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 Based on historical documents, the novel deals with deception, blackmail, espionage, corruption and murder all to preserve the army’s reputation, even at the cost of an innocent man’s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
Recommended by Rebecca
Think Like Zuck – The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg By Ekaterina Walter
More than a billion people are using Facebook actively. Connecting people, providing a venue for expression, and creating a myriad little miracles, Facebook is the leader in electronic social networking in most countries around the world. The story of Zuckerberg’s drive to materialize his genius ideas is encapsulated in five elegant chapters. Walter also includes lessons from other successful companies – Zappos, Apple, and Intel, among others. This is a fascinating look inside Zuckerberg’s world.
The Daniel Plan – 40 Days to a Healthier Life by Rick Warren, Daniel Amen, and Mark Hyman
Two doctors and a prominent Christian minister have teamed up to present a lifestyle improvement program. It’s a synergistic plan composed of 5 elements — faith, food, fitness, focus and friends. Blending timeless wisdom with leading edge science, this book was born out of Pastor Warren’s realization that he needed to improve his own health to set an example for his flock. This is a user friendly approach that includes exercises and a 40 day meal plan based on whole foods. The Daniel Plan Cookbook is on order!
The Cancer Chronicles – Unlocking Medicine’s Deepest Mystery by George Johnson
Science writer George Johnson was motivated to delve into cancer research when his wife was diagnosed with a rare form. Over the course of 5 years, he also learns much about cancer from personal experience. In The Cancer Chronicles, Johnson expertly presents the current facts known about cancer and treatment options in a straightforward and unemotional way. His analysis of the importance of various risk factors will surprise some. Johnson has written on a complicated subject with insight and simplicity.
Living the Good Long Life - a practical guide to caring for yourself and others by Martha Stewart
The domestic goddess has produced a comprehensive reference for baby boomers with contributions from a battery of experts. The book is divided into two sections: Healthy Living Today and Healthy Living Into Tomorrow, with the latter addressing longevity and caregiving issues. It’s also a peak into her life, as Martha has included some personal tips as well.
Fairyland: a memoir of my father by Alysia Abbott - recommended by Kevin
A sweet and, ultimately, very sad, but never sentimental, memoir by the daughter of gay poet Steve Abbott who died of AIDS in 1992 . Beyond recounting the remarkable, atypical relationship between free-spirited single dad and more conservative, precocious daughter, Abbott documents a pre-gentrification, bohemian San Francisco of the 1970s, as well as the devastation of AIDS during the 1980s and early 90s. An honest and moving story of a complex and unconventional father/daughter relationship that gives a new spin on the meaning of “family.”
The Dream of the Unified Field by Jorie Graham - suggested by Mallory
The Dream of the Unified Field is Jorie Graham’s Pulitzer Prize winning compilation of poetry from her first five poetry collections: Hybrids of Plants and of Ghosts, Erosion, The End of Beauty, Region of Unlikeness, and Materialism. Critic Calvin Bedient speaks of Graham’s work: “The subject itself is always ‘the outermost question being asked me by the World today.’ What counts is the hope in the questioning itself, not the answers.” For those who have never been particularly interested in poetry, but a little curious, Graham’s work is very readable, calling upon earthy imagery to speak for a heaviness of being. From the poem “Tennessee June”: “This is the heat that seeks the flaw in everything/and loves the flaw./Nothing is heavier than its spirit,/nothing more landlocked than the body within it.”
Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Mara - recommended by Lynda
Focusing on a small group of Chenhen villagers and a Russian doctor torn apart by the Chechen Wars, this is beautifully written, searing story of the terrible violence, absurdity and heartbreak of senseless war.
The main action takes place over the course of five days but the author weaves the stories of the main protagonists over time so the reader comes to know how each has come to be where they are and how the war has forced them to the decisions that will either destroy or redeem them.
Illuminations: Essays and Reflections by Walter Benjamin - recommended by Lani
Includes essays such as Theses on the Philosophy of History, and Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collection, where he says that “To a book collector, you see, the true freedom of all books is somewhere on his shelves.”
Entry Island by Peter May - recommended by Cosette
When his team is called to a remote Canadian island to investigate a murder, Detective Sime Mackenzie believes it to be a fairly simple case, with the man’s wife Kirsty Cowell the obvious suspect. However he finds himself inexplicably drawn to her, convinced their connection is more than just a physical attraction. Struggling to cope with the breakdown of his marriage, and battling insomnia, Sime takes solace in the stories of his ancestors, who travelled to Canada from the bleak Scottish islands. When Kirsty recognises the signal on a signet ring he wears, his conviction that they have somehow met before leads to explore his past, and the story of the man who he was named after. (Tracy Enyon - www.welovethisbook.com)
Nigellissima – Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes by Nigella Lawson - recommended by Rebecca
Ms. Lawson’s formula - large color photos, and a story accompanying every recipe - makes an encore appearance in her latest cookbook. Although British, this Food Network star is well qualified to write an Italian cookbook, as she studied cooking in Florence. From sauces, side dishes, meat, and seafood to pasta and desserts, she demonstrates the art of simple and inspired cuisine with an Italian twist. An extra treat is the last chapter – “an Italian-inspired Christmas.”
Cowgirl Creamery Cooks by Sue Conley and Peggy Smith - recommended by Rebecca
Two former Bay area cooks joined forces to found the Cowgirl Creamery shop in Point Reyes. Their latest culinary collaboration is this cookbook featuring cheese or milk in the recipes. More than a cookbook, it is a cheese bible, and includes Sue and Peggy’s personal stories, as well as notes on the organic farming movement in Marin. The last chapter is a primer on basic techniques featured in the book, such as making bread crumbs, clarifying butter and mastering béchamel sauce. The color photos are mouth watering!
Promethea by Alan Moore ; Art by J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray - recommended by Stephen
A graphic novel of epic proportions from the master of the art form, Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, The Watchman). Sophie Bangs woke up an ordinary college student working on a term paper. When her research on a mythical female warrior character name Promethea brings her face to face with unknown danger and then Promethea herself. We soon learn Promethea is the embodiment of imagination and Sophie finds herself transformed into Promethea to save her friends from encroaching evil. To learn more about her new alter ego Sophie must travel to Promethea’s world, the Imatteria, the world of imagination. Here’s where it starts to get interesting…
Full of strong, funny and brilliant female characters battling evil and exploring the secrets of the universe and humanity; Promethea is rife with excitement, contemplation and imagery. Full of magic, history and themes drawing from ancient religions, tarot, kabbalah and more all intertwined with more traditional comic book themes and characters. Smartly written and portrayed with beautiful and intricate artwork this is a graphic novel for those on the fence about the genre. A graphic novel with incredible scope and vision, highly recommended.
(contains adult themes)
August: Osage County by Tracy Letts - suggested by Karin
For those who haven’t seen the movie or the play, and perhaps even for those who have,the script for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama is tragicomedy at its best.The play examines family relationships and dysfunction when the disparate pathsof its members converge at the family home in Oklahoma upon the disappearance of the alcoholic patriarch. At the center of the drama is acrimonious and prescription drug-addicted wife and mother, Violet. Her offspring and their partners bring their own foibles and her sister and family are also on hand to add to the complexity. This fevered and darkly humorous look at human relationships is compelling and memorable.