Late Wife by Claudia Emerson, recommended by Mallory
Late Wife is Claudia Emerson’s Pulitzer Prize winning collection of epistolary poems. She explores “her disappearance from one life and reappearance in another”, writing of her first marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Emerson’s “divorce epistles” are steeped in imagery of a Southern landscape, and rightly so: “I felt trapped there in southside Virginia, I became extremely sensitive to the ways others were trapped there as well”, she says. This collection, for some, may reopen a wound so as to heal it.
Recommended by Beth
Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Historical novel based on the life of early 19th century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimke and her sister Angelina. Growing up in a slaveholder family in Charleston, Sarah is given at an early age her own personal slave, Hetty. Both girls have an independent rebellious spirit and chapters alternate between their two perspectives. The author immerses the reader in their lives as they deal with southern bigotry, patriarchy, slave revolts, family drama and abolition movement. Engaging and beautifully written.
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
A dramatic look at the infamous Dreyfus affair in France in 1895. Alfred Dreyfus was a jewish army officer who was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. But one man, Georges Picquart, a government bureaucrat begins to suspect that Dreyfus was scapegoated due to the strong anti-semitism at that time. Based on historical documents, the novel deals with deception, blackmail, espionage, corruption and murder all to preserve the army’s reputation, even at the cost of an innocent man’s freedom. A superb read.
Recommended by Jill
Reconciliation between the incomprehensible and the theoretical, and an attempt at maintaining a belief in objective reality in the face of quantum uncertainty. Macroscopic objects are the result of probability at their core, but we are reassured that the chances of behavior beyond expectation and measurement, while always possible, are so remote that they can be dismissed.
Recommended by Jane
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a novel for all ages, despite being targeted mostly at young adults. Neil Gaiman has crafted a voyage to the heart of childhood. Throughout the book, the reader will encounter a story about love, loss, death and frightening situations; all emotions that readers of many levels can relate to. It is shining and magic without a single touch or hint of wrong-footed grown up sentimentality. Fans of Gaiman’s previous works like American Gods and Coraline will enjoy the level of mystic fantasy that he injects into the story, while new fans might just find themselves a new favorite author with his fresh, invigorating storytelling.
The storyteller has grown and has returned to the sites of his childhood. More important he attempts to weave his seven year old world for us to glimpse. After his seventh birthday party, which no one attends, he has set out on his own daytime rambles to find his own world. Our storyteller and Lettie meet after an opal miner kills himself in her yard. She takes him to visit the ocean in her lake. Her mother and grandmother fold him into their world, and our narrator finds himself in safety. An adventure meant in all good intention ends with a hole in the world which becomes the impetus for the plot. His family is ensnared by a magic they have failed to catch, and the resolution lies in belief as much as in action. . Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded if the story went on, just peeking under things we think we know and getting to know these children, Gaiman has managed to craft them as part of every reader.
S by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst.
This is a fascinating book; a story within a story. To misquote Mr. Churchill “it’s an enigma wrapped up in a conundrum”.
The initial story is of a man who is shanghied onto a very strange ship sailing who knows where, and chronicles his very curious and circuitous adventures. That alone would be enough to peak your interest. But wait, there’s more!
There’s another whole story written withing the pages of the first, including lots of little clues hidden in the book. Eric and Jennifer are trying to solve the mysteries of the first book and it’s author and translator.
One reviewer advised to read the “main” story first, then go back and read the two or three sets of margin notes from Eric and Jennifer -just so you don’t get too confused. Fun book!
Secret Stairs, East Bay; a walking guide to the historic staircases of Berkeley and Oakland by Charles Fleming.
This great little book will get you out into little known areas of the East Bay. Mr. Fleming has given directions to 30 walking loops, all with detailed information about the geography, architecture and history of the area you’ll walk through - including the difficulty of the walks themselves. All the walks start within easy reach of public transportation.
A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson
My initial attraction to this book was the promise of a travel adventure in another place and time. It also includes a contemporary story set in England in alternating chapters. What begins as an exciting opportunity for a young English woman, Evangeline, to tag along with her missionary sister and write a travel guide to 1920s Turkestan quickly turns to tragedy as one of her travel companions provides a medical intervention that goes terribly wrong. Many years later in England, Frieda offers assistance to Tayeb, a talented artist and refugee from Yemen. He helps her on a journey to discover the background behind a mysterious inheritance. These side by side stories convey the challenges of living in a culture not one’s own.
Suggested by Karin