Book Suggestions for Jan - May 2014 -
We must choose 5.
Come to the meeting prepared to make your vote count.
1.The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (2006) Paperback 197 pages
The Alchemist is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers and across the Egyptian desert to a fateful encounter with the alchemist. "My heart is afraid that it will have to suffer," the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky." Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.
2.Years of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks (2002) 308 pages
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."
3. Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls (2009) 272 pages
In this book, Jeannette wants to write about her mother, Rosemary Smith Walls, but ends up writing about her mother's mother, Lily Casey Smith, who herself was quite a character. Her maternal grandmother was born in 1901 in the Southwest. Like her descendents such as Jeannette and Rosemary, she defied conventional living. She became a school teacher during World War I in Arizona and living in Chicago where she worked as a servant and went to schoo
4.Infidele by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (2008) Paperback 384 pages
Although Ayaan Hirsi Ali remains Public Enemy #1 for radical Muslims, she refuses to be silenced. In this captivating memoir—an act of courage itself—she shares the evolution of her values, beliefs, and identity, all propelled by an urgent mission to educate Western countries about the bigotries of other nations. Set against a terrifying geopolitical landscape of African wars and Muslim fundamentalism, Hirsi Ali addresses timely topics: the plight of refugees and women; the Muslim clan system; forced marriage; political asylum; and, perhaps most significantly, her own personal religious crisis. Written in descriptive, clear prose, Infidel, with its radical feminist criticism of Islam, offers a disturbing view of the modern world—and inspired every critic who read it.
5."The Good Girls Revolt...":
"In The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace (public library), Lynn Povich, one of the originalNewsweek staffers who helmed the watershed lawsuit, tells its previously untold story, building — or, perhaps, deconstructing — around it a larger narrative about the tectonic shifts in gender politics in the past four decades and where this leaves us today. Not unlike Mad Men, it exposes the many social, cultural, and legal limits for women at the time, but also tells what Povich calls a “coming-of-age story about a generation of ‘good girls’ who found [themselves] in the revolutionary ’60s.” Perhaps most jarring of all, however, is that even as we read on as modern people who take pride in the progress of the past half-century, we become increasingly aware of the subtler but no less damaging sexist undercurrents that, forty years later, still permeate many social structures and cultural institutions."
6."On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes - by Alexandra Horowitz"
"On Looking is a very intelligently written book. There is a saying that 'some people see more in a walk around the block then others see in a trip around the world'. This book reminds us that for the most part we see only what we expect to see. That is why it is so easy to hide something in plain view! It also reminds us that for the most part we sleep walk through our day - which isn't always a bad thing. The author takes walks with experts in geology or sound production or insects and finds that these people are aware of things that she is not - not unless they point them out to her. The world is full of sights, sounds, smells, textures, spaces, and invisible winds just to name a few. This books allows one to sample some of the unseen, unheard, un-felt magnificence the outside world has to offer most of all because it reminds us that MORE is OUT THERE! This book is interesting and well written. The only dull walk the author takes us on is the first one where she does a solo trip around the block. After that the book is quite special! Enjoy!"
7. "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz"
Dude can write. In fact, this book is one of the most original that I've come across in a long time. Like the layers of an onion, Diaz peels back the layers of years to reveal the back history of Oscar and his sister Lola. And what a history it is! The Banana Curtain is unveiled and the horrors of Trujillo -- the raging narcissist and despoiler of women -- are unflinchingly revealed, creating shudders of revulsion and flashes of understanding in this reader. Junot Diaz creates a language and a tempo unlike any I've read before, peppered with Spanish colloquialisms, street talk, and video game terminology. Somehow, though, it works -- and works beautifully -- even if you don't know an "hola" from an "adios" or have never played a video game in your life (like this reader.) I will not soon forget Oscar Wao, the 300+ pound romantic, Lola, Yunior, or his mother and the Gangster and his ill-fated grandparents. The book is compulsively readable. For all of those who say that "the novel is dead", I say: read Junot Diaz."
8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - 350 pgs
ane Eyre, a girl of no importance and the daughter of an unapproved match, lives a troubled life for her first ten years under her aunt's roof. Her parents died when she was a baby and she was left as Aunt Reed's charge with no other living relatives that she knew of. When her aunt can no longer stand Jane any more, she sends her to a boarding school where the rules are strict and the headmaster is every bit the tyrant Aunt Reed was. But Jane conquers, becomes a teacher, and then wishes to become a private tutor. After her ad is received and her application accepted, Jane finds herself in the home of a mysterious and strange man, Mr. Rochester, who has put his ward, Adele, under Jane's tutelage. But then Jane finds herself falling deeply in love with Mr. Rochester, who she could not imagine would love her in return. This, and the strange happenings in Thornfield Hall, give Jane cause to doubt her future. And when Mr. Rochester's dark secret reveals itself, Jane must question her love and discover what she must do with her life before she can find the happiness she never had.
9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The first thing a lot of people who have read this are probably going to ask is "Why not 5 stars?", and indeed, one may be subjected to stoning for giving only 4 stars to such a well respected piece of classic literature. However, I have my reasons: for one, the book becomes a bit difficult to follow at times- when you have Cathy Linton Earnshaw, and Cathy Earnshaw Linton, and the one who is dead won't stay dead, that gets a bit confusing to begin with. There are a couple of other similar instances when the reader may have to turn back to see just which character is involved in a given encounter. Also, it seems to never be very well established just how Heathcliff went from having nothing upon his departure, to being wealthy upon his return. Perhaps not necessary for that to be fully explained, but at least some explanation would be welcome. Emily Bronte does one thing exceptionally well, which is painting a picture of Yorkshire and The Moors with words. Maybe people who are better readers than I will enjoy this more. I did enjoy it, by all means, thus the four stars, but I was not as enthralled with it as many others have been.
10. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Enzo loves his owner, an amateur race car driver Danny, and Danny's family: wife Eve and daughter Zoe. Enzo vows to protect the family as he observes the family life like a sagely guru. At times, he feels frustrated that he cannot speak. If he could, he could have warned Eve about the tumor he smells growing in her, before any doctor or machine can detect it. But he cannot speak, and all he can do is to give his support to Danny as the man goes through the toughest time of his life.
Writing from the perspective of a dog give this heart-warming story an interesting twist and angle. The story makes me cry, it makes me laugh. I feel depressed one moment, uplifted the next.
11. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and powerful emotional intensity. Called "a tour de force"by the San Francisco Chronicle, this novel ambitiously and imaginatively traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. A complex love story, thrilling mystery, vivid history lesson, and celebration of the enduring power of ideas,
12.Ready Player One
Ready Player One takes place in the not-so-distant future--the world has turned into a very bleak place, but luckily there is OASIS, a virtual reality world that is a vast online utopia. People can plug into OASIS to play, go to school, earn money, and even meet other people (or at least they can meet their avatars), and for protagonist Wade Watts it certainly beats passing the time in his grim, poverty-stricken real life.
Along with millions of other world-wide citizens, Wade dreams of finding three keys left behind by James Halliday, the now-deceased creator of OASIS and the richest man to have ever lived. The keys are rumored to be hidden inside OASIS, and whoever finds them will inherit Halliday’s fortune. But Halliday has not made it easy.
Then one day Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize.
13. The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy
When a Jewish family tried to escape from the Nazis, the stepmother, fearing that the children would compromise their chance of survival, urged the father to leave the boy and the girl in the woods while the adults moved on. The children, lost, stumbled upon a hut, where an old woman lived by herself.
The author turned the well known tale of Hansel and Gretel into a story of love and survival in a small Polish village during WWII. It's a tightly woven tale, the characters interweaving with each other even though they may not know of the other's existence. They are like insects trapped on a spider web, each action trembling along the criss-cross of silk threads. As they get more and more tangled in the web, the foreboding sense that something bad, something dark, will happen seize upon the reader. Will they make it out alive? Will they be able to break free?
A spell-binding tale that won't let go of you easily.
14. Mary Modern - by Camille DeAngelis
When Lucy discovers that she can't get pregnant, she decides to try cloning her grandmother using DNA retrieved from dried blood on an apron. Instead of a baby, Lucy gets a fully-grown woman, complete with the memories of the 29 year old self who cut her finger. Mary is confused and disoriented by what has occurred and longs for her husband, who was killed in the war. She begs Lucy to bring him back as well, and Lucy must decide how much deeper she must go.
15. Seven Thousand Ways to Listen - by Mark Nepo
"Mark Nepo is the F. Scott Fitzgerald of contemporary spiritual literature. Every line he writes contains a formidable, yet simple poeticism that strives for revelation. Each sentence exudes its own cathartic beauty… This beautiful book is a balm for anyone who is questioning the blows life has dealt them
"Perhaps one of the most exquisite, poetic, and useful books ever written on this topic…. Every line, every phrase, every story is a poetic prayer coaxing the reader to listen and be listened to with more grace."
"Seven Thousand Ways to Listen is one of the most captivating, inspiring and poetic books in which you can immerse yourself. Every word takes one deeper into their most authentic and beautiful experience of being in the world… Whatever challenges you are encountering in your own life become doorways to a deeper and more profound experience of your own unique soul journey"
16. Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell
Four thousand years ago, a stranger's death at the Old Temple of Ratharryn-and his ominous "gift" of gold-precipitates the building of what for centuries to come will be known as one of mankind's most singular and remarkable achievements. Bernard Cornwell's epic novel Stonehenge catapults us into a powerful and vibrant world of ritual and sacrifice at once timeless and wholly original-a tale of patricide, betrayal, and murder; of bloody brotherly rivalry: and of the never-ending quest for power, wealth, and spiritual fulfillment.
17. The Seville Communion by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Her name is Our Lady of the Tears. She's a small, crumbling Baroque church in the heart of Seville, Spain. And at least one person -- a computer hacker nicknamed Vespers -- believes that she kills to defend herself. In Arturo Perez-Reverte's stylish and entertaining iThe Seville Communion/i, Rome sends handsome Father Lorenzo Quart to investigate. He meets a feisty parish priest, a beautiful aristocrat, an ambitious banker, and three of the most touching, wonderfully ineffectual crooks to ever dabble in a life of crime. There are mysteries as well, from another death at the church to the secrets of the human heart.