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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!

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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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Happy Thanksgiving week.

As the holiday season approaches, perhaps you are beginning to think about what to do when your guests arrive. Perhaps you need non-political topics to discuss. Maybe you need some new inspiration in the kitchen for all the meals you will be sharing. Perhaps you need a cooking activity for a few people to tackle together. Maybe you need things to entertain kids while adults talk. Maybe you need items that spark intergenerational conversations. Maybe you are the one visiting others and need a perfect gift for your hosts. Lucky for any of you with any of these needs, or anyone who just need some great gift giving ideas, we found a few oversized books with fun illustrations, and a few cookbooks with mouth watering recipes that can help. We truly believe all of these books will provide hours of entertainment for anyone perusing their pages. Enjoy!

Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook Cover ImageOttolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi (2018). This new book helps home cooks to live a flavorful kitchen dream! Believe it or not, these are Ottolenghi recipes with ten ingredients or less, most of which can be made in under a 45 minutes. From spending time with Ottolenghi’s  newest brilliant book I’ve learned that: one can lightly grill grapes on skewers (in a stovetop grill pan!) to accompany a silky burrata hors d’oeuvre plate, that zucchini loves to be served with peas (in a soup, on a platter sprinkled with oregano), and that butternut soup can come alive with curry and harrissa, and sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds. Believes me, the list goes on and on and on with enough new exciting dishes to try for throughout next year. Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Green Tahini Dip? Wow. So many of of his 300 pages of recipes are plant-based, verdantly vibrant, and infused with flavorful vegetables that meat actually takes a backseat – though, don’t despair, there are still two juicy chapters full of succulent fish, lamb, and chicken dishes. Please note that “Papardelle with Rose Harissa, Black Olives and Capers” just many eek out our family’s go-to, classic Marcella Hazan Spaghetti Bolognese recipe. ~Lisa Cadow

Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way Cover ImageAperitif: Cocktail Hour the French Way by Rebekah Peppler (2018): If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining chez les francais, the first thing you will notice is the elegant simplicity of their appetizers. They favor small, salty bites that please the palette and interesting, bubbly drinks which don’t fill up guests before the main course arrives. This book is bursting with observations and ideas that author Rebekah Peppler collected during her time living and dining in France. It features fresh simple recipes low-alcohol  drinks and high-taste appetizers that anyone who entertains should have in their repertoire such as simply fried potato chips, zippy marinated olives, cheese puffs. This book makes for the perfect, sophisticated hostess gift this season – and the next.  ~Lisa Cadow

A World of Cities Cover ImageA World of Cities by James Brown (2018): The pictures in this oversized book remind us of vintage travel posters. Their bold graphics inspire.  The fun facts sprinkled over each page provide many points for interesting discussions. The pages also give fun tidbits for all the fact-obsessed people throughout the world to add to their repertoire. The 30 dazzling cities Mr. Brown highlights should inspire even the most reluctant arm-chair traveller. Truly a gorgeous conversation starter, and a great gift! ~ Lisa Christie

Everything & Everywhere: A Fact-Filled Adventure for Curious Globe-Trotters Cover ImageEverything and Everywhere: A fact filled adventure for curious globe trotters by Marc Martin (2018): This journey around the world is crammed with busy pictures and words that discuss the things and people that make the places depicted unique. The pages almost leap with exuberance into the readers’ imaginations. A superb way to discover, or be reminded how interesting this world can be. ~ Lisa Christie

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate that holiday this week; and, happy holidays to all.

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Image result for images of madeleine kuninMadeleine Kunin — Vermont’s former three-term governor, who also served as the deputy secretary of education and ambassador to Switzerland under President Bill Clinton, and is the author of best selling books about her life in politics — has a new book, Coming of Age.

Governor Kunin will appear at 7 pm on Friday, November 16th at the Norwich Bookstore to discuss Coming of Age, her close and incisive look at what it is like to grow old. This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended as space is limited. Please call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save a seat.Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties Cover ImageAnd now, her answers to our three questions. We note the brevity of her responses with gratitude and laughter as we reflect on how many, many words other politicians are speaking as election day looms. We are also taking this opportunity to personally thank her for how well she governed our home state, and for how gracious, passionate, and diplomatic she remains in all that she does. (By the way, please VOTE on Tuesday, November 6th, even though we can no longer cast a ballot for Governor Kunin.)

Nancy Drew 01: the Secret of the Old Clock Cover ImageNutshell: A Novel Cover ImageDear Life: Stories (Vintage International) Cover Image

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

It’s difficult to pin point what three writers shaped me—In my early years I loved Nancy Drew. Later [books by] Alice Munro, and Ian McEwan.

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

Margaret Atwood

Exit West: A Novel Cover ImageCalypso Cover ImageSouth and West: From a Notebook (Vintage International) Cover Image

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

Exit West, Calypso, and South and West.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, 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. 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 and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

Image result for images of halloweenWell, we had long ago planned a post for yesterday that dealt with scary books for Halloween (with a small shout out to voting). However, the tragic shooting in Pittsburgh on Saturday, and the pipe bombs sent last week, had us rethinking this as we went to post. It feels as if  entertainment from fake scary things may reduce the actual scary things occurring last week. So, we delayed a bit.

After some reflection, we are plunging ahead with some great recommendations of books for those of you needing some diversions through thrillers, mysteries, and some self-induced scares. We plunge ahead with a few caveats: 1) we know these books in no way reduce these tragedies, 2) our thoughts, best wishes, and some political actions are with Pittsburgh and the staff in all the offices who received scary mail last week, 3) anyone needing more contemplative reading may get some help from one of our previous posts – But the News, which we posted after the tragic events in Charlottesville in August 2017, and 4) an obvious statement this violence needs to end.

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Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel) Cover ImageLethal White by Robert Galbraith (2018) – The newest instalment of Mr. Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike Detective series, has everything you loved from the first three – Mr. Strike’s complex life and personality, the moxy and romantic challenges of his smart once-sidekick and now-business partner Robin, and London. Fans of JK Rowling (aka Galbraith) will be thrilled as the page turning prose of Harry Potter continues in this series. Pick it up, dive in, and let its great quantity of well-paced pages entertain you for a bit. ~ Lisa Christie

Edgar Allan Poe Complete Tales and Poems Cover ImageEdgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems (2009). In honor of our scarily-themed Book Jam post, I pulled this complete collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s short poems and stories off the shelf (mind you, it’s heavy!). It is perhaps a must have for the robust home library – and if it’s not in yours, it is at least a title that a book lover should revisit at the time of year when a chill is in the air and the spirits return for a visit. My fingers immediately flipped to “The Tell Tale Heart,” a story about murder, guilt and madness that I was eager to reread. It had made a big impression on me as a sensitive 8th grader, when I was new to this author’s macabre sensibility. And, nearly 40 years later, it did not disappoint. It is just as disturbing, the narrator’s strange voice compelling me to hold the book at a slight distance, as if this could protect me from him. I love now, with a different perspective, to think not of Mr. Poe just as scary but also in his 19th century studio, brilliantly carving out a new American genre, writing about ravens, black cats, and sinister houses of Usher. It is completely worth a second – or first visit. ~ Lisa Cadow

The Haunting of Hill House Cover ImageThe Haunting of Hill House (and well almost anything) by Shirley Jackson  (1959) – Described as the greatest haunted house story of all times, Ms. Jackson’s novel of four seekers who visit a scary called Hill House and encounter what initially appears to just be unexplained phenomenon, but progresses to pure terror.  Ms. Jackson truly was a master of turning the ordinary into the chilling. As Stephen King praised, “[One of] the only two great novels of the supernatural in the last hundred years.” We love the fact Ms. Jackson was also a Vermonter. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The So Blue Marble Cover ImageThe So Blue Marble by Dorothy B. Hughes (1940 and 2018) – This slim book offers probably the spookiest opening chapter of any book I’ve read in awhile.  The every day matter of factness of the words contrasting the actions of the people just creeped me out. The rest of this short mystery swept me into the lives of the rich and famous in post WWI NYC. And while a bit campy, I enjoyed my time with them. If you are in the mood for a bit of NYC glamour, and/or some time travel back to the 1940s, pick this up.  Or as the New York Times Book Review stated, ”You will have to read [The So Blue Marble] for yourself, and if you wake up in the night screaming with terror, don’t say we didn’t warn you.” NOTE: We found this novel through the Passport to Crime and British Library Crime Classics reprints in a window display at the Norwich Bookstore. If you like this one, you can find many many more like it in these collections. ~ Lisa Christie

The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories Cover ImageThe Turn of the Screw and other ghost stories by Henry James (1898) – In this classic horror tale, a nanny becomes convinced her charges are being stalked by the supernatural.  It remains in print over 100 years later for a reason. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft Cover ImageThe entire Stephen King canon The Shining, It, The Body (assorted years) – Basically, just about anything Mr. King writes is guaranteed to scare you. And, if you are in the mood for a superb memoir, Mr. King’s On Writing remains one of our favorites. It truly changed the way we viewed his prose. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

And, as a reminder to EVERYONE to PLEASE VOTE NEXT WEEK, we close with a review from our friend and bookseller Carin Pratt – Fear, which offers a look at our current political climate which has truly become the scariest part of the news. And on that note, we again send prayers and wishes and probably most importantly a promise to be agents of hope, love, and change, to all those affected by Saturday’s bombing of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the mail bombs from last week.

Fear: Trump in the White House Cover ImageFear by Bob Woodward (2018) – If you read the Washington Post and/or the New York Times you may not find many surprises in this meticulously reported account of Trump in the White House. But in the aggregate, this portrayal of a dysfunctional, chaotic White House and a president whose attention span is non-existent, whose knowledge of policy, economics and foreign policy (i.e Why DO we have NATO?) is sparse, to say the least, and whose judgment and morals, well, let’s not go there — is devastating and scary. Fear indeed. – Reviewed by Carin Pratt

PS — SO, once again, PLEASE VOTE — no matter your preference, we really hope you all just VOTE.  And finally click here for some political inspiration from our home state to help us all survive these scary times. We promise you will love this clip, and we hope you enjoy some humorous words from Al Yankovic.

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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

This week’s “3 Questions” features Micah Perks, award winning author of What Becomes Us and other works. Ms. Perks lives with her family in Santa Cruz, California, where she co-directs the creative writing program and is a professor in the Literature Department at University of California, Santa Cruz.Related image

Ms. Perks recently released her latest book – True Love and Other Dreams of Miraculous Escape, a collection of linked stories exploring the life-bending power of love through the lives of characters in progressive California.True Love and Other Dreams of Miraculous Escape Cover Image

Ms. Perks will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 17th to discuss her work with Peter Orner, author and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College. This event is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited. Please call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save a seat and/or secure your autographed copy of her latest work, True Love and Other Dreams of Miraculous Escape.The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia #2) Cover ImageLittle House on the Prairie Cover ImageHousekeeping: A Novel Cover Image

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

CS Lewis’ Narnia series and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series. I read both those series as a child and was completely, totally taken over by their worlds, one magical, one wilderness. I’ve been writing about the wilderness and about magic ever since. As a college student, I read Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, and that book changed my writing life. I fell deeply in love with her surgical language and her vision of women and girls who reject domesticity.Image result for houdini

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

Houdini! I know he was an escape artist, but he also wrote books. The first story in True Love is about Houdini. I have a major crush on him.

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3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

So many! To name a few: Florida by Lauren Groff, Archangel by Andrea Barrett, Wild Milk from Dorothy Press and Nothing Lasts Forever by Sina Grace.

As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, 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. 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 and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

 

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We have returned from our annual “gone reading” break. And boy, did we read.

We are excited to share our new favorites with you over the next few months, but to begin this autumnal season of blogging, we gave ourselves the task of picking ONE book each for this first post-“gone reading” post. Emerging from our discussions about this first post was a realization that we both read great books that address education. Hence, today’s selections include reviews of three books (Lisa Cadow could not narrow her selection to one) with education at their heart.

Don’t worry, we have plenty more recommendations to share before the holidays (e.g., the new Robert Galbraith thriller, a novel by a first time Colombian-American author, and an adoption memoir). We also have some exciting guest blogs lined up; and, we are thrilled Pages in the Pub and BOOK BUZZ both happen this autumn, providing additional opportunities to highlight great books reviewed by fun and interesting people.

However, to begin, today we offer three recommendations around the theme of education.Related image

Educated: A Memoir Cover ImageEducated by Tara Westover (2018) – During this back-to-school time of year, it only seems appropriate to focus our energies on books that have to do with themes of academia. Such is the case with Educated, one of the most affecting memoirs of 2018 (or, for that matter, of the past several years). In many ways this story is about author Tara Westover’s educational journey from her family’s rural homestead in Idaho where she received no formal tutelage, worked in the junkyard on their property, while only barely passing the GRE to matriculate to Brigham and Young. It concludes when she earns her PhD from Cambridge University in England. It is an astounding and moving narrative which often leaves the reader shaking her head in bewilderment. But when the last page is turned, this book is even more importantly about something that lies beyond formal learning and the ivory tower. It is about standing up for one’s self, making sense of reality, and finally harnessing the strength to say “This is my truth.”

Many readers have observed that this book reminds them of Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls‘ affecting and best-selling memoir. This makes sense as they are both books about surviving and succeeding professionally unusual childhoods. And yet Westover’s experience deserves to stand alone. It’s that good. It offers a window into the Mormon experience, life in the West, and also addresses the the difficult subject of domestic abuse. Highly recommended and an excellent choice for book groups. ~Lisa Cadow

Chemistry: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover ImageChemistry by Weike Wang (2017). Yet another book placed in the setting of academia and one of my very favorites of the year! Once I started reading this, the pages just began to turn themselves. Our nameless narrator takes us on a journey set in Cambridge, Massachusetts where at the outset she is pursuing a PhD in Chemistry while living with her kind and attentive boyfriend Eric. It is funny, smart, observant, and poetic. It also takes us with her to challenging places of self-doubt, reflects on a less than perfect childhood as a first generation Chinese American, and grapples with the contradictions and cliches of being a woman in 21st century America.

Some reviewers have described this as a book about indecision, others have said it is about depression. Pieces have been written about Chemistry as one new important books that highlights the Anglo-Asian experience For me, what Wang is sharing a truth transcends cultural experience or a DSM-5 diagnosis. I found it to be a story of an interesting young woman struggling with what it means to succeed in her field, looking for meaning in her work, and questioning deeply what it would look like to create a family for herself. Also highly recommended for book groups. There’s a lot to talk about here. ~Lisa Cadow

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen Cover ImageDear America: Notes of an undocumented citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas (2018) — This book offers a poignant, plainly spoken, well-crafted, and intimate look at life as an undocumented worker in the USA. Mr. Vargas is possibly the most famous undocumented citizen in the USA and uses his Pulitzer Prize winning writing abilities to create an insightful and searing look at what being undocumented actually means.  What emerges is a portrait of many things I assumed would be part of an undocumented worker’s life – hard work, fear, contributing to one’s community, and hardships associated with maintaining basic dignity.  What I had not previously considered is how extraordinarily difficult it is to live a life with a lie at its core. What is the education connection? Well, despite Mr. Vargas’s contention this book is about homelessness, I would argue that the book repeatedly demonstrates the importance of great schools, amazing teachers, good books, and mentors. Basically, this book illustrates what education can open for so many. And, as with the other two picks in this post, this memoir is highly recommended (and timely based on recent news) for Book Clubs. ~ Lisa Christie