Thursday, July 19, 2007

The 2007 List: Old Favorites/Classics

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie -- "I loved this book! Good review: This book was a charming vignette about a most unlikely subject: the re-education of two city boys during Mao's cultural revolution in China. The two young men are sent to a remote mountain called Phoenix of the Sky where they work like peasants in the fields and are allowed no books. But life in the remote mountains is never dull.”

Belle Canto by Anne Patchett. I think everyone's book club read this in 2005, but for those of you who didn't have the pleasure…

Blindness by Jose Saramago. A description from Amazon: "In an unnamed city in an unnamed country, a man sitting in his car waiting for a traffic light to change is suddenly struck blind….Within a day the man's wife, the taxi driver, the doctor and his patients, and the car thief have all succumbed to blindness…So begins Portuguese author José Saramago's gripping story of humanity under siege…"

Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd. "Everyone in my book club was crazy about it. The description doesn’t do it justice, as it’s a really compelling read…"

The Complete Stories of Truman Capote by Truman Capote. "Short stories make for great beach reads." This is the first collection of all the author's short stories.

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. I read this on a plane, and it was perfect for that setting. Not great literature, but great fun.

Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch: My Dutch friend recommends this book by a Dutch author. From Amazon: An "epic tale of love, friendship, and divine intervention in this cerebral story of heavenly influence." One Amazon reviewer says it starts off like 'It's a Wonderful Life,' with a conversation between two people in Heaven talking about how they influence events on earth.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. “Both beautifully written, both also on Oprah's book list (not that I usually consider this a source of great literature but it did inspire me to read the above two).”

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

The Gold Coast and The Charm Schoolby Nelson Demille. Demille's got loads of books to read, and I envy you your trip to the beach if you've not read any of them. These two are his best. Very different stories – both incredible page turners.

Growing Up and The Good Times by Russell Baker. These memoirs of the NY Times columnist's childhood in Baltimore and (Good Times) early career as a journalist are wonderful. It looks like The Good Times is out of print, but I bet you could find it at the library, and there is always ebay.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (and all that follow) by JK Rowling. "If you haven't read the Harry Potter books yet -- and I know many women my age who haven't -- now is the time. The last book in the series is due out shortly. If you've seen the movies, you still should read the books. Adults will appreciate the books' allusions to myths, literature, and history; these subtleties are lost in the movies." I agree! And for those of you who have read 1 - 6, enjoy Deathly Hallows!

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean. "Historical fictiony book about a women sliding into Alzheimers whose most vivid memories are those from her time hunkered down in the Hermitage during the siege of Leningrad during WWII."
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I thought this book was totally weird and engaging and kind of creepy.

Night by Elie Wiesel. “A scholarly, pious teenager is wracked with guilt at having survived the horror of the Holocaust and the genocidal campaign that consumed his family.lie Wiesel.” This has regained interest since it became an Oprah book club pick.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. I don’t think this appeared on any previous list. This is one of my all time favorite books. It’s beautiful and readable and images from it have stuck with me for the years since I read it.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind. Several of you recommended this one. "Well written, but too horrific for me. My sister thought it was fantastic!" Book Description: An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind's classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man's indulgence in his greatest passion—his sense of smell—leads to murder.
Plainsong by Kent Haruf. I don’t know anyone who didn’t like this book. They made a TV movie out of it, but it is not TV-movie-cheesy, by any stretch. It’s a lovely book about people in a small town whose lives intertwine in unexpected ways.

Range of Motion by Elizabeth Berg. If you haven’t read any Elizabeth Berg, I’d suggest checking one of her books out of the library (I liked this one best) and see what you think. She has a simple writing style. Very beach booky, I think, though her writing has a certain elegance.

Tears of Autumn: A Paul Christopher Novel (and others) by Charles McCarry. “I am rereading the titles of this author, thankfully back in print. He is a former spook who wrote a series about Paul Christopher, a tactiturn poet/spy. Beautiful writing. McCarry gets the political machinations just right. Tears of Autumn is a plausible explanation of the Kennedy assassination.”

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I liked it. It is an odd book in many ways, but I found it really engaging. One of you said you were "struggling through it” and had “started it several times and found something else more appealing that pulls me away.” But another reviewer said, "It’s easily the best book I’ve read in the past year.” That same reviewer said, "People who liked it might also like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, who is Krauss’ husband. Their styles are similar. Krauss pulls it off a little better, in my view, but Extremely Loud is a very good read as well (though it centers on 9/11, which some people might not be ready to read about)."

The House of Mirth (and other titles) by Edith Wharton. One of you recommended this old favorite about New York at the turn of the century.

The Last Convertible by Anton Myrer: A wonderful story about five young men who go to Harvard together in the 1940s. It spans many decades, and is a wonderful read. A PERFECT beach book.

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Visions of Glory and The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 by William Manchester. These are the first two in what was to be a trilogy of Churchill biographies by Manchester. Manchester died in 2004, but journalist Paul Reid is finishing the third one, and it's supposed to be published late this year. So let's read the first two and then we can all go to the party at midnight at Barnes & Noble on the eve of the release of the third and final volume. (Ha Ha)

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I read this (before Oprah picked it, mind you) about a Midwife in Vermont and a birth that goes wrong. It is narrated by her 14-year-old daughter. It's a pretty riveting courtroom drama.

The Moviegoer by Walker Percy It “never gets old for me.”

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway. One friend who just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro this year said, "naturally, I particularly enjoyed this as I felt like Hemingway and I were kindred spirits- HA! Good for beach reading."

The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. "My old favorite … a great book about friendship and class struggle in India."

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo. “A destined-to-be-a-classic children’s story of mouse who saves a princess.”

Victoria's Daughters by Jerrold M. Packard. Character studies of Queen Victoria's five daughters. Fun look at late 18th/early 19th century Britain. Queen Victoria considered the marrying off of her offspring to be one of her highest callings.

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. I am just getting into this book, and admit to having had to really soldier through the first 80 or so pages, despite the interesting characters and absolutely exquisite writing. Now I’m hitting a groove with it. I was going to wait until next year to recommend, but then I though, “why wait?” Read the Amazon reviews. It’s interesting how many people cite this as an “all time favorite.”

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. "I recently re-read and enjoyed it (I hadn't read it since 6th grade and was looking for books for my son and this just popped out as something I wanted to reread."
Wuthering Heights I loved re-reading this and The Great Gatsby. “It’s interesting reading books about adults that you read when you were a teenager -- and now they take on a slightly different meaning when you read them with a ‘grown up’ perspective.”

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