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Last week in our hometown of Norwich, book lovers once again converged on our historic 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 sold a lot of books. We thank them for donating their expertise. And, thanks to the generosity of the amazing Norwich Bookstore, the event raised roughly $1,300 for the Norwich Public Library. And, we all get to enjoy their great list of books for us to give and to get.

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This post lists all the 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, but not to deter anyone from trying any title. 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.

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

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For people who like to cook up a culinary snowstorm

  • Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden (2017). Selected by Carin Pratt – Beautiful ways to eat more vegetables!
  • Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman (2017). Selected by Lucinda Walker – ‘Sizzling’ ‘Bacony’ ‘Carmelized’ ‘Crispy’ ‘Simple’ = Delicious.
  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman (2017). Selected by Lisa Cadow – Tasty Veggies. Two Thousand Recipes. Techniques!

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For people who enjoy non-fiction or reference books while sitting by the woodstove

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

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For kids & for families to read together

  • The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen (2017). Selected by Lucinda Walker – Guess who lives in wolf’s tummy!
  • The Storm Whale in Winter by Benji Davies (2017). Selected by Jeff Sharlet – The whale returns, the deep revisited.
  • 7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar & Ross MacDonald. (2017). Selected by Lisa Christie – A good pun is never done!

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

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For your favorite young adult who still likes to drink hot chocolate and spend snowy days reading

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017). Selected by Carin Pratt – Revelatory YA novel everyone should read.
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. (2017). Selected by Lisa Christie – Mystery; mental health; important: you’ll cry.
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. (2017). Selected by Lisa Christie – Elevator ride dilemma. Violence explained? Important.

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

  • Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017). Selected by Lucinda Walker – Smart, funny, moving novel of persistence.
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (2017). Selected by Carin Pratt – Fearless WWII-era diver searches for father.
  • Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins (2016). Selected by Lisa Christie – Short stories read like superb films.

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

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PRESENTERS’ BIOS

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.

Jeff Sharlet, a journalist and associate professor of creative writing at Dartmouth, is the nationally bestselling author or editor of six books of literary journalism, including The Family, described by Barbara Ehrenreich as “one of the most compelling and brilliantly researched exposes you’ll ever read.” He is an editor-at-large for Virginia Quarterly Review and a contributor to periodicals such as Harper’s, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in Norwich with his wife, son and daughter, where he is an avid patron of the Norwich Public Library and Norwich Bookstore.

Carin Pratt, a native of Massachusetts, Carin moved to the Upper Valley (specifically Strafford) six years ago after spending 30 years in DC working as a television producer, finishing as executive producer of Face the Nation. She’s never looked back. She reads a lot, and works part-time at the Norwich Bookstore in order to afford her addiction to books.

Lisa Christie is the co-founder of the Book Jam. In previous times, she was 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.

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.

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Last night, the Book Jam once again celebrated books, reading, and the power of youth during BOOK BUZZ. This time, the presenters were all students and teachers from Crossroads Academy in Lyme, NH.

These BOOK BUZZ presenters provided a superb evening for those lucky enough to see them discuss their favorite books; and, they compiled a great list of amazing books to give and get for all of us (whether we could hear them in person or not). These students, teachers, the Crossroads Parent Association, and the presenters’ parents (in particular Gwen Martin and Laurel Mackin) made BOOK BUZZ a success; we thank them for their work. We also thank the Norwich Bookstore, because of their generosity, the event raised money for Crossroads literature programs. A complete list of presenters follows their reviews at the end of this post.

And now, just in time for holiday shopping, their list of great books to read, with their six word reviews…

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BOOKS FOR YOUR FRIENDS WHO DON’T LIKE TO READ, BUT WHO WOULD LOVE A GREAT STORY

  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman (2016). Selected by Mack – Riveting book where teens become death.
  • Peak by Roland Smith (2007). Selected by Brynne – Boy. On top of the world. Literally.
  • One Mixed-Up Night by Catherine Newman (2017). Selected by Wyatt – Well-written, adventure, friendship, courage, Ikea!

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SUPERB BOOKS YOU WOULD ASSIGN TO YOUR FAVORITE ADULT (TEACHER, AUNT, PARENT) AS REQUIRED READING

  • More Than This by Patrick Ness (2013). Selected by Simone – Boy wakes up in alternate world.
  • The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (2015). Selected by Jade – Girl fights for justice in Russia.
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullay Hunt (2015). Selected by Hannah – Ally. How can you cure dumb?
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (2007). Selected by Thea -Suspenseful adventure; four children thwart disaster.
  • The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho (1988). Selected by Eleanor – Follow your dreams. Find the Pyramids.

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BEST FAMILY READ ALOUD

  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908). Selected by Mikey – Great for creative and imaginative kids.

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PERFECT BOOKS TO HELP YOU IGNORE THE FACT THAT YOU ARE WAITING FOR YOUR SISTER OR BROTHER TO FINISH HOCKEY PRACTICE

  • Swim That Rock by John Rocco, Jay Primiano (2014). Selected by Benton – Real-life stakes build relatable suspence.
  • The Witches by Raold Dahl (1983). Selected by Laura – Traveling, grandma and grandson meet Witches.
  • The Best Man by Richard Peck (2016). Selected by Lisa – Boy needs role model. Finds unexpected.
  • Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (2007). Selected by Jade – Girl risks her life for mistress.

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FUN, NON-FICTION BOOKS FOR KIDS WHO PREFER TRUE STORIES

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FICTION BOOKS THAT DO A GREAT JOB TEACHING HISTORY

  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone (2017). Selected by Lisa – Angry teen finds MLK writings help. $17.99

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GREAT BOOKS TO GIVE YOUR FRIENDS FOR THEIR BIRTHDAYS

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A BOOK THAT WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH AWAY YOUR TROUBLES

  • Switched at Birthday by Natalie Standiford (2014). Selected by Lydia – Funny and relatable girls switch lives.

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SERIES YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO PUT DOWN, OR WHAT TO READ WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF WIMPY KID BOOKS

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Our amazing presenters

Benton, 8th grade

Brynne, 7th grade

Eleanor, 7th grade

Hannah, 5th grade

Jade, 7th grade

Laura, 5th grade

Lydia, 6th grade

Mack, 8th grade

Michael , 8th grade

Natalie, 5th grade

Simone, 5th grade

Thea, 6th grade

Wyatt, 6th grade

Ms. Williams, teacher

Mr. Glazer, teacher

Lisa Christie, Book Jam

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to help independent booksellers, The Book Jam has paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. (We have a rotating list of six possible questions to ask just to keep things interesting.) Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work, will encourage readers to attend these special author events, and ultimately, will inspire some great reading.

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This week we feature Tracy Penfield, dancer, artist, author, and founder of SafeArt. Ms. Penfield founded SafeArt in Chelsea, VT, after 20 years as an artist and educator in fiber arts and dance. Her experience in an abusive relationship from the age of 14 to 29 gave her a distinctive perspective on how her students were responding to creative expression. Wanting to work across the spectrum of prevention to recovery from traumatic abuse gave rise to the concept of SafeArt in 2000.

A Curriculum of Courage: Making Safeart Cover ImageMs. Penfield will visit the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 to discuss her book – A Curriculum of Courage: Making SafeArtThe event is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited.  Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save your seat.

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1.What three books have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

The Art of the Dance by Isadora Duncan inspired me as a young adult who was discovering the language of the body, of dance. Her unbridled passion and how she managed to translate that passion from movement in space to words on paper seemed fresh and valid then and now. (Unfortunately, this book is out of print; thus, we are unable to link it to the Norwich Bookstore.)

When Women were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams and all of Terry’s oeuvre have been keeping me going for years, quite literally. Terry and I met just out of college through a mutual close friend and have stayed in touch over the years. Her writing is authentic in a way that I want mine to be, whether it be memoir or curriculum or anecdotes about others from my work. Authenticity, passion and no holding back are tenets I have gleaned from Terry.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is a new book, relatively speaking, published in 2014. My book had been underway for a number of years by then and this work encouraged me to continue with certain threads and weave them into the fabric of my book. I feel that van der Kolk has written a treatise validating the healing work I do that is called Tracing.

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2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

I will first state that I have had the pleasure of numerous cups of tea, coffee and wine with Terry Tempest Williams, or I would choose her.

In terms of a relationship with the book I have just published and an author I have not had the honor of meeting, I would most like to sit and chat with Bessel van der Kolk. He is globally recognized in the field of Trauma healing and that he has written a book focusing on “the Body” is fabulous. To me the title (The Body Keeps the Score) of his book is not about the score in a game or competition but the metaphorical musical score of one’s life, including trauma release and management. I would love to discuss that with him!

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3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

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Hello, and Happy Autumn. While the leaves in Vermont have not quite changed, we are so happy to be back recommending great books for you to read. Luckily, the end of summer brought us many books that we are excited to tell you about this Autumn. Most of our reviews will appear in future posts about politics, cooking, tough topics, and mysteries. But for now, we highlight two books to help you end September with a great book in your hands. (Note: We are surprised neither of us picked from our favorite category of adult fiction to share on this first autumnal post; we will spend some time thinking about why before our next post.)search-2.jpg

51ec0bx4i4l-_sx328_bo1204203200_In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Herrmann Loomis (Hardcover 2015, Paperback 2016) –  If you are looking for a little more “je ne sais quoi” in the kitchen inspiration department or simply are craving the feeling of having someone serve you a cafe au lait of stories and  secrets about French cooking, then this is the book for you. Reading this made me feel as if I had pulled up a chair at Loomis’ table in Louviers and was having a conversation with an old friend about all she had learned from villagers, butchers, neighbors, and facile home cooks since moving to this northern French town several decades ago. It also inspired me to get out my mixing bowl and make “Madame Korn’s Quick Lemon Cake” and to get out my saucepan to whip up the delicious “Crisp Green Salad with Poached Eggs.”  The majority of the eighty-five recipes she includes are simple and use everyday ingredients. The stories she tells of her life in France are charming and take the reader on a lovely kitchen tour of a country that puts it food at the center of the cultural table. ~Lisa Cadow

Prisoner B-3087 Cover ImagePrisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz (2013) – If you are looking for a book for your pre-teen and you to read together (or for either of you to read alone), please choose this piece of history.  Prisoner B-3087 is a moving book about the holocaust that my 13-year-old (yes, he is my reluctant reader) shared with me after declaring “this is probably the best book I’ve 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. Yes, it is depressing, but it is also uplifting; Mr. Gruener survived, as did his wife, and they now dedicate their lives to educating children about The Holocaust and WWII. You may not be able to see them in person, but you can read this book. ~ Lisa Christie

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Gone Reading

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The Book Jam is officially on hiatus for our annual end of summer “Gone Reading” event. We will be back in late September with many new recommendations of great books for you to read and give, and “3 questions” with superb authors. In the meantime, do not dismay, we left behind great picks for you to read during these last few weeks of summer. Just visit some of our previous posts – our summer reading list for adults or  summer recommendations for younger readers  or crime and travel with author Sarah Stewart Taylor or… Well, you get the picture.  Happy Reading!

 

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Ahhh summer, a time when longer days provide extra daylight to read. It is also a time for the Book Jam’s annual list of books for you to take to the beach, lake, mountains, and/or your own backyard or apartment roof. This year, we included many older titles, as we know paperback copies are easier to carry while moving about. (Please remember that each review is linked to the Norwich Bookstore’s web site, and can be downloaded to your i-pad or e-reader too.) We also tried to include titles to help when you crave a substantive piece of nonfiction, a quick YA read, a surprising mystery/thriller, a page-turning “beach read”, as well as, fiction that makes you think. Happy reading!

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Fiction

The Nightingale Cover ImageThe Nightingale by Kirstin Hannah (2015) – This book has been staring at us from the best-seller bookshelves and still in hardcover for over a year but we resisted its charms until the summer of 2016. It invites us into the wartime world  of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, in 1940’s  France and tells a tale of their very different roles in the resistance movement. The Nightingale is an excellent summer read which caught this reader off guard in the final pages, with tears streaming down my face without a kleenex all while sitting in the window seat of an airplane. A compelling story with excellent character development which as with any good tale leaves one asking, “What decisions might I have made if put in the same situation?” The Nightingale shows us that there are also still many aspects of World War II to explore through the powerful vehicle of literature. ~ Lisa Cadow (and Lisa Christie)

The Sense of an Ending Cover ImageThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011) – This Booker Prize winner concisely explores what happens when you receive information late in life that skews your memories and perhaps questions your entire view of yourself. In this case, a retired historian receives a puzzling bequest that causes him to investigate what actually happened to a childhood friend. These 163 pages of exquisite prose will haunt you long after you finish reading. I somehow missed this when it was published, and am so glad I found it this summer (also reviewed by Lisa Cadow in December 2012). ~ Lisa Christie

The Night Watch Cover ImageThe Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006) – Yes, yet another WWII novel, but so worth reading. This time, the plot revolves around people in London just after WWII ends, during the nightly bombings of WWII, and then at the start of the war, told backwards chronologically. Many of the women have taken up important positions as ambulance drivers and business owners, and the men are in jail for a variety of crimes; their adventures and seemingly random connections link their tales. The prose keeps you wanting more, and the images Ms. Waters creates of life for civilians during WWII are memorable. ~ Lisa Christie

Lily and the Octopus Cover ImageLily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley (2016) – In just the way we adore our beloved pets, a reader can’t help instantaneously feeling the same way about Lilly the dachshund and her worried, emotionally-closed yet deeply loving caregiver Ted. We join these characters when Ted realizes that his best friend and canine companion of many years, Lilly, may be sick. This is a funny, very well observed story about courage, caregiving, change, and emotional growth. Set in temperate, languorous Los Angeles and told by quirky, single, gay Ted (a narrator with one of the most original voices to emerge in recent memory) this is one of my favorite books of the year. ~ Lisa Cadow

Strawberry Fields Cover ImageStrawberry Fields (published as Two Caravans in Europe) by Marina Lewycka (2008) – A devastating, funny, and thought-provoking account of life as an immigrant. Ms. Lewycka has created a core of memorable characters, initially united as strawberry pickers in the idyllic countryside around Kent, England, but who then partake on a road trip of tragic, humorous, political, and loving proportions. Do not let the fact it is a rather quick paced read belittle the importance of what these characters have to say. ~ Lisa Christie

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (paperback 2015) – This lovely story touches a chord with all who read it. Meet cranky and curmudgeonly Ove a retired Swede stuck in his routines who has very set ideas about how things should be. He patrols his planned neighborhood daily to ensure that rules are being followed, that the garbage is being set out for collection just so, and that nobody parks incorrectly. Things in his world get shaken up when a Pakistani family moves in next door and upends his sense of order. A  pesky stray cat also enters his world and refuses to leave. All of these interlopers conspire to challenge Ove’s no-nonsense, iron facade and might just teach him a thing or two about love. ~ Lisa Cadow

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Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (paperback 2016) – I couldn’t help immediately falling for Addie, the 70-something protagonist of this story when she knocks on the door of her similarly-aged neighbor and invites him to sleep with her. No, not in that way! She simply wants Louis to come over to her house to share what both characters agree are the loneliest hours. Thus begins the story of Addie and Louis unexpectedly finding meaning and human connection in the later part of their lives. Haruf wrote this slim novel at the end of his own life with his trademark spartan prose and simple language. Named one of the best books of the year in 2015 by the The Washington Post, this masterpiece is profound and poignant and worth every minute of reading time spent lost in its all-too-few pages.~ Lisa Cadow (Note: the Book Jam Lisas tend to love most of Mr. Haruf’s novels – Plainsong for example; so, don’t stop reading Mr. Haruf if you like this novel.)

The Sympathizer Cover ImageThe Sympathizer  by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015) – The Pulitzer landed on an important book; important in that Mr. Nguyen, in extremely effective prose, unfolds the Vietnam War from the perspective of a Vietnamese man. The narrator, a Vietnamese immigrant to the USA, was rescued by American troops during the fall of Saigon due to his work with them there. His war-torn life unravels further from this rescue and leaves you thinking. As an Indie bookseller wrote when this novel hit the shelves, “Nguyen injects much dark humor into this tragic story, and the narrator’s voice is both subversive and unforgettable. The Sympathizer will be one of the most talked-about novels of the year.” He was right, and we should probably mention we almost reviewed this in our Mysteries/Thriller category. ~ Lisa Christie

Sweetbitter Cover ImageSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (2016) – Make a reservation and let Stephanie Danler serve you a story of the fast-paced, drug-laced restaurant world of New York City circa 2016. The author herself worked at Union Square Cafe so she offers a reliable narrator in Tess, a waitress at an upscale watering hole who has followed her heart to the bright lights and big city. This book shines a light on the dynamic in upscale restaurants with many highly educated people vying for stressful, coveted serving positions. This is a coming of age story and a love story for Tess and a very well written novel. Given the lifestyle of the characters who live a life of hard work and hard core play, this has been likened to a fictional counterpart to Anthony Bourdain’s memoir, Kitchen Confidential~ Lisa Cadow

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“Beach Reads”

The Nest Cover ImageThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (2016) – This is a pitch perfect  beach, mountain, or summer-in-the city read as well as one of the best novels of the year. It’s about what happens when three 40-and-50 something siblings learn that they might not be receiving the inheritance (referred to by their family as “The Nest”) that they had expected due to an incident involving their prodigal brother Leo. Each one of them — Bea, Melody, and Jack – had been relying on this money to solve a number of life problems like looming college tuitions and secret debt so it’s possible evaporation is cause for panic. Set in New York City, Brooklyn and its environs, this book is witting, sharply observed, insightful, and as one reviewer put it, is full of “emotional truths.” I appreciate how it explores what happens when individuals are challenged to solve problems by digging deep inside themselves, explore places they never wanted to travel, and as a result discover unexpected resiliency. Highly, highly recommended. ~ Lisa Cadow

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice Cover ImageEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (2016) – This book is included for those of you in need of a novel that is truly just fun to read. Yes, the New York Times panned it, and I agree that Jane would never consent to be married on a reality show, and Austen scholars probably cringed the entire way through as it is difficult to truly emulate Ms. Austen, but those are small points in light of the fact you get to spend hours of reading with the Bennett Sisters. Liz as a magazine writer, Jane as a yogi, Kitty and Lydia as self obsessed gym goers, and Mary as a grump with a secret, lets you have a bit of fun with a well-known tale. And besides, it takes no small amount of courage to take on a classic. So kudos for that act of bravery Ms. Sittenfeld; and to the rest of you – start reading. (We also recommend American Wife and Prep by Ms. Sittenfeld as fun summer reads.) ~ Lisa Christie

A Spool of Blue Thread Cover ImageA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (paperback 2016) – Readers have come to know that they can count on Anne Tyler for a well-told tale about family and her 20th book is no exception. This story centers around the Whitshank family, their house in Baltimore, and the four generations who have shared and filled with life the space built by their patriarch. It is about what happens when the current adult generation is forced to face the reality that this house may be too much for their aging parents to manage alone. Poignant, universal in its appeal, yet never saccharine or bordering on cliche, this is a gentle and meaningful read. ~ Lisa Cadow

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Mysteries/Thrillers

Arthur & George Cover ImageArthur and George by Julian Barnes – Mr. Barnes uses a true experience from Sir Arthur Doyle’s life and explores race relations, class structure, and mystery as Sir Arthur agrees to help a man exonerate himself. Brilliantly imagined and a great entry to discussing issues of race and class today (and in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s time). I was reminded of this novel when loving The Sense of an Ending, and since detective novels have a special place in summer reading, we are including it here. ~ Lisa Christie

The Waters of Eternal Youth Cover ImageThe 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

The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander Novel, Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series Cover ImageThe Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (2016) – This latest edition to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series was not written by Steig Larsson, but it will not disappoint fans of Lisbeth Salander, Mikael Blomkvist, and other characters we met in the original trilogy. You will not regret having this page turner keeping you company on your next plane ride. ~ Lisa Christie

 

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Non Fiction

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936 1939 Cover ImageSpain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Adam Hochschild (2016) This book is for those of you who crave large volumes of nonfiction to inform your longer summer days. For this review we merely ditto what Carin Pratt wrote in her staff pick review for the Norwich Bookstore. “Almost 3,000 Americans (some famous, most not) traveled to Spain to fight Franco’s Fascists in what Hochschild has called “the first battle of World War II.” Most were untrained and under-armed but unfailingly idealistic, and ultimately, they fought a battle they were predetermined to lose. Adroitly and with empathy, Hochschild tells their largely forgotten stories.” ~ Lisa Christie

When Breath Becomes Air Cover ImageWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi (2016) – Chances are good that you’ve heard of this best selling memoir but may not have read it given the heavy subject matter. 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 put you off from reading his incredible story and from benefiting from the insights he gleaned during his short life. 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 which gives 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)

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania Cover ImageDead Wake by Erik Larson (2015) – For those of you needing “true” stories,  we recommend this account. Mr. Larson manages to take an event for which you know the outcome – the May of 1915 torpedoing by a German U-boat of the luxury ocean liner Lusitania off the coast of Ireland, killing almost 1200 people – to life. How? By taking tales of the passengers, historical accounts of U-boats, and British intelligence and interweaving them in straightforward, compelling prose. (Coincidentally, this was also selected as a Norwich Bookstore staff pick by Carin Pratt.) ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Best Place to Be Today: 365 Things to Do & the Perfect Day to Do Them Cover ImageThe Best Place to be Today by Lonely Planet (2015) – A travel destination idea for every day of the year. May it inspire last minute travel plans this summer – even of the armchair variety. Bonus – it makes a grat hostess gift. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

 

 

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YA

Salt to the Sea Cover ImageSalt to the Sea by Ruta Spetys (2016) – Just when you thought you WWII had been written about from every angle, an author proves we needed another WWII book. In this take, four teenage refugees and their friends flee the Russians and the Germans and try to make a safe haven to the Baltic north. Their tales will haunt you as you listen to today’s headlines about Syrian and other refugees. This one is important. Yes, this is YA, but every adult I have given it to has loved it. ~ Lisa Christie

HAPPY READING from the BOOK JAM!

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Because both Book Jam Lisas celebrated July Fourth across the pond, we had little time for long reviews and obviously even missed the actual date. So today, a bit after the 4th celebrations in the States, we quickly highlight two books to help you find the right book to read this summer. The first is a great source of inspiration or a superb host/hostess gift for all the people you visit on vacation during these warm summer months, the second is a smart and observant novel from one of our best new female voices in fiction. Look for our annual summer reading lists for adults and then kids here later this month. In the meantime, happy belated July 4th to all from our current European vantage points.

FC9780761184881.JPGThe Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna (2016) – A gorgeous piece of art filled with wisdom for grads, dads, moms, and/or job changers. Ms. Luna took her popular internet talk and turned it into a book to help people figure out what is next for them. Read it if you feel the need for a quick shot of inspiration, or you require a great gift for your vacation hosts or recent graduate or…

 

 

51lprRT5YCL._AC_UL115_Modern Lovers by Emma Straub (2016).  “Modern Lovers” is simply a great go-to summer read: excellent for beach-side entertainment as well as perfect for summer in the city.  Straub has a fresh voice, a talent for observing complex relationships, and a knack for picking great settings for her novels (this one set in hipster Brooklyn).  Meet Elizabeth, Andrew and Zoe who were all friends and former band mates at Oberlin College in the 1980’s and all live within on block of each other in the City.  Now in their early fifties and about to launch their teenage children into the world, this is a “coming of age story” for both young and old. My 18-year-old daughter, my son’s 20-year-old girlfriend and I all tore through this fun, poignant book while on vacation and enjoyed processing it together. The Book Jam loves author Emma Straub who also wrote the best-selling novel “The Vacationers” ( reviewed on this site in July 2014).

 

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