The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time- Paris in the 1920’s between the wars- and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley. You will want to read Hemingway all over again.
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough
The Greater Journey is the enthralling and inspiring story of the adventurous American artists, writers, doctors, politicians, architects, and others who set off to Paris in the years between 1830 and 1900. Most had never left home or experienced a different culture and what they experienced there in Paris profoundly changed American history. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America, was there as were Charles Sumner, James Fenimore Cooper, Samuel Morse, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Emerson, Hawthorne, Twain, Henry James, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and Saint-Gaudens. They all endured homesickness, trouble learning French, raw winters by the Seine, and some of the happiest days of their lives. Another masterpiece from David McCullough.
What it is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes
“Karl Marlantes has written a staggeringly beautiful book on combat- what it feels like, what the consequences are, and above all, what society must do to understand it. He has become the preeminent literary voice on war in our generation.” Sebastian Junger
Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson
Told from the point of view of Blessing, who is twelve when we first meet her, Tiny Sunbirds is the story of a Nigerian family uprooted from their comfortable existence in Lagos when the mother catches the father cheating. Forced to move to Warri in the Niger Delta, Blessing and her brother Ezikiel are introduced to a lifestyle quite different from what they've known. They're also re-introduced to their somewhat mysterious grandmother and their proud grandfather and this is where the adventure really begins. Through the eyes of twelve year old Blessing, the reader is made aware of female circumcision and environmental issues resulting from foreign oil companies.
Private Life by Jane Smiley
In her latest novel, after Ten Days in the Hills (2007), the Pulitzer Prize–winning author offers a cold-eyed view of the compromises required by marriage while also providing an intimate portrait of life in the Midwest and West during the years 1883–1942. By the time she reaches the age of 27, Margaret Mayfield has known a lot of tragedy in her life. She has lost two brothers, one to an accident, the other to illness, as well as her father, who committed suicide. Her strong-minded mother, Lavinia, knows that her daughter’s prospects for marriage are dim and takes every opportunity to encourage Margaret’s friendship with eccentric scientist Andrew Early. When the two marry and move to a naval base in San Francisco, Margaret becomes more than Andrew’s helpmeet—she is also his cook, driver, and typist as well as the captive audience for his rants against Einstein and his own quirky theories about the universe. As Smiley covers in absorbing detail both private and world events—a lovely Missouri wedding, the chaos of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the wrenching death of a baby—she keeps at the center of the narrative Margaret’s growing realization that she has married a madman and her subsequent attempts to deal with her marriage by becoming adept at “the neutral smile, the moment of patient silence,” before giving in to bitterness. Smiley casts a gimlet eye on the institution of marriage even as she offers a fascinating glimpse of a distant era.
Holy Water by James Othmer
text coming soon
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
What would happen if a postmistress chose not to deliver the mail?
It is 1940. While the war is raging in Europe, President Roosevelt promises he won't send American boys over to fight. But American radio gal Frankie Bard, the first woman to report from the Blitz in London wants nothing more than to bring the war home.
Iris James is the postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts a small town at the end of Cape Cod. She firmly believes her job is to deliver and keep people's secrets, to pass along the news of love and sorrow that letters carry. Faithfully she stamps and sends the letters between people such as the newlyweds Emma and Will Fitch, who has gone to London to help out during the Blitz. But one day she slips a letter into her pocket, and leaves it there. Alternating between an America unable to grasp the danger of the war at hand and a Europe being torn apart by war, The Postmistress gives us two women who find themselves unable to deliver the news and a third woman desperately waiting for news yet afraid to hear it.
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Major Pettigrew lives a quiet life in Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside. He values the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then, his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition?
Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich
When Irene America discovers that her husband, Gil, has been reading her diary, she begins a secret Blue Notebook, stashed securely in a safe-deposit box. There she records the truth about her life and her marriage, while turning her Red Diary-hidden where Gil will find it-into a manipulative farce. Alternating between these two records, complemented by unflinching third-person narration, Shadow Tag is an eerily gripping read.
The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Moving from a setting in Mexico (in the company of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Trotsky) to the 1950’s America of Red Scares and McCarthyism, The Lacuna tells the very personal and human story of young novelist Harrison Shepherd. Kingsolver does a masterful job of creating a story with both scope and intimacy while raising questions about freedom of expression and belief. Her best yet.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. An incredible story of the civil rights era in the south and how four women made a difference.
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
A gripping novel about a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon that changes the lives of everyone on board: Peter, 27, single, and looking for a quick hook-up, Evelyn, 50, Harvard professor, Ruth and Lloyd, river veterans in their 70’s, Michael, an overeager history buff constantly upstaging the guides with his knowledge, Jill, a Morman from Salt Lake City desperate for adventure, and Amy, 17, grossly overweight and barely able to fit in her pup tent. A richly layered and morally complex murder mystery impossible to put down.
The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
The remarkable story of Philip Hutton, the son of an established British colonial businessman in Penang, Malaya and his second wife, of Chinese ancestry. In 1939 at the beginning of World War II, Philip is a lonely teenager, alienated from his family and community. The unexpected friendship with a foreign diplomat, Hayato Endo, whose presence on the island is suspect, develops into a deep relationship based on the study of aikijutsu, a martial art. A fascinating glimpse into Chinese culture, British imperialism, the Japanese occupation, and the meaning of loyalty.
A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert
Like her last novel, "Our Kind," which was a National Book Award finalist, "A Short History of Women" consists of linked stories: in this case, 15 lean, concentrated chapters that hopscotch through time and alternate among the lives of Dorothy Trevor Townsend, a British suffragist, and a handful of her descendants. Several of the stories have been previously published; most could stand alone. Yet together they coalesce into more than the sum of their parts. It is Walbert's conceit that while the oldest and youngest generations never meet, they share a legacy of echoes: objects and phrases that repeat mysteriously, and with increasing significance, across the decades. This spare novel manages, improbably, to live up to its title: it delivers what feels like a reasonably representative history of women - at least of white, Anglo-Saxon women, over the past hundred-odd years.
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
A sweeping, emotionally riveting family saga of Africa and America, doctors, and patients, exile and home. Abraham Verghese, who is Professor and Senior Associate Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine has written two previous works of non-fiction: My Own Country and The Tennis Partner. In this first novel, he brings all his knowledge and compassion to give us an unforgettable journey into one man's remarkable life, the power and intimate and curious beauty of the work of healing others.
The Whiskey Rebels by David Liss
Another stellar historical novel by Liss. Beginning in 1792, the story features a former Revolutionary War spy, Alexander Hamilton and the establishment of the Bank of the United States. The story line is incredibly well researched, complex events are portrayed with ease with believable characters that add to the story rather than detract. A delightful reading/learning experience- what historical fiction should be according to staff member and former history teacher, John Hoover.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
A wonderful story of a twelve year old French girl who is so precocious that she has come to terms with life’s futility and is ready to commit suicide. Renee, the concierge of her building, hides her true self (which loves art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture ) behind the stereotypical image of the short, ugly, plump and cantankerous concierge. The story of their friendship is a moving and redemptive testament to the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer & Annie Barrows
London in 1946 is emerging from the shadow of World War II, Juliet Ashton, an author, receives a letter from an unknown man, a native of Guernsey, the British island formerly occupied by the Nazis. As they exchange letters she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends- all members of the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, a unique book club formed as an alibi to protect its members from arrest by the Germans.
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
Alice & Charlie Blackwell, thinly (very) disguised Laura and George Bush are the stars of this masterful novel which tells their story: from the tragic accident she had when she was seventeen (true) and made her understand the fragility of life and the tenuousness of luck, to her unlikely falling in love with the charming, boisterous son of a bastion family of the Republican party (she, a librarian and a registered Democrat). You may think that because Bush's days are numbered in the White House that this book wouldn't be interesting. But it is- Maureen Dowd thinks so, too!
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
A bestseller already, Edgar Sawtelle is the story of a remarkable boy, born without the ability to speak, who nonetheless learns to train dogs on his parents’ farm. But it is more than a story about dogs. When Edgar’s uncle Claude comes back into their once peaceful life, Edgar’s life slowly changes. When his father dies, Edgar tries to prove that Claude played a role, especially when he insinuates himself into his mother’s affection. But his plan backfires and he is forced to flee into the wilderness with three of his yearling dogs who follow him. A riveting family saga.
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize winner for Interpreter of Maladies, addresses issues of identity and communication facing Bengali Indian characters struggling to make it in the new world while remaining tied to the old. Her stories are more than just stories of immigrants adapting to a new culture, however. They examine the complexities of human relationships. Masterful.
The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz
The fictionalized story of Princess Masako of Japan- the tragic tale of a modern, highly educated woman who married her prince- for love- and was destroyed by the weight of a tradition that will not be modernized. Interestingly, the actual biography, Princess Masako by Ben Hills, was published at about the same time. Both are riveting.
Without a Map by Meredith Hall
If you're a baby boomer, you remember "the girls who went away" to have babies and the shame that entailed. Hall's experience was indicative of that period and she movingly tells the effects of her family's rejection and her terrible journey towards acceptance of herself. Powerful.
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Nigeria remains an unknown to most of the world. Biafra conjures up memories of starving children and concerts to raise money for them. Chimamanda Adiche opens our world through the story of Ugwu, the Igbo houseboy to Odenigbo, a university professor, his beautiful mistress, Olanna and Kainene her twin, daughters of a chief. As the Igbo secede from Nigeria in 1967 to form the independent nation of Biafra , we learn the effects of colonialism on Africa and the strength of its people. An incredibly beautiful and moving book.
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
A delightful story of a certain Queen who, with her Corgis, wanders into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace and feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Having discovered the joy of reading for pleasure and intellectual curiosity, she becomes obsessed with reading everything she can get her hands on and finds that her view of the world and the prescribed order of things has changed dramatically. A delightful book!
The Last Summer of the World by Emily Mitchell
A fictionalized account of photographer Edward Steichen ‘s life in France during the summer of 1918: his work in aerial reconnaissance, his artistic successes, his friendship with Steiglitz, Rodin, Stein, and others, and the love affair that destroyed his marriage. A hauntingly beautiful book that resembles one of his photographs, documenting a life and the horrors of war during the last summer of the world.
The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
Many who read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek will remember the lyrical beauty of Dillard's descriptions of nature. In the Maytrees, she has written, in spare elegant prose, the simple story of a couple, the Bigelows and their life in
postwar Provincetown. Nature's vastness and nearness is as striking as the Bigelow's decades of loving and longing.
Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart & Daniel Klein
Harvard philosophy majors Cathcart & Klein are your emcees on this hilarious yet profound tour de farce through Western philosophy. Fascinating.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Even better than his first novel, The Kite Runner, Hosseini writes of war-torn Afghanistan under the Soviet occupation, the mujahideen, and the Taliban through the story of two women and their life of scorn and abuse. Tragic yet beautiful, Hosseini's novel is a sad and beautiful testament to both Afghani suffering and strength.
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
For those weary of bitter partisanship and alienated by a Congress that no longer seems to listen to the people, Obama offers a new perspective on politics, exploring what lies at the heart of our democracy.
The Unfree French, Life Under the Occupation by Richard Vinen
This compelling history examines the years of subjugation under Nazi & Vichy rule and dispels the notion that under a collaborating government, life was tolerable. The fear and moral quandaries faced by the French are fascinating reading and reveal much about human nature in an impossible situation.
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany
This controversial bestselling novel in the Arab world reveals the political corruption, sexual repression, religious extremism, and modern hopes of Egypt today. As much about the human conditrion as it is about Egyptian character, it is an interesting look at Egypt since Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy.
Hide and Seek with Angels: A Life of J.M. Barrie by Lisa Chaney
If you loved the movie Neverland, you'll be entranced by the biography of J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. Chaney explores Barrie's own struggles to grow up and deepens our understanding of his most famous character and the complex relationship between life and art.
An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore
As Mark Twain once remarked, “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” Al Gore quotes Twain and others to get his point across- that it might be inconvenient, but imperative that we realize and do something about global warming. His book is full of startling photographs of what we are doing to our world accompanied by commentary and graphs. Very readable, very direct.
The Stolen Prince by Hugh Barnes
In the spring of 1703, a young African boy stepped off a slave slip in Constantinople claiming to be a prince of Abyssinia. Rescued by Peter the Great of Russia, he became Abram Petrovich Gannibal. Recipient of the best education available in the new European capital of St Petersburg, Gannibal soared to dizzying heights as a soldier, diplomat, mathematician, and spy. His descendents include Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s greatest poet, and several Mountbattens and others close to the royal family in England.
The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson
An excellent, chilling, almost too-good-not-to-be-true latter day spy story. The faithful spy in question finally infiltrates Al-Qaeda after ten years. A tingling, sobering end, told with authority by a New York Times reporter who was in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
90 year-old Jacob Jankowski still has vivid memories of himself as a young man with Benzini Brothers’ Most Spectacular Show on Earth- his salvation and a living hell. The unlikely trio of Jacob, Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, and Rosie the elephant, create a bond that becomes their only hope for survival.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
The author of The Botany of Desire presents our dilemma- what to eat for dinner, given the fact that we can eat just about anything we want. But what should we eat? Pollan investigates each of the food chains- industrial food, organic/alternative, and food we forage ourselves and develops a definitive account of the American way of eating.
My Life in France by Julie Child
The captivating story of this master of French cooking’s years in France. Begun just moths before her death and completed by her grandnephew.
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
An amazing chronicle of the chaos of the exodus from Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion and of a village during the actual occupation. The author, who was Jewish, perished at Auschwitz.
The World to Come by Dara Horn
One of those rare finds! The breathtakingly beautiful story of a stolen Chagall painting, a lonely former child prodigy, and the nature of love.
The Future of the Wild: Radical Conservation for a Crowded World by Jonathan Adams
Eloquently and accessibly, Adams weaves conservation history and biology with on-the-ground stories of successful, if unexpected, partnerships that find common ground in their commitment to protect land and the animals that inhabit it.
The Constant Princess by Phillippa Gregory
The bestselling author of The Other Boleyn Girl and the Virgin’s Lover now introduces us to another unforgettable heroine, Katherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. A love match to Prince Arthur of England ends at his death and her promise to marry Arthur’s brother Henry - Henry VIII- fulfills her destiny to become Queen of England.
POSTWAR: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt
Judt, who was born in England, studied in Cambridge and Paris, and is currently Director of the Remarque Institute, dedicated to the study of Europe. He has written a sweeping narrative history in the grand tradition, an absorbing chronicle of Europe since the fall of Berlin. Witty, opinionated, and full of fresh stories, Postwar is a joy for lovers of history and lovers of Europe as well. With 9 maps and 77 photographs. (image forthcoming)
Despite the Falling Snow by Shamim Sarif
Seventy year- old Alexander Ivanov has built a successful business empire and has managed to bury the terrible memories of his life in post Stalinist Russia with his wife Katya. A beautiful love story that alternates between present day Boston and 1956 Soviet Russia.
Alexander McCall Smith
with Lynne Reed