Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘David McCullough’

images.jpg

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

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

Summer-Reading-photo-Arden.jpeg

Novels for Elementary School Students and Younger Middle Schoolers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

shutterstock_226522504.jpg

YA novels, Plus Adult Novels and Books for Young Adults

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

o-TEENS-READING-IN-SUMMER-facebook-600x399.jpg

iStock_000043658976Large-kids-reading.jpg

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Some Books for Book Clubs, and Anyone Looking for a Great Read

imagesWe were privileged to visit a local book club to present a few books for them to consider reading together. Their graciousness was incredible, and their appreciation for our ideas inspired us to share our picks with all of you. As you will see, we were slightly carried away and included MANY books by a diverse group of authors on many topics. So, our reviews are by necessity brief. To help you navigate this long list, we organized the titles in very loose categories, with a caveat that many would fit in multiple places. We hope this list inspires you to read some great books during these deliciously long summer days.

Image result for images of books

Fiction – just for laughs/fun/easy reading/escape

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave (June 2015) – Run-away bride drives home to Sonoma County, and is helped by her complicated family through decisions about what happens next.  Bonus — readers learn a lot about the history of Sonoma’s transition to vineyards.

Funny Girl by Nick Hornsby (2015) – A fun look at life as a 1960s BBC sitcom star.

Foreign Affairs by Allison Lurie (1964) – Life of an American English professor becomes complicated when she spends a term in England with a younger colleague. It is a fun read that also won the Pulitzer.

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (2013) – Mom runs away from Seattle playground dramatics (and fulfills a fantasy felt by many at one point their parenting lives).

The Rocks by Peter Nichols (2015) – A love story told backwards beginning with the deaths of the main characters from a fall off a cliff on Mallorca to the moment they met decades before.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014) – A fun, well-told tale of suburban parenting.

Image result for images of books

Fiction – slightly more serious

Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi (1997) – Dramatic, different, compelling. All the things a story should be.

God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (2015) – The story of Teddy from Atkinson’s Life After Life.  A great read for WWII fiction fans, fans of pilots and those of you who ever wondered what might have been.

City of Thieves by David Benioff (2009) – Two remarkable characters try to survive the siege of Leningrad. Wicked with fun, yet poignant.

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan (2014) – Contemporary Ireland after the fiscal meltdown provides the background for a superb cast of characters. Enjoy.

Any novel by Halldor Laxness (Independent People) – This Nobel Prize winning author from Iceland is gifted, and his books take you to a land many of us never get to visit to see people we enjoy getting to know.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014) – Set in the aftermath of the collapse of civilization this tells the story of a Hollywood star, a savior and a cast of actors wandering what used to be the Great Lakes.

Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2013) – Set ten years after civilization collapses, a man, his conscience and his dog try to figure out life.

Euphoria by Lily King (2014) – A page-turning fictional account of Margaret Mead’s life. Enjoy your time in the Samoan backcountry.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013 in Australia/2014 in USA) – A fictional account of the last woman to be executed in Iceland. In this book the author pictures her as a superb story-teller who becomes a memorable protagonist for a great piece of historical fiction.

My Antonia by Willa Cather (1918) – A classic tale of the American Midwest and the American immigration story.

Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell (2002) – A saga spanning the 20th century in China and Los Angeles. Enjoy this tale of how a father’s love for China shapes his daughter’s life. We have recommended this to many book clubs – including an all men club – with great success.

The Submission by Amy Waldman  (2012) – This fiction answers what happens when the winning design for a monument for 9-11 is awarded to a Muslim.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (2013) – A story by a first time author, who also happens to work in a facility for the mentally ill, about a young man’s struggle with mental illness.  Not as depressing as that sounds.

Ghana Must Go by Talye Selasi (2013) – A tale of immigration to America, the pull of the home country, and how some decisions by your parents have ramifications for you for the rest of your life.

Image result for images of books

Pairings of books – because sometimes reading books back to back enhances the experience

The Cove by Ron Rash (April 2012) and In The Fall by Jeffrey Lent (2000)These two books are gorgeously written and approach the Civil War from two different settings, an isolated holler in North Carolina and the mountains of Vermont.

On Beauty (2008) by Zadie Smith with Howard’s End by EM Forster (1910) – On Beauty beautifully retells Howard’s End, a classic tale of England.

Prep (2004) and American Wife (2008) by Curtis Sittenfeld – In these two books, Ms. Sittenfeld tackles Prep School and former first lady Laura Bush.  Both will leave you thinking differently.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856) – John Irving’s In One Person  (2012) – Madame Bovary plays an important role in Mr. Irving’s tale of a bi-sexual man growing up on the grounds of a Vermont prep school and the life he then leads.

Girl At War by Sara Novic (2015) with A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (2013) – Both books tackle the impact of war – one in Croatia and one in Chechnya – on those left in its wake.

Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst (2014) and Winter in Madrid by CJ Sansome (2008) – Both books look at WWII from the perspective of the Spanish Civil War.  Mr. Furst explores this theme using a thriller, Ms. Sansome in a more traditional historical novel.

Image result for images of books

YA – because sometimes it is good to read about teens

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014) – “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” These words begin this novel about a mixed race Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio.

Weightless by Sarah Bannan (2015) – This novel explores the consequences of bullying in a tale of a high school girl who moves from NYC to a football obsessed town in Alabama.

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff (2015) – A story of how one boy is trying not to let a tragic accident define his life and how a girl with a disfigured face shows him the way (sort of).   

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (2014) – A tale for middle grade readers that illustrates the importance of perspectives and prejudice.  The plot can be summed as a black boy in a hoodie is shot by a white man.  This book shows there is more to that tale.

Image result for images of books

Short Stories/poetry

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (2014) – A collection of short stories – some completely haunting — by a master storyteller.

The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol (2014) – Stories about Communists in the USA and abroad.

Image result for images of books

Memoir

H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald (2015) – TH White, birds and dealing with the loss of a father mingle in this well-told memoir.

Any book by Alexandra Fuller – A superb set of memoirs about growing up in Africa and finding one’s place in the world.

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway (1964) – A FABULOUS tale of life as an American ex-pat in Paris that is sprinkled with the famous — the Hemingways, F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and others.

West with the Night by Beryl Markam (1942) – SUPERB tale of a woman and her life in flight, as a horse trainer and as a woman making her way in 20th century Africa.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr (2007) – The author of All the Light We Cannot See first wrote this memoir of his year in Rome on a writing fellowship with his wife and newly born twins.

Image result for images of books

Current Issues

Can We Talk about Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation by Beverly Daniel Tatum (2008) – Timely collection of lectures about race in the USA.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014) – These poems are cleverly illustrated and outlined in a way that opens conversations about race in the USA.

Image result for images of books

History

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (2015) – The historian tackles two brothers and their impact on the world. Or you could read his Truman or John Adams and then watch the primaries and discuss USA politics all night long.

Image result for images of books

Essays

Brave Companions: Portraits in History by David McCullough (1992) – A collection of essays about America, Americans and how to live.

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2010) – Mr, Chabon has written a superb group of thoughts about being a man, fatherhood, being a son and friend. Enjoy.

images-2

Read Full Post »

images-1

imgres-2It is the season of Dads and Grads. And, we can think of no better gift to mark their special day(s) than a superb book. So to help you find the perfect gift for every special Dad or Grad in your life this June, we have created a short, but diverse, list of possibilities. (Note: Our picks for Dads from last year  – https://thebookjamblog.com/2013/06/11/june-10-dads-turn-books-for-fathers-day/ – still make great gifts too.)

God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (2015)— Yes, this is another book about WWII, but it is truly fabulous. Fathers will appreciate a superbly crafted story about a man as he becomes a war hero, lover, husband, father, grandfather, and finally senior citizen. History buffs will love the depictions of British air raids over Germany and the Blitz in London. Pilots and lovers of planes will appreciate the detailed descriptions of how WWII era planes worked. Grads will love that this is just a good story. Fans of Life After Life (this category includes the Book Jam Lisas) will love another look at Ursula, Teddy and the family from Fox Corner. This novel focuses on Teddy, a fighter pilot who gets a life in a future he never expected to have and is basically a book about a lovely man living his life in extraordinary times.  Please buy this for the Dads in your life, and then pick it up yourself to read at some point this summer. (Small disclaimer — It took about 60 pages for me to get into the rhythm of this novel; but I am so glad I stuck it out as the story, particularly the ending, has stayed with me long after closing the last page.) ~ Lisa Christie

H is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald (2014) — Readers, be ready to take flight with this brilliant 2014 Costa Book of the Year award winner. It was a bestseller in England and is now being hand sold as a favorite by indie booksellers in the United States. After MacDonald’s father dies unexpectedly, she embarks upon a journey of healing and discovery that begins with training a goshawk named Mabel. In truth, her avian journey began many years before with her childhood love of birds and falconry — but to train a goshawk! These are the mother of all birds: challenging, nervous, prone to tantrums, and requiring daily manning. Her focus turns to Mabel by necessity, but also as a way through her grief. In the process, she deepens her self-knowledge and also her respect and understanding of birds. She simultaneously leads the reader on a quest to better know the enigmatic TH White (who was a falconer and author of The Once and Future King).  H is for Hawk is nature writing at its best, leaving the reader turning the last page marvelling at the creatures with whom we share the world and yearning for our own healing encounter with the wild. ~Lisa Cadow

Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life (2015) — This book is for sports lovers, and anyone who has ever parented or coached a kid playing any sport of any kind.  The “Manifesto” expands upon a letter St. Louis Cardinal’s Manager Mike Matheny wrote to parents of a little league team he agreed to coach. The philosophy Mr. Matheny expressed in the letter outlined (among other things) his strongly held beliefs that authority should be respected, discipline and hard work rewarded, and humility considered a virtue. In this book he builds on that letter by offering a hopeful path beyond the (unfortunately) often typical path of poor behavior from sports parents, fans and leagues. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (2015) — Books by Mr. McCullough are like comfort food – you know the style of the prose (plain-spoken, yet somehow soaring), the general premise (history), and that you will learn something. In this book, he takes on the Wright brothers. You may think you know all you need to know about The Wright Brothers from elementary school history – they invented the airplane, because of them Ohio and North Carolina fight over who was first in flight, and they owned a bicycle shop. But, you probably did not know they first gained recognition in France, that one of their first models had a canoe on bottom in case it landed in the ocean, and that their sister was brilliant too. A great gift for history buffs and anyone looking for a story of how two ordinary men accomplished a superbly extraordinary thing. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Can We Talk about Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation by Beverly Daniel Tatum (2008) — A perfect gift for the dads and grads who are news junkies or interested in social justice issues, or for any of us who are trying to make sense of today’s news about race. This collection of four essays by renowned psychologist and Spellman College President Dr. Tatum focuses on race in America. While each has a school-based slant, the questions they raise and the information they impart is important for anyone to consider as we navigate the recent news about race in America. Please note that though the pieces were written over seven years ago their wisdom and questions remain timely. ~ Lisa Christie

Good Prose by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd (2013) — Every once in awhile I pick up a book on how to write – favorites being Stephen King’s On Writing or Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. (Both King’s and Lamott’s books would be great gifts as well.) This “new to me” volume of advice joins those favorites. The authors’ relationship, their joint adventures together as editor and writer, and their love of a good story that is well-told, propel this clearly-written volume of advice on writing. This will make a great gift for any graduate (or Dad) who will be writing as they continue their education, any “would-be” writer, or honestly, any lover of well-written books. ~ Lisa Christie

And, a repeat review, but it is probably our favorite collection of essays about Dads/Men so we are OK with that.

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2010) — One of our favorite collections of essays ever.  Reading this will make you appreciate dads and men.  It will also make you appreciate Mr. Chabon’s writing. And, it may make you laugh and cry a bit. Younger graduates might also enjoy this collection as many of the essays focus on the mistakes and triumphs of Mr. Chabon’s youth. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

imgres-1

Read Full Post »

Your Tailor-Made 2011 Holiday Book Giving Guide

Great bling for a literary friend: the "banned books" bracelet.

As book lovers (fanatics, really), we feel compelled and excited to recommend this year’s favorites to those in the market for literary presents. We firmly believe that books and book-related accessories make wonderful gifts for anyone. Really – they do – we promise – trust us.

To help you match the perfect gift with the discriminating readers in your life, we’ve created categories inspired by the types of people in our lives. There are matches for historians, fiction fanatics, gardeners, outdoor enthusiasts,  your co-workers, young readers, tough teens and many more. Below are hardcovers and new paperbacks (all published this year), games and even “book bracelets” that will make your holiday gift giving experience learned and painless.

While our regular blog posts link to the national independent bookstore site IndieBound, for the purposes of this special holiday issue we’re “going local” and have linked directly to our favorite neighborhood source – The Norwich Bookstore. And, as always, there’s a little bit of Vermont flair and Green Mountain perspective sprinkled, like snowflakes, throughout post. ~The Book Jam

Fiction for the “I Don’t Know How She Does It” Crowd (Books for Those Who Can Not Spare Time for Bad Fiction):

The style and the story set "The Call" apart from the pack.

The Call by Yannick Murphy. A lovely, funny, touching novel, IndieBound describes it best: “…an absolute delight to read. E.B. White meets James Herriot with just a touch of Jonathan Safron Foer.” Set in Vermont, this is the log of a rural veterinarian’s year and of what happens when his son is injured in a hunting accident. One of the best books of the year. ~Lisa Cadow

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks. A well-crafted tale of how Harvard changed the lives of its first Native American students and how they influenced Harvard.  It also provides an insightful look at 18th century Martha’s Vineyard and Cambridge.  This book has love, faith, magic and adventure. (We like this one so much that we also would recommend it as a gift for some of our other categories – “fiction for wise women” and “men who have enough flannel shirts” – see below for these and other categories.) ~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Language of Flowers by Vannessa Diffenbaugh. It is among the farmers markets and grape vineyards of  California that we get to know Victoria, a young woman recently emancipated from the foster care system and finding her way in the world while supporting herself as a part-time florist. Flashbacks and memories help bring us to the present day where this challenging and challenged character is growing a new life and discovering the possibility of love.  ~Lisa Cadow

Fiction for Wise Women (Those Who Have Seen More than a Few Winters):

Unanimous pick for fiction. Among the best of 2011.

I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck. I LOVED the beautiful prose and the compelling characters.  The plot, which reviews the choices each partner makes from the moment of they met 43 years earlier to the instant the male dies, kept me engaged.  I’m jealous of those reading this for the first time. ~Lisa Christie

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. This slim volume is a masterpiece of efficiency and story telling. Otsuka weaves together the impressions, histories, emotions, and journeys of hundreds (if not thousands) of Japanese “picture brides” who came to the US post-WWI in search of a better life and brighter future.~Lisa Cadow

The Time In Between by Maria Duenas. In this inspiring international bestseller, a Spanish woman turns poverty and severe betrayal into a life of success as a seamstress and then dangerous intrigue as an undercover agent for the Allies.  A great way to learn more about Spain during WWII, something I honestly had not given much thought to before.  ~Lisa Christie

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

Great fiction for the flannel shirt set.

Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Unique in style and voice, this book provides a page turning look at the lives of “players” in the American music business from the 1970s to present day. (We also believe this is a good choice for the “I don’t know how she does it” crowd.)~Lisa Christie

Doc by Maria Doria Russell. I don’t especially enjoy Westerns, but I picked this up because I have loved Ms. Russell’s previous books.  I am so glad I did; I was fascinated by this look at the lives and loves of Doc Holliday and his contemporaries and the vivid portrait she paints of the American West. ~ Lisa Christie

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This is another book new to paperback this year.  A fact for which we are grateful as it is a pleasure to recommend this look at Henry the VIII’s court through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell, a member of the King’s inner circle. Others agree as this engrossing read was the Winner of the Man Booker Prize for fiction in 2009. ~ Lisa Christie

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

Mouthwatering. Nigel Slater's "Tender"

Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater. This best-selling British cookbook will bring summer into your winter kitchen – eggplant, tomatoes, potato cakes and all. Tender is a love letter to British chef Slater’s garden patch. It’s a beautiful, mouth-watering tome of recipes~Lisa Cadow

Plenty:Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi. If you haven’t yet cooked with this talented London-based chef, it’s time to start. He’s a wizard with vegetables and combining spices (like za’atar and sumac) and ingredients (fennel, pomegranate, and celery root)  to create alchemy in the kitchen. ~Lisa Cadow

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals: Mediterranean Whole Grain Recipes for Barley, Farro, Kamut, Polenta, Wheat Berries & More by Maria Speck.  If your New Year’s resolution is to eat more whole kamut, this book deserves a spot on your shelf. A little taste of the Mediterranean is always welcome in the deep, dark winter as is a guide to making delicious salads with non wheat-based products. ~ Lisa Cadow

How to Cook Everything (Completely revised 10th anniversary edition) by Mark Bittman. This was new to e-books in 2011 so we snuck it in. Why? Because years after purchasing, I still refer to this tome almost weekly. ~ Lisa Christie

For People Who See Fully Formed Gardens Under Ten Feet of Snow:

For the farmers market fanatic.

Markets of New England by Christine Chitnis. BIG NOTE : We are VERY, VERY PROUD that Lisa Cadow’s Vermont Crepe & Waffle food cart is mentioned in this pocket-sized guide. But all bragging aside, this is great for the glove compartment so you’ll always be able to find a market on your travels.  ~ Lisa Cadow & Lisa Christie

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball. A wonderful recollection, part love story, part small farming manual, by a Harvard-educated woman whose life takes a sharp U-turn from a city path onto a rural dirt, tractor-lined road. ~Lisa Cadow

This Life is in Your Hands: One Dream, sixty acres and a family undone by Melissa Coleman. An amazing, honest look – from the perspective of a woman who was once a child caught up in it all – at life in the back to the land movement that Helen and Scott Nearing lived in Maine. A family tragedy suffered during this time makes this story all the more poignant. ~Lisa Christie

For People Who Like to Think and Chat While Sitting by the Woodstove:

A must-have book filled with a fascinating take on art, history and culture.

History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil Macgregor. This book is AMAZING, INTRIGUING, MIND ALTERING!  Written by the Director of the British Museum, it will provide hours of perusing, discovery and conversation.  Don’t miss the page with the “weapons chair” from Mozambique. ~Lisa Cadow & Lisa Christie

For Historians Who Love Vermont but Periodically Feel the Need to Hop a Plane to Paris (or hear a good speech)

The Greater Journey by David McCullough.  Armchair travel to Paris, some history of names you have heard of as well as many who will be new to you, and the always reassuring voice that is David McCullough. ~Lisa Christie

Lincoln on the Civil War: Selected Speeches by Abraham Lincoln.  A beautiful rendering of some of the most powerful speeches in the English language. A perfect gift for your favorite history buff or speech writer. ~Lisa Christie

For People Who Always Have a Cat in Their Lap:

This will make your cat lover purr...in French

The French Cat by Rachael Hale. This is my favorite coffee table book of the year and an essential for Francophiles and kittyophiles.  Take time to appreciate the grace and sophistication of these French kitties napping among the olives, slinking down cobbled roads, and lapping from lily ponds.  ~Lisa Cadow

For Those Interested in Looking at The Year in Review Just a Little Bit Differently:

People are just dying to read it.

The Obits: The New York Times Annual 2012 by William McDonald and Peter Hamill.  A unique way to review the year. Superbly written, perhaps macabre, but always full of insight, history and intriguing personalities. ~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For People Hungry for a Taste of the Great Outdoors:

A season-by-season guide to understanding the landscape of New England.

Naturally Curious: A Photographic Field Guide and Month-by-Month Journey through the Fields, Woods and Marshes of New England by Mary Holland. This is a perfect book to have on hand up at the camp or cabin…or just in a New England home. Ever wonder what wild flowers bloom in March? Or how to tell a wood frog egg mass from a spotted salamander egg mass? Look no further. Complete with photos, diagrams and easy to understand text.~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For Lucky People Who’ve Just Moved to Vermont:

Tag Man: A Joe Gunther Novel by Archer Mayor. The latest installment in a superb series that provides an entertaining (and perhaps slightly morbid – really, how many murders can a state of .5 million people have?) way to learn about just about every town in Vermont. ~Lisa Christie

For People Who Enjoy Living Vicariously through Other People’s Memories, A His and Hers Set and a bonus selection:

A memoir of Hurricane Katrina.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. An intriguing look at Katrina and New Orleans. Made me think hard about how we react to disaster. ~Lisa Christie

Just Kids by Patti Smith. This National Book Award winning memoir, just out in paperback, provides a fascinating account of a cutting edge artist’s life in NYC in the early 1970’s. Smith’s engaging writing style and stories evoke and explain an era of political, cultural and artistic awakening. And, it left us wondering – how could one person have been in so many important places with so many important people and survive so many situations and temptations?  ~Lisa Cadow & Lisa Christie

The Man Who Couldn’t Eat by Jon Reiner – A moving look at how disease can shape a life. (Could also be good for sitting by a woodstove.) ~ Lisa Christie

Literary Gifts for Your Hostess/Administrative Assistant/Boss/Co-worker:

Roll the dice and find your inner poet.

Haikubes: An easy way to infuse someone’s life with poetry every day. They’re a poet and they didn’t even know it!

Bananagrams:  Scrabble-like, make-your-own crossword FUN for all ages… provided you can spell.

Banned Books bracelets (with a copy of a banned book): What a great gift for all the rebels and accessory-lovers in your life.

For Families with Young Children to Read Together During the First Snow Storm (Oops…We Already Had Two!):

Discovering the world under the snow while on a cross country ski ride.

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner. This gentle picture book explains what is asleep or scurrying about beneath the snow while a father and child ski above. ~Lisa Cadow

My Side of the Car by Kate Feiffer. A funny well-illustrated look at the clash of wills between a father and daughter. ~Lisa Christie

Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan.  A great second book in a SUPERB new series by a master storyteller.  Keeps the kid humor, fun adventures and the Greek myths, but adds Roman Gods to the mix. ~Lisa Christie

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

A National Book Award finalist, not just for kids.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. One of my favorite books of 2011. I LOVED this national book award finalist and I sobbed at points in the narrative.  You could pair it with The Wednesday Wars, which is also by Schmidt, and which Lisa Cadow and I both loved. (She has not yet read this one.  Thus, she does not yet know how much she likes it.) ~Lisa Christie

The Apothecary by Maile Meloy. This has a bit of everything: London, the Cold War, Hollywood blacklists, homage to Great Expectations, magic and new friends. ~ Lisa Christie

The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Malone. This was new to paperback in 2011 so we kept it on this list. A superb combination of The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Blue Balliet’s works. ~Lisa Christie

Tales for Teens Who Still Like to Drink Hot Chocolate and Spend Snowy Days Reading : No gender stereotyping intended, but the first books listed we recommend are for young women and the last two are for young men.  That is not to say we’d necessarily stick to that for all teens – it is merely a guide.

The Call by Yannick Murphy. This lovely, touching, funny novel is as comfortable on young adult shelves as it is among grown-up titles. Inde Bound describes it best: “…an absolute delight to read. E.B. White meets James Herriot with just a touch of Jonathan Safron Foer.” Set in Vermont, this is the log of a rural veterinarian’s year and of what happens when his son is injured in a hunting accident. One of the best books of the year.~Lisa Cadow

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Magic, suspense and circuses always seem to prove a winning combination.  ~Lisa Cadow

The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkeness. This is a more adult version of “Twilight” but will appeal to the younger crowd, too (my teen reader couldn’t put it down). Time traveling vampires, zombies and witches spend time between London, central France and Massachusetts. ~Lisa Cadow

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge. Baseball, poetry and even a navigating teen dating component.  Can start with Shakespeare Bats Clean-up if you wish, but it is not required to understand the great characters in this book or to appreciate the poetry and prose. ~Lisa Christie

In the Sea There are Crocodiles: Based on the true story of Enaiatollah Akbari by Fabio Geda. The novel begins in a small Afghan village and chronicles ten-year-old Ena’s harrowing escape from the middle east through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and finishes in Italy. His ability to survive, to see the goodness in people, to work hard and to learn along on the way is inspiring. Author Geda does a magnificent job capturing Ena’s voice and in creatively telling the tale. ~Lisa Cadow

That is all for this year’s holiday gift giving recommendations. We truly hope they help you find the perfect book for all the people in your life.  Lisa and Lisa

Read Full Post »

Listen now to NPL live classic books show – July 2010  or download here NPL classic books.

A mysterious classic

On July 12th, we had a lovely evening and a lively discussion with guests at the Norwich Public Library. This was our first jam cast in front of a live audience, and we must say audience participation leads the conversation in all sorts of interesting and thought-provoking directions.

The podcast lasted a record fifty-one minutes and covered lots of “classic” ground from Robert Louis Stevenson’s  Kidnapped to The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne and then onto Hermon Wouk’s Caine Mutiny and Anya Seton’s Katherine and The Winthrop Woman. All this in just the first fifteen minutes.

A classic woman

While you have to listen to the jamcast to determine whether we are right, we believe most of the books mentioned were memorable because they were either superb adventures, coming of age stories or provided a distinctly atmospheric experience for the reader. Other books we discussed include:

Classic Truman

Great adventures: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Terror by Dan Simmons, Brave Companions, Truman and John Adams by David McCullough.

Atmospheric excursions: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, For Whom the Bell Tolls and the Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway, Jane Austen’s works, Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.

Coming of Age Stories: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings, Heidi by Spyri, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, The Bluest Eye, (and then Zula, Beloved) by Toni Morrison.

There even ensued a spirited discussion of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (two fans/two passionate non-fans) and there was even a reference to the book Toilets of the World in connection with Rand’s The Fountainhead. You’ll have to listen to the actual jamcast to find out why and how.

We also mentioned Girl in Translation; Worst Case Scenarios Adventure GuideConfronting Collapse, The Tipping Point, Bill McKibben’s works and Collapse by Jared Diamond.

THANK YOU to our three guests from Norwich – Mary, Jody, and Chris and Roy from neighboring Wilder.  Thank you to the Norwich Public Library for the space, the cookies and lemonade and to Ms. Beth who kept the library open when we ran late.

Read Full Post »