Great Reads

Lawson, Jenny. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (a mostly true memoir)

Jenny Lawson, best known for her side-splittingly funny, irreverent blog at thebloggess.com, delivers more of the same here, in her (mostly true) memoir.  Jenny grew up poor in rural Texas, the daughter of a taxidermist father whose idea of a good joke was making puppets out of roadkill.  An outsider who later struggled with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and now rheumatoid arthritis, she recounts the trials and tribulations of her life in a no-holds-barred, double-barreled, profanity-laden manner.

Readers of  her popular blog will already be familiar with the way in which, in Jenny’s hands, the simplest of stories become extended digressions into the labyrinthine twistings of her often bizarre thinking process . Anyone looking for a straight-forward memoir should look elsewhere, but those who share Jenny’s twisted sense of humor and irreverent outlook on life will find themselves belly laughing out loud and garnering strange looks from those around them.

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Lively, Penelope. How It All Began

If you're looking for a 2012 well-written literary read that is a) not depressing b) easy to read and c) thoroughly enjoyable, look no further.  If you have never picked up a book by Penelope Lively before, this is a good place to start.  And if you have--well, you won't be disappointed.  This book is about how people's lives influence one another...the changes that occur after a woman is mugged of her purse and injured.  Imagine a rippling effect, if you will.  It's a good book for anyone who thinks that his or her actions don't matter--because this book proves that they do!  Actually, it's a great book for everyone.  Penelope Lively is a spectacular British writer who has many years of writing under her belt, and she just keeps getting better.

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Groopman, Jerome E. How Doctors Think

Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of medical essays, so I pretty much knew that I would enjoy this book before I started reading it.  But I had not read Groopman before (other than a few of his essays in The New Yorker) so my mind was open to dislike it.  Well, all the great reviews couldn’t be wrong!  And they weren’t.  It is a very good book.  What is particularly interesting about this collection is Groopman’s focus on the relationship between doctor and patient and how a doctor’s perceptions can influence the quality of care a patient receives.  For example, in one essay, Groopman writes about an athletic and attractive man who goes to the ER because he has pain and shortness of breath, but he is turned away without receiving the treatment he needs because the doctor treating him views him in such a positive light and is unable to see past the patient's robust facade.  If you enjoy reading books by Oliver Sacks or Atul Gawande, you will want to read this book as well.   Groopman writes in a similarly engaging style and, like the others, addresses fascinating medical issues.  Additionally, this book will give you ideas on how to become a better patient and communicate in ways that help doctors move past their preconceived notions that they may have about you and your health.

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James, P.D. Death Comes to Pemberley.

P.D. James takes on life after Pride and Prejudice in her newest book, delighting mystery and Jane Austen fans alike.  On the eve of Pemberley’s annual Lady Anne’s Ball, six years after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Darcy’s household is brutally disrupted by a hysterical uninvited guest, Lizzie’s sister, Lydia. She claims that her husband, Lt. George Wickham has been murdered by his friend Capt. Martin Denny in the woods.  But upon investigation, it seems that the opposite is true and the inhabitants of Pemberley must cancel the ball and mount a murder investigation in its stead.

Infused with Lizzie’s signature wit, the plot explores the secrets, pasts and hidden agendas of the characters. And It’s no surprise that Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are fantastic sleuths. James does a wonderful job capturing Austen’s style while also adding a little life to the familiar; a winning take on the classic.

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Moore, Christopher. Sacre Bleu

Vincent Van Gogh’s unusual suicide—he shot himself in the chest shortly after finishing a painting, then walked a mile to a doctor’s house—provides the catalyst for revelations about the origins of the painter’s madness in this humorous and layered novel.  Lucien Lessard, baker in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris, has grown up around some of the greatest painters of the age, including Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and Manet.  An aspiring painter himself, Lucien finds that his painting takes fire when his true love, the mysterious and beautiful Juliette, brings him a special tube of ultramarine blue paint from a strange paint dealer known only as the Colorman.  As it turns out, Van Gogh also bought his blue from the Colorman, as did most, if not all, of the other famous painters in Paris at the time. And all of those painters also conducted mad, passionate, and ultimately doomed relationships with beautiful women at the same time.  Lucien, beginning to piece this together, joins forces with his friend “the little gentleman,” the painter Toulouse-Lautrec—who, as it turns out, has also bought blue paint from the Colorman and also lost his true love, Carmen.  They must discover the secret of the Colorman and the secret of the sacred blue before they, too, end up dead.

Humorous as Moore’s books always are, Sacre Bleu, like Lamb and Fool, also contains a wealth of rich historical detail, clearly the product of meticulous reseach and a deep interest in the material. The painters are all portrayed as vividly as their paintings, and fin de siecle Paris is evoked realistically and colorfully.

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