Up North in Michigan: A Portrait of Place In Four Seasons - Jerry Dennis
This book of essays is the loveliest love letter to the State of Michigan I have ever read. Jerry Dennis grew up and continues to live in the Traverse City area, what we Michiganders refer to as “Up North.” His descriptions of the rivers, lakes, and woods he has spent his lifetime fishing, playing in, and camping in and canoeing on took my breath away. The four chapters illuminate on each season in which Jerry Dennis creates picture-perfect images for the reader to ride with, as he eloquently details the sights and sounds of Michigan’s seasons. If you’ve never been Up North, become curious by reading this book. I assure you that you will find it necessary to get up there as soon as possible. Jerry Dennis doesn’t give away any of the exact locations he writes about . . . you’ll have to discover your own special spots to put to memory and to return to once you’ve become hooked, which, I also assure you, you will be!
Horse - Geraldine Brooks
What a story! Part historical, part fiction, Geraldine Brooks has written a fascinating love story to the greatest racehorse in American history, Lexington, and his fictionalized enslaved groomer in 1850s Kentucky and New Orleans; a NYC gallery owner in the mid-50s who becomes obsessed with a 19th century oil painting of what turns out to be that racehorse; and, in 2019, an Australian Smithsonian scientist and the Nigerian-American art historian she winds up collaborating with as they uncover information about the horse they share an interest in — who they discover is the famous Lexington. This well-researched story turns out to be as much about racism as it is about the greedy business behind horse racing — and the beauty of those horses. A wonderful read.
Remarkably Bright Creatures - Shelby Van Pelt
A remarkably bright twist of a story that lovingly honors the brightest of creatures in the sea: octopuses. The back story of family lost and found is, in and of itself, quite moving, but having octopus Marcellus reveal that story through his eye and tentacles was a delight beyond delights. A joy of a novel.
Drawn to Birds - Jenny deFouw Geuder
There are many wonderful books about birds that feature drawings, photos, illustrations, and bird facts . . . but this one is truly special. The hand-painted illustrations are realistically spot-on and large enough to really see each bird's features. Details and facts for each bird variety includes interesting data and tidbits. The book also includes information on pollinators, backyard bird feeding, and so much more on how to be a friend to birds, providing readers all that is needed to create a healthy and eco-friendly garden for bird visitors. Kudos to artist and naturalist Jenny deFouw Geuder for coming up with a unique addition for bird lovers to add to their library of bird books.
Light on Bone - Kathryn Lasky
How clever to turn famous painter Georgia O'Keefe into a greenhorn sleuth as she uncovers murders and wrongdoings in her 1930s retreat at Ghost Ranch. Stunningly capturing the New Mexican landscape, especially the gardens O'Keefe paints, the story is also wrapped around pre-WWII Nazi espionage she uncovers during her ranch sleuthing. I enjoyed getting to know this side of Georgia O'Keefe who is presented as an empathetic artist with an enormous heart.
The Book Woman's Daughter - Kim Michele Richardson
Riding on the success of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, this sequel is as strong a statement on the ill treatment of women in the back hills of Kentucky in the 1930’s and 1940’s and the prejudice towards the "Blues" (blue-skinned people of the Fugate ancestry) as it is a lovely homage to the Pack Horse Library Project, a WPA program that delivered library books to remote areas in the Appalachian Mountains, mostly women traveling on mule or horseback. Read them both!
Bloomsbury Girls - Natalie Jenner
Take a trip back in time to post-war London when hopes to further yourself in life seem impossible — if you're a woman, and especially if you're a woman hoping to have a career, be recognized, get published. Natalie Jenner's three bookstore shopgirls' connections with literary figures and a few gentle-souled men make this an enticing and delightful historical novel, loaded with literary name-dropping and references. Which of Jenner's shopgirls would you wish to be? Me, I'll take Vivien!
Riverman - Ben McGrath
I thrive on reading books that take place on a river and rejoice in the beauty in the kindness and curiosity of strangers, as much as I do in the beauty and kindness of rivers. Riverman is New Yorker magazine staff writer Ben McGrath’s precisely well-researched account of folk-hero Dick Conant, who spent over 20 years solo canoeing American rivers before he disappeared. A fascinating tale about an even more fascinating man — thank you Ben McGrath for writing this book.
Unlikely Animals - Annie Hartnett
This rather delightful novel is told through the "Greek chorus" voices of some of the deceased townspeople buried in the small New Hampshire town's cemetery. Despite the underlying story being about the devastation on the town from the opioid crisis, the "Greek chorus" provides humor to this story about a dysfunctional family and how compassion heals in spite of how life can be a living hell.
Susan, Linda, Nina, & Cokie - Lisa Napoli
We know them as the four founding women of NPR, the names and voices who branded radical change in American news broadcasting. This impeccably-researched and detailed group biography shares the defining back story of each woman, their differences and the similarities that led them to work together at the best job anyone could ask for in public radio. A truly inspiring read and captivating inside look at four utterly fabulous and brilliant women.
The Hurting Kind - Ada Limon
Absolutely lovely poetry that reads like a love letter to our flying feathered friends. Not entirely poems about birds, the entire collection exquisitely touches on grief and pain as well as the beauty to be found in nature.
Conversations - Steve Reich
Composer Steve Reich, pioneer of the 1960s minimalist movement and a legend in the world of contemporary classical music, sat down with fellow composers, colleagues, and musicians to reflect on his career and how his work had impact on theirs. I found these conversations absolutely captivating — to the point that, while reading the book, I was compelled to listen to each piece of Reich’s beautifully mesmerizing music as it was being discussed.
Taste - Stanley Tucci
The inspiring foodie (oh, and actor!) Stanley Tucci makes dining on Italian food look oh-so-delectable. Author of three cookbooks, Tucci’s autobiography begins with stories about growing up in an Italian American family who took to heart cooking and eating together around the kitchen table as a family. But, there’s so much more to his life story than that, though it’s always been in and out of a kitchen. This is a lovely memoir full of sweet anecdotes and delicious recipes. Buon appetito!
Forest Walking- Peter Wohlleben & Jane Billinghurst
An enchanting lesson on what to discover in a forest and how to uncover those discoveries. Tree expert-supreme Peter Wohlleben, has teamed up with his longtime editor, Jane Billinghurst, to write their first book together in which they reveal how to be a “forest detective.” They explain why everything laying on the forest floor and hanging from and attached to trees is connected to each other. Using all your senses, you’ll learn how to identify and unearth teeming life from the largest tree to the smallest organism that lives within a forest’s ecosystem by seeing, smelling, feeling, and even tasting. A delightful book.
Artists in Residence - Melissa Wyse & Kate Lewis
This delightfully lovely book is a peek inside 17 artists’ homes, featuring the sweetest illustrations by Chicago artist Kate Lewis and charming descriptions by author Melissa Wyse. Enjoy a little glimpse into the living spaces and gardens of such artists as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Georgia O’Keefe, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. A dear little inspiring walk through some pretty places.
A History of Wild Places - Shea Ernshaw
The "Wicked Deep" YA author Shea Ernshaw is quoted as saying: “I live in an imaginary world. And sometimes, I live in a small mountain town in Oregon. I have been writing stories and crafting characters since I was young — filling notebooks with stories about magical horses and eerie underworlds.” Her new adult fiction novel is at first a seat-of-your-pants mystery that slowly reveals itself to be a story about one strong-willed person who turns a group of gullible cult followers into brainwashed weaklings. The setting is as beautiful as the story is haunting.
French Braid - Anne Tyler
Pulitzer Prize awarded novelist (Breathing Lessons, 1989) Anne Tyler writes about the minutiae of families, every little bit of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The symbolic title of the book refers to the weaving in and out of life, like the weaving in and out of hair in making a French braid, and how sometimes not every hair gets included in the braid . . and sometimes the braid turns out just fine.
People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks
This utterly intriguing historical novel is the true story of one of the oldest Sepharic Haggadahs that originated around 1350 in Barcelona. After being taken out of Spain during the 1492 Inquisition, the Hebrew codex became lost. It mysteriously turned up in Italy in the 17th century where it was kept in hiding until it found its way to the National Museum of Sarajevo in 1894, becoming known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. Again, mysteriously, it escaped the hands of the Nazis during WWII when all Jewish books were being burned. Yet the puzzle still remains: how and when did the Haggadah make its way from Spain to Italy to Sarajevo, who created its beautiful illustrations, and who saw to all its safe-hidings? Geraldine Brooks took these questions and created a fascinating tale around the Haggadah, using her thorough research skills to give us a great story and an amazing unfolding of a piece of history.
Funny Farm - Laurie Zaleski
A delightful read and discovery of one amazing human being who is exceptionally kind and good to rescue animals....600 of them! Laurie's childhood story is heartbreaking but gave her the backbone to make her animal sanctuary a life-changer for every animal imaginable. The world and animal kingdom need more people like her. Enjoy this heart-lifting read.