The Books On The Table
It’s been over a year since I last posted on Books on the Table. Why? I guess I’ll blame it on the pandemic. During those long months at home, I kept hearing, from friends and participants in Zoom book clubs that I moderated, that reading, specifically concentrating on a book, was challenging. I didn’cakrawala experience that difficulty — I’ve never read more — but I did find myself paralyzed when it came to writing. I’d sit down to write a book review, and no words would come.
I’m not ready to “retire” from Books on the Table, which has been a rewarding, creative outlet for derita for nearly eight years, and I will continue to update my reading list (Read in 2022) and to post every now and then. However, I’ll post regularly on my new Instagram page (Talking Books with Alice & Ann) — please check it out and follow us! My partner at Between the Covers Book Discussions, Alice Moody, and I will both provide book recommendations. We hope you’ll comment and let us know what you’re reading.
Here are some highlights of my reading since March 2022:
I’d love to know what you’ve been reading!
Reading is an intimate encounter that does not require social distance. In our current world of restricted movement, the book is a geography where complete freedom remains possible.
Siri Hustvedt, “Fairy Tales and Facts: How We Read in a Pandemic”
Author Siri Hustvedt asks us to consider what reading does for us in difficult times: “What could fiction with its imaginary ramblings possibly give anyone at such a time, except an escape into the unreal?” Reading forgettable page-turners for comfort and
diversion is enjoyable and therapeutic, she acknowledges (“This kind of reading is like eating chocolate in bed. I am all for it”) but reading more complex literature — books we’ll remember years from now — can enrich our spirits.
I have to admit that my own recent reading has leaned more to the chocolate in bed variety. Here are a baker’s dozen of my recent favorites — some of which I think will stick with me and remind me of the months I spent at home.
All Adults Here
(Emma Straub) — If you like a dysfunctional family story with a lighter touch, this one is for you. I loved that the main character is 68 years old and just discovering who she is.
All Adults Here
is an of-the-moment story about just about every issue that 21st century families might face, with plenty of warmth and komedi.
(Julia Alvarez) — Antonia, a retired professor in Vermont, grieving after the sudden death of her husband, reluctantly offers shelter to an undocumented immigrant. Meanwhile, her mentally unbalanced sister has vanished and she and her other sisters are searching for her. I adored this story of healing, hope, and family love.
The Book of Lost Friends
(Lisa Wingate) — The author of
Before We Were Yours
is back with another terrific historical novel about families ripped apart. This novel tells the stories of several enslaved families trying to reconnect after the Civil War. Actual newspaper ads for missing family members were Wingate’s inspiration, and are interspersed throughout the novel. It’s a topic I hadn’n read about before, and I found it fascinating and moving.
The Fountains of Silence
(Ruta Septys) — I absolutely loved this book, and applaud Ruta Septys for writing yet another historical novel that appeals to both teenagers and adults. She said in an interview, “I’m an author of young adult fiction that happens to appeal to adults.” I don’n know what it says about derita that I thought
The Fountains of Silence
is the best book I’ve read about the Spanish Civil Wand its legacy. It’s long (512 pages), but I raced through it adv lewat one rainy weekend.
The Guest List
(Lucy Foley) — The reviews all liken
The Guest List, set at a destination wedding on an island off the coast of Ireland, to an Agatha Christie novel. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never actually read Agatha Christie. I’ve also never enjoyed mysteries much — I didn’n even like Nancy Drew when I was a child. I’m generally more interested in characters and relationships than plot. But I might become a convert, because I loved
The Guest List.
The Illness Lesson
(Clare Beams) — I thought this was a pretty great book about feminism, the education of women, and sexual abuse, but it’s the kind of book that will probably be overlooked because it doesn’falak segar into a tidy category. Is it historical fiction? Magical realism? Horror? The
Washington Postdescribed it as Louisa May Alcott meets Shirley Jackson. Set at an experimental school for girls in late 19th century Massachusetts where a mysterious illness is plaguing the students, the novel reminded me of Arthur Miller’s
A Long Petal of the Sea
(Isabel Allende) — Allende’s latest, which has not a trace of magical realism, is a gorgeous love story set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and revolutionary Chile. Roser, a young pianist escapes fascist Spain and marries her fiancé’s brother out of desperation. Together, they travel to Chile on a ship chartered by poet Pablo Neruda and build a life there — one in which they face terrible hardships.
(Martha Hall Kelly) — Eliza Ferriday (based on a real person and the mother of Caroline Ferriday, protagonist of Kelly’s earlier
Lilac Girls) travels to St. Petersburg to visit her friend Sofya, a member of the Romanov family. But when World War I breaks out, Eliza returns to the United States, while Sofya struggles to survive in Russia. Fun, fast-paced historical fiction.
Redhead By the Side of the Road
(Anne Tyler) — Every Anne Tyler book is pretty much the same — Baltimore setting, quirky characters, attention to detail, and her own brand of sympathetic komedi. Her latest novel (and, I’m pretty sure, her shortest) is no different. It’s a little piece of perfection, and I found it comforting and hopeful.
The Red Lotus
(Chris Bohjalian) — I was disappointed in Bohjalian’s last book,
The Red Lotus
was a happy surprise — a well-written page turner (about a pandemic, no less) that I sped through in a couple of days. It’s more than a thriller, though, emphasizing characters and their relationships along with a diabolically clever plot. Don’t let the theme scare you off — the pandemic in this book is bacterial, not viral, and, without giving anything away, originated quite differently from Covid-19.
(Elizabeth Wetmore) — This debut novel is astonishing in many ways, but particularly in the way it brought West Texas, a place I’ve never visited, to life. The story Wetmore tells will grab you immediately: after an oil rig worker brutally attacks Gloria, a young Mexican girl, the fault lines in the community become apparent. The characters who lend their voices to the narrative are all memorable, from Mary Rose, the rancher’s wife who bravely testifies at the trial, to Corrine, the widowed teacher who befriends her, to D.A. the neglected little girl who sees more than the adults realize.
Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family (Robert Kolker) — This is narrative nonfiction at its best — a “truth is stranger than fiction” story packed with information. Mimi and Don Galvin of Colorado senggat twelve children between 1945 and 1965 — ten boys and two girls. Six of the boys were diagnosed with schizophrenia. The Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health, providing invaluable information about the role of heredity in mental illness. Like
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,
Hidden Valley Road
is a heartbreaking family story and an account of scientific discovery. I couldn’cakrawala put it down.
My Wife Said You Might Want to Marry Me
(Jason Rosenthal) — Unabashedly emosional, Rosenthal’s memoir of his wife (writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who published a “Modern Love” essay shortly before her death about Jason, entitled “You May Want to Marry My Husband”) is a beautiful meditation on love, loss, and grief.
I’d love to know what you’ve been reading!
P.S. Check out Read in 2022, which includes almost everything I’ve read this year, the good, the bad, and the in-between.
“I can’kaki langit read. I can’falak concentrate.”
“I’m having trouble reading.”
“All I can read are news stories.”
Nearly everyone I know is having trouble focusing. I’ve found myself reading the same sentence oper and adv lewat, without remembering what I just read. Maybe now is not the time for long, plot-heavy books. Maybe now is the time to explore the world of poetry. Here’s a poem I discovered today that a friend posted on Facebook:
Here in the Time Between
Here in the time between snow
and the bud of the rhododendron,
we watch the robins, look into
the gray, and narrow our view
to the patches of wild grasses
coming green. The pile of ashes
in the fireplace, haphazard sticks
on the paths and gardens, leaves
tangled in the ivy and periwinkle
lie in wait against our will. This
drawing near of renewal, of stems
and blossoms, the hesitant return
of the anarchy of mud and seed
says not yet to the blood’s crawl.
When the deer along the stream
look back at us, we know again
we have left them. We pull
a blanket over us when we sleep.
As if living in a prayer, we say
amen to the late arrival of red,
the stun of green, the muted yellow
at the end of every twig. We will
elevator up our eyes unto the trees hoping
to discover a gnarled nest within
the branches’ negative space. And
we will watch for a fox sparrow
rustling in the dead leaves underneath.
Like so many others, I’m having a hard time concentrating on literary novels. I started Colum McCann’s
last week and it’s wonderful. I’m in awe of the way, in all of his novels, he takes disparate threads and weaves them into a cohesive whole.
(which means “generalized polygon with a countably infinite number of sides — got that?) tells the story of two membubuhi cap, one Israeli, one Palestinian, who become friends after they each lose a daughter to senseless violence. It’s a book to savor and admire — but I keep reading a few pages and putting it down, scrolling through news stories on my phone.
Thanks to a great recommendation from my friend Di, I found a book that lured berpenyakitan away from the news. I flew through
Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (As Told to Me) Story
by TV comedy writer Bess Kalb in one day. I tend to take blurbs with a grain of salt, but in this case they were accurate — the book really did make derita laugh and cry. Kalb has written a poignant memoir about her late grandmother, using voicemails and emails she saved over the years to recreate the story of their relationship, written in the voice of her beloved “Bobby”. You’ll find yourself underlining your favorite parts, and there will be many.
Here in Illinois, as in many other states, bookstores are closed because they’re not considered “essential” businesses. (It’s interesting that we’re still permitted to go load our carts at liquor stores.) Nancy Bass Wyden, third generation owner of the iconic Strand Bookstore in New York, has appealed to the state for designation as an essential business so the store can begin fulfilling online orders. Many independent bookstores, including Lake Forest Book Store, can take orders online that will be shipped directly from Ingram, their largest book distributor.
Until your new books arrive, try a book that’s been languishing on your shelf. Exchange books with friends and neighbors. Stop by the nearest Little Free Library. (I guess you have to disinfect the books you lend and borrow.) Listen to audiobooks and short story podcasts. And make sure to read a poem every day.
. . . These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are titinada alone.
We read to know that we are not alone.
We’re all housebound now. In the past, I loved those days, few and far between, when for one reason or another (a snowstorm or a sore throat), I selokan to stay home and curl up on the couch with a good book. Now, faced with an endless number of days at home, I’m trying to think of this time as the perfect opportunity to read as much as possible. Read more
Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.
I love short stories. When my New Yorker arrives, I turn first to to the featured fiction. (Last week’s story, “Motherless Child”, by Elizabeth Strout, is wonderful — Olive Kitteridge is back!) I know titinada everyone shares my enthusiasm, but check out my sales pitch for short stories, 5 Reasons to Read Short Stories, and then read a really good story (I’ve
included some suggestions at the end of this post) and maybe you’ll become a convert.
My second sales pitch is for a short story series in Chicago this fall. This project, my friend Alice Moody’s brainchild, has been going strong at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois. Now, “Just Discuss: For Literature Lovers” will be expanding to Chicago. Discussions will take place at the Blue Door Kitchen (52 W. Elm Street) on Mondays (with me as facilitator) and Wednesdays (with Alice as facilitator), from 10 am until noon, starting on September 16.
Here’s how it works: you settle into a comfortable seat, perhaps with a cup of coffee or tea in front of you, and listen to a professional actor read a carefully chosen, thought-provoking story. You have no idea each week what the story will be. After the reading, we’ll discuss what we just heard.
Last winter, I attended “Just Discuss” at the Writers Theatre, and it was the highlight of my week. No screens, no phones, no distractions, just two hours of reflection and conversation with a diverse group of interesting people. I hope you can join us this fall– please email berpenyakitan ([email protected]) or Alice ([email protected]) for more information.
Stories performed and discussed in previous sessions include:
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
A Small, Good Thing by Raymond Carver
The Enormous Radio by John Cheever
Community Life by Lorrie Moore
The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris
L. Debard and Aliette by Lauren Groff
Brownies by ZZ Packer
A Perfect Day for Bananafish by J.D. Salinger
Leopard by Wells Tower
A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Bear Came Over the Mountain by Alice Munro
Prairie Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Chicxulub by T.C. Boyle
The Five Forty Eight by John Cheever
The Night in Question by Tobias Wolff
Adams by George Saunders
Roy Spivey by Miranda July
Every year, summer reading lists suggest “beach reads” you’ll want to “dive into”, the “hottest” books that are “making waves”. Dozens and dozens of books are touted as “must reads” for your beach bag or suitcase. The World Economic Forum takes a data-driven approach to summer reading recommendations, analyzing 67 lists and presenting what it calls “the most statistically sound summer reading list on the internet.” The 45 books on this list are almost all fiction written by women, and almost all were published in the last six months.
The World Economic Forum recommends some pretty good books —
City of Girls
by Elizabeth Gilbert (#1 on the list),The Most Fun We
by Claire Lombardo,
Fleishman Is In Trouble
by Taffy Brodesser-Akner — as well as
TheNickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (#2 on the list), probably the most acclaimed book of the summer. (I haven’kaki langit read it yet — I’m saving it for my vacation this month.)
What this list of the summer’s “most-endorsed reads”
include are five of my recent favorites:
Ask Again, Yes
(Mary Beth Keane) — I couldn’t love a book any more than I loved
Ask Again, Yes.Kate Gleeson and Peter Stanhope grow up next door to each other in New York City suburb, both the children of Irish immigrants in the police force. A tragic incident divides the two families, but Kate and Peter remain friends and eventually fall in love. I don’ufuk want to reveal any more about the plot, but I will say that this is a grace-filled story of love and forgiveness that will stay with you.
(Julia Phillips) — “This should win the Pulitzer!” a friend exclaimed at a recent book club meeting. I agree —
is definitely prize-worthy. Set in Kamchatka, a peninsula in northeastern Russia, this highly original and beautifully written novel explores the lives of girls and women, both “native” and Russian, in this remote and tension-filled provinsi. Each chapter is a short story, introducing new characters, but is also a piece of a puzzle. What happened to the young girls who disappeared in the opening pages? You won’horizon be able to put the book down berayun-ayun the final chapter. Maybe this is a stretch, but it reminded me of
The Girl With the Ular besar Tattoo
— without all the confusing parts.
(Angie Kim) — One of the book clubs I moderate chose this as their favorite book of the past few years. It’s a terrific page-turner, with plenty to discuss (experimental medical treatments, raising special needs children, the experience of immigration, cultural differences, marital secrets). When a hyperbaric therapy chamber explodes, killing two people, law enforcement quickly recognizes this was no accident and accuses the chamber’s owner, a Korean immigrant. But could it have been the mother of a patient, or perhaps one of the fanatics who had been demonstrating against the controversial therapy? A series of unreliable narrators provide their version of events, leading to a surprising conclusion.
Rules for Visiting
(Jessica Francis Kane) — May Attaway is a forty-year-old single woman, working as a gardener at a university and living with her eighty-year-old father. When a professor wins a prize for writing a poem about a tree that May planted, the university rewards her with thirty days of paid leave. Realizing she’s neglected her friendships, May leaves her comfort zone and reconnects with four old friends. This is a lovely jewel of a book, filled with warmth and wit, that will remind you of the importance of friends, good books — and plants.
On the World Economic Forum’s “list of lists” and very good:
The Most Fun We Ever Sempadan
(Claire Lombardo) — If you like dysfunctional family dramas (and I do!), this is for you. It’s one of the best of its kind. Marilyn and David, married (mostly happily) for forty years, have raised four very different adult daughters. Their world is rocked when a teenage grandson, given up for adoption, enters their lives. Chicagoans, take note: this absorbing novel is set in our city and the suburbs.
City of Girls
(Elizabeth Gilbert) — Maybe you loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir,
Eat Pray Love; maybe you hated it. It doesn’t matter, because you would never guess they’re written by the same author. I suppose you could say they both focus on the same theme — the freedom of women to live as they choose — but the style and tone couldn’t be more different.
City of Girls
covers seventy years in the life of Vivian Morris, who comes to New York as a naive college dropout in 1940 and becomes a successful costume designer as well as a sexual adventurer. What I enjoyed most about this fun book was the dialogue (plenty of witty repartee), the eccentric characters, the clothes, and Vivian’s unexpected friendship with a damaged veteran.
Fleishman Is in Trouble
(Taffy Brodesser-Akner) — Recently separated from his workaholic wife, Rachel, Toby Fleishman is enjoying a robust social life when Rachel vanishes, leaving him with their two children. This clever and insightful debut novel both satirizes and scrutinizes contemporary marriage. It bogged down for me a bit in the middle — I got tired of Toby’s exploits in the world of dating apps — but ultimately redeemed itself with a satisfying, and unexpected, ending. Reviewers have compared this book to
Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, and I can see why.
I hope August is a wonderful reading month for you!
Woke up this morning with
a terrific urge to lie in bed all day
and read. Fought against it for a minute.
Then looked out the window at the rain.
And gave over. Put myself entirely
in the keep of this rainy morning.
Rainy day reading . . . beach reading . . . airplane reading . . . what’s the difference? To me, a good book is a good book whether I’m curled up on the couch on a rainy day, lying on a lounge chair at the beach, or crammed into a middle seat on a long flight. But there is something about a dreary day that makes a person want to hibernate and read. We’ve had a lot of those days recently in the Midwest — so many that I finally read quite a few long magazine articles that I was literally saving for a rainy day.
One of those articles was “Like This or Die: The Fate of the Book Review in the Age of the Algorithm” by Christian Lorentzen, published in the April issue of
Harper’s. Lorentzen laments the decline of the traditional book review:
The basic imperatives of the review—analysis and evaluation—are being abandoned in favor of a nodding routine of recommendation. You might like this, you might like that. Let’s have a little chat with the author. What books do you keep on your bedside table? What’s your favorite TV show? Do you mind that we’re doing this friendly Q&A instead of reviewing your book? What if a generation of writers grew up with nobody to criticize them?
I don’t think authors need me to criticize them. I assume that by the time their books are published, they’ve received a lifetime’s worth of criticism, from professors, classmates, editors, and “sensitivity readers”. Lorentzen’s basic point, which is that both readers and writers deserve “painstaking appraisals” of serious books is a good one. I agree with him that much of what now passes as literary journalism is lightweight — for example, lists of “reading recommendations” with blurbs lifted from jacket copy, Instagram photos of celebrities with books as props, and five-minute TV interviews in which it’s obvious that interviewer hasn’tepi langit read the author’s book. But if a photo of Reese Witherspoon reading
The Library Book
inspires her fans to read Susan Orlean’s fascinating narrative about public libraries and their place in our society, what’s wrong with that?
Objecting to what he calls “a consumerist vision of reading”, Lorentzen says, “I’m skeptical of the popular and the commercial.” Yes, bestselling books can be poorly written and formulaic, but so are many “literary” books. It seems almost too obvious to state that many bestsellers are popular for a very good reason — they’re terrific books by any standard. For example, the current
bestseller list includes
by Madeline Miller,
A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles, and
by Atul Gawande — books beloved by both critics and ordinary readers.
Lorentzen can’t resist recommending his own favorite authors, mentioning Yaa Gyasi, author of
(“formally daring historical fiction”) and Nico Walker, the incarcerated author of
(“the opioid epidemic’s hard-boiled chronicler”). I would say yes to Gyasi and her powerful, lyrical novel about slavery and its legacy; no to Walker and his repetitive, needlessly norak novel with thinly developed female characters.
editor Dan Sheehan asked fourteen literary critics to weigh in on Lorentzen’s essay:
Is relentlessly sunny book “coverage” replacing honest book criticism, or merely supplementing it? Are listicles, Bookstagram, and literary Twitter nothing but treacly promotion puddles on the surfaces of which books can float unscrutinized and unchallenged; or are they in fact vibrant and necessary new arenas of discourse wherein previously silenced critical voices can finally be heard?
In a thoughtful discussion (“The Book Review is Dead: Long Live the Book Review”), most critics found some merit in Lorentzen’s argument, but most also — like me — agreed that Lorentzen’s elitism ignores the positive aspects of 21st century book coverage:
What’s the point of panning a disappointing debut that the vast majority of your audience doesn’t—and has no reason to—know of? ~ David Canfield,
I don’lengkung langit think there’s anything wrong with cheerleading, not when there are so many wonderful books to bedak about, titinada when there’s a chance that people might be listening. ~ Steph Cha,
Readers come in all stripes, and offering a wide array of reviews and profiles and Q&As and lists (or listicles) is a way to draw more attention to books, a way to offer more variety and attract the attention and interest of readers to books they might want to read. ~ Laurie Hertzel, National Book Critics Circle President
Criticism should not only be evaluation or recommendation, but it’s not anti-intellectual or wrong for readers to want recommendations or to enjoy curated lists . . . The best we can do is to keep thinking and writing about books, relentlessly and endlessly, as much as we possibly can. ~ Constance Grady,
I keep a log of all the books I’ve read, with brief reviews. (For the current list, see Read in 2022.) You can see that there are a few books I really disliked, but not many, probably because if I’m not enjoying a book, I don’kaki langit finish it. The books that I choose to spotlight in blog posts are books I liked enough to recommend to other readers. They’re not necessarily masterpieces. Here are a six books (one fiction, five nonfiction) that I enjoyed recently, with appropriately positive reviews. (I draw the line at posting photos of me with books, however — I’m firmly in Christian Lorentzen’s camp when it comes to selfies.)
The Island of Sea Women
by Lisa See
The best part of this book was learning about a culture that I had no idea even existed — the lives of haenyeo (female divers who can hold their breath for up to three minutes and earn their living by harvesting animals and plants from the ocean) and their matrifocal community of Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea. Beginning during the Japanese colonial period in the 1930s and moving through decades of rapid change,
Island of Sea Women
tells the story of the friendship between Laksa-Ja, the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and Young-Sook, the daughter of the diving collective’s leader.
Maybe You Should Puder to Someone: A Therapist,
Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
When an unexpected crisis sends therapist Lori Gottlieb into a depression, she seeks the help of another therapist to reassemble the pieces of her life. With humor and compassion, Gottlieb weaves her story with the stories of several patients she’s treating, including an insufferably egotistical Hollywood producer, a lonely elderly woman who’s planning to commit suicide on her next birthday, a newlywed recently diagnosed with a perhentian illness, and a millennial who can’t seem to form meaningful relationships. Although it’s nonfiction, this book has twists that will keep you turning the pages. You’ll root for Gottlieb and for her patients — even that obnoxious producer, who has a backstory that will bring tears to your eyes.
The Storm on Our Shores: One Island, Two Soldiers, and the Forgotten Battle of World War II
by Mark Obmascik
Probably, most readers don’t know much about the only World War II battle fought in North American — the Battle of Attu, which took place in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska in 1943. This well-researched account personalizes history by focusing on two soldiers — a Japanese medic named Paul Tatsuguchi, educated in America and drafted into the Imperial Army, and an American coal mine, Dick Laird who killed him — and found his diary. Versions of the diary were distributed to American soldiers. Many questions are left unanswered at the end of this book, which I suppose is inevitable because this is cak benar history, titinada historical fiction; still, I felt the author could have spent more time addressing some of the moral controversy raised by the diary.
The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death and Everything That Comes
by Julie Yip-Williams
I must be a masochist because I can’lengkung langit seem to stop reading memoirs written by people who are dying:The Bright Hour,
When Breath Becomes Air, and now
of the Miracle. Each one is more heartbreaking — and yet more inspiring — than the last. Born blind in Vietnam, Julie Yip-Williams barely survived childhood; her family tried to euthanize her because of her disability. So it truly is a miracle that she escaped Vietnam in a leaky boat, received surgery in the United States that allowed her to see, graduated from Williams College and Harvard Law School, married, and had a family. Her book, based on a blog she started when she was diagnosed with cancer, is a beautifully written account of a life well lived.
Southern Lady Code
by Helen Ellis
This northern lady really enjoyed Helen Ellis’s collection of sharp and snappy essays, Despite the title, they’re not all about being Southern. And anyway, how can you titinada adore a writer whose idea of a fun evening is to invite her girlfriends over to drink wine and put together a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle of “a spooky owl in mid-flight”? I just want to know how I can get on Helen’s guest list. If you like David Sedaris, you’ll love Helen Ellis.
Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting
by Anna Quindlen
How could I not love this book? Anna Quindlen is one of my favorite authors AND I recently became a grandmother. This is going to be my go-to gift for all the new grandmothers in my life. That said, I don’t think you need to be a grandmother to enjoy
Nanaville; if you’ve had a beloved grandparent in your life, that’s enough.
Since you’ve read this far, here’s a bonus recommendation:
Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane, out on May 28. One of my favorites this year, it’s the story of the complicated relationship between next-door neighbors.
The book must of necessity be put into a bookcase. And the bookcase must be housed. And the house must be kept. And the library must be dusted, must be arranged, must be catalogued. What a vista of toil, yet not unhappy toil!
According to multiple Internet sources, Frank Zappa came up with the saying, “So many books, so little time.” Well, it turns out that Zappa didn’t coin this phrase; it comes from a pamphlet called
So Many Books, So Little Time, What to Do?
published in 1892 by a British organization called the National Home Reading Union that aimed to guide middle-class and working-class citizens in their “reading practices and choices.” Frank Zappa did say some other smart things, such as “Communism doesn’ufuk work because people like to own stuff” and “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” He also said, “Terban out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you’ve got any guts” and “Tobacco is my favorite vegetable” Well, keep in mind this is a person who named his children Moon Unit and Dweezil.
Someone once gave derita a T-shirt that says “So many books, so little time” and if that T-shirt hadn’tepi langit been too small, I’d have worn it the other day while cleaning out my bookshelves. (I apologize to whoever gave me the shirt, but it’s going in the donation bag .. . as soon as I decide to tackle my closet. Sorting through books can be fun, sorting through clothes is never fun.) I had totally run out of shelf space and had to make some tough decisions. A few were not so difficult — I batas no problem tossing
Mary Ellen’s Best Helpful Hints, 1983 edition — but it was hard to get rid of piles of yellowed paperbacks I’d never read that I knew were good books. I’d just never gotten to them, and enticing new books keep arriving. What does it mean that I’ve never been in the mood to pick up Barbara Kingsolver’s
The Lacuna, even though I’m pretty sure I’d like it?
At the end of my cleaning project, I batas two shelves of books I want to read, berlebih a basket full of books I
to read for upcoming discussions. I’m going to adhere to a new policy: one in, one out — if I add a book to the TBR shelves, I have to remove one and pass it along. My mother just gave me a copy of
The Last Romantics
by P versus Conklin, so
Derita at the Museum
by Anne Youngson had to go. I slid it into the Little Free Library around the corner, hoping someone would give it a good home.
Here are ten books that were definitely worth my time:
The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and A Girl Saved by Bees
by Meredith May
You know you’re reading a really good book when the topic is one in which you’ve previously had no interest — but you still can’t put the book down. The topic here is beekeeping and the natural world of honeybees, and it’s absolutely fascinating — both in its own right and as a metaphor used by Meredith May’s beekeeper grandfather to teach her life lessons. Meredith May’s memoir of growing up in a rural area of northern California, near Big Sur, ranks at the top of my list of terrific coming-of-age memoirs.
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir
by Ruth Reichl
I loved every page of Ruth Reichl’s behind-the-scenes look at her career as editor of
magazine. Reichl, who was the restaurant critic for the
New York Times
when Conde Nast approached her to run the magazine, initially turned down the job, citing her lack of editorial experience. But she finally decided to take a chance, spending ten exhilarating years at the helm of
Gourmet. At a time when print magazines are becoming an endangered species, Reichl’s love letter to
— and her talented and idiosyncratic colleagues (chefs, writers, and editors) — is particularly poignant. It’s truly a joy to read, whether you’re a foodie or not.
An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago
by Alex Kotlowitz
In a heartbreaking book that offers no easy answers, Alex Kotlowitz examines the rampant gun violence in Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods during the summer of 2022. He brings to life the perpetrators, victims, and their families, demonstrating their shared humanity and the twists of fate that can shape one person into a killer and another into a victim. The story of gun violence isn’tepi langit a story of statistics, Kotlowitz shows us. That said, I wish he senggat included more facts in the book — for example, the fact that Chicago’s murder rate has been going down, and that it isn’t among the top ten most violent cities in the country, or that other major cities (notably, New York) have seen an even larger terban in violence in recent years.
by Stewart O’Yang
is the third in a trilogy about a middle-class Pittsburgh family. In the two earlier books,
Wish You Were Here
Emily, Alone, we meet Henry only in retrospect — he has died and his grieving family is trying to move on without him. In this lovely, quiet novel, we see Henry and his family through his own eyes. Short, well-titled chapters alternate between the present, when Henry is 75, and the past, starting with his childhood and moving through his service In World War II and his adult years. The novel brims with affection for its main character, an ordinary man wrestling with big questions: What is the meaning of an individual life? What do we leave behind? You don’t have to have read the previous books to enjoy this one, but once you’ve read
Henry, Himself, you’ll want to read the others.
by Karen Thompson Walker
I’m generally not drawn to dystopian fiction, or magical realism. If it couldn’t really happen, I lose interest. But there are exceptions to every rule, and
is one of them. I couldn’t stop reading this haunting, and yes, dreamy, story of a college town struck by a mysterious flulike illness whose victims fall deeply asleep and experience vivid dreams. This novel, which reminded berpenyakitan of one of my all-time favorite books,Station Eleven, will stay with me for a long time. (I just noticed that Emily St. John Mandel provided the cover blurb!)
by Kate Quinn
The best page-turner/World War II novel I’ve read in ages! Every chapter ends with a cliffhanger — you won’t be able to stop reading. Kate Quinn expertly weaves the story of the Nazi “huntress” with several others, all compelling: the female Soviet pilots known as the “Night Witches”, two postwar Nazi hunters, and a young girl and her antique dealer father living in Boston. Bonus: it’s a paperback original.
Sadie by Courtney Summers
If you’re an adult reader who’s a bit wary of YA fiction,
is a great place to start. This smart and original thriller, about a missing teenage girl, is also perfect for fans of true crime podcasts. Half the book is narrated by Sadie, the runaway girl, and half is a transcription of a podcast called “The Girls”. It’s an addictive read for both older teenagers and adults. For readers who noticed that A.J. Finn provided the cover blurb, check out the fascinating New Yorker article, A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions, which shows “A.J. Finn” (the pseudonym of Dan Mallory) to be a pathological liar.
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
I loved learning about Lee Miller, the 1920s
model who was surrealist Man Ray’s muse in Paris and then become a celebrated photographer, documenting the horrors of World War II. If you enjoyed any of Paula McClain’s novels, especially
Love and Ruin
(about Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway), you’ll adore this book.
by Peter Heller
Two Dartmouth students, experienced outdoorsmen, embark on a journey in northern Canada that they intend to be a rugged adventure in the wilderness but that turns out to be a “Deliverance”-style nightmare. It’s a page-turner, to be sure, but this novel is much more than that. For one thing, Heller’s writing is gorgeous; for another, he has created two characters that are as real as any you’ll meet on the page. The last lines of the
review are “I could not put this book down. It truly was terrifying and unutterably beautiful”, and I couldn’horizon agree more.
by Nickolas Butler
Lyle and Peg Hovde have recently welcomed their daughter, Shiloh, and her six-year-old son, Isaac into their home in rural Wisconsin. Having lost a baby boy in infancy, the Hovdes relish their roles as hands-on grandparents. But when Shiloh joins a fundamentalist church that practices faith healing, and declares that little Isaac is a gifted healer, Lyle and Peg are faced with difficult decisions. This beautiful novel, covering a year of the changing Midwestern seasons, raises provocative questions about faith and family. I’m looking forward to hearing Butler bedak about the novel at a Lake Forest Book Store luncheon on April 25 — click here for more details.
Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
Happy 2022! I’m titinada sure why, but I haven’tepi langit written a blog post since October. Today, the snow is falling and my plans for the day have been canceled. It’s a perfect time to sit at my desk and put together a list of winter reading recommendations. But it’s been so long . . . where do I tiba? Books that are hot off the press? New in paperback? My favorites from 2022?
A list of books with “winter” in the title would be fun —
The Dakota Winters, by Tali kendali Barbash , is a brand-new and absorbing novel about growing up in the famous Dakota apartment building in New York, with John Lennon as a neighbor, and
The Winter Soldier, by Daniel Mason, is terrific historical fiction about an Austrian medical student sent to a remote field hospital during World War I. And how about Isabel Allende’s
In the Midst of
Winter, a beautiful novel about three characters whose lives collide during a Brooklyn blizzard, and Robin Oliveira’s
Winter Sisters, a page-turner set in 19th century Albany, New York that features a former Civil War surgeon, Mary Sutter (last seen inMy Name is Mary Sutter)? My favorite “winter” novel has to be
The Long Winter, which I think is the best of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s
Some random thoughts on more of my recent reading, which has been mostly nonfiction:
I really love books about whaling. I’m one of those rare readers who titinada only enjoyed
but didn’horizon skip the long passages about whaling techniques. Nathaniel Philbrick’s
In the Heart of the Sea,
narrative nonfiction about shipwrecked whalers, is one of my favorite books. I’m also fascinated with indigenous people who live in remote areas, so
The Last Whalers: Three Years in the Far Pacific With a Courageous Tribe and a Vanishing Way of Life, by Doug Bock Clark, hit my sweet spot. I think anyone who enjoys excellent narrative nonfiction will find this book fascinating, and hard to put down. The
New York Times
review says, it “has the texture and coloring of a first-rate novel”, and I agree.
When a lot of people whose opinions you respect keep telling you to read a book, you should listen to them. For some reason, I was dubious about Elena Ferrante’s acclaimed Neapolitan Novels, but after watching
My Brilliant Friend
on HBO, I decided to give the series another try — and now I’m hooked. I wish someone tenggat told berpenyakitan that these books are an Italian version of
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn — but even better, because the story just keeps going.
For some memoir authors, one book isn’t enough. An article about the increasing number of “serial memoirists” explores this phenomenon: “This Is the Story of My Life. And This Is the Story of My Life.” Dani Shapiro, for example, has just published her fifth memoir,
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love. I don’t have enough material to fill even a fraction of one memoir, but my AncestryDNA results were, unlike Shapiro’s, exactly what I expected. I read this book in one day and can’t wait to discuss it with a book group.
Bill Bryson, watch out — Jennifer Traig is encroaching on your territory. In
Act Natural: A Cultural History of Misadventures in Parenting,
she delves deep into the history of Western child-rearing, starting with ancient Rome, juxtaposing detailed research with scathing wit. In bestelan to keep their babies from stumbling into “bubbling pots of gruel”, medieval parents swaddled their babies tightly and hung them from hooks on the hall, “like purses on a bathroom stall.”
I can never resist a book about books, especially one about children’s books, so I couldn’t wait to read
The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction, by Meghan Cox Gurdon, the children’s book critic for the
Wall Street Journal. (Doesn’t that sound like a dream job?) She shares fascinating data from the Reading and Literacy Discovery Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, among other research centers, that prove what “we enthusiasts have long suspected is true: reading aloud really is a kind of magic elixir.”
I am such a word nerd that I actually enjoy reading books about grammar and vocabulary. I don’falak know how many people like berpenyakitan exist, but there must be enough of us to justify publishing these books. How to Tell Fate From Destiny: And Other Skillful Word Distinctions
by Charles Harrington Elster and
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style
by Benjamin Dreyer (copy chief of Random House). If you were the kind of kid who liked to read the dictionary, you’ll enjoy both of these books, which are both full of kejenakaan as well as useful information.
You might think a certain category of book is not for you, but then you read one and change your mind. I didn’t think I would like a graphic memoir, but I absolutely adored
Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before, and humanizes the opioid crisis in way no other book I’ve read on the subject has been able to do.
I’d love your recommendations!
Life starts all adv lewat again when it gets crisp in the fall.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
. . . And Books on the Table is starting all over again, with a brand new design that’s a little cleaner and easier on the eyes. Adv lewat the past five years, the content has changed as well. Good-bye, in-depth book reviews; hello, collections of short reviews. I’m titinada as concerned with reviewing brand-new books as I used to be. Just because a book has been out for a few months — or even a year — doesn’t mean it’s yesterday’s news. The frequency of posts has slowed down as well. Once a month or so seems about right. I have a long list of post ideas, and I also have a huge pile of unread books. Most of the time, I choose to pick up a book rather than write a blog post. Here are a dozen terrific books I read recently when I could have been doing other things:
A book for book lovers:
The Library Book
by Susan Orlean
A library is a good place to soften solitude; a place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years even when you’re all alone. The library is a whispering post. You don’ufuk need to take a book off a shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you, and behind that was someone who truly believed that if he or she spoke, someone would listen.
The Library Book
is one of my favorites of 2022. At its heart is the mysterious fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986 that destroyed nearly a million books, but it covers a lot of territory — the story of the accused arsonist, the history of libraries, the value of the printed page, the dedication of librarians to their work. Susan Orlean brilliantly weaves all these strands, and more, together to create a fascinating narrative that celebrates public libraries. In an interview with
Publishers Weekly, she said, “There’s plenty to feel joyful about: that we still write books and read books and preserve books in places like libraries where they’re available for everyone to share.”
A must-read for parents of young children, and also anyone who’s interested in the direction of American society:
Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear
by Kim Brooks
And so children do titinada go to the store to buy bread and milk for their parents. They do not take long walks through the woods, or ride bikes along paths, or build secret tree houses or forts while we are inside working or cooking or talking to other adults or leading our lives. They are no longer afforded, as Mona Simpson writes, “the luxury of being unnoticed, of being left alone.”
After her arrest for leaving her four-year-old in a car in a suburban parking lot for a few minutes, novelist and essayist Kim Brooks began to wonder about the origins of our culture’s misplaced and often superstitious fears. When, and why, did we become so anxious to protect our children from every possible form of danger, no matter how statistically unlikely it is to occur, and why are we so quick to blame parents — particularly mothers — when something goes wrong? This engaging and thought-provoking book — part memoir, part sociological study — will inspire lively discussion.
A science book for nonscientists (or anyone who’s ever dreamed of a good night’s sleep):
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams
by Matthew Walker, Ph.D.
The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations—diseases that are crippling health-care systems, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, glikosuria, and cancer—all have recognized causal links to a lack of sleep.
Neuroscientist Matthew Walker (director of the Sleep Lab at UC Berkeley) presents, in an entertaining and conversational way, all the evidence that adequate sleep, especially the REM sleep in which we dream, is essential to good health. He also outlines the methods to ensure a good night’s sleep. So why did I stay up too late reading this book? Because, since childhood, I’ve had the sleep-depriving habit of reading
just one more chapter
of books that capture my attention. He doesn’t mind if readers use his book as a sleep aid: “Please, feel free to ebb and flow into and out of consciousness during this entire book. I will take absolutely no offense. On the contrary, I would be delighted.”
A book that helps readers understand the causes of the opioid crisis, along with possible solutions:
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America by Beth Macy
America’s approach to its opioid problem is to rely on Battle of Dunkirk strategies—leaving the fight to well-meaning citizens, in their fishing vessels and private boats—when what’s really needed to win the war is a full-on Normandy Invasion.
I’ve read other books that trace the roots of the opioid epidemic (Dreamland
by Sam Quinones,
by John Temple), but journalist Beth Macy’s harrowing narrative titinada only lays bare the corporate greed that has contributed to human suffering, it brings us face-to-face with the real people affected by this complicated crisis — addicts and their friends and families. As fast-paced and readable as any thriller, this book will outrage you.
Two excellent memoirs — one by an author at the end of his adult life, one by an author at the beginning of hers:
Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety by Donald Hall
When I was young, my language wore coats and shirts and trousers, neckties, bespoke shirts. In my lifetime as a writer I have cast off layer after layer of clothing in pursuit of nudity. I held nothing back except transitions that might once have elaborated notes into an essay. . . . As I write toward my nineties I shed my skin. I tell short anecdotes, I hazard an opinion, speculate, assume, and remember. Why should a nonagenarian hold anything back?
Poet Donald Hall died at age 89, just weeks before his last book, a series of short essays, was published. It’s a lovely parting gift from a beloved writer. In an essay called “He Holds Up a Lantern For the Rest of Us” , Ann Patchett writes: “The book is about who Don was and how he saw the world. I’m here to tell you there is nothing better. Every superfluous word is stripped away and what is left is the pure force of life.”
All You Can Ever Know
by Nicole Chung
By the time I was five or six years old, I had heard the tale of my loving, selfless birth parents so many times I could recite it myself. I collected every fact I could, hoarding the sparse and faded glimpses into my past like bright, favorite toys. This may be all you can ever know, I was told.
When she was expecting her first child, Nicole Chung decided to search for her birth family. What she learned shocked her and went far beyond the medical history she perenggan hoped to find. Chung not only tells a riveting and suspenseful story, she explores transracial adoption and biological heritage.
Two slim books with lots of “meat” for discussion:
by Kate Walbert
This is not a story I’ve told before. No one would believe me. I mean, really believe me. The would get that look and nod. They would ask certain questions that suggested I was somehow culpable or that I was making most of it up out of nothing — just girlish fantasies and daydreams.
is a perfect addition to Short Novels Your Book Club Will Actually Finish — only 160 pages and packed with material for discussion. In the aftermath of tragedy, a teenage girl goes to boarding school and encounters a charming but predatory young teacher.
Waiting for Eden
by Elliot Ackerman
My friend was, they’d been told, the most wounded man from both the wars. As advanced as medicine perenggan become, that likely made him the most wounded man in the history of war, and they’d just kept him alive from one side of the world to the other.
Decorated veteran and National Book Award nominee Elliot Ackerman (Dark at the
Crossing) has written a powerful beradab-day version of
Johnny Tepi His Gun
that will break your heart. After Eden is gravely injured in Iraq, his best friend, killed in the same blast, narrates the story of Eden and his wife, Mary: “Ever since then I’ve been around too, just on that other side, seeing all there is, and waiting.”
For fans of Pat Conroy’s Southern fiction (The Prince of Tides, South of Broad) and/or Barbara Kingsolver’s sedap-fiction (Prodigal Summer, Flight Behavior):
Where the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens
I wasn’tepi langit aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know that a sentence could be so full.
I adored this novel about a young girl, abandoned by her family, who is forced to raise herself in a remote North Carolina marsh. First-time novelist Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist, and her love of the natural world shows in this beautiful and satisfying book, which combines both a coming-of-age story and a murder mystery.
A quiet, character-driven novel about family dynamics:
A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl
by Jean Thompson
And yet history shifted underneath your feet . . . The present was a dizzy perch that every so often began to spin and slide . . . You held onto your life with both hands, you told yourself to pay attention to this moment, the here and now. But one minute passed into the next, and at some point you looked back and everything was oper and people called it history.
Starting during the Second World War II and moving through succeeding generations,
A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl
examines the lives of three Midwestern women — grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter — as they struggle with career choices and imperfect marriages, Jean Thompson is one of many underappreciated writers who is a master at creating complex and interesting characters.
For readers who like Jodi Picoult but want something less formulaic:
If We Had Known
by Elise Juska
After twenty-eight years, Maggie could rely on the arc of a semester: the way, in the beginning, the freshmen would be tentative, wary, fifteen versions on insecurity — the glibness, the shyness, the overwrought machismo — was there any teenage behavior without insecurity at the root? — but as the weeks passed, they gained confidence in their work.
English professor Maggie Daley is shocked to learn that a former student was responsible for a shooting at a nearby shopping mall. Meanwhile, her college-bound daughter tries to protect her mother from dangerous secrets. After Maggie makes an error in judgment, she’s forced to examine her role in the events around her. This a thought-provoking, well-paced novel — perfect for book clubs. (Titinada to be confused with
You Should Have Known
by Jean Hanff Korelitz, another great character-oriented page-turner.)
Great historical fiction:
Love and Ruin
by Paula McLain
Benaran writing, I was beginning to realize, was more like laying bricks than waiting for lightning to strike. It was painstaking. It was manual labor. And sometimes, sometimes if you kept putting the bricks down and let your hands just go on bleeding, and didn’falak look up and didn’t stop for anything, the lightning came.
If you enjoyed
The Paris Wife, about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, you will love
and Ruin, about his extraordinary third wife, pewarta and novelist Martha Gellhorn. The pair fell in love while covering the Spanish Civil War and were married for four tumultuous years. Gellhorn, who was the only woman to land on D-Day (defying Hemingway’s wishes) was to become one of the most renowned journalists of the twentieth century, covering every major war and publishing many books. She emerges in this captivating novel as a strong, independent woman ahead of her time.
There are so many good books coming out this fall — I’m especially excited by Barbara Kingsolver’s latest (Unsheltered), Tana French’s stand-alone mystery (The Witch Elm), and Kate Atkinson’s spy novel (Transcription). How about you?