Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Book Club Books

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is the top ten books that would make great book club picks. Some of these books I have actually read with a book club; others I haven’t, but I think they might make for good discussion.

  1. [amazon_link id=”0385341008″ target=”_blank” ]The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society[/amazon_link], Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer: It’s a book about book clubs! What could be better to read with a book club?
  2. [amazon_link id=”0312304358″ target=”_blank” ]Moloka’i[/amazon_link], Alan Brennert: This might be because I just chose it for my book club, but I think it would be great for discussion, especially because it’s a good story, but it has some flaws.
  3. [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link], Paula McLain: I think this one would be great for literary book clubs who want to learn more about Hemingway and his circle.
  4. [amazon_link id=”1451648502″ target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link], Jael McHenry: It might be fun to bring the dishes described in the book to the meeting. I also think discussing adult Asperger’s would make for an interesting evening.
  5. [amazon_link id=”1594484465″ target=”_blank” ]The Little Stranger[/amazon_link], Sarah Waters: I picked this mostly because I would like to talk about the ending and see what everyone else thinks happened at the end.
  6. [amazon_link id=”0399157913″ target=”_blank” ]The Help[/amazon_link], Kathryn Stockett: I liked this one a lot and see it being a good book to talk about when you’re done with it. I could even see a good discussion about whether it’s another in the long line of “white people solve racism” books/movies.
  7. [amazon_link id=”1613821395″ target=”_blank” ]The Woman in White[/amazon_link], Wilkie Collins: Marian and Count Fosco are great characters. So was Frederick Fairlie. He’s hysterical, in fact. I think it might be interesting to talk about how Collins popularized some of those tropes we consider clichés.
  8. [amazon_link id=”0142001805″ target=”_blank” ]The Eyre Affair[/amazon_link], Jasper Fforde: There is so much bookish fun in this one. I think book nerds would really like reading and talking about it.
  9. [amazon_link id=”B005K5XQRY” target=”_blank” ]The Lace Reader[/amazon_link], Brunonia Barry: I am not sure it would appeal to everyone in the group, but it has a classic unreliable narrator, and those always make for juicy discussion. Plus you could try to brew up some “Difficul-tea” and try out lace reading (if you can figure it out).
  10. [amazon_link id=”0385338015″ target=”_blank” ]Madame Bovary’s Ovaries[/amazon_link], David P. Barash and Nanelle R. Barash: The premise of this book is that you can explain the behavior of some characters in great literature through evolutionary psychology. It’s an interesting read. It’s sure to generate some discussion; I can’t imagine you’d get a whole group to agree on whether or not the authors are right. It serves the dual purpose of making you interested in the literature they discuss, too. The Goodreads reviews on it are all over the place.

Honorable mentions: [amazon_link id=”0812979303″ target=”_blank” ]Reading Lolita in Tehran[/amazon_link], Azar Nafisi; [amazon_link id=”0679751521″ target=”_blank” ]Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil[/amazon_link], John Berendt (only left out of top ten because everyone’s surely read it by now); and [amazon_link id=”014029628X” target=”_blank” ]Girl in Hyacinth Blue[/amazon_link], Susan Vreeland.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books of 2011

Top Ten Tuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday—how appropriate! What are my top ten books of 2011. Note: Not all of these books were published in 2011, but I read all of them in 2011.

  1. [amazon_link id=”0385737645″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly (review): This part-contemporary YA novel/part time-travel story awakened an interest in the French Revolution that I previously did not have (I know, right?). I loved the musical aspect and had a lot of fun discussing this book with students who chose to read it for their summer reading selection. I wish Amadé Malherbeau were real!
  2. [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] by Sara Gruen (review): Jacob Jankowski is my BFF. I loved this story more than I thought I would. I didn’t think I’d like the circus aspect at all, but I found it fascinating.
  3. [amazon_link id=”1439156816″ target=”_blank” ]On Writing[/amazon_link] by Stephen King (review): This book is the best, most practical book about writing I’ve ever read, and its advice has already proven invaluable.
  4. [amazon_link id=”0451202503″ target=”_blank” ]The Songcatcher[/amazon_link] by Sharyn McCrumb (review): I love the idea of handing a song down from generation to generation, and as a family historian, I found that aspect of the novel particularly appealing. Sharyn McCrumb writers about her own ancestors in this novel.
  5. [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain (review): Stories about the Lost Generation are interesting. I loved this take on what happened in Paris told more from Hadley Hemingway’s point of view than Ernest Hemingway’s (for a change).
  6. [amazon_link id=”1594744769″ target=”_blank” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_link] by Ransom Riggs (review): This book was comical and completely engaging. I can’t wait for the sequel. I giggle every time I think of the Welsh teenagers trying to rap.
  7. [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt (review): I will never turn my back on a Classics major again. They are scary people.
  8. [amazon_link id=”0316068209″ target=”_blank” ]The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian[/amazon_link] by Sherman Alexie (review): I laughed all the way through this while still feeling empathy for Junior. Alexie is a gifted storyteller.
  9. [amazon_link id=”0312343698″ target=”_blank” ]Passion[/amazon_link] by Jude Morgan (review): I loved this novel of the lives of the Romantic poets Byron, Shelley, and Keats told through the eyes of the women who loved them. Mary Shelley comes across as fascinating and sympathetic, and Caroline Lamb was downright engaging.
  10. [amazon_link id=”B0043RSJQS” target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] by Jael McHenry (review): As the mother of two children on the autism spectrum, this novel about an adult with Asperger’s was fascinating. I also liked the cooking aspect and learned a truly good recipe for brownies.
WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays—June 15, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading [amazon_link id=”1401302025″ target=”_blank” ]The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School[/amazon_link] by Alexandra Robbins. It’s a really good read, and I think anyone who is a teacher or parent should probably read it for the insight it gives into how painful the teen years can be and what children that age are facing.

I know I said that I would read [amazon_link id=”0743482832″ target=”_blank” ]The Tempest[/amazon_link] next, but I am just not feeling up to it yet. I guess I want lighter fare as the summer begins. I will probably start [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain next—perhaps not tonight, but tomorrow. It looks pretty good. It’s told from the point of view of Hadley Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.

I recently finished [amazon_link id=”1439191697″ target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] by Jael McHenry (review). Wonderful book! Highly recommended. I also finished [amazon_link id=”1594202885″ target=”_blank” ]A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter[/amazon_link] by William Deresiewicz (review) since last week. Summer means more time to read!

A side note: I am really enjoying seeing my map fill up for the Where Are You Reading Challenge. I am beginning to have a little bit more diversity in terms of setting than I had a few months ago. You can view my map in progress (you can click on the map and drag it around):
View 2011 Where Are You Reading Challenge in a larger map

The Kitchen Daughter, Jael McHenry

[amazon_image id=”1439191697″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_image]Ginny Selvaggio is different. She doesn’t like to be touched. She doesn’t look in people’s eyes when they speak to her. She finds socializing excruciating. But she’s also a wonderful cook and finds solace in the kitchen. At twenty-six, she’s never been on her own, but her parents die in a car accident while on vacation, and Ginny has trouble coping. Her sister Amanda wants to sell their parents’ house and have Ginny “evaluated” for Asperger’s Syndrome. Ginny is afraid it’s a tactic to prove that she’s incompetent so that Amanda can sell the house. Meanwhile, Ginny befriends David, the son of her cleaning lady Gert. He’s a wounded soul, mourning the death of his wife a year earlier.

I really liked Ginny. I related to this book on a more personal level than some readers might because I have two children on the autism spectrum. No two people with autism are exactly alike, and it precisely the way that autism is often portrayed in the media—not wanting to be touched, for one thing—that made it hard for me to believe my son was autistic. He loves hugs, and he has never minded being touched. However, Ginny’s character comes across as genuine. The obsessions with odd things from Turkish rug patterns to letters written by nuns is familiar. When my children have an interest, it’s like an obsession, and they can stay fixated on it for months, especially my son (right now it’s Angry Birds, but it has been fruit and movie logos). I don’t know what my children will be like when they are grown up. I don’t think about it a lot. It’s too cloudy, for one thing. I just don’t know what they will be like or be able to do. I just can’t picture it. This book gave me a glimpse of what they might be like, however.

Another aspect of the [amazon_link id=”1439191697″ target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] I really loved was all the food, cooking, and recipes. Each chapter is focused around a different dish that Ginny cooks. She discovers that she is able to call forth the ghosts of the people who created the recipes when she cooks, and she is able to learn some important things about her family and herself. I even tried making the Midnight Cry Brownies recipe, and it was delicious. The brownies are a sort of cakey brownie, and they call for course salt, which settles to the bottom as the brownies bake. The resulting taste might not appeal to everyone, but I loved the mix of chocolate and salt. David’s ancho chili hot chocolate sounds pretty good, too. I can’t wait to try that.

I did truly enjoy this novel. I read it in three or four gulps. It has something to say to everyone about what normal truly is, what grief can do, and the importance of living for those left behind after loved ones die. It’s a really impressive debut. I can’t wait to read more from Jael McHenry.

Rating: ★★★★★
Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays—June 13, 2011

Musing MondaysThis week’s musing asks

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?

I devoured [amazon_link id=”1565125606″ target=”_blank” ]Water for Elephants[/amazon_link] by Sara Gruen (review) in the space of a day, but I can’t remember how late I stayed up reading to finish it. I do remember clearly staying up really late because I was hooked on [amazon_link id=”0385737637″ target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] by Jennifer Donnelly (review). It’s not something I have done in a while; I have had a run of four-star and lower books. It’s usually the five-star books that keep me up at night. I will say that [amazon_link id=”1439191697″ target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] by Jael McHenry is running on five stars right now, as is [amazon_link id=”1401302025″ target=”_blank” ]The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School[/amazon_link] by Alexandra Robbins. I think some of the books that have kept me up most have been the [amazon_link id=”0545162076″ target=”_blank” ]Harry Potter[/amazon_link] series and the [amazon_link id=”0545265355″ target=”_blank” ]Hunger Games[/amazon_link] series. I have yet to read books to match those two series for making it impossible for me stop turning pages.

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays—June 8, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading [amazon_link id=”1594202885″ target=”_blank” ]A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter[/amazon_link] by William Deresiewicz. He has divided the chapters into life lessons he learned from each of the six major novels by novel title and lesson, and I am currently in the chapter about [amazon_link id=”193659451X” target=”_blank” ]Persuasion[/amazon_link], which might be my favorite Jane Austen book. I really love [amazon_link id=”1936594293″ target=”_blank” ]Pride And Prejudice[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”0141040378″ target=”_blank” ]Sense and Sensibility[/amazon_link]. I’m not sure I like the author all that much. The book is part memoir, part literary criticism, and his descriptions of himself are quite candid.

I recently finished [amazon_link id=”B004R1Q9PI” target=”_blank” ]The Secret Diary of a Princess[/amazon_link] by Melanie Clegg. It is a novel about Marie Antoinette’s later childhood leading up to her marriage with the future Louis XVI—an interesting peek into the Viennese court.

I think the next thing I will read will be [amazon_link id=”1439191697″ target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] by Jael McHenry (my sidebar says I’m already reading it, but I haven’t really started it yet) and perhaps [amazon_link id=”0743482832″ target=”_blank” ]The Tempest[/amazon_link]. I do need to finally read [amazon_link id=”B0048EL84Q” target=”_blank” ]The Dream of Perpetual Motion[/amazon_link] by Dexter Palmer.

Friday Finds

Friday Finds—May 20, 2011

Friday FindsI haven’t done Friday Finds in a while because I have been to busy to find much of anything. 😥

But! I have heard about some books that look pretty good and that I want to share with you.

I thought these books looked good, but I truthfully can’t tell you anymore where I found out about them. I will try to be better about documenting the finds in the future.

[amazon_image id=”141655047X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Queen By Right: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”B002PJ4IIO” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]And Only to Deceive[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1439191697″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_image]

I am particularly interested in [amazon_link id=”1439191697″ target=”_blank” ]The Kitchen Daughter[/amazon_link] because the protagonist is a character with Asperger’s Syndrome, which my middle daughter has (my son is also autistic).