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Fiction

 

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.  “An absolutely unexpected treasure of a read.   I don’t even know why I picked it up (maybe I was desperate in an airport) but I am so glad I did.  I have recommended it everywhere and everyone has loved it.  After a long and eventful life, Allan Karlsson ends up in a nursing home, believing it to be his last stop. The only problem is that he's still in good health, and in one day, he turns 100. A big celebration is in the works, but Allan really isn't interested (and he'd like a bit more control over his vodka consumption). So he decides to escape. He climbs out the window in his slippers and embarks on a hilarious and entirely unexpected journey, involving, among other surprises, a suitcase stuffed with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly hot-dog stand operator, and an elephant (not to mention a death by elephant).  It would be the adventure of a lifetime for anyone else, but Allan has a larger-than-life backstory: Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, but he has actually played a key role in them. Starting out in munitions as a boy, he somehow finds himself involved in many of the key explosions of the twentieth century and travels the world, sharing meals and more with everyone from Stalin, Churchill, and Truman to Mao, Franco, and de Gaulle. Quirky and utterly unique.

11/22/63 by Stephen King. “I kept hearing that this book was about traveling back in time to save President Kennedy - and that definitely was the driving force of the narrative - but I actually enjoyed all the other plot lines so much more! At one point in the middle of the book I just wanted to say ‘Forget Kennedy! The world will be fine. Let's just get back to the high school and Sadie!! Put on another show! Dancing is life!’ I didn't care that Oswald met with other Russian immigrants or even that he beat his wife one minute and charmed her the next. But I realize that all of these little pieces are what make the whole so much more fulfilling. George experiences little harmonies - residue of his time travel that keep raising flags. We really need to experience all of these events with him to understand and appreciate the final outcome. By the end of the book I felt like I knew these people, this town - I wanted them as friends and neighbors. It takes 700+ pages to bring so much to life so clearly and it was worth the investment to read every page.”

The 19th Wife: A Novel by David Ebershoff. I really enjoyed this story.  The book details the origin of the Church of Latter Day Saints, plural marriage and the abolishment of plural marriage by the church and the role of Ann Eliza Young. There are two stories, one playing out in the 18 hundreds and a contemporary story. Even more timely with Mitt Romney as the Rep. presidential candidate.”  Another contributor writes: “A riveting novel based on the real life ‘19th wife’ of Brigham Young and her break from her husband and her faith.  It goes back and forth with a contemporary polygamist in Utah and it is hard to put down.”

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson. “The story of Polish emigres to England who are separated during the WW2 and reunite afterwards with their young son. Engaging and readable - there are surprises and it keeps you guessing until the end.”

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.  “Another entry into the crowded young adult dystopian fantasy category, The 5th Wave has a compelling lead character (female, of course) who can't really believe what's happening to her world - which is really our world, invaded by aliens. Yancey captures the teenage nuance well, and made me consider what I would do if things got really, really, really bad around here.”

The Accidentalby Ali Smith.  This is one of many suggestions from a contributor who shared a book list compiled by her fellow Barnard College alums. "The Accidentalis the dizzyingly entertaining, wickedly humorous story of a mysterious stranger whose sudden appearance during a family’s summer holiday transforms four variously unhappy people. Each of the Smarts–parents Eve and Michael, son Magnus, and the youngest, daughter Astrid–encounter Amber in his or her own solipsistic way, but somehow her presence allows them to se their lives (and their life together) in a new light. Smith’s exhilarating facility with language, her narrative freedom, and her chromatic wordplay propel the novel to its startling, wonderfully enigmatic conclusion. Ali Smith’s acclaimed novel won the prestigious Whitbread Award and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize."

Adam Bede by George Eliot. "What can I say, I love George Eliot. It takes 150 pages or so before I can understand what the characters are saying, but once you’re in – your hooked. I do notice that George Eliot generally requires a 100-150 page commitment!" Carpenter Adam Bede is in love with Hetty Sorrel, he has a rival, in the local squire's son Arthur Donnithorne. Hetty is soon attracted by Arthur's seductive charm and they begin to meet in secret. The relationship is to have tragic consequences that reach far beyond the couple themselves, touching not just Adam Bede, but many others, not least, pious Methodist Preacher Dinah Morris.

After all these Years by Susan Isaacs.  Isaacs is the ultimate beach book author. Her books are funny and engaging - usually murder mysteries. This is one of the best.  "The day after her lavish wedding anniversary bash, Rosie Meyers gets a big surprise: her nouveau riche husband, Richie, is leaving her for a sultry, sophisticated, size-six MBA.  So, when he's found murdered in their exquisitely appointed kitchen, no one is surprised to find Rosie's prints all over the weapon."  "The suburban English teacher is the prime suspect -- the police's only suspect. And she knows she'll spend the rest of her life in the prison library unless she can unmask the real killer. Going into Manhattan on the lam, Rosie learns more about Richie than she ever wanted to know. And more about herself than she ever dreamed possible."

After Many a Summer Dies the Swan by Aldous Huxley. One of you lists this novel, published in the 1930s, as an all-time-favorite.  From Amazon:  "Hollywood millionaire with a terror of death, whose personal physician happens to be working on a theory of longevity-these are the elements of Huxley's caustic and entertaining satire on man's desire to live indefinitely. New Yorker:  "A highly sensational plot that will keep astonishing you to practically the final sentence."

 

After You by JoJo Moyes.  This is the sequel to Me Before You.  "I couldn't resist After You. Not as perfect as me before you but still a great read.”

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. "(Timeless story) At the heart of the story are three people whose entangled lives are deeply affected by the tyrannical and rigid requirements of high society. Newland Archer, a restrained young attorney, is engaged to the lovely May Welland but falls in love with May's beautiful and unconventional cousin, Countess Ellen Olenska. Despite his fear of a dull marriage to May, Archer goes through with the ceremony — persuaded by his own sense of honor, family, and societal pressures. He continues to see Ellen after the marriage, but his dreams of living a passionate life ultimately cease."

Ahab's Wife: or, the Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund. “I didn’t see this on your list and it’s one of my favorite books!!”  Amazon: From the opening line—"Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last"—you will know that you are in the hands of a master storyteller and in the company of a fascinating woman hero. Inspired by a brief passage in Moby-Dick, Sena Jeter Naslund has created an enthralling and compellingly readable saga, spanning a rich, eventful, and dramatic life. At once a family drama, a romantic adventure, and a portrait of a real and loving marriage, Ahab's Wife gives new perspective on the American experience.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. "A sweet, allegorical novel. Quick read." And: “The type of book I'll read and reread, it inspires one to waste no time in pursuing their dreams.”

All Kinds of Places by Tim Doyle. Tim lives in Chevy Chase.  "It's a novella, so a quick read. It's a thoughtful story about personal journey and the juxtaposition of adult life/responsibilities and longing (that we all can feel) for freedom from it all."