I had to make a quick trip to Washington DC Friday and wanted something to read on the plane. Cheryl handed me A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick on my way out the door. I finished it yesterday morning! Very good story about three intertwining lives at the turn of the 20th century (see February 10th for a plot summary).
Twelve-year-old CeeCee is in trouble. For years she’s been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille— the crown-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town. Though it’s 1967 and they live in Ohio, Camille believes it’s 1951 and she’s just been crowned the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia.
The day CeeCee discovers Camille in the front yard wearing a tattered prom dress and tiara as she blows kisses to passing motorists, she knows her mother has completely flipped. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, a previously unknown great-aunt comes to CeeCee’s rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. Within hours of her arrival, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricities—a world that appears to be run entirely by women.
While Tootie is busy saving Savannah’s endangered historic homes from the wrecking ball, CeeCee encounters a cast of unforgettable, eccentric characters. From the mysterious Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in an outdoor tub under the watchful eyes of a voyeuristic peacock, to Oletta Jones, the all-knowing household cook, to Violene Hobbs, the loud-mouthed widow who entertains a local police officer in her yellow see-through peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.
But CeeCee’s view of the world is challenged in ways she could have never imagined: there are secrets to keep, injustices to face, and loyalties to uphold. Just as she begins to find her ballast and experiences a sense of belonging, her newfound joy collides with the long-held fear that her mother’s legacy has left her destined for destruction.
Bailey just finished the second Lighting Thief novel, The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2) by Rick Riordan (see February 11th) and says these are "very good stories about the son of Poseidon." Now Bailey and Jack are starting The Titan's Curse, the third book in the Lighting Thief series.
Bailey also reports she just finished The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.
Nine year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution or the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country.
All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pajamas.
Bruno's friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.
Thirteen-year-old Jonah has always known that he was adopted, and he's never thought it was any big deal. Then he and a new friend, Chip, who's also adoped, begin receiving mysterious letters. The first one says, "You are one of the missing." The second one says, "Beware! They're coming back to get you."
Jonah, Chip, and Jonah's sister, Katherine, are plunged into a mystery that involves the FBI, a vast smuggling operation, an airplane that appeared out of nowhere -- and people who seem to appear and disappear at will. The kids discover they are caught in a battle between two opposing forces that want very different things for Jonah and Chip's lives.
Do Jonah and Chip have any choice in the matter? And what should they choose when both alternatives are horrifying?
Cheryl and I attend the HealthRidge Book Club monthly meeting last night led by Vivien Jennings, the owner of Rainy Day Books in Kansas City. They reviewed Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann. We had not read the book, but Ms. Jennings does such a good job of leading the discussion and providing insight to the novel, that we both left wanting to read this story.
Next month's book is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, who is also the author of The House At Riverton. Ms. Jennings promises it to be a fun read with some interesting twists.
A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book—a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and with very little to go on, "Nell" sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to find her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book's title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales.
This is a novel of outer and inner journeys and an homage to the power of storytelling. The Forgotten Garden is filled with unforgettable characters who weave their way through its spellbinding plot to astounding effect.
In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.
Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.
Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.
"A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossein. I 'liked' this one better then The Kite Runner. It's hard to use the word 'liked' because of the brutality against the women. The story provides some insight into what goes on in that part of the world. "The Girls by Lori Lansens is a must read for all girls. A heart warming story about appearances not being what they seem.
"The Birth House by Ami McKay is set in the early 1900s in Nova Scotia. The story is about the struggle between a midwife continuing her practice of using herbal medicines and the introduction of modern medicine.
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is a murder mystery that takes place in Sweden. Different.. very brutal."
Rarely has the experience of being a sister been so poignantly and memorably captured as in Lori Lansens's triumphant novel. The Girls celebrates life's fundamental joys and trials as it presents Rose and Ruby, sisters destined to live inseparably but blessed with distinct sensibilities that enrich and complicate their shared experiences-of growing up, of finding their way in the world, of saying good-bye.
In Sunday's Parade magazine, the mentioned two books that look interesting. Citizens of London - The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson and Americans in Paris: Life & Death Under Nazi Occupation by Charles Glass. Both books are stories about Americans helping to defeat Germany in WWII.
In her latest book, Lynne Olson, author of the highly acclaimed Troublesome Young Men, focuses once again on Britain in World War II, this time from an American perspective. Citizens of London is the engrossing behind-the-scenes story of how the United States and Britain forged their crucial wartime alliance, as seen from the viewpoint of three key American players in London. Drawing from a wide variety of primary sources, Olson depicts the personal journeys of these men, who, determined to save Britain from Hitler, helped convince a cautious Franklin Roosevelt and reluctant American public to back the British at a critical time.
The three—Edward R. Murrow, the handsome, chain-smoking head of CBS News in Europe; Averell Harriman, the hard-driving millionaire who ran FDR’s Lend-Lease program in London; and John Gilbert Winant, the shy, idealistic U.S. ambassador to Britain—formed close ties with Winston Churchill and were drawn into Churchill’s official and family circles. So intense were their relationships with the Churchills that all of them were involved romantically with members of the prime minister’s family: Harriman and Murrow with Churchill’s daughter-in-law, Pamela, and Winant with his favorite daughter, Sarah.
Americans in Paris tells for the first time the true story of the thousands of Americans who stayed in Paris during the Nazi occupation. This tale of adventure, intrigue, passion and deceit exposes the lives of Americans caught up in war from the day the German army marched into Paris in June 1944 and took many of them into the Paris underground, the Maquis and the concentration camps.
Mare reports, "I just finished both The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan (a collection of short essays about her life and her writing) and Last Words by George Carlin—I loved Opposite of Fate. I also read the first two books in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, an amazing young adult book. Now I'm reading a book Susie recommended, Graceling by Kristin Cashore."
Born into a family who believed in fate, Amy Tan has always looked for alternative ways to make sense of the world. And now, in The Opposite of Fate, her first book of nonfiction, she shares her thoughts on how she escaped the expectations and curses of her past, and created her own destiny.
Amy Tan tells of her family, of the ghosts that inhabit her computer, of specters of illness, ski trips, the pliability of memory, rock and roll, and the twinned mysteries of faith and fate. Whether she is remembering arguments with her mother in suburban California, recounting trips to an outdoor market in Shanghai, or describing her love-hate relationship with the CliffsNotes edition of her first book, The Joy Luck Club, her recollections offer an intimate glimpse of a bestselling writer whose own life story is as magical and hopeful as her fiction.
From our resident Texans, Pat & Steve, Pat reports some recent purchases...
"I picked up Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Lillian Hellman's Pentimento, Peter Matthiessen's Shadow Country, and Alice Munro's Selected Stories at Half Price Books today. (I had on my Phillie Phanatic shirt, and the guy behind the counter grew up near Trenton. He was excited.) I hope I get to most of them read before summer. Father Jim was talking about the first two at Mass; well, he was really talking about a conversation between the two authors, so I thought I'd read them. Catch-22was our freshman universal reading list at University of Dallas, but I think I had other things on my mind than discussing it that fall. I'm probably the only person in the world who hasn't read Slaughterhouse Five, right?
"Lillian Hellman was right next to Joseph Heller. It looked interesting. And Shadow Country comes highly recommended by my uncle. "I'm half way through Pope Joanby Donna Woolfolk Cross. It's good. The historical part is interesting. The lifestyle is quite primitive though, as are the punishments and warring—I skip through those parts quickly. I can't read Latin either, so that's an issue, but it's somehow explained in context. The question is out there whether Joan of Ingleheim was pope or not. I haven't gotten that far yet. We might still not know by the end of the book."
Cheryl and I just watched the movie version of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and it reminded me of what a great book this is! The movie was fine, but both of us wondered if you would enjoy it if you hadn't read the book, in part because the novel explains so much more about the main character's ability to travel in time. But before you say, "I don't read science fiction," know that this novel is a great love story first!
Audrey Niffenegger's innovative debut, The Time Traveler's Wife, is the story of Clare, a beautiful art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, alternately harrowing and amusing.
The Time Traveler's Wife depicts the effects of time travel on Henry and Clare's marriage and their passionate love for each other, as the story unfolds from both points of view. Clare and Henry attempt to live normal lives, pursuing familiar goals - steady jobs, good friends, children of their own. All of this is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control, making their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.
The acclaimed author of the Kurt Wallander mysteries now gives us an electrifying stand-alone thriller that takes off into a sweeping international drama.
January 2006. In the Swedish hamlet of Hesjövallen, nineteen people have been massacred. The only clue is a red ribbon found at the scene. Judge Birgitta Roslin has particular reason to be shocked: her grandparents, the Andréns, are among the victims. The police insist that only a lunatic could have committed the murders. But when Birgitta discovers the diary of another Andrén - a gang master on the American transcontinental railway in the nineteenth century - that describes the cruel treatment of Chinese slave-workers, she is determined to uncover what she suspects is a more complicated truth.
The investigation leads to modern-day Beijing and its highest echelons of power, to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. But the narrative also takes us back 150 years, into a history that will ensnare Birgitta as she draws ever closer to solving the Hesjövallen murders.
Jumanji was written and illustrated Chris Van Allsburg long before it was made into a special effects movie phenomenon for children. As is often the case, this is a much better book than a movie, and the illustrations are so fantastic that a child should experience this story by reading it, not watching it on a screen. Jumanji was the Caldecott Medal recipient in 1982. If you are raising a child, check out all of Van Allsburg's books—they will become classics in your family collection handed down from generation to generation!
The game under the tree looked like a hundred others Peter and Judy had at home. But they were bored and restless and, looking for something interesting to do, thought they'd give Jumanji a try. Little did they know when they unfolded its ordinary-looking playing board that they were about to be plunged into the most exciting and bizarre adventure of their lives.
Liesel Meminger is only nine years old when she is taken to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family, on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, in the late 1930s. She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, a book that she stole from her brother’s burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, life on Himmel Street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a full fledged book thief. She rescues books from Nazi book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor. Liesel is illiterate when she steals her first book, but Hans Hubermann uses her prized books to teach her to read. This is a story of courage, friendship, love, survival, death, and grief. This is Liesel’s life on Himmel Street, told from Death’s point of view.
And Steve says no one will have heard of Rules of the Bone, but he really enjoyed it. From Goodreads.com:
Written in the tradition of such classics as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Catcher in the Rye, Banks' astonishing new novel tells the story of a homeless youth living on the edge of society—a lost boy who maps the cruel world that surrounds him with motherwit, humor, and appalling honesty.
Cheryl just finished A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (see February 10th). She said is was very good: "The life of Catherine Land as she answers an ad in a Chicago paper for a "reliable wife". She responds and travels to Wisconsin by portraying herself as a "simple, honest woman." Of course, she was not...
"I devoured this book for all its mystery and the dark story line. The writing is wonderful—loved the glimpse of life in the early 1900s. Although haunting and dark at times, the book is ultimately about love and how it can redeem us."
Here is a quote from The Summer Guest by Justin Cronin (see February 10th). This is a great book.
...Ritzy the dog... I love him, as one can only love such a dog; but I also knew what he was. Behind his eyes, twin chestnuts of the most tender soulfulness, lay, encased in its suitcase of bone, a brain that knew nothing at all of time or sorrow or even the true joy that sorrow makes possible—only its own desire to please, an aching, needful love that could achieve its fullest contentment with the most meager offering: a stale biscuit, a walk around the block to do his business, a pat on the golden head. His own existence, its nature and finitude, was a mystery to him; he might have thought he was a person, or else I was a dog. The day I took him to the vet to have him put down—he was thirteen—I could think of only this to say: "You have been a good dog, and a great comfort to me, and I thank you." It was all he wanted to hear. I'd never wished so badly to be the dog he thought I was.
Cheryl just finished (actually just before we started this blog) Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. She said this is a "great book in the way the main character investigates this story."
About Sarah's Key:
In Paris, July 1942, Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Fast forward to Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.
Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.
I just finished a book of poetry, News of the World by Philip Levine, my favorite poet. From the book jacket, the publisher writes, "Philip Levine is the author of seventeen collections of poetry. He has received many awards for his poetry, including the National Book Award in 1980 for Ashes and again in 1991 for What Work Is, and the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for The Simple Truth. He divides his time between Fresno, California and Brooklyn, New York."
Here is one of my favorite Levine poems:
My father stands in the warm evening on the porch of my first house. I am four years old and growing tired. I see his head among the stars, the glow of his cigarette, redder than the summer moon riding low over the old neighborhood. We are alone, and he asks me if I am happy. "Are you happy?" I cannot answer. I do not really understand the word, and the voice, my father's voice, is not his voice, but somehow thick and choked, a voice I have not heard before, but heard often since. He bends and passes a thumb beneath each of my eyes. The cigarette is gone, but I can smell the tiredness that hangs on his breath. He has found nothing, and he smiles and holds my head with both his hands. Then he lifts me to his shoulder, and now I too am there among the stars, as tall as he. Are you happy? I say. He nods in answer, Yes! oh yes! oh yes! And in that new voice he says nothing, holding my head tight against his head, his eyes closed up against the starlight, as though those tiny blinking eyes of light might find a tall, gaunt child holding his child against the promises of autumn, until the boy slept never to waken in that world again.
From Miss Sally's book club, their 2010 reading list includes:
The 19th Wife - David Ebershoff The Orchid Thief - Susan Orlean Loving Frank - Nancy Horan The Zookeepers Wife - Diane Ackerman The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society - Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows Still Alice - Lisa Genova Playing the Enemy - George Carlin Cheryl and I can vouch for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society—this was a great story—a very fast read. We highly recommend it. We learn about our main character Juliet Ashton through a series of letters that advance the story - a very interesting literary device (how's that for fancy book-talk?). From ReadingGroupGuides.com:
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends--and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.
Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.
Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.
On the day after Halloween, in the year 1327, four children slip away from the cathedral city of Kingsbridge. They are a thief, a bully, a boy genius and a girl who wants to be a doctor. In the forest they see two men killed.
As adults, their lives will be braided together by ambition, love, greed and revenge. They will see prosperity and famine, plague and war. One boy will travel the world but come home in the end; the other will be a powerful, corrupt nobleman. One girl will defy the might of the medieval church; the other will pursue an impossible love. And always they will live under the long shadow of the unexplained killing they witnessed on that fateful childhood day.
World Without End is the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth. However, it doesn’t matter which you read first. The second book is set in the same town, Kingsbridge, but takes place two hundred years later, and features the descendants of the original characters.
Readers will best remember author Patricia MacLachlan for Sarah, Plain and Tall, Baby, and Journey. Her newest book is Edward’s Eyes and will appeal to readers in grades 4-6. Baby Edward is brought home from the hospital to his large and loving family. His older brother takes an immediate liking, (no loving) to him. Edward seems to know things others don’t know. He sees things in a special way. The storyline follows Edward through the eyes of his older brother, Jake, who recalls later that Edward could throw a perfect knuckleball pitch that no one could hit. The family’s life is filled with music, art, summer vacations on the Cape, and ….baseball. But everything changes when Edward dies tragically in a bicycle accident. His gift of seeing is passed on because Edward’s parents donate his organs. The perfect recipient of Edward’s eyes brings the story to a beautiful and touching conclusion.
Izzy is reading Phineas L. MacGuire . . . Blasts Off! (From the Highly Scientific Notebooks of Phineas L. Macguire) by Frances O'Roark Dowell. illustrated by Preston McDaniels.
Phineas L. MacGuire (a.k.a. Mac) is less than up-to-date on planetary happenings. (Marsquakes? Who knew?) If he's going to be the best scientist in the fourth grade, Mac has to set his sights pretty high. To outer space, actually. But Space Camp is expensive. Where is he going to find enough money for a week on Mars (or a pretty close simulation thereof)?
Houston, we have another problem: a gigantic, slobbery dog named Lemon Drop. Mac can earn the money he needs by walking Mrs. McClosky's yellow Lab, but first he needs to survive the walks and the slobber! Good thing Mac is a scientific genius with friends like Ben and Aretha. Together the three of them discover that Lemon Drop is no ordinary dog—that Lab is a real-life Lab-oratory.
Angle of Repose tells the story of Lyman Ward, a retired professor of history and author of books about the Western frontier, who returns to his ancestral home of Grass Valley, California, in the Sierra Nevada. Wheelchair-bound with a crippling bone disease and dependent on others for his every need, Ward is nonetheless embarking on a search of monumental proportions—to rediscover his grandmother, now long dead, who made her own journey to Grass Valley nearly a hundred years earlier. Like other great quests in literature, Lyman Ward's investigation leads him deep into the dark shadows of his own life.
From the smartest man I know with an insatiable appetite for books, Tom writes...
I am currently reading on the Kindle for iPhone: H. P. Lovecraft: The Ultimate Collection: 101 Stories, 45 Poems (Kindle Edition). Lovecraft is the heir to Poe, with lots of creepy stories including The Dunwich Horror, Herbert West, Reanimator, Pickman's Model, Cool Air, The Rats in the Walls, and many more. Many have been made into episodes of The Night Gallery, if anyone is old enough to remember that show, and movies ("The Reanimator," "From Beyond"). Great stuff from the 1920s and 30s. Oh, and Lovecraft is a condescending racist, which makes the reading all the more bizarre!
Paul says, "My favorite book from last year was The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel by David Wroblewski." Zach read it too and said, "In the end I was glad I read it, though it was pretty dark - broken family relationships. But there is some great companionship that goes on in the book. And the main character's family raises dogs, so I loved that aspect of the story."
Born mute, speaking only in sign, Edgar Sawtelle leads an idyllic life with his parents on their farm in remote northern Wisconsin. For generations, the Sawtelles have raised and trained a fictional breed of dog whose remarkable gift for companionship is epitomized by Almondine, Edgar's lifelong friend and ally. Edgar seems poised to carry on his family's traditions, but when catastrophe strikes, he finds his once-peaceful home engulfed in turmoil.
Forced to flee into the vast wilderness lying beyond the Sawtelle farm, Edgar comes of age in the wild, fighting for his survival and that of the three yearling dogs who accompany him, until the day he is forced to choose between leaving forever or returning home to confront the mysteries he has left unsolved.
Filled with breathtaking scenes—the elemental north woods, the sweep of seasons, an iconic American barn, a fateful vision rendered in the falling rain—The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is a meditation on the limits of language and what lies beyond, a brilliantly inventive retelling of an ancient story, and an epic tale of devotion, betrayal, and courage in the American heartland.
The C's are reading several books. Jack is reading the second Lighting Thief novel, The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2) by Rick Riordan. I didn't know this series existed! I can't wait to hear about them...
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human... until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.
Zach just finished Playing The Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation by John Carlin. You might find it on the shelves as Invictus, re-released under this title to coincide with the movie.
Zach says, "Invictus was cool because as a youngster when all that was going on, I was oblivious to what was going on in my own country, let alone South Africa. I had always heard the name Nelson Mandela and associated him with good people, but it wasn't until I read Invictus that I realized the magnitude of this man's impact on South Africa. And not only that, but how much sport can be a medium for politics and an opportunity to unite a country."
This is a gripping account of Nelson Mandela's political masterstroke during South Africa's 1995 Rugby World Cup. With the nation on the brink of civil war, Mandela seized on the sport once reviled by the country's blacks as a symbol of Afrikaner oppression and used it to unite his divided country. Morné du Plessis, the side's manager, urged his almost exclusively white team to learn the "black" national anthem for the tournament. By the time Mandela strode into Ellis Park stadium for the final between South Africa and New Zealand, to unanimous cries from both whites and blacks of "Nelson! Nelson!", the symbolism was potent enough to make hulking rugby players shed a tear.
In Nancy Pearl's most recent blog post, "That First Fine Careless Rapture", she talks about a category of her favorite books—books she loved so much the first time, she shouldn't read them again...
"So then I started thinking about the books that I felt I’d better not ever reread because I loved them so much the first time. And here’s my list (so far), in no particular order:"
Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides Simone de Beauvoir’s The Mandarins John Irving’s The World According to Garp Paul Scott’s The Raj Quartet Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children J. G. Farrell’s The Siege of Krishnapur and The Singapore Grip Gail Godwin’s The Odd Woman Merle Miller’s A Gay and Melancholy Sound Clancy Sigal’s Going Away David James Duncan’s The Brothers K Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Lions of Al-Rassan
For me, my list includes Garp, which I've read several times, in part because it evokes memories of the time in my life when I first read it. Another book that I love is J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye, which I've read several times along with the Glass family short stories (we can only hope that Salinger's estate will publish more stories now that he is dead).
Another series of books I love are Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, a seriesof five science fantasy books for young readers: The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High Kingfor which Alexander won the Newbery Medal in 1969. These are great stories for a young reader who might be struggling to embrace reading instead of video games and finds the length and detail of the Tolkien books overwhelming.
Another quick book that I've read several times is Happy All the Timeby Laurie Colwin. It's almost a novella and most would not consider it serious fiction, but Cheryl and I loved many of her books when we read them in the 80s. Unfortunately she died at the age of 48, and we have no more stories from her to read...
Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt—a passionate man with his own dark secrets—has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.
With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.
In December 1914 Sir Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven men set sail from South Georgia for the South Pole aboard the Endurance, the object of their expedition to cross Antarctica overland. A month later the ship was beset in the ice of the Weddell Sea, just outside the Antarctic Circle. Temperatures dropped to 35 degrees Celsius below zero. Ice-moored, the Endurance drifted northwest for ten months before it was finally crushed. The ordeal, however, had barely begun. Now illustrated with expedition photographer Frank Hurley's breathtaking images of the crew, the wildlife, the stark beauty of the land and terrors of the sea at every stage of this grueling adventure, Alfred Lansing's already compelling narrative assumes even more staggering dramatic power in its depiction of the heroic endurance of Shackleton and his twenty-seven indefatigably courageous men.
Another book CJ recommends is The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard.
“If it is necessary for me to leave my bones in South America, I am quite ready to do so.” Those words, written by Theodore Roosevelt before he embarked on the most challenging expedition of his life, nearly became prophecy. Determined to chart the course of a mysterious waterway known only as The River of Doubt, he and a brazen team of explorers set off on a death-defying adventure that, until now, has languished as a little-known chapter in history. Drawing on never-before-seen diaries and extensive resources as a former writer for National Geographic, Candice Millard at last uncovers the startling details of Roosevelt’s final, and arguably most fantastic, feat—one that would forever change the maps of the Western Hemisphere.
A national bestseller that won coast-to-coast praise, The River of Doubt sets the stage with Roosevelt’s stinging election defeat in 1912, a humiliation that would spur him to accept an invitation to South America. He soon spun the invitation into an elaborate plan to travel one of the planet’s most dangerous rivers, which snakes through one of the planet’s most dangerous jungles. Roosevelt and his men would face innumerable hardships, and not everyone on the team would survive. Cannibals, disease, and starvation were but a few of the threats, against a landscape where the flora and fauna were by turns gorgeous and nightmarish. Combining the suspense of Into Thin Air with the rich history of a presidential biography, The River of Doubt makes for an exhilarating journey. We hope that the following topics will enhance your experience of this riveting tour.
Sing Them Home is a moving portrait of three siblings who have lived in the shadow of unresolved grief since their mother's disappearance when they were children. Everyone in Emlyn Springs knows the story of Hope Jones, the physician's wife whose big dreams for their tiny town were lost along with her in the tornado of 1978. For Hope's three young children, the stability of life with their preoccupied father, and with Viney, their mother's spitfire best friend, is no match for Hope's absence. Larken, the eldest, is now an art history professor who seeks in food an answer to a less tangible hunger; Gaelan, the son, is a telegenic weatherman who devotes his life to predicting the unpredictable; and the youngest, Bonnie, is a self-proclaimed archivist who combs roadsides for clues to her mother's legacy, and permission to move on. When they're summoned home after their father's death, each sibling is forced to revisit the childhood tragedy that has defined their lives. With breathtaking lyricism, wisdom, and humor, Kallos explores the consequences of protecting those we love. Sing Them Home is a magnificent tapestry of lives connected and undone by tragedy, lives poised - unbeknownst to the characters - for redemption.
On an evening in late summer, the great financier Harry Wainwright, nearing the end of his life, arrives at a rustic fishing camp in a remote area of Maine. He comes bearing two things: his wish for a day of fishing in a place that has brought him solace for thirty years, and an astonishing bequest that will forever change the lives of those around him.
From the battlefields of Italy to the turbulence of the Vietnam era, to the private battles of love and family, The Summer Guest reveals the full history of this final pilgrimage and its meaning for four people: Jordan Patterson, the haunted young man who will guide Harry on his last voyage out; the camp's owner Joe Crosby, a Vietnam draft evader who has spent a lifetime "trying to learn what it means to be brave"; Joe's wife, Lucy, the woman Harry has loved for three decades; and Joe and Lucy's daughter Kate—the spirited young woman who holds the key to the last unopened door to the past.
Time of Wonderwas written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey in 1957 and won the Caldecott Medalin 1958. The book tells the story of a family's summer on a Maine island and is full of bright images - rain, gulls, a foggy morning, the excitement of sailing, the quiet of the night, and the sudden terror of a hurricane! This a great bedtime story - a must read for parents to their children.