The Alice Network: A Novel Kate Quinn – Historical fiction that threads through two storylines of a WWI spy and a young woman in 1947 in search of a lost family member post-WWII. Incredibly fast-paced, great character development and interesting history. Could not put it down. Would be an amazing read for a book club.
Home Fire: A Novel Kamila Shamsie – Very much a novel of the times. Two Pakistani families who live in London, one whose father has a powerful role in Government and the other whose father was a jihadi fighter. It is about family loyalties, terrorism, political and religious views. As always, these issues are ripe with turmoil and the how we end the cycle of hate is the answer we are all looking for.
Dying: A Memoir Cory Taylor – Taylor has given all of us a gift by writing this last book of her life. Her reflections, her transparency, her struggle and the constant words in her head are shared with the reader. Extremely brave of her to write this as her life comes to an end.
The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and A Life-Changing Journey Around the World Kim Dinan – Dinan and her husband quit their jobs, sell everything and embark on a worldwide journey. They are given a financial gift in a yellow envelope to give money to people they meet along the way who they want to acknowledge. At the start I found Kim annoying but as the book unfolds you are pulled along on her journey of self-exploration. The journey transforms her life. Very reflective. A worthy read.
L’Appart The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home David Lebovitz – I have always thought there is something romantic about how Lebovitz moved his life to Paris as I read his blog. This book is how he bought and renovated his apartment there. As someone who has renovated several places including something in Paris, I found myself angry that he could be that stupid and trustful of an obviously distrustful contractor. If the book was to be charming, if anything I found him incredibly inept. Alas.
Spy of the First Person Sam Shepard – Shepard’s last writing before he died. Nothing except beautiful prose and an ode to his family. He was an incredible artist from writing over 55 players and appearing in almost 60 films. An American legend.
A Kind of Freedom: A Novel Margaret Wilkerson Sexton – The story weaves back and forth through three generations of one black family from New Orleans that subtly defines how society undermines these families time and time again to make sure that their American dream is never found. It is hard to break the ties that bind and it is hard to break from the past. It should not be this way. Quite powerful first novel.
American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road Nick Bilton – Couldn’t put it down. Ross Ulright/Dread Pirate Roberts is quite the American story. How the Government found him is what I found the craziest.
Pachinko Min Jin Lee – An epic saga of a Korean family through four generations that find themselves transplanted in Japan. A beautiful page turning book.
The Last Days of Cafe Leila Donja Bijan – A tale of leaving Iran as a young adult and coming back after having a life in SF. The connections to home and culture. I wanted to like it but I found the main character annoying about 60% through it.
Daring To Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening Manal al-Sharif – Wow! al-Sharif is an inspiration. Her courage is on every page. Gives the reader real insight into Saudi society. The fact that Saudi women were just given the OK to drive, they can thank al-Sharif for that and much much more.
Sourdough: A Novel Robin Sloan – If you love food and tech, this book is for you. I really enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and I really enjoyed this too
Manhattan Beach: A Novel Jennifer Egan – An impressive big WWII novel through the eyes of those at home in NYC from the women working in the navy yards to the mobsters and their families starting with the Depression. A deep character-driven novel that intertwines everyone together. A big book. I wanted to love it more than I did.
First They Killed My Father Loung Ung – Read this while in Cambodia. A powerful biography that gave me more insight into the people of this beautiful country.
Little Fires Everywhere Celeste Ng – I have read all of Ng’s book. She is an excellent writer with deep character development. A thought-provoking book around growing up in America under different roofs.
Reset Ellen Pao – She has set something in motion for all women. Highly recommended read.
Forest Dark Nicole Krauss – I wanted to love this book because Krauss is such an incredible writer I couldn’t get into it. The book is very layered and deep. Perhaps if I was more focused because this is not a drop in and out book.
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel Jesmyn Ward – I have read every single one of Ward’s book. She is an incredible writer telling stories mostly of the South. She interweaves the supernatural into this tale of a 3 generation family living on the Bayou. She highlights the race issues in this part of the world today. There is a reason she continues to be acknowledged as one of the most important writers today.
Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage Dani Shapiro – I’ve read some of Shapiro’s books but this is much more intimate. A reflection on her past, her future and her life around her. Quick read that pushes you to think about these things yourself
My Absolute Darling Gabriel Tallent – First time novelist that I hope continues to write many more books for years to come. I stayed up to finish the book. Visual, intense, page-turner, disturbing, great character development, girl-power in this weird way…masterful.
Before We Were Yours Lisa Wingate – A story of family secrets set around the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal that took place between 1930-50. Great character development that makes for a really engaging story.
Stay with Me Ayobami Adebayo – A debut novel that takes place in Nigeria centered around a newly married couple. Their lives, the expectations from the family (having children), polygamy, old wives tales and living in a chaotic country. Really well written giving the reader a peek into life in Nigeria today.
We Were the Lucky Ones Georgia Hunter – Georgia Hunter learned at 15 that she was from a family of Holocaust survivors. She went on to write their story. I did not even realize it was a true story until the end. This book will stay with me for a long time. It is amazing that the majority of this Polish family survived when 90% of Jewish Poles were killed in WWII. I sobbed through the last 20% of the book.
Everybody’s Son Thrity Umrigar – I have mixed feelings on this book. It deals with race, class, education, family, politics and everything under one roof. Definitely an examination of all these issues through a story of a young boy and the family that eventually raises him. Maybe I found it depressingly real.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City Matthew Desmond – A must read about poverty and housing in America today
The Weight of Ink Rachel Kadish – This book will stay with me. Documents are discovered during a renovation in England that had been written 350 years ago. Every other chapter develops the historians’ characters who are delving into these papers significance around Jew’s in Europe at that time and a young woman who might have inserted herself into religious conversations that no woman of that time has supposedly ever done. Then every other chapter takes us back 350 years to the people who are written about in those papers. The back and forth of the past and the future is like reading a detective novel with intrigue and emotion that eventually all comes together. Insanely well written.
Hunger A Memoir of (My) Body Roxanne Gay – I have never read any of Gay’s books before this one. Her memoir is honest, painful and hard to put down. It is about her relationship with her body and how it bleeds into every facet of her life. Lots there to think about. Really glad I read this book.
Exit West: A Novel Mohsin Hamid – Two young people fall in love in an unnamed city that sounds like what living in Syria must feel like. They escape through portals and discover the whole world is shifting to different locations. A worthy read about immigration, growing up, family, desperation, and uncertainty.
Killers of the Flower Moon The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI David Grann – I did not know about the Osage Murders. Our Government gave the Osage Tribe a plot of land they thought was worthless but it happened to be sitting on a goldmine of oil. The horrors unleashed by our Government and the white men who wanted the wealth for themselves is mind boggling but not surprising. This chapter in history confirms the deep racist roots our country has allowed to fester from the very start. This book should be required reading for every high school student.
The Reminders Val Emmich – A ten year old girl who has a rare trait that remembers everything coupled with a family friend who just lost his partner. A heartfelt first novel.
The End of Eddy Eduoard Louis – Translated from French into English, the 25 year old author’s account of growing up gay in a working class village in France. Incredibly written, heartbreaking and insightful. Look for more from this young author in the years to come.
Cork Dork Bianca Bosker – A page turning quest to understand the world of wine at a very deep level. I learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the read.
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley Hannah Tinti – It begins with Loo’s father teaching her out to shoot a gun at 12. It is a father/daughter story where the daughter, Loo, comes of age with a father who has a criminal past that haunts him. Really fantastic read.
Chemistry Weike Wang – Debut novel that is sassy and sad at the same time. First generation single Chinese child living inside her head as a graduate student who is depressed and unable to move forward in her life. Quick read.
What To Do About The Solomons Bethany Ball – First-time novelist writes about a nutty expanded Jewish family in NY, LA an Israel. From gossip to romance. A fun summer read.
Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me Bill Hayes – A love affair with NYC, life, coming out, gratitude and love. This book is really a gem. Hayes relationship with Oliver Sachs is intimate and insightful and Hayes relationship with NYC is delightful.
The Leavers Lisa Ko – I cried through many parts of this book particularly the ending. The immigrant experience is heartbreaking. It tears apart people’s lives and leaves them lost and untethered. The book is timely and should be top of on the summer reading list. An incredible debut novel.
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women Kate Moore – I could not put this book down. A sad piece of American history where big business essentially killed hundreds of young energetic women who worked for the company putting profits before people. These women are the reason that there are laws to protect workers and OSHA was formed. Very timely read as there is a reason many of our laws are in place to protect us against big business.
Men Without Women Haruki Murakami – I am usually not a short story reader but I am a fan of Murakami. Magical story telling about love and relationships.
You Say To Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn Wendy Lesser – The biography of a very complicated man who is one of the greatest architects of the 20th century.
The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen – Incredibly written. People who are forced to leave their lives in Korea to settle in Japan. The ties that bind, the expectations from families…I couldn’t put it down.
The Animators: A Novel Kayla Rae Whitaker – I loved this book. On the surface it is a story of two women who meet in college and become creative business partners. The book isn’t only about female friendship but it is about ambition, relationships, family and the baggage we keep.
The Schooldays of Jesus J.M. Coetzee – A mysterious book leaving many questions to be answered around the characters in this curious dark fable. The main character represents Jesus and his connection to everyone around him left me questioning everything else. A great book club read.
The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen – I am usually not a big short story reader but this book is fantastic. Each story packs a powerful punch about Vietnamese refugees.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – An awesome book. Knights story starts when he is 24 on a run and continues through taking Nike public and afterward. When he began Nike looks very different vs how we build businesses today. It is a worthy read.
4 3 2 1 : A Novel Paul Auster – Keep in mind the book is 878 pages but I loved it. Having read many of Auster’s novel I decided to dig in. The book is brilliant. The reader follows Archie Ferguson through four different lives hence the name of the book 4-3-2-1. His character remains the same yet the outcome of his life changes as his experiences from joy to sadness are different in each of his lives. The one constant is his character, his passion for writing and love of women. Even how the book wraps up is genius.
32 Yolks: From My Mother’s Table to Working the Line Eric Ripert – I have read countless memoirs from chefs and most I do not finish. This is worthy read. Ripert is top in his field. This book is honest, authentic and gives insight into him, his success and how hard it is to succeed in the restaurant business. Loved it.
Disaster Falls: A Family Story Stephane Gerson – A memoir that nobody should have to write. Gerson has given us a gift by writing of his family tragedy and the process of grief. I couldn’t put it down.
My Life On the Road Gloria Steinem – A memoir of her life as an activist, a traveler and the guiding light of her endless journey as a voice for women. We are all better off because of her dedication to equality for all.
Brave New Weed: Adventures into the Unchartered World of Cannabis Joe Dolce – If you want to understand where cannabis has been and where it is going then this is the book to read. Data is a powerful tool.
Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust’s Survivors R.D. Rosen – This book follows 3 Jewish women who were raised by Christians who were not their parents to keep them alive through the Holocaust. It is about their story, their memories and survival. Really good book.
American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst Jeffrey Toobin – I grew up watching the Patty Hearst case. I was riveted by it as a teenager of the 70’s. The book is interesting because it gave me a little more insight into the whole event and the times that it happened in.
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – A worthy memoir that gave me an insight into a world that I don’t know enough about.
Shelter: A Novel Jung Yun – My sister reminded me that we read this book and I realized I never posted it. Really enjoyed the book. Second generation of a Korean family attempts to cast aside what it was like growing up in his house in his marriage to an American woman. A page turner.
Moonglow: A Novel Michael Chabon – I have read (or at least tried to read) all of Chabon’s books. Kavalier & Clay being one of my favorite books of all time. The ones that followed didn’t win me over although Chabon’s writing is always brilliant. Moonglow is wonderful. An quasi-real story of his Grandfather’s life that unfolds while he spends the last few weeks of his life under his roof. Beautifully written, intriguing tale, personal touching moments that give insight into Chabon himself. Makes you realize how really good prose rises to a whole other level.
Mister Monkey: A Novel Francine Prose – An incredibly imaginative, dark comedic, clever book. The characters are all connected to the play Mister Monkey. Prose is able to dive into a different character in every chapter as she weaves her tale back to the start. Pretty brilliant.
The Red Car: A Novel Marcy Dermansky – A very quick wild ride read. What I liked about it is the female character is lost in her own life until someone dies and sends her back to a life she left. Coming back shifts her sense of self in the direction she she should have been going all along but for whatever reason couldn’t.
The Mothers: A Novel Brit Bennett – A strong book around motherhood. I couldn’t put it down. I finished it in two sittings. It is about life, death, community, decisions we live by and how at the end of the day we all have to live with ourselves.
Today Will Be Different Maria Semple – I read Where Did You Go Bernadette which was funny and a great summer read. This book has the exact same tone and it just isn’t that interesting. Huge meh. Not seeing me picking up one of her books unless the reviews are off the charts.
The Wangs vs. the World Jade Change – Fast, funny, engaging and definitely smack in line with the times. Truly enjoyable read.
The Wonder A Novel Emma Donoghue – Room was written by Donoghue and it was excellent. Her writing is vivid and her characters are layered. I had a hard time getting into this book because the premise didn’t really interest me but I dove in anyway. A young child starves herself and the town believes she is surviving because she is blessed by God. The town hires a nurse to care for her and figure out if this is legit. Ends up the reality is right before their very eyes but they are just a pious as the young girl and her family. The last quarter of the book made the full read worth it.
Commonwealth Ann Patchett – A portrait of American family who struggles with divorce, death, relationships and the impact that parents make on their children as they grow up. Really good book.
In A Nutshell Ian McEwan – I have read almost all of McEwan’s books. He is an incredible writer. This one is pretty genius. The main voice is an unborn child inside his mother’s womb detailing his fear of a murderous plot conceived between his mother and lover. A quick read. Clever.
Here I Am: Novel Jonathan Safran Foer – It took me awhile to get into the book but so glad I did. Foer is an incredible writer. The exchanges that take place between the husband/father in the book with his children, his wife, his father and grandfather are priceless. There are so many gems in the book that I went out and bought the hardback so I could make some notes. The ending is brilliant.
The Marriage of Opposites Alice Hoffman – A historical novel set in the 19th century about the artist Camille Pissarro. Really interesting yet a bit long winded. I am glad I stuck with it. Could have been better edited. I did a little research on the artist after I read the book. Really fascinating how art consumed him. His family history is interesting as well. Being an artist was not on the top of their list for his profession.
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks Out About Race Jesmyn Ward – I read Ward’s first two books and both were excellent. This book is a collection of brilliant black writers including Ward who reflect on race, present day tragedies, violence and what it means to be black in America. The book was inspired by James Baldwin’s, The Fire Next Time. I was rapt by every word in each piece. This book is a must read.
Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery Henry Marsh – I bought this book when it came out and finally got around to reading it. I was intrigued because as a child I was obsessed with Dr. Joe Gannon of Medical Center. I was convinced at that point of my life that I was going to be a brain surgeon. It wasn’t in the cards but I still find it fascinating. This book is an English doctor’s memoir recalling many surgeries and different types of brain cancer. What was most interesting is his semi-detachment from patients which makes sense as a neurosurgeon. The other thing was the insight into the British publics healthcare system which is depressing, enlightening and confirms that there is no system that works except unfortunately private expensive care.
The Vegetarian: A Novel Han Kang – 2016 Booker Prize Winner. A debut novel that deals with violence, sex, relationships, families and loss. A downward spiral. I can’t say I loved it but I wish I could.
The Underground Railroad: A Novel Colson Whitehead – A mixture of fiction and non-fiction around the underground railroad that helped slaves escape their personal hell. We follow one particular woman through out the entire story. An insightful and disturbing story and with a nod to the human spirit. Did I love the book? Not really.
Another Brooklyn Jacqueline Woodson – A beautiful book that reads like stream of conscious prose. The author takes you back to growing up in Bushwick in the 1970’s where the world was a very different place. Four young girls who connect, grow up, find their lives, think of their earlier lives and move forward to present day. It is a quick read that sticks with you after you place the book down.
Kafka on the Shore Haruki Murakami – I have read a few Murakami’s books before Kafka on the Shore knowing it is one of his best although The Wind-up Bird Chronicle was quite epic. I finally read Kafka. The first half of the book is a serious page turner. It is a dark masterful crazy journey with a handful of memorable characters who live in the past and the present. Murakami is one of the best storytellers that leave you wondering about all of our connections to life for a long time after you put the book down.
The Martian: A Novel Andy Weir – So many people said to read it and I was looking for something that was light and quick to get me out of a book I couldn’t get through (Grace by Natashia Deon). I get why the movie was a big success. As a book, the story was compelling but all the science stuff did nothing for me. I did finish it though.
The Godfather Mario PuzoAmazon – An incredible novel. Just genius.
Citizen: An American Lyrice Claudia RankineAmazon – This is an extremely powerful book about race. A mixture of poetry, essays and art. It really should be read in a physical book to catch all the nuances how the book is laid out.
Homegoing: A Novel Yaa Gyasi – What a book, what a story, what a debut novel. I never like to compare something to something but I will take the leap here. This book is the new Roots. We follow a family’s saga from Ghana to America starting in the late 1800’s when the British set down on the Gold Coast Colony and set up the slave trade to present day. The books is educational and heartbreaking at the same time. Very fitting read for the times we are living in how as we watch cultures clash over outright bigotry on our streets.
The Girls: A Novel Emma Cline – This book is getting a lot of hype. Cline is a first time novelist writing a fictional account of a 60’s cult that is quasi-based on Charles Manson. Cline focuses on a young girl coming of age in the 60’s. She is lost, lonely, unsure of herself with divorced parents completely focused on themselves and no siblings to rely on. There is a lot to think about besides the overlying story that the book tells.
Zero K Don DeLillo – I have read my fair share of DeLillo books although to be honest never have been a huge fan although they have all stuck with me. This is an interesting book for the times we live in. It is about extreme wealth and poverty, the desire to live forever, the childhood that affects your adulthood and the observations of all of this and more.
Sweet Bitter Stephanie Danler – A look into the world of working in Union Square Cafe from the relationships to the late night drinking and drug life of the industry. I wanted to love the book but after about half way through I lost interest. I finished it and glad I did but it was more of her rant of finding herself in NYC.
Eligible: a modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice Curtis Sittenfeld – I have read the other Sittenfeld books. They are really well written and easy to read. She has an interesting eye on observing the modern day that we live in. Great book to kick off the summer with.
My Struggle: Book 5 Karl Ove Knausgaard – I have read them all. Combined they are a masterpiece. I really loved this one as he finds his own struggle with becoming a novelist.
The Association of Small Bombs: A Novel Karan Mahajan – A layered smart book that is unfortunately relevant to the time we are living in. A deep dive into the the victims and families of a terrorist attack of a small bomb in a public square. A look into the rumblings of how extremism begins.
As Close to Us As Breathing Elizabeth Poliner – The novel goes back and forth to tell the story of a close Jewish family set in the late 40’s in Middletown, CT. The story is told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl. It is a story about a tragic accident that changes everyones lives and pushes them back to the responsibility of growing up in an orthodox Jewish family.
The Heart Maylis de Kerangal – An intense book with beautiful words that flow and draw you in even thought the content is so incredibly sad. The book takes place over a 24 hour period where family loses their 19 year old son and concedes to give away his organs for others to live.
- Books I could not finish over the last few months. I might return but I doubt it. If I find myself wandering and not focused then the book goes under the “life is too short” category. That is where all the books below ended up.
Black Deutschland, H is for Hawk, The Turner House, Negroland, A Memoir, The Door, The Folded Clock: A Diary, The Sellout, Hotels of North America, Leaving Atocha Station, The People in the Trees, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, The House of Twenty Thousand Books, The Story of my Teeth. I almost finished (way way too long and could have been better edited) A Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Help Save an American Town.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel Rachel Joyce – A retired man is awakened by a letter from the past that starts him on a journey to actually find himself. Good for a book club. Lots to think about here.
The Portable Veblen: A Novel Elizabeth McKenzie – A super quirky book about two people who come together with lots of family baggage behind them. A fun quick read.
A Fighting Chance Elizabeth Warren – A really interesting read. She is insanely brilliant and passionate. Her mid-western roots certainly have made an impact on her life. She is a champion of fairness for everyone. She’s quite amazing.Yet I can’t help but wonder about the political changes that are happening so quickly and the reality of the world we live in today in regards to what middle class jobs will look like in 2020. There is a disconnect between the times we live in and how you get to equality for all. New steps need to be taken and I am not convinced that people in their 60’s and older as the ones that can be the thought leaders on that.
Bull Mountain Brian Panowich – A first novel. Gives you a little insight into the people who are taking over the Federal property in Oregon. This is a story of a family in Georgia who lives and owns Bull Mountain. Lots of guns, anger, drugs and strife but family is family. There are twists and turns throughout the book and a bit of lawlessness but a good read and well written. Not my typical read but I enjoyed it.
When Breath Becomes Air Paul Kalanithi – This is a memoir from a young neurosurgeon in the throes of his residency is diagnosed with terminal cancer. A brilliant man who gave the world a gift by writing this book. Heart-wrenching and beautiful at the same time.
My Name is Lucy Barton Elizabeth Strout – I had a tough time with Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. I found the characters insanely depressing. The characters here are not exactly uplifting but I really liked this book.It is powerful and heartbreaking at the same time. Her look into where you come from and that baggage that is carried with you for a lifetime. What you want to remember and what you do not what to remember. Above all you want to believe that you were loved.
Nightingale Kristin Hannah – Nightingale follows a French family pre and post WW2. I have read countless books on this era but there is something about this book that is different. I sobbed while reading last few chapters. It was if the weight of war had been pulling me in for the entire book. How people survived is a testament to the human spirit. I will think about this book for a very long time.
It’s What I Do Lynsey Addario – An incredible personal story about what Lynsey does, a war photographer. I loved it
One Of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway Asne Seierstad – An incredible work of journalism. How does someone become a terrorist against their own people?I was wary about reading this book but it was named one of the top ten books of 2015 by the New York Times. I now know why. The book is fascinating on so many levels. Understanding the mind of a mass murder, understanding the Norwegian political system, learning about immigration issues and how difficult it is to enter a completely different culture and expect to assimilate quickly. There is much to learn from the book.
Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family Amy Ellis Nutt – I loved this book. A true story about a couple who can’t have children and adopt two male twins. They were involved from the pregnancy on and were even there during their birth. They couldn’t be happier being parents. As early as 2 years old they realize that one of the boys is transgender. They know nothing about this but when your 2 year old tells you that he hates his penis and only wants to wear pink dresses the mother begins to do research.The book is about incredibly supportive parents especially a mother who is an amazing human being. The dynamic of being transgender and how your own community embraces you or doesn’t embrace you is portrayed throughout the book. The lawsuits that prevailed through this family has set a standard for generations to come. Yet the true power of the book is the transgender child, his kid brother and their daily lives. A must must read.
The Mare Mary Gaitskill – I am not a huge fan of horses so I ignored all the accolades written on The Mare. I glad I succumbed and read the book. A Dominican fresh air fund kid spends two weeks at a home where she discovers horseback riding and a relationship between a woman and a child begin. That is the basis of the story a kid coming from an underserved community and showing up in a life of privilege. The privilege have their own issues too.There are a handful of characters that take over chapters so we can witness the worlds they each live in through each ones eyes. Really insightful look into the haves who want to do good but are clueless about how the other half lives. Worthy read.
This Is Your Life Harriet Chance Jonathan Evison – A quick turning story of the life of Harriet Chance. The reader goes back and forth each chapter of Harriets life from age 86 to 24 to 65. It is a reflection on family, secrets, different generations and all and all it is about life.
The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? Dale Russakoff – A really well done look at everything that is wrong with the school system.
Fates and Furies: A Novel Lauren Groff – I have read all of Groff’s books. They are incredibly well written with interesting quirky characters that come to life. This is a book about relationships, love, marriage and craziness. I couldn’t put it down.
Infinite Home Kathleen Alcott – The title is extremely fitting. An eclectic group of people who live in an apartment building in Brooklyn are thrown together and become each others families. Clever, well written and quirky.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web; A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series David Lagercrantz – I read all the Larsson books so I felt compelled to see what Lagercrantz did with this last book to essentially wrap up what was started. There is a lot of explanation from the past books for singular readers of this book. It just did not do it for me like the originals.
Did You Ever Have A Family Bill Clegg – Bill Clegg is a literary agent. His first book (I read it) is a memoir called A Portrait of an Addict and the second one is Ninety Days: A Memoir of Recovery. Both extremely well written, honest. My guess is that they were difficult to write and then become public yet part of a healing process for him. He has now written his first novel that was a finalist for the Booker Award.The subject matter made me wary of reading the book. A woman loses her entire family the night of her daughters wedding. How do you move on from that? Yet the book is fantastic. Each chapter dives deep into the many characters that touched each of the ones lost. I could not put it down. A worthy read.
The Story of the Lost Child: Neopolitan Novels, Book Four Elena Ferrante – This is the last of the Ferrante books. Each book is to be treasured. The four novels could have just been one huge book. You must read them all. They follow two women and their friendship through the course of their life. It is about relationships, motherhood, self-doubt, imposter complexes, love, aging, past, future and more. A very layered relationship through the eyes and mind of one. Incredible.
Purity Jonathan Franzen – The Corrections and Freedom are top of my best books list. Franzen is an incredible writer and for that alone it is worth reading the book. An interwoven story of a multiple tragedies of modern life.
The Short and Tragic life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League Jeff Hobbs – The title says it all. I can not get this book out of my head. Brilliance does not take a young man out of the world he comes from. Anyone who is involved with trying to transform education should read this. The social issues speak loud and clear.
Euphoria Lily King – Loosely based on the anthropologist Margaret Mead. I had a hard time getting into it at the start but the story eventually drew me in. Takes place in the 1930’s and the historical data around that is of interest. A bit of a love story which is the interesting underpinnings of the story.
Between the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates – Everyone should read this book. A stream of conscious with stories in between about the harsh realities of growing up black in America through Coates eyes. Nothing is surprising, it is just upsetting. The book is a bit of a run on sentence but absolutely beautifully written.
Girl at War: A Novel Sara Novic – Great first novel. A really insightful story through the eyes of a girl from child to young adult who is growing up in Yugoslavia when war breaks out. The author does a great job in telling how war touched everyone differently based on where you were living and what comes accidentally comes your way. A war that you rarely read anything about it. I have been to Slovenia twice over the last few years so it was really interesting to read a novel about a character who lives through the end of Yugoslavia.
The Hand That Feeds You: A Novel A.J. Rich – At first I recalled why I do love a good thriller. I couldn’t put the book down but in the end it got stupid.
Orhan’s Imheritance Aline Ohanesian – An easy simple read about romance, religion, politics and a country, Turkey, at war.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Atul Gawande – An open honest voice around death, illness and aging in society. A book that should be read by all.
Unforgettable: A Son, A Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime Scott Simon – A beautiful book. Scott Simon, a NPR reporter, returns home to stay with his Mother as she slowly leaves the earth. They recount their times together and their relationship. It is totally unforgettable.
Our Souls at Night Kent Haruf – An elderly woman and man who live in a small town and have lost their spouses connect for companionship. There is something about connecting with someone later in life and recalling your hopes and dreams and ones that got away. I didn’t love the ending but there is something poignant about the book that spoke to me.
Dietland Sarai Walker – Girl power! Loved this book. There is a movement afoot and it is being written about in Dietland
The Sunlit Night Rebecca Dinerstein – The first 70% of the book really drew me in. Interesting characters that stay separate until about 50% into the book. Clever. Yet when they do meet it seems to fall apart. They get lost and their connections are not as intriguing as they were at the beginning.
My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine Kate Betts – I really enjoyed this book. Kate is my age so as she describes the history of growing up in Paris post-college I can relate. I also remember all those fashion moments from the reign of Yves Saint Laurent to the beginning wave of young designers out of the Netherlands and the impact of WWD. To read her take on the stark differences between NYC and Paris. Really enjoyed the book.
Delicious Foods: A Novel James Hannaham – An interesting American horror story told by three separate people. A tragedy turns into a nightmare of being held by as an employee of a farm. I stuck it out but kind of sorry I didn’t put the book down earlier. Could have been 25% shorter.
My Struggle: Book 4 Karl Ove Knausgaard – I will continue to read all of the My Struggle books until the end. This one is about his life right out of school. Dealing with alcohol, a small community in the Northern part of Norway and trying to figure out his writing life. All the books are fascinating.
The Fisherman Chigozie Obioma – A debut novel about a family growing up in Nigeria dealing with the tragedies that befall them. A really powerful book.
A Little Life Hanya Yanagihara – I can’t remember who recommended this book but whoever it was deserves a huge thanks. I loved this book. It is long but worth every page. The story of four men who graduate college together and we get to know them all. That’s all I got. Read the book.
The Jaguar’s Children John Vaillant – Vaillant had written non-fiction before and this is his first novel. What an incredible book. A gut wrenching tale about a young Mexican man trapped in a locked truck with others in a border crossing. We learn about this young man’s life before he got to this point of waiting for someone to save them all.
Those Who Leave and Those that Stay Elena Ferrante – Book three and the final book. As I said, the writing is amazing. It is a very emotional book when it comes to relationships. There is also the weaving in of the political strife and the socioeconomic differences and where each character sits. It is a big commitment to read all three books but I think they will stay with me for some time to come.
The Story of A New Name Elena Ferrante – Book two. Didn’t love this as much as the first book but it is a trilogy, actually a three book drama and the writing is great. This focuses on more of their late teens early twenties.
My Brilliant Friend Elena Ferrante – Someone told me about the trilogy (starting with this book) over a year ago. I started this book and it did not draw me in. There has been a lot of buzz around these books and then someone I really trust said to go read them. She loved My Struggle too. I returned to the book and read the first one and now I am on number two. Fascinating story about a woman through the eyes of her friend who is absolutely fascinated with her and the impact that she makes on her and everyone around her set in Naples.
Dept. of Speculation Jenny Offill – Really loved the writing. Written in small soundbites. Like reading an incredibly insightful clever diary. A glimpse into a marriage. The thoughts in our own heads.
The Woman I Wanted to Be Diane von Furstenberg – Have been a fan of hers forever. Glad I read the book.
Station Eleven: A Novel Emily St. John – One of the best books this year. What would an apocalypse look like today. The book goes back and forth over a 30 year period of before and after the complete change of society. Well written, dark, haunting, thought provoking. Worthy read.
I’ll Be Right There Kyung-Sook Shin – Might be one of the best books I have read in months. A coming of age book during the 1980’s revolution in South Korea although the story could have taken place anywhere. The author doesn’t go into politics but into the sadness, the losses, the upheaval of students, professors in turbulent times. Really wonderful book.
Without You: There is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Koreas Elite Suki Kim – After reading Escape from Camp 14 I wanted more on North Korea. It is just incredibly sad. The conversations that Kim writes about when she speaks with her students (although not as in depth) reminds me of my trip to Cuba. Their reality is not the rest of the world. I hope that in my life time we see North Korea take the walls down.
Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odessey from North Korea to Freedom in the West Blaine Harden – Fascinating read. The effects of living under a world that is so disconnected with the rest of the world and then escaping into a different reality is mind blowing.
A Deadly Wandering: A tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention Matt Richtel – Everyone should be made to read this book as soon as they can drive. A tragic story of a young man who veers into another lane while texting killing two rocket scientists. He was the first of too many and that accident changed the legal system around this particular problem. Every other chapter tells the story of all the people this tragedy struck and then the other chapters tell about the science behind attention spans. Fascinating.
The Children Act Ian McEwan – I believe I have read all of McEwan’s books. This one was stellar. Beautifully written and thought provoking. The book is about relationships, morals and lessons learned.
Big Little Lies Liane Moriarty – It took me awhile to get into this book probably because the insanity of the parents hovering over there kindergarten children. I kept on and it got better. What you see is not alway what you get. Perfect vacation read.
Everything I Never Told You Celeste Ng – Haunting story of a supposedly tight knit Chinese family living in Ohio in the 1970’s. The parental expectations, the stories not told ends up taking a toll on one of their children. A really good read.
How to Build a Girl Caitlin Moran – British coming of age story of a young woman who bags school to become a music reviewer for a magazine. Post-Thatcher era, raw and raunchy, finding yourself in a world of adults while still being a kid. Great read.
10:04: A Novel Ben Lerner – A brilliant book about the trials and tribulation of being 30, living in NYC and trying to figure out your career, your love life and just living.
We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel Matthew Thomas – This book has been written up everywhere as “the book” to read this fall. I admit that the story has stuck with me but the book is easily 200 pages too long. It is an endless family saga with very few characters and the impact could have been better made with some serious editing. I stuck with it but I can’t recommend it.
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics Daniel James Brown – I would have never gotten through this book if it wasn’t for listening to it on tape with Fred as we drove through Spain. Very verbose book, loads of history, quite enjoyed it but a bit too heavy on the countless details.
A Year in Provence Peter Mayle – Listened to this on tape after spending a few days in Provence. As a traveler and foodie it is a must read.
All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr – I have read countless novels on WW2. This is really well written. It was a terrible time and lives were ruined. Makes you realize how it wasn’t that long ago but it was so long ago.
A Long Way Home: A Memoir Saroo Brierley – Amazing story. Saroo was a young boy in India when he got lost from his home at 5 years old. He was not able to communicate where he was from because he was hundreds of miles from home after getting on a train and ending up in Calcutta. Eventually he gets picked up and is taken to an agency that attempts to find his family. Unfortunately they never do and instead Saroo is adopted by a wonderful loving family in Australia.Years pass and because of technology and perseverance he eventually finds his home through Google Maps and journeys home after 25 years to meet his Mother. An absolutely remarkable story. Quick read.
Eleanor – A young adult book that brings you back to being 16 and utterly confused. It is when you realize how different everyone is and who you want to become. Two quirky kids find each other and that relationship is the center of their universe. Really good!
Okay For Now Gary D. Schmidt – A young adult book that is just a joy to read. A coming of age story for a young teen during the Vietnam war. His family moves to a town in upstate NY where he blossoms. His love for the Audubon is the backdrop of the story. Really glad I read this book.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A Novel Haruki Murakami – Murakami is never easy reading but this book seems to flow. The story is making the point that whatever happens in your past affects your future. Baggage comes with you wherever you go. If the baggage is getting too heavy then figure out how to lighten the load.
Remember Me Like This: A Novel Bret Anthony Johnson – First time novelist who pulls you in from the very beginning. A story of a kidnapping where a child is missing for four years. The child is eventually returned but the emotional turmoil is the real premise of the book. Well done.
Soldier Girls: The Battle of Three Women at Home and at War Helen Thorpe – I had read about this books months before it came out and knew I had to read it. A really well written book about three women who sign up for the National Guard and end up serving time in Afghanistan and Iraq. The havoc it wreaks on them mentally and physically is gut wrenching. Each story is significant but the one that really left me feeling sad was the single mother who had to leave her children behind and the astounding but not surprising affect it had on them for probably the rest of their lives. As one character put it Bush sent the poor people to his war many times over not the people of his class as they all remained unscathed. Yet the veterans of these two wars live every day with overwhelming struggles and certainly not enough support from the system when they return. A really great book.
The Possibilities: A Novel Kaui Hart Hemmings – Set in a ski town in Colorado. A young 22 year old loses his life in an avalanche leaving behind his mother. Raised solo by his mother who became pregnant with him when she was just 22. His father, who she never married, lives close by. The book is essentially about the grief and lives left behind as they piece together a young adult who they each knew a bit differently. There is more to is and other characters but all and all a so-so book.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot David Shafer – This book reminds me a bit of the Circle by Dave Eggers in regards to speculation of what the world might look like sooner than later. The characters are great, the book twists and turns and eventually all comes together. An underworld is about to take over your data and everything else. Clever good read.
We Were Liars E. Lockhart – Have to love the YA books. This was a one night read. Well written, great character development and an interesting twist in the end. Perfect summer read.
The Invention of Wings Sue Monk Kidd – It got so many great reviews. It is certainly an interesting book following two women of the same age yet one is privileged and the other is her slave but the book was long and was just too epic for me.
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street: A Novel Susan Jane Gilman – At times I laughed and at times I cried and at times I grimaced. I hated and loved the main character at the same time. A little long but a good read.
Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace Michael Morton – I read about this book in an editorial for the NY Times. I started the book and stayed up until I finished it. A wrongful conviction an an incredible story. The travesty and perhaps too much of the reality of the Texas penal system.
The Book of Unknown Americans Christina Hendriquez – A novel about the immigrant communities who come to America for more reasons then just one. Would be a great book club book.
Reeployment Phil Klay – An incredible read. A real insight into the realities of war. A book that should be read.
I Am Pilgrim: A Thriller Terry Hayes – Could not put this down. A page turner from the first word.
My Struggle Book 3 – I can’t get enough of these books. Serious masterpiece.
Still-Alice-Lisa-Genova – A brilliant woman who also happens to be Harvard Professor finds out she has early age Alzheimers at 50. What happens, what goes through her head (and doesn’t), how people around her react, how the family deals with it and all the heartbreaking issues surrounding an incurable disease. Quick read.
Orphan-Train-Christina-Baker-Kline – A page turner about a time in history when children were picked up by the Childrens Aid Society and shipped out to random families with hope that it would just work out. A roof above their head. Doesn’t always work that way. This book goes back and forth from the past to the present about two women who although years apart have in many ways shared the same history. A good beach read.
My-Struggle-Book 2: A Man-Love – Second installation of the 3700 book written by Karl Ove Knausgaard and I can hardly wait for the book 3.
The Splendid Things We Planned : A Family Portrait Blake Bailey – Page turning memoir about a mans life and his doomed brother. No matter how much you love a person and try to help a person they sometimes do not want to help themselves. Great read.
My Struggle: Book 1 – Karl Ove Knausgaard – I loved this book. There are 6 books to complete this series. One of the most incredible books I have ever read.
Helen Oyeyemi: Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel – I wanted to love this book. There are 3 sections. The first one pulled me in but I found that the second and third were not as interesting. A topic worth writing race issues is interesting but the book rambled. Alas.
Andrea Portes: Bury This – A 25 year old unsolved town murder inspires a group of college kids to make a documentary around it with the belief that with the tools we have today that it can be solved. The writing is unique. Rapid short sentences that keeps the reader engaged. Super sad story.
Susan Minot: Thirty Girls – This is based on a true story of a group of young women who were taken by the Kony LRA rebels in Africa while living and studying at a church. We follow a journalist and her experience on reporting about the girls who have survived by escaping. Learning about their traumatic experiences is heartbreaking. How and why this continues to go on in Africa is mind-boggling. I would have preferred Minot to spend more time with those girls than getting inside the journalists head. Regardless I really am glad I read this book. It is an absolutely worthy read.
Anna Quindlen: Still Life with Bread Crumbs: A Novel – A simple story about life, love and art. A 60 year old woman still evolving and finding herself. Really enjoyed it.
Jean Hanff Korelitz: You Should Have Known – This book comes out on March 18th. The book moves fast with lots of twists and turns. A psychiatrist who has just written about how you should have known you were in a bad relationship finds her husband to not be who she thought he was. The perfect beach read.
Bill Bryson: One Summer: America, 1927 – My sister recommended this book. What happened that summer from baseball to Lindbergh and aviation to Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge, Hoover, prohibition, Mt Rushmore, talking movies, theater, Al Capone and the first ponzi scheme. A great historic read.
Kim Malone Scott: Virtual Love – Not sure how I stumbled on this book but I am glad that I did. The book is about a woman trying to figure out her life. She was an entrepreneur and closed her company. She moved to SF to work at Google and run the Ad Sense division. She is in bad male relationships and needs to figure out why so she can get in a good one. There are a lot of thoughts bouncing around her head in regards to her personal struggles. Truly enjoyable well written insightful book.
Jhumpa Lahiri: The Lowland – I had read both the Namesake and Lahiri’s short stories and I felt both of those books were so much better than the Lowland. There was not on character I liked. None of them lived in the future or the present they all lived in the past. Their lives were just utterly depressing. Also the book was way too long. It is certainly a saga about the turmoil in Calcutta in the 60’s and the havoc it wreaked on one family in the post. Perhaps if they all had sought therapy then their lives would have been happier. Would not recommend.
Liane Moriarty: The Husband’s Secret – This is a great book for vacation reading. I read it in a day. Engaging characters who are living real lives and each come with their own baggage. I won’t give away the premise of the book but I really enjoyed it.
Kate Atkinson: Life After Life: A Novel – I have read most of Atkinson’s books. This was an interesting concept. The book mostly takes place during the world wars yet a bit of a challenge to read. It took me a long time to get into the book and then I decided to soldier through. Many of the chapters are essentially redo’s of the characters life so that in one chapter they end up dying where in another chapter they continue to live due to a few shifts that take place. Each small decision you make has to do with the life you end lead. Interesting but did not love the book as much as I wanted to.