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Literary Fiction

  • Girl Who Fell From The Sky

    The Girl Who Fell from the Skyby Heidi Durrow. "This novel tells the story of a girl, daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who miraculously survives a tragedy that claims the rest of her family. She moves in with her African-American grandmother and struggles to fit in with her light skin and blue eyes."  Chosen by Barbara Kingsolver as the winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.

  • Goldfinch

    Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  I know, I know … I'm sure this isn't the first you've heard of this book, but too many of you loved it not to include as a top pick.  Some of your comments:  “The story begins with an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum that kills narrator Theo Decker's beloved mother and results in his unlikely possession of a Dutch masterwork called The Goldfinch. Shootouts, gangsters, pillowcases, storage lockers, and the black market for art all play parts in the ensuing life of the painting in Theo's care…”  “Wonderfully well-written book with great characters and an interesting plot that carries over many years.  It is the story of a young boy who ends up in possession of the Dutch Master painting The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius.  His desire to protect the painting and what is represents to him defines the choices he makes and the people he comes in contact with.  It is a long book and at times the writing seemed repetitious, but worth the effort.“ “Gripping novel, non-thriller page turner, fabulous writing that gives you the opportunity to google new vocabulary words every 10 pages or so...  I am ¾ thru…expect it may end somewhat predictably but don’t care. I am thoroughly enjoying the literary ride!”   “Well written, absorbing story. It's long but push through the one slow part and you will be glad. Good to read in one fell swoop.”   “Loving the goldfinch so much, went on to read her older The Secret History, which I did not like because the characters were mostly self-absorbed little rich kids and no one seemed to have the guts to stand up for what is right.”  “not exactly 'beach' read, one of those books I think if written in pre kindle times would have been edited more! But...that said, did love the story and struggle of a boy becoming a man in a very messed up situation but a few admirable adult characters.”

  • Home

    Home by Marilynne Robinson "Gilead, Housekeeping, the Death of Adam--I've read pretty much everything she's written and held on to each word for dear life. I really enjoyed Home--it's easier though perhaps, in my opinion, not as profound as Gilead. Just won the Orange Prize in England. Its main character, Glory Boughton, is a marvelous creation."

  • Ideas of Heaven

    Ideas of Heaven: A Ring of Stories by Joan Silber. "This delighted me with its clever links and layered meanings. It’s an inquiry into spiritual and sexual longing—how people use the two for similar ends—or not. The language is gorgeous and inspiring. My book club loved it.”  National Book Award Finalist.

  • Imperfectionists

    The Imperfectionists: A Novel by Tom Rachman. I gather this book is like Olive Kitteridge – a bunch of stories loosely woven together. It’s gotten mixed reviews on Goodreads, but friends gave it raves: "I've been reviewing some of the books I read on Amazon and will be giving this one 5 stars once I think of a review that is worthy. Don’t read the summary on Amazon, just read the book!" and: "I raced through this book in a day, devouring the vignettes of characters who work for an American newspaper headquartered in Rome. Each chapter tells the story of a different employee at the paper. .. Between each chapter/character study is the ongoing back story of the paper's history and its founder, an American business man who leaves his wife and family in Atlanta to move to Rome and create the paper as a way to connect again with an old flame. There is nothing new about building a novel out of a series of connected short stories and the newspaper world creates a microcosm that works will with this technique. Rachman writes with a warmth and humor and an obvious affection for these ‘imperfect’ characters - his style elevates what could have been a fairly average book to something more substantial." (Ed: Just read that Brad Pitt acquired the movie rights.)

  • Language of Flowers

    The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  "A wonderfully creative premise - using flowers and what they stood for during victorian times as a means to express feelings for an orphan who grew up mostly in abusive foster homes - and a nicely woven together story, with some extreme moments. Overall an entertaining and at times heart wrenching read.”

  • Life We Bury

    The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens.  From Amazon: College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same. Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.  As Joe writes about Carl's life, especially Carl's valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory.  Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

  • Museum of Innocence

    The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk's. "Please give this a try, and don't listen to Virginia complaining that it is sad. By the Nobel Prize winner, and author of Snow, it is sad, but it is astonishing." (Ed: Yes, I did say it was too sad. Of course, I hadn’t actually READ it, just read ABOUT it.)  From Amazon:  It is 1975, a perfect spring in Istanbul. Kemal and Sibel, children of two prominent families, are about to become engaged. But when Kemal encounters Füsun, a beautiful shopgirl and a distant relation, he becomes enthralled. And once they violate the code of virginity, a rift begins to open between Kemal and the world of the Westernized Istanbul bourgeoisie. In his pursuit of Füsun over the next eight years, Kemal becomes a compulsive collector of objects that chronicle his lovelorn progress—amassing a museum that is both a map of a society and of his heart. Orhan Pamuk’s first novel since winning the Nobel Prize is a stirring exploration of the nature of romance.

  • Netherland

    Netherland by Joseph O'Neill. In case you (like me) have a vague sense you've heard of this book, it was made famous when Barack Obama told the New York Times Magazine he was reading it. "This is a good one. Haven't finished it yet, but like it so far."

  • Night Circus

    The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  "Not my usual kind of read because of its fanciful and magical nature but now one of my 'must reads.'   The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.   But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, they tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.  True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead."

  • 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."

  • Other Side of You

    The Other Side of You by Salley Vickers "This definitely goes into the ‘Books That Changed My Life’ column. I first heard of it from the Post’s Michael Dirda—always a trusted source!--though what I came away with exceeded his praise. Vickers is British, with a background in literature and psychotherapy. In this story, she examines a patient/therapist relationship, how their sharing changes each, while tying in Caravaggio’s life, as well as scripture—an unlikely addition to this most secular world—with thought-provoking and heartbreaking results. I adored this book, have the marked up hardcover to prove it, and did a fair amount of weeping. Yes, too heavy for the beach..."

  • Out Stealing Horses

    Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. “Sparse and powerful.” From Amazon:  We were going out stealing horses. That was what he said, standing at the door to the cabin where I was spending the summer with my father. I was fifteen. It was 1948 and one of the first days of July. Trond’s friend Jon often appeared at his doorstep with an adventure in mind for the two of them. But this morning was different. What began as a joy ride on “borrowed” horses ends with Jon falling into a strange trance of grief. Trond soon learns what befell Jon earlier that day—an incident that marks the beginning of a series of vital losses for both boys. Set in the easternmost region of Norway, Out Stealing Horsesbegins with an ending. Sixty-seven-year-old Trond has settled into a rustic cabin in an isolated area to live the rest of his life with a quiet deliberation. A meeting with his only neighbor, however, forces him to reflect on that fateful summer.

  • Passage

    The Passage by Justin Cronin. From Amazon: "You don't have to be a fan of vampire fiction to be enthralled by The Passage, Justin Cronin's blazing new novel. Cronin is a remarkable storyteller (just ask adoring fans of his award-winning Mary and O'Neil), whose gorgeous writing brings depth and vitality to this ambitious epic about a virus that nearly destroys the world, and a six-year-old girl who holds the key to bringing it back."

  • Picture of Dorian Gray

    The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. "Almost 30 years since I last read this book and it was well worth the re-read. The classic quotes alone, such as "There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." (Ch. 1, Lord Henry, to Basil.), make this re-read fun."

  • Round House

    The Round Houseby Louise Erdrich. Lots of positive comments:  "Riveting and suspenseful, arguably the most accessible novel to date from the creator of Love Medicine, The Beet Queen, and The Bingo Palace, Erdrich’s The Round House is a page-turning masterpiece of literary fiction—at once a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving novel of family, history, and culture."  ...   "Modern day version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Very interesting story about life on an Indian reservation in the Southwest."

  • Rules of Civility

    Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. This book actually appeared on last year’s list. It was suggested by publishing industry friend and was published mid-summer. Everyone who read it seems to have loved it: “The writing was just beautiful. The plot reasonably straightforward, with some interesting twists, yet what made this book was the writing. A treat!” And: “I was so surprised when I realized the author was a man.” Another contributor: “chronicle of the life of a young woman in New York in the 1930's. The author writes the way we wish we all could - fabulous metaphors combined with graceful prose that tells the truth, even when it hurts. You won't see the plot twist coming toward the end of the book, either.”

  • Run

    Run by Ann Patchett. “It's a story about family -- who's in a family? Why? What are the boundaries and edges of what makes up a family? Stunning.”

  • Sacred Games

    Sacred Games by Vikram Seth. "One of the best books I’ve read in a LONG time. Completely got lost in it. Fell in love with one of the characters – it won’t take you 5 pages before you figure out who – and became mesmerized by the relationship btw India and Pakistan that the book traces. Maxing out around 900 pages, it is a commitment – not a beach fling – but you won’t regret it." From Wiki:  Sacred Games combines the ambition of a 19th-century social novel with a cops-and-Bhais detective thriller. (Bhai is a Hindi slang term for gangster.)

  • Sense of an Ending

    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. “Every sentence builds the story…The book becomes a mystery although for the first half it feels like a very straightforward narrative of Tony Weber remembering his school days, his boyhood friend, his first lover and then his marriage and fatherhood. There is much here about memory and the way we create and shape our own life story into something we can live with ourselves and present to others. In the second half of the book we are shown another side to this narrative and Tony and the reader has to reconsider what we thought of his version of the past. I would recommend reading this book without knowing a lot about the plot so that you can try to piece the story together along with Tony (which is why I'm writing very little about the plot here). There is a lot to think about with this book and I'm still lingering on the after effects.” And: “You will read this short compelling book twice in order to make ‘sense’ of it. A middle aged man looks back on what he thinks are his memories of a college romance, and sees things completely differently the second time around. Short, sweet, and thoughtful.” And: “an interesting reflection on the character's life and some mistakes he made along the way.”