Saturday, July 2, 2022

Booker Prize novels


The next Books & Beyond (BAB) meeting will be on Tuesday, July 19 at 6:30pm.  You’ll notice we’re meeting a week early to avoid conflict with the Children’s Department summer reading block party.  The meeting will be one of our biannual Salon Discussions, so there is no assigned topic.  Come to the meeting and tell us about something good you’ve read, watched, or listened to recently!

This week, BAB met to chat about Booker Prize-shortlisted and winning novels.  If you are not familiar with the Booker Prize, it is a literary prize awarded each year for the best novel written in English and published in the UK or Ireland.


Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

The elderly Claudia Hampton, a best-selling author of popular history; lies alone in a London hospital bed. Memories of her life still glow in her fading consciousness, but she imagines writing a history of the world. Instead, Moon Tiger is her own history, the life of a strong, independent woman, with its often contentious relations with family and friends. At its center — forever frozen in time, the still point of her turning world — is the cruelly truncated affair with Tom, a British tank commander whom Claudia knew as a reporter in Egypt during World War II.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?


Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Almost everything about Wallace is at odds with the Midwestern university town where he is working uneasily toward a biochem degree. An introverted young man from Alabama, black and queer, he has left behind his family without escaping the long shadows of his childhood. For reasons of self-preservation, Wallace has enforced a wary distance even within his own circle of friends. But over the course of a late-summer weekend, a series of confrontations with colleagues and an unexpected encounter with an ostensibly straight white classmate, conspire to fracture his defenses while exposing long-hidden currents of hostility and desire within their community.  

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

One postwar summer, in his home in rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for more than two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline. Its owners--mother, son, and daughter--are struggling to keep pace with a changing society. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.

Room by Emma Donoghue

Held captive for years in a small shed, a woman and her precocious young son finally gain their freedom, and the boy experiences the outside world for the first time. Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating — a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Once one of the most beguiling women in Sligo, Roseanne McNulty is now a resident of Roscommon Regional Mental Hospital and nearing her hundredth year. Set against an Ireland besieged by conflict, The Secret Scripture is an engrossing tale of one woman's life, and a poignant story of the cruelties of civil war and corrupted power. The Secret Scripture is now a film starring Rooney Mara, Eric Bana, and Vanessa Redgrave.

Several of these titles have a film or TV adaptation:

Wolf Hall

The Little Stranger


Secret Scripture

Saturday, June 18, 2022

literary fathers


BookBub polled readers about their favorite literary dads and these were among the top votes!

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Matthew Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Arthur Weasley from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Goh Wye Mun from Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Gomez Addams from The Addams Family by Charles Addams

Ta-Nehisi Coates from Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Hans Hubermann from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Bob Cratchit from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

James Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon  

Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Stu Redman from The Stand by Stephen King

William from The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

Ned Stark from the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin

Michael Carpenter from The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher

Jess Birdwell from The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West

Barack Obama's Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama and Loren Long

Daniel Howitt from Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright

If you’re looking for more reading inspiration, put some of these new and forthcoming books on your holds list!

The Beach Trap by Ali Brady
“An enchanting, heartwarming story about the families we’re born into—and the families we choose for ourselves. The Beach Trap is full of beauty, and hope, and reminders that it’s never too late to roll up our sleeves and rise above the mistakes we made . . . Take this book on vacation with you, and let its heart and humor sweep you off your feet!”—Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels, andCrooks by Patrick Radden Keefe
“Patrick Radden Keefe is a brilliant writer . . . Rogues is a marvel, showcasing the work of a reporter at the absolute top of his game.”—Daniel Alarcón, author of The King is Always Above the People

The Catch by Alison Fairbrother
“In this wonderful, wholly absorbing family drama with a mystery at its beating heart, Alison Fairbrother asks, What are we owed by the people we love? The answers she provides are funny, sad, complex, and always surprising. I loved this book and you will too.”—Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion

The Lifestyle by Taylor Hahn
“This book is fun as hell. Hilarious, addictive, moving, and sexy. I lost track of time reading it, and I couldn’t get enough!” —Jasmine Guillory, bestselling author of While We Were Dating

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong
“I don’t know how to put into words the awe I felt while reading this book—for the incredible sensory diversity of our planet, and for Ed Yong’s talents.”—Mary Roach, author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Horse by Geraldine Brooks
A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, a Pulitzer Prize winner braids a sweeping story of spirit, obsession, and injustice across American history.

Kaleidoscope by Cecily Wong
“Sparkling with sharp observations and deeply wise in its insights . . . Cecily Wong’s dazzling second novel deftly explores the complex push-pull of family and ambition, and the ways we learn to define ourselves in—and out of—our loved ones’ orbits.”—Celeste Ng, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

Miss Aldridge Regrets by Louise Hare
“In Lena Aldridge, Hare has created a heroine who practically leaps off the page with her sharp wit and incandescence. Throw in a Jazz Age ocean crossing on the Queen Mary and series of diabolical murders that would make Agatha Christie proud, and I was done for, turning the pages late into the night. Irresistible and smart.”—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro
“The bonds between women—as friends, and across the generations—are the jewels that make this story shine.” —Tayari Jones, author of An American Marriage

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh
In a village in a medieval fiefdom buffeted by natural disasters, a motherless shepherd boy finds himself the unlikely pivot of a power struggle that puts all manner of faith to a savage test, in a spellbinding novel that represents Ottessa Moshfegh’s most exciting leap yet.

As Cooked on TikTok
This cookbook features both viral and brand-new recipes from many of the community’s most beloved TikTok food creators.

Gilt by Jamie Brenner
“Gilt is a dazzling page-turner. Family intrigue, sparkling gems, long-buried secrets, juicy twists and turns . . . what more could you ask for in a novel? Jamie Brenner is my go-to author for my beach bag!” –Elyssa Friedland, author of Last Summer at the Golden Hotel

How to Fake It in Hollywood by Ava Wilder
A talented Hollywood starlet and a reclusive A-lister enter into a fake relationship . . . and discover that their feelings might be more than a PR stunt in this sexy debut.

Monday, June 6, 2022

best books of 2022


TIME magazine has posted their picks for the best books of the year so far.  These selections pick apart what it means to grieve, how to love after loss, and what it takes to survive the unthinkable. These stories offer a comforting reminder that we all grapple with hardship—and that there is light, even in the darkest of situations.

The Naked Don’t Fear the Water: An Underground Journey with Afghan Refugees by Matthieu Aikins

In 2016, Canadian journalist Matthieu Aikins went undercover, forgoing his passport and identity, to join his Afghan friend Omar who was fleeing his war-torn country and leaving the woman he loved behind. Their harrowing experience is the basis for Aikins’ book, which chronicles the duo’s dangerous and emotional journey on the refugee trail from Afghanistan to Europe. As they are confronted with the many realities of war, Aikins spares no details in his urgent and empathetic narrative.

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom

The first pages of Amy Bloom’s memoir set up the book’s devastating ending: It’s January 2020 and Bloom and her husband are traveling to Switzerland, but only Bloom will return home. Her husband plans to end his life through a program based in Zurich. He has Alzheimer’s and wants to die on his terms. Though In Love is rooted in an impossibly sad situation, Bloom’s narrative is more than just an expertly crafted narrative on death and grief. It’s a beautiful love letter from a wife to her husband, rendered in the most delicate terms, about the life they shared together.

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

In Jessamine Chan’s unsettling debut novel, we begin on Frida’s worst day, when her lack of sleep has caused a lapse in judgment, and she leaves her baby at home alone for two hours. Soon, Frida is sent to a government run facility with other mothers deemed “failures” by the state. Reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, this eerie page-turner is a captivating depiction of a dystopian world that feels entirely possible. It’s not only the gripping story of Frida’s personal struggle, but also a thought-provoking work of commentary on American motherhood.

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Egan spins fresh commentary on technology, memory, and privacy through 14 interlinked stories. In them, a machine called Own your Unconscious allows people to revisit any memories from their past whenever they want—if only they make those memories accessible to everyone else. It’s a thrilling concept brought together by Egan’s astute hand, offering a powerful look at how we live in an increasingly interconnected world.

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

It’s the summer of 2017 and Olga Acevedo is seemingly thriving: She’s a wedding planner for the Manhattan elite and living in a posh (and rapidly gentrifying) Brooklyn neighborhood. The protagonist of Xochitl Gonzalez’s absorbing debut novel had humble origins as the daughter of Puerto Rican activists, raised by her grandmother in another part of the borough where she taught herself everything she needed to know to be where she is today. But in Olga Dies Dreaming, the reality of Olga’s self-made success is more complicated. She struggles with the loneliness that has accompanied meeting her lofty goals, and she’s haunted by the absence of the mother who abandoned her family when Olga was just 12 years old. As hurricane season in Puerto Rico amps up, Olga begins to grapple with family secrets just as she falls in love for the first time. What ensues is a thoughtfully depicted romantic comedy full of domestic strife, executed in Gonzalez’s vibrant prose.

Fiona and Jane by Jean Chen Ho

In her debut short story collection, Jean Chen Ho traces the evolution of a friendship between two Taiwanese American women for two decades. In interlinked narratives, told in alternating voices, Ho captures what makes female friendship so special by following these characters from their adolescence and beyond. In intimate and layered terms, Ho describes the love that keeps their friendship together, even when life tries to pull them apart.

Constructing A Nervous System: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson

In 2015, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson released her debut memoir Negroland. In the award-winning book, Jefferson reflected on her life as she reckoned with what it meant to grow up as a privileged Black person in a wealthy area of Chicago, crafting a searing examination of race and class in America. The author now returns with a bruising second memoir that goes beyond her personal story, blending criticism and autobiography. Constructing A Nervous System is an exciting collection of Jefferson’s thoughts and musings on the world, from her love of Ella Fitzgerald and Bud Powell to her own writing process.

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas

Julia May Jonas’ outrageously fun and discomfiting debut Vladimir puts an unexpected twist on the traditional campus novel. Her narrator is a prickly English professor at a small liberal arts college who has developed a crush on her department’s latest recruit. Meanwhile, an investigation into her husband, the chair of the same department, looms large. He’s been accused of having inappropriate relationships with former students, but our protagonist could care less. As her feelings for the new hire enter increasingly dark territory, Jonas unravels a taut and bold narrative about power, ambition, and female desire.

Life Between the Tides by Adam Nicolson

Historian Adam Nicolson dissects all aspects of marine life to make stirring observations about crustaceans, humans, and the world in which we all live in this deftly reported book. Blending scientific research, philosophy, and moving commentary on what it means to live, Nicolson’s book defies genre categorization as the author, with the help of stunning illustrations, strives to tackle the biggest questions about humanity through investigating a sliver of the sea’s inhabitants.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

The latest novel from Douglas Stuart shares a lot in common with his first, the Booker Prize-winning Shuggie Bain. In both, young men live in working-class Glasglow in the late 20th century with their alcoholic mothers. This time, the narrative focuses on the love story between two boys, Mungo and James, and the dangers that surround their romance. It’s a piercing examination of the violence inflicted upon queer people and a gripping portrayal of the lengths to which one will go to fight for love.

The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk

It’s been such a treat to read through Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk’s catalog as her books are being translated from Polish and released in English. The latest, translated by Jennifer Croft, is perhaps the author’s most ambitious. The Books of Jacob is a sprawling narrative set in the mid-18th century about a self-proclaimed Messiah who travels the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires. Tokarczuk fills the chapters with delectable prose to paint a portrait of this complicated man—based on a real-life figure—through the perspectives of the people in his life, creating a compelling psychological profile of a mysterious leader that masterfully oscillates between humor and tragedy.

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Ocean Vuong’s second poetry collection finds the acclaimed writer wrestling with grief after he lost his mother to breast cancer in 2019. Like his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, this collection is a tender exploration of memory, loss, and love. Through 28 poems, Vuong showcases his original voice as he asks pressing questions about the limits of language and the power of poetry in times of crisis.


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

I'm all ears


The next Books & Beyond meeting will be on Tuesday, June 28th at 6:30pm and the topic up for discussion is Booker Prize winning books.  Peruse the Booker Prize Winners row on the Shelf Care section of the library’s website at

In May, BAB met to discuss audiobooks of every description from cds, to Youtube, to the wonderful apps you have available with your library card!

Anarchism and Other Essays by Emma Goldman (available in audio on Youtube or on ebook on Libby)

Lithuanian born anarchist Emma Goldman emigrated to the United States at the age of sixteen. She first became attracted to anarchism following the Haymarket affair of 1886, a massacre in which seven police officers and an unknown number of civilians were killed during a march of striking Chicago workers. Eight anarchists were subsequently tried for murder. In the early part of the 20th century Emma Goldman would become one the most ardent supporters of the anarchist philosophy, advocating it through lectures and writings, and even in helping to plan, with her lover Alexander Berkman, a failed assassination of wealthy financier Henry Clay Frick. In 1906 Goldman founded the anarchist journal “Mother Earth”. “Anarchism and Other Essays” is a collection of essays first published in that journal and later published together as a book in 1911. In these twelve essays we find a representative collection of Goldman’s political philosophy, including her view of what anarchism stands for, the psychology of political violence, feminism and women’s rights, the injustice of the prison system, and other opinions on art, education, sexuality, religion, and patriotism. 

The Anarchist Handbook by Michael Malice et al. (available in eaudio on Hoopla for select locations)

Anarchism has been both a vision of a peaceful, cooperative society—and an ideology of revolutionary terror. Since the term itself—anarchism—is a negation, there is a great deal of disagreement on what the positive alternative would look like. The black flag comes in many colors.The Anarchist Handbook is an opportunity for all these many varied voices to speak for themselves, from across the decades.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Initially published under the pseudonym Currer Bell in 1847, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre erupted onto the English literary scene, immediately winning the devotion of many of the world’s most renowned writers, including William Makepeace Thackeray, who declared it a work “of great genius.” Widely regarded as a revolutionary novel, Brontë’s masterpiece introduced the world to a radical new type of heroine, one whose defiant virtue and moral courage departed sharply from the more acquiescent and malleable female characters of the day. Passionate, dramatic, and surprisingly modern, Jane Eyre endures as one of the world’s most beloved novels.

Love and Other Disasters by Anita Kelly

The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut that USA Today hailed as “an essential read.”

The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry (available on Hoopla for select locations)

A collection of essays celebrating the cultural heritage of history and home argues that arrogance must be abandoned in favor of respect and care for oneself, one's neighbors, and the land.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of ThePrincess Bride by Cary Elwes et al.

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes the New York Times bestselling account of the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.
Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words each day, but now women have only one hundred to make themselves heard. For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is just the beginning...not the end.

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu

For fans of Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven, a spellbinding and profoundly prescient debut that follows a cast of intricately linked characters over hundreds of years as humanity struggles to rebuild itself in the aftermath of a climate plague—a daring and deeply heartfelt work of mind-bending imagination from a singular new voice. From funerary skyscrapers to hotels for the dead to interstellar starships, Sequoia Nagamatsu takes readers on a wildly original and compassionate journey, spanning continents, centuries, and even celestial bodies to tell a story about the resilience of the human spirit, our infinite capacity to dream, and the connective threads that tie us all together in the universe.

The Widow by Fiona Barton

Following the twists and turns of an unimaginable crime, The Widow is an electrifying debut thriller that will take you into the dark spaces that exist between a husband and a wife. There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. Now her husband is dead, and there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage. The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything...

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. Meanwhile in present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, running from her own demons. When she stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London two hundred years ago, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

parks and UNESCO sites


The next Books & Beyond meeting is on Tuesday, May 24th at 6:30pm (note: this date is a week before to the usual day) and the topic up for discussion is audiobooks!  A selection is available to peruse on the Books & Beyond row of the Shelf Care page.  

Recently we met to chat about US state and national parks and national monuments and UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The full list of UNESCO sites is a wonder to behold.  Visit the interactive map and prepare to spend some time!


Secrets of the National Parks: The Expert’s Guide to the Best Experiences Beyond the Tourist Trail by National Geographic
The iconic landmarks in America's national parks draw hundreds of millions of visitors every year, from Yosemite's famous Half Dome to Yellowstone's Old Faithful. But beyond these well-known wonders lies a world of hidden treasures--if you know where to look. This exceptional guide reveals these lesser-known gems, along with insider knowledge about the parks' main attractions.

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness by Edward Abbey (interesting trivia: all new rangers working Arches National Park receive a copy of this book)
Desert Solitaire is not just a collection of one man’s stories, the book is also a philosophical memoir, full of Abbey’s reflections on the desert as a paradox, at once beautiful and liberating, but also isolating and cruel. Often compared to Thoreau’s WaldenDesert Solitaire is a powerful discussion of life’s mysteries set against the stirring backdrop of the American southwestern wilderness.

Ansel Adams in Yosemite Valley: Celebrating the Park at 150 arranged by Peter Galassi
Ansel Adams first visited Yosemite in 1916, at the age of fourteen, and returned every year throughout his life. It was in Yosemite that he fell in love with Western wilderness and became a photographer; he made more photographs at Yosemite than at any other place. Roughly 150 of Adams’ breathtaking images are exquisitely reproduced in this large-format clothbound book. 

The National Parks: America's Best Idea, An Illustrated History by Dayton Duncan
In this evocative and lavishly illustrated narrative, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan delve into the history of the park idea, from the first sighting by white men in 1851 of the valley that would become Yosemite and the creation of the world's first national park at Yellowstone in 1872, through the most recent additions to a system that now encompasses nearly 400 sites and 84 million acres.

Accessible Vacations: An Insider’s Guide to 10 National Parks by Simon Hayhoe
The National Parks of the U.S. are some of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world. But a visit to any one of them may seem daunting to someone with hearing, seeing, or other physical challenges. What many may not know is that the National Parks offer help to those with access needs. Here, Simon Hayhoe takes readers on a tour of ten National Parks and the accessibility options available to visitors and their companions.

Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park by Lee Whittlesey
The chilling tome that launched an entire genre of books about the often gruesome but always tragic ways people have died in our national parks, this updated edition of the classic includes calamities in Yellowstone from the past sixteen years, including the infamous grizzly bear attacks in the summer of 2011 as well as a fatal hot springs accident in 2000. In these accounts, written with sensitivity as cautionary tales about what to do and what not to do in one of our wildest national parks, Whittlesey recounts deaths ranging from tragedy to folly—from being caught in a freak avalanche to the goring of a photographer who just got a little too close to a bison. Armchair travelers and park visitors alike will be fascinated by this important book detailing the dangers awaiting in our first national park.

Happy Trail by Smartypants Romance (eaudio only, via Hoopla)
A man of few words, Great Smokey Mountains Park Ranger Jay Daniels prefers the company of birds and trees to people. He’d most definitely prefer a bird to the human-tornado hybrid that just blew onto his peaceful stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The path of true love never has run smooth for Olive Perry. After getting dumped and promptly abandoned in the middle of her multi-month hike, Olive swears off men. Determined to finish the long trek by herself, she doesn’t need a prince—or broody and taciturn ranger—to save her. Yet, when an early snowstorm threatens the mountains, and Ranger Daniels is charged with getting hikers to safety, that includes hot-tempered Olive Perry. Snowed in and forced to share an abandoned cabin, can Olive’s heated intensity melt Jay’s cool reserve? And if so, will this happy trail lead to true love? Or will their time together be just another bump in the road?  Another entry in the series, Stranger Ranger, is also available on Hoopla.


Our Great National Parks (Netflix exclusive series)
Narrated by former President Barack Obama, this stunning docuseries shines the spotlight on some of the planet's most spectacular national parks.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (Ken Burns)
The National Parks: America's Best Idea is a 2009 television documentary miniseries by director/producer Ken Burns and producer/writer Dayton Duncan explores the United States National Park system and traces the system's history.

General Discussion:

Photo by Ben Stiefel on Unsplash




Saturday, April 23, 2022

small towns, big personalities

Small towns always seem to be full of big personalities, all of whom want to play their own part, leading to hijinks and hilarious disasters.  Find your next read (or audiobook!) among this list of small towns around the world populated with quirky characters in funny, sentimental stories.

TheRoad To Rose Bend by Naima Simone
Sydney Collins left the small Berkshires town of Rose Bend eight years ago, grieving her sister’s death—and heartbroken over her parents’ rejection. But now the rebel is back—newly divorced and pregnant—ready to face her fears and make a home for her child in the caring community she once knew. The last thing she needs is trouble. But trouble just set her body on fire with one hot, hot smile.

ThePatron Saint of Second Chances by Christine Simon
The self-appointed mayor of a tiny Italian village is determined to save his hometown no matter the cost in this charming, hilarious, and heartwarming debut novel.

Britt-MarieWas Here by Fredrik Backman
When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg—of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it—the fastidious Britt-Marie soon finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts. Most alarming of all, she’s given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children’s soccer team to victory. In this small town of misfits, can Britt-Marie find a place where she truly belongs?

SecondChance on Cypress Lane by Reese Ryan
Set in Holly Grove Island, North Carolina, a reporter heads back home to recover from a scandal, only to find herself working with the man who once broke her heart.

DelilahGreen Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood and a cold and distant stepfamily. When her estranged stepsister pressures her into photographing her wedding, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town she used to call home. Having raised her eleven-year-old daughter mostly on her own while dealing with her unreliable ex and running a bookstore, Claire Sutherland depends upon a life without surprises. And Delilah Green is an unwelcome surprise…at first. When they’re forced together during a gauntlet of wedding preparations—including a plot to save Astrid from her horrible fiancé—Claire isn’t sure she has the strength to resist Delilah’s charms. Even worse, she’s starting to think she doesn’t want to...

TheLast Chance Library by Freya Sampson
June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.

TheReaders of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Katarina Bivald's The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a sweet, smart, and uplifting story about how books find us, change us, and connect us.

Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone by Phaedra Patrick
Filled with colorful characters and irresistible charm, Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone is a luminous reminder of the unbreakable bonds of family, and shows that having someone to embrace life with is always better than simply getting by on your own.

MyItalian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith
Paul Stuart, a renowned food writer, finds himself at loose ends after his longtime girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer. To cheer him up, Paul’s editor, Gloria, encourages him to finish his latest cookbook on-site in Tuscany, hoping that a change of scenery (plus the occasional truffled pasta and glass of red wine) will offer a cure for both heartache and writer’s block. But upon Paul’s arrival, things don’t quite go as planned. A mishap with his rental-car reservation leaves him stranded, until a newfound friend leads him to an intriguing alternative: a bulldozer.

SouthPole Station by Ashley Shelby
A warmhearted comedy of errors set in the world’s harshest place, Ashley Shelby's South Pole Station is a wry and witty debut novel about the courage it takes to band together when everything around you falls apart.

BlackberryWine by Joanne Harris
Jay Mackintosh is trapped by memory in the old familiar landscape of his childhood, to which he longs to return. A bottle of home-brewed wine left to him by a long-vanished friend seems to provide the key to an old mystery. As the unusual properties of the strange brew take effect, Jay escapes to a derelict farmhouse in the French village of Lansquenet. There, a ghost from the past waits to confront him.

TheStoried Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over--and see everything anew.

ColdSassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
Olive Ann Burns has given us a timeless, funny, resplendent novel - about a romance that rocks an entire town, about a boy's passage through the momentous but elusive year when childhood melts into adolescence, and about just how people lived and died in a small Southern town at the turn of the century. Inhabited by characters who are wise and loony, unimpeachably pious and deliciously irreverent, Cold Sassy, Georgia, is the perfect setting for the debut of a storyteller of rare brio, exuberance, and style.

TheSecret of Rainy Days by Leslie Hooton
Growing up in Erob, Alabama, Nina "Little Bit" Barnes Enloe lived in the shadow of her imposing and harsh grandmother, Nina "Biggie" Barnes Enloe. Bit believes she can escape her grandmother’s controlling grip once and for all by moving somewhere where she is the only Nina Enloe listed: New York. Yet her world is turned upside down when an unexpected loss forces her to leave her new life in the city and return to Erob, where she must face everything―and everyone―she left behind. In the process, Bit discovers her true identity, learns the hard lessons of acceptance and forgiveness, finds herself falling in love in unexpected places, and finds comfort in the secrets of rainy days.

BigStone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
Self-proclaimed spinster, Ave Maria Mulligan reaches her thirty-fifth year and resigns herself to the single life, filling her days with hard work, fun friends, and good books. Then, one fateful day, Ave Maria’s past opens wide with the revelation of a long-buried secret that will alter the course of her life. Before she knows it, Ave Maria is fielding marriage proposals, trying to claim her rightful inheritance, and planning the trip of a lifetime to Italy—one that will change her view of the world and her own place in it forever.

GardenSpells by Sarah Addison Allen
In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it....

ColdComfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
When a well-educated young socialite in 1930s England is left orphaned and unable to support herself at age twenty-two, she moves in with her eccentric relatives on their farm.

Midnightat the Blackbird Café by Heather Weber
Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café. It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

SweetTea and Sympathy by Molly Harper
Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

ItHappened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who’s cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town... where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong. 

MajorPettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
When retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper, he is drawn out of his regimented world and forced to confront the realities of life in the twenty-first century. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship on the cusp of blossoming into something more. 

Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

Friday, April 15, 2022

comfort reads

I have a few books that I read over and over and never tire of them.  A bad mood, rough day, challenging circumstance…they all drift away when I open the cover on that familiar world.  A few of those for me are Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy beginning with Dragonsong (fantasy), Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell (gritty crime), The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (contemporary fiction), Claiming Ground by Laura Bell (memoir), Stay by Allie Larkin (humor fiction) and Nobody’s Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (romance). Here are a few other great suggestions from readers online!

The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux

Jacquie says: “My favorite comfort go-to read is The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux. It’s a few years old but deals with friendships, loss, a bit of magic, and second chances. Who could want more?”

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Amy says: “It is the one book that I can read over and over, and it puts life into perspective.”

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Karen says: “I have several (or more!) comfort reads, but my most recent is the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I feel like I am catching up with long-absent friends, and I find out something new about them with each reread.”

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Louise says: “It haunts your heart.”

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Amber says: “I have read it six times, and each time, I have found a new meaning and message. Whenever I have a big change in life or any type of difficulty, this is my go-to book. It is so beautifully written with something for everyone. It reads like a fairy tale but includes wisdom and guidance for those who seek it. Getting ready for my seventh read!”

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Patty says: “It is the best for comfort and calming and feeling good.”

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Katrina says: “If I had one book to be stranded on an island with, this book would keep me happy. John and Owen just feel like home.”

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Susan says: “Any time I’m feeling really down, it sweeps me away to a different place and time, with complex characters I can really feel, and the story not just of a love affair, but of a marriage to stand the test of time.”

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Marsha says: “It’s a great perspective on how, when losing someone, we are also grieving for the person we used to be, who we used to be when they were here, and how we are different now with them gone. It’s both a sad but comforting read.”

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Kim says: “I’ve read it 23 times since January 2017, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. The characters are like old friends, and my heart is always so full after I finish yet another reread.”

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Emma says: “Such an uplifting and emotional read.”

Still Life by Louise Penny

Jo says: “Any of Louise Penny’s Gamache series because Three Pines and all the characters feel very much like home/family. The writing is wonderful. And no matter how many times I read them, I always find something new in each book.”

Photo by Inside Weather on Unsplash

Friday, March 25, 2022

headed to the big screen


These titles may be coming to a theater near you! I can tell you that one of my absolute favorites (this is Holley) is on the list, “Dear Edward!”


THE FAMILY CHAO by Lan Samantha Chang

Brimming with heartbreak, comedy, and suspense, The Family Chao offers a kaleidoscopic, highly entertaining portrait of a Chinese American family grappling with the dark undercurrents of a seemingly pleasant small town.


A heartbreaking, lyrical story for all of those who have fantasized about escaping their daily lives and starting over.


Told in an unforgettable voice, with razor-sharp observations about everything from feminism to pop culture to social media, A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out is the story of a young woman untangling the contradictions of our era and trying to escape the rat race—by any means necessary.

THE MANGO BRIDE by Marivi Soliven

Two women, two cultures, and the fight to find a new life in America, despite the secrets of the past…

THE HUSBAND'S SECRET by Liane Moriarty

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret - something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive....


A dazzling adventure story about a boy who rises from the ashes of slavery to become a free man of the world.

DEAR EDWARD by Ann Napolitano

Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.

BILLY SUMMERS by Stephen King

This spectacular can’t-pause novel is part war story, part love letter to small town America and the people who live there, and it features one of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It’s about love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.


Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . 

AFTERPARTIES by Anthony Veasna So

A vibrant story collection about Cambodian-American life—immersive and comic, yet unsparing—that offers profound insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities.



Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life - all the way to the very end. 


Award-winning New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang unveil the tech story of our times in a riveting, behind-the-scenes exposé that offers the definitive account of Facebook’s fall from grace. 

THE OUTRUN by Amy Liptrot

At the age of 30, Amy Liptrot finds herself washed up back home on Orkney. Standing unstable on the island, she tries to come to terms with the addiction that has swallowed the last decade of her life.


Studded with moments of joy and tragedy, They Can't Kill Us All offers a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect, showing that civil unrest is just one tool of resistance in the broader struggle for justice. 



National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson returns to future Earth in a sharply wrought satire of art and truth in the midst of colonization.


Adam Silvera reminds us that there’s no life without death and no love without loss in this devastating yet uplifting story about two people whose lives change over the course of one unforgettable day.

THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander ; illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

Basketball and heartache share the court in this slam-dunk Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award–winning middle grade novel in verse.


BONUS: 10 fantasy novels that would be great movies!


A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

When someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities is called onto the case.

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light unfolds in an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

This first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy is inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

A timeless love story set in a secret underground world - a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.

The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid

This unforgettable debut - inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology - follows a young pagan woman with hidden powers and a one-eyed captain of the Woodsmen as they form an unlikely alliance to thwart a tyrant.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

From number one New York Times best-selling author Brandon Sanderson, the Mistborn series is a heist story of political intrigue and magical, martial-arts action. This saga dares to ask a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails?

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Scott Lynch’s first novel exports the suspense and wit of a cleverly constructed crime caper into an exotic realm of fantasy, and the result is engagingly entertaining.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

A bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.


An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It's a story that's literally burning to be told. 

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas' paranormal YA debut.


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Voices from Ukraine and Russia



Previously unpublished, this German postwar classic is one of the best books of this major writer, who died in 2014. The last summer before the end of World War II, Walter Proska is posted to a small unit tasked with ensuring the safety of a railway line deep in the forest on the border with Ukraine and Belarus. In this swampy region, a handful of men - stunned by the heat, attacked by mosquitoes, and abandoned by their own troops in the face of the Resistance - must also submit to the increasingly absurd and inhuman orders of their superior. 

In 1913 Paris, a Russian ballet incited a riot. A century later, protestors gather in Kyiv to protest the president’s decision to forge a closer alliance with Putin’s Russia instead of signing a referendum with the EU, only to face bloodshed when military police shoot live ammunition into the crowd, killing more than a hundred peaceful protestors. Blending voices of the past and present while following the lives of four very different people over the course of one volatile Ukrainian winter, I Will Die in a Foreign Land paints a picture of a turbulent Slavic history and how it has led to events today.

Struggling to balance her life as a new mother, Natasha looks to her beloved grandmother Larissa, asking her to share the story of their family’s wartime escape from Nazis in Kiev. Larissa tells the story of their three years hiding out in the Ural Mountains, shocking both herself and Natasha with the parallels to present.

In his introduction, the poetry editor Kevin Young observes that Kaminsky, whose family fled Ukraine in 1993, writes about deafness and war in ways that arouse the conscience: “Kaminsky, who is hard of hearing himself, has the citizens of this republic speak with hand gestures and signs—some of which punctuate and animate the poems—as they resist a world of misunderstanding and military violence.”

From moments of intense paranoia to surprising tenderness and back again, Reva’s novel explores what it is to be an individual amid the roiling forces of history. Inspired by her and her family's own experiences in Ukraine, Reva brings the black absurdism of early Shteyngart and the sly interconnectedness of Anthony Marra's Tsar of Love and Techno to a "bang-on brilliant" (Miriam Toews) collection that is "fearless and thrilling" (Bret Anthony Johnston), and as clever as it is heartfelt.

An epic novel exposing the ugliness of war and the beauty of hope. The city of Kiev was bombed in Hitler's blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union, but the constant siege was only the beginning for her citizens. In this sweeping historical saga, Kelli Stuart takes the listener on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine's tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.


If you’ve got a little time and want to delve deep into the history leading up to the conflict, UKRAINE IN HISTORIES AND STORIES: ESSAYS BY UKRANIAN INTELLECTUALS, edited by Volodymyr Yermolenko, makes an excellent starting point due to its accessibility — you can download it for free — and its breadth of topics. It collects essays on a variety of historical and contemporary topics written by leading Ukrainian writers and scholars. Their combination of local knowledge and subject matter expertise makes for powerful reading.

The Crimean Peninsula is one of several regions at the center of the current Russia-Ukraine conflict: Russia annexed it in 2014, and its citizens voted to rejoin Russia in an election that same year. But this is not the first-time nations have gone to war over the region. This book gives an in-depth review of the Crimean War, in which Russia lost considerable land and military influence, and explains part of the reason why Russia feels the land is rightfully theirs.

A major and exceptionally tragic flare-up in the tension between Russia and Ukraine occurred in the early 1930s, when Josef Stalin’s agricultural policies created a famine that led to the deaths of millions of Ukrainians. The author of this book argues that those deaths were more than just the unintended result of bad policy: they were part of a deliberate attempt to punish and silence Ukraine’s independence movement.

When the Soviet Union broke apart in the early ’90s, many former Soviets were left feeling understandably confused, angry, and powerless about the loss of the only home nation they’d ever known. When Putin boasts about how “modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia,” he’s playing on the sense of disillusionment and lost glory so starkly conveyed in this compelling oral history.

In The Gates of Europe, Harvard professor Plokhy gives a comprehensive history of Ukraine, starting in 45,000 B.C.E and ending in the war in Donbas, that highlights the long battle for sovereignty and identity. Complete with maps, a glossary of Ukrainian terms, and a “Who’s Who” section on major historical players, this book is a critical text for understanding Ukraine’s intricate and complex history.

This riveting inside account combines history and memoir to tell the full story of US-Russia relations from the fall of the Soviet Union to the new rise of Putin as Russian president. From the first days of McFaul's ambassadorship, the Kremlin actively sought to discredit and undermine him, hassling him with tactics that included dispatching protesters to his front gates, slandering him on state media, and tightly surveilling him, his staff, and his family.        

The effects of the 1986 nuclear disaster on Ukrainians and Belarusians cannot be overstated.  Alexievich’s Nobel Prize-winning book compiles a tapestry of real accounts from those who were closely affected by the blast. Haunting and gripping, this book provides additional insight into the gritty, survivalist nature of the Ukrainian people.

With In Wartime, Tim Judah lays bare the events that have turned neighbors against one another and mired Europe’s second-largest country in a conflict seemingly without end. Judah talks to everyone from politicians to poets, pensioners, and historians. Listening to their clashing explanations, he interweaves their stories to create a sweeping, tragic portrait of a country fighting a war of independence from Russia—twenty-five years after the collapse of the USSR.

 In Lost Kingdom, award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy argues that we can only understand the confluence of Russian imperialism and nationalism today by delving into the nation's history. Spanning over 500 years, from the end of the Mongol rule to the present day, Plokhy shows how leaders from Ivan the Terrible to Joseph Stalin to Vladimir Putin exploited existing forms of identity, warfare, and territorial expansion to achieve imperial supremacy. An authoritative and masterful account of Russian nationalism, Lost Kingdom chronicles the story behind Russia's belligerent empire-building quest.

Can trauma be inherited? It is this question that sets Alex Halberstadt off on a quest to name and acknowledge a legacy of family trauma, and to end a century-old cycle of estrangement. In Ukraine, he tracks down his paternal grandfather to reckon with the ways in which decades of Soviet totalitarianism shaped three generations of his family. He visits Lithuania to examine the legacy of the Holocaust and pernicious anti-Semitism that remains largely unaccounted for. And he returns to Moscow where his glamorous grandmother designed homespun couture for Soviet ministers’ wives, his mother consoled dissidents at a psychiatric hospital, and his father made a dangerous living dealing in black-market American records. Along the way, Halberstadt traces the fragile and indistinct boundary between history and biography.