Recommended Reads

My latest November column for The Terrace Standard, was called ‘Tis the Season, but I wasn’t referring to Christmas–oh no. I was referring to it being the exact right time of year for books, for reading. (And of course, I admitted that really books aren’t limited to one season, they’re a year around pleasure, need, addiction, love–you get the picture.

Anyway as is becoming a November tradition for me (November Nesting, Good Reads), just in time for people’s Christmas shopping, I mentioned books that I particularly loved in 2010–or that I’m planning to read/hoping to love in 2011.

I thought it might be fun if I added to that list here a bit, and even more fun if you helped out and added to the list too. It will help us all. Readers will have that many more choices for their next picks, shoppers will have that many more options, and more importantly (hee hee), I will have recommendations that I can take with me on my next trip to the library, Misty River Books or Coles . . . .

I’ll add mine below (please forgive my sparse synopses–I really hate giving spoilers). Please load your responses with lots of titles! πŸ™‚

For mystery or fiction enthusiasts in general:

The Likeness and Faithful Place by Tana French. I love her first novel, In the Woods, too, though some people might find the ending, well, different.

Any of Louise Penny‘s mystery novels, starring Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, though I’d read them in order if possible: The Brutal Telling, The Murder Stone (also titled A Rule Against Murder), The Cruelest Month, A Fatal Grace (also titled Dead Cold), Still Life, and Bury Your Dead.

Novels, novel, novels:

I feel safe recommending any title by Elizabeth Berg, though the ones I’ve read and loved are: The Year of Pleasures, The Art of Mending, Ordinary Life, Open House, Range of Motion, What We Keep, Durable Goods, and her book on writing, Escaping Into the Open.

And you already read Jodi Picoult right? I just finished her latest (or near to latest–she’s prolific. It’s hard to keep up!), House Rules, about a teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome who’s charged with murder. As always, her characters were fascinating and easy to relate to (even when you didn’t want to), as were the issues she raised.

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden is a fictional work, inspired by a real-life WW1 Ojibwa soldier. A haunting read, it isn’t for the faint of heart or for those who can’t abide war stories. Boyden is merciless as he shows the horror and damage inflicted on a generation of young men. However, the book is not without hope and there is beauty in both the character of the protagonist and in the way Boyden explores the power of relationships to soothe and heal.

For younger readers (and for those of us who just love a good story and could care less about the “target market”):

Bitter, Sweet by Laura Best (Yes, I’ve mentioned her before), a historical YA novel set in rural Nova Scotia in the ’40s about a young girl, deserted by her father, then orphaned by the loss of her mother, who struggles to keep her family together.

Ms. Zephyr’s Notebook by kc dyer features Logan Kemp, a rugby freak who’s athletic life is interrupted when he ends up in a hospital fighting for his life, and a girl he befriends (sort of). I read this story with an ESL student (male, age 15, reluctant reader). We both really enjoyed it. Great, believable characters in situations that make you think. Dyer’s writing style in the books is unique too–it sort of feels like a mystery.

kc dyer also just had a new book come out, Facing Fire–another time-travel adventure to join it’s prequel A Walk Through the Window.

Cleavage – Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls, an anthology of short stories that are “hilarious, edgy, comforting, intense” about girls and their relationships with their mothers, their culture, themselves, edited by Deb Loughead & Jocelyn Shipley. Maybe it’s tacky to recommend a book that I have a story in (“My Mom is a Freak”), but I recently reread the collection and was hit again by how fun it is and how important a lot of the issues the stories touch on are. It’s available on Amazon, in bookstores, or, if you want a signed copy for someone’s stocking, through me:


Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath: explore β€œwhy some ideas thrive while others die.” (I said a bit more about this one in my column, linked to above.)

Firstlight by Sue Monk Kidd, a collection of stories and essays from her early writing life, covering all sorts of topics that never stop throwing us for loops regardless of how we age and “mature”: motherhood, childhood, marriage, spirituality (as it’s mixed into regular life–and as it sometimes transcends regular life).

I first discovered Kidd through her novels, The Mermaid Chair and The Secret Life of Bees. They are amazing, completely engrossing and wonderful–read them first, actually, then when you’re a fan, pick up Firstlight.

The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30) by Mark Bauerlein. I confess I’m only recommending this book, because my 23-year-old brother loved it so much. I found it preachy, poorly written and, well, completely unconvincing. Bauerlien’s problem is not with the intellect of today’s young people (he admits, in fact, that they’re just as intelligent, if not more intelligent, than youth from days gone by), it’s with their failure to be where he feels they should be (in terms of success, motivation in the workplace, interest in politics, etc)—

GAH! I will break off here, before I start a full on rant, but not before I say I guess I do recommend the book on my own behalf. It’s good to argue, to have to think through what you really believe, to confront attitudes you feel are at best, illogically founded, at worst, detrimental to society. Let me know if you read it–especially if you agree with it. I’d love to argue about it. πŸ˜‰

Okay, that’s it for now. I will be back when I have more time–to see what you all say to put on the shelf and to add more titles myself.

6 thoughts on “Recommended Reads

  1. what a list, Ev! There is much on it for me to explore!
    I’ve read Bitter, Sweet πŸ™‚ and otherwise the only author I’ver read is Boydon, but not that one. I read through black spruce and it is honestly one of my all time favorites. I’ve just been told it’s quite heavy and I haven’t been ready to venture there yet. As for me, well I’m still doing a lot of postpartum reads. Just finished the Scarlet Contessa (great historical fiction), The Sweetness at the bottom of the pie and its sequel, the book of tomorrow (cecilia ahern)…see what I mean….fun reads, light reads. And an presently reading YA author Cassandra clare (although finding it kind of weak, shhhh) and On Writing.

    That ever growing list….

    If I had one book to recommend that I read this last year: THE Gargoyle (although I have a love hate relationship with it, it’s a very astounding novel).


  2. I’m glad you liked the list, Jennifer! πŸ™‚ And thank you for your recommendation. I’ve intended to read The Gargoyle, for some time (just the cover pulled me in!) and “astounding” and your “love/hate” has sold me. I love books that conflict me. I’ll try to pick it up the beginning of the year.

    I read Alan Bradley’s The Sweetness at the Bottom of The Pie this year too and LOVED IT. His young snip of a sleuth Flavia de Luce is fantastic. I wish I’d remembered to add it myself.

    And re: “I’m still doing a lot of postpartum reads . . .see what I mean . . .fun reads, light reads.” I do see what you mean. πŸ˜‰ And I’m going to keep those titles in mind . . . Postpartum or NOT :D, the world weighs heavy sometimes and having a reserve of books that dwell on lighter things is always a good thing.

    Happy reading while you snuggle your sleeping/eating/hopefully sleeping little one!


  3. Ah Ev, how sweet of you to mention my book. πŸ™‚

    Recently I’ve been reading young adult, for obvious reasons,but I expect that I’ll get back to reading for grown-ups when the time feels right. LOL!
    I really liked Jill MacLean’s, “The Present Tense of Prinny Murphy,” this year and now her new book, “Home Truths” is on my reading list for the new year. To top it all off she’s a super sweet person and that never hurts. You should know πŸ™‚


  4. Terrific compilation, Ev. It makes me want to print it out and stick it up on the wall. If only my reading list weren’t already so unmanageable!

    This year I loved ‘The Secret History’ by Donna Tartt most of all. I’m going to have to go through my list of books read and figure out what else I can recommend.


  5. Jen, I hear you on the unmangeable to-read list! But it’s such a nice thing to have no control over. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

    And while we’re on the subject of to be read mountains, I forgot about The Secret History by Donna Tartt. You recommended it to me before. I’m bumping it up to January’s stack. πŸ˜‰


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