Every month Bea Mikulecky gathers a list of books recommended by our readers. We call it Book Talk
because it's where we talk about books in our newsletter. There are no in-person events that go with these listings.
Here is the list from past newsletters.
The Only Woman in the Room,
by Marie Benedict (2019) A fictionalized account of the life story of Hedy Lamarr, the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication. Married to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, she evaded Nazi persecution despite her Jewish heritage. But in 1937 she learned of the Third Reich's plans and fled to Hollywood. (272 pages)
by Erica Wagner (2017) Washington Roebling built what has become one of America's most iconic structures--the Brooklyn Bridge--but its builder is too often forgotten. His life is of interest far beyond his chosen field. It is the story of immigrants, of the frontier, of the greatest crisis in American history, and of the making of the modern world. (364 pages)
The Blackwater Lightship, by Colm Toibin (1999)
In 1990s Ireland, Dora Devereux, her daughter Lily and her granddaughter Helen come together with two friends at the bedside of Helen's dying brother Declan. They must listen and come to terms with one another.(288 pages)
A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hossein (2008)
Set against the volatile events in Afghanistan, this is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives - the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness - are inextricable from the history playing out around them.(432 pages)
Transcription, by Kate Atkinson (2018)
Three enthralling stories that center on facing the effects of injustice.
Eighteen-year-old Juliet is hired by MI-5 to transcribe recordings of meetings of Nazi sympathizers.That work and its consequences determine the course of her life. (343 pages)
Educated, by Tara Westover (2018) A riveting memoir. Tara was raised in an isolated Idaho family, unschooled. She achieves her goal of an advanced education but must reconcile that with her love for her family. 329 pages.
An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones (2018) Roy and Celestial have been married only one year when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in jail for a crime he did not commit. This changes the course of their lives and feelings, and the story unfolds from here. 308 pages.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford (2009) A love story about a Chinese boy, Henry, and Keiko, a Japanese girl, set in San Francisco in 1942 (during the displacement of Japanese citizens) and in 1986. 309 pages.
The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, by David I. Kertzer, (2014)
A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this meticulous study brims with memorable portraits of Pope Pius XI and others who played a crucial role in making Mussolini's dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. (550 pages)
Happiness, by Aminatta Forna (2018)
The lives of Attila, a Ghanian psychiatrist, and Jean, an American wildlife biologist, collide in London. They join forces to find Attila's niece and her son, enlisting a host of Jean's urban wildlife sighters. (368 pages)
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. (2017)
A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this is the hilarious, lyrically-told tale of Arthur Less, a middle-aged writer who accepts literary invitations around the world in order to avoid attending the wedding of his ex-lover. A novel to add some laughter to your dark winter days. (272 pages)
Runaway, by Alice Munro (2004). If you have not read her stories, this is a good collection to begin. Eight short stories, several of them about the same character. A winner of multiple literary prizes, Munro is often called the Canadian Chekov. (352 pages)
Mission Hill, by Pamela Wechsler (2016). This is the first in a series of mysteries that are set in Boston. Abby Endicott, chief homicide detective in the District Attorney's office, investigates and prosecutes the most dangerous killers. (304 pages)
Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art, by Mary Gabriel. (2018) This history of the midcentury New York art scene challenges the usual clichéd story of boozy macho artists to show a different perspective. These women changed American art and society, tearing up the prevailing social code and replacing it with a doctrine of liberation. (940 pages)
Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income would end poverty, revolutionize work, and remake the world. By Anne Lowery. 2018. This is more than a primer on Universal Basic Income - it also analyzes the structural basis for inequality in the US and throughout the world. 274 pages
The Devil in the White City. By Erik Larsen. 2003. This bestseller intertwines the true tale of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. 464 pages
Bluebird, Bluebird. By Attica Locke. 2017. Lark, Texas, population 178: a black lawyer from Chicago passing through town in a BMW and dead bodies are found. This is an exhilarating, timely novel about the explosive intersection of love, race, and justice. 320 pages
Three books that will definitely hold your interest.
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (2018) In wartime London, two teen-age children are left in the care of a mysterious family friend. Their understanding of their experiences during those years changes when they look back years later. President Obama had this book on his summer reading list. 272 pages.
Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn (2016) A warm, intimate account of the love between Eleanor Roosevelt and reporter Lorena Hickok - a relationship that, over more than three decades, transformed both women's lives. 416 pages
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) (2013) This is the first in a series of mystery novels featuring Cormorant Strike, a charismatic war veteran turned private detective with some baggage. He solves brutal murders with the aid of his trusted assistant, Robin Ellacott. 464 pages
Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson. (2016) Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything - until it wasn't. 192 pages.
The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah. (2018) Ernt, a troubled Vietnam POW, moves with his wife and daughter to a remote cabin in Alaska, where the harsh conditions bring out the worst in him. His paranoia takes over their lives and exacerbates what daughter Leni, age 13, sees as the toxic relationship between her parents. 448 pages.
The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, by Margareta Magnusson. (2018) Look around your home. After you are gone, how easy will it be for your children or others to sort through everything? This book is a guide to making an easier transition for those left behind. 128 pages.
Each of these books highlights moral dilemmas and great personal challenges.
The News of the World, by Paulette Jiles (2016) After the Civil War, Captain Kidd travels northern Texas reading from newspapers to paying audiences. He is offered $50 in gold to deliver to her relatives a young orphan who had been abducted and raised by a Kiowa tribe.
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee (2017) In early 1900s Korea, Sunia's shameful unplanned pregnancy leads her to marry and move to Japan. This begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile, its members bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.
These books were enthusiastically recommended by BrooklineCAN members, with their comments.
Personal History, by Katharine Graham. Published in 1997, "the chapters on Watergate are fascinating, particularly when compared to what is happening now."
The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in the Age of Longevity, by Linda Gratton and Andrew Scott. (2016) "Not only are we living longer, but our kids are having such different professional experiences than many of us had...puts it all in perspective."
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. (2016) "Everyone I know who has read it has loved it."
We hope you have been enjoying our monthly suggestions. Please send comments and recommendations to email@example.com
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah. (2016) These autobiographical tales by the wildly popular host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show are related with humor and pathos.
Restless, by William Boyd. (2006) This espionage thriller and domestic drama features two strong female protagonists, set in 1939 and 1976.
In the Midst of Winter, by Isabel Allende. (2017) Three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil.
These books were recommended by BrooklineCAN members. Readers are invited to send suggestions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
They May Not Mean To, But They Do, by Cathleen Schine. (2016) A hilarious novel about aging, family, loneliness, and love, this is the story of the Bergman family and their 86-year-old mother.
Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds, by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto. (2016) This is the true story of a Japanese American family that found itself on opposite sides during World War II. An epic tale of family, separation, divided loyalties, love, reconciliation, loss, and redemption.
Origin, by Dan Brown. (2017) This fast-paced and intriguing novel, set in Spain, keeps you guessing until the end.
Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.
In the 1920s, the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma became rich after oil was discovered beneath their land. Then mysteriously they began to be killed off. The new FBI exposed one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.
Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
A best-selling epic novel of love and war, spanning from the 1940s to the present day, and the secret lives of those who live in a small French town.
The Longevity Economy, by Joseph Coughlin.
Businesses are failing to design things that older consumers want to buy because they're relying on outmoded ideas about what it means to be old.
Begin the new year with an author who might be new to you, recommended by friends of BrooklineCAN.
The Sleepwalker, by Chris Bohjalian.
Sex, secrets and the mysteries of sleep: These are the ingredients of this provocative novel. Annalee Ahlberg, 47, is an architect, mother of two and a chronic sleepwalker. Has she walked herself to her death, drowning in a river near her Vermont home, or did something more nefarious happen?
Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan.
During the Great Depression, working class 12-year-old Annie and her father visit Styles, a rich man who seems to hold some kind of power over her family's survival. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She chances to meet Styles, and learns about the complexity of her father's life and why he might have been murdered. This is a thriller with a wealth of detail about organized crime, the merchant marine and the clash of classes in New York.
The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between, by Hisham Matar.
This moving family memoir by novelist Matar relates his journey to his native Libya in search of answers to his father's disappearance. A former diplomat and military man turned dissident, he was kidnapped in Cairo in 1990 by the Libyan government and held in the regime's most notorious prison. Now, the prisons are empty and little hope remains that Jaballa Matar will be found alive. Yet, as the author writes, hope is "persistent and cunning".
If you enjoy reading a series of books, you should try these authors.
Donna Leon is from the United States, but she lived in Venice where her 26 mysteries detail the cases of Guido Brunetti, the Commissario of Police, his family, and a host of well-developed characters. The crime in each novel highlights a social or moral issue. Start with Death at La Fenice.
Alan Furst has written 14 espionage novels that center on Europe's struggle against the Nazis. Real page turners, each book includes dashing heroes, seductive ladies, a host of colorful recurring characters, and breathless and courageous risk-taking. Begin with Night Soldiers.
Dennis Lehane has written many excellent mysteries. But this three-book series goes way beyond who-dun-its: it follows the adventures of Joe Coughlin, who starts as a beat cop in Boston in the 1920s, continues as a bootlegger and crime boss in the '30s and '40s in Florida, and then works as a consigliere to a crime family, traveling between Tampa and Cuba. Start with The Given Day.
Click the book titles for a direct link to the Brookline Library website
These latest books by prize-winning authors demonstrate their many skills, particularly their ability to create fully-formed, knowable characters.
A House Among the Trees, by Julia Glass. Mort Lear, a world-famous author/illustrator of children's books, has died. Thomasina, his long-time live-in assistant and heir, must deal with the star of a proposed movie about Mort, a disappointed museum curator, and her own feelings as secrets about Mort emerge.
The Late Show, by Michael Connelly. Renée Ballard, a tireless detective who works the LAPD night shift, deals with harassment by her boss and solves three crimes. Connelly's first female protagonist makes Bosch look like a slouch.
Mrs. Fletcher, by Tom Perotta. In this hilarious satiric take on American suburban life, son Brendan leaves for college and empty-nester Eva Fletcher, director of a senior center, decides to explore sexuality.
These compelling accounts of historical events demonstrate their relevance to contemporary issues. All are recommendations from BrooklineCAN members.
The Dark Tide, by Stephen Puleo. In the first comprehensive account of the 1919 Boston Molasses disaster, Puleo shows how the event was related to all of the major issues of the time.
The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America's First Subway, by Doug Most. Long before the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, twin brothers led an earnest yet friendly race to build the first subway system in the United States.
Blood of Brothers, by Stephen Kinzer. The dramatic story of the centuries-old power struggle that led to the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. A vibrant portrait of the Nicaraguan people and their volcanic land, a cultural history rich in poetry and bloodshed. (Quezalguaque, Nicaragua, is Brookline's Sister City.)
Testimony, by Scott Turow, is unlike his courtroom novels. Bill ten Boom, a successful American lawyer, is tapped to examine the disappearance of an entire Gypsy refugee camp--unsolved for ten years. In order to uncover what happened during the apocalyptic chaos after the Bosnian War, Boom must navigate a host of suspects.
These two powerful books by Elizabeth Strout reflect themes of love, loss, and hope:
My Name Is Lucy Barton, Barton, a successful writer, wife, and mother is recovering from so-called minor surgery when her estranged mother arrives. Their long, gossipy conversations connect them and reveal the tensions and trauma of Lucy's life with a troubled family.
Anything Is Possible, Long after her parents have died, Lucy returns to her home town, learns what has happened to significant people from her past, and makes peace with her brother and sister.
Here are three new mysteries that are great choices for summer reading.
Camino Island, by John Grisham. Stolen priceless manuscripts have been traced to a bookseller on a Florida island. Insurance investigators hire a young writer to help find them by becoming friends with the bookseller and his circle. Can she trust anyone?
Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane. A TV reporter with a troubled childhood suffers an on-air mental breakdown. She meets and marries a charming, successful businessman who helps her to recover. Then her life gets really complicated as she must find the mental strength to face a conspiracy of heart-breaking deception and violence.
Earthly Remains, by Donna Leone. Commissario Guido Brunetti takes two weeks away from the Venetian Questura for complete rest and solitude at a villa on a nearby island. There he goes rowing every day with the caretaker, who tells him that something is killing all the bees. After the caretaker drowns, Brunetti must find out why he died.
We're delighted to present three non-fiction books recommended by BrooklineCAN members.
Double Cross: the True Story of the D-Day Spies, by Ben Macintyre
An entertaining account of the plot to deceive Hitler as to the timing and location of the D-Day landings, focusing on a group of five colorful and exotic double agents. A scintillating report of a complex human drama. (From A.G.)
Mary McGrory, The Trailblazing Columnist Who Stood Washington on Its Head, by John Norris.
This wildly entertaining biography of the famous journalist tells how she covered significant political events from the '50s McCarthy hearings to the '70s Watergate era to 9/11, constantly breaking all the rules of textbook journalism. (From C.S.)
In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri.
Because of her love affair and obsession with the Italian language, the author moved her family to Rome in order to immerse herself in the language. This beautifully written book, originally penned in Italian, is her love story. (From M. M.)
Please send comments and suggestions to email@example.com
Although they have different themes, these novels tell stories that make you care about the characters and want to know what happens next.
The Nest, a novel by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney.
Dad has left a $2 million nest egg to four siblings to inherit when the youngest turns 40. But mother has allowed the eldest brother to squander the money! Read what happens next!
Lilac Girls, a novel based on actual events, by Martha Hall Kelly.
Three women narrate this story based on actual people whose destinies converged in or around Ravensbrück, Hitler's concentration camp for women.
Maisie Dobbs, a novel by Jacqueline Winspear. (First of 14 books)
For those who love a series, this book introduces Maisie, a bright 13-year-old English girl working as a maid at a grand house in London in 1910. Her employer allows her to use the library and there she meets Maurice Blanche, a famous investigator, and an unimaginable destiny begins.
Please send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
These three books are sure to make you chuckle, smile, and even laugh out loud!
A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole.
This grand farce about over-educated white trash, corrupt law enforcement, exotic dancing and the nouveau riche in steamy New Orleans is on every list of comedic must-reads.
I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, by Nora Ephron. In her dry, candid style, Ephron writes hilariously about women getting older.
Bossy Pants, by Tina Fey. Tina Fey's comic sensibility comes through in her tales about how a nerdy but self-confident half-Greek girl entered theatrical life and what it's like to be a woman in comedy.
Note - Should we continue the Book Talk column? Do you have a suggestion for a book to include in the future? Please let us know at email@example.com
These books help us imagine life in Boston in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
One Boy's Boston: 1887-1901, a memoir by famous historian Samuel Eliot Morison, details his boyhood growing up on a Beacon Hill that teemed with trolleys and horses.
Boston Girl. by Anita Diamant is a novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.
A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis 1850-1900 by Stephen Puleo tells in dramatic narrative the many breathtaking changes in Boston during that period: the abolitionist movement, the construction of the Back Bay, the development of the subway, the Irish immigration and so much more.
Please email your comments and suggestions for future columns to info@brooklineCAN.org.
For Valentine's month, here are three love stories. Get out the tissues and enjoy! (All three were made into movies.)
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The heart-rending tale of Louisa, a young woman who finds herself in a predicament: how to convince Will, a young paralyzed man in her care, that he has something to live for.
The Time-traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
A poignant and occasionally sensual story about a woman's love for a man who suffers from a rare genetic disorder that causes him to drift uncontrollably back and forth through time.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
In a series of tales, 93-year-old Jacob Jankowski, who dislikes his controlling nursing home, tells his life story: how he joined a circus, fell in love, and had numerous adventures. This novel has a terrific ending!
Please email your comments and suggestions for future columns to info@brooklineCAN.org.
This is the season to settle in with a great book. These three non-fiction selections were suggested by BrooklineCAN members.
**Elephant Company: the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives in World War II, by Vicki Constantine Croke. At the outset of World War II, Billy Williams formed Elephant Company and was instrumental in defeating the Japanese in Burma and saving refugees. Suggested by Mary McConnell.
**The Big Short by Michael Lewis. In a compelling story that reads like a novel, Lewis chronicles how a handful of investment managers detected early on the growing bubble in the mortgage bond market and made a fortunes betting against it. Suggested by Carol Caro.
**The Big Picture by Sean Carroll. In a clear and forceful style, Carroll marshals an impressive array of information to convince the reader that the universe and everything in it can be explained by science. Suggested by Matt Weiss.
For lovers of a good mystery series, this month's recommendation will surely fill the bill. Canadian author Louise Penny has written 12 mystery novels set in the tiny village of Three Pines, just south of Montreal. Her main protagonist, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, is a seasoned, brilliant, and deeply intuitive homicide detective in the Surete du Quebec. The village cast of characters is appealingly developed, as is the village bistro and its delicious menu. Readers new to the series should begin with the first book, Still Life. We'd love to have your comments on the books we recommend and your suggestions for future columns. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to our new column! In every issue of the newsletter we'll publish suggestions for good reads, and we begin by introducing a website that helps you take a trip around the world in 80 books. See http://bookriot.com/2016/04/28/around-world-80-books-global-reading-list/
Three suggestions from the list:
Egypt - Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz: The first in The Cairo Trilogy, Palace Walk introduces readers to a despotic patriarch, his oppressed wife, two daughters, and three sons.
Haiti - Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat: A young girl disappears after her father makes the painful decision to send her away for a chance at a better life.
South Africa - The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer: A rich man's wife, son, and mistress leave him, and his farm is devastated by drought and flood.
We encourage our readers to share their favorite titles for future columns.
Send to email@example.com.