Both my husband & I have done quite a bit of reading this year, and in an effort to (slightly) whittle down the pile on the shelf, I thought I’d offer some of the book we have read to anyone who is interested.
Here’s what we have:
The Sari Shop
by Rupa Bajwa
It is another working day in Amritsar, and Ramchand is late again. He runs through the narrow streets to Sevak Sari House in the heart of one of the city’s old bazaars. There, among the Bangladeshi cottons and Benaras silks, Ramchand and his fellow shop assistants sit all day patiently rolling and unrolling yards of colored fabric for wives and daughters of “status families” and for the giggling girls who dream of dressing up in silk but can only afford cotton.” One afternoon, Ramchand is sent to a new part of the city and is jolted out of the rhythm of his narrow daily life. His glimpse into this different world charges him with an urgent sense of possibility. And so, armed with two battered English grammar books, a fresh pair of socks, and a bar of Lifebuoy soap, he attempts to recapture the hope that his childhood had promised. But soon these efforts turn his life upside down, bringing him face to face with the cruelties on which his very existence depends. (I am currently reading this one, and will pass it along as soon as I finish.)
by Ted Bell
Swashbuckling counter Spy Alex Hawke returns in New York Times bestselling author Ted Bell’s most explosive tale of international suspense to date.
There dwells, somewhere in Russia, a man so powerful no one even knows his name. His existence is only speculated upon, only whispered about in American corridors of power and CIA strategy meetings. Though he is all but invisible, he is pulling strings — and pulling them hard. For suddenly, Russia is a far, far more ominous threat than even the most hardened cold warriors ever thought possible.
The Russians have their finger on the switch to the European economy and an eye on the American jugular. And, most importantly, they want to be made whole again. Should America interfere with Russia’s plans to “reintegrate” her rogue states, well then, America will pay in blood.
In Ted Bell’s latest pulse-pounding and action-packed tour de force, Alex Hawke must face a global nightmare of epic proportions. As this political crisis plays out, Russia gains a new leader. Not just a president, but a new tsar, a signal to the world that the old, imperial Russia is back and plans to have her day. And in America, a mysterious killer, known only as Happy the Baker, brutally murders an innocent family and literally flattens the small Midwestern town they once called home. Just a taste, according to the new tsar, of what will happen if America does not back down. Onto this stage must step Alex Hawke, espionage agent extraordinaire and the only man, both Americans and the Brits agree, who can stop the absolute madness borne and bred inside the modern police state of Vladimir Putin’s ‘New Russia’.
Last Car to Elysian Fields (a Dave Robicheaux novel)
by James Lee Burke
It is a rainy late-summer’s night in New Orleans. Detective Dave Robicheaux is about to confront the man who may have savagely assaulted his friend, Father Jimmie Dolan, a Catholic priest who’s always at the centre of controversy. But things are never as they seem and soon Robicheaux is back in New Iberia, probing a car crash that killed three teenage girls. A grief-crazed father and a maniacal, complex assassin are just a few of the characters Robicheaux meets as he is drawn deeper into a web of sordid secrets and escalating violence. A masterful exploration of the troubled side of human nature and the dark corners of the heart, peopled by familiar characters such as P.I. Clete Purcel and Robicheaux’s old flame Theodosia LeJeune, LAST CAR TO ELYSIAN FIELDS is vintage Burke – moody, hard-hitting, with his trademark blend of human drama and relentless noir suspense.
by Charles Dickens
Classic Retro Theatre edition (abridged audio)
Dickens considered Great Expectations one of his “little pieces,” and indeed, it is slim compared to such weighty novels as David Copperfieldor Nicholas Nickleby. But what this cautionary tale of a young man raised high above his station by a mysterious benefactor lacks in length, it more than makes up for in its remarkable characters and compelling story.
by Tiffanie Debartolo
Written with the snap, glitter and wit of The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, God-Shaped Hole is a memorable, poignant love story that will leave you weeping with laughter. It is told in the wry, vulnerable voice of Beatrice “Trixie” Jordan who replies to a personal ad, “If your intentions are pure I am seeking a friend for the end of the world.”
In doing so, she meets Jacob Grace, a charming, effervescent thirty-something writer, a free spirit who is a passionate seeker of life. He possesses his own turn of phrase and ways of thinking and feeling that dissonantly harmonize with Trixie’s off-center vision as they roller coaster through the joys and furies of their wrenching romance. Along the way they try to come to terms with the hurt brought about by their distant fathers who, in different ways, forsook them.
Water for Elephants
by Sarah Gruen
“Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski’s ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.” Jacob was there because his luck had run out – orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive “ship of fools.” It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn’t have an act – in fact, she couldn’t even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kevin.
by Kevin Keck
A far-too-sexual memoir about the author’s deeply disturbing crisis of faith.
In this hilarious, confessional memoir, Kevin Keck tries to come to terms with the intense lack of meaning in his life. At twenty-six, Keck felt like he was losing his mind. When anxieties about his “Ultimate Purpose” aren’t manifesting themselves in struggles with OCD or depression, they swing him into a mania that drives him from one dysfunctional girlfriend to the next…all of whom resemble his mother in their shared capacities for personalized madness. In search of sanity, he returns to his childhood home in North Carolina, only to be met with serious doses of reality in the form of his congenitally reclusive brother, manic depressive mother, and grandmother suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s. His grandfather and dad are there, too, but they never leave the basement where they continually repair a single lawnmower.
Will Keck’s anxieties about the failure of his Ultimate Purpose to manifest drift away as he looks for life’s meaning in the comforting Carolina hills? No way. That wouldn’t be funny. Are You There, God? It’s Me. Kevin. is a madcap journey to faith (in life? in God?) from an insanely talented comedic genius.
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
by Stephen King
Unabridged Audio CD, performed by Anne Heche
What begins as a bit of a simple tale — little girl lost — soon turns to the larger questions of what is at the center of creation, what motivates any of us, and the place where darkness and human imagination cross. I resisted this story to some extent, for King is wily. He begins with a soft lull, a bit of a dramatic moment that gets lost quickly in the sweet worry of a young girl who is resourceful enough to pick berries for survival and to do all the right — but ultimately wrong — things in order to find her way back to civilization. But soon, nature itself becomes a force, more often for ill than for good. And as Trisha’s imagination begins to re-create the dark forest around her, a slow, sure terror mounts.
Death in Venice
by Thomas Mann
Unabridged Audio CD, narrated by Simon Callow
Novella by Thomas Mann, published in German as Der Tod in Venedig in 1912. A symbol-laden story of aestheticism and decadence, Mann’s best-known novella exemplifies the author’s regard for Sigmund Freud’s writings on the unconscious. Gustav von Aschenbach is a revered author whose work is known for its discipline and formal perfection. At his Venetian hotel he encounters the strikingly handsome young teenager Tadzio. Aschenbach is disturbed by his attraction to the boy, and although he watches Tadzio, he dare not speak to him. Despite warnings of a cholera epidemic Aschenbach stays in Venice; he sacrifices his dignity and well-being to the immediate experience of beauty as embodied by Tadzio. After exchanging a significant look with the boy on the day of Tadzio’s scheduled departure, Aschenbach dies of cholera. As in his other major works, Mann explores the role of the artist in society. The cerebral Aschenbach summons extraordinary discipline and endurance in his literary work, but his private desires overwhelm him.
Fat Girl: A True Story
by Judith Moore
A nonfiction She’s Come Undone, Fat Girl is a powerfully honest memoir of obsession with food, and with one’s own body. For any woman who has ever had a love-hate relationship with food and how she looks, for anyone who has knowingly or unconsciously used food to try to fill the hole in his heart or sooth the craggy edges of his psyche, Fat Girl is an angst-filled coming-of-age story of gain and loss.” In this book, Moore describes, in vivid detail, what is was like to be “the fat girl,” both in school and in her loveless home; dreading unannounced weigh-ins in front of her class and avoiding the verbal and physical lashings of her petite and icy mother; struggling to become invisible while desperately craving attention. Through the people who shaped Moore’s early life – among them a spiteful, self-serving grandmother and a kind, homosexual uncle – we bear witness to the depths of human cruelty and the remarkable power of compassion. From the lush descriptions of food that call to mind the writings of M. F. K. Fisher at her finest, the heart-breaking accounts of Moore’s deep longing for a family and a sense of belonging and love, Fat Girl stuns and shocks, saddens and tickles.
by William P. Young
Mackenzie Allen Philips youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.
Here’s what to do:
If you’re interested in any of the above books, send me a private message with your address and I will mail it to you. You don’t have to return it. If you like it, pass it along to another reading friend. If not, sell it, donate it, whatever… PLEASE, NO SPAM!
I love passing along books to other readers (or listeners). I hope you enjoy whatever you choose as much as we did.