Shelf Life Blog

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sandovitch

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Nina Sankovitch is an avid reader as is her whole family.  They have turned to books for generations for joy and comfort.  When her sister Ann-Marie dies from cancer, Nina goes into a depression until she decides to take steps to get her life back in order by giving up her job as a lawyer and reading a book a day for a year.  This memoir is the progression that she makes from grief to joy over the course of the year.  Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is so eloquent, so beautifully written that it has become one of my favorite books. Nina shares so much wisdom that it is the kind of book that you would like to keep to read over and over again.  There were many times that I wanted to stop reading long enough to yell out, “Yes, Nina!!  You are so wonderful!” 

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Many early science fiction “space operas” were simple narratives of good vs. evil, with clean-cut heroes, dastardly villains, and no more ambition than seeing the hero fly off to another adventure at the end. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, with its sprawling narrative, morally ambiguous characters, and realistic interpretation of both social and mathematical science, changed the course of science fiction forever. Asimov’s masterpiece presents an intriguing story of the fall of civilization, and the many people from varying walks of life who attempt to restore it.  With Asimov’s meticulous attention to detail and a vibrant, chaotic universe, this novel will satisfy any fan of thoughtful, socially-aware science fiction.

Foundation is the story of the planet Terminus, a resource-poor planet at the edge of the galaxy that becomes the seed of a movement to save civilization after the fall of the Galactic Empire.  The novel begins as the renowned “psychohistorian” Hari Seldon, having developed a mathematical model for the behavior of human beings on a mass scale, has foreseen the doom of the Empire and gathers up a group of scholars to create an encyclopedia of knowledge to aid humanity in the coming Dark Age.  

Starters by Lissa Price

Starters by Lissa Price

Imagine a future where teens rent their bodies to senior citizens who want to relive the moments of their youth. In Starters by Lissa Price, this is exactly what happens. A genocide spore killed everyone who wasn't vaccinated in time. Left behind are the very young and the very old. Many children are left without parents or caretakers. They must survive in an unfriendly world where they are viewed as unattended minors and are forced to resort to any means possible in order to survive.  If a teen agrees to rent out their body to a senior, they are paid a substantial sum of money. It is very enticing to a starving and homeless teenager.

If you like Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

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.

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin: "Rachel White is the consummate good girl. A hard-working attorney at a large Manhattan law firm and a diligent maid of honor to her charmed best friend Darcy, Rachel has always played by all the rules. Since grade school, she has watched Darcy shine, quietly accepting the sidekick role in their lopsided friendship. But that suddenly changes the night of her thirtieth birthday when Rachel finally confesses her feelings to Darcy's fiance, and is both horrified and thrilled to discover that he feels the same way. As the wedding date draws near, events spiral out of control, and Rachel knows she must make a choice between her heart and conscience. In so doing, she discovers that the lines between right and wrong can be blurry, endings aren't always neat, and sometimes you have to risk everything to be true to yourself." (Book summary)

If you liked Something Borrowed, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand
Adrienne Dealey has spent the past six years working for hotels in exotic resort towns. This summer she has decided to make Nantucket home. Left flat broke by her ex-boyfriend, she is desperate to earn some fast money. When the desirable Thatcher Smith, owner of Nantucket's hottest restaurant, is the only one to offer her a job, she wonders if she can get by with no restaurant experience. Thatcher gives Adrienne a crash course in the business...and they share an instant attraction. But there is a mystery about their situation: what is it about Fiona, the Blue Bistro's chef, that captures Thatcher's attention again and again? And why does such a successful restaurant seem to be in its final season before closing its doors for good? (worldcat.org)

Jemima J by Jane Green
Jemima Jones is overweight. About seven stone overweight. Treated like a slave by her thin and bitchy flatmates, lorded over at the Kilburn Herald by the beautiful Geraldine (less talented, but better paid), her only consolation is food. What with that and her passion for her charming, sexy colleague Ben, she knows her life needs changing. (worldcat.org)


 

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Bears have much in common with people. We're both mammals. We're both omnivores. We are protective of our young. Also, if a bear happens to lose something very important, they will search for it. Especially if that something is their hat.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen is a clear-cut observation of a bear in his natural habitat, asking other animals if they have seen his missing prized possession.

What that description did not tell you is how unbelievably charming and oddball Klassen has made this story. Bear, standing upright, interrogates a different animal. Nearly every conversation is alike. No one has seen his hat and bear retorts, "OK. Thank you anyway." before he goes on to the next creature. The whole thing reads like a classic comedy bit.

Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman

Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman

C.S. Friedman has long been one of my favorite fantasy writers or, really, writers in general. Having written two trilogies and four stand-alone novels in the past two decades, she's not the most prolific writer in the fantasy world, but when she chooses to publish, her work is always brilliant. I was first introduced to her stories in high school by a friend who was in the middle of reading her Coldfire Trilogy. I've always been loathe to accept recommendations from friends who say, "You've gotta read this book!" but I'm glad I did. And now with her second series, the Magister Trilogy, I've just finished and thoroughly enjoyed Feast of Souls.  

This first book takes place in a world that is practically medieval, with tales of small, squalid villages, deeply-forested trails, and grand, opulent capital cities and castles. Friedman takes great care to emphasize the disparity between the peasants--dirty, uneducated, and willing to sell themselves and their families to stay afloat--while the rich go about their lives oblivious to those "below" them. There are three main categories of persons in this book: the morati, regular mortal people, no matter their walk of life; the witches, natural magicians who must draw upon their own life-force to perform their work and who, consequently, are rather short-lived; and the magisters, mysterious sorcerers who act as political counselors and power brokers who do not die. The secret to magisters' immortality is known only to them.  

Being Flynn by Nick Flynn

Being Flynn by Nick Flynn

Nicholas Flynn’s life has been a motley assortment of personal loss, substance abuse, inertia, and petty crime, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to write his way to clarity and perspective. Despite the seemingly endless barrage of set-backs, Flynn has been able to craft his experiences and thoughts into an intense, complex memoir – Being Flynn.

Outlaw by Stephen Davies

Outlaw by Stephen Davies

Jake Knight seems to have it all. He's a fifteen-year-old technology whiz who can jump a ten-foot wall with his parkour skills. He's enrolled in a nice British school, and his dad is an ambassador to the small West African country of Burkina Faso. To Jake, Africa is a land of excitement and adventure...and he will soon learn that it is also the land of the Outlaw.

Jake thinks his boarding school life is pretty lame and spends his time playing Geothimble, a scavenger hunt that uses GPS technology.  When Jake's extracurricular activity gets him suspended, he is sent to his father's embassy. Jake could not be happier, but little does he know that he's about to get enough excitement to last a lifetime.

If you like Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

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.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is a historical novel about the roundup and deportation of French Jews in 1942, but it is also a modern tale about families, secrets and loyalties. The story is gripping and moves between modern France and Europe on the verge of the Holocaust.

If you like Sarah's Key, you may like these recommendations. Some are historical, some move back and forth in time and some just have a similar "feel" to the storytelling.

The Blue Bottle Club by Penelope Stokes
In 1929, four friends gathered in a cold, dusty attic on Christmas day to make a solemn pact. "Our dreams for the future," they whispered, placing tiny pieces of paper into a blue bottle...Years later, local news reporter Brendan Delaney stumbles upon the bottle and discovers the most poignant story of her career...and possibly the meaning she's searched for all her life.


 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
Bruno (is) a naive nine-year-old raised in a privileged household by strict parents...(Bruno) describes a visit from the Fury and the family's sudden move from Berlin to a place called Out-With in Poland.
(from School Library Journal)


 

Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros

Papa and Me

"Crossing the street Papa says 'La mano' and he takes my hand." The love between a father and his son is apparent in Papa and Me by Arthur Dorros. The strong bond between them leaps from the colorfully illustrated pages of this book. As they begin their morning and make breakfast together and head to the bus, they revel in the joy of a simple day.

While making breakfast together, they invent a "special food." "Sabroso" they declare, delicious, as they taste the eggs and pancakes. The book uses both English and Spanish to tell the simple story. The characters are happy and they move between English and Spanish effortlessly.