Carolyn Selections (5)
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The Shadow of the Wind - (Carlos Ruiz Zafon) Barcelona, 1945 - Just after the war, a great world city lies in shadow, nursing its wounds, and a boy named Daniel awakes one day to find that he can no longer remember his mother's face. To console his only child, Daniel's widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona's guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel's father coaxes him to choose a book from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the book he selects, a novel called The Shadow of the Wind by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax's work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last of Carax's books in existence. Before Daniel knows it, his seemingly innocent quest has opened a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets, an epic story of murder, magic, madness, and doomed love, and before long he realizes that if he doesn't find out the truth about Julian Carax, he and those closest to him will suffer horribly.
The Time Traveler's Wife - (Audrey Niffenegger) A dazzling novel in the most untraditional fashion, this is the remarkable story of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.
Bangkok 8 - (John Burdett) "Under a Bangkok bridge, inside a bolted-shut Mercedes: a murder by snake - a charismatic African American Marine sergeant killed by a methamphetamine-stoked python and a swarm of stoned cobras." "Two cops - the only two in the city not on the take - arrive too late. Minutes later, only one is alive: Sonchai Jitpleecheep - a devout Buddhist, equally versed in the sacred and the profane - son of a long-gone Vietnam War G.I. and a Thai bar girl whose subsequent international clientele contributed richly to Sonchai's sophistication." Now, his partner dead, Sonchai is doubly compelled to find the murderer, to maneuver through the world he knows all to well - illicit drugs, prostitution, infinite corruption - and into a realm he has never before encountered: the moneyed underbelly of the city, where desire rules and the human body is no less custom-designable than a raw hunk of jade. And where Sonchai tracks the killer - and a predator of an even more sinister variety.
When the Emperor Was Divine - (Julie Otsuka) Julie Otsuka’s commanding debut novel paints a portrait of the Japanese internment camps unlike any we have ever seen. With crystalline intensity and precision, Otsuka uses a single family to evoke the deracination—both physical and emotional—of a generation of Japanese Americans. In five chapters, each flawlessly executed from a different point of view—the mother receiving the order to evacuate; the daughter on the long train ride to the camp; the son in the desert encampment; the family’s return to their home; and the bitter release of the father after more than four years in captivity—she has created a small tour de force, a novel of unrelenting economy and suppressed emotion. Spare, intimate, arrestingly understated, When the Emperor Was Divine is a haunting evocation of a family in wartime and an unmistakably resonant lesson for our times. It heralds the arrival of a singularly gifted new novelist.
The Lake of Dead Languages - (Carol Goodman) Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson fled the Heart Lake School for Girls in the Adirondacks after a terrible tragedy. The week before her graduation, in that sheltered wonderland, three lives were taken, all victims of suicide. Only Jane was left to carry the burden of a mystery that has stayed hidden in the depths of Heart Lake for more than two decades. Now Jane has returned to the school as a Latin teacher, recently separated and hoping to make a fresh start with her young daughter. But ominous messages from the past dredge up forgotten memories. And young, troubled girls are beginning to die again–as piece by piece the shattering truth slowly floats to the surface.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - (Mark Haddon) Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing. Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher’s mind. And herein lies the key to the brilliance of Mark Haddon’s choice of narrator: The most wrenching of emotional moments are chronicled by a boy who cannot fathom emotion. The effect is dazzling, making for a novel that is deeply funny, poignant, and fascinating in its portrayal of a person whose curse and blessing is a mind that perceives the world literally. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is one of the freshest debuts in years: a comedy, a heartbreaker, a mystery story, a novel of exceptional literary merit that is great fun to read.- Jump to the New York Times review. Second Review Essay
A Brief History of the Human Race - (Michael Cook) Why has human history been crowded into the last few thousand years? Why has it happened at all? Could it have happened in a radically different way? What should we make of the disproportionate role of the West in shaping the world we currently live in? This witty, intelligent hopscotch through human history addresses these questions and more. Michael Cook sifts the human career on earth for the most telling nuggets and then uses them to elucidate the whole. From the calendars of Mesoamerica and the temple courtesans of medieval India to the intricacies of marriage among an aboriginal Australian tribe, Cook explains the sometimes eccentric variety in human cultural expression. He guides us from the prehistoric origins of human history across the globe through the increasing unification of the world, first by Muslims and then by European Christians in the modern period, illuminating the contingencies that have governed broad historical change. 11 maps, 28 illustrations.- Jump to the New York Times review.
The Ha-Ha - (Dave King) An unforgettable first novel about silence, family, and the imperative of love. Howard Kapostash has not spoken in thirty years. Ever since a severe blow to the head during his days in the Army, words unravel in his mouth and letters on the page make no sense at all. Because of his extremely limited communication abilities-a small repertory of gestures and simple sounds-most people think he is disturbed. No one understands that Howard is still the same man he was before enlisting, still awed by the beauty of a landscape, still pining for his high school sweetheart, Sylvia. Now Sylvia is a single mom with troubles of her own, and she needs Howard's help. She is being hauled into a drug rehab program and she asks Howard to care for her nine-year-old son, Ryan. The presence of this nervous, resourceful boy in Howard's life transforms him utterly. With a child's happiness at stake, communication takes on a fresh urgency, and the routine that Howard has evolved over the years-designed specifically to minimize the agony of human contact-suddenly feels restrictive and even dangerous. Forced out of his groove, Howard finds unexpected delights (in baseball, in work, in meals with his housemates). His home comes alive with the joys, sorrows, and love of a real family. But these changes also open Howard to the risks of loss and to the rage he has spent a lifetime suppressing.- Jump to the New York Times review.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - (J.K. Rowling) The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses. And yet... As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate -- and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince. So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort -- and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.- Jump to the New York Times review.
Saturday - (Ian McEwan) "Saturday, February 15, 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man, a successful neurosurgeon, the devoted husband of Rosalind and the proud father of two grown-up children, one a promising poet, the other a talented blues musician. Unusually, he wakes before dawn, drawn to the window of his bedroom and filled with a growing unease. What troubles him as he looks out at the night sky is the state of the world, the impending war against Iraq, a gathering pessimism since 9/11 and a fear that his city, its openness and diversity, and his happy family life are under threat." "Later, Perowne makes his way to his weekly squash game through London streets filled with hundreds of thousands of anti-war protestors. A minor car accident brings him into a confrontation with Baxter, a fidgety, aggressive young man, on the edge of violence. To Perowne's professional eye, there appears to be something profoundly wrong with him." Towards the end of a day rich in incident, a Saturday filled with thoughts of war and poetry, of music, mortality and love, Baxter appears at the Perowne home during a family reunion, with extraordinary consequences.- Jump to the New York Times review. NYT Arts and Culture NYT Leisure NYT Article
Falling Angels - (Tracy Chevalier) - A fashionable London cemetery, January 1901: Two graves stand side by side, one decorated with an oversize classical urn, the other with a sentimental marble angel. Two families, visiting their respective graves on the day after Queen Victoria's death, teeter on the brink of a new era. The Colemans and the Waterhouses are divided by social class as well as taste. They would certainly not have become acquainted had not their two girls, meeting behind the tombstones, become best friends. And, even more unsuitably, become involved with the gravedigger's muddy son. As the girls grow up, as the new king changes social customs, as a new, forward-thinking era takes wing, the lives and fortunes of the two families become more and more closely intertwined-neighbors in life as well as death. Against a gas-lit backdrop of social and political history, Tracy Chevalier explores the prejudices and flaws of a changing time. Jump to the New York Times review.
Blink - The Power of Thinking Without Thinking - (Malcolm Gladwell) How do we make decisions--good and bad--and why are some people so much better at it than others? That's the question Malcolm Gladwell asks and answers in the follow-up to his huge bestseller, The Tipping Point. Utilizing case studies as diverse as speed dating, pop music, and the shooting of Amadou Diallo, Gladwell reveals that what we think of as decisions made in the blink of an eye are much more complicated than assumed. Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology, he shows how the difference between good decision-making and bad has nothing to do with how much information we can process quickly, but on the few particular details on which we focus. Leaping boldly from example to example, displaying all of the brilliance that made The Tipping Point a classic, Gladwell reveals how we can become better decision makers--in our homes, our offices, and in everyday life. The result is a book that is surprising and transforming. Never again will you think about thinking the same way.- Jump to the New York Times review.
The Kalahari Typing School for Men - (Alexander McCall Smith) Now that her business, the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, is firmly established, the agency's founder, Precious Ramotswe, can look upon her life with pride: she's reached her late thirties ("the finest age to be") and she has a house, two adopted children, a good fiance, and many satisfied customers. But life is never without its problems. Her adopted son has a somewhat troubling hobby. Her assistant wants a husband but can't find one. Meanwhile, the Satisfaction Guaranteed Detective Agency has opened up across town and seems to be getting all the attention. In this latest volume from Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, Precious manages to cope with these and other more serious problems with her customary mix of insight and good-heartedness.- Jump to the New York Times review.
Requiem for a Lost Empire - (Andrei Makine) - "The narrator is a young Russian army doctor; sent to distant shores to bind the wounds of those in third- and fourth-world countries in Africa, the Near East, and South America that are pawns in the global political chess game during the Cold War between America and the U.S.S.R. Later recruited by an old-time intelligence agent, the narrator spends three years deeply involved in the mini-wars - the revolutions and counterrevolutions - that constantly erupt all over the globe." "The book flashes back to the narrator's grandfather, Nikolai, a Red cavalry soldier fighting the Whites in 1920 who one day, overwhelmed by all the senseless killing, deserts and returns to his native village. On his way home, in a forest riddled with the graves of soldiers who had been buried alive by their killers, he finds and disinters a young woman whom be saves and eventually marries. A son is born, Pavel, the narrator's father, whose story of World War II is invoked with a passion and force that bear comparison to the best writing on the subject. But, war weary like his father, Pavel retreats to a remote forest in the Caucasus, in a vain attempt to escape the increasing tyrannies of the post-war Soviet era. It is there, in that idyllic retreat from the world, that the narrator is born."-- Jump to the New York Times review.
In the midst of chaos mom anguishing confusion one could do nothing right without also doing something wrong chaos reigned and everything at stake,, but to do nothing was also to do something. there is no system for managing so sinister a mess. being battered about by the most anguishing confusion. Philip is going to run I would run away from everything that was after me and everything that hated me and wanted to kill me. I would run away from everything I'd done and everything I hadn't done, and start out fresh a a boy nobody knew. - to Elizabeth, to the pretzel factory. he'll save his money and run away to Boys Town where Father Flanagan will take him in where he'll learn to become a good citizen. hardly the person responsible for the death of Mrs. Wishnow and the orphaning of her son. Finds his aunt in the basement - I know the truth. More than thirty million Christian families in American and and only about a million Jewish families, why really should the events of the day bother them? (rioting, deaths, arrests, etc.) @ days since heard from father and Sandy. Trip across the country during the riots. 1913 'little factory girl" murdered in Atlanta pencil factory - her Jewish supervisor Leo Frank was convicted - lynch mob pulled him from the jail and from a tree. hung him
Ford: pub 1920-1927 - The International Jew - the world's problem" - circ 300,000. lost $5 million. Shut down after lawsuit settled out of court for defamation of a Jewish lawyer. America First Committee.
Start with something small and get away with it.
Friday Night Lights - (GH Bissinger) - H. G. Bissinger's exquisitely written account brings into sharp focus the bitter struggle between sports and education in Odessa, Texas, as well as in high schools and colleges nationwide. "A biting indictment of the sports craziness that grips...most of American society, while at the same time providing a moving evocation of its powerful allure."(--New York Times Book Review) "A remarkable book, fascinating from start to finish, full of surprises."(--David HalberstamA) "An engrossing story...Exciting, funny and, above all, horrifying."(--Tracy KidderA). NYT Article. About the film.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - (Susanna Clarke) - English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory. But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French. All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear. Jump to the New York Times review.
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons
- (Lorna Landvik) - Sometimes life is like a bad waiter—it
serves you exactly what you don’t want. The women of Freesia Court
have come together at life’s table, fully convinced that there is
nothing good coffee, delectable desserts, and a strong shoulder can’t
fix. Laughter is the glue that holds them together—the foundation of
a book group they call AWEB—Angry Wives Eating Bon Bons—an
unofficial “club” that becomes much more. It becomes a lifeline.
The five women each have a story of their own to tell. There’s
Faith, the newcomer, a lonely housewife and mother of twins, a woman
who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie;
big, beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that good
posture and an attitude can let you get away with anything; Merit, the
shy, quiet doctor’s wife with the face of an angel and the private
hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a thoughtful, wise woman with a
wonderful laugh as “deep as Santa Claus’s with a cold” who knows
the greatest gifts appear after life’s fiercest storms; and finally,
Slip, activist, adventurer, social changer, a tiny, spitfire of a
woman wholooks trouble straight in the eye and challenges it to arm
Birth of Venus - (Sarah Dunant) - "Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family's Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter's abilities." But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra's parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola's reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra's married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.
Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life - (Caroline Moorehead) - Martha Gellhorn's heroic career as a reporter brought her to the front lines of virtually every significant international conflict between the Spanish Civil War and the end of the Cold War; her wartime dispatches rank among the best of the century. From her birth in St. Louis in 1908 to her death in London in 1998, the tall, glamorous blonde passed through Africa, Cuba, Panama, and most of the great cities of Europe. She made friends easily -- among them Eleanor Roosevelt, Leonard Bernstein, and H. G. Wells -- but happiness often eluded her despite her professional success: both of her marriages ended badly, the first, to Ernest Hemingway, dramatically and publicly so. Drawn from extensive interviews and exclusive access to Gellhorn's papers and correspondence, this seminal biography spans half the globe and almost an entire century to offer an exhilarating, intimate portrait of one of the defining women of our times.
Breakfast of Champions - (Kurt Vonnegut) - Dwayne Hoover, a Midwestern automobile salesman, with a troubled marriage, meets Vonnegut's famous character, the hack writer, Kilgore Trout, on the eve of Trout's receiving the Nobel Prize. Filmed in 1998 with Bruce Willis, this is another of Vonnegut's savage satires of middle American values and their racketeering. Breakfast of Champions is vintage Vonnegut. One of his favorite characters, aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. The result is murderously funny satire as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.
Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War 1941-1945 - (Leo Marks) - In 1942, Leo Marks left his father's famous bookshop, 84 Charing Cross Road, and went off to fight the war. He was twenty-two. Soon recognized as a cryptographer of genius, he became head of communications at the Special Operations Executive (SOE), where he revolutionized the codemaking techniques of the Allies and trained some of the most famous agents dropped into occupied Europe, including "the White Rabbit" and Violette Szabo. As a top codemaker, Marks had a unique perspective on one of the most fascinating and, until now, little-known aspects of the Second World War. Writing with the narrative flair and vivid characterization of his famous screenplays, Marks gives free rein to his keen sense of the absurd and his wry wit, resulting in a thrilling and poignant memoir that celebrates individual courage and endeavor, without losing sight of the human cost and horror of war.
And Still We Rise - (Miles Corwin) - Author and journalist Miles Corwin spent an entire school year with a remarkable group of individuals: the students in the senior Advanced Placement English class at Crenshaw High School—young ghetto scholars who have managed to excel despite living in the hostile world of South Central Los Angeles. This book is a moving chronicle of their courage, achievements, strength, and resilient spirit—their personal crises, setbacks, catastrophes, and triumphs—over an unforgettable 10 month period. It is a fascinating visit to the dynamic, electrically charged classroom of Toni Little, an inspiring but volatile and wildly unpredictable white educator determined to imbue her minority students with a passion for great literature. Corwin also spent the year with Anita "Mama" Moultrie, a flamboyant black teacher whose Afrocentric teaching style was diametrically opposed to Little's traditional approach. The exceptional students provide a ground-zero perspective on the affirmative action debate and will remain with the readers long after they finish the book.
Founding Mothers - (Cokie Roberts) - While the "fathers" were off founding the country, what were the women doing? Running their husband’s businesses, raising their children plus providing political information and advice. At least that’s what Abigail Adams did for John, starting when he went off to the Continental Congress, which eventually declared the independence of the American colonies from the British. While the men were writing the rebellious words, the women were living the revolution, with the Redcoats on their doorsteps. John’s advice to Abigail as the soldiers approached Braintree: if necessary "fly to the woods with our children." That was it, she was on her own, as she was for most of the next ten years while Adams represented the newly independent nation abroad. Abigail Adams is the best known of the women who influenced the founders, but there are many more, starting with Martha Washington, who once referred to herself as a “prisoner of state” for the constraints placed on her as the first First Lady. She was the one charged with balancing the demands of a Republic of the "common man" on the one hand, while insisting on some modicum of courtliness and protocol so that the former colonies would be taken seriously by Europe. She also took political heat in the press from the president’s political opponents when he was too popular to criticize. And there are women like Esther Reed, married to the president of Pennsylvania, who, with Benjamin Franklin’s daughter Sarah Bache, organized a drive to raise money for Washington’s troops at Valley Forge. In 1780 the women raised more than three hundred thousand dollars. Reed wrote a famous patriotic broadside titled The Sentiments of an American Woman, calling on women to wear simpler clothing and hairstyles in order to save money to contribute to the cause. It worked! The women who ran the boarding houses of Philadelphia where the men stayed while writing the now sacred documents of America had their quite considerable say about the affairs of state as well. This will be the story of some of those women, as learned through their seldom seen letters and diaries, and the letters from the men to them. It will be a story of the beginnings of the nation as viewed from the distaff side.
The Rule of Four - (Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomanson) - "Princeton. Good Friday, 1999. On the eve of graduation, two students are a hairsbreadth from solving the mysteries of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, a Renaissance text that has baffled scholars for centuries. Famous for its hypnotic power over those who study it, the five-hundred-year-old Hypnerotomachia may finally reveal its secrets - to Tom Sullivan, whose father was obsessed with the book, and Paul Harris, whose future depends on it. As the deadline looms, research has stalled - until an ancient diary surfaces. What Tom and Paul discover inside shocks even them: proof that the location of a hidden crypt has been ciphered within the pages of the obscure Renaissance text." Armed with this final clue, the two friends delve into the bizarre world of the Hypnerotomachia - a world of forgotten erudition, strange sexual appetites, and terrible violence. But just as they begin to realize the magnitude of their discovery, Princeton's snowy campus is rocked: a longtime student of the book is murdered, shot dead in the hushed halls of the history department.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim - (David Sedaris) - "My writing is just a desperate attempt to get laughs. If you get anything else out of it, it's an accident," claims author and playwright Sedaris. That may be, but one can't help but notice that this collection of essays about his childhood, his first major collection in four years, features a "kinder, gentler" Sedaris ("The End of the Affair" is an especially touching tribute to his partner Hugh). But make no mistake; Sedaris is still the master of the well-delivered scathing punch line-even if it is directed at himself. Fans of his previous work will find that this collection contains much of the snappy (and sometimes snippy) writing that has become his trademark. He is particularly skilled at creating grossly unflattering yet affectionate portraits of family members, as when Sedaris's brother presses the rewind button during the video of his daughter's first bowel movement. With Me Talk Pretty optioned for film treatment, Sedaris's star will only continue to rise. And he will undoubtedly have something both poignant and side-splitting to say about that as well. Highly recommended. [Library Journal].
The Kite Runner - (Khaled Hosseini) - An epic tale of fathers and sons, of friendship and betrayal, that takes us from the final days of Afghanistan’s monarchy to the atrocities of the present. The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption. And it is also about the power of fathers over sons -- their love, their sacrifices, their lies. The first Afghan novel to be written in English, The Kite Runner tells a sweeping story of family, love, and friendship against a backdrop of history that has not been told in fiction before, bringing to mind the large canvasses of the Russian writers of the nineteenth century. But just as it is old-fashioned in its narration, it is contemporary in its subject -- the devastating history of Afghanistan over the past thirty years. As emotionally gripping as it is tender, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful debut. Author Biography: Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, the son of a diplomat whose family received political asylum in the United States in 1980. He lives in northern California, where he is a physician. The Kite Runner is his first novel.
The Known World - (Edward P. Jones) - Henry Townsend, a black farmer, bootmaker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor - William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful man in antebellum Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation - as well as of his own slaves. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at their plantation: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend estate, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave "speculators" sell free black people into slavery, and rumors of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years. An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges seamlessly between the past and future and back again to the present, The Known World weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Indians - and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.
Life of Pi - (Yann Martel) - Growing up in Pondicherry, India, Piscine Molitor Patel -- known as Pi -- has a rich life. Bookish by nature, young Pi acquires a broad knowledge of not only the great religious texts but of all literature, and has a great curiosity about how the world works. His family runs the local zoo, and he spends many of his days among goats, hippos, swans, and bears, developing his own theories about the nature of animals and how human nature conforms to it. Pi’s family life is quite happy, even though his brother picks on him and his parents aren’t quite sure how to accept his decision to simultaneously embrace and practise three religions -- Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. But despite the lush and nurturing variety of Pi’s world, there are broad political changes afoot in India, and when Pi is sixteen his parents decide that the family needs to escape to a better life. Choosing to move to Canada, they close the zoo, pack their belongings, and board a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum. Travelling with them are many of their animals, bound for zoos in North America. However, they have only just begun their journey when the ship sinks, taking the dreams of the Patel family down with it. Only Pi survives, cast adrift in a lifeboat with the unlikeliest oftravelling companions: a zebra, an orang-utan, a hyena, and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Thus begins Pi Patel’s epic, 227-day voyage across the Pacific, and the powerful story of faith and survival at the heart of Life of Pi. Worn and scared, oscillating between hope and despair, Pi is witness to the playing out of the food chain, quite aware of his new position within it. When only the tiger is left of the seafaring menagerie, Pi realizes that his survival depends on his ability to assert his own will, and sets upon a grand and ordered scheme to keep from being Richard Parker’s next meal. As the days pass, Pi fights both boredom and terror by throwing himself into the practical details of surviving on the open sea -- catching fish, collecting rain water, protecting himself from the sun -- all the while ensuring that the tiger is also kept alive, and knows that Pi is the key to his survival. The castaways face gruelling pain in their brushes with starvation, illness, and the storms that lash the small boat, but there is also the solace of beauty: the rainbow hues of a dorado’s death-throes, the peaceful eye of a looming whale, the shimmering blues of the ocean’s swells. Hope is fleeting, however, and despite adapting his religious practices to his daily routine, Pi feels the constant, pressing weight of despair. It is during the most hopeless and gruelling days of his voyage that Pi whittles to the core of his beliefs, casts off his own assumptions, and faces his underlying terrors head-on.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - (Michael Chabon) - It is New York City in 1939. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat to date: smuggling himself out of Nazi-occupied Prague. He is looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a collaborator to create the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Out of their fantasies, fears, and dreams, Joe and Sammy weave the legend of that unforgettable champion the Escapist. And inspired by the beautiful and elusive Rosa Saks, a woman who will be linked to both men by powerful ties of desire, love, and shame, they create the otherworldly mistress of the night, Luna Moth. As the shadow of Hitler falls across Europe and the world, the Golden Age of comic books has begun.
Mountains Beyond Mountains - (Tracy Kidder) - When a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner stumbles upon a crusading Harvard physician and medical anthropologist battling TB and crushing poverty in Haiti ("the most disease-ridden country in the hemisphere"), the result is nothing short of a defining moment in publishing. For his first foray into biography, Tracy Kidder, a master of the nonfiction narrative (Hometown, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, The Soul of a New Machine), applies his journalistic expertise and gentle storytelling skills to the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious-disease expert who's made the world's poorest and sickest his life work. Kidder weaves a tale that is full of drama, hope, and triumph, as he accompanies the pale, skinny, disheveled doctor from the mud huts of rural Haiti and the slums of Peru to Siberia's prisons, where drug-resistant strains of TB thrive. Writing in the first person but only occasionally interjecting himself into the story, the author recounts Farmer's unconventional childhood and describes his grueling travel schedule on behalf of his nonprofit organization, Partners in Health, and his saintly devotion to his cause. More than a biography of Dr. Farmer, Mountains Beyond Mountains is a chilling head-on look at global public health care. Trite as it sounds, this is a book that has the power to change everyone who reads it. Sallie Brady, Barnes and Noble review. Jump to the New York Times Review. Second Review.
Three Junes - (Julia Glass) - Three Junes is a vividly textured symphonic novel set on both sides of the Atlantic during three fateful summers in the lives of a Scottish family. In June of 1989, Paul McLeod, the recently widowed patriarch, becomes infatuated with a young American artist while traveling through Greece and is compelled to relive the secret sorrows of his marriage. Six years later, Paul's death reunites his sons at Tealing, their idyllic childhood home, where Fenno, the eldest, faces a choice that puts him at the center of his family's future. A lovable, slightly repressed gay man, Fenno leads the life of an aloof expatriate in the West Village, running a shop filled with books and birdwatching gear. He believes himself safe from all emotional entanglements--until a worldly neighbor presents him with an extraordinary gift and a seductive photographer makes him an unwitting subject. Each man draws Fenno into territories of the heart he has never braved before, leading him toward an almost unbearable loss that will reveal to him the nature of love. Love in its limitless forms--between husband and wife, between lovers, between people and animals, between parents and children--is the force that moves these characters' lives, which collide again, in yet another June, over a Long Island dinner table. This time it is Fenno who meets and captivates Fern, the same woman who captivated his father in Greece ten years before. Now pregnant with a son of her own, Fern, like Fenno and Paul before him, must make peace with her past to embrace her future. Elegantly detailed yet full of emotional suspense, often as comic as it is sad, Three Junes is a glorious triptych about how we learn to live, and live fully, beyond incurable grief and betrayals of the heart--how family ties, both those we're born into and those we make, can offer us redemption and joy. Jump to the New York Times Review.
The Stone Diaries - (Carol Shields) - Canadian writer Shields's novels and short stories ( Swann ; The Republic of Love , etc.) are intensely imagined, humanely generous, beautifully sustained and impeccably detailed. Despite rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, she has yet to achieve an audience here; one hopes this latest effort, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, will be her breakthrough. It is at once a playful sendup of the art of biography and a serious exploration of the essential mystery of human lives; the gist of this many-faceted story is that all biographies are only versions of the facts. Shields follows her heroine, Daisy Goodwill Hoad Flett, from her birth--and her mother's death--on the kitchen floor of a stonemason's cottage in a small quarry town in Manitoba through childhood in Winnipeg, adolescence and young womanhood in Bloomington, Ind. (another quarry town), two marriages, motherhood, widowhood, a brief, exhilarating career in Ottawa--and eventually to old age and death in Florida. Stone is the unifying image here: it affects the geography of Daisy's life, and ultimately her vision of herself. Wittily, ironically, touchingly, Shields gives us Daisy's version of her life and contrasting interpretations of events from her friends, children and extended family. (She even provides ostensible photographs of Daisy's family and friends.) Shields's prose is succint, clear and graceful, and she is wizardly with description, summarizing appearance, disposition and inner lives with elegant imagery. Secondary characters are equally compelling, especially Daisy's obese, phlegmatic mother; her meek, obsessive father, who transforms himself into an overbearing executive; her adoptive mother, her stubborn father-in-law.
Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women - (Geraldine Brooks) - Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women is the story of Brook's intrepid journey toward an understanding of the women behind the veils, and of the often contradictory political, religious, and cultural forces that shape their lives. In fundamentalist Iran, Brooks finagles an invitation to tea with the ayatollah's widow - and discovers that Mrs. Khomeini dyes her hair. In Saudi Arabia, she eludes the severe segregation of the sexes and attends a bacchanal, laying bare the hypocrisy of this austere, male-dominated society. In war-torn Ethiopia, she watches as a female gynecologist repairs women who have undergone genital mutilation justified by a distorted interpretation of Islam. In villages and capitals throughout the Middle East, she finds that a feminism of sorts has flowered under the forbidding shroud of the chador as she makes other startling discoveries that defy our stereotypes about the Muslim world. Nine Parts of Desire is much more than a captivating work of firsthand reportage; it is also an acute analysis of the world's fastest-growing religion, deftly illustrating how Islam's holiest texts have been misused to justify the repression of women. It was, after all, the Shiite leader Ali who proclaimed that "God created sexual desire in ten parts, then gave nine parts to women." Jump to a review of: Geraldine Brooks: YEAR OF WONDERS: A NOVEL OF THE PLAGUE
Middlemarch - (George Eliot aka Mary Anne Evans) - Strangled by the confining terms of her late husband's will, an idealistic young woman throws herself into the struggle for medical reforms advocated by a visionary doctor. Considered by many to be Eliot's finest work and one of the best novels in English ever written. Jump to a review of: GEORGE ELIOT: The Last Victorian by Kathryn Hughes.
Middlesex - (Jeffrey Eugenides) - In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides finds herself drawn to a classmate at her girls' school in Grosse Point, Michigan. That passion -- along with her failure to develop -- leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. The explanation for this is a rare genetic mutation -- and a guilty secret -- that have followed Callie's grandparents from the crumbling Ottoman Empire to Prohibition-era Detroit and beyond, outlasting the glory days of the Motor City, the race riots of 1967, and the family's second migration, into the foreign country known as suburbia. Thanks to the gene, Callie is part girl, part boy. And even though the gene's epic travels have ended, her own odyssey has only begun. Jump to the New York Times Review.
A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance - (Jane Juska) - “Round-heeled” is an old-fashioned label for a woman who is promiscuous—someone who nowadays might be called “easy.” It’s a surprising way for a cultured English teacher with a passion for the novels of Anthony Trollope to describe herself, but then that’s just the first of many surprises to be found in this poignant, funny, utterly unique memoir. Jane Juska is a smart, energetic divorcée who decided she’d been celibate too long, and placed the following personal ad in her favorite newspaper, The New York Review of Books: Before I turn 67—next March—I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me. This closing reference was a nod to her favorite author, of course. The response was overwhelming, and Juska took a sabbatical from teaching to meet some of the men who had replied. And since her ad made it clear that she wasn’t expecting just hand-holding, her dates zipped from first base to home plate in record time. Juska is a totally engaging, perceptive writer, funny and frank about her exploits. It’s high time someone revealed the fact that older single people are as eager for sex and intimacy as their younger counterparts. Jane Juska’s brave, honest memoir will probably raise eyebrows and blood pressure, but it will undoubtedly appeal to the very large audience of grown-up readers who will be fascinated and inspired by her daring adventure. Jump to the NYT article.
The Devil in the White City - (Erik Larson) - "Two men, each handsome and unusually adept at his chosen work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America's rush toward the twentieth century. The architect was Daniel Hudson Burnham, the fair's brilliant director of works and the builder of many of the country's most important structures, including the Flatiron Building in New York and Union Station in Washington, D.C. The murderer was Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor who, in a malign parody of the White City, built his "World's Fair Hotel" just west of the fairgrounds - a torture palace complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and 3,000-degree crematorium. Burnham overcame tremendous obstacles and tragedies as he organized the talents of Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles McKim, Louis Sullivan, and others to transform swampy Jackson Park into the White City, while Holmes used the attraction of the great fair and his own satanic charms to lure scores of young women to their deaths. What makes the story all the more chilling is that Holmes really lived, walking the grounds of that dream city by the lake." The Devil in the White City draws the reader into a time of magic and majesty, made all the more appealing by a supporting cast of real-life characters, including Buffalo Bill, Theodore Dreiser, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and others. In this book the smoke, romance, and mystery of the Gilded Age come alive as never before. Jump to the New York Times Review.
Morality for Beautiful Girls - (Alexander McCall Smith) - In Morality for Beautiful Girls, Ramotswe tangles with a feral child, the finalists in a beauty pageant and a suspicious cook. Jump to the New York Times Review.
Iron and Silk - (Mark Salzman) - Salzman captures post-cultural revolution China through his adventures as a young American English teacher in China and his shifu-tudi (master-student) relationship with China's foremost martial arts teacher.
Madame Secretary: A Memoir - (Madeline Albright) - "It was a quarter to ten. I was sipping coffee, but by then my body was manufacturing its own caffeine. I still couldn't allow myself to believe. Finally, at 9:47, the call came. 'I want you to be my Secretary of State.' These are his first words. I finally believed it." For eight years, during Bill Clinton's two presidential terms, Madeleine Albright was an active participant in the most dramatic events of recent times—from the pursuit of peace in the Middle East to NATO's humanitarian intervention in Kosovo. Now, in an outspoken memoir, the highest-ranking woman in American history shares her remarkable story and provides an insider's view of world affairs during a period of unprecedented turbulence.
The story begins with Albright's childhood as a Czechoslovak refugee, whose family first fled Hitler, then the Communists. Arriving in the United States at the age of eleven, she grew up to be a passionate advocate of civil and women's rights and followed a zigzag path to a career that ultimately placed her in the upper stratosphere of diplomacy and policy-making in her adopted country. She became the first woman to serve as America's secretary of state and one of the most admired individuals of our era. Refreshingly candid, Madam Secretary brings to life the world leaders Albright dealt with face-to-face in her years of service and the battles she fought to prove her worth in a male-dominated arena. There are intriguing portraits of such leading figures as Vaclav Havel, Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, King Hussein, Vladimir Putin, Slobodan Milosevic, and North Korea's mysterious Kim Jong-Il, as well as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Colin Powell, and Jesse Helms. Besides her encounters with the famous and powerful, we get to know Albright the private woman: her life raising three daughters, the painful breakup of her marriage to the scion of one of America's leading newspapers families, and the discovery late in life of her Jewish ancestry and that her grandparents had died in Nazi concentration camps. Jump to the New York Times Review. Jump to the New York Times Review #2
The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home - (George Howe Colt) - In this intimate and poignant history of a sprawling century-old summer house on Cape Cod, George Howe Colt reveals not just one family's fascinating story but a vanishing way of life. Faced with the sale of the treasured house where he had spent forty-two summers, Colt returned for one last August with his wife and young children. The Big House, the author's loving tribute to his one-of-a-kind family home, interweaves glimpses of that elegiac final visit with memories of earlier summers spent at the house and of the equally idiosyncratic people who lived there over the course of five generations. Built by Colt's great-grandfather one hundred years ago on a deserted Cape Cod peninsula, the house is a local landmark (neighboring children know it as the Ghost House): a four-story, eleven-bedroom jumble of gables, bays, sloped roofs, and dormers. The emotional home of the Colt family, the Big House has watched over five weddings, four divorces, and three deaths, along with countless anniversaries, birthday parties, nervous breakdowns, and love affairs. Beaten by wind and rain, insulated by seaweed, it is both romantic and run-down, a symbol of the faded glory of the Boston Brahmin aristocracy. With a mixture of amusement and affection, Colt traces the rise and fall of this tragicomic social class while memorably capturing the essence of summer's ephemeral pleasures: sailing, tennis, fishing, rainy-day reading. Time seems to stand still in a summer house, and for the Colts the Big House always seemed an unchanging place in a changing world. But summer draws to a close, and the family must eventually say good-bye. Jump to the New York Times Review.
Tears of the Giraffe - (Alexander McCall Smith) - From Publisher's Weekly: Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency) offers the second .... installment of his dignified, humorous Botswanan series. In Tears of the Giraffe, PI Precious Ramotswe tracks a missing American man whose widowed mother appeals to Ramotswe; meanwhile, the imperturbable detective is endangered at home by her fiance's resentful maid. Jump to the New York Times Review.
Incidents in the Rue Laugier - (Anita Brookner) - Anita Brookner tells of Maud Gonthier, a demure and serious young woman from Dijon, who is introduced to desire by the fascinating, rich David Tyler. They meet one summer at her aunt's comfortable country home; the innocent Maud falls instantly and passionately in love. She follows Tyler to Paris, and when he abruptly disappears, Maud is left with his friend Edward to pick up the pieces of her life. Jump to the New York Times Review.
The Namesake - (Jhumpa Lahiri) - In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. ... The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along a first-generation path strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. Jump to the New York Times Review. Jump to the New York Times Review #2.
The Human Stain - (Philip Roth) - Audio tape, read by Arliss Howard and Debra Winger. It is 1998, the year in which America is whipped into a frenzy of prurience by the impeachment of a president, and in a small New England town, an aging classics professor, Coleman Silk, is forced to retire when his colleagues decree that he is a racist. The charge is a lie, but the real truth about Silk would have astonished even his most virulent accuser. Coleman Silk has a secret, one which has been kept for fifty years from his wife, his four children, his colleagues, and his friends, including the writer Nathan Zuckerman. It is Zuckerman who stumbles upon Silk's secret and sets out to reconstruct the unknown biography of this eminent, upright man, esteemed as an educator for nearly all his life, and to understand how this ingeniously contrived life came unraveled. And to understand also how Silk's astonishing private history is, in the words of The Wall Street Journal, "magnificently" interwoven with "the larger public history of modern America." Jump to the New York Times Review. Jump to the New York Times Review #2.
The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency - (Alexander McCall Smith) - The No.1 Ladies´ Detective Agency, located in Gaborone, Botswana, consists of one woman, the engaging Precious Ramotswe. A cross between Kinsey Millhone and Miss Marple, this unlikely heroine specializes in missing husbands, wayward daughters, con men and imposters. When she sets out on the trail of a missing child she is tumbled headlong into some strange situations and not a little danger. Deftly interweaving tragedy and humor to create a memorable tale of human desires and foibles, the book is also an evocative portrait of a distant world. Jump to the New York Times Review.
Better Than Prozac: Creating the Next Generation of Psychiatric Drugs - (Samuel H. Barondes) - Every day millions of people take psychiatric drugs. In Better Than Prozac Samuel Barondes considers the benefits and limitations of Prozac, Ritalin, Valium, Risperdal, and other widely used medications, and the ways that superior ones are being created. In tracing the early history of these drugs Barondes describes the accidental observations that led to their discovery, and their great impact on our view of mental illness. He goes on to show how their unexpected therapeutic effects were attributed to their influence on neurotransmitters that carry signals in the brain, and how this guided their improvement. But Barondes reminds us that, like the originals, current psychiatric drugs don't always work, and often have negative side effects. Furthermore, none were crafted as remedies for known brain abnormalities. In contrast, the design of the drugs of the future will be based on a different approach: an understanding of the molecular mechanisms that give rise to specific patterns of mental symptoms. Using colorful examples of contemporary research, he shows how it is gradually leading to a new generation of psychiatric medications. A lucid evaluation of psychopharmacology, Better Than Prozac offers a deep understanding of psychiatric drugs for people who take them, those who are considering them, and those who are just fascinated by the powerful effects of these simple chemicals on our thoughts and our feelings.
Letters to a Young Therapist - (Mary Pipher) - "Letters to a Young Therapist gives voice to Mary Pipher's practice with a mix of storytelling and sharp-eyed observation. Much of what she tells us is profound in its simplicity: "Good therapy helps people be kinder, calmer and more authentic. They become more awake, more tolerant and altruistic."" Mary Pipher takes a refreshingly inventive approach to therapy - fiercely optimistic, free of dogma or psychobabble, and laced with generous wisdom. In an increasingly stressful world, she offers "therapy for our times," showing us how to revitalize our emotional landscapes and get back to basics. Whether she's recommending daily swims for a sluggish teenager, encouraging a timid husband to become bolder, or simply bearing witness to a bereaved parent's sorrow, Pipher's warmth and insight shine from every page of this powerfully engaging guide to living a healthy life.
A Mighty Heart - (Mariane Pearl) - In A Mighty Heart, a courageous woman tells us the terrifying and unforgettable story of her husband's life and death. For five weeks the world watched and worried about Danny Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan. And then came the news of his shocking and brutal murder. Danny's reasons for being in Karachi, the complete story of his abduction, and the intense effort to find him are told here for the first time. Mariane and Danny Pearl were working in South Asia, as they had been elsewhere in the world, because they believed that good reporting is essential to our understanding of ethnic and religious conflict around the globe. They knew the risks inherent in the life they chose and took conscientious precautions. The courage of Danny and Mariane is extraordinary, yet we are dependent on brave journalists everywhere to produce news coverage that educates us. There are many mighty hearts in the Pearl story, many brave people who helped Mariane in her search for her abducted husband. We learn, through the urgent tracing of Danny's last movements, about the terrorists' methods, ideologies, and ruthless violence. As soon as Pearl was discovered missing, a global effort began to locate him and identify his captors - a race against the clock that spanned the dangerous fissures of culture and politics and language that separate Islamic terrorists and America. Jump to the New York Times Review.
The Fortress of Solitude - (Jonathan Lethem) - This is the story of two boys, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude. They are friends and neighbors, but because Dylan is white and Mingus is black, their friendship is not simple. This is the story of their Brooklyn neighborhood, which is almost exclusively black despite the first whispers of something that will become known as "gentrification." This is the story of 1970s America, a time when the most simple human decisions—what music you listen to, whether to speak to the kid in the seat next to you, whether to give up your lunch money—are laden with potential political, social and racial disaster. This is the story of 1990s America, when no one cared anymore. This is the story of punk, that easy white rebellion, and crack, that monstrous plague. This is the story of the loneliness of the avant-garde artist and the exuberance of the graffiti artist. This is the story of what would happen if two teenaged boys obsessed with comic book heroes actually had superpowers: They would screw up their lives. This is the story of joyous afternoons of stickball and dreaded years of schoolyard extortion. This is the story of belonging to a society that doesn't accept you. This is the story of prison and of college, of Brooklyn and Berkeley, of soul and rap, of murder and redemption. This is the story Jonathan Lethem was born to tell. This is The Fortress of Solitude. Jump to the New York Times Review.
Looking for Spinoza; Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain - (Antonio Damasio) - "Here, in a humane work of science, Damasio draws on his innovative research and on his experience with neurological patients to examine how feelings and the emotions that underlie them support the human spirit's greatest creations." Damasio's new book focuses on what feelings are and reveals the biology of our survival mechanisms. It rediscovers a thinker whose work prefigures modern neuroscience, not only in his emphasis on emotions and feelings, but also in his refusal to separate mind and body. Together, the scientist and the philosopher help us understand what we are made of and what we are here for. Based on laboratory investigations but mindful of society and culture, Looking for Spinoza offers unexpected grounds for optimism about the human condition and is a masterwork of science and writing. Jump to the New York Times Review.
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank - (Thad Carhart) - Walking his two young children to school every morning, expatriate Thad Carhart passes an unassuming little storefront in his Paris neighborhood that seems to hide rather than advertise its wares. One day, intrigued by its simple sign--Desforges Pianos--and the arcane collection of repair tools in its curtained window, he enters, only to have his way barred by the atelier's imperious owner. But, unable to stifle his curiosity, he finally lands the proper introduction and the doors open to the quartier's most intriguing hangout. On Fridays the hidden back of the shop, crammed full of dismantled pianos, becomes an improbable cafe, where locals--from university professors to car mechanics--gather to discuss music, love, and life over a glass of wine. Jump to the New York Times Review.
The Da Vinci Code - (Dan Brown) - While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call: the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher. While working to solve the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci -- clues visible for all to see -- yet ingeniously disguised by the painter. Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, and learns the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion -- an actual secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci, among others. In a breathless race through Paris, London, and beyond, Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker who seems to anticipate their every move. Unless Langdon and Neveu can deipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory's ancient secret -- and an explosive hysterical truth -- will be lost forever. Jump to the New York Times review.
A Patriot's Handbook - (ED: Caroline Kennedy) - Caroline Kennedy shares an inspiring collection of patriotic poems, song lyrics, historical documents, and speeches. The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a blockbuster success, remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for 15 weeks with more than 500,000 copies in print. Now, Caroline Kennedy shares with readers an assortment of her own favorite American writings. The works collected here -- which span centuries and styles -- have one thing in common: all are emblematic of our country's patriotism and pride. Caroline Kennedy researched all of the selections included in A Patriot's Handbook, wrote the introduction, and added personal commentary to each section. This elegantly packaged collection is the perfect gift for anyone in search of a reminder of what our country's spirit is made of. "Over the past year we have all thought about what it means to be an American. I realized that I want my own children to know more about the ideals upon which this country was founded and the sacrifices that have been made to pass them on to us. This book is intended to help families explore the foundations of our freedom and to celebrate our heritage."(Caroline Kennedy) Jump to the New York Times review.
The Thief Lord - (Cornelia Funke) - Prosper and Bo are orphans on the run from their cruel aunt and uncle. The brothers decide to hide out in Venice, where they meet a mysterious thirteen-year-old boy who calls himself the "Thief Lord." Brilliant and charismatic, the Thief Lord leads a ring of street children who dabble in petty crimes. Prosper and Bo delight in being part of this colorful new family. But the Thief Lord has secrets of his own. And soon the boys are thrust into circumstances that will lead them to a fantastic, spellbinding conclusion.
Why Is It Always About You - (Sandy Hotchkiss) - If you pick up this book hoping to understand or deal with the narcissist(s) in your life, more than likely you'll walk away figuring you're one yourself. You know the old adage: "It takes one to know one." And guess what, after reading this book, you'll know even more about yourself! Sound narcissistic? According to Hotchkiss, we've all got a touch of that ancient Greek god in us, but some of us, unfortunately, might have an extra helping of some of the characteristics associated with narcissism -- egomania, greediness, insensitivity, etc., etc., etc. Well, now you can learn to keep those darned navel-gazers at bay with the tips and information in this guide. And, just for good measure, you might learn a thing or two about improving the way you relate to others. (Barnes and Nobel Editors)
The Language of Feelings - (David Viscott) -
Q is for Quarry - (Sue Grafton) - "She was a "Jane Doe," an unidentified white female whose decomposed body was discovered near a quarry off California's Highway 1. The case fell to the Santa Teresa County Sheriff's Department, but the detectives had little to go on. The woman was young, her hands were bound with a length of wire, there were multiple stab wounds, and her throat had been slashed. After months of investigation, the case remained unsolved." "That was eighteen years go. Now, the two men who found the body, both nearing the end of long careers in law enforcement, want one last shot at the case. Old and ill, they need someone to do the legwork for them, and they turn to Kinsey Millhone. They will, they tell her, find closure if they can just identify the victim. Kinsey is intrigued with the challenge and agrees to work with them." But revisiting the past can be a dangerous business, and what begins with the pursuit of Jane Doe's real identity ends in a high-risk hunt for her killer.
Self-Esteem - (Matthew McKay) - Are you your own worst enemy? Are you devastated by criticism? Do you have trouble telling your loved ones what you really need? If you said yes, you're a victim of low self-esteem. Learn to be your own best friend! This easy, step-by-step program can start changing that today! You can radically improve the way you feel about yourself and discover an attractive, confident, and happier you.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - (J. K. Rowling) - There is a Door at the end of a silent corridor. And it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror? Here are just a few things on Harry's mind: A Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey. A venomous, disgruntled house-elf. Ron as keeper of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. The looming terror of the end-of-term Ordinary Wizarding Level exams ... and of course, the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. In the richest installment yet of J. K. Rowling's seven-part story, Harry Potter is faced with the unreliability of the very government of the magical world and the impotence of the authorities at Hogwarts. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty; and unbearable sacrifice. Though thick runs the plot (as well as the spine), readers will race through these pages and leave Hogwarts, like Harry, wishing only for the next train back.
The Metaphysical Club - A Story of Ideas in America - (Louis Menand) - The Civil War made America a modern nation, unleashing forces of industrialism and expansion that had been kept in check for decades by the quarrel over slavery. But the war also discredited the ideas and beliefs of the era that preceded it. The Civil War swept away the slave civilization of the South, but almost the whole intellectual culture of the North went with it. It took nearly half a century for Americans to develop a set of ideas, a way of thinking, that would help them cope with the conditions of modern life. That struggle is the subject of this book. The story told in The Metaphysical Club runs through the lives of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., a Civil War hero who became the dominant legal thinker of his time; his best friend as a young man, William James, son of an eccentric moral philosopher, brother of a great novelist, and the father of modern psychology in America; and the brilliant and troubled logician, scientist, and founder of semiotics, Charles Sanders Peirce. Together they belonged to an informal discussion group that met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872 and called itself the Metaphysical Club. The club was probably in existence for only nine months, and no records were kept. The one thing we know that came out of it was an idea an idea about ideas, about the role beliefs play in people's lives. This idea informs the writings of these three thinkers, and the work of the fourth figure in the book, John Dewey -- student of Peirce, friend and ally of James, admirer of Holmes. The Metaphysical Club begins with the Civil War and ends in 1919 with the Supreme Court decision in Abrams v. U.S., the basis for the modern law of free speech. It tells the story of the creation of ideas and values that changed the way Americans think and the way they live. Jump to the New York Times review.
Inventing Wonderland - Victorian Childhood as Seen Through the Lives and Fantasies of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, J.M. Barrie, Kenneth Grahame and A.A. Milne - (Jackie Wullschlager) - In creating Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, girl-obsessed loner Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) achieved a breakthrough in children's literature, a work unparalleled in its freedom of thought and spirit, observes Wullschlager. In her judgment, Edward Lear's fantastical poems celebrate his escape from Victorian narrow-mindedness but also hint at a sense of alienation heightened by his secret homosexuality. Peter Pan- the naughty boy who refuses to grow up - mirrors his creator, James M. Barrie, an "emotional outsider" who idealized his mother, was unable to relate to his wife and compulsively played with other people's children. Frustrated banker Kenneth Grahame poured into The Wind in the Willows his disappointments, fears and hopes, partly reflecting his inability to accept his disabled, semi-blind son Alastair, who committed suicide at 19. For Financial Times feature writer Wullschlager, A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh series crystallizes the 1920s' desire for escape, light-headedness and nostalgia. A joy to read, the author's delightfully illustrated study revises our understanding of children's literature as a cultural barometer mirroring adult anxieties and aspirations. -- From Publishers Weekly Jump to the New York Times Review.
The Professor and the Madman - A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary - (Simon Winchester) - The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story - a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking. Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray's offer was regularly - and mysteriously - refused. Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor - that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane - and locked up in Broadmoor, England's harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.. Jump to the New York Times Review.
John Adams - (David McCullough) - One of America's greatest storytellers has turned to one of America's greatest stories as the source for his most recent inspiration: a tale of one of the most influential, and often the most misunderstood, Founding Fathers: John Adams. The result is a tour de force and pure joy for the reader. Pulitzer. Jump to the New York Times Review.
The Red Tent - (Anita Diamant) - Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah's voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood - the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers - Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah - the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that are to sustain her through a damaged youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Jump to the New York Times Review.
On Writing - (Stephen King) - Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.. Jump to the NY Times Review.
Bridget Jones's Diary - (Helen Fielding) - Bridget struggles to keep her life on an even keel — or at least afloat. Whenever her plans meet with disaster, she manages to pick herself up, go out on the town, and tell herself it will be all right in the morning, when life will definitely be different this time and totally alcohol, calorie, and perverted-misogynist free. Jump to the NY Times Review.
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage - (Alice Munro) - Nine stories draw us immediately into that special place known as Alice Munro territory–a place where an unexpected twist of events or a suddenly recaptured memory can illumine the arc of an entire life. The fate of a strong-minded housekeeper with a “frizz of reddish hair,” just entering the dangerous country of old-maidhood, is unintentionally (and deliciously) reversed by a teenaged girl’s practical joke. A college student visiting her aunt for the first time and recognizing the family furniture stumbles on a long-hidden secret and its meaning in her own life. An inveterate philanderer finds the tables turned when he puts his wife into an old-age home. A young cancer patient stunned by good news discovers a perfect bridge to her suddenly regained future. A woman recollecting an afternoon’s wild lovemaking with a stranger realizes how the memory of that encounter has both changed for her and sustained her through a lifetime. Men and women are subtly revealed. Personal histories, both complex and simple, unfold in rich detail of circumstance and feeling. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage provides the deep pleasures and rewards that Alice Munro’s large and ever- growing audience has come to expect. Jump to the NY Times Review. Original NYT Review.
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