NEWS OF THE WORLD -- a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust
News of the World by Paulette Jiles (2016, William Morrow; 224 pages)
New York Times Bestselling Author of Enemy Women, the poet Paulette Jiles has written a beautiful story about a traveling newsreader and his quest to return a ten-year-old girl to her family after being captured and living with Native Americans.
The book got in my hands as an advance reader´s edition and it immediately caught my atention. Writing beautifully, Jiles works with a lyrical language that evolves in gorgeous descriptions of dreamed landscape. It is a relatively short book, and there is a lot to devour in it. The main characters, Captain Kidd and Johanna, are those type of humans that you want to have in your life. They are brave, they are ones to care for. There is also a sense of sharp humor in the story through Captain Kidd that adds a great tone to the book.
If you like stories that trap you and carry you around during just a few days, and if you are into good writing, good characters, descriptive prose, and forces like compassion and transformation, or simply into a good story, this is the book for you.
Find this title in our catalog: News of the World
Recommended by: Maite
The Natural Man by Ed McClanahan (1993, Gnomon Press; 240 pages)
Are you looking for a funny novel? I mean, really funny? Laugh-out-loud, shoot milk or soda pop or whatever you're drinking out your nose funny? The Natural Man by Ed McClanahan is such a book.
It's a coming-of-age story, about the trials and tribulations of 15-year-old Harry Eastep, a precocious, gawky teenager growing up amongst the hayseeds in the narrow confines of Needmore, Kentucky in the late 1940s. Harry's dull, small-town life is forever torn asunder by the arrival of Monk McHorning, a giant, 15-year-old orphan man-child who spews hilarious ribald ditties and observations at every turn. McClanahan gives us a delicate and engaging balance of nostalgia and R-rated humor that is charming, light-hearted and superbly written. Just be sure to cover everything around you in plastic.
Find this title in our catalog: The Natural Man
Recommended by: Greg
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (2008, Penguin Books; 396 pages)
This is probably one of my favorite readings in the last year. It is a book written by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks, and it is about the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war.
The story is inspired by a true event. The author chose a first-person narration, that of the captive artist who creates the book’s original illuminations. What I love most in the book is the theme that cruises throughout the book: the Haggadah’s account of the liberation of the Jews. This is what the book is about according to the author:
“In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.
In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.”
You can read a review of the book by Ursula K Le Guin here
Find this title in our catalog: People of the Book
Recommended by: Maite
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (2014, Vintage; 432 pages)
The Lowland is an engrossing family saga steeped in history: the story of two very different brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn apart by revolution, and a love that endures long past death.
Moving from the 1960s to the present, this is a many-layered story of culture, geography, politics, and emotion. Two brothers, born and raised in India, as close as brothers can be, yet as different as black and white, choose their paths, and the resulting effect is what creates the story. It's about family bonds, tension, and responsibility, in a story that is fraught with sadness.
Find this title in our catalog: The Lowland
Recommended by: Ann
Maya's Notebook -- a tale of a girl’s journey toward self-discovery, of the fierce power of truth, and of the healing force of love
Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende (2014, Harper Perennial; 416 pages)
This contemporary coming-of-age story centers upon Maya Vidal, a remarkable teenager abandoned by her parents. Maya grew up in a rambling old house in Berkeley with her grandmother Nini, whose formidable strength helped her build a new life after emigrating from Chile in 1973 with a young son, and her grandfather Popo, a gentle African-American astronomer. When Popo dies, Maya goes off the rails. Along with a circle of girlfriends known as "the vampires," she turns to drugs, alcohol, and petty crime--a downward spiral that eventually leads to Las Vegas and a dangerous underworld, with Maya caught between warring forces: a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol.
Her one chance for survival is Nini, who helps her escape to a remote island off the coast of Chile. In the care of her grandmother’s old friend, Manuel Arias, and surrounded by strange new acquaintances, Maya begins to record her story in her notebook, as she tries to make sense of her past and unravel the mysteries of her family and her own life.
Find this title in our catalog: Maya's Notebook
Recommended by: Ann
The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon (2012, Bellevue Literary Press; 188 pages)
The Polish Boxer is probably one of the best books I have read this year. The blurb on its back reads : "A young Eduardo Halfon believed in the lie that the green tattoo on his grandfather’s arm was a phone number. Grown up, a writer and a professor, he believes in literature, in music, in a friend’s digressive, confessional, mythical postcards, in his girlfriend’s graphs of the arcs, plateaus and spikes of her orgasms. He learns the real story of the tattoo, and he thinks and journeys in pursuit of what makes a person and what makes a story."
The main character in the book is a man in search of answers to big questions: he is trying to figure out who he is, where he came from and where is going. The Polish Boxer is a book about encountering, about confronting oneself, or others. It is a book about the meaning of the word exile, both forced and self-imposed. It is also a delightful journey through different geographies, some of which I happen to love, like Guatemala. It is a book about survivors of the Nazi horror, about Serbia and about America. It is a superb reading, one of those that you want to start reading again as soon as it has ended.
You can read an excerpt from the book here
For a conversation with the author about the book, click here
To listen to the author, Guatemalan Eduardo Halfon, talking about the book and more, click here
Find this title in our catalog: The Polish Boxer
Recommended by: Maite
CARTHAGE -- a mesmerizing novel that examines grief, faith, justice, and the atrocities of war through the story of a young girl's disappearance in a small adirondack town
Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates (2014, Ecco; 512 pages)
Zeno Mayfield's daughter has disappeared into the night, gone missing in the wilds of the Adirondacks. But when the community of Carthage joins a father's frantic search for the girl, they discover instead the unlikeliest of suspects - a decorated Iraq War veteran with close ties to the Mayfield family. As grisly evidence mounts against the troubled war hero, the family must wrestle with the possibility of having lost a daughter forever.
The author dedicates 200 pages to the crime and its aftermath. This part of the book is really interesting, but when the book really takes us to a new level is when it changes direction toward a different plotline based on an idiosyncratic professor investigating the American prison system. Through his investigation the reader is going to learn of the implications his inquiry may have for the fates of the main characters in the book, Cressida and Brett, building up an irresistible ending that blows the reader away.
The book is written in a careful and elegant prose and the author also experiments with form. Oates succeeds one more time.
From The New York Times:
“The title of this novel resonates with classically tragic overtones, which the author clearly intends. The word 'Carthage' summons thoughts of the ancient world: of Virgil’s jilted Dido, queen of Carthage, spurned by Aeneas, who put service to nation above love. It also recalls St. Augustine’s contempt for his youthful dissipation in his 'Confessions': 'To Carthage then I came, where there sang all around me in my ears a caldron of unholy loves.' T. S. Eliot wove St. Augustine’s self-recriminating words into 'The Waste Land,' deepening its subtext of sexual regret. And now Oates draws on those archetypes to lend context and gravitas to the tragedies of our own time, plumbing their mythic force.”
Find this title in our catalog: Carthage
Recommended by: Maite
Winterkill -- an engrossing, lyrical, by turns hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Native American father and son in the contemporary west
Winterkill by Craig Lesley (1996, Picador; 336 pages)
Winterkill (and its excellent sequel, River Song) is a deeply moving, profoundly lyrical, at times darkly humorous and evocative novel of fathers and sons. Danny Kachiah is a Native American in contemporary Eastern Oregon, fighting not to become a casualty. His father, Red Shirt, is dead; his wife, Loxie, has left him, and his career as a rodeo cowboy is flagging. But when Loxie dies in a car wreck, leaving him with his son, Jack, whom he hardly knows, Danny uses the magnificent stories of Red Shirt to guide him toward true fatherhood. Together, Danny and Jack begin to make a life from the dreams of yesterday and the ruins of today's northwestern reservations.
Winterkill was a winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award, and it -- and its sequel, River Song -- are two of the best books I've read about the Native American experience in contemporary American society. I can't recommend them highly enough.
Find this title in our catalog: Winterkill
Recommended by: Greg
SILVER LININGS: A ROSE HARBOR NOVEL -- Debbie Macomber's latest is a story of love and forgiveness sure to delight her many longtime fans
Silver Linings: A Rose Harbor Novel by Debbie Macomber (2015, Ballantine Books; 345 pages)
This is the author's latest novel in the "Rose Harbor Inn" series that follows the innkeeper Jo Marie and her guests of the Inn. Jo has grown close to her "local" handyman Mark Taylor and hopes for something more to their relationship than just "friends," but he suddenly lets her know that he is leaving town and she has no idea why. As she finds out the reason for Mark leaving, Jo thinks she is losing the man she cares about again. Fans of the series will know what this means.
As Mark is leaving, Jo welcomes two new guests to the Inn who are high school friends coming home for their 10-year reunion. They have come home looking to find closure from things that happened in high school. Both of them discover that second chances do happen, and people can change for the better. Anyone who has ever gone to their own reunion of any kind will enjoy reading about these two friends.
Fans of Debbie Macomber will not be disappointed in this story, with its hidden twists and turns, which is why I am recommending it to readers. Readers can't help but be transported to their own relationships with good friends who talk, share joys and are there for each other in hard times. Enjoy!
Find this title in our catalog: Silver Linings
Recommended by: Angie
THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY -- a funny, tender, and moving novel that reminds us all why we read and why we love
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014, Algonquin Books; 288 pages)
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.
From Booklist: "In this sweet, uplifting homage to bookstores, Zevin perfectly captures the joy of connecting people and books. A. J. Fikry, the cantankerous owner of Island Books, is despondent after losing his beloved wife and witnessing the ever-declining number of sales at his small, quirky bookstore. In short order, he loses all patience with the new Knightly Press sales rep, his prized rare edition of Tamerlane is stolen, and someone leaves a baby at his store. That baby immediately steals A. J.’s heart and unleashes a dramatic transformation. Suddenly, the picture-book section is overflowing with new titles, and the bookstore becomes home to a burgeoning number of book clubs. With business on the uptick and love in his heart, A. J. finds himself becoming an essential new part of his longtime community, going so far as to woo the aforementioned sales rep (who loves drinking Queequeg cocktails at the Pequod Restaurant). Filled with interesting characters, a deep knowledge of bookselling, wonderful critiques of classic titles, and very funny depictions of book clubs and author events, this will prove irresistible to book lovers everywhere."
What can I say? I just liked this book, about books and the people who read them.
Find this title in our catalog: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Recommended by: Ann