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Summer Reading 2014   Tags: fiction, non-fiction, novels, summer reading  

A list of recommendations for summer reading, hand picked by UST Libraries staff and student workers.
Last Updated: Jun 4, 2014 URL: http://libguides.stthomas.edu/summerreading Print Guide RSS Updates

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Introduction

Summer readingHere's a list of books for summer reading, recommended by the UST Libraries staff. See our Leisure Reading collection for additional choices. Enjoy your summer!

(Libraries staff & student workers, if you have titles to add, please send title & blurb/commentary to John Heintz).

 

Dan Gjelten – UST Libraries Director

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Ordinary Grace - William Kent Krueger
Call Number: PS3561.R766 O73 (OSF)
Publication Date: 2013-03-26
This novel about a dramatic summer (in 1961) in the life of a 14 year old Minnesota boy is engaging and evocative. It is a little different than Krueger’s typical mysteries, though it has some elements of a traditional mystery. Krueger’s central character discovers much about adults and adulthood, and his own sense of faith and his place in the small town and the universe in this beautifully written novel.

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Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It - Maile Meloy
Call Number: PS3613.E46 B68 (OSF)
Publication Date: 2009-07-09
Short stories, many of which take place in the American west, which are concise and smart.

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Vacationland - Sarah Stonich
Call Number: PS3569.T6455 V33 (OSF)
ISBN: 9780816687664
Publication Date: 2013-03-25
Minnesota writer Sarah Stonich has created a wonderful ‘novel in stories’ in which various characters are drawn and described, all of whom have in common a resort in Northern Minnesota. This novel reminds me a little of the brilliant “A Visit From The Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan.

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Consider the Birds - Debbie Blue
Publication Date: 2013-08-20
Debbie Blue, a St. Paul pastor, has written a beautiful book in which each chapter takes on the symbolism of a different bird that shows up in the Bible. Sparrows, eagles, vultures, hens, doves, ravens, pigeons and others are included in a smart and funny field guide to the birds.

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All That Is - James Salter
Call Number: PS3569.A4622 A79 (OSF)
Publication Date: 2013-04-02
Salter’s latest novel, a beautiful description of the life of a mid twentieth century man in New York. Salter’s often called “a writer’s writer” and the prose in this novel is absolutely beautiful.

 

Jesse Heiman – O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library

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Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood
Publication Date: 2003-05-06
A dystopian science fiction story about a strange man called Snowman who lives in the burnt-out shell of a post-plague world with only a tribes genetically modified creatures to keep him company. With no other humans left to talk to he’s forced to live alone with the memories of his old life and his role in the end of the humanity.

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Tales from the Farm - Jeff Lemire (Illustrator, Artist)
Publication Date: 2007-03-20
A wonderful Canadian graphic novel about an orphaned boy named Lester who goes to live on his Uncle’s farm. While Lester retreats into a world of superheroes and hockey players, his Uncle struggles with his newfound responsibilities. It is a simultaneously heart-warming and bittersweet story that is more compelling and deep than any 112 page book has the right to be.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: 2013-06-18
Neil Gaiman is the master of the modern fairy tale and he’s outdone himself with this one. This is the perfect little fantasy story to enjoy while sitting under a tree on a sunny day/safe inside a warm house on a dark and thunder-stormy night.

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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World - Haruki Murakami; Alfred T. Birnbaum (Translator)
Publication Date: 1993-03-02
If a device was created that allowed you to record and watch people’s dreams, I imagine that the experience of doing so would be similar to reading this book. Suffice it to say that if you’re in the mood to take a break from reality this Summer you should definitely give it a try. It’s wonderfully surreal and wholly unforgettable.

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A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson
Publication Date: 1999-05-04
It's Summer, so, sure, you could get outside and enjoy the wonders of nature OR you could stay at home, pour yourself a nice refreshing beverage, and READ about someone else exploring the wonders of nature. In this book Bill Bryson and his equally out-of-shape acquaintance Katz, decide to hike the Appalachian Trail. If the tale of two overweight men trying to hike the longest trail in America wasn't entertaining enough, Bryson combines his story with the history of the trail itself and the result is both delightful and informative.

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The Bad Beginning - Lemony Snicket; Brett Helquist (Illustrator)
Publication Date: 1999-09-30
If you’re looking for a happy story full of sunshine and youthful exuberance, a word which here means “lots of skipping and giggling,” then this is not the books for you. However, if you’re in the mood for a dark tale of obstinate orphans, abominable actors, and woeful wordplay, then you should definitely give this book (and the whole series) a try. Yes, it's a kids books, and sure, it's been out for over a decade now, but the Series of Unfortunate Events books still crack me up. No other children’s series lampoons adulthood so thoroughly as Snicket does here. The Baudelaire’s massive misfortunes are more often caused not by the fiendish Count Olaf’s clever crimes, but by their various caretakers’ utter lack of common sense and their refusal to take the children seriously. Their woeful ineptitude continues to emotionally scar and endanger the 3 protagonists at every turn. Now if that’s not a brilliant metaphor for parenthood then I don’t know what is.

 

Brian Hill - Information Resources & Technology

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Gardening for Geeks - Christy Wilhelmi
ISBN: 1440557799
Publication Date: 2013-04-18
There is much more to gardening than what you've learned in school. With Gardening for Geeks, you'll examine your ecosystem and discover how you can create the right environment for your plants.

 

Ann Kenne - UST Special Collections

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Longbourn - Jo Baker
ISBN: 9780385351232
Publication Date: 2013-10-08
For fans of Downton Abbey, a below-stairs look at Pride and Prejudice, where the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

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The Cold Cold Ground - Adrian McKinty
ISBN: 1616147164
Publication Date: 2012-11-13
Spring 1981. Northern Ireland. Belfast on the verge of outright civil war. The Thatcher government has flooded the area with soldiers, but nightly there are riots, bombings, and sectarian attacks. In the midst of the chaos, Sean Duffy, a young, witty, Catholic detective in the almost entirely Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, is trying to track down a serial killer. As a Catholic policeman, Duffy is suspected by both sides and there are layers of complications. Then he discovers that one of the victims was involved in the IRA, but was last seen discussing business with someone from the Protestant UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force). The first book of a trilogy, this fast-past crime novel will have you tracking down the rest of the series.

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The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert
ISBN: 9780670024858
Publication Date: 2013-10-01
This novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

 

Donna Nix - Charles J. Keffer Library

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Rose under Fire - Elizabeth Wein
Call Number: PZ7.W4358 Ro 2013 (Keffer Library)
Publication Date: 2013-09-10
This is a companion story to Code Name Verity (that I loved, and recommended last year). This is the story of Rose Justice, an American pilot, who was ferrying fighter planes between England and Paris in World War II. Straying off course one day to chase a ‘doodlebug’, she is captured by the Nazi’s and sent to Ravensbrück as a political prisoner. Trapped in this brutal prison camp, she finds hope through the loyalty, bravery, and friendship of her fellow prisoners.

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Out of the Easy - Ruta Sepetys
Call Number: PZ7.S47957 (Keffer)
Publication Date: 2013-02-12
This is the story of Josie Moraine, the seventeen-year-old daughter of a French Quarter prostitute, who is striving to escape 1950 New Orleans and enroll at prestigious Smith College when she becomes entangled in a murder investigation. This will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brothel madam where her mother works. This is a rich tale of secrets, lies, and a haunting reminder of how decisions can affect a person’s future.

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Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell
Call Number: PZ7.R79613 Ele 2013 (Keffer Library)
Publication Date: 2013-02-26
(borrowing from one reviewer) It's the start of a new school year in 1986 Omaha when sophomores Eleanor and Park meet on the bus. She's an ostracized "big girl"; he's a skinny half-Korean townie who tries to stay out of the spotlight. Their slowly evolving relationship is life-changing for them both. This book was in the local news last fall when it was challenged in the Anoka-Hennepin school district. If you haven’t read it yet, put it at the top of your summer reading list.

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King Peggy - Peggielene Bartels; Eleanor Herman
Publication Date: 2012-02-21
“Truth is stranger than fiction”, they say---well--this is one of those stories. This is the story of Peggielene Bartels, a native of Ghana, who left there to study in London, and subsequently came to the United States to work, eventually becoming a citizen in 1997. In 2008, she received a phone call telling her that she had been selected as the next king of Otuam, a village on the coast of Ghana, replacing her uncle who had passed away. After some consideration, she accepts the job; and on her first visit to Otuam in years, comes face-to-face with dire reality: there is no running water, no doctors, no high school, and the village elders are stealing the place blind. That’s only the beginning---read this book for the rest of the amazing story.

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The Boy on the Wooden Box - Leon Leyson; Marilyn J. Harran (As told to); Elisabeth B. Leyson (As told to)
Call Number: DS134.72.L49 A3 2013 (Keffer Library)
Publication Date: 2013-08-27
This book, the only memoir published by a former Schindler's list child, perfectly captures the innocence of a small boy who goes through the unthinkable. Leon Leyson was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and his family was forced to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow. Ultimately, it was the generosity and cunning of one man, Oskar Schindler, who saved Leon’s life, and the lives of his mother, his father, and two of his four siblings, by adding their names to his list of workers in his factory--a list that became world renowned: Schindler's list.

 

Amber Dorneman - Archbishop John Ireland Memorial Library

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Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Call Number: PS3606.L935 G66 2012 (OSF)
Publication Date: 2012-06-05
On the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick's wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren't his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick's beautiful wife?

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The Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown
Call Number: On a Kindle available for checkout from OSF
Publication Date: 2011-01-20
Unwillingly brought together to care for their ailing mother, three sisters who were named after famous Shakespearean characters discover that everything they have been avoiding may prove more worthwhile than expected.

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Marrying the Mistress - by Joanna Tollope
Simon Stockdale spells it out for his son Jack: 'Your grandfather is proposing to leave your grandmother to whom he has been married for forty years and marry a woman with whom he has been having an affair for seven years.'

 

Ben Durrant - UST Libraries

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How Music Works - David Byrne
Call Number: ML3830 .B97 (OSF)
Publication Date: 2012-09-12
A thoughtful (and very entertaining) analysis of music throughout history and how it affects and is affected by popular culture.

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Delights and Shadows - Ted Kooser
Call Number: PS3561.O6 D45 2004 (OSF)
Publication Date: 2004-05-01
Wonderful collection of poems from the 13th Poet Laureate of the United States. Poetry for people who don’t like poetry.

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Darkness Sticks to Everything - Tom Hennen; Jim Harrison (Introduction by)
Call Number: PS3558.E496385 D37 (OSF)
ISBN: 9781556594045
Publication Date: 2013-05-07
Retrospective collection from a local poet (who gave a reading at the OSF Library this year). I really enjoy how he captures the natural world in his writing.

 

Marianne Hageman - O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library

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The Curse of Chalion - Lois McMaster Bujold
ISBN: 0061134244
Publication Date: 2006-04-11
“A man broken in body and spirit, Cazaril returns to the noble household he once served as page and is named secretary-tutor to the beautiful, strong-willed sister of the impetuous boy who is next in line to rule. It is an assignment Cazaril dreads, for it must ultimately lead him to the place he most fears: the royal court of Cardegoss, where the powerful enemies who once placed him in chains now occupy lofty positions.” Book by a local author.

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe - Fannie Flagg
Publication Date: 1989-01-01
”Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present--for Evelyn and for us--will never be quite the same again... “

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Anne Morrow Lindbergh - Susan Hertog
Publication Date: 1999-12-01
“Anne Morrow Lindbergh has been one of the most admired women and most popular writers of our time. Her Gift from the Sea is a perennial favorite. But the woman behind the public person has remained largely unknown. Drawing on five years of exclusive interviews with Anne Morrow Lindbergh as well as countless diaries, letters, and other documents, Susan Hertog now gives us the woman whose triumphs, struggles and elegant perseverance riveted the public for much of the twentieth century.”

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To Marry an English Lord - Gail MacColl; Carol McD. Wallace
Publication Date: 2012-03-15
“From the Gilded Age until 1914, more than 100 American heiresses invaded Britannia and swapped dollars for titles--just like Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham, the first of the Downton Abbey characters Julian Fellowes was inspired to create after reading To Marry An English Lord. This delightful account of how American heiresses in the post-Civil War era packed up their trunks and went husband-hunting in England demonstrates that our national infatuation with British aristocracy is nothing new. The young women had good looks and big bucks; the often debt-ridden Brits had titles, castles and a society that was more stimulating and more permissive, more leisurely and more sophisticated than Old New York."

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Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See
Publication Date: 2005-06-28
“Lily at 80 reflects on her life, beginning with her daughter days in 19th-century rural China. Foot-binding was practiced by all but the poorest families, and the graphic descriptions of it are not for the fainthearted. Yet women had nu shu, their own secret language. At the instigation of a matchmaker, Lily and Snow Flower, a girl from a larger town and supposedly from a well-connected, wealthy family, become laotong, bound together for life. Even after Lily learns that Snow Flower is not from a better family, even when Lily marries above her and Snow Flower beneath her, they remain close, exchanging nu shu written on a fan.”

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A Life of Barbara Stanwyck - Victoria Wilson
Publication Date: 2013-11-12
“Frank Capra called her ‘The greatest emotional actress the screen has yet known.’ She was one of its most natural, timeless, and underrated stars. Now, Victoria Wilson gives us the first full-scale life of Barbara Stanwyck, whose astonishing career in movies (eighty-eight in all) spanned four decades beginning with the coming of sound, and lasted in television from its infancy in the 1950s through the 1980s—a book that delves deeply into her rich, complex life and explores her extraordinary range of motion pictures, many of them iconic. Here is her work, her world, her Hollywood.”

 

Linda Hulbert - ex O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library

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A Week in Winter - Maeve Binchy
Publication Date: 2013-02-12
Maeve Binchy died in 2012 and I will miss her. One of my favorites. Binchy usually includes characters from her previous books and it’s nice to meet them again a few years later. Binchy creates wonderful people (not unflawed) who come to life. This book does not disappoint. Published post-humously – the book was at her editors – it tells the story of a Stoneybridge, a small town on the west coast of Ireland. Everyone has secrets but most are revealed during the week in winter as guests from all over find themselves at a decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean that Chicky Starr has renovated. It’s a lovely read with well-drawn characters who live on after you’ve closed the book. (UST Leisure reading)

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The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Publication Date: 2007-09-11
The book is intended to be a young adult book. I don’t get that. It was among the hardest books I’ve ever read – up there with Beloved. I had to routinely put it down as too intense. The narrator is Death. Death won’t take the blame for the loss of life – Death indicates it’s all our fault – particularly war which forces Death to be everywhere. It’s not your typical holocaust story, but it is one, nonetheless. The main character Liesel Meminger has seen her share of death when she finds herself with new parents who take her in and take in a Jew who hides in their basement for some of the war. She steals books even though when she starts she is unable to read. The relationships are beautiful; Liesel is loveable, and earnest, and like everyone else, she dies. I read the end through tears feeling sorry for Death. The writing is gorgeous. I read it on a Kindle and put underlining and bookmarks throughout. By the way, it needs no spoiler alert – her death is foreshadowed nearly from the beginning. I can’t imagine this as a movie, although there is one. It is so internal. Highly recommend. (St Thomas owns)

 

Janice Kragness - UST Libraries

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Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier
Publication Date: 2010-01-05
From the moment she’s struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is different. Her discovery of strange fossilized creatures in the cliffs of Lyme Regis sets the world alight. But Mary must face powerful prejudice from a male scientific establishment, not to mention vicious gossip and the heartbreak of forbidden love. Remarkable Creatures is a stunning novel of how one woman’s gift transcends class and gender to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century.

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Raven Black, White Night, Red Bones, Blue Lightening, Dead Calm - Ann Cleeves
Publication Date: 2008-06-24
This series features Inspector Jimmy Perez and set in and around the Shetland Island, off the northwest coast of Scotland. I never knew anything about the Shetland Islands, except for ponies and sweaters, and these books are a great way to get around!

 

Curt LeMay - Archbishop Ireland Memorial Library

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Queen Hereafter - Susan Fraser King
Call Number: Available at local public libraries
Publication Date: 2010-12-07
Refugee. Queen. Saint. In eleventh-century Scotland, a young woman strives to fulfill her destiny despite the risks . . .

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In a Dark Wood Wandering - Hella S. Haasse; Lewis C. Kaplan (Translator); Anita Miller (Introduction by, Translator)
Call Number: PT5838.H45 W613 1989 (OSF)
Publication Date: 1989-09-01
Historical fiction at its best. Set during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), the narrative creates believable human beings from the great roll of historical figures. Here are the mad Charles VI, the brilliant Louis d'Orleans, Joan of Arc, Henry V, and, more…

 

Talia Nadir - O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library

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Submergence - J. M. Ledgard
Call Number: PR6112.E34 S83 (OSF)
Publication Date: 2013-03-26
One of the most intense novels I have read in a long time. It is an absorbing read, a novel that stands out from practically any others I’ve read, and/or can recall. I quote from two other critics who have managed to accurately and beautifully write about it. Toby Litt in the Independent, states: "Submergence is writing of awesome power. In a profound meditation on cruelty, pity, belief, art, science, hope, love and mortality, the novel's truths settle in your consciousness, perhaps never to be forgotten.” Eileen Battersby very eloquently writes in the Irish Time that Submergence is “Fiction at its finest recognizes no boundaries, and here is an artist’s novel that achieves the ultimate goal of any writer: it makes us pause and think, and think again." I so very highly recommended this one!

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The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. - Adelle Waldman
Call Number: PS3623.A35674 L68 2013 (OSF)
Publication Date: 2013-07-16
A much lighter read, this one caught my attention because it was mentioned as one of the best books of 2013 by the New Yorker. To quote Nathan Heller, “Waldman’s début novel, about a youngish magazine critic in Brooklyn who, despite his best intentions, manages to behave fairly odiously toward the women in his life, has stirred up a good deal of conversation (especially among youngish magazine critics in Brooklyn). But it’s such an elegant and humane book that it transcends much of the would-be debate. This is a modern novel of manners, conveying its sharp social thinking through the quandaries of a small, parochial social setting. And although the characters’ concerns are narrow and explicitly gendered, Waldman’s broad subject—the tricky boundary between self-sufficiency and self-interest—probably concerns men and women alike."

I didn’t find quite as good as I was hoping to find it. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Or perhaps I’m too old (and jaded), and I don’t live in Brooklyn. Be it what it may, it’s a light, fine read, but if you’re looking for something more profound, you won’t likely find it here…

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On Beauty - Zadie Smith
Call Number: PR6069.M59 O58 2005 (OSF)
Publication Date: 2005-09-13
Summary from book jacket: “Howard Belsey is an Englishman abroad, an academic teaching in Wellington, a college town in New England. Married young, thirty years later he is struggling to revive his love for his African American wife Kiki. Meanwhile, his three teenage children - Jerome, Zora and Levi - are each seeking the passions, ideals and commitments that will guide them through their own lives." "After Howard has a disastrous affair with a colleague, his sensitive older son, Jerome, escapes to England for the holidays. In London he defies everything the Belseys represent when he goes to work for Trinidadian right-wing academic and pundit, Monty Kipps. Taken in by the Kipps family for the summer, Jerome falls for Monty's beautiful, capricious daughter, Victoria." "But this short-lived romance has long-lasting consequences, drawing these very different families into each other's lives. As Kiki develops a friendship with Mrs. Kipps, and Howard and Monty do battle on different sides of the culture war, hot-headed Zora brings a handsome young man from the Boston streets into their midst whom she is determined to draw into the fold of the black middle class - but at what price?"

Although being both praised and slammed, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I highly recommended it.

 

Sarah Pappas – Archbishop John Ireland Library

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The Winter Sea - Susanna Kearsley
Publication Date: 2010-12-01
"The Winter Sea" is the tale of Carrie McLelland, a historical fiction novelist. As the book begins, Carrie is in the process of writing a book on the Jacobite Risings set in 1708. King James II of England, (and James VII of Scotland), had been driven from England and the throne passed to his daughter, Mary, and her husband, William. Until his death in 1701, James II/VII made several attempts to regain his throne. After this, his son, who considered himself to be King James III/VIII, made several more. The most famous attempt, with the "Bonnie Prince Charlie" thing and the Battle of Culloden, was the Jacobite Rising of 1745. There had been a previous attempt in 1715, and a planned invasion, which never came off, in 1708. Carrie's novel concerns James's attempt to return to Scotland and reclaim his throne in 1708.

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