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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Chabon’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, we’ve 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 both attend these special author events and read their books.

Today, we feature Jennifer Senior author of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting.  She is a contributing editor at New York Magazine, where she writes profiles and cover stories about politics, social science and mental health. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her journalism, and graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1991.  All Joy and No Fun is her first book. To preview her visit to Norwich, you may wish to watch her recent TED talk.

Ms. Senior will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, May 21st to discuss her book and her work. Reservations are recommended. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat.

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

I think Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift and Oliver Sacks An Anthropologist on Mars (or any of Sacks’ books, for that matter) both showed me how beguiling case studies could be, and how important they are to make narrative nonfiction come alive when you’re juggling tons of data; otherwise, your writing becomes a plague of statistics and citations. The writing of Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union especially, but really, all of it) and Richard Russo (The Risk Pool and Empire Falls especially, but again, all of it) taught me how important it is to love and feel compassion for your characters (I only profiled families I really liked for All Joy and No Fun.) And like many women, I went through a huge Jane Austen phase in college, and tried to write just like her.

 

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

Anthony Trollope. He was so impossibly prolific, and he wrote like an angel, and his range was staggering, and he did it all WHILE HOLDING DOWN A DAY JOB.

3. What books are currently on your bedside table?

Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo (one of the only books of his I haven’t read); S, by Doug Dorst; The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease by Daniel Lieberman; a galley of The Big Fat Surpriseby Nina Teicholz.

 

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While here at the Book Jam we don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that some books are good for women to read and others for men — we do believe it is important to distinctly honor Fathers on their special day with the perfect literary pick.  So in honor of the upcoming Father’s Day, we have selected some books for you to bestow upon the great dads out there.  And relax, you still have time to order them from your favorite independent bookseller.  Or, you can always make a creative “IOU a book, Dad” card.

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 More Baths Less Talking by Nick Hornsby (2012) – Each month in Believer Magazine, Mr. Hornsby chronicles books he has purchased and those he has actually read or lost in the stack on his nightstand/desk during the previous month.   Periodically, someone collects them into a book.  In this latest volume, he is insightful and irreverent (as expected from the author of High Fidelity and other wry novels).  In one essay, he subtly pokes fun at the “businessmen” who sit next to him on airplanes and tell him – a novelist – that they “don’t read fiction” because they “want to learn something they don’t already know”.  But, by the end of the column, he confesses he wants to be one of these guys (and he describes them as “guys”) based solely on the power of his reading and loving The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  The bonus from reading this collection — a great reading list for anyone. ~ Lisa Christie

9780307947512A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (2012). I’ve thought long and hard about how to describe this book. It’s not uplifting. It’s not necessarily romantic. It’s certainly not a book I’d say has a happy ending, But it is relevant, insightful, and a parable for our times.  Selected as a finalist for the National Book Award and as one of the Top Ten Books of the Year by the New York Times, this novel is reminiscent of “A Visit from the Goon Squad” and other piercing contemporary fiction. Alan Clay, a middle-aged salesman finds himself trying to close a deal in a yet-to-be-constructed city on the edge of the desert in Saudi Arabia. It’s his last chance at business success and he’s in charge of team of green, young workers – all products of the new economy –  there to put on a holographic presentation for the king. This is a story that at its heart questions meaning in the modern marketplace as well as family and what it means to be a father. One of the most poignant parts of this story is a letter that the main character is writing his college aged daughter as he passes the time in this foreign land, a letter that attempts to explain his parenting decisions to her — and to himself. ~Lisa Cadow (seconded by Lisa Christie as a great book, that you remember long after you finish it.)

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler (July 2013) – Honestly, I picked this up because its title reminded me of one of my favorite of the  “stupid high school” movies genre – Ten Things I Hate About You (1999 with Heather Ledger and Julia Stiles).  While this book (unlike that movie) is not a riff on Shakespeare, it does offer a love letter to Shakespeare’s stomping ground  – London.  It also shows being a father from two perspectives.  The first view — that of a 29-year-old woman who has just lost her father to cancer.  The second perspective — a “hobo” of 50+ years who spends his days wandering London looking for the daughter he helped conceive but, through only a small fault of his own, has never met.  This debut novel offers a strong new author, and a contemporary look at what it means to be a father and to love. ~ Lisa Christie

Older, but Still good

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2010) — One of my favorite collections of essays ever.  Reading this will make you appreciate dads.  It will also make you appreciate Mr. Chabon’s writing. And, it may make you laugh and cry a bit. ~ Lisa Christie

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