (2018). Selected by Lisa Cadow. Turbulent Idaho childhood, PhD from Cambridge.
  • How to be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery (2018). Selected by Lisa Cadow. Animal friends impart powerful life lessons.

The Library Book Cover ImageSpying on Whales: The Past, Present, and Future of Earth's Most Awesome Creatures Cover ImageRising: Dispatches from the New American Shore Cover Image
For people who enjoy non-fiction or reference books while sitting by the woodstove

  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean (2018). Selected by Penny. Books, fires, libraries, LA, entertaining, informative.
  • Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson (2018). Selected by Rob. A deep dive into whale’s mystique.
  • Rising by Elizabeth Rush (2018). Selected by Penny. Coastal, climate, lyrical stories; not depressing.

A World of Cities Cover ImageBerlin Book One: City of Stones Cover ImageTrekking Beyond: Walk the world's epic trails Cover ImageThe Book of the Horse: Horses in Art Cover Image

For enjoyment by your hosts or coworkers – gifts for just about anyone!

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Our Amazing Presenters

Lucinda Walker has been the Director of the Norwich Public Library since (gasp!) 2002. In the words of Eloise, she “loves, loves, loves” her job, her colleagues and the Norwich community. In her free time she listens to podcasts (Ear Hustle, Heavy Weight and Everything is Alive are her current favorites), cries at the Great British Bake-off, skies in any kind of weather and drinks way too much dark-roasted coffee. Lucinda lives in Brownsville with her writer husband Peter and two awesome kids, Hartley & Lily.

Penny McConnel has been selling books for 39 years. She and Liza Bernard opened the Norwich Bookstore in August of 1994 and Penny although not working anyway near as many hours she did in the past, still can often be found behind the counter at the store or selling books at the many offsite events where the store travels. She lives in Norwich with husband Jim and spends her off time reading, knitting, gardening, cooking & dreaming of her next beach walk.

Rob Johnson is a Financial Advisor, loving husband to Alanya, and proud father of Bruce, a second grader at MCS. He is a Brazilian American who grew up in Florida, came to New England to see snow and never looked back! Rob is an avid reader and a #1 fan of the Norwich Bookstore. When not engrossed in a good book you can find Rob running around Norwich, coaching soccer, attending a Rec Council meeting, sharing a Vermont IPA with friends, and eating anything sweet.

Book Jam folks

Lisa Cadow is the co-founder of the Book Jam. When not reading or experimenting in her kitchen, she works as a health coach for Dartmouth Health Connect, an innovative primary care practice in Hanover, NH. She fervently believes that health outcomes would improve if doctors could prescribe books to patients as well as medicine. Lisa lives in Norwich with her husband, three cats, and a fun border collie and loves it when her three adult children visit.

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

 

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Related imageThe holiday bustle has begun, and time for reading has diminished a bit. Rather than give up entirely, we decided to review a few poetry collections that allow you to read a page or two, enjoy, and move on to your next errand. They might also make great gifts for someone on your list. (Perhaps one will become your holiday 2018 go-to hostess gift?) We added a two short story collections for those who just don’t like poems. And, we ensured all the books are available as paperbacks so that reading and gifting are both a bit easier on your wallet if needed.

Enjoy! And happy holidays!

Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God: Poems Cover Image

Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God: Poems by Tony Hoagland (2018) –  I would have picked this up for the title alone, but a recommendation from delightfully smart and poetry-loving Penny McConnel of the Norwich Bookstore meant I had to read it. She wanted to include it in her upcoming Pages in the Pub selections, but ran out of choices; so, I am happy to include it for her here. This collection contemplates human nature and modern culture with anger, humor, and humility. I honestly wanted to read this collection in one fell swoop and had to force myself to slow down and savor each poem. As The New York Times wrote, “Hoagland’s verse is consistently, and crucially, bloodied by a sense of menace and by straight talk.” ~ Lisa Christie

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver Cover ImageJust about ANY poetry collection by Mary Oliver (assorted years) – Few poets have perfected the art of poems for quiet contemplation as well as Ms. Oliver. Her perfectly placed words lend themselves to thoughts of nature and friendship and love. We could not pick our favorite volume, so we are just recommending you pick any collection and start reading, or gifting today. – Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

What Work Is: Poems Cover ImageWhat Work Is by Philip Levine (1991) – Mr. Levine, a recent US Poet Laureate famous for his work about working class Americans, pens poems crossing many class divides. This collection won the National Book Award. It was also reviewed by The Library Journal, “What Work Is ranks as a major work by a major poet . . . very accessible and utterly American in tone and language.”~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Life on Mars: Poems Cover ImageLife on Mars by Tracy K. Smith (2011) – A book about race, power,  paternalism, and so much more. This pointed collection won the Pulitzer in 2012, but her overall body of work has received numerous starred reviews and this comment from Publishers Weekly, her “lyric brilliance and political impulses never falter”. ~ Lisa Christie

Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems Cover ImageSailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins (2002) – Known by many for his frequent appearances on Prairie Home Companion, former US Poet Laureate Mr. Collins manages to produce powerful poems while also greatly widening the circle of poetry’s audience with their accessibility. This volume collects many poems from previous works in one collection, and thus is a good place to start admiring his poetry. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories Cover ImageThe Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (2015) – The author of the amazing novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon created this superb collection of short stories. Each connects in themes about the USSR/Russia from the Cold War through today. This collection received multiple accolades as one of the best books of 2015, and may provide insight into the news about Russia dominating today’s headlines. ~ Lisa Christie

Flying Lessons & Other Stories Cover ImageFlying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh. (2017). Because Kids need breaks from the holiday bustle as well, we wanted to include something for them.  This collection provides a great group of stories for kids. I love the stories themselves, and I love the fact the collection allows us all to read more diverse authors. I also greatly appreciate that these are great for reading aloud as a family, providing some reading joy for adults as well. ~ Lisa Christie

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Once again, as a very special treat for all of us, we asked our favorite booksellers to review the one book they are recommending right now. We hope these titles help you adjust to the shorter days of autumn, take some time to sit and read, and find your next great book to recommend to all your favorite readers.

Thank you Norwich Bookstore Booksellers. As always, your selections have added to the stack of books weighing down our bedside tables.

And now, their list:

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Penny Recommends

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore Cover ImageRising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush (2018) – I believe this book may be the “Silent Spring” for our times. At first, I was not sure that I could write a review, for it is both a beautiful and yet devastating read. From New England to the Eastern Coast to California, the seas are rising, the marshes are flooding and we are in great peril. There once were bayous in Louisiana that no longer exist. There are people whose homes are now under water. Yes, the tale is at times overwhelming, but somehow Rush’s poetic and flowing language draw the reader further into her story. Descriptions of the scientists and volunteers who are working daily to combat these dire conditions, as well as the personal commentaries of people whose lives have been affected recount courage and elicit empathy. I found myself loving this book and looking forward each morning to reading a few more pages.

David Biello in the New York Times Sunday Book Review gave Rising a glowing review: “This is a book for those who mourn the changing climate and coast, as well as, perhaps, America’s diminishing literary culture: sadness benefits from lyrical prose”.

Carin Recommends

The Silence of the Girls: A Novel Cover ImageThe Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (2018) – Pat Barker writes about the cost of war better than just about anybody. (Her WW1 Regeneration Trilogy is a classic.) In The Silence of the Girls , she retells the story of the Trojan War, mostly from the point of view of Briseis, a queen who becomes Achille’s slave and concubine after he kills most of her family and obliterates her town. All the Iliad characters are here and wonderfully wrought — Achilles, driven mad by bloodlust and desire for revenge, sorrowful Priam who just wants his beloved son’s body, Achilles’ loyal childhood friend Patroclus. But this story really belongs to the women — the “spoils” of war, and how they deal with their changes in fortune. This is a powerful, visceral, anti-war novel.

Kathryn Recommends

Around the World in 80 Trees Cover ImageAround the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori (2018) – This beautifully illustrated book is a pleasure to read. Filled with some of the world’s most important trees from around the globe: historically, economically and societally (i.e.,sacred trees). Pick it up from time to time, or read it all the way through…

 

 

Beth Recommends

The Incendiaries: A Novel Cover ImageThe Incendiaries by RO Kwon (2018) – In the tradition of The Mothers, Exit West, Speak No Evil and What We Lose, Kwon’s novel packs dazzling prose and centers around a heavy topic, yet all marvelously contained in a small amount of pages. The Incendiaries asks essential life questions: What happens if you put all your faith into something and then discover that the bottom falls out from under you leaving you no solid base? What do you replace it with, do you rebuild or start over? In her debut, Kwon gives us three different points of view, twenty-somethings who hold onto each other so they don’t hit rock bottom. In an interview I read, one of several insightful pieces, she talked about writing on the syllable level. This granular, elemental level speaks to me, the atoms from which all creations come. I would read anything that flows from her pen.

Sara Recommends

The Mystery of Three Quarters: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries) Cover ImageThe Mystery of the Three Quarters; The New Hercule Poirot Mystery by Sophie Hannah (2018) – This is Hannah’s third incarnation of Agatha Christie (The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket). I swear she’s channeling the Grande Dame of Mystery, and this is her best yet. Poirot is quirky and intense as expected, more so for having to defend himself from four strangers who received forged letters accusing them of the murder of a well-known industrialist. He must clear himself and solve a murder. Trustworthy Inspector Catchpool is at the ready to assist his friend in the investigations. Pure madcap and volley. Written in uniquely dry British humor, it’s a jolly race to the defense of our Inspector and his forensic conclusion.

Susan Recommends

Clock Dance: A novel Cover ImageClock Dance by Anne Tyler (2018) – As Willa Drake reminisces about her past, four powerful events stand out but it is an unexpected moment of her sixth decade that sets the stage for the rest of her life. Such an engrossing read! I will never ignore another saguro cactus. I very much liked the quirky characters and the wonderful notion of how dance might express one’s perception of time passing. Chapters zipped by so quickly I was quite disconcerted when I realized only a few pages were left. Take this book on vacation. You will not be disappointed.

Brenna Recommends

Dear Mrs. Bird: A Novel Cover ImageDear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce (2018) – When you just can’t one more terrible news story, Dear Mrs. Bird is the solution. Living in London during the Blitz, impulsive and determinedly cheerful Emmy dreams of being a war correspondent, but ends up as a letter reader for a dour and repressive advice columnist. Instructed to destroy all letters deemed unpleasant, Emmy instead begins responding to them. A charming, if temporary, respite from our current reality.

Liza Recommends

Harbor Me Cover ImageHarbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson (2018) – In this powerful novel for middle grade readers, Ms. Woodson paints stunning portraits of six “special” 5th and 6th graders. Given the opportunity to have an hour every Friday just for themselves, they learn that by sharing who they are, their fears – and their dreams – become manageable. One boy’s father has been detained and may be sent back to the Dominican Republic. One girl’s mother is dead and her father is in prison. Another boy is bullied every day on the way home from school. A “rich” girl struggles with behavioral issues… The messages about the importance of friendship, of empathy, of understanding and accepting others has never been more urgent than now.Related image

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Books for summer camping: Adult fiction and nonfiction

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Some people might say that we’ve now entered the “dog days of August” but here at the Book Jam we like to call this time of year the “dog-eared book days of August”. It is the season when we finally get to the books in our pile that have been beckoning, lazing with them by the lake for long periods of time, folding over pages to remind us where to return  (hence the dog ears) only when it is time for a short break from the prose.

August is when we look forward to pulling out or back packs and beach bags and filling them full of books (and maybe a clean change of clothes, too) and heading with them to the shore of some quiet sunny river to get lost in the stories and ideas that lie between the pages.

Below are 28 ideas for what you might want to put in your backpack and head to the hills with to lose yourself in after a day of hiking. Remember, the faster you set up your tent, the faster you can open up those dog-eared and well loved books.

Happy reading!

 

Books Inspired by Ancient Greeks or Shakespeare and even Henry James (Because this seems to be a trend in our reading, and continues as MacBeth by Jo Nesbo is on our bedside table for August.)

FC9780316556347.jpgCirce by Madeline Miller (2018) – This saga covers the origin, life and final decisions of Circe, the original Greek witch.  Sprinkled throughout with men, women and gods from Greek Mythology, I found myself spell bound by what would happen next – even though I technically knew. And because Circe manages to succeed alone, banished to an island, she draws the wrath of gods, slightly reminiscent of some women today. In the end this is a gripping tale centered around a dysfunctional family of rivals, love and loss, punishment, and a tribute to a strong woman living in a predominantly man’s world. (Also on the April 2018 Indie Next List.) 

FC9780525431947.jpgNutshell: A Novel by Ian McEwan (2016) — Ok the tale of Hamlet reworked for Modern Day London and told form the perspective of an unborn child?  Yes, sounds too precious, but Mr. McEwan pulls it off. It truly is more brilliant than this quick summary shows it should be.  Perhaps because the narrator allows Mr. McEwan to ponder modern problems and pleasures without seeming to lecture.  Perhaps it is because of Mr. McEwan’s lovely prose.  Whatever the reason, I highly recommend this one, while admitting a bias for Mr. McEwan’s work. (A New York Times and Washington Post notable book and previously reviewed by us a few times.)

FC9780449006979.jpgGertrude and Claudius by John Updike (2000). Yes, Hamlet, that tortured prince receives a lot of time in High School and College English Lit classes, but did you ever think about his story from the perspective of his mother and her lover/second husband?  Well luckily for us, John Updike did. The result is a well written novel that forces you to rethink the Bard’s popular tale of a Danish Prince and his doomed lover Ophelia. This is different from most of Mr. Updike’s novels – try it, you might love it.  And if you don’t believe us, try the New York Times Book review “Updike has used Shakespeare to write a free-standing, pleasurable, and wonderfully dexterous novel about three figures in complex interplay.”  

FC9780451493422.jpgMrs. Osmond by John Banville (2017) – I am a huge fan of Mr. Banvile’s The Sea, which I often describe as the perfect dysfunctional Irish family novel.  I also enjoy his mysteries under his pen name Benjamin Black. I also loved reading The Portrait of A Lady by Henry James in my early 20s just after completing my own stint in Europe. Granted I was backpacking and sleeping in tents while Isabel Archer was being wined and dined for her fortune, but I still related somehow. Thus, I picked up Mr. Galbraith’s treatise of what happens to Isabel once The Portrait of A Lady ends, with high expectations for a great story. These were met. Somehow Mr. Banville manages to capture and use Mr. James’s prose style, wry humor, and social commentary while making this sequel his own.Mrs. Osmond explores what happens when the people we love aren’t who they seemed to be, how sudden wealth changes everything, what living abroad as an American can mean, and family. As The Guardian summed, “Banville is one of the best novelists in English. . . . Mrs Osmond is both a remarkable novel in its own right and a superb pastiche.”

FC9781770413993.jpgRose and Poe by Jack Todd (2017) – I am always going to read anyone who attempts to retell The Tempest, and Mr. Todd did not disappoint. In this tale, Mr. Todd re-imagines Shakespeare’s The Tempest from the point of view of Caliban (Poe) and his mother (Rose). Rose and Poe live in the woods quietly along side Prosper Thorne, a banished big city lawyer and his gorgeous daughter Miranda. When Poe appears carrying Miranda’s bruised and bloody body, he is arrested, despite lack of evidence he committed the crime; and Rose and Poe find themselves facing bitter hatred and threats from neighbors who once were friends. A timeless tale of how we stigmatize what frightens us, and the consequences of our prejudices.  

FC9781501140228.jpgHouse of Names by Colm Toibin (2017) – In this measured retelling of the story of Clytemnestra and her children, Mr. Toibin creates a sympathetic character as he reveals the tragic saga that led to her bloody actions (killing her husband). Told in four parts, Mr. Toibin portrays a murderess, her son Orestes, and the vengeful Electra, all the while playing with who deserves sympathy in the end. (Named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR.)

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Historical fiction

FC9780812985405.jpgLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017) – A fascinating look at Lincoln after his beloved son Willie dies and the USA is burning down all around him due to the Civil War.  Told in a completely uniquely gorgeous style and premise – actual historical documents describing this time and the souls of the dead interred with Willie give voice and color to the narrative. Challenging to read; fascinating to think about. (Winner of the Man Booker Prize, and an IndieNext pick.) 

FC9780062563705.jpgHalf-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker (2017) Ragnvald and Svanhild, the brother and sister duo at the heart of this novel, lead the way through an adventurous re-telling of Norway’s medieval history. For those of you looking for a saga that highlights how personalities and desires influence everything, and that uses actual historical characters and battles, Ms. Hartsuyker’s work may be the perfect summer read for you. (August 2017 IndieNext pick.) 

FC9780385542364-1.jpgThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2016) – I am late to the party over this National Book Award, Pulitzer Prize winning novel. But, this tale of Cora and her life as a slave will capture your imagination and give you many reason to pause and think about race relations today. Please pick it up if you have not already. (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.) 

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General Fiction

FC9780316316132-1.jpgLess by Andrew Sean Green (2017) – This look at mid-life and lost loves is loaded with superb prose and insight.  Mr. Less makes a lovely main character to rout for, his life reflections are populated by interesting characters, and his travels abroad reminiscent of something Twain once wrote. I must admit it was not as funny for me as had been hyped, but I still liked it. Enjoy! (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, New York Times Notable Book, Top Ten pick for the Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle.) 

FC9781616205041.jpgYoung Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017) – For those of us who lived through the Bill Clinton sexual relations intern scandal, this book will seem familiar. What might not seem so familiar is the humor and candor about society’s standards contained in this light novel about how decisions we make when we are young have implications. (September 2017 IndieNext book.)  

FC9781944700553.jpgMem by Bethany C Morrow (2018) – What happens when you can choose to eliminate horrific memories? Where do they go? What happens to your life afterwards?  Ms. Morrow gives her answers to these questions in this slim look at life in 1920s Montreal. And, since Brenna Bellavance the newest bookseller at the Norwich Bookstore brought this to my attention, I will use her review and say ditto to the haunting aspect. “Elsie is not a real person. From the moment she came to exist, she has been told this repeatedly. She is merely the physical embodiment of an unwanted memory extracted from another woman, a real woman, whose face she sees every time she looks in a mirror. Except that she remembers a life she didn’t live, loves people she never met, thinks her own thoughts, and feels her own feelings. So what makes a real person….real? Exquisite and haunting, Mem has stayed with me.” (June 2018 IndieNext Book.)  

FC9780679734772.jpgThe House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros – I LOVED this once again as I read it to discuss with my 9th grader who was forced to read it for his English teacher. Bonus — he, a very reluctant reader, loved it too :)! (Thanks you Ms. Eberhardt.) The trials and tribulations of the narrator as she navigates her life in NYC are deliciously unraveled by Ms. Cisneros sparse prose. Or as the New York Times reviewed ““Cisneros draws on her rich [Latino] heritage . . . and seduces with precise, spare prose, creat[ing] unforgettable characters we want to lift off the page. She is not only a gifted writer, but an absolutely essential one.”  

FC9780385349406Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell (June 2013) — Yes, summer and heat go hand in hand, and currently, all over the globe, the weather is setting records for heat and discomfort. Apparently in 1976, London suffered more heat than most. So, we added a book we reviewed in 2013 to today’s post in honor of heat waves everywhere. That 1976 British heat wave is the setting for a series of events in this wonderful book about an Irish Catholic clan living in London.  The chain of events unfurls once the father of three grown children disappears, causing all the grown children to rally around their mother.  And well, his disappearance leads to a secret which when unveiled leads to a series of events that rapidly take over everything in the hot, hot heat of this long ago summer.  Enjoy!  

FC9780812996067.jpgAlternate Side by Anna Quindlen (2018) – I start this review with the confession that I miss Ms. Quindlen’s New York Times and Newsweek columns. Her insight, humor, precise prose, and hope amidst the chaos and difficulties she wrote of were a staple of my life for many years. These characteristics are evident in this summer beach read of a novel.  Nora has a great job, twins in college, a kind husband, and the perfect house on the best block in New York City – a dead end filled with people who get along. Then an incident occurs and unravels pretty much everything. Alternate Side offers a lovingly portrayed look at life in middle age with kids in college, jobs not quite what you dreamed of when you were 20, and of New York City itself.  A great beach read for anyone – especially anyone who truly loves NYC. As the New York Times stated, “Exquisitely rendered . . . [Quindlen] is one of our most astute chroniclers of modern life. . . . [Alternate Side] has an almost documentary feel, a verisimilitude that’s awfully hard to achieve.”

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 – a little known 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 even better – these stories were discovered by Ms. Collins’ daughter after her death. (Best Book of 2016 by NPR and Publishers Weekly 

FC9780735212206.jpgExit West by Mohsin Hamid – I LOVED this novel.  It is concise, gorgeously written, and covers important topics – love, immigration, war.  Perfect. (Winner 2018 Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times, Ten Best Book of 2017 for the New York Times.)  

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Mysteries and thrillers and other beach reads

FC9780804114905.jpgLast Bus to Woodstock by Collin Dexter (1975) – I have been a fan of the BBC’s Inspector Lewis, Morse, and Endeavor series for years.  This is the first time I read those series’ primary source materials.  I am so glad I finally did. This was well-plotted intelligently written and fun to read.  I especially enjoyed vicariously visiting Oxford sites I have been privileged to stroll. Pick this series up (this title is first in the series), read, and perhaps then plan a trip to the UK – or watch the series. Thank you Danielle Cohen, an amazing audio-book narrator and actor, for reminding me that the books behind the BBC are great as well. Publishers Weekly agrees, “A masterful crime writer whom few others match.”

FC9780143133124.jpgThe Ruin by Dervla McTiernan (2018) – Besides having my new favorite name – Dervla, Ms. McTiernan’s debut novel introduces a great new detective series. Her main detective Cormac Reilly has a unexplained complicated past, the requisite desire for justice, and great assistance from another well-wrought detective Carrie O’Halloran and a new newbie to the Garda – Peter Fisher. The setting in Galway is part of the action and allows you to vicariously travel to some very wet time in the Irish countryside. (Also a July 2018 IndieNext pick.)   

FC9780061655517.jpgNemesis (and other titles) by Jo Nesbo (2002) – Somehow I missed this instalment in the Harry Hole series.  Another page-turner for mystery fans. As the nomination for the Edgar Nominee for Best Novel of the Year states — “The second Harry Hole novel to be released in America–following the critically acclaimed publication of The RedbirdNemesis is a superb and surprising nail-biter that places Jo Nesbo in the company of Lawrence Block, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, and other top masters of crime fiction. Nesbo has already received the Glass Key Award and the Booksellers’ Prize, Norway’s most prestigious literary awards. Nemesis is proof that there are certainly more honors in this extraordinary writer’s future”.  

FC9781616957186.jpgAugust Snow by Stephen Mack Jones (2017) – I so want to believe there is someone like August Snow – a half black, half Mexican, ex-cop with a strong sense of justice and neighborhood – looking out for Detroit. The hope this book expresses for Detroit 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 his body count is way too high for my tastes by the end, but so few books take place in modern day Detroit, enjoy this one! (Also a Winner of the Hammett Prize, and annual award for best mystery by the International Association of Crime Writers.)  

FC9781508238607.jpgPoison by John Lescroart (2018) – I love Mr. Lescroart’s Dimas Hardy Series for the chance to relive life in San Francisco and the great cast of characters Mr. Hardy uses to always ensure justice is served.  This latest instalment continues this love affair. These are my reliable guilty pleasure.  

 

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Nonfiction

FC9780316392389.jpgCalypso by David Sedaris (2018) – Mr. Sedaris’s latest collection of essays tackles the “not-so-joyful” aspects of reaching middle age. Perhaps because of this, this collection is not as laugh-out-loud funny as his previous collections. That said, it is impossible for me to read Mr. Sedaris’s work without hearing his distinctive voice in my head, making his wry insights even funnier than they initially appear. And honestly, his perceptive commentary about life’s mundane and heartbreaking moments is superb no matter the level of humor.  I will frame his paragraph in “Leviathan” beginning “It’s ridiculous how often you have to say hello on Emerald Island” for its treatise on the fact Southerners insist on saying hello. I will then present it to my children as a constant explanation for why I say hello to complete strangers; they may never understand this trait, but they will forever have documentation of its source – my childhood in Tennessee. Pick this up and enjoy! (We suppose we should have put this in the inspired by Ancient Greeks category.) 

FC9780062838742.jpgAmateur Hour: Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words by Kimberly Harrington (2018) – This collection of essays features a distinctive voice (one that is often seen in The New Yorker, and McSweeney’s) that applies humor, tears, cursing, love, and unique insight to almost every aspect of motherhood/life: a failed pregnancy, relocating across the country, a request to end “mommy wars” steeped with insight from both sides, grandparents/Florida, to do lists, meal-train etiquette, participation trophies, parenting experts, plane rides with kids, and partners. You will grin throughout this collection, as each essay is graced with humor and humility. You will tear-up a bit reading many of the essays as some are poignant and unsparing (e.g., a retelling of a failed pregnancy, and/or a story of a fight over divorcing – they didn’t – that uses FB “likes” to score points). Quick note: we found this book because one of its chapters was a recent Op-Ed in The New York Times. (Previously reviewed in mother’s day picks.)

FC9780143125471-1.jpgThe Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (2013) – Not sure why I never got around to reading this, but I am so glad I finally did. What a terrific tale of triumphing – ultimately over Hitler, but also over horrendous parents, poverty and low expectations.  

FC9780399588174.jpgBorn a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016) – Funny, sad, and amazingly moving memoir about growing up 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 life. (Named on the best books of the year by NPR, New York Times, Esquire, Booklist.) 

FC9780062684929.jpgUnbelievable by Katy Tur (2017) – An up front and personal account of the 2016 presidential race from a MSNBC and MBC reporter who followed Trump from the time when everyone thought his candidacy was a long shot all the way through his election. As Jill Abramson said in a New York Times book review – “Compelling… this book couldn’t be more timely.” (The author was the recipient of the 2017 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.)   

FC9781608197651.jpgMen We Reaped by Jessmyn Ward (2013) – This coming of age memoir shows what it is like to grow up smart, poor, black and female in America. Ms. Ward’s starting point is a two year period of time shortly after she graduated college during which five boys who she loved and grew up along the Mississippi Coast with experience violent deaths. (Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath also play a role in this drama.) Her prose illuminates these dead young men and the people who loved/still love them; it also exposes the people behind the statistics that almost one in 10 young black men are in jail and murder is the greatest killer of black men under the age of 24. And while the material is brutal, the memoir is not; it is insightful, introspective, beautifully written, and important. At some point Ms. Ward states that the series of deaths is “a brutal list, in its immediacy and its relentlessness, and it’s a list that silences people. It silenced me for a long time.” We are glad she found her voice and told her story. And, we hope to see it on a big screen near you soon. (On the October 2013 IndieNext list.) 

And, One final note — this post is our last for a while as it is is time for our annual “Gone Readin’ hiatus”. We look forward to bringing you great reviews of superb books at some point in late September.

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