No champion has astonished the world quite like Lance Armstrong. A cancer survivor who went on to win the Tour de France an unprecedented seven times, he is an inspiration to millions.
Yet few know the complete story of this brash, smart, and fiercely competitive Texan who battled to the top of his sport, overcame the most rampant case of testicular cancer doctors had seen, and then conquered cycling’s Holy Grail time after time.
In Lance: The Making of the World’s Greatest Champion, John Wilcockson draws on dozens of interviews with those who know him best to trace Armstrong’s remarkable, yet controversial journey in vivid detail.
Family members—including his adoptive father speaking publicly for the first time—recall Lance’s humble origins in the backstreets of Dallas, the father he barely knew, his single mom’s struggle for survival, and her second marriage that brought a move to the suburbs and new opportunities.
His childhood friends and early mentors remember how he moved on from Little League baseball and football to excel at swimming, running, and triathlon, while living the life of a teenager who loved fast cars and pretty girls. They also describe the circumstances that eventually led to his taking up cycling.
As Lance’s fierce ambition drove him from the dusty plains of Texas to the snowy peaks of Europe, he was both admired and derided. He intimidated his rivals, earned the respect of his teammates, and astounded everyone with his extraordinary deeds.
But his achievements have consistently been dogged by allegations of doping and secrecy, and questions of how triumph on such a grand scale could even be possible.
So how did Lance become the supreme champion of his sport? He didn’t do it alone.
His compelling story is intertwined with the stories of those who helped shape his life and career, including his mother Linda, ex-wife Kristin, and one-time fiancée Sheryl Crow, along with those of his mentors, coaches, and friends. Their voices, along with those who helped him expand his cancer foundation into a worldwide movement, are integral to his unique story.
Lance also reveals details, many for the first time, of how Armstrong’s legendary training, near-fatal bout with cancer, repeated doping allegations, and hostile European media all pushed him to reach the pinnacle of his sport and rightly claim the title of the world’s greatest champion.
Caroline Wimbley Levine always swore she'd never go home again. But now, at her brother's behest, she has returned to South Carolina to see about Mother - only to find that the years have not changed the Queen of Tall Pines Plantation. Miss Lavinia is as maddeningly eccentric as ever - and absolutely will not suffer the questionable advice of her children. This does not surprise Caroline. Nor does the fact that Tall Pines is still brimming with scandals and secrets, betrayals and lies. But she soon discovers that something is different this time around. It lies somewhere in the distance between her and her mother - and in her understanding of what it means to come home...
In 1954, in Orlando, Florida, nine-year-old Pat Conroy discovered the game of basketball. Orlando was another new hometown for a military kid who had spent his life transferring from one home to another. He was yet again among strangers, still looking for his first Florida friends, but when the "new kid" got his hands on the ball, the course of his life changed dramatically. From that moment until he was twenty-one, the future author defined himself through the game of basketball.
In My Losing Season, Conroy takes the reader through his last year playing basketball, as point guard and captain of the Citadel Bulldogs. Flashing back constantly to the drama of his coming of age, he presents all the conflict and love that have been at the core of his novels. Conroy vividly recreates his senior year at that now-famous military college in Charleston, South Carolina, but he also tells the story of his heartbreaking childhood and of the wonderful series of events that conspired to rescue his spirit.
In the 1966-67 season, the Citadel basketball team enjoyed a few victories and suffered a string of defeats, but their true triumphs came when the team pulled together and played the kind of joyous basketball that exceeded the sum of the players' individual talents. And their true humiliations came at the hands of their disciplinarian coach, who counted on the fear and cowering obedience he inspired in his young players to carry the day on the court. In young Conroy, the coach's intimidations also inspired an odd, crouching form of love that echoed his relationship with his own fearsome father.
Without the safeguard of fiction, America's ultimate storyteller turns to the story of his own boyhood. With poignancy and humor Conroy reveals the inspirations behind his unforgettable characters, pinpoints the emotions that shaped his own character as a young boy, and ultimately recaptures his passage from athlete to writer.
When Kate meets a dark, enigmatic man in a Soho bar, she doesn't hesitate long before going home with him. There is something undeniably attractive about Richard - and irresistibly dangerous, too. Now, after eighteen exhilarating but fraught months, Kate knows she has to finish their relationship and hopes that will be the end of it. But it is only just the beginning. Fleeing London for the wintry Isle of Wight, she is determined to ignore the flood of calls and emails from an increasingly insistent Richard. But what began as a nuisance becomes an ever more threatening game of cat and mouse.
An explosive, daring novel that suggests what might happen when a young girl is discovered to be the result of the experimental breeding of human and ape.
Lucy, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a primatologist, a girl who has had only apes as playmates, is rescued from the jungles of the Congo during a civil war uprising and brought to live in the suburbs of Chicago. The stunning revelation of who—and what—she is sets in motion her fight for survival and for her very right to exist.
Here is a novel that has as its underpinnings the moral, ethical, and philosophical issues of cutting-edge biotechnology, genetic engineering, and cloning, and that masterfully explores what it means to be human...
The sequel to Shiver (see February 11th) is out in hardback—Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. This is one of the latest paranormal romance series for young adults, and I hear it is well written. Check it out.
In Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means defying her parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his werewolf past...and figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix a new wolf named Cole, whose own past has the potential to destroy the whole pack. And Isabel, who already lost her brother to the wolves...and is nonetheless drawn to Cole.
At turns harrowing and euphoric, Linger is a spellbinding love story that explores both sides of love—the light and the dark, the warm and the cold—in a way you will never forget.
Emily and Jessamine Bach are opposites in every way: Twenty-eight year old Emily is the CEO of Veritech, and twenty-three year old Jess is an environmental activist and graduate student in philosophy.
PragmaticEmily is making a fortune in Silicon Valley. Romantic Jess works in an antiquarian bookstore. Emily is rational and driven, while Jess is dreamy and whimsical. Emily's boyfriend, Jonathan, is fantastically successful. Jess's boyfriends, not so much--as her employer George points out in what he hopes is a completely disinterested way.
Bi-coastal, surprising, rich in ideas and characters, The Cookbook Collector is a novel about getting and spending, and about the substitutions we make when we can't find what we're looking for: reading cookbooks instead of cooking, speculating instead of creating, collecting instead of living. But above all it is about holding on to what is real in a virtual world: love that stays.
Mare just finished, "Jen Lancaster's latest memoir, My Fair Lazy, and really loved it. I was reading it at a time when I didn't have a lot of time for reading, and I kept wanting to get back to it." (see Mare's July 20th blog entry).
Readers have followed Jen Lancaster through job loss, sucky city living, weight loss attempts, and 1980s nostalgia. Now Jen chronicles her efforts to achieve cultural enlightenment, with some hilarious missteps and genuine moments of inspiration along the way. And she does so by any means necessary: reading canonical literature, viewing classic films, attending the opera, researching artisan cheeses, and even enrolling in etiquette classes to improve her social graces.
In Jen's corner is a crack team of experts, including Page Six socialites, gourmet chefs, an opera aficionado, and a master sommelier. She may discover that well-regarded, high-priced stinky cheese tastes exactly as bad as it smells, and that her love for Kraft American Singles is forever. But one thing's for certain: Eliza Doolittle's got nothing on Jen Lancaster—and failure is an option.
Legions of readers entranced by Twilight are hungry for more and they won't be disappointed. In New Moon, Stephenie Meyer delivers another irresistible combination of romance and suspense with a supernatural twist. The "star-crossed" lovers theme continues as Bella and Edward find themselves facing new obstacles, including a devastating separation, the mysterious appearance of dangerous wolves roaming the forest in Forks, a terrifying threat of revenge from a female vampire and a deliciously sinister encounter with Italy's reigning royal family of vampires, the Volturi. Passionate, riveting, and full of surprising twists and turns, this vampire love saga is well on its way to literary immortality.
The summer of 1899 is HOT in Calpurnia Virginia Tate's sleepy Texas town, and there aren't a lot of good ways to stay cool. Her mother has a new wind machine from town, but Callie might just have to resort to stealthily cutting off her hair, one sneaky inch at a time. She also spends a lot time at the river with her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist. It turns out that every drop of river water is teeming with life—all you have to do is look through a microscope!
As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.
All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows.
While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time. In this momentous final book in the New York Times best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy’s sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.
About People of the Book: Inspired by the true story of a mysterious codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, People of the Book is a sweeping adventure through five centuries of history. From its creation in Muslim-ruled, medieval Spain, the illuminated manuscript makes a series of perilous journeys: through Inquisition-era Venice, fin-de-siecle Vienna, and the Nazi sacking of Sarajevo.
In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed manuscript, which has been rescued once again from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with figurative paintings. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she becomes determined to unlock the book’s mysteries. As she seeks the counsel of scientists and specialists, the reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its creation to its salvation.
In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of Vienna in 1894, the book becomes a pawn in an emerging contest between the city’s cultured cosmopolitanism and its rising anti-Semitism. In Venice in 1609, a Catholic priest saves it from Inquisition book burnings. In Tarragona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text has his family destroyed amid the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed.
On the same day Anthony Doerr’s wife gave birth to newborn twins, Doerr learned he’d won the Rome Prize, one of the most prestigious awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Four Seasons in Rome describes Doerr’s subsequent year in the eternal city, reading Pliny, visits the piazzas, temples and churches of Rome, attending the vigil of a dying Pope John Paul II, and raising twin babies. “To call this a travel book,” said Kirkus Reviews, “is to sell it short: it is delightful, funny and full of memorable scenes. Don’t leave for Rome without it." About Gap Creek:
There is a most unusual woman living in Gap Creek. Julie Harmon works hard, "hard as a man" they say, so hard that at times she's not sure she can stop.
People depend on her. They need her to slaughter the hogs and nurse the dying. People are weak, and there is so much to do. She is just a teenager when her little brother dies in her arms. That same year she marries Hank and moves down into the valley where fire and visions visit themselves on her and where con men and drunks come calling. Julie and Hank discover that the modern world is complex, grinding ever on without pause or concern for their hard work. To survive, they must find out whether love can keep chaos and madness at bay. In this novel, Morgan returns to the vivid world of the Appalachian high country to follow Julie and Hank in their new life on Gap Creek and their efforts to make sense of the world in the last years of the nineteenth century. Scratching out a life for themselves, always at risk of losing it all, Julie and Hank don't know what to fear most—the floods or the flesh-and-blood grifters who insinuate themselves into their new lives.
Their struggles with nature, with work, with the changing century, and with the disappointments and triumphs of marriage make this a powerful follow-up to Morgan's acclaimed novel, The Truest Pleasure.
At a visit to Rainy Day Books last evening, I heard about an upcoming "great" book for readers of the ever growing paranormal romance genre, Firelight by Sophie Jordan due out September 7th. It also seems light it might crossover to the fantasy realm.
Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.
Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.
Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.
I heard an interview with Graham Robb on NPR's Weekend Edition about his recently published book, Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris. NPR said, "In Graham Robb's new book...the past comes to you in thundering whispers and haunting asides. You never know by name who's speaking, but you do. It's history as a great masked ball of revelations. None of this is fiction but it reads like the most thrilling of novels...I thought it was just magnificent."
A young artillery lieutenant, strolling through the Palais-Royal, observes disapprovingly the courtesans plying their trade. A particular woman catches his eye; nature takes its course. Later that night Napoleon Bonaparte writes a meticulous account of his first sexual encounter. An aristocratic woman, fleeing the Louvre, takes a wrong turn and loses her way in the nameless streets of the Left Bank. For want of a map—there were no reliable ones at the time—Marie-Antoinette will go to the guillotine. Baudelaire, Baron Haussmann, the real-life Mimi of La Bohème, Proust, Charles de Gaulle (who is suspected of having faked an assassination attempt on himself in Notre Dame)—these and many more are Robb’s cast of characters. The result is a resonant, intimate history with the power of a great novel.
I'm always looking for a good romance novel for Cheryl and stumbled on this first novel by Frances de Pontes Peebles—The Seamstress. The Chicago Tribune said, "It's rare to find a first novel by a writer barely out of a workshop who isn't looking inward. But The Seamstress, a glorious narrative production by recent University of Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate and Chicago resident Frances de Pontes Peebles, turns our eyes toward the country of the writer's birth—Brazil—and its barren northeast states and carries us back in time to the early 1930s. The story we fall into, as in John Gardner's notion that reading a good novel is like falling in a continuous waking dream, gives us as good as we can get."
Pernambuco, Brazil, 1928 - As seamstresses, the young sisters Emília and Luzia dos Santos know how to cut, how to mend, and how to conceal. These are useful skills in Brazil's backcountry, where land barons feud with outlaw cangaceiros, trapping innocent residents in the crossfire. Emília is a dreamer who wants to escape her hillside village. While the quick-tempered Luzia—scarred by a childhood accident that left her with a deformed arm — finds her escape in sewing and in secret prayers to saints.
When Luzia is abducted by a group of cangaceiros, the sisters' quiet lives diverge. Emília stumbles into marriage with a wealthy stranger and moves to the sprawling city of Recife. Luzia learns to survive in the unforgiving scrubland, and begins to see the cangaceiros as comrades, not criminals.
As Emília navigates the treacherous waters of Brazilian high society, she sees the country torn apart after a bitter presidential election. Political feuds force Luzia to make unexpected alliances and endure betrayals that threaten to break the cangaceiros apart. But Luzia overcomes time and distance to entrust her sister with a great secret—one Emília vows to keep. And when Luzia's life is threatened, Emília will risk everything to save her.
Somewhere in Pakistan, Sonia Laghari and eight fellow members of a symposium on peace are being held captive by armed terrorists. Sonia, a deeply religious woman as well as a Jungian psychologist, has become the de facto leader of the kidnapped group. While her son Theo, an ex-Delta soldier, uses his military connections to find and free the victims, Sonia tries to keep them all alive by working her way into the kidnappers' psyches and interpreting their dreams. With her knowledge of their language, her familiarity with their religion, and her Jungian training, Sonia confounds her captors with her insights and beliefs. Meanwhile, when the kidnappers decide to kill their captives, one by one, in retaliation for perceived crimes against their country, Theo races against the clock to try and save their lives.
Jennifer Wiener's new novel Fly Away Home looks like it might be a good one for the beach. We've listed another one of her novels as a top beach read, Good In Bed (see May 29th).
About the book:
When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips, and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician's wife—her hair dyed and straightened, her hippie-chick wardrobe replaced by tailored knit suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her husband, the senator.
Lizzie, the Woodruffs' younger daughter, is at twenty-four a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, trouble always seems to find her. Her older sister, Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve—a husband, a young son, the perfect home—and yet she's trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER's exam rooms, she finds herself craving more.
After Richard's extramarital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider her life, who she is and who she is meant to be.
Lots of good reviews about A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. The New York Times calls it "remarkable new fiction", one blog said it "is a collection of inter-connected stories that I think will win the Pulitzer."
Jennifer Egan’s new novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs, over many years, in locales as varied as New York, San Francisco, Naples, and Africa.
We first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist’s couch in New York City, confronting her long-standing compulsion to steal. Later, we learn the genesis of her turmoil when we see her as the child of a violent marriage, then as a runaway living in Naples, then as a college student trying to avert the suicidal impulses of her best friend. We plunge into the hidden yearnings and disappointments of her uncle, an art historian stuck in a dead marriage, who travels to Naples to extract Sasha from the city’s demimonde and experiences an epiphany of his own while staring at a sculpture of Orpheus and Eurydice in the Museo Nazionale. We meet Bennie Salazar at the melancholy nadir of his adult life—divorced, struggling to connect with his nine-year-old son, listening to a washed-up band in the basement of a suburban house—and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth, shy and tender, reveling in San Francisco’s punk scene as he discovers his ardor for rock and roll and his gift for spotting talent. We learn what became of his high school gang—who thrived and who faltered—and we encounter Lou Kline, Bennie’s catastrophically careless mentor, along with the lovers and children left behind in the wake of Lou’s far-flung sexual conquests and meteoric rise and fall.
A Visit from the Goon Squad is a book about the interplay of time and music, about survival, about the stirrings and transformations set inexorably in motion by even the most passing conjunction of our fates. In a breathtaking array of styles and tones ranging from tragedy to satire to PowerPoint, Egan captures the undertow of self-destruction that we all must either master or succumb to; the basic human hunger for redemption; and the universal tendency to reach for both—and escape the merciless progress of time—in the transporting realms of art and music. Sly, startling, exhilarating work from one of our boldest writers.
The origins of Islam have been the subject of increasing controversy in recent years. The traditional view, which presents Islam as a self-consciously distinct religion tied to the life and revelations of the prophet Muhammad in western Arabia, has since the 1970s been challenged by historians engaged in critical study of the Muslim sources.
In Muhammad and the Believers, the eminent historian Fred Donner offers a lucid and original vision of how Islam first evolved. He argues that the origins of Islam lie in what we may call the "Believers' movement" begun by the prophet Muhammad—a movement of religious reform emphasizing strict monotheism and righteous behavior in conformity with God's revealed law. The Believers' movement thus included righteous Christians and Jews in its early years, because like the Qur'anic Believers, Christians and Jews were monotheists and agreed to live righteously in obedience to their revealed law. The conviction that Muslims constituted a separate religious community, utterly distinct from Christians and Jews, emerged a century later, when the leaders of the Believers' movement decided that only those who saw the Qur'an as the final revelation of the One God and Muhammad as the final prophet, qualified as Believers. This separated them decisively from monotheists who adhered to the Gospels or Torah.
A team of intelligence agents try to prevent an impending terrorist attack, but are thwarted by bureaucratic hurdles in this darkly humorous debut written by a former CIA agent
Maddie James and her colleagues are terrorism experts working in a crumbling intelligence agency. They are certain another big terrorist attack is coming, but in a post-9/11 election year the Administration is stressing its victories in the War on Terror and few want to hear the team’s warnings.
Reluctantly, Maddie’s given a team of five analysts to focus on the impending threat. The crew labors through bureaucratic obstacles, personal problems, and a blossoming romance between its senior members, Doc and Fran. They come heartbreakingly close to stopping the attack, but fail to predict a surprising twist in the terrorists’ plot. In the wake of tragedy, the Administration pins blame on Iran despite lack of evidence—so Maddie and her team try to investigate. With dark humor and a razor-sharp tone, they fight back against office politics, government cover-ups and blackmail in order to set the record straight.
David Rabe’s award-winning Vietnam plays have come to embody our collective fears, doubts, and tenuous grasp of a war that continues to haunt. Partially written upon his return from the war, Girl by the Road at Night is Rabe’s first work of fiction set in Vietnam—a spare and poetic narrative about a young soldier embarking on a tour of duty and the Vietnamese prostitute he meets in country.
Private Joseph Whitaker, with Vietnam deployment papers in hand, spends his last free weekend in Washington, DC, drinking, attending a peace rally, and visiting an old girlfriend, now married. He observes his surroundings closely, attempting to find reason in an atmosphere of hysteria and protest, heightened by his own anger. When he arrives in Vietnam, he happens upon Lan, a local girl who submits nightly to the American GIs with a heartbreaking combination of decency and guile. Her family dispersed and her father dead, she longs for a time when life meant riding in water buffalo carts through rice fields with her brother.
Whitaker’s chance encounter with Lan sparks an unexpected, almost unrecognized, visceral longing between two people searching for companionship and tenderness amid the chaos around them.In transformative prose, Rabe has created an atmosphere charged with exquisite poignancy and recreated the surreal netherworld of Vietnam in wartime with unforgettable urgency and grace. Girl by the Road at Night is a brilliant meditation on disillusionment, sexuality, and masculinity, and one of Rabe’s finest works to date.
Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory", the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.
Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is a must-read, an American classic, and one of my favorite books. There are many tributes to read on the web - NPR did a nice story, HarperCollins has a nice web page dedicated to the anniversary, and check-out this rare interview she gave to The New York Times in 2006. And it has one of the best endings I've ever read (see March 25th).
About To Kill A Mockingbird:
A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unswerving honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice—but the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
One of the best-loved classics of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It has won the Pulitzer Prize, been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. It was also named the best novel of the twentieth century by librarians across the country (Library Journal).
Call her superficial, but Susie B. Anthony Rabinowitz Gersten assumed her marriage was great—and why not? She was beautiful. Talented too, but not threateningly so. Her husband, Jonah Gersten, M.D., a handsome, successful Park Avenue plastic surgeon, clearly adored her, and they were doting parents to their four-year-old triplets Dashiell, Evan, and Mason. But when Jonah is found in the Upper East Side apartment of second-rate "escort" Dorinda Dillon, Susie is overwhelmed with questions left unanswered. It's bad enough to know your husband's been murdered, but even worse when you're universally pitied (and quietly mocked) because of the sleaze factor.
None of it makes sense to Susie—not a sexual liaison with someone like Dorinda, not the "better not to discuss it" response from Jonah's partners. With help from her tough-talking, high-style Grandma Ethel who flies in from Miami, she takes on her snooty in-laws, her husband's partners as well as the NYPD, and the DA. She wants to know if the person arrested for the homicide is the actual perp, or just an easy mark for a prosecutor who hates the word "unsolved." And for her own peace of mind, she hopes to prove her wonderful life with Jonah was no lie.
Faced with the end of his quiet, settled life, reluctant spy Milo Weaver has no choice but to turn back to his old job as a “Tourist.” But before he can get back to the CIA’s dirty work, he has to prove his loyalty to his new bosses with an impossible task, and only then will he be set on the trail of a mole in Tourism.
Milo is suddenly in a dangerous position, between right and wrong, between powerful self-interested men, between self-professed patriots and hidden traitors—especially as a man who has nothing left to lose.
In the late 1880s, Frank Lenz of Pittsburgh, a renowned high-wheel racer and long-distance tourist, dreamed of cycling around the world. He finally got his chance by recasting himself as a champion of the downsized “safety-bicycle” with inflatable tires, the forerunner of the modern road bike that was about to become wildly popular. In the spring of 1892 he quit his accounting job and gamely set out west to cover twenty thousand miles over three continents as a correspondent for Outing magazine. Two years later, after having survived countless near disasters and unimaginable hardships, he approached Europe for the final leg.
He never made it.
His mysterious disappearance in eastern Turkey sparked an international outcry and compelled Outing to send William Sachtleben, another larger-than-life cyclist, on Lenz’s trail. Bringing to light a wealth of information, Herlihy’s gripping narrative captures the soaring joys and constant dangers accompanying the bicycle adventurer in the days before paved roads and automobiles. This untold story culminates with Sachtleben’s heroic effort to bring Lenz’s accused murderers to justice, even as troubled Turkey teetered on the edge of collapse.
In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David MartÌn, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city's underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.
Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has existed - a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.
Set in the turbulent 1920s, The Angel's Game takes us back to the gothic universe of the Cemetery of the Forgotten Books, the Sempere & Son bookshop, and the winding streets of Barcelona's old quarter, in a masterful tale about the magic of books and the darkest corners of the human soul.
For more than ten years, Naomi and Phil Harrison enjoyed a marriage of heady romance, tempered only by the needs of their children. But on a vacation alone, the couple perishes in a flight over the Grand Canyon. After the funeral, their daughters, Ruthie and Julia, are shocked by the provisions in their will.
Spanning nearly two decades, the sisters’ journeys take them from their familiar home in Atlanta to sophisticated bohemian San Francisco, a mountain town in Virginia, the campus of Berkeley, and lofts in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. As they heal from loss, search for love, and begin careers, their sisterhood, once an oasis, becomes complicated by resentment, anger, and jealousy. It seems as though the echoes of their parents’ deaths will never stop reverberating—until another shocking accident changes everything once again.
Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, "The Hunger Games." The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When her sister is chosen by lottery, Katniss steps up to go in her place.
In the winter of 1946, Henry McAllen moves his city-bred wife, Laura, from their comfortable home in Memphis to a remote cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta—a place she finds both foreign and frightening. While Henry works the land he loves, Laura struggles to raise their two young children in a rude shack with no indoor plumbing or electricity, under the eye of her hateful, racist father-in-law. When it rains, the waters rise up and swallow the bridge to town, stranding the family in a sea of mud.
As the McAllans are being tested in every way, two celebrated soldiers of World War II return home to the Delta. Jamie McAllan is everything his older brother Henry is not: charming, handsome, and sensitive to Laura’s plight, but also haunted by his memories of combat. Ronsel Jackson, eldest son of the black tenant farmers who live on the McAllan farm, comes home from fighting the Nazis with the shine of a war hero, only to face far more personal—and dangerous—battles against the ingrained bigotry of his own countrymen. It is the unlikely friendship of these two brothers-in-arms, and the passions they arouse in others, that drive this powerful debut novel.
Mudbound is told in riveting personal narratives by the individual members of the McAllan and Jackson families. As they strive for love and honor in a brutal time and place, they become players in a tragedy on the grandest scale and find redemption where they least expect it.
I just read a book review in The New York Times Book Review about an author that I ignorantly I never heard of that the reviewer, David Eggers, says, "If any readers have doubted that David Mitchell is phenomenally talented and capable of vaulting wonders on the page, they have been heretofore silent. Mitchell is almost universally acknowledged as the real deal. His best-known book, Cloud Atlas, is one of those how-the-holy-hell-did-he-do-it? modern classics that no doubt is—and should be—read by any student of contemporary literature." Where have I been??? Anyway, Eggers goes on to recommend Mitchell's latest effort, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet.
The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the “high-walled, fan-shaped artificial island” that is the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay; the farthest outpost of the war-ravaged Dutch East Indies Company; and a de facto prison for the dozen foreigners permitted to live and work there. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, costly courtesans, earthquakes, and typhoons comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout and resourceful young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland.
But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured daughter of a samurai doctor and midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken. The consequences will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings. As one cynical colleague asks, “Who ain’t a gambler in the glorious Orient, with his very life?”
A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation — the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.
Tim Farnsworth is a handsome, healthy man, aging with the grace of a matinee idol. His wife Jane still loves him, and for all its quiet trials, their marriage is still stronger than most. Despite long hours at the office, he remains passionate about his work, and his partnership at a prestigious Manhattan law firm means that the work he does is important. And, even as his daughter Becka retreats behind her guitar, her dreadlocks and her puppy fat, he offers her every one of a father's honest lies about her being the most beautiful girl in the world.
He loves his wife, his family, his work, his home. He loves his kitchen. And then one day he stands up and walks out. And keeps walking.
Just out in paperback is Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, the author of The Time Travelers Wife, one of my favorite books. I finished this last year, but wasn't editing this blog. It's a good story—a little out there like Time Traveler—but I enjoyed it. For me it suffered from the comparison to Time Traveler and it wasn't quite as good.
When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers—with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another.
The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including--perhaps--their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.
Niffenegger weaves a captivating story in Her Fearful Symmetry about love and identity, about secrets and sisterhood, and about the tenacity of life—even after death.
Writing from his home in Toronto, Canada in 1987, John Wheelwright narrates the story of his childhood. Peppering his narrative with frequent diary entries in which he chronicles his outrage against the behavior of the Ronald Reagan administration in the late 1980s, Wheelright tells the story of his early life in Gravesend, New Hampshire, when his best friend was Owen Meany, who he remembers as the boy who accidentally killed Wheelwright's mother and made Wheelright believe in God. The narrative of A Prayer for Owen Meany does not follow a perfect chronology, as John pieces together the story he wants to tell.
In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy’s mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn’t believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen, after that 1953 foul ball, is extraordinary and terrifying.