Top Ten Hardcover Bestsellers from the New York Times for the week of April 8th
Top Ten Hardcover Bestsellers from the New York Times for the week of April 8th
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote - I recently read this short novel (it's only about 80 pages!) because some friends and I have started a "Bookfast Club" in which we discuss a book over breakfast. I had never seen the movie and I am so glad I read the book first because Holly Golightly is not at all the Example of Class we all believe her to be. In the book, she is flighty, irresponsible, drunk, shallow, and all too eager to keep the company of terrible (yet wealthy!) men. So then I decided to watch the movie to see how the two stack up...
"Breakfast at Tiffany's" (Movie) - In the film, the nameless narrator becomes some Ken-like guy named Paul who falls in love with Holly while at the same time taking money from his wealthy female "decorator." Holly is no longer racist like her character in the book, but rather a beautiful waif of a woman who can't commit to any man because she is "too scared." I was amazed at how differently Holly Golightly is depicted in the book versus the movie.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philippe Sendker - A wonderful love story of Tin Win returning to Burma to be with his first love. He lived a great life in New York as an entertainment lawyer with a wife and adult children. One day he just disappears. His daughter finds an old love letter and searches for her father in his native Burma. She will discover things about her father that she never knew and will feel the great love in his heart.
When We Were the Kennedys: A memoir From Mexico, Maine by Monica Wood - A touching story of a family growing up in the 1960's whose father dies the same year as President Kennedy is killed. This is a family saga where you are pulling for this family from page one. The family has a grown son who has his own family, an older school teacher daughter who will change her life for her younger siblings and then three little girls. It is the second youngest daughter Monica who tells the story of her loving childhood and sacrifices made for the family to continue without their beloved father.
Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison – Set in the last days of the Romanov Empire, this part love story, part history lesson is told in such exquisite prose that you’re truly left wanting more.
Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan – The author follows Emily Maxwell, an 80 year old widow, through a year in her life. A quiet story of a woman coming to grips with her past mistakes in a world that is becoming more and more narrow. It’s hard to believe this book was written by a man. How is the author able to portray Emily’s emotions and thoughts with such sensitivity? A member of the Library book group commented, “The author was talking about me.” Even though this story is about an elderly woman, there is much here for all of us to learn.
Defending Jacob by William Landay- Could there be anything worse for a parent than to have your fourteen year old son accused of murdering a classmate? On one side, the father does whatever he must do to believe that his son is innocent no matter what. However, his mother has doubts. Protecting their child is obviously what good parents should do but at what point does it cross the line? While I enjoyed reading this book, there were times when I felt the author was asking the reader to accept too much regarding the father’s blind faith in his son.
A Good American by Alex George. This is a wonderful historical fiction story about an immigrant family from Prussia spanning four generations and what it means to be an American.
Quiet by Susan Cain. A fascinating look at the introvert personality. Our society promotes the extroverts, otherwise known as the people of action, while the introverts are looked at as a second class personality type. In this book, Susan Cain shares the introverts unique qualities as cerebral thinkers and the value they play in our society. Remember that Susan Cain will be here on April 19th!
Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton. From the author of Sister comes another thriller about a mother who will do anything to save her children - one child from a burning building and the second child from being accused of setting the fire.
That Woman: The life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba - What is the fascination after all these years? Anne Sebba is a sympathetic author and describes Wallis as a woman who enjoyed the fling for a time but never wanted to marry Edward and tried to persuade him not to abdicate. She loved her second husband Ernest but unfortunately played her hand badly. This story comes across not as the great romance of the century but two selfish, not too smart, self absorbed individuals who out smarted themselves. It is still a fascinating read!
Heft by Liz Moore - The two main characters in the novel , Arthur Opp at 550 pounds and Kel Keller, are given such wonderful voices that I was rooting for them all they way in this sometimes heartbreaking story. Arthur has given up his job as professor and after gaining so much weight, never leaves his house anymore. He hires an unlikely cleaning person who arrives on his door and opens up the world to him once again. Kel Keller's story runs parallel. He is high school student whose mother once was a student and friend of Arthur. She dies leaving Kel on his own and the reader wondering if Arthur is the father. How and when will their lives intersect?
More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carley Simon by Stephen Simon - From her parents backgrounds right up through Carley's present day this biography certainly is full of details. Who knew Carley's kindergarten music teacher was Pete Seeger? Not a bad way to begin your music career. Did you know that the Simon family had a wonderful summer estate on Newfield Avenue? Carley wrote so many of the wonderful songs we can all sing by heart and in the book the author gives background on how they came about, sometimes too much. Through all her ups and downs, anxiety attacks and marriages all one can say is, what a life. Try reading Girls Like Us by Sheila Weiller too.
Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Muller - You will never look at that bottle of olive oil in cabinet the same way ever again. You may even throw it out! This author became an expert in all things EVOO. From the history in medicine, as a beauty aid, and in religion. It covers fraud, deception, globalization and crime in the food industry. Did you know most bottles on our grocery shelves marked Extra Virgin and not? Marked made in Italy, maybe not. You can even get a degree in olive oil tasting. Darien now has it very own olive oil store called the Olivette on the Post Road. After reading this book I believe I'll be visiting it soon.
Pat S.'s Picks:
Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E. L. James. Well, well, well. . . After all the hype, I finally succumbed and took on this trilogy. Essentially, it is a love story with a bit of a twist-the twist being BDSM. It is not particularly well written so stretching out this thin story into three volumes is the real story here.
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedall Smith.This is a well written, and expertly researched biography. For all that, it is painfully dull. Turns out that Queen Elizabeth leads a rather dull and scripted life. If nothing else, you do come away with a clearer view of English history in the twentieth century. Much more interesting, is the current biography of Prince Philip by Philip Eade. Talk about turbulent! His birth family was alternately unbalanced, philandering, and profligate and provided a childhood which was only just short of Dickensian in scope. The fact that he survived it, in fact rose above it, is remarkable. In reading this I came to understand the strong attraction he would have found in Queen Elizabeth's sense of family. Fascinating reading.
The Darlings by Christine Alger. Another story based on the Medoff ponzi scheme-but an excellent one. This is thinly based on the Noel family of the Fairfield Greenwich Group which was in fact the largest feeder fund involved with Medoff. However, this is not an fullscale indictment of people with money but rather a sensitive exploration of how good people can be led astray. Compelling.
This weeks offerings involve a ready-made family, some hippies, a sniper, some illicit behavior, a home on the range, a macabre obsession, some sun, some hoodoo, and the police.
Either come on in and see the Book Goodness yourself or reserve your copy on line. We'll let you know when it's ready to be picked up!
This week we have some Gypsies, charlatans, a Valley Girl, a little lubrication, some dead friends, and some Mexico. Mexico Maine that is.
Let us begin!
Barbara M. had left Paris and is reading Gypsy Boy by Micky Walsh. “It is an unromantic look into the life of a British Romany. It is raw, eye-opening, brutal and compelling.”
Citizen Asha is working her way through a major tome. “I am reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It's taking me a bit to push through the novel, as the copy that I bought is over eight hundred pages, however, it is amazing. Magick is no longer relevant, or if it is, it is being used by charlatans for monetary gain. Someone has to step in and take control.” And make no mistake. The Citizen could just be the girl for the job.
Pat S. weighs in with White Girl Problems by Babe Walker. “Essentially, Babe is a Valley Girl on steroids-with all the attendant issues that involves. A product of the excesses of Beverly Hills and an indulgent motherless family, Babe sashays from Barney's to Brown University-barely breaking stride. Her intense self interest in all things 'Babe' is a riot. Perfect for beach reading, or teenage girls-who may or may not miss the fact that this is a parody.”
The Lovely Priscilla is reading and recommending Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. “You will never look at that bottle of olive oil in your cabinet the same ever again! This is the remarkable history of olive oil which has been used as a beauty product, as a medicine and in religious practices. Delve into the globalization, fraud, deception and crime of this amazing oil."
Marianne reports that she is working her way through Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan. “This quiet book follows the everyday activities of Emily Maxwell, an eighty year old widow who lives alone in the home where she and her husband raised their children and spent most of their married years. Her children are grown and have moved far away and many of her close friends have died. Now this is Emily's time alone. While this could be a depressing time of life Emily finds joy in her new found independence and the author shows us in very sensitive prose that life can be filled with joy at any age. My book group is reading this book right now and I can't wait for our discussion.”
I am in love with Monica Wood’s memoir When We Were Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico Maine by Monica Wood. It’s 1963 and Monica’s beloved father has just died from a heart attack on his way to work in the town’s paper mill Can Monica's Mom and her three sisters survive this personal and economic tragedy? The language here is gorgeous and the story is compelling. It is due out in July.
Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. Have you ever lost your keys, forgotten where you put your glasses, or have a name on the tip of your tongue but cannot seem to call it up from the depths of your memory? If you are like author and science journalist Joshua Foer (yes, he is the brother of Jonathan Safran Foer) you probably forget everyday things but have some incredibly vivid memories. Why is that? Foer investigates the science behind memory building. His journey begins at the U.S. Memory Championship and propels him into a world that quickly becomes a near-obsession.
Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult by Jayanti Tamm. This poignant and fascinating true story details Tamm’s childhood growing up in the Sri Chinmoy cult. Tamm’s parents, who met in the Guru’s apartment and were subsequently married, violated the rule enforcing celibacy (even between married couples.) Rather than expel the offending couple, the Guru Chinmoy decreed that the unborn child was “The Chosen One.” Thus begins Tamm’s life as a child messiah of sorts living one life within the strict boundaries of the cult and another as a young woman trying to find her identity. Her desire to remain a part of the Guru’s inner circle and her competing will to live a normal life will keep you rapt until the very last page and leave you wanting to know more about this amazing woman.
Alice I Have Been: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin. In this fictionalized memoir, Alice Liddell looks back on her life as, most famously, the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Alice’s relationship with the author (whose real name was Charles Dodgson) was complicated to say the least. As a thirty-something year old mathematics professor at Oxford, his obsession with seven-year-old Alice would be deemed almost criminal by today’s standards. What is most interesting about Alice was her life after Wonderland and her struggles to define herself as more than ‘Alice.’
“Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey ” (2011; 80 minutes). Viewers need not be children, parents, nor Muppet fans to fall in love with the shy, soft-spoken man behind Elmo. Kevin Clash grew up in a rough area outside Baltimore and dreamed of one day working with Jim Henson and the Muppets. Despite the odds and the pressure to do something more typical for a teenage boy, Kevin pursued his passion and has been working as a professional puppeteer ever since. His story is inspiring and unexpected. On Friday, March 9 at 7:30pm Darien Library will be showing the film and hosting a Q&A with the director and a young puppeteer who is featured in the movie.
Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst. This is WASP dysfunction at its’ very finest. Jeanne’s father was convinced he could pull their family out of their gentile poverty and restore their social position by writing the Great American Novel. He moved the family from St. Louis to the North Folk of Long Island to do just that. But for her parents it’s always 5:00 somewhere. When Jeanne grows up, she too discovers that writing can be a salvation but only if she too is willing to put down the bottle. At times side splittingly funny, at other tragic this is a wonderful memoir.
Burn Down The Ground by Kambri Crews. Think The Glass Castle. With deaf people. Kambri is the hearing child of deaf parents. When the book opens she is visiting her father in a maximum security prison. How did he get there? And how do Kambri and her brother overcome their challenging childhoods. This is a fascinating look at a usually closed culture.
The Good American by Alex George. One hundred years in the life of an immigrant family who end up settling in the small town of Beatrice Missouri. This is heartwarming story and its quirky characters will stay with you for a long time after you close the book.
The Darlings by Cristina Alger. This amazing first novel fictionalizes the economic crisis of 2008. The Darlings are a 1% family thrust into a regulatory investigation after a tragic event. Will the family be able to withstand it? The Darlings will be on everybody’s lips this spring and summer.
There is something for just about everyone this week! Either come on in and see the Book Goodness or reserve your copy on line. We'll let you know when it's ready to be picked up!
This week we have involved readers, Paris (you know you missed it last week!), a gatekeeper from Da Bronx, a He who is really a She, white shoes before Memorial Day (horrors!), kid lit, and a new phobia.
Let us begin!
Marianne wants everyone to know about The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. “I read this as an advanced readers' copy and really did like it. The author's reinvention of the Jane Eyre story held my interest while in some parts I did have a hard time believing that people would revert to such evil and antiquated tactics in modern day England. After I finished I passed it on to a friend who thoroughly enjoyed it, but took great exception to all of the comparisons to 'Jane Eyre.' She felt the story really stood on its own. In fact she was so unhappy about it she emailed the publisher and asked the firm stop advertising the book as a modern 'Jane Eyre.' Now, that's what I call an involved reader!”
I am sure it will come as no surprise to those of you out there keeping score that Barbara M. is back in Paris. In her mind anyway. “I'm reading Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman about the differences between French and American child rearing as seen through the eyes of an American living in Paris. Druckerman is sometimes repetitive but the book is interesting.”
Pat T. has just finished reading "Fairytale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love and Loss by Rosemarie Terenzio. “In this memoir the author shares her five years as John F. Kennedy JR's personal assistant, confidante, friend, and the overall gatekeeper of his personal and business affairs. She was the tough Bronx girl from a struggling Italian family who landed this plum job that changed her life forever.”
Citizen Asha is oddly enough, reading something almost normal. “I am currently reading Albert Nobbs by George Moore. I wanted to see the movie but was unable to, so I thought I would read the book. It’s set in Dublin, Nobbs is a waiter with a secret; he is actually a she. The novel is filled with great sadness; she’s abandoned by parents, fearful of men, and has bouts of depression. A great read, now I am anxious to see the movie. “
Abby reports that she is “enjoying Heart Of A Killer the latest mystery-light from David Rosenfelt (outside of his regular Andy Carpenter series). While he raises interesting legal points in this novel, he manages to incorporate humor and a nice touch of humanity. When a mom convicted of murdering her husband asks to be permitted to donate her heart to her ailing child, her case goes out pro bono to Jamie Wagner, a Harvard trained desk jockey at a white shoe law firm. Questions about the original murder case begin to get explored as Jaime's best strategy appears to be getting his client out of jail so she can then end her own life to save her child. Looking forward to seeing how this one ends.
Jeanne is taking a class on Kid Lit for her MLS. She says that, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret took my breath away! “ The rest of us in RA who have seen the movie release this week can understand her love for the story.
A friend of mine, Laurie W. (aka The Rye), insisted I pick up a copy of “Sometime I Feel Like a Nut: Essays and Observations by Jill Kargman. The chapter on what she is afraid of is totally hilarious because honestly? While I can totally relate to not feeling entirely comfortable around clowns and mimes, she has now totally sold me on being wary around vans too. This one is lots of fun.
The Lifespan of a Fact - This book is based on a 2005 essay eventually published in The Believer about a suicide in Las Vegas. The book presents the essay line-by-line with commentary running throughout between the author, the fact-checker, and the editor. It is at times insufferable in the most hilarious of ways. I laughed out loud and then I wondered why journalists go into fact-checking because librarians would just eat this stuff up.
The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac - Kris D'Agostino is the first in our Spring Meet the Author Series. The cast of characters in this dark comedy includes our narrator Calvin, a grad-school drop out living at home doing what many would consider too many drugs. He is the unlikely glue that holds his family together. His 17-year old sister Elissa seems to have it together until she tells Calvin she’s pregnant. His brother Chip is the type of guy who would wear a blackberry in a belt holster and carry a cell phone. His mother has fallen behind on bills in an attempt to pay for his father’s medical expenses as he recovers from an illness that has forced him to leave his job as a pilot. His father carries around a gun at all times.
"8 Women" - This might just be the perfect movie to watch during tonight's predicted snowstorm. Eight women live in a house where a murder has just been committed. Suddenly they're snowed in and the phone lines have been cut. And it's a musical! You'll laugh at the innappropriate humor in this murder mystery right up until the very end. Whodunit? or shall I say Qui l'a fait?
"My Best Friend" - What is the French word for bromance? Frèrance? We'll go with that. François is an extremely rich art collector who thinks money can buy everything. When his colleagues point out that he has no friends, he makes a bet that requires him to introduce them to his best friend in 10 days. As François pays a Parisian taxi driver to parade him around town reuniting with old friends, he comes to realize they all hate him. I won't tell you how it ends, but there is a climactic scene on the set of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Paris versus New York - Based on his blog by the same name, Muratyan, a graphic designer, has created a simple, but elegant, visual comparison of the cities of Paris and New York. Some pairings contrast the differences between two cultures, while others show their similarities: for example, the “bobo dans l’est Parisien” and his Rayban sunglasses is faced by the “hipster on the Williamsburg Bridge” and his Rayban sunglasses. Another pairing shows a church spire with the heading “Quasimodo” and the facing page shows the Empire State Building with the words, “King Kong”. Fun and funny for the Francophile or New Yorker, you won’t want to stop turning the pages.
World War Z - This “oral history” covers the development of the zombie invasion from its mysterious origins in the Three Gorges area of China to the spread of infection across the world to the attempts to contain the walking undead. Told in an interview style by people who experienced the “war” in different ways and places, this is the bloody, no-holds-barred zombie book you’ve been waiting for. After reading Zone One by Colson Whitehead, which is a more literary zombie story (seriously), I was ready to sink my teeth (pun intended) into a gory-er tale and this one hit the spot.
Austenland - For those of us who always wish we could just sink into the pages of Jane Austen’s novels or push through the TV screen into one of her miniseries, well, this book makes you re-think it. Jane is obsessed with Jane Austen’s books, and when a relative bequeaths her a visit to a Pemberley-like house where she will dress and behave as if she were in the Regency period, she can’t wait to go. With a strict house chaperone, a cold possible-suitor, a cute gardener, and a ditzy fellow visitor in the mix, Jane starts to wonder if Austen’s stories are best left in the book. A light-hearted book for romantics and Austen fans.