Susan’s Book Recommendations

Book recommendations personally written by Susan, collected over the years!

"My brother (who now lives in Australia) turned me onto an amazing writer, Peter Carey (an Australian), whose book Bliss blew me away. It’s about a man who, after waking up from having had heart surgery, believes he has died and is now in Hell. Wow, huh?"
By: Peter Carey
"My brother (who now lives in Australia) turned me onto an amazing writer, Peter Carey (an Australian), whose book Bliss blew me away. It’s about a man who, after waking up from having had heart surgery, believes he has died and is now in Hell. Wow, huh?"
By: Peter Carey
"I just bought another of his books, Illywhacker, and it’s my next read. Turns out Mr. Carey now lives in NYC and so a friend of mine, who knows him, had Bliss autographed for my brother. Very cool. Thanks Mr. Carey!"
Martin Eden
By: Jack London
"The books I’ve read recently have all been recommended by friends, so I take no credit for having discovered their greatness on my own. First, Martin Eden by Jack London. Very autobiographical and thought-provoking. I suggest NOT reading the introduction first as it gives away the ending!!!!! Oy. But it's a marvelous read."
Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self
By: Marie Corelli
"I’m currently reading a mystical/spiritual/romance type epic called Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self. It was recommended reading from a psychic. That alone intrigued me! It is out there to be sure and full of timeless lessons. Welcome to ancient Babylon! The book is by Marie Corelli and was written in 1925. Hard to find, but Amazon has it!"
In a Sunburned Country
By: Bill Bryson
"In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. Having just returned from Australia, I can vouch for the accuracy of this hysterical travel-logue of a foreigner Down Under. Whether you ever plan to visit the Aussies or not, this book will simply crack you up. His writing is wonderfully witty and the stories themselves outrageous. For anyone intrigued and a little perplexed by that Crocodile guy on TV, it's a must-read."
The Heart's Code
By: Paul Pearsall
"The Heart's Code by Paul Pearsall, Ph.d. is marvelous. It delves into the physiognomy and spirituality of the heart in ways that will really get you thinking. Much of what he says finds a base in quantum physics (which I love), but his writing is extremely reader friendly; you won't get bogged down in science. You'll simply want to re-evaluate how you choose to view and affect the world."
The Power of Now
By: Eckhart Tolle
Read it. That's all.
It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life
By: Lance Armstrong
"Granted I watched every leg of the Tour de France this year (for the first time), so my appetite was whetted for this autobiography, but even if you’ve never seen a bicycle this is a must read. Here’s a guy who survived a war with cancer that NO ONE thought he’d survive – then he goes on to win 5 Tour de France’s, matching the world record. His honesty and human views on battling cancer as well as his determination to fight are awe inspiring."
Fortune’s Rock's
By: Anita Shreve
"This is a page-turner in the vein of Girl With the Pearl Earring – a beautiful story set in a romantic period. What I enjoyed most was the unconventional results that truly surprised me – the story went directions I was not predicting and kept me intrigued throughout."
Good In Bed & In Her Shoes
By: Jennifer Weiner
"One of my best girlfriends suggested these books – the perfect recommendation. Jennifer Weiner is one of my new favorites – I’ll read anything she writes. She captures the perils of modern young women, fighting body issues, men issues, career issues, etc. It’s like Sex In the City starring actual, believable, imperfect heroines. Thank GOD!"
Three Junes
By: Julia Glass
"This is a wonderful novel capturing two generations of a Scottish family during three meaningful Junes. Sound dry? It’s not – actually, the story moves on so eloquently as you grow to love members from this unconventional family in their Scottish home, travels to Greece, and migration to New York City. I loved the delicacy and deep-rooted emotions explored."
The Da Vinci Code
By: Dan Brown
"Yes, this is the one everyone is talking about. Yes it’s a novel, not non-fiction, but it will surely change the way you view nearly everything, and certainly religion. I LOVED it, and can’t wait to get back to the Louvre to see the smirking Mona Lisa again!"
Lucky Man
By: Michael J Fox
"Just finished Michael J Fox's book, Lucky Man and am pretty blown away by this man's journey to self-discovery through facing not just Parkinson's but issues and people throughout his life. I tore through this book and since reading it, I find I am still thinking about it and his insights. Do yourself a favor and read this."
The Other Boleyn Girl
By: Philippa Gregory
"My absolute favorite novel right now is The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. LOVED THIS!! It's an unbelievable look at the reign of Henry VIII and how his outlook, leadership, and hubris evolved due to his infatuation with women and his need for an heir. I ADORED this incredible piece of historical fiction."
Bookends & Jemima J
By: Jane Green
"My wonderful dresser, Kim, turned me onto the books by Jane Green. I particularly enjoyed Bookends and Jemima J -- if you enjoyed Bridgette Jones, you will love these books!! Lots of fun!"
Running With Sissors
By: Augusten Burroughs
"The best memoir, I believe, is Running With Sissors by Augusten Burroughs. You will be amazed that not only did the author survive this childhood (right out of a John Irving novel!), but he has been able to capture it in the most amazing piece of writing and combined insight and detachment!! I have yet to read the sequel Dry, but I look forward to it!!!"
The Time Traveler’s Wife
By: Audrey Niffenegger
"The best by far is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. It is INCREDIBLY written. Synopsis: This 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 amusing, unpredictable, and devastating."
The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries
By: Emma Thompson
"I also adored The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries by Emma Thompson. This is a beautiful hardcover book that includes her Academy Award-winning script and her journal of making the film. She is beyond witty and so very eloquent in her diary, and it is truly hysterical to hear about Hugh Grant, Ang Lee, and the rest of the company and crew. It also gives tremendous insights into the making of a film in general – the struggles, long hours, anticipation. I loved this book!"
Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes
By: Better Homes and Gardens
"Buy and use a crock-pot. Make beef Stroganoff, which I ate while watching the Oscars this year with my sister. Anyone can cook with a crock-pot (or slow cooker) – even my boy friend – and that says a lot! =) My kind dresser and husband (Mary Ann and Don) bought me an excellent cookbook called: Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes. It’s awesome."
By: Pete Hamill
"I cannot BELIEVE I haven’t put this one up here! I literally bought five copies of this and gave them as gifts for the holidays. This is one of the best historical novels I’ve read in years, set in the fascinating land of NYC from the 1700’s through 2001. READ IT! It’s magical, thoroughly engaging, as well as historically captivating. Plot: This widely praised bestseller is the magical, epic tale of an extraordinary man who arrives in New York in 1740 and remains...forever. Through the eyes of young Cormac O'Connor -- granted immortality as long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan--we watch New York grow from a tiny settlement on the tip of an untamed wilderness to the thriving metropolis of today. And through Cormac's remarkable adventures in both love and war, we come to know all the city's buried secrets--the way it has been shaped by greed, race, and waves of immigration, by the unleashing of enormous human energies, and, above all, by hope."
Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion's World Series of Poker
By: James McManus
"I have become obsessed with professional poker tournaments, watching them on ESPN and the Travel Channel – I argue the best acting on TV. So naturally I loved this book (which Lisa Richard gave to me!). The author was sent to Las Vegas by Harper’s to cover the World Series of Poker in 2000 and the murder of Ted Binion, the tournament’s prodigal host. The clincher is that McManus risks his entire Harper’s advance in a long-shot attempt to play in the tournament himself and he makes it to the final table!"
Bel Canto
By: Ann Patchett
"This book has stayed with me for months – I absolutely loved it. Especially in this political climate, it is so important to remember that we are all individuals with similar dreams. This books takes a political situation and opens it up into a show of beautiful humanity. I wanted this book to go on and on! Plot: Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of Mr. Hosokawa, a powerful Japanese businessman. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gun-wielding terrorists breaks in through the air-conditioning vents and takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different countries and continents become compatriots."
The Birth of Venus
By: Sarah Dunant
"I’m currently reading this novel (it was a gift from a friend who came to see MILLIE), and am really enjoying it. I traveled to Italy (Venice and Florence) for the first time this year and am loving reading about Florence in its golden era of art and politics. I love my historical fiction!! Plot: Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities. But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, and Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers."
Making It on Broadway: Actors' Tales of Climbing to the Top
By: David Wienir, Jodie Langel
"This entire book is in interview format and I don't recommend it simply because I'm one of the folks they questioned (I'm only a very, very small part). I suggest it to you because it states, better than I have EVER been able to explain, what it's REALLY like to work on Broadway. The true situations, frustrations, satisfactions. Broadway is vastly different in reality from what the image was in my mind before arriving here. In the words of many of my friends and fellow actors, you can read the true story. It surprised me how unbelieveably candid everyone was about their experiences. This book is invaluable for anyone who has ever had the dream of working in New York theatre. Read this. If the truth still excites you, you belong here!"
Fall On Your Knees
By: Ann-Marie MacDonald
"I didn't read it JUST because Oprah did, but boy does she have taste! This is a marvelous epic tale about five generations of a family on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia -- sounds distant and impenetrable? This book sucks you in!! And you'll travel to Europe and Jazz Age New York City before you're done. Beautifully written, with unforgettable characters in a family that you'll miss when you're through. A great summer epic!"
Year of Wonders
By: Geraldine Brooks
"I loved this book! So well researched with such attention to factual details -- this novel describes the 17th-century plague that was carried from London to a small Derbyshire village and told through the eyes of a heroic young widow, Anna Frith. Brooks is a renowned journalist (Foreign Correpondence) whose language and capacity to bring this ordeal alive is a joy to read."
A Home at the End of the World
By: Michael Cunningham
"Cunningham won a Pulitzer for his last novel THE HOURS (which then became a celebrated film). In this novel he focuses on the friendship of two boys as they move through tragedies and time. I love Cunningham's insights and the questions he chooses to raise. His characters all feel cut from the cloth of a Holden Caufield, but their problems course though the time period we are living in now. This book made me think about my own philosophies as I cheered for one character, then switched to another, then another. Truth changes. And we're all alone together. =)"
Evidence of Things Unseen: A Novel
By: Marianne Wiggins
"I'm in the midst of this book now -- recommended to me by my writer friend, Sara. As Sara said to me -- the language in this novel is so equisite, you'll read sentences two and three times. It's true. Marianne Wiggins is a phenomenol artist of language. And the story (I'm halfway through) is poetry. "In the years between the two world wars, the future held more promise than peril, but there was evidence of things unseen that would transfigure our unquestioned trust in a safe future." This book is beauty!"
Falling Angels
By: Tracy Chevalier
"This is from the writer who brought us GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, and I have to say I love FALLING ANGELS even more! It takes us through the lives of two British families from the death of Queen Victoria to the coronation of King George. It's a period with so much social change and this book captures the difficulty of change for many. I also love that (like THE POISONWOOD BIBLE) each chapter in this novel is told for a different character's point of view. This was a fast read for me (on an airplane coming back from a concert) and I adored it!"
The Game of Life ... and How to Play It
By: Florence Scovel Shinn
"I've read this book four times and have been reading it again. Written by Shinn in the 1920's, this book first appears to be very Christian in nature, but is (in my mind) actually an incredible handbook in Quantum Theory. DON'T let that scare you off -- either statement -- what I mean by all this is that this book captures the power of your words and thoughts, and how they manifest what occurs in your life. I'm often asked (on this site) my philosophy, advice on "making it" in this business or achieving your dreams ... nothing states what I believe to be true more than this book. It's a very thin book, but stuffed with knowledge, written so clearly and plainly that you cannot help but understand how the universe conspires to either help or discourage you. I'd love to hear back from anyone who reads this. And I encourage you to try the slight shift in actions this book may recommend to you, and for YOU to see the difference in outcome in your world. =)"
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By: Stephen Chbosky
"a wonderful novel (quick read) narrated by an awkward teenage boy, Charlie, in the format of letters he writes to a stranger. Sounds bizarre or even forced to recount the structure here, but it's completely lovely, warm, and enchanting. Charlie became as much of a three-dimensional person to me as a Holden Caulfield or Owen Meany. I wish I knew him."
By: Orhan Pamuk
"a book I enjoyed much like THE KITE RUNNER in that it has intriguing characters entangled in a captivating story that also happens to be incredibly topical in today's political climate. Here's Publisher's Weekly's synopsis: A Turkish poet who spent 12 years as a political exile in Germany witnesses firsthand the clash between radical Islam and Western ideals in this enigmatically beautiful novel. Ka's reasons for visiting the small Turkish town of Kars are twofold: curiosity about the rash of suicides by young girls in the town and a hope to reconnect with "the beautiful Ipek," whom he knew as a youth. But Kars is a tangle of poverty-stricken families, Kurdish separatists, political Islamists (including Ipek's spirited sister Kadife) and Ka finds himself making compromises with all in a desperate play for his own happiness."
"Thanks to the NY Post, and article in the LA Times and my sister, Liz, I am now obsessed with SUDOKU -- a Japanese logic game that’s like a combination of a crossword puzzle and a Rubik’s Cube. It's all the rage in England and Japan and in an effort to retard the aging of my brain, I'm loving solving these goofy puzzles on the many airplane trips I have. It's cutting into my reading, into my sleep, and into my work (I do these puzzles right up to places call at my concerts!). My aim ... to get you hooked, too. Have fun!!"
The Tricky Part : One Boy's Fall from Trespass into Grace
By: Martin Moran
"This book holds a special place in my heart, because Martin is an incredible Broadway actor with whom I was honored to work in CABARET. In 1999, when I first started the show, Marty and I (or rather our dressing rooms) shared one floor of Studio 54. He was just beginning to write this memoir and the play (that he did this last year Off-Broadway) based on the book. I was mesmerized reading chapters of the book as he finished them and am so deeply honored and inspired by what Marty has done here. This book, stunningly written, has earned praise from every well-respected publication as well as major players in the literary world (Michael Cunningham, Eve Ensler, Doug Wright). It is definitely for mature readers as it deals with Martin growing up Catholic and the sexual molestation that occurred in his childhood. But that being said, the book is not an attack by any means but rather a heartfelt, breathtaking look at the gray that lies between everything. The quotes from fellow writers on the back cover of the book speak for themselves. Here's one: "A beautiful book. Moran is a graceful, witty, perceptive writer, remarkably brave and free of self-pity -- his spirit, manifest on every page, is discerning and generous to the point of radiance ... The Tricky Part is fully human, unsettling, and wise." Tony Kushner (author of Angels in America). Martin is truly one of the most radiant souls I've ever met; and Mr. Kushner is right to say it is evident on every page."
The Kite Runner
By: Khaled Hosseini
This book is the talk of many book clubs and cocktail conversations. Sam Mendes (brilliant director of CABARET on Bway and AMERICAN BEAUTY in film) is making the feature of this novel. I'm still thinking about this book and especially its characters 8-9 months after having read it. That it is set in Afghanistan and thus "topical" is totally secondary to the great story that unfolds in its pages. Briefly, The Kite Runner follows the story of Amir, the privileged son of a wealthy businessman in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of Amir's father's servant. As children in the relatively stable Afghanistan of the early 1970s, the boys are inseparable until an unspeakable event changes the nature of their relationship forever.
Bee Season
By: Myla Goldberg
"This book is one of the most interesting character novels I've read in a long time. Nine-year old Eliza is virtually ignored by her self-involved academic parents. She is an average girl among an eccentric family until she wins her school spelling bee. As the shift in parental interest changes from Eliza's brother Aaron to her, the story takes off with Saul (the father) tutoring her for the competitions. When Saul sees the state of transcendence that she effortlessly achieves in competition, he encourages his daughter to explore the mystical states that have eluded him in Judaism --the influx of God-knowledge (shefa) described by the Kabbalist Abraham Abulafia. The story follows a completely peculiar path and yet universal themes win out. I loved the relationships and the struggle each character faced within themselves to find what they believe and to accept who they are."
The Devil in the White City
By: Erik Larson
"I LOVED this book. I always have to have my fix of historical fiction, and for those of you who like it, too, this book is for you. It is set during the construction of the World's Fair in Chicago in the 1800s just after the incomparable success of the Paris World's Fair (and the construction of the Eiffel Tower). Sound dry? It's NOT!! The sheer brilliance of the architecture and design mixed with the unscrupulous politics of the city and the lack of modern construction techniques make the task seem impossible. THEN that story paired with the exploration of first serial killer in the US who happened to be in Chicago at the same time, makes the book marvelous. I learned a great deal and have newfound respect and admiration of the architectural work of this period ... when US cities were first becoming modern ... and the perils of the populations within them growing."
Mapping the Edge
By: Sarah Dunant
"This book by the author of "The Birth of Venus," which I also recommended, is a really interesting modern-day "sliding-doors" kind of story. It deals with a young mother who leaves her daughter in the care of friends while she takes a trip to Italy. Then two possible scenarios take place and the writer takes us through both simultaneously. It's really well-written and captivating, while also an interesting study in the pressures and rewards of motherhood."
By: David McCullough
"McCullough's biography of John Adams is still one of my favorite biographies I've read. This is no different. Although I "read" this one through my iPod and audiobooks, while driving through Truman's own mid-West, I think I can safely say that this is an incredible read. I didn't know much about the time in our country's history when Truman was president, but it is fascinating. To observe the life of a man, whose grandparents fought in the civil war, and who himself lived to see a man on the moon -- it's really the story of our country. I'm moved by the courage Truman took as a man to stand up for his principles and make a difference. Frankly, I wish we had him today in Washington, as a senator or president, to clear up matters."
My Life
By: Bill Clinton
"Whether you're a fan of the man or not, there is something to be said about hearing his story from his own mouth. Again, this was an audiobook (read by Clinton) that I listened to on the road. Chris and I were hitting Mr. Clinton's home state of Arkansas, so we thought it'd be interesting to learn more about the man. I admire his intelligence while I abhor some of his behavior -- if nothing else that alone makes a compelling story. What I didn't know much about was his upbringing and the people (like his grandfather) who impacted his life most. It was interesting, too, to hear about his becoming a Rhodes Scholar and his years at Oxford. And to hear his side of the scandals that stampeded through his years in the White House. There are many sides to every story and the press is probably the last voice we should be listening to. So, to inform my view, it's good to consider the uninterrupted points of Mr. Clinton. It helps that he is a lovely writer and speaker."
The Golden Compass
By: Philip Pullman
" I am only halfway though this, the first of three books in the "His Dark Material's" trilogy. My friend, Sara, gave me this book for my birthday knowing how much I enjoy the Harry Potter series. WELL!! This is already so much more. Written for children, but ostensibly an adult's book, this series takes us to other worlds (similar but darker and more sinister than in Harry Potter) like our own, where battles must be won and secrets discovered. Lyra, an orphaned girl brought up among scholars, must unravel the mystery of children-gone-missing. She has her daemon, Pantalaimon, who can change form and is her only friend. I'm not doing this justice at all, but it's beautifully written and if you are to trust me on anything, pick up this book and the others in the series and READ THEM. =) Thank you, Sara!!"
His Dark Materials
By: Philip Pullman
"I wrote about the first book a few months back -- "The Golden Compass" -- I was just starting it then. What I failed to tell you int hem onths since is that I LOVE, LOVE the whole trilogy. The second and third books are "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass." I have bought these books several times now for friends and family, simply because I need people to talk about them with. =) I won't say more. Just read them! READ THEM!!! Lyra and Will are now friends that I think of almost daily. =) And Pantalaimon ... he has my heart. =) "
By: Curtis Sittenfeld
"This book is often likened to "Cather in the Rye" but with a girl for the main charachter. I really enjoyed the world of a prep school created here -- even if I did want to -- on occassion -- hit Lee (the main character) upside the head sometimes for ruining her own experiences. =) Here's the synopsis from the publisher: Curtis Sittenfeld's poignant and occassionally angst-ridden debut novel Prep is the story of Lee Fiora, a South Bend, Indiana, teenager who wins a scholarship to the prestigious Ault school, an East Coast institution where "money was everywhere on campus, but it was usually invisible." As we follow Lee through boarding school, we witness firsthand the triumphs and tragedies that shape our heroine's coming-of-age. Yet while Sittenfeld may be a skilled storyteller, her real gift lies in her ability to expertly give voice to what is often described as the most alienating period in a young person's life: high school."
By: Elie Weisel
"This is on Oprah's and most college reading lists and for good reason. Mr, Weisel is one of the most prolific and profound survivor's of the Holocaust, In Night he tells of his personal struggle in concentration camps as a teen, having watched his mother and sisters chosen for the gas chambers and only his ill father at his side. The book is short, but the message and the content will last forever in you. He is one of the last survivor's to document this war and the experience of European Jews and others. He says he doesn't know why he was spared over the millions who were not. Luck or fate or God, I don't know, either. But his survival his a gift of rare beauty for us all. "
Letters From Backstage - The Adventures of a Touring Stage Actor
By: Michael Kostroff
"You may need something to make you laugh after Night and this is DEFINITELY it! My dear friend and fellow performer, Michael Kostroff, is one of the funniest men I know. His emails to friends while he was on tour with The Producers were so incredible that they were ultimately published. If you love theatre (and I know you do!!) read this book. Michael has maintained his fantastic attitude about this business and working in theatre and that is the kind of attitude that makes everyone thrilled to be around him. He mixes the reality and stress of touring with the excitement of being in a hit show with standing-room-only audiences with such wit and panache that you'll be laughing out loud and wishing you shared a dressing room with him!"
The History Of Love
By: Nicole Krauss
"The editor describes the main character as: an unlikely and unforgettable hero, Leo Gursky is a survivor -- of war, of love, and of loneliness. Combined with the story of a young girl, Alma, who is trying to hold her family together, Krauss weaves an unbelievably beautiful story together. I just adored this book, it's characters, and what it has to say about survival and the ability to touch lives. Big, huge recommendation!"
Slow Man
J.M. Coetzee
"NOBEL PRIZE WINNER From the publisher: When photographer Paul Rayment loses his leg in a bicycle accident, his solitarylife is irrevocably changed whether he likes it or not. Stubbornly refusing a prosthesis, Paul returns to his bachelor's apartment. He is given to bouts of hopelessness and resignation as he looks back on his sixty years of life, but his spirits are lifted when he finds himself falling in love with Marijana, his practical, down-to-earth Croatian nurse who is struggling to raise her family in a foreign land. As Paul contemplates how to win her heart, he is visited by the mysterious writer Elizabeth Costello, who challenges Paul to take an active role in his own life. This book is unlike anything I've read -- just when you think it's a normal narritive, it turns a corner. Great read! "
Stop the Show! A History of Insane Incidents and Absurd Accidents in the Theater
By: Brad Schreiber
"For all you theatre nuts -- here's a book by a friend of mine -- sharing all the famous behind-the-scenes live theatre disasters. The author describes the book as: The first collection of theater's greatest blunders, from the West End and Broadway to the lowliest amateur theater, Stop the Show! revels in ruined lines, dangerous scenery, rude theatergoers, performers sabotaging each other and more. Sure to be a laugh-out-loud read for you guys! "
The Constant Princess
By: Philippa Gregory
"Alwasy a fan of historical fiction, I enjoy the enetertainment value of Ms. Gregory's books. My favorite is still THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. This one pre-dates that story historically and I found it fascinating to meet a young Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. I hadn't known much about the early history of Spain and the conquests of Isabella and Ferdinand (Catherine's parents),nor how beloved Catherine was in England. This was a fun read to be sure. "
Eat. Pray. Love
By: Elizabeth Gilbert
"My friend, Christianne, sent me this book for my birthday and I loved it! Such a beautiful, true-account of one woman's journey to find herself. A beautiful book. Synopsis: This spiritual memoir brims with humor, grace, and scorching honesty. After a messy divorce and other personal missteps, Elizabeth Gilbert confronts the "twin goons" of depression and loneliness by traveling to three countries that she intuited had something she was seeking. First, in Italy, she seeks to master the art of pleasure by indulging her senses. Then, in an Indian ashram, she learns the rigors and liberation of mind-exalting hours of meditation. Her final destination is Bali, where she achieves a precarious, yet precious equilibrium. Gilbert's original voice and unforced wit lend an unpretentious air to her expansive spiritual journey. "
The Road
By: Cormac McCarthy
"When I have to buy a book fast (say at the Los Angeles Airport) I admit that I look for the Oprah sticker. I know I'll love and appreciate anything she recommends, and this is the perfect example. This book will be a part of me forever now. Haunting. Here's a synopsis: A searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece. A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. They sky is dark. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food-and each other. The Road is the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, "each the other's world entire," are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation. "
The Eyre Affair
By: Jasper Fforde
"Thank you, Bonnie! These "Thursday Next" books are hilarious!! One critic said it right -- they are like Harry Potter books for adults. So witty and clever! Synopsos: In Jasper Fforde's hilarious romp through time and space, heroine Thursday Next -- an agent with the secretive Special Operations Network, Literary Detective Division -- is sent to investigate the theft of Dickens's original manuscript for Martin Chuzzlewit by a diabolical archvillain. And what happens when Jane Eyre herself is kidnapped from the pages of her novel?? "
Lost In A Good Book
By: Jasper Fforde
"The second in the series -- this one is even more outlandish and fun. I continually crack up at the political and literary satire!! Synopsis: When Landen, the love of her life, is eradicated by the corrupt multinational Goliath Corporation, Thursday must moonlight as a Prose Resource Operative of Jurisfiction-the police force inside books. She is apprenticed to the man-hating Miss Havisham from Dickens's Great Expectations, who grudgingly shows Thursday the ropes. "
Broken For You
By: Stephanie Kallos
" Bonnie is right -- this book really stays with you! Thanks for the suggestion!!! Here's the synopsis: When we meet septuagenarian Margaret Hughes, she is living alone in a mansion in Seattle with only a massive collection of valuable antiques for company. Enter Wanda Schultz, a young woman with a broken heart who has come west to search for her wayward boyfriend. Both women are guarding dark secrets and have spent many years building up protective armor against the outside world. But as the two begin their tentative dance of friendship, the armor begins to fall away and Margaret opens her house to the younger woman."
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle
By: Haruki Murakami
"After having recorded two Japanese animated films in which the story telling is so different from our Western approach, I was intrigued to read this novel. Like Spirited Away the format is new to me and the surreal nature so refreshing and captivating. Makes me want to sit and think at the bottom of a well for a while. You’ll have to read the book to know what I’m talking about. =)"
By: Ann Patchett
"This is the writer who brought us Bel Canto (also recommended below) and it doesn't disappoint. She is sompletely original in the situations she creates. Once again, this book didn't go the direction I thought it would, and it's insight into the characters and our social preconceptions is wonderful. Synopsis: On one fateful winter night, Bernard Doyle plans to meet his two adopted sons, Tip the older, and more serious and Teddy, the affectionate dreamer, at a Harvard auditorium to hear a speech given by Jesse Jackson. Doyle, an Irish Catholic and former Boston mayor, has done his best to keep his two sons interested in politics, from the day he and his now deceased wife became their parents, through their childhoods, and now in their lives as college students. Though the two boys are African-American, the bonds of the family's love have never been tested. But as the snow begins to falls, an accident triggers into motion a series of events that will forever change their lives."
By: Bruce Kimmel
"Yes! The author is the same great guy who has produced hundreds of Broadway CDs and showtune recordings, including all the albums I've done with Varese-Saraband, Fynsworth Alley, and my new LIVE CD. With that background (and his wicked sense of humor) Bruce is the perfect guy to write this entertaining and hilarious account of the recording industry and it's many strange truths. This is his latest ... but I encourage you to check out all his novels. He has a way of keeping you both shocked and laughing. =) Simon on American Idol has nothing on our witty ... and ruthless ... Mr. Kimmel!"
Water For Elephants
By: Sara Gruen
"This is one of those stories that has stayed with me since I read it several months ago. Not only does Ms. Gruen paint the portrait of circus life in the early-mid 20th Century perfectly, bringing us unforgettable characters and circumstances that would shock the political correctness of today, but she delivers it in flashback from the often acute, but sometimes faltering memory of an old man slowly passing time in a convalescent home. It makes us ponder our own aging. I was mesmerized by this story, angry at times, but always enraptured. A very good read. Synopsis: As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival."
Sharp Objects
By: Gillian Flynn
"A really fun mystery of sorts that moves quickly and offers enough shocks to keep you turning the pages. Synopsis: Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory."
Carney Man
By: Brian Haner
"Not only is Brian (the author) one of the most incredible rock guitarists (he's played with everyone, including Frank Zappa), but he is now an acclaimed stand-up comic (find him on youtube!). This is his first novel and it is fantastic, fast-paced, and crazy! Carney Man is the irreverent tale of love, murder and redemption -- all set in the dark and gritty world of the carnival. When you've read it, you'll have to find Brian's song, Carney Man, and take a listen.=) "
The Help
By: Kathryn Stockett
"I was amazed that this was a debut novel -- the characters are rich and multi-layered -- extremely memorable -- and the story (and time period) is something everyone should examine. I loved this book! Here's what Amazon has to say: What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it."
By: Leila Meacham
"This was the first book my little group read, and I liked it very much. If you like epic tales (especially Southern ones) this book is for you. I think the story is well told and in a way I always enjoy -- sections of the book are written from different character's points of view. I was definitely drawn in and enjoyed this one -- for all it's Gone With The Wind-type splendor. Synopsis: Spanning the twentieth century, Roses is the story of the powerful founding families of Howbutker, Texas, and how their histories remain intertwined over the span of three generations. Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick fell in love, but because of their stubborn natures and Mary’s devotion to her family’s land, they unwisely never wed. Now they must deal with the deceit, secrets, and tragedies that surround them, and the poignant loss of what might have been—not only for themselves, but also for their family legacies. With expert and unabashed big-canvas storytelling that reads like a Texas Gone With the Wind, Leila Meacham pens an epic of three intriguing generations. A deeply moving love story of struggle and sacrifice as well, ROSES is steeped with nostalgia for a time when honor and good manners were always the rule."
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By: Stieg Larsson
"I was hooked into this whole series of books -- I'm finishing the third now, and the only regret I have is that the author has passed away and can't write another ten novels with these characters. I haven't yet seen the film of this first book, but I hear it's wonderful, too. Here's the synopsis: A 24-year-old computer hacker sporting an assortment of tattoos and body piercings and afflicted with Asperger Syndrome or something of the like has been under state guardianship in her native Sweden since she was thirteen. She supports herself by doing deep background investigations for Dragan Armansky, who, in turn, worries the anorexic-looking Lisbeth Salander is "the perfect victim for anyone who wished her ill." Salander may look fourteen and stubbornly shun social norms, but she possesses the inner strength of a determined survivor. She sees more than her word processor page in black and white and despises the users and abusers of this world. She won't hesitate to exact her own unique brand of retribution against small-potatoes bullies, sick predators, and corrupt magnates alike. Financial journalist Carl Mikael Blomkvist has just been convicted of libeling a financier and is facing a fine and three months in jail. Blomkvist, after a Salander-completed background check, is summoned to a meeting with semi-retired industrialist Henrik Vanger whose far-flung but shrinking corporate empire is wholly family owned. Vanger has brooded for 36 years about the fate of his great niece, Harriet. Blomkvist is expected to live for a year on the island where many Vanger family members still reside and where Harriet was last seen. Under the cover story that he is writing a family history, Blomkvist is to investigate which family member might have done away with the teenager. "
The Girl Who Played With Fire
By: Stieg Larsson
"the second in the series. Buy the third atthe same time -- you'll want to continue right on! Synopsis: Publisher Mikael Blomkvist and the police are conducting parallel investigations into three horrifying murders -- and their initial evidence points straight at young computer genius and social misfit Lisbeth Salander. Kalle Bastard Blomkvist (as Salander has begun referring to him) hasn't seen Salander in nearly two years, except for one night when he happened to witness a huge man attempting to kidnap her and both she and the attacker eluded him. He's bewildered about why she cut him off cold, but had accepted her decision -- until now. He doesn't believe Salander killed these victims. Well, at least not two of them. He has to contact her, find out how she's become embroiled in this, and help her. Salander, as usual, has her own ideas about who she'll see and when.... "
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
By: Stieg Larsson
"the third and final chapter. Synopsis:The exhilarating conclusion to bestseller Larsson's Millennium trilogy (after The Girl Who Played with Fire) finds Lisbeth Salander, the brilliant computer hacker who was shot in the head in the final pages of Fire, alive, though still the prime suspect in three murders in Stockholm. While she convalesces under armed guard, journalist Mikael Blomkvist works to unravel the decades-old coverup surrounding the man who shot Salander: her father, Alexander Zalachenko, a Soviet intelligence defector and longtime secret asset to Säpo, Sweden's security police. Estranged throughout Fire, Blomkvist and Salander communicate primarily online, but their lack of physical interaction in no way diminishes the intensity of their unconventional relationship. Though Larsson (1954–2004) tends toward narrative excess, his was an undeniably powerful voice in crime fiction that will be sorely missed."
By: Anita Shreve
"She is a master writer, and several of her books are listed down in our archives below. With this novel, she again captures you on page one ... no waiting around for the action to start! Synopsis: At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment. Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in TESTIMONY a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellinglyexplores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions."
Certain Girls
By: Jennifer Weiner
"I love her chick books; she's funny, topical, and great with character. Many of her novels are listed below as well. My pal, Melissa was reading this one, and I had to run out and get it! Synopsis: We fell in love with Cannie Shapiro, the smart, sharp-tongued, bighearted heroine of Good in Bed. Now Cannie's back. After her debut novel -- a fictionalized (and highly sexualized) version of her life -- became an overnight bestseller, she dropped out of the public eye and turned to writing science fiction under a pseudonym. She's happily married and has settled into a life that's wonderfully predictable. As preparations for her daughter Joy's bat mitzvah begin, everything seems right in Cannie's world. Then Joy discovers the novel Cannie wrote years before and suddenly finds herself faced with what she thinks is the truth about her own conception -- the story her mother hid from her all her life. When Cannie's husband surprises her by saying he wants to have a baby, the family is forced to reconsider their history, their future, and what it means to be truly happy. Radiantly funny and tender, with Weiner's whip-smart dialogue and sharp observations of modern life, Certain Girls is an unforgettable story about love, loss, and the enduring bonds of family."
All Other Nights
By: Dara Horn
" The back cover seemed so interesting -- Civil War historical novel centering on the Jews of the North and South --a topic I'd never considered. based in part on real people, I found this novel engaging and enlightening on so many levels. The Washington Post writes: In the slam-bang opening pages of her superb third novel, Dara Horn masterfully establishes both a gripping plot premise and a fascinatingly conflicted protagonist. She sends Jacob roaming across a war-torn landscape to encounter a marvelous variety of characters, each imagined with empathy and depth. The relatively conventional storytelling here is quite different from the kaleidoscopic narrative techniques Horn employed in her previous books, In the Image and The World to Come, but her scope is just as ambitious, her talents as prodigious as ever."
The Namesake
By: Jhumpa Lahir
"I really adored this book. It's insight into the Indian (from India!) culture as it compares to America -- and the position it puts first generation Indian Americans in is so utterly compelling. This was made into a film, starring Cal Penn, which is wonderful -- but READ THE BOOK! Synopsis:In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations. Here again Lahiri displays her deft touch for the perfect detail -- the fleeting moment, the turn of phrase -- that opens whole worlds of emotion. The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along a first-generation path strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves. The New York Times has praised Lahiri as "a writer of uncommon elegance and poise." The Namesake is a fine-tuned, intimate, and deeply felt novel of identity. "