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 story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father's good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. A transposition of Dickens to the American South. 546 pages
The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough. 2015
Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough tells the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright. 320 pages
Stolen, by Ann-Helen Laestadius (trans. by Rachel Willson-Broyles.) 2021
A Swedish novel that follows a young indigenous Sami woman as she struggles to defend her family's reindeer herd and culture amidst xenophobia, climate change, and a devious hunter whose targeted kills are considered mere theft in the eyes of the law. 400 pages
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One of the most influential disability rights activists in US history tells her personal story of fighting for the right to receive an education, have a job, and just be human, to belong in a world that wasn't built for all of us. One woman's activism--from the streets of Brooklyn and San Francisco to inside the halls of Washington. 218 pages
Rosy Is My Relative, by Gerald Durrell (1968)
Rosy, the elephant inherited by young Adrian Rookwhistle, turned out to be a handful: not alone because of her size but also because of her fondness for strong drink. Adrian decides to get away from the City by exploiting her theatrical talent and experience. To Rosy, their progress towards the South Coast resorts offered undreamed-of opportunities for drink and destruction. 240 pages
The Queen of Dirt Island, by Donal Ryan. (2022)
Set in the heart of a small Irish village, this story centers around Eileen, her mother-in-law Mary, and her daughter Saoirse, and the love between these three women. There is no lack of drama in this novel. There is heartbreak, death, childbirth, betrayal, attempted murder, suicide, laughter, tears, and gossip. 252 pages
Sam, whose family is on the verge of bankruptcy, and Nisha, whose wealthy husband has just thrown her out and cut off her credit cards, mistakenly take each other's bags when they leave the gym. Who are you when you are forced to walk in someone else's shoes? 438 pages
The Woman in the Library, by Sulari Gentill. (2022)
This novel's core is the story of four people brought together by a hair-raising scream while they're all seated in the Reading Room of the Boston Public Library. But it is more complicated than it seems! 292 pages
The Revolutionary, by Stacy Schiff (2022)
This is not a standard biography...it is a fictionalized account of the key role played by Samuel Adams in the American Revolution. A singular figure at a singular moment, Adams mobilized the colonies, amplified the Boston Massacre, helped to mastermind the Boston Tea Party, and supplied the moral backbone of the Revolution. 432 pages
Two young black women. Ruby and Eleanor live completely separate lives, but both are navigating the trials and tribulations of race, class, education, and motherhood. This is story about the price women pay for love, and the choices no one should have to make. 384 pages
The Murder of Mr. Wickham, by Claudia Gray (2022).
This is a historical mystery that pays homage as a sequel to not one, but all of Jane Austen's completed six novels. A summer house party turns into a whodunit when Mr. Wickham, one of literature's most notorious villains, meets a sudden and suspicious end in this mystery featuring Jane Austen's leading literary characters. 386 pages
The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese (2023)
Mariamma, a 12-year-old child bride, marries a 40-year-old widower and becomes the mistress of 500 acres of Parambil in South India. Her husband's family has a secret medical "condition" where water is the cause of death for members in each generation. Big Ammachi, as she comes to be known, experiences many joys and sorrows from that early age until her passing. 724 pages
Grey Bees, by Andrey Kurkov (2022)
This novel by a famous Ukrainian author tells the story of 49-year-old safety inspector-turned-beekeeper Sergey Sergeich, who wants little more than to help his bees collect their pollen in peace. But Sergey lives in the "grey zone" in eastern Ukraine, on the front lines where a lukewarm war of sporadic violence and constant propaganda has been dragging on for years. 360 pages
In this collection of short stories, the characters' deeply felt experiences are poignantly detailed: desire and heartache, loss and discovery, moments of jolting violence and the inexorable tug toward love at all costs. 241 pages
Seven Empty Houses, by Argentinian author Samanta Schweblin. (2015)
A woman roams through empty houses, rearranging things. Naked grandparents and children go missing. And so on...these short stories border on creepy. 208 pages
What Angels Fear, by C. S. Harris. (2005)
If you are looking for a great historical mystery series, try this! Romance and mystery in a fog-enshrouded London puzzler. Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, a brilliant young nobleman shattered by his experiences in the Napoleonic Wars, is falsely charged with murder, becomes a fugitive, and catches the killer. (First in a series of 19 novels.) 410 pages
From an insider's perspective, this is the story of the Vanderbilts, one of the wealthiest families in American history, whose fortune began with Cooper's great-great-great grandfather Cornelius Vanderbilt, and how his fortune affected future generations. 317 Pages
Rough Sleepers, by Tracy Kidder. (2023)
Jim O'Connell accepted a position building a medical program for the homeless only after being "conscripted" by higher-ranking colleagues at Mass General. In "Rough Sleepers," we watch as his patients and mentors - especially an extraordinary nurse named Barbara McInnis - gradually reshape his view of what it means to be a doctor. 320 pages
The Heart, by Maylis de Kerangal (trans. by Sam Taylor) (2014)
The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding a heart transplant, as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose, it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved as they navigate decisions of life and death. Fiction. 256 pages
As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton goes to a small town in Maine with her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it's just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea. 491 pages
Dinners with Ruth, by Nina Totenberg. (2022)
This memoir offers personal portraits of many fascinating women and men from Nina's life, with special emphasis on her extraordinary friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The two women paved the way for future generations by tearing down professional and legal barriers and supported each other through life's hardships and joys. 320 pages
Carnegie's' Maid, by Marie Benedict. (2018)
This is a fictional account of how one woman inspired Andrew Carnegie to transform from a ruthless industrialist into America's first billionaire philanthropist. Irish immigrant Clara Kelley served as a lady's maid for Carnegie's mother in their sumptuous Pittsburg home. As her close friendship with Carnegie developed, she opened his eyes to the realities of poverty. 283 pages
Ms. Demeanor, by Elinor Lipman. 2022
In her familiar light, humorous style, Lipman writes another delightful novel about people dealing with unexpected consequences. In this case, a spontaneous late-night sexual adventure on a dark Manhattan roof top... . (304 pages)
Light on Bone, by Kathryn Lasky. 2022
Having moved to New Mexico to to find a peaceful place to paint, Georgia O'Keefe finds a dead body near her casita on Ghost Ranch. Several more murders occur, and she works with an attractive sheriff in solving what turns out to be a mystery involving international espionage. Very beautifully written. (300 pages)
Montana 1948, by Larry Watson. 2007
The events of that small-town summer forever alter David Hayden's view of his family: his self-effacing father, a sheriff who never wears his badge; his clear sighted mother; his uncle, a charming war hero and respected doctor; and the Hayden's lively, statuesque Sioux housekeeper, Marie Little Soldier, whose revelations are at the heart of the story: a tale of love and courage, of power abused, and of the terrible choice between family loyalty and justice. (182 pages)
This is the moving autobiographical story of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world. When seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City from China in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. It took all the determination and small joys her family could muster to survive. 320 pages
The Devotion of Suspect X, by Keigo Higashino (2011)
When Detective Kusanagi of the Tokyo Police tries to piece together what happened in single mother Yasuko's apartment, he finds himself confronted by the most puzzling, mysterious circumstances he has ever investigated. The first in a series. 298 pages
The Chancellor-The Remarkable Odyssey of Angela Merkel, by Kati Martin. (2021)
This biography of German Chancellor Angela Merkel details the extraordinary rise of an East German pastor's daughter. She entered politics after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and fifteen years later she had become chancellor of Germany and, before long, the unofficial leader of the West. 368 pages
This novel of the Jazz Age in San Francisco is based on the life and experiences of renowned photographer Dorothea Lange. With a cast of unforgettable characters, including Frida Kahlo, Ansel Adams, and D. H. Lawrence, it demonstrates the gift of friendship and the possibility of self-invention. (304 pages)
Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. (2011)
This is the first novel by the author of A Gentleman in Moscow. On New Year's Eve in 1937, 25-year-old Katey meets a wealthy banker in a second-rate bar in Greenwich Village. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society. (335 pages)
Aleisha, a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library, discovers a list of novels in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. She decides to read them all. When widower Mukesh asks her to suggest a good book, she gives him the list. The shared books create a connection. 373 pages
Our Missing Hearts, by Cynthia Ng. (2022)
In this dystopian novel set in the very near future in a city that resembles Cambridge, Mass., a law to "preserve American culture" has led to tightened government control, wide anti-Asian sentiment, and children taken from parents accused of treason. Bird, age 12, seeks to locate his missing mother who left the family mysteriously 3 years before. 352 pages
Fellowship Point, by Alice Elliott Dark (2022)
Agnes, a celebrated author, seeks to permanently preserve a peninsula on the coast of Maine. One of the other shareholders in the peninsula's trust, her best friend Polly, is torn about the plan because it would go against her sons' wishes.
In this psychological thriller, Alicia, a famous London painter, seemingly happily married, shoots her husband. She stops speaking and is sent to a secure forensic facility. Theo Fabre, a criminal psychotherapist, struggles to unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband. 325 pages
Portrait of an Unknown Woman, by Daniel Silva 2022
A gripping story of deception in the world of international fine art. Restorer and spy Gabriel Allon embarks on a dangerous hunt across Europe for the secret behind the forgery of a 17th century masterpiece that has fooled experts and exchanged hands for millions. 431 pages
The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman 2020
Four very different, somewhat quirky residents in a peaceful retirement village in southeastern England meet weekly to work on unsolved mysteries. Then a murder happens in their midst. First of a series and delightful. 368 pages
Liz Keaton, a long-time island resident, is hired by a mysterious billionaire to restore an old hotel that had been ruined by fire years ago. Among her many challenges: Grace, the resident ghost; an inexperienced staff; and a demanding long-term guest. Can she succeed? (368 pages)
Carbon Queen: The Remarkable Life of Nanoscience Pioneer Mildred Dresselhaus, by Maia Weinstock 2022
As an impoverished girl in Bronx in the 1940s, Mildred "Millie" Dresselhaus developed a passion for learning, sneaking into museums and devouring cheap copies of science textbooks. She defied expectations and forged a career as a pioneering scientist and engineer, and her discoveries about carbon helped reshape our world. (320 pages)
The Guest List, by Lucy Foley 2020
A scary mystery for Halloween reading. At an inn on a remote, tiny island off the coast of Ireland, every detail of the wedding has been planned for perfection. But the guests bring along past histories and grudges. Then a body is found. (330 pages)
by Eva Jurczyk. (2022)
At a famous university library, a rare manuscript about to be exhibited goes missing, and irate donors are demanding answers. Liesl Weiss, a soon-to-retire librarian, is tasked with solving the mystery. 338 pages
The Magician: a novel, by Colm Toibin, (2021)
The story of Thomas Mann, the son of a German conservative father and Brazilian mother, this novel provides a compelling account of this famous author's life and the times in which he lived...World War I, Hitler's rise, World War II, the Cold War, and exile. 498 pages
Orchestrated Death: a mystery introducing inspector Bill Slider,
by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (1991)
In the first of an addictive series of 23 police procedurals, Detective Inspector Slider investigates the murder of a young violinist. Excellent prose, very human personal problems, and approachable characters make this hard to put down. 226 pages
A celebrated anthropologist, explores how genetics is currently being used to construct narratives that profoundly impact our understanding of the origins of Indigenous peoples of the Americas. The author's writing style makes the scholarly findings easily understood. (368 pages)
Chasing Me to My Grave: An Artist's Memoir of the Jim Crow South, by Winfred Rembert and Erin J. Kelly, Foreword by Bryan Stevenson (2021)
Winfred Rembert grew up as a field hand on a Georgia plantation, embraced the Civil Rights Movement, endured political violence, survived a lynching, and spent seven years in prison on a chain gang. At the age of 52, he discovered his gift as an artist, and started etching and painting scenes from his youth. His work has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the country. (304 pages)
The Liar's Dictionary, by Eley Williams (2021)
An exhilarating and laugh-out-loud novel which chronicles the misadventures of a lovelorn Victorian lexicographer and the young woman put on his trail a century later to root out his misdeeds while confronting questions of her own sexuality and place in the world. (268 pages)
Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah (2010) Following the deathbed wish of their father, two sisters finally learn the secrets of their mother's horrifying past in wartime Leningrad. A powerful, heartbreaking novel that illuminates the intricate mother-daughter bond and explores the enduring links between the present and the past. 394 pages.
Bruno, Chief of Police, by Martin Walker (2008) The first installment in a wonderful series that follows the exploits of Beno�t Courr�ges, the only policeman in a small, peaceful French village where the rituals of the caf� still rule. The brutal murder of an elderly North African resident reminds Bruno that even his tiny village has ties to a sinister past. 262 pages.
In this haunting novel - a love story and a tale of high-stakes danger and
incomparable courage - a young American heiress helps artists hunted by the
Nazis escape from war-torn Europe. 416 pages
The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature
in the Natural World, by Patrick Svenson (Agnes Broome, translator) (2020)
Very little is known about the European eel. The author draws on scientific
research, literature, history and his own experience fishing for eels with his
father. Blending memoir and nature writing, Svenson's journey to understand
the eel becomes an exploration of the human condition. 256 pages
The Long Call, by Ann Cleeves (2019)
A grisly death draws Detective Matthew Vann back into the community he
thought he had left behind, as deadly secrets hidden at its heart are revealed,
and his past and present collide. Set in North Devon, this is the first in a new
series by the author of Vera and Shetland, which like this series, became popular tv shows. 376 pages
The 21st in a series of mystery novels featuring London Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, this mystery involves the death of a police detective, the horrific results of her autopsy, and secrets of a Nigerian community in London. 696 pages. (If you are new to the Lynley series, you may start with the first one, A Great Deliverance.)
My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. 2012
A meticulous portrait of two childhood friends as well as the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country and transformations that affect the relationship of the two women. The first in a series of four novels that follow the women through their lives. Now an HBO series. 331 pages
March, by Geraldine Brooks. 2006
This novel is the story of the absent father from Alcott's Little Women. An idealistic abolitionist, March went as chaplain to serve the Union cause. But the war tested his faith not only in the Union - which is also capable of barbarism and racism - but in himself. 280 pages
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion (2007) In this brutally honest memoir, Didion exposes her mental anguish after her husband's death and her only daughter's deadly illness. She hopes to make sense of the "weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself." 227 pages.
Act One, by Moss Hart. (1989 edition, originally published in 1959) This autobiography eloquently chronicles Moss Hart's impoverished childhood in the Bronx and Brooklyn and his long, determined struggle to his first theatrical Broadway success. The book is filled with all the wonder, drama, and heartbreak that surrounded Broadway in the 1920s and the years before World War II. 456 pages.
Emigrating to America from a remote corner of Ireland in 1956, Greta falls in love, raises her family, and earns a living. A secret in her past forces her to keep her life in New York separate from the life she once loved in Ireland. Fifty years later, her children are trying to unite the worlds she's so carefully kept separate for decades. 416 pages
Things We Lost to the Water, by Eric Nguyen (2021)
A Vietnamese immigrant woman arrives in New Orleans, homeless and jobless with two young sons and worried about her husband who remains in Vietnam. This novel tells the story of their lives and how they are shaped and reshaped by America over thirty years. 304 pages
House on Endless Waters, by Emuna Elon (2020)
A famous writer arrives in Amsterdam and accidentally discovers the shocking truth about his mother's wartime experience - and who he really is. This is a story about prewar Dutch Jewry and the Nazi Invasion. An amazing story with an incredible ending. 320 pages
Joe shares the lessons he learned by challenging the status quo and rethinking the way a business operates. This is a memoir wrapped in a handbook for would-be entrepreneurs. 288 pages
Home Made, by Liz Hauck (2021)
Following a dream of her deceased father, Liz starts a cooking program in a Boston residential home for boys in state care. What begins as a one-time trial becomes a three-year commitment. This true story tugs at your heart. 363 pages
Oh, William! by Elizabeth Strout (2021)
This novel is a fictional memoir about Lucy Barton, who has already appeared in two previous Strout novels. At 64, Lucy is mourning the death of her second husband and remains friends with her first, who asks her to accompany him on a trip to Maine. 256 pages
This book's message is even more relevant today. Hunger still exists alongside over abundance, and factory agribusiness continues to pollute. To watch an interview with the author click here. 512 pages
Apollo's Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live, by Nicholas A. Christakis (2020) A physician and sociologist, the author traces the COVID pandemic from its outbreak in China, the inept early responses, and all the consequences. He places this pandemic in the context of past plagues and pandemics, and describes likely consequences to this modern one. 368 pages
Apples Never Fall, by Liane Moriarty. (2021) A 69-year-old woman, mother of four adult children, goes missing. The story unfolds through the eyes of the whole family. Well-developed characters and backstories make this an intriguing novel. 467 pages
September, 1969, South Brooklyn housing project. An old church deacon shoots the project drug dealer dead in front of everyone. This novel explores vividly and with humor the reasons for this desperate burst of violence that affected the victim, Latinx, Black, and White residents, the police, the church and the Mob. 371 pages
The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields. (1995)
In her old age, Daisy Stone Goodwill seeks to make sense of her life. She attempts to write an autobiographical novel. Through sheer force of imagination she becomes a witness of her own life: her birth, her death, and the troubling missed connections she discovers in between. Shields won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for The Stone Diaries. 361 pages
The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois, by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers. (2021)
This epic novel chronicles the journey of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era. W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of Race in America, and what he called "Double Consciousness," a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois's words all too well. To learn to embrace her full heritage, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family's past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors - Indigenous, Black, and white - in the deep South. 816 pages
A biography of four beloved women who fought sexism, covered decades of American news, and whose voices defined NPR. This is a captivating account of these women, their deep and enduring friendships, and the trail they blazed to becoming icons in journalism. 288 pages
The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China, by Jonathan Kaufman. 2020
The Sassoons and the Kadoories--two Jewish families from Baghdad--had long been successful in business, politics, and society in Shanghai. They kept up their intrigues and opium smuggling while helping to rescue 18,000 Jews from Hitler's Europe, and though they soon faced the tsunami that was communism, their legacy remains today. 384 pages
This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race,
by Nicole Perlroth. 2021
From The New York Times cybersecurity reporter, the untold story of the cyberweapons market - -the most secretive, invisible, government-backed market on earth - -and a terrifying first look at a new kind of global warfare. 528 pages
As the Spanish Civil War ends, pregnant Roser and medical student Victor, the brother of her deceased husband, must flee to Chile. They face many trials over the years. This is rich historical fiction. 314 pages
Rachel to the Rescue, by Elinore Lipman. 2021
Fired from her job in the e-mail room of the Trump White House, Rachel is struck by a car as she leaves. Comforting parents, roommates, and a love interest at the wine store make for lively, seriously funny complications. 304 pages (Note: if you enjoy this book, Lipman has written 11 other equally delightful novels.)
A Woman of Intelligence, by Karen Tanabe. 2021
It's 1954. Victoria, a former translator at the UN, has a rich, handsome, successful pediatrician for a husband. But staying home with two toddlers is driving her mad. When the FBI asks her to do some undercover work, she says yes, but how to keep it from her very controlling husband? 384 pages
An epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America's most defining eras - the Great Depression. In Texas, 1934, the extreme drought drives farmer Elsa Martinelli to take her two children and join the millions in the Dust Bowl seeking a better life as migrant farm workers in California. Her determination, courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation. 464 pages
Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. (2021)
In this best-selling novel, Klara, the narrator, is an Artificial Friend, a humanoid machine who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She is chosen to act as companion for 14-year-old Josie, who, Klara notices, seems to have some kind of illness. 303 pages
What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner. (2017) In this collection of original essays, Rather reminds us of the principles upon which the United States was founded. With a fundamental sense of hope, What Unites Us can inspire conversation and listening and remind us all how we are, finally, one. Published 4 years ago, this book is interesting and important to read in light of the turmoil of the past year. 274 pages
This best-selling novel imagines life in 1596 England when the Black Plague claims the life of an 11-year-old boy who happens to be the only son of a budding playwright. About 4 years later, the father writes a play called Hamlet. (372 pages) Note: This title is now in paperback!
How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, by Heather Cox Richardson (2020)
This is an exploration of how and why Southern ideologies not only survived but flourished in the West following the Civil War. The author states that the inherent inequalities in a democracy make democracy vulnerable to oligarchs. (272 pages)
The Distant Echo, by Val McDermid (2004)
On a winter morning in 1978, the body of a young barmaid was discovered in the snowbanks of a Scottish cemetery. Twenty-five years later, the Cold Case file on Rosie Duff has been reopened. Detective Karen Pirie follows myriad clues to find the startling truth about the murder. This is the first of 6 books in a series, beautifully written. (496 pages)
President-elect Lincoln traveled by train to Washington for his inauguration. This is the story of a leader discovering his own strength, improvising brilliantly, and seeing his country up close during these pivotal thirteen days. 624 pages
Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, by Elizabeth Kolbert (2021)
With specific examples, Kolbert makes it clear how far we already are from a world of undisturbed, perfectly balanced nature - and how every technological "fix" has had complicating consequences. 234 pages
Quichotte, by Salman Rushdie. (2018)
A Don Quixote story from an older Asian Indian man's perspective, but the Indian author who is behind it is also there, with wonderful influences by Ionesco, characterizations of the far right, a paragraph that's a perfect description of that current president, and magical realism. 416 pages
The daughter of a Czech Venezuelan Industrialist, the author knew nothing about her father's life until he died. She spent years learning about him and his family in Prague from the beginning of the 1930s to the end of the 40s. 336 pages.
Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, & Spirit, by Rachel Cowan, Linda Thal. (2015)
Practical suggestions for building resilience and navigating the challenges of aging while finding joy and meaning. No subject is off limits as Wise Aging provides the roadmap for the journey we are all on: achieving a fulfilling older age. 304 pages.
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. (2014)
Writing in free verse form, the author shares her childhood growing up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s. Touching and powerful, her story is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child's soul as she searches for her place in the world. 337 pages.e
The Major, a proper English gentleman, and Mrs.Ali, a widowed village shopkeeper, find much in common. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition? 359 pages
A Swim in a Pond in the Rainby George Saunders. (2021)
A Booker Prize-wing author leads you through a delightful reading of seven great Russian short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol. (432 pages)
Butcher's Crossing, by John Williams. (2007)
In the 1870s, Will Andrews, ?red up by Emerson to seek "an original relation to nature," drops out of Harvard and heads west. In a small Kansas town, he joins a group to hunt Buffalo in Colorado. After an orgy of slaughter, cold and starvation force them back to Kansas. 274 pages
Note: If you enjoy hearing authors talk about their work, visit the website of any independent bookstore and check their events listing. These are on Zoom and are usually free. A list of all independent bookstores is on Wikipedia. You can also find out about events in individual authors� websites. I recently enjoyed an event in South Carolinae
From birth, twins Laurel and Daphne shared an obsession with words. As adults in 1980s Manhattan, they pursue literary careers which are upended by their battle to claim an heirloom dictionary. 258 pages (Fiction)
Say Nothing: a true story of murder and memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe. 2019
This narrative set In 1972, during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, is the story of a 38-year-old mother of ten who was dragged from her home by masked intruders, never to be seen again. Everyone knew that the I.R.A. was responsible, but kept silent out of fear of reprisal. In 2003, her remains were found on a beach. 441 pages (Nonfiction)
The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. 2014
The first book in a trilogy, this is a masterpiece of scope and vision. Set during China's Cultural Revolution, signals are sent into space to establish contact with aliens. A failing alien civilization captures the signals and plans to invade Earth, where different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the invaders or to fight against the invasion. 399 pages (Fiction)e
The Rise of Silas Lapham, by William Dean Howells 1885
In the gilded age after the Civil War, Silas, a wealthy entrepreneur, moves his family from Vermont to Boston and tries to break into Brahmin society. Greedy for wealth as well as prestige, Silas brings his company to the brink of bankruptcy, and the family is forced to return to Vermont, financially ruined but morally renewed. (368 pages)
The Cocoanut Grove Fire, by Stephanie Schorow 2005
A gripping narrative of the worst nightclub fire in American history, which killed 492 people in World War II Boston. (96 pages)
Fire in Boston's Cocoanut Grove; holocaust!, by Paul Benzaquin
This bestselling account of the fire at The Cocoanut Grove provides much more detail and many photos. (290 pages)
Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane 2017
Rachel Childs, a former journalist, had an on-air mental breakdown and now lives as a virtual shut-in. She enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to disintegrate, and Rachel is sucked into an unimaginable conspiracy. (419 pages)
Wilkerson describes how beyond race, class, or other factors, America's fate is decided by a powerful unspoken caste system similar to those in India and Nazi Germany. She shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions. (476 pages)
Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple. (2012)
Worn down by trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Bernadette a fiercely intelligent shut-in, disappears. Her daughter, Bee, digs into her past and discovers a secret that Bernadette had been hiding for years. (330 pages)
The Bostonians, by Henry James (1886)
Perhaps it's time to read or re-read some classic novels! Although the novel is very old, the plot is remarkably contemporary. This brilliant satire of the women's rights movement in America is the story of the ravishing inspirational speaker Verena Tarrant and the bitter struggle between two distant cousins who seek to control her. (Recommended by Elenore P.) (460 pages)
The Last Flight, by Julie Clark (2020)
This psychological thriller is the story of two women—both alone, both scared—and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives. (288 pages)
This Could Change Everything, by Jill Mansell (2018)
A young woman writes a scathing email message to her friend about how much she dislikes her boyfriend's mother, but the email is mistakenly sent to her entire contacts list! Enjoyable characters and complications galore. (342 pages)
The German Suitcase, by Greg Dinallo. (2012)
A vintage suitcase found in the trash on a New York sidewalk contains documents tracing it back to a devastating secret that has been locked away since the day Dachau was liberated. (214 pages)
Eight men in a remote Mennonite colony in Bolivia raped many of the girls and women in their community, first rendering them unconscious with cow anesthetic. Based on this actual event, this novel is the author's imagined response of the women involved. It is an indictment of authority and a defense of belief. (210 pages)
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michelle Richardson.(2019)
Inspired by the people of Appalachian Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, this is a story of how reading books can change lives. (320 pages)
On Fire: The Case for the Green New Deal, by Naomi Klein (2019)
The author captures the burning urgency of the climate crisis and the fiery energy of the Green New Deal. Topics range from the clash between ecological time and our culture of "perpetual now," to the history of humans changing and evolving rapidly in the face of grave threats. (288 pages)
This bestseller gives an account of the migration of African Americans out of the south during the early and mid-twentieth century. The author focused on three people who left the south during different periods. (622 pages)
What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, by Mona Hanna-Attisha. (2019)
The author led the discovery of the dangerous lead content in the tap water in Flint, Michigan, and the battle to expose the truth to the world. (384 pages)
The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty (2013)
Cecelia finds a letter from her husband marked "to be opened after my death." But he is still alive, and its contents have repercussion that alter the lives of several families. A compelling, intimate tale. (395 pages)
Note: Good news for those who enjoy hearing authors talk about their books. Dozens of virtual live author events are available. The Boston Sunday Globe gives a list of virtual events offered by local bookstores, including the Brookline Booksmith. But you can venture to distant virtual events, as well! Try these bookstore websites to find more! Powell's (http://www.powells.com/events-update), Books Inc (https://www.booksinc.net/events), Hub City Books (https://www.hubcity.org/calendar) and Prairie Lights (https://www.prairielights.com/livee)
A novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise - to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies - and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India. (320 pages)
Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, by E.F. Schumacher. (1973).
Logical arguments for building our economies around communities, not corporations. Schumacher inspired the ideas of "Buy Locally" and "Fair Trade." (324 pages)
Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life, by Louise Aronson (2019)
With people living longer, we can spend more years in elderhood than childhood! Aronson offers a vision of old age that's neither nightmare nor utopian fantasy--a vision full of joy, wonder, frustration, outrage, and hope about aging, medicine, and humanity itself. (464 pages)e
Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots. 219 pages. (As a leader in the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston was a revolutionary in helping to protect the rights of African Americans.)
The People of the Book, by Gwendolyn Brooks (2008)
In 1996, Hanna Heath, a rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Hanna's investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. 372 pages
The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett (2020)
After growing up in a small, southern black community, identical twin sisters, inseparable as children, choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white. Years later, their fates are intertwined. 352 pages
State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett. (2011) Dr. Marina Singh Is charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared in the insect-infested Amazon jungle while working on a valuable new drug. 353 pages (EBook)
Afterlife, by Julia Alvarez. (2020) Recently widowed, retired college English teacher Antonia Vega's struggle to cope with her loss is compounded by an unstable sister's disappearance and an undocumented pregnant teenager. 272 pages. (Available on hoopla, See below.) (EBook)
While the Brookline libraries are closed, more than 60 free E-Resources are available. They can be accessed on a computer, an iPad or other tablet, and your smart phone. To see the full list of E-Resources, go to the Brookline library website. For books, one of the best resources is hoopla, which offers books as well as music and videos. To access Hoopla, look at the heading "Entertainment" in the list of E-Resources on the library website. Then follow the directions. (A helpful on-line chat is available if you get stuck.)
This wonderful, engrossing novel set in 1953 Tehran against the backdrop of the Iranian Coup tells the story a young couple in love who are mysteriously separated on the eve of their marriage, and who are reunited sixty years later. 320 pages
Writers and Lovers, by Lily King 2020.
Set in the late 1990's in the Boston area, this novel follows Casey, a writer, as she confronts her mothers's death, a broken relationship, a lack of money, and writer's block. The reader easily identifies with and roots for her. 320 pages
1491: new revelations of the Americas before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann. 2006 Highly recommended by a BrooklineCAN member, this non-fiction account radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. 541pages
Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard (2012)
If you have not listened to an audiobook, this is a great one to try. "Wonderfully wicked...a nonstop, pedal-to-the-metal romp." according to the Chicago Tribune. Leonard is the master of dialog so listening to his books is almost better than reading them. 8 hours and 40 minutes.
These Truths: A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore (2018)
This is a highly readable but disquieting account of U.S. history with major attention to inequality, especially associated with race and gender. Lepore who is both a Harvard Professor and a New Yorker writer, also delves deeply into to the fragility of our democratic institutions.
This novel has been a best-seller since it was published. The interrelationship of human lives with nature is beautifully developed and the characters are unforgettable. 368 pages.
Exit West, by Moshin Hamid. (2017)
"In a middle eastern city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her." Thus begins a timely immigration story. 231 pages
Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks. (2011)
In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. A really good cross cultural story. 306 pages
Note: All links provided in this issue are links to ebook editionse.
Based on actual events, this is the heart-breaking story of children living in poverty being spirited away to insufferable state orphanages in Tennessee in the 1930s and 40s.
Olive, Again, by Elizabeth Strout. (289 pages, 2019)
As she ages, the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but also the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. You may see a softer side of Olive here.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou. ( 352 pages, 2018)
Wall Street Journal reporter Carreyrou relates the tale of how Elizabeth Holmes came up with a fantastic idea that made her, for a while, the most successful woman entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Following a tip from a suspicious reader, the author investigated and exposed the fraudulent claims of the company .
Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. (2011) Every day our lives are affected by the work of Steve Jobs, the brilliant, complicated founder of Apple. He cooperated in interviews with the author for two years and held nothing back. (627 pages)
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham. (2019) This non-fiction book reads like sci-fi. It shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy. (538 pages)
Three Flames, by Alan Lightman. (2019) A novel that provides a deep dive into Cambodian family culture - a compelling story about the lives of a Cambodian family - set between 1973, just before the Cambodian Genocide by the Khmer Rouge - to 2015. (208 pages)
The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg, by Eleanor Randolph. (2019) The authoritative and highly readable biography of Michael Bloomberg: business genius, inventor, innovator, publisher, philanthropist, activist, and presidential candidate. With unprecedented access, a veteran New York Times reporter and editorial writer who covered New York City and state politics offers a revealing portrait of one of the richest and famously private/public figures in the country. (480 pages)
This novel explores the intricate mixture of workplace intrigue, scientific ardor, and the moral consequences of a rush to judgment, at once an intricate mystery and a rich human drama set in the high-stakes atmosphere of a prestigious research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (385 pages)
IQ, by Joe Ide (2016)
The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. But someone from the neighborhood decides to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch. They call him IQ, a loner and a high school dropout, whose unassuming nature disguises a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. (325 pages) (This is the first in the IQ series)
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong (2019)
Written as a letter to his mother who cannot read, this novel unearths a family's history that began before the writer was born - rooted in Vietnam. It reveals parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. (246 pages)
Conviction by Denise Mina (2019) Anna, a middle-class Scottish housewife, listens to a podcast that mentions a former acquaintance. Then her husband announces that he is leaving her to live with her best friend. Thus begins a wild, entertaining tale with twists, turns, and surprises. (384 pages)
Mr President, How Long Must We Wait? By Tina Cassidy (2019) Alice Paul, a key player in the adoption of the 19th Amendment, employed methods that are still key to protestors today - marches, picketing at the White House, lobbying, silent protest, noncooperation with arresting officers, and hunger strikes. This lively account contrasts Paul to President Wilson, who is seen as a failure and an unworthy opponent. (304 pages)
Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes (2019) Recently widowed Evvie Drake remains isolated in small-town Maine until she rents out the apartment at the back of her house to a failed Major League pitcher struggling to regain his pitching skill. 304 pages.
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History, by Keith O'Brien (2018) Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. Together, these women fought for the chance to race against men - and in 1936 one of them would triumph in the toughest race of all. 352 pages
Sun Storm by Asa Larsson. (2003) A thriller by another Scandinavian writer, the first of a series. Rebecca takes a break from her city job in finance to visit her tiny hometown in remote northern Sweden. Scary and very well written. (322 pages)
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. (2017) Eleanor is 30 and has zero friends, less than zero family, a poorly paid job, doesn't speak to co-workers, doesn't even have a pet. Then her life begins to change...(327 pages)
Redemption, by David Balducci. 2019. A convicted murderer, dying of cancer, is released from prison. He asks the detective who helped jail him to help prove his innocence. A tangled web and great characters. 464 pages
An Irish Country Doctor, by Patrick Taylor, MD. 2007. A newly graduated doctor joins a medical practice in a tiny Irish village. He has lots to learn! (First of a series) 337 pages
Everybody's Son: A Novel by Thrity Umrigar. (2017) Born to a black mother, Anton is adopted and raised by a white judge and his wife. He lives a life of privilege, but in adulthood feels the need to find out about his mother...a quest with disturbing results. (417 pages)
Want some live "book talk?" Every month the Brookline Booksmith presents talks by authors. For a complete listing of the June events see https://www.brooklinebooksmith.com/events/#june. Or pick up a copy at the store
Note: all previous Book Talk suggestions may be found on our website: http://brooklinecan.org/booktalk.html. In the menu at the top of the page, click "Newsletter."
The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Alan Dulles, and Their Secret World War, by Stephen Kinzer.2013. A joint biography of the brothers who, beginning in the 1950s, led the United States into an unseen war that decisively shaped today's world. (465 pages)
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See. 2017. A heart-rending story about the love of mothers and daughters, this amazing novel also teaches the reader a lot about tea and the hard life of a little-known Chinese minority that grows it. (487 pages)
The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. 2013. Especially wonderful for book lovers, this is the delightful story of M. Perdu's bookstore situated on a barge anchored in the Seine. He "prescribed" books to fit every person's situation. (402 pages)
Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (2017) Richard, a retired German academic who grew up in East Germany and whose curiosity defines his approach to life, finds his privileged, orderly days transformed by his growing involvement in the lives of a number of African refugees. (286 pages)
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (2018) A novel about two families who live in the same house but in different times: post civil war and the present. The interlacing stories suggest that our present political unrest is not unique but has been seen and overcome before. (464 pages)
Chief Engineer, 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)
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)
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)
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 clich�d 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)
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
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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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".
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
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. Ren�e 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.
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.)
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.
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.
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 .
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 Ravensbr�ck, 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 .
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 .
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 .
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.
**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.
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.
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