Francisca’s February Recommendation

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

beautiful ruinsFrancisca says:  “I just read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and really enjoyed it.  The language is beautiful and vivid and I loved the juxtaposition of simple Italian life with the glamor of Hollywood.  The story intertwines the lives of several very different individuals over a 50 year period and is a page turner.  It also has a lovely message about life and making the most of what we are given.”

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3 Similar Reads

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – “Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs confront their pasts in this powerful story about how rebellion ages, influence corrupts, habits turn to addictions, lifelong friendships fluctuate and turn, and how art and music have the power to redeem.” – Summary from catalog

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby – “Journalist Hornby’s very funny first novel has already hit the best-seller lists in London and with good reason. In a candid, engaging narrative voice, 35-year-old pop-music fanatic Rob, the owner of a vintage record shop who has just broken up with his longtime girlfriend, attempts to ease his misery by giving an account of his top-five most memorable split-ups.” – Booklist (note:  a film adaptation starring John Cusack is also available via the SWAN network)

The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman – “In 1962 the Marx family of liberal Newton, Massachusetts, is politely discouraged from vacationing at a placid Vermont resort by a thinly veiled response to the innocent inquiry about accommodations, stating that the ‘guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles.’ Experiencing her first taste of overt anti-Semitism, 13-year-old Natalie Marx becomes instantly obsessed with the Inn at Lake Devine and the seemingly bigoted family that owns and operates it.” – Booklist

Kimberly’s January Recommendation

life animatedKimberly says:  “The author is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who beautifully turns his hand to his own family.  Suskind and his wife (a new heroic model for me) enter the world of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, the special needs community, and the wide world of Disney following the diagnosis of their younger son, Owen.  It’s a story of intimate family moments and larger ideas.  Owen who retreats into a confusing non-verbal world watches and rewatches Disney animated movies.  Through the power of these movies and the dedicated, sacrificial love of his family Owen learns and grows.  The book is inspiring and highly readable.  Suskind strikes an optimistic chord, but does not sugar-coat the struggles.”

3 Similar Reads

A Real Boy:  A True Story of Autism, Early Intervention, and Recovery by Christina Adams – “When Adams’ son, Jonah, at just over two-and-a-half, was diagnosed with autism, she was told that time was of the essence. Early, aggressive intervention would provide his only chance at realizing any semblance of a normal life. Luckily, she and husband Jack had the energy, time, and resources to spring into action.” – Booklist

Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love for His Extraordinary Son by Thomas Fields-Meyer – “A heartwarming and hopeful memoir of a father’s experience raising his autistic son. When his son Ezra was diagnosed with autism, Tom Fields-Meyer knew little about parenting and even less about neurological disorders. This intimate memoir chronicles his remarkable experiences of learning and growth from the time Ezra was diagnosed at age three to his bar mitzvah at thirteen.” – Publisher’s description

Beautiful Child by Torey Hayden – “A crisply analytical depiction of one year in a special education classroom. Hayden’s approach is straightforward and heartwarmingly compassionate not only in its portrayal of the relationships she developed with her students, but also in its appraisal of a philosophical conflict with her teacher’s aide and the effect this had on the functioning of the students.” – School Library Journal

Laona’s February Recommendation

The History of Us by Leah Stewart

history of us“I just finished The History of Us by Leah Stewart.  This is domestic fiction focusing on grief, adulthood and responsibility.  I like domestic fiction because it allows me to lose myself in the issues of some other family (where the problems are far from mine).  This was a good read for a cold winter day underneath my fleecy blanket where I was safe from Eloise’s problems.  Library Journal says: ‘Eloise Hempel is the de facto mother to three twentysomething siblings, having become their primary caregiver after their parents were killed in a car accidents. Always planning to put her life back on track as a Harvard professor, Eloise has found herself rooted in Cincinnati for 20 years as she parented her sister’s children to adulthood.'”

Read about or request this book from the library catalog! 

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

The Odds: A Love Story by Stewart O’Nan

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

Two Kisses for Maddy by Matthew Logelin

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley


Rebecca’s January Recommendation

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes

may we be forgiven“This novel is a very dark tragicomedy centering around a family in the setting of New York’s Westchester County.  While the events that take place over this 480 page novel occur in a single year, they can only be described as absurdly epic.  To any readers interested in this novel, be warned: many awful events happen in the first hundred pages, and it is hard to find any sympathy for the people the events happen to.  However, A.M. Homes’s combination of humor, pathos, wit, and belief in human redemption make a wonderfully told story about a group of people struggling to be heard and understood in modern society.  The Book List Review does a great job summing up the heart of this book: ‘In this frenetic, insightful, and complexly moral novel of a man transformed by crisis, Homes dramatizes hubris and greed, alienation and spirituality, improvised families, and justice in our age of smart phones, dumbed-down education, and bankrupt culture.'”

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

Women by Charles Bukowski

The Family Markowitz by Allegra Goodman

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

Who Stole the American Dream? by Hedrick Smith

When Did I Get Like This? by Amy Wilson

Cool, Calm, and Contentious by Merrill Markoe

Rebecca’s November Recommendation

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

“In this hilarious, compelling, and strangely moving story, Golden Richards, a Mormon polygamist with 4 wives and 28 children, is going through a midlife crisis that threatens to destroy his career, his life, and the lives of his wives and children. I have always been a fan of domestic fiction, especially in the portrayal of dysfunctional (yet loving) family life.  After reading Udall’s The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, and loving it, I decided I had to give this one a try.  While I am not usually a fan of sensationalist literature, Udall’s firsthand knowledge of polygamous family life and the Mormon religion means his approach to the subject is at once humorous, nostalgiac, and refreshing.  I would recommend this book to lovers of Jonathan Franzen or A.M. Homes.”

Read about or request The Lonely Polygamist from the library catalog!

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

1) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

2) This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes

3) Lunch at the Piccadilly by Clyde Edgerton

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

1) Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

2) Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall

3) Mormon America by Richard Ostling

Ashley’s October Recommendation

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

“This is a children’s title that may have adult appeal.  Here is a book description: ‘Seventh-grader Georges adjusts to moving from a house to an apartment, his father’s efforts to start a new business, his mother’s extra shifts as a nurse, being picked on at school, and Safer, a boy who wants his help spying on another resident of their building.’ The book is a really interesting look at friendship and what it’s like to be pushed to your limits by a friend. The story also shows an adolescent coming to terms with change and difficult circumstances in an emotionally thoughtful way.”

Read about it or request it from the library catalog!

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

1) Slob by Ellen Potter (Access to library catalog here!)

2) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Access to library catalog here!)

3) Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (Access to library catalog here!)

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

1) How Do You Tuck in a Superhero? by Rachel Balducci (Access to library catalog here!)

2) King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher (Access to library catalog here!)

3) Yes, Your Parents Are Crazy! by Michael Bradley (Access to library catalog here!)

Mary Ann’s September Recommendation

The Red House by Mark Haddon

“Have you ever vacationed with your adult siblings and their families?  If so, you’ll recognize the events in this book.  Backgrounds are revealed, resentments aired, and new understandings ensue.  All characters are developed; the teens in the novel get as much attention as the parents.  The Washington Post review has a fine description of the novel: ‘Haddon wends a careful path…between the effervescent comedy of quirky families and the bitter tragedy of dysfunctional ones.’ Haddon also wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a fascinating look at the world seen from the point-of-view of an autistic teen.

Read about it or request it from the library catalog!

3 Similar Reads (Fiction)

1) Hope: A Tragedy by Shalom Auslander (Access to library catalog here!)

2) The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (Access to library catalog here!)

3) The Tax Inspector by Peter Carey (Access to llibrary catalog here!)

3 Similar Reads (Nonfiction)

1) The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson (Access to library catalog here!)

2) I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed by Kyria Abrahams (Access to library catalog here!)

3) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (Access to library catalog here!)