A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
A brilliantly witty, laugh out loud, absolutely perfect piece of literature about aristocracy, bolshevik russia, gentlemanly manners, the courtesy of good manners, and the preparation of and dining on fabulous meals while drinking the perfectly paired wine. "A Gentleman in Moscow" is exactly the kind of charming novel I seek, to remind me that such writing exists. Just read it. You will thank me for my encouragement!
A Slow Fire Burning - Paula Hawkins
Get ready to have the rug pulled out from under you with this rollercoaster of a who-dun-it. Paula Hawkins has yet again come up with an entangled thriller complete with a bloody murder on page one, and full of creepy people, seemingly normal people, and truly messed up people who fill the pages of this brilliant new page-turner. Needing to put all the pieces together in my head, I read it in one day, getting more and more creeped out as the truth started to unravel. Wow! What a page-turner!
The Book of Form and Emptiness - Ruth Ozeki
I admire Ruth Ozeki for the quirky characters she creates, people I am compelled to reach out to and take care of. In her newest novel, misfits are shaped by the tragedies that take them down, cause them to wallow in their weirdness. Benny Oh is a likable 14 year-old boy who begins to hear voices after his beloved jazz musician father dies in a stupid disastrous manner. Those voices have emotions that range from pleasant to painful; they are insistent and belong to everyday items (like his shoes) and they are making him freakier by the day. Meanwhile his mother, a well-meaning over-bearing woman, becomes a hoarder in her grief, making Benny even more agitated and dysfunctional. He finds solace and friends who are just as flawed in the public library where he escapes to where he gives in to the voices that are taking over his mind. The main voice he hears is The Book, a "character" in the novel we eventually realize is the narrator of the story, and that eventually helps Benny make sense of his madness. Ozeki's vivid imagery jumps off the page and into the heart of the reader. It's easy to feel compassion rather than pity for the eccentric people we encounter, which is a lovely gift from Ozeki. I am grateful for the glimpse I had into her respect for humanity.
Cloud Cuckoo Land - Anthony Doerr
Author of Pulitzer Prize Awarded “All the Light We Cannot See”, Anthony Doerr's writing skills shine brightly in this mind-boggling novel that is utterly unique to his other writings. Is it historical fiction, fantasy, suspense, or science fiction? In fact, it's all of them! The story follows five children on the brink of becoming adults, during three different timeframes in which the reader travels from ancient history and mythology to modern times and far into the future. Built around an ancient Greek text that each child encounters in their journeys, the reader is as curious as the children are in seeking an interpretation of the text's story of Aethon. who longs to be turned into a bird so that he can fly to a utopian paradise in the sky, Doerr brilliantly ties everyone and everything together, concluding this epic story with a sigh of relief and a perfect ending. Dedicated to “the librarians then, now, and in the years to come,” get ready for a rare novel about the meaning and preservation of the ancient text's message that is tied to the preservation of humanity and Mother Earth.
The Lincoln Highway - Amor Towles
This charming story takes place in 1954 over ten days, though it feels like it's a lifetime as each character's background stories are revealed in the novel's process. Besides learning about the Lincoln Highway, which stretches from Times Square to San Francisco, a great deal of fascinating data is shared through the voice of the delightful 8-year old Billy Watson. I devoured the hefty 600-page book, though I wished I could have made it last longer . . . but I was too drawn in to not soak up every word. It's a treasure of a read.
The Magician - Colm Tolbin
A biographical novel imagining/recreating the life of the renowned writer Thomas Mann, who lived a life of prosperity and deep dark secrets. The Mann family saga spans 50 years in this deeply private portrayal of Thomas Mann, his commanding wife Katia (who bore 6 children during their lifetime), and how they endured living through WW I, Hitler's WWII, the Cold War, and Thomas Mann's sexual desire for men. An exquisitely written novel.The FSG Poetry Anthology - Jonathan Galssi, editor
Founded in 1946, the small independent publishing house Farrar and Straus added literary editor Robert Giroux to their firm in 1955. He brought with him leading writers, especially poets, which elicited FSG’s identity as publishers of poetry. This collection marks FSG’s 75th anniversary to honor Robert Giroux and includes nearly all the poets they published from the 1950’s to present. What a treat.
The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven - Nathaniel Ian Miller
My curiosity about the Norwegian fjords in the Arctic Circle has been sated with this stunningly honest historical novel that depicts the hardships of life in the frigid far north. Stockholm Sven's story of his self-banishment in the 1900’s to a life of solitary confinement in the frozen wild is a moving tale of the people and family who come and go in and out of his life and give him strength as he struggles mentally and physically to make a go of the harsh environment he calls home. Written with the kind of tenderness that makes you want to put your arms around the people who make this lovely book a treasure to read.
Paradise: One Town's Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire - Lizzie Johnson
As a staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, Lizzie Johnson reported on fifteen of the deadliest, largest, and most destructive blazes in modern-day California history. Garnered from interviews of some of those who managed to find safety, on-the-ground reporting, and public records and 911 calls, this book is a spell-binding minute-by-minute firsthand account of the California Camp Fire that burnt to the ground the mountain community of Paradise, California. Along with revealing what went wrong, she provides the reader with intimate details of a handful of residents and first responders and the ordeals they went through to get out alive and unscathed by the fires.
All God's Children - Aaron Gwyn
This is a powerfully honest novel that takes place between 1827 and 1861 about the founding of Texas and the appalling hatred, racism, and violence towards slaves, Indians, and anybody who didn’t think like the Evil White Men who formed this country. The protagonists both fled their homes for a better life: young Duncan fled his Kentucky home and parents after his father discovered him having sexual relations with another man and Cecilia, a Virginia slave who fled to find her freedom. Thoroughly researched with strong character development, the story read so accurate, Western actor Sam Elliott was Duncan’s voice in my mind. I highly recommend this book as a significant read, as well as being a slice of life from American history.
The Arrival - Shaun Tan
A compelling somber graphic story about an immigrant man’s journey to a foreign, imaginary land, told entirely in drawings without the use of words or text. The beautiful sepia-toned illustrations contribute to the melancholy and surreal tone of the novel. This book is lovely in how each frame vividly and poignantly portrays the story’s emotions. Not a fan of graphic novels? This one is a very special addition to the genre and not to be overlooked.
City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology: 60th Anniversary Edition - Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti founded City Lights Bookstore and its publishing house in San Francisco in 1955, launching the press with the Pocket Poets Series. Allen Ginsberg's "Howl & Other Poems," Number Four in the series, was such a success, the Pocket Poets Series became the vanguard of the literary counterculture. This 60th anniversary edition is a milestone retrospective of City Lights’ 60-year history of publishing, representing poets from each of the 60 volumes, many of whom were members of the Beat Generation and the San Francisco Renaissance, as well as writers translated from Spanish, German, Russian, and Dutch. A gem of an anthology.
Here We Are - Oliver Jeffers
I love love love this precious book that Oliver Jeffers wrote and illustrated to welcome his son, his first child. Jeffers, a talented, charming, and clever writer/illustrator, is one of my all-time favorites (alongside Maira Kalman!) This picture book is a beautifully magical introduction to the wonders of Earth and everything beyond ,with the most gorgeous images and sentiment. Did I say I love this book?! Yes, I did!
Joni - Selina Alko
What a sweet way to introduce a youngster to the life and music of the legendary Joni Mitchell. This picture book captures Joni’s creative life as a painter and as a singer using lyrics from her songs and images from her albums in the lovely illustrations that are a dear homage to the great Joni Mitchell.