Literary Fiction

10/03/2012 - 8:29am
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz's versatility enables him to effortlessly shift from elaborate epics to intimate, micro-level storytelling. Just a few years after his sweeping epic, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Diaz is back with This is How You Lose Her, a collection of overlapping and intersecting short stories that offer brief, nuanced glimpses of complex characters, emotions, and situations. 

Although the stories contained within This is How You Lose Her are arranged in a non-linear sequence, they create a fragmentary portrait of Yunior's life and progression from a young immigrant learning English from Sesame Street to a middle-aged man reflecting on a hollow life and deteriorating body.

09/26/2012 - 11:17am
Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab

If you’ve never managed to make it all the way through this “great American classic,” NOW is the time to give it one more go! Wait, don’t click away! Hear me out! I’ve tried at least three times in the past to read Moby Dick & always get bogged down after a few chapters. All that whaling! All that boiling down of blubber! And, what is Ahab’s problem anyway?! So I’ve never “gotten” Moby Dick & never finished the book. I always abandon the Pequod, Ishmael, Ahab, & the gang and leave them floating in the middle of the ocean somewhere.

But NOT this time! You may have heard recently that writer, Philip Hoare, is leading a "big read" of Moby Dick, or, in this case, more like a “big listen.” He’s offering a chapter per day in free downloadable audio. There’s a different reader and a different artist’s illustration for each chapter.  I know about this because I have been reading, not a chapter per day, but a PAGE per day, of Moby Dick since August 9th , 2012, and writing a blog about it.  So, several people who’ve been following my blog have told me about the big read project. “This guy stole your idea!” they say indignantly.

09/14/2012 - 3:31am

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.

Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bojhalian: Parallel stories of a woman who falls in love with an Armenian soldier during the Armenian Genocide and a modern-day New Yorker prompted to rediscover her Armenian past.

If you enjoyed Sandcastle Girls for its incorporation of family ancestry into a historical fiction novel, here are some other titles you may enjoy:

Black Dog of Fate by Peter Balakian
Poet Peter Balakian relates the story of his childhood in New Jersey, where the American culture of the 1950s and 60s collided with his family's memories of the extermination of Armenians by the Turkish government in 1915. (worldcat.org)

 

 

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Yuri Zhivago, doctor and poet, lives and loves during the first three decades of 20th-century Russia. (worldcat.org)

 


 

08/08/2012 - 8:17am
The Red Book by Deborah Copaken Kogan

Maybe it’s just me or possibly it’s a baby boomer thing, but does anyone else agree there’s something about our culture that dictates we be the best at whatever we try—parenting, our profession, chosen hobbies, etc.? Mediocrity just doesn’t cut it. Imagine then, the pressure to excel if you’ve graduated from an Ivy League school. In Deborah Copaken Kogan’s latest offering, The Red Book, Harvard alumni come together for their 20th reunion, a gathering which portends to be an event to remember.

Published every five years, The Red Book is a much-anticipated volume, updating former Harvard classmates with coveted facts about fellow alumni—mates, offspring, jobs, accomplishments, etc. The book provides not only information, but also a means for comparing oneself to one’s peers. With those facts in hand, graduates arrive at the reunion either solo or with families in tow. Let the games begin.

07/31/2012 - 3:31am
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On the surface Gone Girl reads like a whodunit thriller, and it makes a great summer read--but it’s also a literary novel in disguise with its imagery of a landscape of an economic wasteland, the characters’ moral bankruptcy, and its themes of identity and marriage. It’s been the book of the summer for me.

On their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne comes home, and his wife Amy is gone. The initial crime scene: an open door, the ottoman turned over, broken glass, and the iron left on.  Instead of beginning with “boy meets girl,” the plot starts with “boy loses girl.” Detectives arrive and the media circus begins.

Told in alternating he said/she said chapters, we learn the back story of Nick and Amy.  Gilliam Flynn throws her readers red herrings with sneaky abandon. I found myself shifting loyalties back and forth from Team Amy to Team Nick and then being horrified and guiltily fascinated with both of them.

07/25/2012 - 3:31am
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

In Train Dreams, Denis Johnson constructs a melancholy portrait of the U.S. frontier. Instead of focusing on the raw potential and opportunity most associate with the Western expansion, Johnson elucidates the isolation and stasis involved in “taming” a wild place. Johnson artfully constructs a non-linear account of Robert Grainier’s life on the frontier. Through Grainier’s perspective, we witness the rapid transformation of America – from railroad construction to the proliferation of sleek highways; from influenza epidemics to a random encounter with Elvis Presley. Despite the changes going on around him, Grainier remains a lonely outsider, observing the world’s expedited evolution from a distance.

Fittingly, Grainier’s first memory is of an iconic symbol of movement and progress: a train. As a child, he was sent to Idaho on the Great Northern Railroad to live with his cousins. The experience of locomotion erased all memory of his origins, leaving him with a vague and malleable sense of self: “The whole adventure made him forget things as soon as they happened, and he very soon misplaced this earliest part of his life entirely.

07/19/2012 - 9:56am
Hinds' Feet on High Places cover

One of my customers recently called to tell me that she really enjoyed Hinds’ Feet on High Places.  This is an inspirational novel that has been described as Christian fiction at its best.  It got its name because the girl in the novel wants to be like the deer in her mountains that have special feet that allow them to leap and play high up.  She, too, wants to be free of fear and strives to be a courageous person who can overcome her limitations with the help of her God.  She wants to rework herself into a better and more spiritual person.

07/18/2012 - 11:55am

This readalike is in response to a customer'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 Woman in White: "Generally considered the first English sensation novel, The Woman in White features the remarkable heroine Marian Halcombe and her sleuthing partner, drawing master Walter Hartright, pitted against the diabolical team of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. A gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, Collins's psychological thriller has never been out of print in the 140 years since its publication."

If you like The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, a classic of psychological suspense generally considered to be the first English mystery novel, you may want to read: 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
Conan Doyle's first collection of 12 short stories, "published in the Strand magazine between 1891 and 1892, and then published as a collection in October 1892. It includes some of Conan Doyle's best tales of murder and mystery, such as "The Adventures of the Speckled Band," in which the strange last words of a dying woman "It was the band, the speckled band!" and an inexplicable whistling in the night are the only clues Sherlock Holmes has to prevent another murder; and "The Five Orange Pips," in which an untimely death and the discovery of the letter containing five orange pips lead to a cross-Atlantic conspiracy." (catalog summary) 

A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry 
"No breath of scandal has ever touched the aristocratic Moidore family-until Sir Basil's beautiful widowed daughter is stabbed to death in her own bed, a shocking, incomprehensible tragedy. Inspector William Monk is ordered to investigate in a manner that will give the least possible pain to the influential family. But Monk, brilliant and ambitious, is handicapped by lingering traces of amnesia and by the craven ineptitude of his supervisor, who would like nothing better than to see Monk fail. With the help of nurse Hester Latterly, a progressive young woman who served with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, Monk gropes warily through the silence and shadows that obscure the case, knowing that with each step he comes closer to the appalling truth." (catalog summary) 

06/29/2012 - 3:31am
Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

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.

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner: Popular television personality Valerie Adler turns to her long-forgotten, Illinois hometown friend Addie Downs when she runs into a bit of trouble involving betrayal and loyalty, family history and small-town secrets.

Her books feature heroines who are smart and funny, but very believable.  Some other titles that feature great contemporary women are:

As Husbands Go by Susan Isaacs
Astonished when her seemingly devoted husband is found murdered in a prostitute's apartment, Susie, a mother of four-year-old triplets, bristles at her neighbors' mixed reactions and tackles everyone from her husband's partners to the DA to restore her family's honor.  (from summary)

 


Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger
Book editor Leigh, chef Emmy and wealthy Adriana make a pact to change their disappointing lives within a year. Emmy vows to find the father of her future babies, and Latin temptress Adriana decides to settle on just one of her rich suitors.  (from summary)

 

 

06/22/2012 - 3:31am
If you like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: "Set in an early New England colony, the novel shows the terrible impact a single, passionate act has on the lives of three members of the community: the defiant Hester Prynne; the fiery, tortured Reverend Dimmesdale; and the obsessed, vengeful Chillingworth." (Book summary)

If you enjoyed The Scarlet Letter and are interested in similar classic novels, as well as stories with similar themes,
the following titles may be of interest to you:

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness. (worldcat.org)

 

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Crucible is Arthur Miller's classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller's drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence. (catalog description)

 

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