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Posts Tagged ‘The Book Thief’

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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!

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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

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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

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Yes, we recognize it is practically February and the holidays are long past. However, due to other great blog topics, we only now get to our annual picks from our holiday reading.  So, with no further ado, two great books we read as 2015 passed into 2016.

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (2014, paperback 2015) – “What does it mean to be a sister, a friend, a woman, an outcast, a slave? How do we use our talents to better ourselves and our world?” These questions, posed by Bobbi Dumas of NPR in her review of The Invention of Wings, target the core themes addressed in Kidd’s absorbing novel.  The reader is introduced to Sarah Grimke, a real-life abolitionist born into a family of plantation owners in Charleston, South Carolina. Kidd brings this fascinating and history-changing individual to  life more than a century and a half after her death. (I found myself wondering how I hadn’t known of her previously.) Sarah, a radical and different thinker from an early age, is given “Handful,” a slave, as a present for her eleventh birthday and the story is launched from this pivotal moment. The story is told from both character’s perspectives, exploring a painful part of our nation’s history and transporting the reader to the bustling streets of Charleston and Philadelphia in the early nineteenth century.  This is precisely the kind of absorbing historical fiction that I long to find –and I hope that you do as well. ~ Lisa Cadow

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (2016) – Just when you thought authors had run out of ways to tell WWII tales, this sparse, lyrical, YA/older K-12 novel enters the world. This slim volume explores life as a refugee — a topic especially meaningful in light of today’s headlines from Syria — in Poland during WWII. The story begins when Anna’s father fails to return home from work, and she is forced to fend for herself after family friends refuse to help. Early in her meanderings, she is befriended by a mysterious man who remains nameless and “history-less” throughout the book. The pair proceeds to wander Poland, remaining ever-vigilant to stay one step ahead of both the Nazi and the Russian armies. They also manage to merge into an unusual team of friends and defenders. Throughout their tale, the author somehow makes walking in circles around Poland compelling and meaningful. Saying more would ruin this novel; but, if you need an overarching plot summary, this is a story about the meaning of truth, and what it means to be good and evil. Need a one sentence summary? This is a superb choice for fans of The Book Thief. ~ Lisa Christie

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books-colorful-stackThe Book Jam Lisas have a favorite gift to present when significant events arise in the lives of loved ones (e.g., 10th, 20th, 50th anniversary, or 20th, 40th, 60th birthday). Yes, of course this gift involves books, but the key to this gift resides in the selection. For this gift, you as the giver, select one best selling book from the year of the original event (wedding or birthday), and then one for every subsequent decade, finishing with a book from the year of the current gift giving occasion. We recognize this description may make no sense at all, so we play out two examples below.

Rest assured we have given this gift to many, and it has been LOVED, LOVED, LOVED by recipients everywhere. Bonus for this gift — as you pick titles to give, you will discover some books you missed reading when they were first published, and the stack of great books to read on your own bed side table will grow.

GIFT-GIVING SCENARIO #1 — Your parents/grandparents/neighbors celebrate their 40th (or you celebrate yours)

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Pick #1 is from 1975, the year they married

Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurty – Before the Academy award winning movie, there was a novel revolving around two women – Aurora and her daughter Emma, and their struggle to find the courage and humor needed to live through life’s hazards. This is something we are certain any long married couple can relate to.

Pick #2 hails from 1985

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is also a romantic. This book is their story. We think it will be fun for any married couple to read.

Pick #3 was published in 1995

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – Mr. Hornby is reliably funny as an author, and his books almost always inspire a movie that can be watched once you finish the book. In this outing, the life of a record store owner, who spends his life making top five lists (e.g., top 5 Elvis Costello songs), changes a bit when his girlfriend leaves him. He actually finds this a relief as “how can he have a future with a girl with a bad record collection?” Then once single, life with the girlfriend looks so much better. Bonus– the book will make married life look superb for the gift recipients.

Pick #4 is from 2005

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – Nine-year-old Oskar has an urgent mission to find the lock matching a key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on September 11. This task becomes an emotional, often hilarious, and ultimately healing journey throughout New York City. 9-11 was a huge event in any marriage that lived through it. This book will help the couple receiving this gift talk about it in a new way.

Pick #5, the final selection is from 2015, the year of this special occasion

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015)  – The next Gone Girl (from a British perspective), will make the gift recipients’ own relationship and its endurance seem that much more special. We can not say much more as almost any description of the plot will ruin the experience of reading it, but we recommend reading it before the inevitable movie based upon its prose arrives in a theater near you.

GIFT-GIVING SCENARIO #2 — Your girlfriend/niece/daughter/goddaughter turns twenty in 2015.

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Pick #1 comes from 1995, the year of their birth

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama – The current President, the one people born in 1995 remember most clearly at this point, published this autobiography during the year they were born. So, that seems like a great place to start this gift to people born in 1995. In this memoir, President Obama explores what it meant to him to be the son of a black African father and a white American mother. His book takes you from small town Kansas, from which President Obama retraces the migration of his mother’s family to Hawaii, to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, and places in between. Note: President Obama won a grammy for his recording of this memoir; so, an audio-book version might be a great option.

Pick #2 was published in 2005, when they were ten

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Many high schoolers across the country have read this as part of required reading lists because it is an amazing book of the Holocaust with an unusual narrator – Death. You should read it and give it because it 1) will change you and the gift recipient, 2) is well-written, and 3) reminds you that in the heart of the worst darkness there is hope and there are good people. And ultimately, this novel is about the power of books and stories.

Pick #3, the final pick, is from 2015, the year of this special occasion

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015) – A superb, superb book about love and life told from the perspective of two teens – Violet and Finch – living in Indiana, trying to figure out what their senior year of HS means, what colleges to attend and how to play the hands they have been dealt by life (him – abusive father, indifferent mother; her – she survived a car wreck, her sister did not). We can not recommend it highly enough; but, be warned you will be very, very sad, as well as happy, while you read this book. Your gift recipient will be thrilled to be reminded that High School and all its angst is behind them.

You get the idea.  And, what is truly, truly great about this idea, is that it works for anyone, for any occasion, year after year. Have fun finding the perfect books for the loved ones in your life.

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The Book Jam’s Official 2012 Holiday Gift Guide

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We got off easy in our last post by recapping “Pages in the Pub” and publishing holiday gift ideas from other bibliophiles.  Now it’s time for our take on the season. This post is focused on what we think are some of THE VERY BEST PICKS for the readers on your list.  So sit back and enjoy the literary ride – great holiday gift ideas are only a click away.

And just in case you need any more convincing, now might be a good time to remind you why books make such wonderful presents. Here are our top five reasons in descending order:

5) With a book you can never buy the wrong size! One size fits all.

4) Books don’t need batteries, won’t break, and don’t require troublesome instructions for assembly.

3) They are oh so easy to wrap.

2) Because “curling up on the sofa with your iphone” just doesn’t sound as cozy as “curling up on the sofa with a good book.”

1) And finally, the number one reason why books make the best presents: How amazing is it to give a gift that has a whole new world inside of it?

Please Note:  While most of these selections are 2012 titles, we’ve also listed a few “timeless” treasures as well as some less expensive paperback selections published in 2012. And yes, this list is looooong, but there are so many great books to give, why limit ourselves – or your giving options? We’ve kept many of our categories from last year, some with a Vermont “twist” and added some new ones as well.

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For the Curious Reader, the Style Maven, or the Cerebral Type in Your Life – Books that Make for Interesting Conversations around a Woodstove:

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Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything by Randy Cohen (2012) – We LOVE the original ethicist from the New York Times Magazine.  We love his humor. And, we love his takes on sticky situations, even when we don’t agree.  Get this, open it randomly and use Mr. Cohen’s answers to the submitted questions to start conversations about how you and your friends and family would handle each situation and others you come up with on your own. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

My Ideal Bookshelf by Jane Mount (2012) – This book answers what books would favorite authors/other famous folks include if their choices were limited?  It causes the reader to ask, what books would you include in your home if you could only have so many books? Why? What would your bookshelf look like?  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

My Cool Shed: An Inspirational Guide to Stylish Hideaways and Workspaces by Jane Field (2012) – This is a wonderful, inspirational little book for those fascinated by how to make the most out of small spaces. Or it would make the perfect gift to someone dreaming of downsizing as it’s full of ideas for how to create a whole world, an ambience, in just a few square feet.~Lisa Cadow

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life by Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (2012) – Who knew advice columnists could write like this? And these aren’t just your one paragraph “Dear Annie” responses to life’s difficult questions. These are roadmaps, gems of responses considered from every angle and reflected back with grace and beauty. This book took our breath away and then gave us back enough back to laugh and cry. You will want to keep a copy of this on your bedside table to help you navigate life a little better. Written by Wild’s Cheryl Strayed you know you’re in the hands of a master writer. Perfect for anyone looking for insight into the “wild” ride we call life. ~Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For the Artists Among Us (And There Are Many in These Here Mountains):

 

SnApp Shots:How to take great pictures with smart phones and apps by Adam Bronkhorst (2012) – We didn’t know we needed this book until we saw it on the shelves at the Norwich Bookstore.  But, we DO need it  – as bloggers, as iphone users, as parents – since it is packed full of helpful tips and clever images for inspiration. We are ready to pull out our phones and start getting results today – but first we have to buy it. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Just My Type: A book about fonts by Simon Garfield (2011) – How to look at the written word just a little bit differently. Type choice, their histories and the effects they have on readers come to life with this fascinating, page-turning read. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Adventures in Cartooning: Christmas Special by James Sturm and Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost (2012) – This sequel to the hit Adventures in Cartooning, continues the authors’ efforts to make cartooning accessible to all. While I must admit I like the original book a bit more, buy this sequel for anyone who could use a new Christmas tale and the original for your favorite budding artist. ~ Lisa Christie

We Don’t Know How We Missed These – Books Published Prior to 2012: 

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The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (2007) – In this year of all things British (Queen’s Jubilee, The London Olympics) it was wonderful to discover this gem.  Author Bennet’s (imagined) Queen discovers, for the first time, the joys and sorrows of reading, reminding the reader of this as well. A superb book about what books offer – if we could have a literary “mascot” at the Book Jam, this would be it. For all those who understand the power and life-changing aspects of reading! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon (2009) – While the topics are varied, ultimately these essays, often simultaneously poignant and funny, are about the questions one encounters in trying to live a life.  Read this if you are questioning things yourself — his insight and experiences might propel you in an unknown direction. ~ Lisa Christie

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2007) – While this tale of the Holocaust as narrated by Death is now required reading for many high schoolers, you should read it because it will change you, because it is well written, and because it reminds you in the heart of the worst darkness there is hope and there are good people. I finished the last six pages or so with tears pouring down my face.  Now I am sad only because I can never read this again for the first time. This may seem like a strange holiday gift, but the recipient will be richer for receiving it from you. ~ Lisa Christie

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010) – I had been meaning to read this for a while and managed to do so when my friend Stephanie loaned me her copy. This work of nonfiction reads like a novel, and does an amazing job telling the extraordinary story of medicine, medical ethics, and th woman responsible for it all — Henrietta Lacks. ~ Lisa Christie

Happens Every Day: An all too true story by Isabel Gillies (2009) – At first glance this may not seem like an ideal “gift” book and only an excellent and engrossing read, perfect for those who crave the well-written memoir. But, actually, it might be perfect for someone who’s gone through a difficult breakup and would find solace and understanding in another’s experience. Gillies recounts the year of her divorce, how it hit her like an oncoming train, and how she weathered it all with humor, good friends and family.  ~ Lisa Cadow

Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet by David Mitchell (2010) – I must admit that I had to persevere through the first 50 pages, but once I did I was hooked. Although reading it was often like watching a train wreck – you knew horrible things were coming but could not look away – this is a fascinating look at Japanese life and Dutch trading in the 18th century and human love.  ~ Lisa Christie (Seconded by Lisa Cadow)

Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (May 2011) – The other Lisa discovered this gem long ago.  And once I finally read it, I loved this novel about three sisters and their lives as twenty-somethings after they end up living with their parents again due to some failures in their post-collegiate lives and their Mom’s cancer. When you finish reading you just feel good.  Bonus – the Shakespeare references. ~ Lisa Christie

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

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Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison(2012) – It can be challenging to find good reads for the men in your life but this year has provided an incoming tide of excellent titles, including Evison’s new work. This book has tragic components – the main character has lost much, including his children – but things look up (slightly) when he finds employment as caregiver to 19-year-old boy with a degenerative condition. As only the most talented of writers can, he finds beauty and comedy in his characters’ lives and even adds in a wonderful road trip to boot. Excellent.  ~ Lisa Cadow

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2012) – This book strikes me as being an adult version of A Separate Piece by John Knowles. Short, sparse, reflective and to the point, Barnes tells the story of a man making sense of an incident earlier in his life and understanding his actions from a more mature perspective. ~ Lisa Cadow

Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012) – This was a surprising find. Though Dog Stars is  about a man and his dog surviving in postapocalyptic Colorado, this novel is really a love story. Heller writes masterfully about relationships, meaning, hunting, nature, and, yes, love. Really. ~ Lisa Cadow

House of the Hunted by Mark Mills (2012) – This could be described as Maisie Dobbs with an edge, but that might turn off some potential audiences for this great read. So what it has: a strong main character – Tom, a young British Secret Service Agent who has retired to the coast of France; a great setting; a handful of Russians; some Italians; a few sexual escapades; and history of Europe between the two world wars. A great thriller. ~ Lisa Christie

Smart Lady Fiction:

   

Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012) – One of my favorite novels of 2012, if not the favorite.  Here, Ms. Mantel continues her chronicle of the life of Thomas Cromwell. To help the King bring down Ms. Boleyn, Mr. Cromwell must play dangerous games with both his enemies and his friends. Because this account of Queen Anne’s downfall is told from the perspective of Mr. Cromwell, the famous story surprises you. For those of you who have not yet discovered Ms. Mantel’s stories of Cromwell, start with Wolf Hall and know this fascinating sequel awaits. ~ Lisa Christie

Light Between the Oceans by ML Stedman (2012) – As its title suggests, this story takes place far out to sea on a remote Australian island where Tom, a lighthouse keeper, and his wife Isabelle are stationed. Everything changes one day when a rowboat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying baby. Having tried for years to conceive a child, this offering from the sea seems to be the answer to Isabelle’s prayers. Despite Tom’s reservations, she convinces him they should claim the baby as their own. They name her Lucy and the drama is set in motion as the reader learns of the effect that decision will have on many families as well as on future generations. ~Lisa Cadow

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (2012) – With poignancy and beautiful prose, Brunt tells the coming of age story of fourteen year-old June who’s grieving the loss of her beloved uncle Finn – a famous painter who’s recently died from a mysterious illness – who was the only one who ever really understood her. Set in the late 1980’s and full of cultural references to that era, June tries to continue on with a “teenagerly” (we may have coined a new word here) existence in Westchester Country – studying, fighting with her sister, going to the occasional party, listening to the “wolves” howling in the woods  – but it is only through a most unlikely friendship in New York City, with a friend of her uncle’s, a young man named Toby, that she finds solace. This is a book about love, loss, acceptance, sisters, family, art, and what is means to truly care for someone~ Lisa Cadow

The Cove by Ron Rash (2012) – This haunting tale about the power of prejudice and of love may be an unusual holiday pick, but trust us. Set during in a dark cove in the rural Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, the book follows the life of Laurel and her brother Hank, newly returned from the war in France.  The story begins as they offer shelter to a mute wandering musician. Due to abundant local superstitions about the Cove and Laurel’s birthmark, a visitor is eerily unique and of course tragedy strikes. However, you will enjoy the story that gets you to the tragedy and the small piece of hope you are left with. ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For Fast-Paced, Insightful Reads:

   

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters (2012) – Please read and enjoy this. It has romance, gorgeous scenery, intelligence, all interwoven in a tale of the lives, loves, choices, and losses of a cast of characters as diverse as an Italian hotel owner living in a town on the Italian coast so small Cinque Terra doesn’t claim it, a lovely American actress, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor and their filming of Cleopatra, a few young men overcoming addictions, and a modern-day woman trying to figure out when her life will begin and many more. The story jumps from 1962 to today and back again and back again, each time unveiling another layer of connections and dreams. A tale that ultimately shows that your life emerges from your choices. ~ Lisa Christie

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipman (June 2012) – A well-written book about the lead up to a wedding on an east coast island with humor, insight and thoughtful prose. Although, we must say we were a bit depressed when we finished. Question – will anyone ever write a book about WASPs that makes them look good? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012)  – Just when you think you know what’s going on in this thriller, think again. Gone Girl will keep you on your toes – and out of commission since you won’t be able to put it down – until you turn the very last page. Meet Amy and Nick, a seemingly golden Manhattan couple (Amy with her Harvard degree and Nick with his good looks and writer’s talent), trapped in a marriage that’s gone terribly wrong. The story starts with Amy’s sudden disappearance from the house they’re renting in Missouri. All eyes turned to Nick as the clues start pointing in his direction. The story is told from Amy and Nick’s alternating points of view so the reader learns about their relationship from its romantic beginnings to its present difficult place. If you’re a fan of Tana French, you’ll appreciate Flynn’s story telling style and mastery of the psychological thriller genre. ~ Lisa Cadow

The Writing on the Wall by WD Wetherell (2012) – Three different women from three different eras inhabit a New England house. Each is trying to deal with the hand life has recently dealt them. Along the way, the latter two residents discover the stories of the woman(en) who came before them. A gem of a book that shows the power of words and stories. ~ Lisa Christie

Mysteries for When You Just Have to Have One:

   

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James (2011) – OK this is just clever writing and truly fun for any fan of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, English period pieces, and/or PD James. In it, Ms. James imagines Elizabeth Bennet’s life years after she has become Mrs. Darcy and provides a murder to complicate their wedded bliss. Enjoy the writing and revisiting characters from Pride and Prejudice that you may or may not remember so well. Better yet re-read Pride and Prejudice first. ~ Lisa Christie

The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker (August 2012) – In this latest installment of Walker’s Bruno series, Bruno must learn to work with the new magistrate – a young woman whose need to prove herself outpaces her experience – as PETA protests against foie gras, a staple of the local economy, come to town. A simultaneous problem with Basque terrorists brings back Bruno’s former flame and other issues. Add some information about our species’ origins from an archeological dig and you will find your self learning while being entertained by this gifted writer of thrillers. ~ Lisa Christie

The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (2012) – The latest Inspector Gamanche mysteries once again planted me firmly in her continuing tale of Gamanche and his team of investigators. This time we all inhabited a monastery where a monk has been murdered.  One of the most thought-provoking stories I’ve read in a while emerged on the final page – a Montagnais tale (Native Canadians) of two wolves inside of a man: one wolf wants the man to be courageous patient and kind, one wants the man to be fearful and cruel.  The one the man feeds wins. ~ Lisa Christie

For the Mountain Man or Mountain Woman (A Perfect Pairing for the Outdoor Enthusiast):

WILD: From lost to found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed (2012) – Hiking boots: too small. Adventurousness: infinite. Since I’ve enthused so much about this already, I’m just including a link to my previous review. One of the best books of 2012. ~ Lisa Cadow

Appalachian Trail: Celebrating America’s Hiking Trail foreword by Bill Bryson (2012) – A coffee table book filled with gorgeous pictures that will provide any inspiration needed to get out and see some of the many things this amazing trail has to offer.  Great for those winter days when you want to dream a bit about summer and all things green.  Perfect for the hikers in your life.  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Poetry for Everyone:

 

Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove (2012) – In a gorgeous volume, Rita Dove, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former U .S. Poet  Laureate, introduces readers to her selection of the most significant and compelling  poems of the past hundred years. Whether you agree with her choices or not, you will, at the very least, enjoy some of these poems. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey (2006) – This Pulitzer Prize winning volume of poems was my introduction to our Poet Laureate. In Native Guard I found a moving testimony to the complications of life in “The South” and of being bi-racial in the USA. Her words are perfect and her willingness to tackle the personal so publicly is inspiring and fearless. ~ Lisa Christie

What to Make of It by Pamela Harrison (2012) – Our fellow Norwich resident Ms. Harrison continues a wonderful string of books of prose poems about life.  Yes, life.  This latest collection is a love letter to her husband. Buy it to remind yourself that love has its bad days too and that is OK, buy it for someone you love to remind them love is amazing. ~ Lisa Christie

For Those Who Adore All things France:  

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French Flair: Modern Vintage Interiors by Sebastian Siraudeau (2012) –  A view into the homes and interiors of this ageless, timeless, stylish country. ~ Lisa Cadow

Eugene Atget: Old Paris (2011) – For inspiration that comes from beautiful photos of gorgeous sights in the most beautiful of cities. This will bring tears to a Francophile’s eyes.  Great to linger over with a cafe au lait. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart  (2012) by Janelle McCulloch (2012) – Take a tour, arrondissement by arrondissement with a masterful guide. You just might want to pack it for your next trip. I know I will.~ Lisa Cadow

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

The main course of our cookbook picks for 2012 was already posted in November.  But for those of you who can’t get enough, we have another little “snack”:

Dolci: Italy’s Sweets by Francine Segan (2012) – Absolutely scrumptious. How would you like to bake an Olive Oil Apple Pie? Or perhaps whip up a batch of Bourbon caramel Sauce? A Fig, Rosemary and Honey Foccacia? A baker and dessert lover’s choice with a sweet, Italian twist. ~ Lisa Cadow

For People With A Subscription to the New Yorker:

 

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012) – This work is hard to read. It opens with a child hiding, naked under a pile of garbage, from the police for a crime he did not commit, and continues with harrowing details of life in a Mumbai slum. But it is important to keep reading as it effectively puts faces on the dilemmas of global change, and most importantly brings visibility to the invisible – the poor. ~ Lisa Christie

Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Natasha Trethewey – US Poet Laureate Ms. Trethewey combines prose and poetry to describe the Gulf Coast, bookmarked by Hurricanes Camille and Katrina. The combination of the community’s and her family’s own stories is haunting and informative. And this book reminds people that Katrina affected so so so much more than New Orleans. ~ Lisa Christie

For People Who Enjoy Living Vicariously Through Other People’s Memories:

  

 

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012) – Through laugh-out-loud and sometimes painful humor,  Mr. Thurston, of Jack and Jill Politics and The Onion, speaks about serious and important aspects about race in this country and does so with intelligence and compassion.  And, any time I am thinking about how I could better interact with the world, I am appreciative of the source that started that thinking.  Oh, and did I mention this book is funny? Buy it for someone who needs a laugh, or who wants/needs to think a bit about race and growing up.  ~ Lisa Christie

Sleepwalk with Me by Mike Birbiglia (2011) – Just out in paperback, this memoir chronicles what it takes for one man to become a successful stand up comedian (This American Life, Thurber Prize for American Humor). Read this to remember (or discover) what growing up in the 80s and 90s really meant, and how to be funny in the midst of poverty and often while in pain. ~ Lisa Christie

Bossypants by Tina Fey (2011) – While enjoying her amazing humor and self-deprecating outline of her life to date, I irritated my poor husband by laughing out loud when he was trying to sleep.  In my defense, I fell asleep with this book on my chest and woke to him having stolen it and laughing out loud.  Pick it up, read and laugh. ~ Lisa Christie

How to be a Woman by Caitlyn Moran (2011) – Every sentence in this raucous, side-splitting book offers exquisite insight  into subjects such as women’s shoes, Germaine Greer, strident feminism, motherhood, handbags, hair styles, pornography, surviving puberty, and making it through dating with your self-worth intact — in sum, how to be a woman. Moran has much to offer women as they reflect on their own journeys, and those of their daughters. ~Lisa Cadow

Travels with Epicurus  by Daniel Klein (2012) – Though this book is written by a seventy-year-old man searching for insight into how to age well, this pocket-sized read offers wisdom for all ages. Klein travels solo to an island in Greece to reflect on the words of  great philosophers and their ideas about aging while observing the older villagers around him. A travel book, a memoir, a philosophical inquiry. Lovely.  ~ Lisa Cadow

Literary Gifts for your host/administrative assistant/coworkers/boss

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New Yorker Puzzle series – The New Yorker has turned hundreds of covers into great puzzles.  Some are 500 pieces, some 1000, but all are fun for anyone. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Spot It – A game that everyone in the family will enjoy. And, which to be honest the younger you are the better you play; so kids will enjoy beating grandma at this card game. It comes in many versions – classic, sports etc…  Find one for the person in your life who has everything, but needs some fun.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

For Families to Read Together During the First Snow Storm:

  

Andrew Drew and Drew by B. Saltzberg (2012) – Reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon, but not quite.  A clever book about the pleasures of drawing and doing what you love.  And, a great reminder for kids that what you love will be there the next day right where you left it, so you should go to sleep (PLEASE). ~ Lisa Christie

A Perfect Day by Carin Berger (2012) – While the picture style is completely different, the plot reminded me on one of my favorite picture books ever – Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Try this new version the reminds you how great a snowy day can be. ~ Lisa Christie

Oliver by Birgitta Sif (2012) – A fun reminder that making a new friend = a VERY GOOD day. ~ Lisa Christie

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

     

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (2012) – I am one of the few readers I know who did not love Ms. Stead’s award-winning first book.  I hope that makes my recommendation for this book stronger.  A special gem of a book in which a boy faces a few of life’s challenges with wisdom and aplomb: bullies, moving, a father who lost his job, a mother in a hospital, and a name – Georges (with an s) that not everyone appreciates. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Christie

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2012) – In a faraway land, a nobleman purchases four orphans in a scheme to set one and only one of them on the throne as the long-lost Prince Jaron. The catch — the ones not chosen will probably not survive the “training”. When you add a clever housemaid as a friend, a castle with secret passageways, and the fact the entire scheme can have them all killed for treason, you have a great adventure for elementary school readers and the adults who love them.  ~ Lisa Christie

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon by SS Taylor (2012) – Make way for the Wests – Zander, Kit and MK – three orphans living in the near future where computers and electricity have failed, and who must lay low so that government officials miss the fact that they no longer have adult supervision. The plot thickens when a mysterious stranger finds Kit and hands him half of one of their father’s old maps, and the trio sets off to discover why this map is so important.  Get out your atlas and read! ~ Lisa Christie

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke (2012) – When Jon is sent against his wishes to boarding school, he discovers he is a kid marked by an old family curse to die at the hands of a ghost. When he befriends Ella, hope for belaying this curse emerges.  Of course, first he has to learn how to summon a ghost knight, earn the right to be a page and find many, many ways to successfully break curfew. A GREAT adventure for elementary school readers. ~ Lisa Christie

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley (2012) – By viewing slavery, plantation life and President Jefferson through the eyes of three of his young slaves, Ms. Bradley personalizes slavery and addresses the particular controversies of Mr. Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings. None of the viewpoints are simple, and all of their feelings are complicated.  A great book to read with your children to start discussions about slavery, and how people can simultaneously act in honorable and dishonorable ways. ~ Lisa Christie

My Pop-up World Atlas by Anita Generi (2012) – Colorful maps, interactive pieces and small facts make this book fun for your future world travelers. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Tales For Teens Who Still  Drink Hot Chocolate and Spend Stormy Days Reading and Aren’t Quite Ready for Adult Fare:

 

Unspoken: The Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan (2012) – Jane Eyre fans rejoice!, the Gothic novel has been revived in the form of a book for pre-teens and teens.  Kami Glass lives in a quaint town in the English countryside with a loving mother and father and two energetic younger brothers.  All is idyllic really, with one small exception – she has lived with a boy’s voice in her head for as long as she can remember.  Then, one day the voice in her head becomes too real to be comfortable.  Oh, did I mention it is funny? ~ Lisa Christie

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (2012) – OK, this is a book about cancer, sort of.  More importantly, it is a book about friendship.  Read it and weep. Basically, this is another superb novel by John Green.  ~ Lisa Christie

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