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.