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Kim’s Book Picks

Books I love, or at least like a lot:

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – A series of interlocking short stories that – however remotely – involve Crosby, ME resident Olive Kitteridge. She is a harsh and overbearing woman who is surprisingly likeable and a poweful character.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Set in America in the future, crazy religious zealots have taken over the country.

The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds – A young girl and her family are part of a cult – the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God’s Almighty Baptizing Wind.

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami – Set in Japan, a very odd story of a Japanese man going through some changes. It’s very strange, but very good.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – Ashoke and Ashima leave Calcutta, India and settle in Central Square. The story of a Bengali family who have immigrated to the US. We see Ashoke and Ashima struggle to assimilate and follow their son Gogol as he grows up more American than his parents.

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus is a magically awesome circus that begins at sundown and continues until the morning. And while the circus is amazing on its own, it’s actually the playing field for two magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood for this “challenge.”

Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton – Mr. Toppit is the sinister character in a series of British children’s books written by Arthur Hayman. When Arthur dies in a fluke traffic accident, an  American tourist named Laurie Clow becomes ingrained in the Hayman family’s life, for better or worse.

Ice Land by Betsy Tobin – Tobin weaves both real humans and pagan gods into an awesome story of life in Iceland in the year 1000.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – Bryson sets out to explain, in understandable language, this history of the universe and humankind. Fascinating.

She Looks Just Like You: A Memoir of (Nonbiological Lesbian) Motherhood by Amie Klempnauer Miller – Amie tells the story of how she and her partner come to decide to have a baby and how the addition of little Hannah changes their lives.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – Chris McCandless hitchhikes and camps across the country, finally landing in Alaska, where he longs to be alone in “the wild.” An engrossing, haunting story.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman – After a series of unusual events, Quentin Coldwater finds himself newly admitted to a magical college, Brakebills, where he spends four years mastering the art of magic.

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure – Wendy travels to the sites of the Little House books and explores the prairie way of life (she even churns butter!).

The Help by Kathryn Stockett – The very touching story of the African American maids working in the homes of white women in the south in the 1960’s.

Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama – While spending a year in Tarumi recovering from an illness, Stephen meets Matsu, Sachi and Keiko whose friendships give him a new way of looking at life, love, loss and happiness.

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald – Henry is a “practice baby” for a college home economics program in the 1950s. Having five rotating mothers leaves him, understandably, fairly effed up.

Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs – Hilarious account of Jacobs trying to live by every rule or law in the Bible.

The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier – Set around 1630 in Holland, Vermeer paints some of his famous paintings.

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory – This is the story of Henry VIII before and during his marriage to Anne Boleyn.  Anne, her sister Mary and their brother George are all brought to the king’s court at a young age, as players in their uncle’s plans to advance the family’s fortunes.

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst – After his wife Lexy dies, her husband sets to teaching their dog to speak so he can discover what happened.  Sounds crazy, but it’s actually very good and quite touching.

The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose – Kevin takes a semester off from Brown to attend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.  Kevin does his best to fit in, pretend to be saved, make friends, pass his classes and date.  Great story with a lot of excellent insights.

The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker – Paul Chowder is a struggling poet who has a serious case of writer’s block, a girlfriend who has just left him and a habit for unfortunate accidents.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – Full of surprises, Gentleman and Sue plan to swindle Maud out of her fortune.

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Set in a future United States, the Capitol keeps the 12 Districts in line by forcing them to participate in the Hunger Games, a series of televised games in which 24 teenage “tributes” from the districts fight to the death.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – Set in the 1950’s, a couple desperately tries to avoid being ordinary, with disastrous consequences.

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian – The story of a midwife and her family when she is put on trial after a mother dies in childbirth.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – In a departure from the classically unusual Murakami style, Toru and Naoko struggle to deal with their friend’s suicide.

The Color of Water by James McBride – James tells his story of growing up with a white mother and black father in the racially charged 60’s.  This touching story notes that race may not be as important as we all think, and maybe, as James’ mother said, we are all just the color of water.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – Almost the entire book takes place on a young couple’s wedding night in Britain in the early 1960’s.

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead – Benji deals with typical teenage self consciousness, drama and awkwardness at Sag Harbor the summer he is 15.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – The story of the women in biblical times.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – In 1959, a missionary preacher takes his wife and four daughters to Africa to try to convert the natives of the Belgian Congo.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood – Three women all deal with a beautiful, exotic woman.

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier – A parallel story of an American woman moving to France and the story of her ancestors in Europe.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton – A popular classic, it is the story of a woman in the early 1900’s who is looking for love and money.

White Oleander
by Janet Fitch – Astrid is placed in foster care when her mother is sent to jail.

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson – A little girl grows up with an oppressive mother and searches for her own way.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – Snowman recalls the collapse of the world as we know it and prepares for his future.

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant – Set in the 1490’s, Alessandra is a smart and talented artist.  Trying to keep her independence, study, and learn to paint is a challenge in a male-driven world where Alessandra’s only role should be marriage and motherhood.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – Henry has “chrono displacement” and finds himself unwillingly traveling through time.  This is a love story, beginning as he visits his wife Clare throughout her childhood.

The Romance Reader by Pearl Abraham – A girl grows up in an ultraorthodox Hasidic Jewish home.

Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer – Max Tivoli is born with a rare condition in which he grows from old to young.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith – The story of a very strange young man and the trouble he causes.

Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve – A teenage girl has an affair with her father’s friend.

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve – Set before the Depression, the reader follows the lives of a struggling married couple.

Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick – Catherine answers Ralph’s ad for a wife and travels to rural Wisconsin to marry him, but no one turns out to be who they seem.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood – Ren and Toby are both struggling to survive in a world that has encountered a “waterless flood.”

I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb – The story of identical twin brothers, one of whom is schizophrenic.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jen S. permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:06 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with many of these great picks! I Know This Much is True is my all-time favorite. The Help is next on my “to read” list… I just need to finish The Year of Living Biblically first…

  2. Audrey W. permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:59 pm

    So many of these books sound great! I am definitely going to work my way through your list. I, too just need to finish The Year of Living Biblically 🙂

  3. Jenn E. permalink
    January 20, 2010 11:44 pm

    These are some great picks. I just finished The Last Song and am in the market for some new books. I started reading Mercy by Anita Shreve a few years back and just couldn’t get into it. However she’s often getting great reviews so I might have to try one of her books on your list.

  4. Meredith T. permalink
    January 23, 2010 10:02 pm

    I’ve read many of the books on here and have liked and/or loved them. I’ll be adding some of the ones I haven’t read that are on your list to my Goodreads “to-read” list 🙂

  5. Shanna O. permalink
    February 2, 2010 6:18 pm

    I love your list! I’ve read some of the books you recommend and found them to be some of my favorites as well. Thanks for the recommendations!

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