The Shell Seekers

The Shell Seekers

“This is one of my all-time favorites, for the beauty of the story, and the beauty in the language and writing. A breath-taking story of the pull and tugs of family with those who take and those who give. Loved this one.”   I wrote the lines above on Goodreads soon after I read The Shell Seekers the first time. Last week, I wrote a full recommendation at GreatNewBooks.org, which I’m adding below. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. It’s one of my favorite books, which as of this spring is now out in trade paperback on a fresh release — a perfect time to pick one up to read before summer’s end. The Shell Seekers Every once in a long while, a novel comes out on shelves that stays in the hearts and minds of readers so that they feel, once they’ve turned the final page, as if they MUST recommend it to their friends, their postman, their friends and neighbors – everyone they know. One book like that for me is one I picked up at a used bookstore fifteen years ago on a whim, because the bookseller recommended it. That book is The Shell Seekers. I’ve carried that same copy, an original edition hardback missing the dust jacket, around with me for the past few days. It is an old book, and though our site is called Great NEW Books, sometimes we feature a book that’s a bit different than our other recommendations. Always, though, we share only books that we authentically love. This past spring, when...
The Nightingale: a New Book, a Must-Read

The Nightingale: a New Book, a Must-Read

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars   It’s rare to find a book I know I have to share, one which has a combination of story and words and character which pulls me in so deeply that it’s impossible to stop reading until the last page is turned. Some books I enjoy are more artistic and don’t draw a large readership, but the rare gems are the ones which are complex and have depth and are accessible and enjoyable for many readers. My book recommendation this time is widely read (thousands of reviews on major book sites), fairly new (still in hardcover), and topping the bestseller lists, and there’s a good reason why—the book is fantastic from every angle, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. When I first heard of The Nightingale, I thought I’d read similar World War II based books and grown weary of them, but a few weeks later, I bought it because I heard it is about these three words: the women’s war. That, I love. The Nightingale is the most sweeping account I’ve read of World War II France, and Hannah’s focus on two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, is what makes the novel unforgettable. To read more about why I loved The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, visit my post at GreatNewBooks.org, a book recommendation site I lead and run with 9 other writing and book-loving friends....
We Are Called to Rise

We Are Called to Rise

We never know how high we are Till we are called to rise; And then, if we are true to plan, Our statures touch the skies—  -Emily Dickinson A few weeks back, I read We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride. After I turned the final page, I wrote this at Goodreads (where I keep track of books): An uncomfortable yet redemptive story of loss that is so powerful, I could not set the book down. Books like We Are Called to Rise are the reason why I love to read. I will be recommending it at GreatNewBooks.org in the next month. A beautiful story. My recommendation goes up today at GreatNewBooks.org: When I noticed We Are Called to Rise, Laura McBride’s debut novel, I heard the words “dazzling” and “unforgettable” and “tender,” and knew I wanted to read it. But then at the bookstore, I read the book jacket summary, shut the book, and placed it back on the shelf. It sounded too sad, too heartbreaking for me. But weeks passed, and a few more friends raved about it, and I returned, pulled it back off the shelf, and brought it home. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. The story is told through the eyes of many characters—a housewife on the brink of divorce, an eight-year-old child whose immigrant family struggles to have money to buy food, an Iraq veteran who has gone too far, and a child’s services volunteer working to put lives back together. As their stories weave and their lives intersect, the suspense for how it comes together builds, and the pages simply...
11 Favorite Quotes from Classic Literature

11 Favorite Quotes from Classic Literature

 On art and literature: “A great deal has been written about art, but only recently has research begun in earnest about what goes on in the mind and brain when reading literature.” – K. Oatley & M. Dijikic in the New York Times, 12/21/14   One of my annual goals is to read. I find if I don’t set a goal, I don’t make reading a priority, and I don’t read. And since reading great books is one of my greatest enjoyments, I make the time to read. Like the number of miles I hope to run on the elliptical in a year to stay in good health, I set a book goal. Each year since 2010, I’ve set the goal at 50 books. I’m on my 56th and 57th right now. But for 2014, I decided I wanted to enhance those 50 by reading several classics I’ve always heard about, thought sounded intriguing, but had never read. Reading and great books open doors to a better world, and reading helps us to become more fully ourselves. I read an excellent article in the New York Times this past week on how reading transforms us. I love to read, and really enjoyed many of the books I read this year (link to my favorites of 2014, and at Great New Books). But the classics I read surprised me. They’re brimming with beauty. 11 Favorite Quotes from Classic Literature (I’ve read this year) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner This is my favorite title of all books, and it’s because of the title I wanted to read The...
My 5 Favorite Books of 2014

My 5 Favorite Books of 2014

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free. —Frederick Douglass   Given my love of reading and books, I read a lot. Daily, while on the elliptical, in the car pickup line, before bed– and when I’m in the middle of a book I can’t put down, I read and read and walk around with my book, stirring pots of food for my family’s dinner, reading and reading until I can finally turn the last page. As the years go by, I’m reading a greater variety of books, and, inspired by my friend Nina Badzin, have been setting reading goals for myself for at least the past 5 years. For 2014, 50 books, which I reached a while back. Next year, I’m vowing to read more. Why? Because I strongly believe that books help us to grow, to understand others, to walk around in others’ shoes for a while and see the world through their eyes. That, over movies and other forms of immediate entertainment, is what makes novels, and books, special. They let us enter the head of another person and experience their world, their choices, their motivations. These literary experiences make life richer, fuller, and open doors, I believe, to a better world. It’s true. I have some definite favorites. I find many of the books I want to read from multiple book resources: Goodreads, Shelf Awareness, GreatNewBooks.org, Twitter, and through reading friends whose opinion and taste I get and trust. My 5 Favorite Books of 2014 #1: ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr I picked this book up for the gorgeous...
Station Eleven, one of my favorite books of 2014

Station Eleven, one of my favorite books of 2014

 “She tried to imagine and place herself in that other, shadow life. You walk into a room and flip a switch and the room fills with light. … When you’re in danger, you call for the police. Hot water pours from faucets. Lift a receiver or press a button on a telephone, and you can speak to anyone. All of the information in the world is on the Internet, and the Internet is all around you, drifting through the air like pollen on a summer breeze.” – Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel   Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel   It doesn’t happen often, in our world engaged with more sensational news, but when books splash the headlines, I try to sit up and pay attention. In this case, the National Book Award lists came out with Emily St. John Mandel’s recent novel Station Eleven on the shortlist for fiction.  I’ve never been one quick to pick up apocalyptic plots or science fiction, but Station Eleven is more than typical sci-fi. The summary mentions “a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.” Risking everything for art and humanity hooked me. I bought the book, and, like the best books, I couldn’t stop reading. Through the skill of the author, the story flows between the experiences of a handful of characters before and after a global flu pandemic. And in what must be a clash of timing, Station Eleven strikes a hauntingly familiar chord to the recent wave of Ebola sweeping our world. The book is...
The Republic of Imagination: A Book Recommendation

The Republic of Imagination: A Book Recommendation

“The American dream?” Later, I added: “The way we view fiction is a reflection of how we define ourselves as a nation. Works of the imagination are canaries in the coal mine, the measure by which we can evaluate the health of the rest of society.” -Azar Nafisi, The Republic of Imagination, page 13   When I heard about The Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi, on the power and importance of fiction and written by the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, I knew I needed to read it. It’s not that I can pinpoint why, but that I’ve always believed books help to change the world for the better. That’s why I helped found and lead the book recommendation site Great New Books, why I read stacks of books each year, and why I choose to write, especially fiction. But it’s an illusive argument, or so I’ve always thought. Just how does fiction (and more widely, books) help improve our lives, and the world? In The Republic of Imagination, Azar Nafisi introduces three essential books by American authors which she believes help define American fiction, and talks about them in the text. The 3 Books The first: Mark Twain and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Nafisi talks about the main character, Huck, and his friend Jim as being in the lowest rank of society, and yet by the end of the book, Huck demonstrates through his decisions a moral victory over the others in the book. The second: Sinclair Lewis and Babbitt A social satire which shows that the enemy of our time is a standardized mind,...
15 Favorite Quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt

15 Favorite Quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt

“Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.‘” -Eleanor Roosevelt   Who Is Eleanor Roosevelt? Best known as the wife of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt served the longest term as First Lady of the United States during her husband’s four terms in office, 1933 – 1945. But there was much more to Eleanor than being a wife in the public eye. She was a woman who helped write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, worked as a delegate at the United Nations, and served on the Kennedy Administration. She was a woman like no other. I have long admired her and read a biography years ago–I think my admiration for her started when I attended an elementary school named for her. I love her vision, her adventurousness, her values and fearlessness. About a month ago, I began reading her memoir, YOU LEARN BY LIVING: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life. Though a bit slow at the start, it’s been a book I’ve read with pen in hand, to underline and make notes. Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom is fresh and crisp, as if she were sitting beside me as I read, letting the years of her influence and learning seep through the decades which separate us. 15 Favorite Quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt We are the sum total of all the choices we have made.   On Books I remember when my husband always had money to buy a new and fascinating first edition of a book, but he would frequently answer a protest of...
5 Books to Pick Up and Love

5 Books to Pick Up and Love

I love to read, and have been reading a lot lately … books of all types. Classics, memoir, historical and contemporary literary fiction. I haven’t written about books I’ve loved lately, so this week, as I’m the team member at GreatNewBooks.org this week to recommend a book, I’m including 4 more here to make 5. 5 Books to Pick Up and Love Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger I’m recommending Ordinary Grace at GreatNewBooks.org this week. I truly loved it. Here is a clip of the post which will go live on Wednesday, Sept. 10. Last spring, when one of my friends clasped her hand over mine and said, in a reverent tone, “Have you read Ordinary Grace?”, I knew I had to read it and that it would be a book I would love. I love authentic book recommendations. It’s what the 9 of us on the GreatNewBooks team want our book recommendations to be, ones which are original and true, ones not biased by receiving free books to help promote, but ones which are based on books we’ve found in other ways, books we genuinely love and want to share here. Authentic. Authentic, also, is the first word which comes to mind to describe the book Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Ordinary Grace is set in a Midwestern small town in the 1960s, as seen through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Frank Drum. His world revolves around root beer floats at the drugstore, baseball games in the dirt lot and on the radio, and passing time down along the trestle bridge (where they aren’t supposed to be),...
20 Minutes a Night: Why Reading is Important

20 Minutes a Night: Why Reading is Important

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” – James Baldwin   It’s back-to-school time at my house, which means 3 new grades in school, 3 sets of new teachers, and 3 open houses / curriculum nights. This year, my sons are in 10th, 8th, and 6th grades. They’re past the elementary years of education in the US, but this year, one of the teacher’s slides on reading caught my eye. I want to share it here. 20 Minutes a Night: Why Reading is Important In the early years, when my oldest son was learning to read, my husband and I felt like we were on an exponential learning curve. Neither of us are teachers, nor do we have backgrounds in education. When it came time for kindergarten, and then 1st grade, both of us had much to learn on the finer points of helping our child–and then children–to read in the new systems in place at schools. Every night, we sat with our son, and then sons, and read the primers sent home from school, from the five page booklets to Henry and Mudge, and then more difficult chapter books, etc. Everything was new: listening for the cues, waiting them to self-correct, listening for them to show they understand what they’ve read, and so on. I’m certainly not a reading specialist, nor a teacher,...