Great Reads

Schulman, Helen. This Beautiful Life.

When the Bergamots' fifteen-year-old son, Jake, forwards a sexually explicit video from a thirteen-year-old schoolmate on to his best friend without thinking, he ignites a firestorm that threatens to consume his family and the life they have built for themselves among the socially elite in New York City.

Already in fragile territory, the scandal reveals the true problems in Jake's family such as his father's overactive ego and his mother's ridiculous attempts to cope as a stay-at-home mom with a PhD. When the video goes viral, Jake is suspended from school, prompting his family to hire a lawyer and start a battle that even Jake does not want to be a part of. Schulman's poignant portrait of a family in crisis is not to be missed for lovers of literary fiction.

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Just a Thought -- New (and Notable) Nonfiction Audiobooks

 

Thinking the Twentieth Century by Tony Judt

An ambitious intellectual history of the Twentieth Century in which Judt examines the many currents that shaped the innovations, conflicts, economics and politics of our recent past.

"... this marvelous précis, vibrantly alive, rich, and piquant, is one last gift from an exceptional public intellectual. Not only academics and fans of Judt, but also those who enjoy the New York Review of Books and The New Yorker will flock to read it." (Library Journal)

 

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

A Pulitzer Prize winning author profiles the lives of everyday people living in the slums of Mumbai, illustrating the struggle to change their circumstances.

"Boo brilliantly brings to life the residents of Annawadi, allowing the reader to know them and admire the fierce intelligence that allows them to survive in a world not made for them. The best book yet written on India in the throes of a brutal transition." (Kirkus)

 

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

A National Book Award finalist, this new definitive biography explores the life of one of the most influential figures of social change in America.

"Combing through FBI and NYPD files, gathering Nation of Islam interviews, and fleshing out Malcolm's post-NOI activities abroad, Marable succeeds spectacularly in painting a broader and more complex portrait of a man constantly in search of himself and his place in America." (Publishers Weekly)

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Bronsky, Alina. The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine.

If you’re a fan of international novels that feature wholly original main characters, then you will love The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine.  Rosa Achmetowna , the narrator of this story, is unlike any character I have ever encountered before.  She is outrageous and nasty and one of the worst mothers of all time but, even so, I couldn’t help liking her.  Set in the Soviet Union and then in Germany, this novel focuses on the relationships between Rosa, her daughter, and her granddaughter.  The depiction of the Soviet Union is as fascinating as the depiction of the narrator.  I highly recommend this dark comedy—the characters, especially Rosa, are so memorable and real, you will feel as though you know them.

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Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games.

Set in the near future, the twelve districts surrounding the powerful capital, Panem, must pay for a failed rebellion by sacrificing two of their teens every year to compete in a violent gauntlet where they must fight to the death: the Hunger Games. In District Twelve, the poorest of the districts, Katniss, a skilled hunter and provider for her struggling family, chooses to take the place of her younger sister who was chosen to represent their district in the games as Tribute. She, along with her male counterpart, Peeta, experience the shock of leaving their hunger-stricken home for the luxury of Panem, the stress of wondering whether or not they can match the skills of the other twenty two competitors and finally, facing off with them in the arena.

After Katniss and Peeta enter the game, the action is non-stop and they must face the terrifying reality of being hunted by other competitors, many of them bloodthirsty. Almost driven to death by thirst, fire balls, and poisonous tracker jackers, Katniss must also be strategic, playing the audience's desire to see her and Peeta develop a romantic relationship...perhaps not a top priority considering the circumstances. Readers will be on the edge of their seats rooting for Katniss and Peeta and be fascinated by the broader message of survival and rebellion.

 

Bretton, Barbara. Casting Spells

Chloe Hobbs is a knitter of almost supernatural powers, and her shop, Sticks and Strings, has been named the number one knitting shop in New England two years in a row. But she’s the only inhabitant of small-town Sugar Maple, Vermont who invites any outside interest.  Sugar Maple, the ultimate cozy New England small town, was founded by Chloe’s sorceress ancestor as a haven for all the witches, warlocks, vampires, werewolves, pixies, fairies, and other supernatural beasties under attack by New England’s more mundane residents in places like Salem.  A spell woven by that ancestor is maintained by the presence of a Hobbs woma in town, and Chloe is the last. But she is only half-sorceress—her father was human—and the spell is weakening. So the town has been throwing an assortment of hunky supernatural fellows her way, hoping for sparks. Those sparks don’t fly, however, until human police officer Luke McKenzie comes to Sugar Maple to investigate the suspicious death of a human tourist. He’s exactly the wrong man for Chloe, but it’s love at first sight for them both and Chloe’s powers blossom just in time to help protect the town from her greatest rival—a faery queen of terrifying power.

Sweet, cozy, and charming, “Casting Spells” is a quietly pleasant read even for non-knitters.

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