One of the joys of owning Eight Cousins is that my work is reading. But I had no idea how many new books are published each year, and how many of them I would really want to read. Customers looking for book suggestions start with staff recommendations, so in order to connect with our customers, we all try to read as many new titles as possible.
When searching for more time to read, I started using Libro.fm, which offers over 150,000 titles in downloadable audiobook format. Now whenever I'm driving, working around the house, or walking I can listen to a book. I thought I would have trouble following the stories and my mind would wander off, but the narrators bring the books to life and pull me right in. The only catch to listening to audiobooks is that I often have to stay in the car when I reach my destination because I'm so engrossed in the book!
There is no record of Jesus from the age of twelve to the age of thirty. Through extensive research, Sue Monk Kidd has filled this gap by writing what Jesus's life might have been like, and this includes him having a wife. In her author’s note she describes the first century as a time when it was expected that a man marry in order to fully attain adulthood, so there's the possibility that Jesus did marry...
Ana is raised in a family of wealth. She speaks several languages and spends her time writing, often secretly. She is courageous and adventurous. She is a feminist. Her parents are politically connected and strive for power. When Ana meets Jesus, he is not the match her family would want for her, but circumstances provide them the opportunity to be together. Even though they are a couple they are often apart as at first Jesus travels to find work to support his family, and later to be part of the ministry of John the Baptist.
The Book of Longings will be a popular choice for book discussion groups.
Ruth Reichl was the editor of Gourmet Magazine from 1999 – 2009. In this memoir (she has another), she writes about being hired as editor of Gourmet Magazine. Besides a huge pay raise, the job included a driver (she still preferred the subway) and a clothes allowance. At the time, magazines were still glossy and money flowed freely.
Ms. Reichl takes us through the hiring process, her first days on board, how she approached making changes and when she decided to stay with what was working. Her trip to Paris is my favorite chapter, reading it I could taste the wine and food. And her chapter on 9/11 is very emotional. Even with all that has happened in the past nineteen years, reading a New Yorker’s perspective on the day the towers went down was extremely emotional.
Ms. Reichl is a wonderful storyteller and I look forward to reading her other books
Reading The Mountains Sing it is no surprise to learn that Que Mai is a poet. Her beautifully written book takes the rough edges off the 20th century story of Vietnam.
In the first chapter (2012), Dieu Lan has died and her granddaughter, Huong is honoring her at the ancestral altar. Huong hears her grandmother’s voice: “The challenges faced by the Vietnamese people throughout history are as tall as the tallest mountains. If you stand too close, you won’t be able to see their peaks. Once you step away from the currents of life, your will have the full view...”
Que Mai then takes us back to the early 1970s when Dieu Lan is taking care of twelve-year-old Huong while her parents are fighting the war against the South Vietnamese and the Americans. In the time they are alone, Dieu Lan tells Huong the story of her life, the challenges dating back to the early 1900s, and Land Reform in the 1950s. Through the telling of her story, we learn of Dieu Lan’s love of family, her ability to adapt and persevere, and her capacity to forgive.
Pete Buttigieg’s childhood, education, military career, work experience, and public service have covered a wide range of places in the world. These have contributed to his thoughtful approach to the future of the United States and how he would tackle the many challenges we now face.
He may not have secured the Democratic nomination for US President in 2020, but he will continue to be around. And I look forward to seeing what he does next. Our future is in the hands of his generation
Ms. Richards was the President of Planned Parenthood for over ten years, but activism started at an early age in her parents’ home. (Her mother was Ann Richards, Governor of Texas). The work and passion of Ms. Richards is inspirational and provides hope (and a call to action) at a difficult time.
In Becoming, Michelle Obama shares with us her life from childhood to shortly after leaving the White House. It includes the challenges of being a minority and getting access to the best education as a child, her higher education, and pressure to find work to be passionate about.
I loved Allende’s debut novel, The House of Spirits, and have read many of her other novels over the years.
Her latest novel is A Long Petal of the Sea. In this book Allende tells the story of Victor Dalmau and his family. It begins in Spain under the Franco regime and follows them to Chile and Venezuela. The book is a story of lives turned chaotic by political upheaval and how people try to live normal lives through the chaos.
Victor’s wife was to marry his brother but when he died she married Victor so they could escape to France together. They later went on to South America and were caught in the politics there as well. Victor, a gifted doctor, and Roser, a talented musician, found satisfying work and strength to navigate the life of refuges. A Long Petal of the Sea is their life’s story. It is warm, it is harsh, it is filled with life’s blessings and challenges. It again shows how Allende draws on her own experiences and historical knowledge in giving her stories context and depth.
Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale have waited 33 years to find out what happens next in Gilead. Written from the perspective of Aunt Lydia (returning from the first book); Agnes, a young woman living in Gilead; and Daisy, a young woman living in Canada. The Testaments takes the reader back for a deeper look at life in Gilead and brings us forward to a time fifteen years after The Handmaid’s Tale.
The novel was a joint winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize, alongside Bernardine Evaristo's novel Girl, Woman, Other.
I have long been intrigued by Melinda Gates. How does someone find equality in a relationship when their partner is in some way larger than life? Whether the partner’s fame is the result of their family, their fortune, their business success, their athletic success or something else, meeting someone with a high profile and creating a successful partnership has been shown to be a very difficult endeavor.
Melinda Gates shares her story with us in The Moment of Lift. It is read by the author, so you feel you are being treated to a private meeting with her. The book also includes much about the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And as you can tell from the book title, much of the work is around women receiving the opportunity to live better lives.
When moving to Los Angeles in 2011, Orlean visits a branch of the public library with her son. She is drawn back to visits to her neighborhood library with her mother many years before. This visit and the subsequent tour of the LA Central branch begin Orlean investigating the massive fire at the Central Library in 1986. We learn the fire burned to 2000 degrees, destroyed 500,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. This resulted in the clean-up and repair of books that was meticulous work. Orlean includes library directors going back to 1880 who were instrumental in building the LA Public Library into the seventy-three-branch system it is today. Perhaps most enlightening for me is the social benefits city libraries have offered over the years.
And while who set the fire is still considered unsolved, there was a main suspect with a very interesting story. All the elements of great story-telling!
The audiobook of The Library Book is read by the author.
Adrienne Miller lands at GQ magazine in New York City in the mid-nineties when she is fresh out of college in the Midwest. Her title is literary assistant, but she is still trying to define what that means as she writes her memoir years later. She quickly follows a colleague to Esquire magazine to become the first female literary editor. It is an odd choice (by Esquire and Ms. Miller) given Esquire is a men’s magazine known for its male writers.
Upon arriving at Esquire, Ms. Miller meets David Foster Wallace. They have a personal and professional relationship. He is ten years her senior and while in the telling here, years later, Ms. Miller seems so mature and in control of the situation, I wonder if she was? Ms. Miller is able to retell the events in dialogue form. Was she keeping a journal at the time or is her memory so clear because of the intensity of the relationship? This memoir is a glimpse back in time that now seems so very far away.
The book’s narrator, Zelda, is a young woman living with her older brother, Gert. They are on their own due to the death of their mother and the disappearance of their father. As Sara Hines tells me, you can’t have an adventure if the parents are around! And this book is a modern day adventure.
Zelda’s view of life is through her obsession with Vikings and her processing challenges that are the result of her mother’s abuse of alcohol while she was pregnant with her. I use the term processing challenges because Zelda, with the help of the community center, Gert, Annie and her counselor is growing and developing throughout the book and a diagnosis is never definitively stated. In fact, Gert and Zelda being on their own is what gives Zelda the safe environment she needs to be successful. Their living arrangement before their emancipation was not safe for them.
The adventure in the book results from Gert borrowing money to get an apartment for them. The resulting financial struggles and attempts to get rich quick put Gert and Zelda in a dangerous situation. Zelda would like to use her Viking training to save the day.
I loved the characters, the bond between Gert and Zelda, the secondary characters that helped Zelda and Zelda’s quest to become a legend, just like the Vikings.
If you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, you may enjoy When We Were Vikings
In time for the summer, Jennifer Weiner’s new book, Big Summer has a little of everything. Set on the Outer Cape (with lots of familiar spots) and New York City, Big Summer packs a lot into its pages. Daphne has reached her mid-twenties and is finally making her way as an influencer on social media. Her youth and adolescence had been a challenge with plenty of mean girl and body image pain. She is now gaining professional traction and her self-esteem is growing stronger--that is until her high school nemesis, Drue Cavanaugh, finds her again.