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Number One Ladies Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and other books in the Alexander McCall Smith series.  "The latest installment in the series (Blue Shoes and Happiness) was on the bestseller list earlier this year, but you need to read them in order. This book is more about the characters and the land and the move away from the ‘old ways’ than about mysteries. The characters really grow on you.” My mother-in-law also enjoyed 44 Scotland Street by Smith.

Woman in White

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. "It’s a little late to call this a "hot book," considering it was published in 1859. I initially read it because of Nora Ephron’s rhapsodic endorsement here. Ephron wrote, "Days pass as I savor every word. Each minute I spend away from the book pretending to be interested in everyday life is a misery. How could I have waited so long to read this book? When can I get back to it? Halfway through I return to New York to work, to mix a movie, and I sit in the mix studio unable to focus on anything but whether my favorite character in the book will survive. I will not be able to bear it if anything bad happens to my beloved Marian Halcombe." This is EXACTLY how I felt reading this book (except the bit about sitting in a studio mixing a movie, since I wasn’t doing anything a tenth as glamorous). I could not put this book down."

People of the Book

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks: This one also got a few votes. "I just finished this. One of the most interesting, well-written books I've read in a long time. She's a masterful writer and tells a terrific story." And: "I am in the middle of Brook’s latest and am totally captivated. As she has in her other books, the characters are quickly real to you and important. But this one is a mystery, really, about tracing the history of an ancient book. So far I love it, but I have always loved her books!"

Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.  This is a typically gripping Picoult novel about a school shooting. "I haven't read anything that great recently but can't put this one down. Good summer fiction." Sterling is a small, ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens -- until the day its complacency is shattered by a shocking act of violence. In the aftermath, the town's residents must not only seek justice in order to begin healing but also come to terms with the role they played in the tragedy.

Twilight

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Many contributors assured me I would get beyond my doubts. (You know … doubting that I can enjoy a teen vampire book?) Truly, though… The series seems to have gone viral from teens to their curious moms to the big world beyond. Some of your comments:  "My No. 1 beach read ... I can't think of anything more perfect to get absorbed in while ignoring the kids at the beach and engaging your 10th grade babysitter in the whole Edward vs. Jacob debate."  "I am so enjoying these books." "If you like Jane Austen, you will like these." "If you have been hesitant because of that "vampire thing," jump right in. There's so much more than that, including an amazing love story, you almost forget the vampire thing. And this was a great series to share with my 12 year old daughter (Note: Definitely pre-read the first part of the fourth book in the series before handing over to a daughter!)” " CRACK! Pure crack. I was a huge doubter ... and now I am hooked. I wish I had saved them for the beach .. They would have been perfect, mindless, a one-sitting- book-a-day reads."

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Stout "My favorite fiction book this year. So many facets of one life with perspectives from many. Half way through the book I looked at the questions in the back and one asked if I liked the main character Olive at which point I thought ‘No, absolutely not!" but by the end of the book I really did like and appreciate her.’  "Great writing. It weaves subtle, sad, and at times shocking life stories in a Maine town."

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. "Delightful light summer reading. Great version on audio book if you have a long drive to your vacation spot. Our little ones didn't mind listenting to this -- they found the British accents endearing." (Ed: I flew through this book and enjoyed the history, but it's an epistolary novel, and I felt the letters were written in the same overly ingenuous style. But I think I might be the lone crank on the subject, so don't let me stop you.)

Help

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. "Initially I thought it would be one more (deserved) stab at racism in the South, but this is different. A very different voice and very real. Great book for discussion. Easy to read, good beach book."  "This book, set in the 60s in the South, against the backdrop of the civil rights movement, explores those timeless bonds between women --regardless of race, of age, or of position in life." And another:  "This is my favorite book of the year and it should definitely qualify as a beach book. It is a page- turner for sure. I told a friend about it and she told me that she stayed up until three in the morning to finish it (she has small kids so this is no small sacrifice) … It’s just so engrossing, I wish I could start it over again. Walked by a woman the other day who was reading it sitting on a bench – she said she cannot put it down." I am on vacation with a friend who bought the book last night and was immediately engaged, saying it had changed her vacation. Now she “really has a book.” You know that feeling.

Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbury.  "Reading it now and while it took me a while to get into it, I am completely caught in its spell now. Set in Paris, it is about a combination of intriguing and surprising people who all live in a well-to-do apartment building in Paris. It’s a major life themes kind of book with lots of humor and kindness to offset some of the heavy stuff. " Same contributor, about a day later: "Okay I confess that I just read then end of the Hedgehog and it was really wonderful. One of the best books ever. Practically sobbing, but not in a miserably sad way. It was just beautiful and is one of those books that gathers steam." "A wonderful story about a child living in a crazy French apartment building and considering killing herself. I did love this book. Apparently child psychiatrists make it mandatory reading for their patients."

This is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You: A Novel by Jonathan Tropper. "Think back to the early days of chick lit... when it was good. Now, imagine it from a male perspective. Jonathan Tropper writes fiction from a guy's perspective that, I think, appeals to women (at least it did to me). The book opens with the main character's wife cheating on him, then leads to him joining his family in their childhood home while they all sit shiva for his dead father (who was an atheist). Forced to be in a room with four brothers and sisters day in and day out, stories unfold, hilarity ensues, and some sexual secrets are laid bare... all the chick-lit cliches, but written in a way that doesn't make you want to barf or stab someone." "Laugh out loud funny but tragic at the same time. Read it before they make the movie." "Jonathan Trooper writes compulsively readable, laugh-out-loud funny novels, and his fifth book, This Is Where I Leave You is his best yet." "I laughed out loud with this one and some things are over the top, but a delightful read."

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