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Posts Tagged ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette’

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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Last night, on a GORGEOUS Spring evening just before Mother’s Day, readers from Rhode Island gathered in Newport to hear about some superb new books to bring to the beaches this summer, and to give to moms on Mother’s Day.

The evening was the latest outing of the Book Jam’s live event – “Pages in the Pub”.  This event is designed to bring together independent booksellers, literary bloggers, educators, librarians, and book lovers for an evening of talking about great titles.

This time, we gathered for the first time ever outside our home state of Vermont at the Salvation Cafe in Newport. There we sipped drinks and turned pages, all with the goal of raising money for BabySteps, a Rhode Island based early childhood education center.  We focused on GREAT books for summer reading, because summer is just around the corner, and Newport is a great place to remember the pleasures of beaches.

Because of everyone’s efforts, a few people completed their mother’s day shopping during the event, and most got a good start on stocking up on great summer reading.  We also raised around $600 for BabySteps, while increasing sales for a treasured independent bookstore – Island Books of Newport and Middletown, Rhode Island.
Since most of you could not join us in person, we now share the great titles discussed in Newport. This post lists all twenty books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter. Each of their selections is linked to Island Books web site where you can learn more about the picks and order your selections. You’ll also notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier.  Have fun looking, and enjoy getting a head start on your summer of great reading.

Our SUPERB presenters included (and we truly thank them for their time and talents):

  • Ann Hood, Acclaimed Author – Ann is an avid knitter, a nomad, a book lover, and a writer. She travelled all the way from Providence for this event. She’s also a native Rhode Islander.
  • Linda Finn, Board Chair of BabySteps, an early childhood learning program – Linda is a first term, part-time State Representative for Middletown and Portsmouth. She also owns and operates Linda Finn Garden Design, a residential landscape design firm; is a founding member of RI Coalition Against Gun Violence; and, is the Board Chair of BabySteps.
  • Judy Crosby, Owner of Island Books – Judy is the owner of Island Books in Middletown and Newport. When not working at the stores you can find her at home in Portsmouth reading, cooking or gardening. With “Pages in the Pub”, she fulfills the longtime dream of having a book event at the Salvation Cafe thanks to owner Sue Lamond, champion of all things ‘local’ and great supporter of Island Books!

And representing the Book Jam:

  • Lisa Christie, Co-Founder of The Book Jam – Lisa is, among other things, the co-founder of the Book Jam and a nonprofit consultant. One of her best jobs was being the founder/first director of Everybody Wins! Vermont, a statewide literacy organization. And, while she loves living in Vermont, she was VERY excited to be in Newport for an evening.

 

 

Non-fiction or reference book – For people who like to ponder large tomes during summer vacations

  • Centrist Manifesto by Charles Whelan (2013). Selected by Lisa – Usual politics tiring? He proposes solutions.
  • The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2013). Selected by Linda – Friendship, politics, muckrakers. Facts like fiction!

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

Adult Fiction – For women who have time for the best fiction while at the beach

  • After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman (2014). Selected by Ann – Secrets, lies, disappearances, a tangled web!
  • Under the Wide & Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (2014). Selected by Ann – Improbable, impassioned, adventurous, unforgettable love story.
  • We Are Water by Wally Lamb (2013). Selected by Linda – Very modern, engaging, family drama.
  • The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh (2014). Selected by Judy – Multi-layered coming-of-age. Keeps pages turning.


 

 

 

 

Adult fiction – For men who have enough camping equipment, but not enough good fiction

  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra (2014). Selected by Lisa – AMAZING writing. Chechnya conflict. Great characters.
  • Orfeo by Richard Powers (2014). Selected by Linda – Intrigue, internet, music fuel this mystery.                                 
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (2014). Selected by Judy – Mars Mission. Accident.  Man’s struggle to survive.

 

Cookbooks or coffee table books or reference books – For your favorite grad or dad

 

Books for summer campers/ young reader (ages 8-12) – books for those beyond tonka trucks and tea parties but not yet ready for teen topics.

  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (2014). Selected by Lisa – Lonely girl uncovers painting. Solves mystery.
  • Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody (2013). Selected by Lisa – How a boy inspired Robin Hood.

Books for your favorite High Schooler – “not required” reading for teens to ponder during the long hours of summer vacation

  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (2002). Selected by Judy – Must-read (or re-read) for everyone before movie!

BONUS – PERFECT books for the moms in your life, or last minute gifts to ensure a Happy Mother’s Day

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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 attend these special author events. Today’s post features Sue Halpern.

Ms, Halpern is the author of five previous books. Her writing has appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Time, The New Yorker, Parade, Rolling Stone, and Glamour, among others. She has been a Rhodes Scholar and a Guggenheim Fellow and is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. She lives with her husband, the writer Bill McKibben, and her dog, Pransky, in Ripton, Vermont.

Her latest book began as a way for a woman and her pet labradoodle, Pransky, to find something to fill their time with her husband on the road and her daughter out of the house. Halpern and her certified therapy dog began going to a Vermont nursing home once a week to visit with the residents. This endeavor quickly became a meaningful journey into understanding the lives of those whose end is near.  Written with warmth, humor, and compassion, A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home, combines a series of anecdotes with Halpern’s own analysis, revealing depths of human nature she hadn’t expected in the face of infirmity, dementia, and death.

Ms. Halpern will be reading from A Dog Walks Into A Nursing Home on June 26 at the Norwich Bookstore.  This event is free and open to the public.  While reservations are not required, these events do fill.  Be sure to reserve your seat early by calling 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com.

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

 Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (1960). This was the first book I ever read by myself, and once I had mastered it, it opened up the whole world of books and reading to me. We had a milkbox in front of our house, and I’d keep it in there so I could climb the big tree in our front yard and take it up there with me. I loved the zaniness, of course, but I think that Dr. Seuss imprinted the idea that language is flexible and fluid, that rhythm matters, that you could create an entire universe in your head and bring it to life on the page.

Roget’s Thesaurus. I found this book in the fourth grade and was amazed at how many words there were for the same thing, and that words existed in families and were connected in ways that were not always obvious, and that the precise word could make all the difference in the world. Instead of blue, for instance, beryl, blue-green, cerulean, indigo, navy, royal, sapphire, teal, turquoise and ultramarine, to name a few. This discovery led me to write my first short story that same year, about a guy named Roger Thesorus, who was on his way to an etymology conference. It was a really good story!

The Four Quartets by TS Eliot (1968). Whenever I have trouble writing, I open a book of poetry. Eliot is my go-to guy, followed by William Carlos Williams, Auden, and Wallace Stevens. Poetry is clarifying. Every word counts. Poets practice metaphor and simile and concision in an almost athletic way. I’ve benefited in both my non-fiction and fiction from reading poetry that is both spare in words and expansive in image and meaning, and I’ve endeavored to bring that discipline to works of prose. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded, but that’s the goal. 

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

 Can it be tea? I’m caffeine-free. If so, I’d like to have high tea in Bloomsbury with Virginia Woolf. I’d want to ask her about that room of one’s own, and gossip about the members her literary circle (e.g., T.S. Eliot!), and talk about lyricism and intention in fiction and if the sound of words is as important as the meaning of words, and of course I’d like to talk about our dogs.

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 3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

Far From The Tree:Parents Children and their search for identity by Andrew Solomon (2012); How To Get Rich In Rising Asia by Moshin Hamid (2013); Where’d you Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (2012); The Art of Loving by Eric Fromm; This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (2012).

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AH February, once the groundhog has left his/her lair and seen/not seen a shadow, everyone’s thoughts turn to love.  However, we don’t want to be the kind of book bloggers who when Valentine’s Day rolls around recommend predictable, saccharine love stories, those that could be described as glasses of Rhine wine too sugary to swallow.  Our own experiences of February 14th haven’t always been red, rosy and filled with heady, oaky Chardonnay. And, we’re guessing this is probably the case for some reading this post as well.  So, in the spirit of that understanding, we’d like to suggest three titles that are more attuned with 2013 cocktails poured full of modern love  –  those with shake-ups, stir-ups, trips over thin ice (in Antarctica no less!), but with the occasional sweet, unusual, happy ending, too.

Affairs of the heart know no boundaries of course.  All three picks also take the reader on wild geographical adventurers: Where’d You Go, Bernadette, starts out in Seattle but has scenes set at the ends of the earth in a place most writers don’t dare to tackle – Antarctica. The whimsical My Berlin Kitchen looks at issues of identity and belonging; and, we move with the author around the America and Europe in search of a kitchen she can call home. Truth in Advertising is set closer to the center of “civilization” in the ad world of modern New York, but moves the reader from coast to coast and beyond. Upon turning the last page of any of these three selected stories about modern love, readers will not only feel well-traveled, but also that their own hearts have stretched and grown in unexpected ways.  Each offers an alternative love story – each will make you laugh and leave you with a smile. Sip slowly, though, they will come to an end all too quickly.

Cheers, book lovers. And, Happy Valentine’s Day, too.

 Truth in Advertising by John Kenney (Jan 2013) – Funny, observant, wry, thoughtful, insightful, unswervingly full of modern truths and questions, not at all preachy — we should have expected nothing less than being able to use these adjectives to describe a book by a New Yorker contributor.  That said, this book was just what we needed – a funny, unique coming of age story about a 40-year-old man (yes, it took him awhile) making a living, but not a life, as a NYC ad man.  Mad Men fans might appreciate a chance to look at advertising in the current century. New Yorkers will love the chance to see Manhattan in all its glory.  Anyone in need of some humor and a well written tale (with an echo of a Catcher in the Rye sensibility) will surely enjoy this book.  P.S. This is a perfect read for right after the Super Bowl as it features main character Finbar Dolan working under the wire to create the perfect ad for a demanding client to show to the nation during the Super Bowl.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

 Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple (2013).  In this unique send up of all things pretentious, internet-oriented and well basically, all things about modern life that are enjoyed by those people who can afford it (e.g., private schools, Starbucks, exotic travel, personal assistants), a mother mysteriously goes missing and her child investigates.  The cause of her disappearance?  Possibly a workaholic husband, difficulty competing with local stay-at-home moms, an aversion to rain (it takes place in Seattle), a home being invaded by blackberries, an overwhelming aversion to people, a mysterious past, and a few well-plotted surprises.  We loved the plot twists and the unexpected quirkiness of this witty send up of modern life, modern love, modern parenting, and the exploration of  what it means to find a place (no matter what age you are) for one’s talents in this ever evolving world. ~Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

9780670025381My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss (2012). This is  lovely, gentle read by an author many may recognize as the creator of the popular food blog, “The Wednesday Chef” which was inspired by none other than Julie Powell’s Julie by Julia blogging adventures. In this food memoir, Weiss explores what it means to belong. Born in Berlin to an Italian mother and an American father who soon divorce, she spends much of her childhood schooling and summering in different countries and on different continents. Her interest always lay in the kitchen and with books which ground her through her peripatetic, international and fascinating upbringing. Each chapter tells a piece of her story with recipes inspired by time spent in places such as Sardinia, Berlin, and Brookline, Mass (a highlight: the description her uncle making pizza in a little cottage in the Italian countryside with stringy mozzarella and puffy, soft dough). Part of Weiss’ quest for belonging involves not only finding the perfect kitchen in which to cook but also the person with whom her heart feels most at home. A very nice addition to the food lover’s library – recipe box?- of titles. ~Lisa Cadow

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