Shelf Life Blog

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez

The entire town knew that the Vicario twins were planning on murdering Santiago Nasar, and nobody stopped the brutal murder.  Determined to understand how a man liked by the town and his murderers could be killed without anyone stopping it, the narrator sets out 27 years after the event to talk to the townspeople and reconstruct what happened that fateful day in Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Kasher in the Rye by Moshe Kasher

Kasher in the Rye by Moshe Kasher

If memoirs are written to both connect with the reader and exorcise the writer's personal demons, then Moshe Kasher had one gigantic, stinky, firebreathing, sword-wielding demon.

His debut book's title says it all: Kasher in the Rye: The True Tale of a White Boy from Oakland Who Became a Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient, and Then Turned 16. Sure the Salinger-inspired pun is as obvious as a rhino stampede, but Moshe Kasher has had quite a colorful life. A life that I would not want to wish on my worst enemy.

Now a stand-up comic, Kasher was born to not one, but two, deaf parents. Mom and Dad separated within a year of his birth, and his mother took him and his older brother from Brooklyn to Oakland where a life of food stamps, less than stellar public schools, and years of therapy awaited them. This menagerie of elements was perfect for young Moshe (who at the time went by the less-Semitic name Mark) to rebel.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

"Irish businessman will pay large amount of U.S. dollars to meet a fairy, sprite, leprechaun, or pixie."

The ad was posted on the Internet. Indeed, it generated numerous fraudulent responses, but the person who placed it only needed one true lead for his purposes. He had studied all he could in the mundane world he inhabited, but he knew the important secrets of the Fairy would only be known by others of their kind in Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer.

After a wild goose chase in Cairo, at last the trail led to Ho Chi Minh City. Artemis Fowl the Second, latest in a thousand-year-old line of criminal masterminds, sweltered in the heat of a Vietnamese summer, carefully noting every detail of the passersby as he waited to make contact with his source. He was accompanied by his devoted servant, Butler, who served as confidante as well as being an amazingly lethal bodyguard.

If you like Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan Sun cover

Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes: Frances Mayes--widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer--opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.

If you enjoyed this book about travel and coming of age and would like something similar, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

Ciao, America by Beppe Severgnini. Beppe Severgnini chronicles the experiences he and his wife had while renting a house in Georgetown and attempting to adapt to modern American culture. (worldcat.org)

 
 
 
 
 
In her early thirties, [the author] had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want - husband, country home, successful career - but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled, she felt consumed by panic and confusion. This ... is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place. Presents the memoir of a magazine writer's yearlong travels across the world in search of pleasure, guidance, experience, and meaning. (worldcat.org)

 

Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School by David Mackintosh

Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School by David Mackintosh

I was never the new kid at school, but I had plenty of moments when I felt like I didn't fit in or belong. That is why I identified immediately with the titular character of Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School.

To our schoolboy narrator, Marshall looks like trouble from the start. He wears a tweed jacket with leather patches with a ragtimey hat covering his head. "He looks different to me." 

The nitpicky observations continue. His glasses say "Ray Ban" so they must belong to another boy. The food Marshall eats at lunch all comes in silver wrappers, obviously "space food." While everyone else has a regular bicycle, Marshall rides a velocipede. He can't play during gym, and he doesn't watch television. Who is this kid? Is he an alien? Is he from another century? What a weirdo.

So when Marshall invites the whole class to his birthday party it's bound to be a terrible time, right?

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.

Forget the Hunger Games. A Canticle for Leibowitz is the grandaddy of all post-apocalyptic novels. In it, Walter M. Miller Jr. eloquently dissects the nature of mankind in a moving manner that is also surprisingly funny.

The Light Between Oceans by L.M. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans

Every once in a while you read a book that has phrasing which is so beautiful and uniquely written that you stop and just reread that section again.  I found myself doing that often with The Light Between Oceans which is a wonderful debut novel by an Australian author, L.M. Stedman.  The book takes place right after World War I and is a psychological study of one couple's decision and the ripples that it creates in the world.

Tom Sherbourne, a decorated war hero, returns from World War I forever changed by the horrors of war, but his honor is still intact.  He is so respected and trusted by authorities that he is given the job of lighthouse keeper on a small island about a half day’s journey off of Australia’s western shore named Janus Rock. On one of his visits to the mainland he meets a brave and strong-willed young girl named Isabel and falls in love.  They marry and start their life together on the Island. 

Green Rider by Kristen Britain

Totally disgraced after her expulsion from school, Karigan trudged homeward through the countryside in Green Rider by Kristen Britain. It wasn't an easy walk, more of a cross-country hike, really, but her shame and rage kept her moving even as she spent an aching night sleeping in a meadow and washed down some hunks of cheese and bread with less than clean brook water.

Suddenly from out of the dark woods, there came an explosion of red and green.

If you like The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids.  You can browse the book matches here.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

If you enjoyed the dystopian themes of this novel and would be interested in similar dystopian works, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

1984 by George Orwell
Doublethink, thought police, constant surveillance, never-ending war. Although this classic dystopian novel was written in 1949, Orwell's lean prose, finely honed political discourse, and penetrating images seem as fresh, as menacing, and as disturbingly prophetic as ever. (Audiofile)


 

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
Shevek, a brilliant physicist, attempts to reunite two planets cut off from each other by centuries of distrust. (worldcat.org)

 

 
 

The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt

The Moon Pool by Abraham Merritt

One of the earliest adventure novels detailing the journey of a group of explorers from the surface world through a subterranean civilization, Abraham Merritt’s The Moon Pool is also one of the best examples of the genre.  With an exciting narrative full of thrilling action sequences, memorable characters, and a fascinating civilization of bizarre wonders, The Moon Pool is a great adventure novel that will thrill fans of classic science fiction.  For fans of shorter novels, it is also a fast-paced read. Edited together from two novellas titled “The Moon Pool” and “Conquest of the Moon Pool,” it is under 300 pages in length and can be completed by most readers in about 3-5 days.  For those seeking to discover the roots of sci-fi adventure stories in the early twentieth century, The Moon Pool is an excellent trip back in time.