Posts Tagged ‘recommendations’

NPR Summer Reading List

May 23, 2008

Post 85:

I was listening to NPR‘s Morning Edition on the way into work today and I caught a segment where some independent book sellers were giving their picks for a summer reading list, and I thought I would share it with all of you. Below are some of the ones I found most interesting:

My Mistress’ Sparrow is Dead edited by Jeffrey Eugenides

By placing James Joyce next to Denis Johnson, Chekov next to Grace Paley, Nabokov next to Lorrie Moore and Stuart Dybek next to Miranda July, Jeffrey Eugenides makes familiar voices fresh and new and invites us to read authors we might not have picked up otherwise. He edits like a fan, not a scholar, and isn’t afraid to pick favorites, which is exactly what makes this a book you’ll want to keep forever and give to all your friends.

See on LibraryThing – Buy on Amazon: My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Set in 1946, on a failing farm in the Mississippi Delta, Mudbound is narrated by six characters who trade brutal prejudices and curse the circumstance that determine their fates. Struggling to raise her children on a mucky, isolated farm with her pragmatic husband and his sour, bigoted father, city-bred Laura McAllan welcomes the unexpected arrival of her charming young brother-in-law Jamie. But when Jamie forms a tentative friendship with the soldier son of the black sharecroppers on the McAllans’ land, the hateful precepts of the Jim Crow South draw the story to its inexorable conclusions. I’ve heard a lot about this book, it is supposed to be absolutely fantastic

See on LibraryThing – Buy on Amazon: Mudbound

What Happened to Anna K. by Irina Reyn

Irina Reyn’s deft debut novel dusts off Tolstoy’s great 19th-century romantic heroine and re-imagines her as a complex — yet still dreamy-eyed — modern woman of today.

All the elements of Tolstoy’s moralistic epic are evident, transplanted to New York, particularly to the Russian émigré community in Queens: Anna enters a bland marriage to an older man (a regulation Russian businessman); she develops a passion for an enthralling lover (David, a would-be writer); and there is even a suggestion of a train station — naturally, Penn Station.

Yet this novel is no more a strict homage than a pale modernization; Moscow-born and Brooklyn-based Reyn creates in Anna a fully formed character, whose dreams and realities clash like the two cities that make Reyn such an observant, wry writer.

See on LibraryThing – Buy on Amazon: What Happened to Anna K.: A Novel

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

London, 1946. Juliet Ashton, having published a collection of quaint wartime newspaper columns, is searching for her next, more proper subject when a letter arrives from the small island of Guernsey off the English Channel.

The correspondent explains he has come into possession of a book of hers, and an exchange of letters begins. As they banter about books and life, Julia is soon exchanging letters with other islanders, too. What might continue like an amiable BBC comedy turns more serious as the islanders reveal the origins of their unique literary society.

See on LibraryThingBuy on Amazon

You can read excerpts of all of these and the rest of the books on the NPR website. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to pick all of these up!

Sacred History of Britain – Book Review

March 28, 2008

Sacred History of Britain CoverI found The Sacred History of Britain by Martin Palmer on the discount table at Half Price Books for $5. Sometimes there is a good reason that books are on the discount table, but I decided to give it a chance anyway. Religion? British history? A bargain? Count me in!

I am very glad that I gave this book a chance, as it was quite intriguing. In all seriousness, it was a very interesting book. As the title perhaps implies, Palmer traces the idea of the ‘sacred’ from British prehistory, by use of archeology through the advent of Christianity in the isles up to the present day panoply of religions in Britain (including the profusion of Christian sects).

I really appreciated Palmer’s evenhandedness on this subject. He is a Christian, I would guess an Anglican from the work, and he sets out that fact from the beginning of the book so that you can be aware of any possible bias. He was more than willing, however, to be candid about issues the church has had with corruption, etc. He seemed to try very hard to divorce his personal emotions regarding the church from this work. He was almost poetic about some of his experiences with sacred places in Britain, yet he de-romanticized everything from pre-historic religion to the Reformation.

Palmer is a great writer who kept the history interesting and kept the pace of the book moving. I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest either in the history of religion or in the history of Britain. Secular history buffs won’t feel preached at and should enjoy a different perspective on British history.

Buy this book on Amazon:The Sacred History of Britain: Landscape, Myth & Power:The Forces That Have Shaped Britain’s Spirituality

Beginning “Holding Her Head High”

February 25, 2008

I received “Holding Her Head High: 12 Single Mothers Who Championed Their Children and Changed History” by Janine Turner as an early reviewer copy from LibraryThing at the end of last week. I was in the middle of Jean Plaidy’s “Queen of this Realm” about Elizabeth I at the time, so I just started it today. I have to say, I am not currently impressed. I read the publisher information before requesting the book, and so far I do not feel like it describes this book very well at all. Strangely enough, this hasn’t made me want to stop reading. Quite to the contrary, I want to plow through this book as soon as possible in order to confirm or disprove my theory about how this book is going. Plus, my obligation as an early reviewer is to write a review, and I want to be fully informed for my review. I have been noting this I am having issues with. At this point I do not think that this is going to be a BAD book, but I think that I am going to be disappointed because it is not what it was advertised to be. I think they are going to have to re-market this book to get anywhere with it.

Anyway, more on this when I finish and write a full review!

Edit: The review is up here.

Bibliophile Confessions

February 25, 2008

For the past two years or so about 60% of what I have been reading has been historical fiction (the other 40% has been made up of best-seller list-type fiction, historical non-fiction, and issue-based non-fiction, such as the Omnivore’s Dilemma, and some of my old favorites). It all started with a “hey, why not” sort of decision to pick up Philippa Gregory’s “The Other Boleyn Girl at Borders. I was a history major who loves to know things for the sake of knowing them, and who had not studied that time period at all (other than 4th grade, or whenever I learned about Henry VIII beheading Anne Boleyn).

I was completely mesmerized by the story I had never learned, of Mary Boleyn, Anne’s sister, who was Henry’s mistress before her sister was his queen. Because I picked up the book during finals week, my roommates resorted to hiding my book so that I would work on my papers and study for my finals. Once I finished that book, I went on to the rest of Philippa Gregory’s books (at least the ones touching on the Tudor court, I have yet to muster interest in her other books).

Being a history major I was quite aware of the power of point of view even in scholarly histories, not to mention in fictionalized history, so I began reading around the time period, in order to get a more complete picture – or at least to draw my own conclusions from the varying points of views of different authors. In doing this I was drawn into Jean Plaidy’s work, as she has been quite prolific on English royal history, especially in the Tudor times.

Lately I have been TRYING to branch out, some historical fiction about Marie Antoinette here, non-Tudor historical fiction by Jean Plaidy there. This is all relevant because it touches on two of the reasons I started this blog:

  1. I would like to encourage people to read more historical fiction. Actually, I would like to encourage people to learn more history, because I think that there are fantastic lesson, both suggestions and warnings, that are applicable to the modern day no matter what time period or geographic region you study. In addition, history helps you understand your own cultural heritage, as well as that of others. I believe that historical fiction is a very accessible way to be drawn into history. Many people reading historical fiction will be drawn into either reading historical fiction around the subject, or even researching the veracity of the story itself. Even if you only stick to the historical fiction, though, you can broaden your scope and understanding of history.
  2. I would like to expand my own scope. I could probably be happy reading primarily Tudor history and Jean Plaidy novels for a long time, although the Plaidy novels might entice me to read around other time periods in English or French history. However, I sort of doubt that many people would be interested in reading this blog if that is 90% of what I talk about. Plus, I think expanding my scope would make me a more well-rounded person. I hope that, in the course of this blog, I will make a concerted effort to broaden my horizons (even if only to a greater diversity of historical fiction), and I hope that people will give ME recommendations of books that they have enjoyed and I might enjoy as well.

Beginning of a Booktastic Journey

February 22, 2008

This is going to be my new journal of my reading life. This journal is prompted by my LibraryThing membership, and the fun book journals I have seen from other Library Thing Members. I plan to share what I’m reading, as well as my thoughts and feelings on those books here. I will post reviews for certain books (like the Early Reviewer book I snagged on Library Thing! Yay!) here as well.

I want to start out this blog with a piece of nostalgia. Back in college I had a roommate and friend who was an English major. She and I would go to the bookstore all of the time and I would always ask her, “hey have you read THIS?” Everytime that she replied, “no,” she would get an “Oh my gosh! You HAVE to read this!” When we graduated, she told me that what she really wanted as a graduation present was a list of all of the books that I thought she HAD to read. Well, that turned out to be an eight page list with 5 categories: Must Read or Never Speak to me Again; Must Read to be my Friend; Very Highly Recommend; Highly Recommend; and Also Recommend. This list is extremely out of date, as it is nearly 3 years old and I never updated it, there isn’t really even any historical fiction, to which I’ve been addicted for the past 2 years. However, I stand behind my recommendations 100%. Feel free to download it and take it for yourself.


Edit: My Early Review book showed up around 1pm. It is called “Holding Her Head High: 12 Single Mothers Who Championed Their Children and Changed History,” by Janine Turner. As soon as I finish my current historical fiction of Queen Elizabeth I, I will be reading and writing about that.