my reading lists

When we were kids, our dad would hide books in his closet to give to me and my brothers at his whim. Those gifts were a lifetime gift.

Ever since I was a child, I've loved reading. I love talking about books. I love helping readers find the right next book to read. Along with haircutting, I am employed as a part time bookseller at Literati Bookstore in downtown Ann Arbor.  I've been creating reading lists for Literati's blog, found on their website. I'm sharing those lists with you here. Enjoy! Let's talk about the books!


One of the stay-at-home activities many people have turned to is Zoom Happy Hours. I've created a list of books to help you make your happy hours perfect! Includes alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktail recipe books and appetizer books to go with.


What The F**k Should I Drink?: The Answer to LIfe’s Most Important Question of the Day

Today's most important question: what the F*@# should I drink? We've all there — it’s been a long day of self-quarantining with your kids and your just want to have a drink, but which drink? There are so many options, how do you decide? What the F*@# Should I Drink? provides over 75 recipes for everything from a Sidecar to a Moscow Mule to whatever the f*@# a Caipirinha is. They're easy to mix and even easier to drink, and soon you'll forget the original question.

Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist

Even if you don't have a B.A. in English, with this book you can drink like you do! From barflies to book clubs, Tequila Mockingbird is the world's bestselling cocktail book for the literary obsessed. Featuring 65 delicious drink recipes paired with wry commentary on history's most beloved novels, Tequila Mockingbird also includes bar bites, drinking games, and whimsical illustrations throughout. 


The Essential Bar Book: An A-To-Z Guide to Spirits, Cocktails, and Wine

A comprehensive bartending guide for professional and home bartenders that includes history, lore, and 115 recipes complete with indispensable information about everything boozy that’s good to drink. This easy-to-navigate A-to-Z guide covers it all, from the tools of the trade to the history and mythology behind classic and modern drinks.


Literary Libations: What To Drink With What You Read

The definitive guide to pairing books and booze, with recipes. A bubbly, boozy French 75 with The Great Gatsby. Trappist beer with Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. Old vine California Zinfandel with The Grapes of Wrath. And don’t you dare open Bram Stoker’s Dracula without a Bloody Mary near at hand. Organized by genre, Literary Libations offers pairing recommendations for nearly two hundred works of fiction—plus fascinating background information on both the books and the beverages.

Mocktail: The Complete Bartender’s Guide

When a cocktail isn't the right choice, it's time to enjoy a mocktail: delectable, refreshing soda and juice-based blends that forgo the alcohol but keep the flavor. There's more than a standard-issue Virgin Mary or a Shirley Temple on the menu here. Bartender Kester Thompson understands that you can't just forget the tequila in the margarita or the rum in the daiquiri; the flavor won't be right that way. Instead, he's whipped up a host of gourmet sensations, some meant for a sophisticated palate, others designed to please a thirsty child.


How To Be Sober and Keep Your Friends

Turning down a drink isn't easy. Not only do you have to deal with your own needs and desires for that chilled and glistening glass of white, you also have to tackle the: "Why aren't you drinking?" "Are you pregnant?" "Go on... just one!" And the worst one of all: "You're no fun without a drink!” This book shows you how and why you can still be the life and soul of the party, keep your friends, and not drink. Through a broad range of tips and tricks, you'll feel empowered to take on those trigger moments (stressful work day; challenging family life; break ups), as well as classic big occasions (the wedding toast; the bachelorette party; the Christmas party).


How To Drink Without Drinking

Whether you're yearning for a watermelon cooler or an alcohol-free fruit punch or simply wish to make a pair of herb-flavored spritzes for another quarantined night in, this book proves that 'no-lo' drinks are every bit as interesting as alcohol. Learn how to create flavorsome, delicious drinks so that anyone can join in a party or celebration. Sections include water, drinks made with nonalcoholic wine, drinking vinegars and shrubs, syrups and cordials, alcohol-free and low-alcohol cocktails, wines, beers and spirits. Includes tips and recipes for flavoring waters, creating rhubarb bellinis and marmalade bucks fizz, as well as delicious cardamom syrups, roiboos tea punch and root beer floats.

The Hangover Cookbook

Everything you need to know to assess, understand, and improve a hangover is here: dozens of comforting recipes, very clever graphic tests for analyzing your state of mind, and quizzes for tracking your progress. With P. G. Wodehouse’s six hangovers—The Broken Compass, The Sewing Machine, The Comet, The Atomic, The Cement Mixer, and The Gremlin Boogie—as a starting point, recipes are tailored to each specific malady, allowing the reader to find a recipe (or just a menu item) that precisely suits his state of mind . . . and body. 


The Drunken Cookbook

Replete with satirical commentary on the vicissitudes of inebriation, The Drunken Cookbook also includes a series of tests to help the reader determine how drunk he or she is. The book akes into account the reader's intoxicated state and limited capacity to understand directions; safety warnings are a feature of each recipe, and risky techniques (like deep-fat frying) are excluded from the text.


Creative Haven Happy Hour! A Wine, Beer, and Cocktails Coloring Book

A coloring book to make your happy hour even happier! A collection of cocktail art features popular adult drinks, including Bloody Mary, Cosmopolitan, Tequila Sunrise, more. Recipes for each drink are included.


Platters and Boards: Beautiful, Casual Spread for Every Occasion

A mouth-watering resource for throwing unforgettable get-togethers. Organized by time of day, 40 contemporary arrangements are presented with gorgeous photography, easy-to-prepare recipes, suggested meat and drink pairings, and notes on preparation and presentation. Includes With recipes and presentation ideas for breakfast, brunch, appetizer, antipasto, charcuterie, and cheese boards to share with friends and family.

Small Planet, Small Plates: Earth-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes

From the tempting coconut milk rich dishes of South India, to the warming bean and chili concoctions of South America; from the fragrant soups and stir-fries of Thailand to the delicate wat stews of Ethiopia, this cookbook has intriguing tastes for every palate. Presented in mezze (or spread of dishes) style--dips that can also accompany a main dish; crispy salads that you may like to start a meal with; a "main" course that could also be a starter and vice versa.


The Mezze Cookbook: Sharing Plates from the Middle East

A collection of exotic sharing-plate recipes from across the Middle East. Divided by style of dish, the book features meat-based and vegetarian dishes, along with suggested mezze-style menus and a glossary of ingredients. From Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini and Smoked Paprika to Pistachio and Pomegranate Cakes, The Mezze Cookbook is packed with great appetizer recipes.

          — NOIR — crime fiction featuring hard-boiled characters and dark sleazy settings

This is as perfect a time as any to get completely lost in the highly entertaining genre of 20th century American noir writing. Discover this vivid hard-boiled subset of the mystery genre — dark fiction featuring femme fatales, PI’s, and great murder mysteries. These authors are the best of the best, featuring a hand-picked selection of my favorites written by my favorites.



The Maltese Falcon

Sam Spade is hired by the fragrant Miss Wonderley to track down her sister, who has eloped with a louse called Floyd Thursby. But Miss Wonderley is in fact the beautiful and treacherous Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and when Spade's partner Miles Archer is shot while on Thursby's trail, Spade finds himself both hunter and hunted: can he track down the jewel-encrusted bird, a treasure worth killing for, before the Fat Man finds him? First published in 1930, The Maltese Falcon stands today as one of the classics of both suspense literature and American writing.


The Thin Man

Originally published in 1933, The Thin Man is the story of respectable people who are prepared to murder between drinks — and do just tha. Nick and Nora Charles are Hammett's most enchanting creations, a rich and glamorous couple who solve homicides in between wisecracks and martinis. At once knowing and unabashedly romantic, The Thin Man is a murder mystery that doubles as a sophisticated comedy of manners.


The Continental Op, one of Hammett’s fictional characters, is a private investigator employed as an operative of the Continental Detective Agency's San Francisco office. The stories are all told in the first person and his name is never given. These two novels feature him:


Red Harvest

Considered to be one of Hammett's masterpieces, this is the most vivid and realistic picture of gang war ever written — and one of the most exciting of all suspense novels. When the last honest citizen of Poisonville was murdered, the Continental Op stayed on to punish the guilty--even if that meant taking on an entire town. More than a superb crime novel, it is a classic exploration of corruption and violence in the American grain.


The Dain Curse

Everything about the Leggett diamond heist indicated to the Continental Op that it was an inside job. From the stray diamond found in the yard to the eyewitness accounts of a "strange man" casing the house, everything was just too pat. Gabrielle Dain-Leggett has enough secrets to fill a closet, and when she disappears shortly after the robbery, she becomes the Op's prime suspect. But her father, Edgar Leggett, keeps some strange company himself and has a dark side the moon would envy. Before he can solve the riddle of the diamond theft, the Continental Op must first solve the mystery of this strange family.


The Glass Key

Paul Madvig was a cheerfully corrupt ward-heeler who aspired to something better: the daughter of Senator Ralph Bancroft Henry, the heiress to a dynasty of political purebreds. Did he want her badly enough to commit murder? And if Madvig was innocent, which of his dozens of enemies was doing an awfully good job of framing him? Dashiell Hammett's tour de force of detective fiction combines an airtight plot, authentically venal characters, and writing of telegraphic crispness.



The Maltese Falcon, the Thin Man, Red Harvest (Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics )

These three classic novels, published here in one volume, are rich with the crisp prose, subtle characters, and intricate plots that made Dashiell Hammett one of the most admired writers of the 20th century. 


The Dain Curse, the Glass Key, and Selected Stories ( Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics )

 Dashiell Hammett gave us crime fiction stripped down to its most subtle and searing essentials and, at the same time, elevated to literature. The diamond-sharp prose and artfully manipulated intrigue for which he is known are on full display in the four classic short stories and two riveting novels published here in one volume.



The Postman Always Rings Twice

Cain's first novel - the subject of an obscenity trial in Boston and the inspiration for Camus's The Stranger - is the fever-pitched tale of a drifter who stumbles into a job, into an erotic obsession, and into a murder.


Mildred Pierce

Noir master James M. Cain creates a novel of acute social observation and devasting emotional violence, with a heroine whose ambitions and sufferings are never less than recognizable. Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men, and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter.


Double Indemnity 

Tautly narrated and excruciatingly suspenseful, Double Indemnity gives us an X-ray view of guilt, of duplicity, and of the kind of obsessive, loveless love that devastates everything it touches. First published in 1935, this novel reaffirmed James M. Cain as a virtuoso of the roman noir.


Double Indemnity (The Hollywood Film)

This is one of the most admired and loved--if you can use that word for a movie about murder--films ever, the quintessential film noir/femme fatale/existential LA movie, from 1944. It also has one of the greatest pedigrees of any Hollywood film; a screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler, based on a novel by James M. Cain.



Philip Marlowe is Chandler’s fictional character, Philip Marlowe, is a a Los Angeles P.I. who is well-connected to the underworld and sleazy side of the city.  Chandler wrote a number of books featuring Marlowe.


The Big Sleep

Chandler's first novel, published in 1939, introduces Marlowe, as a 38-year-old P.I. moving through the seamy side of 1930s LA. The Big Sleep is a classic case involving a paralyzed California millionaire and his two psychotic daughters, complete with blackmail and murder. This book established Chandler as the master of the 'hard-boiled' detective novel, and his articulate and literary style of writing won him a large audience, which ranged from the man in the street to the most sophisticated intellectual.


The Lady in the Lake

A couple of missing wives—one a rich man's and one a poor man's—become the objects of Marlowe's investigation. One of them may have gotten a Mexican divorce and married a gigolo and the other may be dead. Marlowe's not sure he cares about either one, but he's not paid to care.


Farewell, My Lovely

Marlowe's about to give up on a completely routine case when he finds himself in the wrong place at the right time to get caught up in a murder that leads to a ring of jewel thieves, another murder, a fortune-teller, a couple more murders, and more corruption than your average graveyard.


The Long Goodbye

Down-and-out drunk Terry Lennox has a problem: his millionaire wife is dead and he needs to get out of LA fast. So he turns to the only friend he can trust: private investigator Philip Marlowe. Marlowe is willing to help a man down on his luck, but later Lennox commits suicide in Mexico and things start to turn nasty. Marlowe is drawn into a sordid crowd of adulterers and alcoholics in LA's Idle Valley, where the rich are suffering one big suntanned hangover. Marlowe is sure Lennox didn't kill his wife, but how many stiffs will turn up before he gets to the truth?



L.A. Confidential

Christmas 1951, Los Angeles: a city where the police are as corrupt as the criminals. Six prisoners are beaten senseless in their cells by cops crazed on alcohol. For the three LAPD detectives involved, it will expose the guilty secrets on which they have built their corrupt and violent careers. The novel takes these cops on a sprawling epic of brutal violence and the murderous seedy side of Hollywood. One of the best crime novels ever written, it is the heart of Ellroy's four-novel masterpiece, the LA Quartet, and an example of crime writing at its most powerful.


The Black Dahlia

On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful young woman is found in a vacant lot. The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia—and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history. Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends, and rivals in love with the same woman. But both are obsessed with the Dahlia—driven by dark needs to know everything about her past, to capture her killer, to possess the woman even in death. Their quest will take them on a hellish journey through the underbelly of postwar Hollywood, to the core of the dead girl's twisted life, past the extremes of their own psyches—into a region of total madness. 


Because the Night

A botched liquor store heist leaves three grisly dead. A hero cop is missing. Nobody could see a pattern in these two stray bits of information-no one except Detective Sergeant Lloyd Hopkins, a brilliant and disturbed L.A. cop with an obsessive desire to protect the innocent. To him they lead to one horrifying conclusion — a killer is on the loose and preying on his city. From the master of L.A. noir comes this beautiful and brutal tale of a cop and a criminal squared off in a life and death struggle.


The Big Nowhere

From the widely acclaimed author of "L.A. Confidential" comes the absorbing story of three man caught in a massive web of ambition, perversion, and deceit in the Hollywood of 1950".

          — THE BIRDS AND THE BEES —
It’s springtime and our fair little feathered and winged friends are back to share the season with us. Learn more about them here.


H Is For Hawk - Helen Macdonald

Following the sudden death of her father, nature author and poet Helen Macdonald adopted Mabel, a Goshawk, as a means to cope with her grief. The book is a painful eulogy, a heartbreaking memoir, a training manual, and a journey into the heaing process. Macdonald changed her life as she projected herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her." Recipient of the 2014 Costa Book Award for Biography and the Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction.


Vesper Flights - Helen Macdonald

(available 8/25/2020)

If you are a lover of birds — well, of anything and everything in the natural world — you might feel you could have written this engaging collection of essays yourself, though certainly not as well as nature author/poet Helen Macdonald has done. Each piece is a delicate vignette of minute, sensitive discoveries in the natural world — from birds, to animals, to mushrooms, and to wildlife. I so admire Macdonald for her ardent appreciation of all the things in nature that pull at my own heart, I nominate her "Queen of Nature Writing."


The Meaning of Birds - Simon Barnes

Have you ever pondered over how birds survive, what their songs mean, where they go on their travels, and basically, why they exist? This enchanting look at the connection between birds and mankind teaches us about birds' flights, colors, songs, feathers, and their place in the natural world. Black and white vintage illustrations complement each bird story. An absolute must book for bird lovers and watchers.


American Birds: A Literary Companion - edited by Andrew Rubenfeld

A delightful anthology of pasionate writings about birds, collected by literature professor and avid birder Andrew Rubenfeld from a wide assortment of America's greatest poets and writers. Discover their dedication to Native American birds and their songs in the poems, essays, memoirs, short stories, and travel writing of reknowned writers such as Rachel Carson, Roger Tory Peterson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Mary Oliver, Louise Erdrich, Emerson, and Thoreau, and more.


What It's Like to Be a Bird - David Allen Sibley

Well that certainly is a very good question! From flying to nesting, eating to singing, discover what birds are doing and why in this accessible book by the author of "Sibley's Guide to Birds." One can't have too many books that delve into the mystery of our feathered friends. Share this one with your family and than start paying attention to the birds out your window!


Little Book of Bees - Hilary Kearney

Do you love bees? You’ll find this book is not only informative, it is also a charming look at all things bees — from evolution, to beekeeping, to saving bees, to why the 20,000 bee species that live on every continent are so important in our ecosystem. The beautiful artwork goes hand in hand with this lovely little book. A full-time beekeeper in her home town of San Diego, California, writer Hilary Hearney’s urban beekeeping business, Girl Next Door Honey, provides educational opportunities for hundreds of new beekeepers each year. A must-read for gardeners. 


The Lives of Bees - Thomas Seeley

Want to know more about bees? Thomas Seeley, a world authority on honey bees, is skilled at explaining the behavior of bees. He sheds light on why wild honey bees are able to thrive in the natural world, while beekeeping colonies are in crisis. In this light, he teaches "how we can become better custodians of honey bees and make use of their resources in ways that enrich their lives as well as our own." A must-read for beekeepers.


Storey's Guide To Keeping Honey Bees- Malcolm Sanford, Richard Bonney

Want to become a beekeeper? Here is the perfect introduction to get started and become a good host to a bee colony. Written by veteran beekepers, this accessible and comprehensive resource guide comes complete with color photos and graphics. Learn how to plan a hive, acquire bees, install a colony, keep bees healthy, maintain a healthy hive, understand and prevent new diseases, and harvest honey crops. Includes resource and supplier information. A must-read for an aspiring beekeeper.


While we are sheltered in place during these uncertain times, it's a good time for some to go inward. Here's a selection of very strong writing to get lost in while seeking solace.


Plainsong - Kent Haruf

The first of a trilogy, this haunting and beautifully written novel takes place in a rural Colorado town. With quiet, elegant, and simple writing, Haruf gracefully brings together a small cast of characters who struggle with the challenges and disasters of life, while exploring their forgiving capacity for love. This is one of those book that makes me put my hand on my heart and be grateful for such talented and elegant writing. 

Floating In My Mothers Palm - Ursula Hegi

Absolutely exquisite writing, this 1998 book consists of connected short stories about the town of Burgdorf in 1950's Germany. Hanna Malter is the only living child of a beautiful artist mother and a much older dentist father. This is Hanna's story of her complex and loving relationship with her mother, and the warmth and pains of the people in her town. When I first read these this, I felt it goes hand-in-hand with Michael Dorri's "Yellow Raft in Blue Water." Both are haunting and heartbreaking poetic writing from the mid-1980's.

Yellow Raft In Blue Water  - Michael Dorris

Michael Dorris' debut novel bares his uncanny ability to write about the tragic vulnerability of human nature in this cross-generational story about three Native American women living on a Montana reservation. He eloquently weaves their complicated story and the love they have for one another that is, sadly, obscured by ill will, deep secrets and misunderstanding. The image of a yellow raft in blue water has followed me for years, since1987, when I first read this astute book.


The Snow Child  - Eowyn Ivey

found this sweet and simple story to be a breathtaking retreat to the Alaskan outdoors and frontier. Deeply touching, exquisitely written, this bewitching tale is based on the Russian fairy tale Snegurochka, starring the Snow Maiden, a young girl who is believed to be half-human and half made of snow. From the very beginning, I found myself tearing up as I read this enchanting heart- wrenching story about an aging couple, the bleak Alaskan wilderness and a mystery child who appears before them one day in the woods.


Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry

I am a huge fan of "western" writing, especially Cormac McCarthy, Jim Harrison, and Zane Grey . McMurtry lovingly shares with us characters who touch our hearts, make us laugh, and especially make us cry. We follow an Old West cattle drive from Texas to Montana in the 1860's full of endearing, funny, and deeply connected cowboys. It's a big book, a long epic story. I love this Goodreads review: "Warning: This book will destroy you. I have never been so completely and utterly decimated by a novel. I don't need a book club; I need a support group."  One of my all-time favorite books, I can't say this loud enough: allow yourself to get lost in this Great American Novel written by a Great American Novelist.


Sophies Choice - William Styron 

Styron's 1979 novel about three people sharing a boarding house in 1940's Brooklyn is a tear-jerker of a love story with its brilliant plot and retelling of Sophie's heart wrenching story of her Auschwitz internment. Full of love, despair, lust, grief, guilt, coming-of-age, and madness, this book is a masterpiece of American Southern writing. It's an amazing story, it's beautifully written, and it's incredibly sad sad sad. I cried my heart out. The 1982 film starring Merryl Streep as Sophie was a big-time tear-jerker.


The Soul Of An Octupus - Sy Montgomery

I absolutely adored this delightful book. I had no idea how brilliant octopuses are. I am now deeply respectful of them for their ability to communicate and express themselves as humble beings. This is a heart-warming read that will change your way of thinking about the non-human lives we share this planet with.  


A Thousand Acres - Jane Smiley

Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1991 National Book Critics Circle fiction award, Smiley's dark novel about life in Zebulon County, Iowa on a large farm is a beautifully and sensitively written book. A modern version of Shakespeares King Lear, with slight retelling, the story envelopes a family's inevitable tragedy. The depth of character and writing style make this timeless book a well-deserved award-winner. Read the book before seeing the 1997 Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Robards film.


Shipping News - Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx's second novel, written in 1993, received both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize Award. It's not the easiest of books to read. I would never want to meet the characters or share their lives, but her descriptions are impeccable. You can feel the weather. You are right there in her landscape details. You can ride on her slow pacing. She shows the true colors of life in a Newfoundland sea town, the local culture, language, and grim climate. The beauty of this book is the writer's subtle use of words, along with her unique voice, and sparse sentences.


The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

Four damaged lives converge in an Italian villa at the end of WWII in this hauntingly exquisite book that reads like a slow-mo poetic dream. Michael Ondaatje's exceptional writing is well-deserved of the 1992 Man Booker Prize. Sensual and cerebral, the storytelling is utterly melancholic in its beautiful characterizations and poetic depictions of love and war.


News Of The World - Paulette Jilles

The little bit of time I spent with the two main characters in this novel left me feeling calm and safe. It’s a quiet read that takes one far far away from the crisis in which we are currently living. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is an honorable elderly widower who earns his living in northern Texas giving newspaper readings to live audiences who are eager for news of the world. In the winter of 1870 he agrees to transport a 10-year old white girl captured as a child by an Indian tribe back to her family, undertaking a dangerous 400-mile mission in post-Civil War Texas. Having to learn how to communicate with this girl who does not remember the English language, we witness Captain Kidd's vulnerabilities as he tenderly cares for his young passenger on their long journey. This gentle and comforting story, so elegantly written, explores the limits of trust, responsibility, and honor. It is a hopeful book, the perfect read during these weeks of coronavirus self-isolation.


The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstein

'm not a circus fan nor am I into magic, but this magical book about a circus set in the Victorian era, totally blew me away. Elegantly and ethereally written, it is charming and mystifying, poetic and lyrical, vivdly dream-like tale. Oh if only I could attend this spectacular circus that only takes place in the dark of the night. This is one of those books that I look forward to re-reading. It's an enchanting read.


Snow Falling On Cedars - David Guterson

An exquisitely written novel complete with romance, suspense, heartache, horrific injustices, and drama. Taking place in the Pacific Northwest, the story centers around the horrible treatment of interned Japanese Americans during WW II. The captivating courtroom drama mixed with memories of a disgraceful chapter in 1950's American history makes for a compelling read that is magnificently written.


Truth And Beauty - Ann Patchett

Author Ann Patchett's memoir is an unzipped homage to her loyal, loving, heartbreaking, and fiercely annoying friendship with poet Lucy Grealy. A beautiful testament to the powers of friendship, this is Patchett's incredibly honest portrayal of true love for, and utter distaste of, a best friend. 


A Piece Of The World - Christina Baker Kline

For me, New York Times Christina Baker Kline's bestseller "Orphan Train" comes in second to this absolutely gorgeous piece of writing that was inspired by Andrew Wyeths iconic painting "Christinas World." A heartwrenching story taking place in Cushing, Maine, this fictional memoir is the real life story of Christina Olson and the painting of her by her friend Andrew Wyeth. Restricted by a crippling disease, Christina's sad and tragic story is beautifully revealed in this quiet read that offers a delicate sense of place and explanation of the mystery of the painting.


About Grace - Anthony Doerr

Written 10 years before being awarded a Pulitzer Prize for "All the Light We Cannot See," the author's first novel, "About Grace," is just as word-perfect a book and stunning accomplishment. Doerr's moving storytelling captures a world of human frailties, full of grief and longing, along with the power and mystery of nature. Burdened by agonizing dreams that later come true, David Winkler lives despite every reason for him to die. In his journey to find truth he brings tiny bits of joy to the people he encounters. Full of so many sentences I wish I could carry around with me in my pocket, this is one of my most recommended books.


A Tale For The Time Being - Ruth Ozeki

"A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be." Oh how I loved this book! It's a riveting tale of a woman writer in a remote coastal village in British Columbia, whose writers-block gets distracted when she discovers the journals of a Japanese girl that wash up on the shore in a barnacle-encassed waterproof box. A beautiful and poetic book built on many levels and complexities that include school bullying, suicidal thoughts, the Japanese-version of WWII, the elderly nuns inhabiting a beautiful ancient Buddhist temple, and the horrific deadly 2011 Japanese tsunami.



All winter I look out the window and ponder over what beach I'm going to set my little chair on, when I spend my one-week summer vacation absorbed in a few good books by the sea. I introduce to you some dear old friends, books that went to the beach with me and books that were good company.


Just Kids - Patti Smith

I devoured this book in one day, seated in my rickety old camp chair on a dock that was mostly submerged in a small Michigan lake: sun shining, birds singing, my dog nearby. It was the right book, at the right time, in the right place. Patti Smith is an exceptional writer and a wonderful storyteller. Her honesty and revelations about that special time in American cultural history, NYC of the 60's and 70's, was eye-opening, sweet and bittersweet, and absolutely full of love.


His Dark Materials Trilogy - Phillip Pullman

Pullman's "His Dark Material's Trilogy" consists of three books: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. I absolutely cherish this series, which I read while undergoing cancer treatment I found a safe haven in the characters. The series follows two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they travel across parallel universes. Visually rich, utterly captivating, I was happily lost in the series and then found myself lost when I finished them; I didn't want to return to the real world. Though it was written for young adults, I highly recommend Pullman's trilogy for any and all ages,


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer

Looking for something light and sweet to read at the beach or during your stay-cay in your garden? I give you a little gem of a story about love, war, and the boundless support found in good books and good friends. Told through a series of letters exchanged between residents of Guernsey Island, enter the lives of the charming, kooky, and heroic citizens of the island as they share their experiences with a London writer who learns and writes about the book club they formed during the Nazi occupation of the island.


The Chronicles of Narnia - Clive Staples Lewis

What more could a reader ask for in a good summer read? Does getting lost in journeys to the end of the world, a world chock-full of fantastic creatures, heroic deeds and epic battles in the war between good and evil sound fun? Lewis' 1949 book "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," has all that, but after completing it, he went on and wrote six more. Together the seven books are known as "The Chronicles of Narnia," transcending the fantasy fiction genre to become a literary classic. A delightful series for all ages to get happily lost in while getting sunburnt.


Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry

Journey to the dusty little Texas town of Lonesome Dove and meet an unforgettable assortment of heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers in this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic about the last defiant wilderness of America. McMurtry's folks of the wild frontier are as authentic and colorful as all get-out. I can't tell you how many times I found myself in tears while I was immersed with all the delightful characters and their hilarious — and sad — interactions. A true epic and ode to the wild west.


Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History - Erik Larson

September 8, 1900 began as a beautiful day in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. U. S. Weather Bureau resident meteorologist, Isaac Cline, didn't notice the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that moved in later that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston was submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town, killing over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history. Using Cline's telegrams, letters, and reports, survivors testimonies, and current understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson chronicles one man's heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. He does a remarkable job of putting the reader smack in the middle of the storm, where one feels like they are right there experiencing the devastation and horror of the hurricane.


The Little Paris Bookshop - Nina George

“The settings are ideal for a summer-romance read. Who can resist floating on a barge through France surrounded by books, wine, love, and great conversation?" The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books. Monsieur Perdu refers to himself as a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life, using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, mending broken hearts and souls. Sweet.


Four Seasons In Rome - Anthony Doerr

The day his twins were born, Anthony Doerr (All the Light We Cannot See) received even more great news: he'd won the Rome Prize, one of the most prestigious awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This jewel of a book is Doerr's evocative memoir of the timeless beauty of Rome and the day-to-day amazement of living, writing, and raising twin boys in a foreign city. It's a visual treat, as Doerr shares his visits to piazzas, temples, the vigil of a dying Pope John Paul II, and his sweet tales of the American family being embraced by the butchers, grocers, and bakers of their neighborhood.


Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence - Irene Pepperberg

The captivating true story of the unique relationship between psychologist Irene M. Pepperberg and Alex, an African Grey parrot. Their story proves scientist's and accepted wisdom wrong, demonstrating an astonishing ability for a bird to communicate and understand complex ideas. More than a scientific breakthrough, "Alex & Me" is a touching love story and an affectionate remembrance of the irascible, unforgettable, and always surprising Alex. 


The Hidden Life of Trees - Peter Wohlleben

Making the case that the forest is a social network, naturalist Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of forests and trees. Like human families, he believes, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating a healthy ecosystem. He also believes a happy forest is a healthy forest that benefits the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who share it.


The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit - Michael Finkel

Have you ever found yourself wishing you could escape modern life and society? Twenty-year old Christopher Knight did just that, leaving his Massachusetts home in 1986, when he drove to Maine, left his car on the side of a road, and disappeared into the forest for the next 27 years. Living in a tent through brutal winters and hot summers, he survived by his wits and courage, creating clever ways to store food and water, and to avoid freezing to death, Taking only what he needed, he survived by breaking into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions. A captivating story of survival, solitude and community, and an incredible portrayal of a man who was bent to live his own way, and succeeded.


Girl with a Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevalier

Not much is known about Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, artist of the famous 1665 painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring." Tracy Chevalier took creative license to write a fascinating historical novel about the painting, the artist, and the unknown woman who modeled for the painting. Merging history and fiction, the beautiful story is about 16-year old Griet, her sensual awakening and her brief encounter with genius. A good story for whiling away sunny afternoons.

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