Booklist

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Hi Reading Buddies–  Moving my book lists over from a little black binder to a page right here.  So here’s books read and authors that have filled my reading hours this year.

2016

Circling the Sun — by Paula McLain
— Aviator expat in Africa (author of The Paris Wife)

Caleb’s Crossing   –by Geraldine Brooks
— Mix of cultures as 1st native American attends Harvard

City of Tranquil Light  –by Bo Caldwell
— Tumultuous life of missionary couple in China one hundred years ago

The Marriage of Opposites  –by Alice Hoffman
— Historical novel of impressionist Camille Pissarro

For the Love — Jen Hatmaker
One warm smart funny woman’s look at living a life of faith. Loved it.

City of Thieves — by David Benioff
During the siege of Leningrad, two prisoners embark on a harrowing mission

The History of Love — by Nicole Krauss
Intertwined lives of an old Jewish author and a young girl

A Man Called Ove  –by Fredrik Backman
Swedish curmudgeon deals with neighbors & his loss of his beloved wife

My Grandmother Told me to Tell You She’s Sorry  –by Fredrick Backman
Young girl delivers a series of notes to colorful characters after her quirky grandmother passes.

Vanessa and her Sister  — by Priya Parmar
Novelization of life of Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell

The Hare with Amber Eyes  –by Edmund de Waal
Family history over a century from Russia to Paris to Vienna

The Girl on the Train –by Paul Hawkins
Murder, suspense, dismal characters (don’t recommend it)

The Nightingale  — by Kristen Hannah
Two sisters take different paths in occupied France of WWII

All the Light we Cannot See  —  By Anthony Doerr  (Pulitzer Prize)
Parallel stories of a blind Parisian girl and a young German radio expert in WWII

The Last Days of Dogtown — by Anita Diamond
Historical fiction of a small settlement in Massachusetts.

Belgravia — by Julian Fellowes
Historical Fiction, two families intetwined. (writer of Downtown Abbey)

Pursue the Intentional Life  –by Jean Fleming
Fleming shares thoughts, quotes, ideas from list of things to remember when she’s an old lady.

Falling Free, Rescued from the Life I’d Always Wanted  –by Shannan Martin
Personal story of God’s changes in her life, by my favorite blogger.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers  –by Katherine Boo (Pultizer winner)
The struggles of a family’s life in an Indian slum–based on actual people, well researched

One Amazing Thing  — ChitraDivakaruni
Characters trapped in the Indian consulate after an earthquake tell their stories.

The Kitchen House  –KathleenGrissom
Historical novel set in the slave quarters of the deep south.

When Breath Becomes Air  — by Paul Kalanithi
Memoir– 36 year old surgeon writes his story during his last year before he succumbs to cancer  (epilogue by his wife)  Amazing.

Vinegar Girl  –by Anne Tyler (Pulitzer winner)
Professor wants his daughter to marry his foreign lab assistant to assure his green card (retelling of the Taming of the Shrew)

My Kitchen Year  –by Ruth Reichl
Memoir of how Reichl reshaped her life through cooking after leaving Gourmet magazine.

The Light Between the Oceans  –by M.L. Stedman
A couple living on a lighthouse island, claim a lost baby and later find the mother.

The Invisible Wall  –by Harry Bernstein
Touching memoir of a poor Jewish family in early 1900’s England, written when Bernstein was 9 years old!

My Name is Lucy Barton   –by Elizabeth Strout
A young woman comes to her mother’s bedside in a NY hospital to make right after a long separation.

American Wife  –Curtis Sittenfeld
Novel of a young Wisconsin woman school librarian who marries a charismatic man from a large political family and eventually becomes First Lady– based on the life of Laura Bush.

The Curious Charms of Arthurs Pepper  — by Phaedra Patrick
A recent widower finds his wife’s hidden charm bracelet and uses it to find out about her past life and about himself.


2017

Death Comes to Pemberley —  by P.D. James
Murder mystery written as a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, set around Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth and other remembered characters, by much loved British mystery writer P.D. James.

Commonwealth — Ann Patchett
Two families linked by divorce and remarriage, spend the next 50 years tied together through love and responsibility.  When a novel written tells their story, memories are revisited. (love Ann Patchett’s work)

The Lilac Girls –by Martha Kelly
The stories of 3 women– a NY philanthropist, a German doctor and a young Polish resistance worker, whose lives eventually intertwine during WWII.  Not great literature, but a moving plot pulls you along.

The Golden Son –by Philip Somaya Gowda
Ail Patel grows up in a farming family in rural India.  The story centers around his eventual medical residency in Dallas and desperate marriage of his childhood friend, Leena, back in India.  Tender, bittersweet story with characters you can admire.

The Summer Before the War  — by Helen Simonson
In 1914 Beatrice Nash moves to the Village of Rye to become the latin teacher at the local school.  She encounters the local committee ladies, 2 cousins who enlist in the war, and a stream of refugees.  Colorful characters, a little romance and a grim slice of WWI.  Worthwhile book!

Victoria — by Daisy Goodwin
A novelization of the life of Queen Victoria from the time she becomes the queen at 18 years of age, through her first years of her reign, until her engagement to Prince Albert.  Goodwin also wrote the screenplay for the PBS series Victoria.

Today Will be Different — by Maria Semple
Eleanor’s life is a mess, so she determines to make this day ahead different.  But the day takes so many quirky twists and turns she is spinning by the unexpected ending.  Loved the scattered, oh so funny protagonist.

America’s First Daughter — by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie
Novelization of the life of Patsy Jefferson, daughter of Thomas Jefferson.  After her mother died young, Patsy was by her father’s side through the revolution, his posting as the ambassador to France, through the years at Monticello and the presidency.  It also recounts her stormy marriage and 12 children.  Fascinating account from her point of view.

A Gentleman in Moscow — by Amor Towles
In 1922 the cultured and erudite Count Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the elegant Hotel Metropol across from the Kremlin. The ensuing years are filled with colorful characters, golden coins, hidden rooms and a secret key.  Great ending! I was charmed.

Hillybilly Elegy — by J.D. Vance
The author tells the story of  his tumultuous troubled family and how, with help, he was able to leave the rust belt of Ohio to graduate from Yale Law School.

Secret Daughter — by Shilpi Somaya Gowda  (author of The Golden Son)
A village woman in India takes her 3 day old daughter to an orphanage from which she is adopted by an American couple.  The story is set between Mumbi and Palo Alto, CA and the characters struggle to learn the depth and meaning of family.

The Years of Living Danishly — Helen Russell
When Russell and her husband move from London to rural Denmark, she determines to investigate the claim that Denmark, with their pastries, long dark winters, high taxes, free universities and cozy stylish homes, is the happiest place on earth.  Bright & engaging!

At Home in the World  — Tsh Oxenreider
Tsh and her husband travel around the world for 9 months with 3 children 10 & under. They snorkel through the Great Barrier Reef, spend a night in a Safari Camp, chase through the canals of Venice and stop and stay with old friends in several spots along the way…  all the while expanding and defining their definition of “home”.

The Sympathizer  — by Viet  Thane Nguyen
The protagonist is a communist double agent, captain in the south Vietnamese army, who escapes to California at the end of the war and continues to report back to his communist superiors.  Too much violence, cruelty, too grim for me to recommend, but I read it for our Lit Group, learned a lot about the Viet Nam War.– Pulitzer Prize 2016.

The More of Less — by Joshua Becker
Becker gives motivation and ideas for being a practical minimalist– like getting rid of 29 things in each room of your house for a warm up!! — or doing some experimental decluttering, stick things away in a box and if you don’t need them after some months, then throw/give them away.  Helpful and a quick read.

To Capture What We Cannot Keep— by Beatrice Colin
Historical fiction. In the late 1800’s, Cait Wallace (widow, chaperone), meets Emile Nouguier, designer of the Eiffel Tower.  A slow going romance ensues, peppered with the building of the tower. The twist at the end was less than satisfying.

In the Company of Women — by Grace Bonney
Short 2 to 4 pages Q&A with women entrepreneurs about creativity, struggles and dreams realized. Loaded with photos of their life & work.  Makes me want to install more art and inventiveness into my life!

Gone, A Girl, A Violin, A life Unstrung — by Min Kym
Memoir of Min Kym, child prodigy and concert violinist, describing her rarified childhood and her struggles when at 31, her Stradivarius is stolen.   A unique view of the lives of musicians.

The Leavers — by Lisa Ko
In NYC, Deming Guo’s mother, a Chinese immigrant disappears.  At 11 years old, he is adopted by a pair of professors in upstate NY.  In the years that follow, he tries to find his mother and his place in the world.

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared — by Jonas Jonasson
The day Alan Karlsson turns 100, he flees his nursing home and surprisingly gets involved with criminals, a suitcase full of money, a pet elephant and a hot dog salesman for some unlikely adventures.  Alternate chapters chronicle Alan’s long life meeting Chairman Mao, Stalin, Harry Truman, trekking across the Himalayas by camel and submitting the secret answer to the Manhattan Project.  It’s a far-fetched rollicking story– good summer fun.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane— Lisa See
Li-yan from a remote Chinese tea growing village grows up surrounded by ritual and prescribed customs.  When she has a baby while unmarried, her baby is left at an orphanage and adopted by American parents.  Li-yan goes on to an education and builds a tea empire, hoping to find her daughter one day.  One of Lisa See’s best–loved it.

The Little Paris Bookshop— by Nina George
Monsieur Perdue, unable to recover from a 20 year old love affair, takes his bookshop on a barge down the canals of France, along with a young writer and an Italian chef.  Slow moving, too sappy for me. (But finished it because we’re talking it through in Lit Group).  It was a NYT best seller!??

September— by Rosemunde Pilcher
Story centers around 3 families in a small town in Scotland.  When a celebratory dance is planned for September, family members return, including Pandora, who has been away for 20 years– and all the complications of relationships over the years unravel.  Love this book.  Read it 20 years ago and grabbed it to reread on our summer trip.

Organic Mentoring—  by Edwards & Neumann
Analysis and suggestions for women mentoring each other within the church.  Helpful, but repetitive.  Could have been much shorter!

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir— by Jennifer Ryan
When the vicar in a small southern English town disbands the choir, when the men leave for WWII, the women of Chilbury band together to revive the choir.  Written through a series of journal, diary, letters, the stories of various women unfold.  There’s deception, romance, bravery and family ties stretched.  Very enjoyable.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake— by Aimee Bender
As a 9 year old, Rose Edelstein discovers she has a magical gift of tasting people’s emotions through the food they prepare.  Sh struggles with her mother’s neediness, the distance of her father and her brother’s strange behavior.  A strange plot, not for everyone, but the vivid characters do pull you into the story.

The Aviator’s Wife — by Melanie Benjamin
A novelization of the complicated marriage of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her famous husband Charles– through their courtship flying in open cockpit planes, the horrific kidnapping/murder of their young first born, through all his notoriety and her coming into her own.  Fascinating and makes you wonder how close to the truth it all is.

Anything is Possible — by Elizabeth Strout
Set in small towns of the midwest, each chapter tells the story of a different, but somehow related, character.   Compelling, sometimes tender, sometimes gritty and disturbing, these stories weave together and make a cohesive book.

We were the Lucky Ones — Georgia Hunter
During WWII the large Kurc family of Radom, Poland find themselves scattered–Paris, ports in North Africa, a labor camp in Siberia, the front of Italy, Rio de Janeiro and Warsaw.  The narrative follows their amazing story– and the afterward reveals the basics of the story are actually true, written by a grand daughter of Addy Kurc.

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores — Jen Campbell
A compilation of funny things book shop workers/owners have heard from customers–  “Do you have a copy of Tequila Mockingbird?”  or “Fiddler on a Hot Tim Roof?”  Passed to me by Jenni, our Lit Group hero.  Good for some chuckles!

The Well-Tempered Heart — by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Sequel to the Art of Hearing Heartbeats (which I loved), Julia Win returns to Burma, to meet with her half brother and learn the story of the woman Nu Nu and her family. A little too magical for me, but a fascinating look at a life in that part of the world.

Where the Past Begins — Amy Tan
Subtitled “A Writer’s Memoir,” this books contains Tan’s musings on writing and linguistics, letters to and from her editor and a memories from her turbulent family history (by far, the most interesting part of the book).  Love all of her other books, but this one had some skimmable parts.

Lilli De Jong — by Janet Benton
When Lili De Jong gives birth in an 1883 Philadelphia home for unwed mothers, she’s advised to leave her baby.  Instead she keeps baby Charlotte and faces incredible hardship and shame of the times.  A story of perseverance and the depth of a mother’s love.

Pachinko — by Min Jin Lee
Set from 1911 to the 1980’s,  this is the story of a young woman, pregnant & abandoned, who marries a virtuous Korean pastor and immigrates to Japan.  What follows is their story and the stories of their children, being a persecuted minority during WWII and beyond.  A Poignant saga of people torn by circumstance.

Gift From the Sea —  by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Written by Lindbergh as she spent a quiet vacation alone by the sea.  She analyzes the business of modern life, solitude, marriage, aging…  Written in the 1950’s, it seems surprisingly current.

Chemistry — by Week Wang
A young scientist, working toward her PhD at Boston University, hits a roadblock– fueled by highest expectations from her Chinese parents, unanswered proposals from her devoted scientist boyfriend and her doubts about what’s ahead for her.  Bright nimble writing and such an engaging character.   I didn’t want it to end. (Tracked it down after reading Anne Patchett write– “I loved this novel”).

Lab Girl — by Hope Jahren
Fascinating memoir of a botany professor/researcher–interspersed with short vignettes of amazing plant info.  Jahren and her partner Bill work together for years in Berkeley, Atlanta, Baltimore, Norway and Hawaii– with all the foibles of government funding and experiments gone awry, with a couple of harrowing car crashes thrown in.  Makes you love trees!

Sourdough — by Robin Sloan
Sloan (author of Mr. Pennumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore), weaves a tale of a San Francisco tech worker turned baker, when she is gifted a crock of mysterious sourdough starter.  She joins a new SF market and crazy things start to happen and she has a mystery to unravel.  Fast moving and just fun.

Before We Were Yours — by Lisa Wingate
Riss Foss and her 4 younger siblings are snatched from their families shanty boat and sold as orphans in 1939 Tennessee. In present day South Carolina, Avery Stafford discovers the truth of her grandmother’s history related to these children.  The story is based on the the real life scandal of a Memphis adoption agency.

Of Mess and Moxie — by Jen Hatmaker
Jen rambles on about what it takes to be a woman now with deft humor and style.  Plus she gives hilarious “How To” tips between chapters.  The chapter on forgiveness and loving people about all were truly helpful.  NY Times best seller and a worthwhile read.

2018

The Joy Luck Club — by Amy Tan
Just reread this wonderful telling of the stories 4 Chinese woman, who have immigrated to San Francisco and are united by their “Joy Luck Club” — layered with the stories of their 4 American born daughters who see the world in a much different way.  One of my favorites.  (The movie is also great).

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice — by Laurie King
A semi-retired Sherlock Holmes meets Mary Russel, a precocious bright 15 year on the Sussex Downs.  Through a series of events she becomes his protegee and they solve a series of crimes involving costumes, stealth and grand deduction.

On Rue Tatin — by Susan Loomis
Loomis and her family move to a charming town in Normandy, France, where they renovate an ancient convent to make a home and she cooks her way through a series of French dishes that she shares in the form of recipes at the end of each chapter.  If you love food & travel (and I do) , you probably will love this book!

Beneath a Scarlet Sky — by Mark Sullivan
A novel based on the life of Pino Lella, a young man in Milan when WWII reaches Italy.  He first lives in a monastery, guiding Jews over the mountains to safety in Switzerland.  Through a complicated set of circumstances, he later becomes the driver of German General Hans Leyers and becomes an informant to the allies.  The story continues through the end of the war with many twists and turns.  Engaging, if not totally believable.

Being Mortal — by Atul Gawande
Gawande, a surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School, writes about considering our choices as we age– end of life, care and medical decisions that deeply affect the quality of our life.  Filled with studies and stories of his patients and family, it is an extremely engaging book and gives so much to think about!!

Beartown — by Frederik Backman
In a small Swedish town hockey is everything.  The junior team is on their way to the national finals when a tragic incident throws it all aside.  Deep, rich characters from coaches, to players an their families make this a compelling story.  Dark (not usually my favorite) but imminently engaging.

Love Does — by Bob Goff
Read this book after several hearty recommendations.  Goff tells fantastical stories from his life and walk with God.  Sometimes hard for me to relate to– beyond my realm of real life.  But other friends have loved it!

The Magnolia Story — by Chip and Joanna Gaines
Being a real Chip and Joanna fan (thanks to my HGTV addiction), I enjoyed the background stories that led them to their success as a designer/builder team.  Their faith in God is evident in all the ups and downs they’ve been through.  Will be interesting to see where they go from here…

Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say — by Kelly Corrigan
Part memoir, part chat with a friend, Corrigan camps around 12 phrases and how they play out in a life.  Great humor and warmth, as well as some “language.”  Very much enjoyed her insights about related to and caring for people.

Seven Days of Us — by Francesca Hornak
When Olivia Birch returns at Christmas from treating an epidemic abroad, the whole Birch family is quarantined for a week in their country house.  So many twists an turns as an unknown family member arrives, a mother guards her secret, sisters clash and a father sees things in a new light.  Couldn’t put it down– sad and endearing and heart warming all the way to the end.

How To Stop Time — by Matt Haig
Tom Hazard looks like an ordinary 41 year old, but actually he was born in the 1500’s.  He’s known, Shakespeare, Captain Cook, F. Scott Fitzgerald…  And he’s been recruited by the Albatross Society, made of people with his same rare condition–and whose motto is “Never Fall in Love.”  The book skips between the 1500’s and current London, amid his struggles to find the “normal” life he wants while stuck in fears from the past.  Interesting concept and characters.

Lift — by Kelly Corrigan
This brief book is Corrigan’s letter to her two school age daughters, Georgia and Claire.  She tells life stories to describe the near misses and great joys of being a mother.  An encouraging sourcebook for those trying to navigate the perils of motherhood.  She had me laughing and full on crying before I reached the last page.  Worthwhile and so engaging.

Uncommon Type  — by Tom Hanks
Reserved this book at the library because, well, Tom Hanks!  It’s a collection of short stories each of which features a typewriter to some degree.  They were varied and had clever plot lines, but I somehow how failed to connect much with the characters.  A pleasant book, good summer read.

A Higher Call: an incredible true story of combat and chivalry  — by Adam Makos
The true story of an American pilot in WWII who was flying a battered bomber out of Germany, when a German fighter pilot, Franz Stigler flew along beside him and escorted him out of danger.  The book gives the two men’s backgrounds and stories through the war and their meeting finally many years after the war.  Interesting to have an anti-Nazi German pilot’s point of view.

The Middle Place — by Kelly Corrigan
A memoir of Kelly’s growing up in her close knit family, alternating with chapters about her cancer treatments as a young mom and her father’s battle with cancer at the same time.  Sounds grim, but Kelly’s honesty, humor and love of family make it a book you won’t want to put down.  Love all her relatable books.

The Language of Flowers — by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Victoria Jones has spent her life in unhappy foster care situations until she was 18, save the time she lived with Elizabeth, who taught her the meanings of flowers and loved her fully.  As an adult she meets a young man who came from that time in her past and she must settle all the difficulties and heartbreak of her childhood.  Engaging and hopeful.

Dirt Life, On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristen Kimball
Memoir of the author’s falling in love with her husband Mark and falling in love with organic farming.  It follows the first year they spend developing their farm in upstate New York–so many informative stories about crops and cooking, about animals and how to care for them.

Devour by Sophie Egan
Egan goes in to detail about how and why American’s eat the way they do.  Topics: How work affects our eating, Diets, the rise of wine consumption, how Italian food became so mainstream, fast food marketing, the popularity of brunch, organic, gluten free, non-fat options, family meals…  Fascinating and sometimes surprising.  Loved it.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Riveting from the first page, the story of the bright and prosperous Richardson family and their renters, artist Mia and her smart daughter.  Their lives intertwine to the breaking point and divisions over the adoption of a baby, personal choices provide all the plot twists and turns.

The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons
The story alternates between 3 brothers returning to their dilapidated manner house after WWII and an enchanting young singer who helps bring it back to life– and then the story of one of those brothers 50 years later, training his grandson, the piano prodigy and reliving the turmoil of his life.  British family drama wrapped in music.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
A small girl is found alone on a ship arriving from England to Australia in 1910.  She is taken in by the harbor master and his wife.  But her story is a mystery.  It takes 500 pages and 3 generations of women to tell the true story.  Sort of a mix of Charles Dickens meets Downton Abbey.  Very readable and graced with likable characters and an involving plot line.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
A reread after many years and I loved it just as much as the first time.  Tells to true story of a family of watchmakers in Harlem, Netherlands who hide Jewish friends away in a secret hiding place in their home and help them find safe houses beyond.  You will love every one of them.  And it continues on to there eventual imprisonment as they are discovered.  Their trust and faith in God through it all is so meaningful.