Debbie reads fiction and memoir almost exclusively. She has a special place in her heart for short stories and personal essays, as well as books on writing.
Pachinko is an engrossing, sprawling family saga that had me gasping aloud as its wrenching plot unfolded. This historically illuminating novel spans 70 years in Korea and Japan and is a beautifully crafted story of love, loss, determination, luck and perseverance.
If you enjoyed Olive Kittredge, you'll be pleased with this new collection of linked short stories, where a score of major and minor characters are drawn in rich, honest detail. What they have in common is that they are current or former residents of a Northern Illinois community . . . and that the intricacies and the intimacies of their inner and public lives are laid completely bare.
Reading this, I continually felt on the edge of a discovery -- and certainly a dark one. Linda, a lonely 14 year-old raised on the property of her parent's failed commune, struggles to fit in in the isolated Minnesota town where she's always been considered someone to scorn, fear, or pity. I was struck over and over by Linda's point-of-view, by the wonder and instruction she found in the woods and in her family dogs. Fridlund's non-chronological structure intensifies the mood and deftly reveals how the trajectory of Linda's life is affected by two pivotal events in her 14th year....
Lillian Boxfish is a complex, witty, intelligent character full of pluck and passion, inspired by the life of a real woman, the brilliant Margaret Fishback. The story unfolds as Lillian takes a walk around NYC on New Year's Eve in 1984, reflecting on her life as one of the most talented and successful ad women for R.H. Macy’s in the 1930s. Rooney did meticulous research and crafted a story about a fictional Margaret, a keen observer and an inveterate punster and word painter, even in her own head. This is a standout book in the quality of its writing, its creation of a fascinating character, and its evocation of the ever-changing life of 20th-century Manhattan.
Grab this book immediately if you’re in the mood for a read that’s smart and well-done, but especially if you’re a foodie, spent some of your young adult life in NYC, and/or have worked in a restaurant. Danler nails the nitty-gritty details of that world with lovely, poetic flair and unexpected insight.
The impact of a lie, the power of friendship, coping with a bully, and the need to look beyond someone’s outward appearance are all explored here. This is a profound book about what matters in life, the lines between truth, lies and judgments, and doing what is right. Gorgeous prose throughout-- complicated, precise and full of beauty.
An extraordinary story collection full of unexpected moments. Charlies Baxter says it perfectly: "The stories are energetic, often mysterious, and beautifully written, and they will stay in your memory long after you finish the book."
An intelligent look at the pleasures and possibilities of remainaing single, this memoir explores the lives of five unconventional women of the past and how a modern-day feminist looks to them for inspiration.
My favorite short story collection of the year.
Forty-six stories in all, far and away the most comprehensive volume in her long career, showcasing her crisp, elegant prose, her dark wit, and her uncanny ability to illuminate our world through characters and situations that feel at once peculiar and foreign and disturbingly familiar. Virtually all American writers have their favorite Joy Williams stories, as do many readers of all ages, and each one of them is available here.
"To read Joy Williams is to be arrested in a state of relentless awe and wonderment. . . . [Her] preternatural intelligence, coupled with a scorching wit and an inability to bore or commit an unoriginal thought to the page, has made her a cult hero. . . Why we aren’t worshipping Joy Williams in public squares is beyond me. With this collection we should be." —Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
In this wonderfully concise book, Adiche explains why we should all be feminists from every angle, complete with fabulous examples of her experiences out and about in the modern world that show the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that gender inequality still impacts all of us.
This brilliant, gut-wrenching coming-of-age novel deftly portrays a 14-year-old coping with her beloved Uncle Finn’s death from AIDS, in 1980s New York. June is a fabulously quirky, wise and contemplative character that you won't soon forget.
There are many kinds of love and this story lays bare some of the complex, less-discussed nuances
In the summer of 1974, six teenagers meet at an artsy summer camp and become fast friends. The book charts their lives over several decades exploring the gap between promise and genuine talent, the bonds and strains of long friendships, and the journey from youth to middle age, with all its compromises, secrets, lies, and disparities.
Both a moving picture of Irish life in the late 1960’s, and a powerfully observed story of a woman’s transformation after the death of her husband. The lovely prose is sometimes purposefully sparse, with more going on between the lines than written on the page.
This is a wonderful collection of essays (all by women) that touch on consumerism and identity, relationships, love, and loss. These women contemplate their experiences with shopping in lovely, unexpected, smart, fun, and complicated ways.
Competitive siblings, parental love, commitment to belief and family, these are the topics of my favorite book by Lahiri since Interpreter of Maladies. Follow the lives of two Indian brothers--one serious cautious and reliable, the other brash, impassioned and rebellious, but who both excel in their studies. The cautious one goes to America to study chemistry while the rebellious one experiences a life-altering political awakening during the 1960's time of international protest--the fallout of which alters the lives of all of the characters. This is a magnificent, universal and indelible novel!
A spectacular story of love, frustration, selfish intent, and the patience of the human heart. Jess Walter's mix of pathos and comedy makes for a compelling, fun read.
This is a fast and fun read. It's a lighthearted book with humor, a bit of mystery and intrigue, and likeable characters. Its themes include "old technology" versus "new technology", the lure of the book, and the value of human interactions in an age of computers and machines. Robin Sloan has a great gift for storytelling and a cast of brilliant, eccentric characters.
This cookbook is fun! These mini pies, both sweet and savory, are just perfect! If you stress over making a successful pie crust, these mini pies are forgiving--and you have a dozen chances to practice. Several of the pies can be frozen and are delicious re-heated. There are more than 40 recipes, each one certain to please someone you know.
Science journalist Florence Williams has written a wonderful history, stretching across hundreds of millions of years, of an astonishingly complex part of the human body. Williams weaves together research on nutrition, cancer, psychology, and even structural engineering to create a fascinating portrait of the breast. Her book can be characterized as an exposé because it unveils the scandalously scanty amount of research devoted to those that define the very essence of the human race. To be sure, Williams covers all the cultural and anthropological information that the mostly male scientific—and not-so-scientific—community has gathered about what is euphemistically referred to as second base. And she goes much further, elucidating the primary purpose of the female breast and how breasts alter at each stage of a woman’s life, then venturing into breast enlargements, the chemistry of breast milk, how breasts are evolving, and how little we know about the effects of environmental toxins and the rise in breast cancer. Meant to nurture the next generation for life on planet earth, breasts are also humanity’s first responders to environmental changes. And what have modern-day chemical exposures wrought? The answers to this question and many more are found in Williams’ remarkably informative and compelling work of discovery. If you enjoyed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, you should read this!
This is a fabulous young adult novel that manages to capture the tender, honest (and rare) friendship between a boy and girl on the brink of adolescence. A twelve-year-old Indian immigrant in New York City and a Kentucky coal miner's son become pen pals, and eventually best friends, through a series of revealing letters exploring such topics as environmental activism, immigration, and racism.
Jad Abumrad, host and creator of the public radio hit Radiolab, reviews the book perfectly:
Honestly, I can't imagine a better tale.
A detective story that's at once mythically large and painfully intimate.
Just the simple facts are hard to believe: that in 1951, a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks dies of cervical cancer, but pieces of the tumor that killed her--taken without her knowledge or consent--live on, first in one lab, then in hundreds, then thousands, then in giant factories churning out polio vaccines, then aboard rocket ships launched into space. The cells from this one tumor would spawn a multi-billion dollar industry and become a foundation of modern science--leading to breakthroughs in gene mapping, cloning and fertility and helping to discover how viruses work and how cancer develops (among a million other things).
But what's truly remarkable about Rebecca Skloot's book is that we also get the rest of the story, the part that could have easily remained hidden had she not spent ten years unearthing it: Who was Henrietta Lacks? How did she live? How she did die? Did her family know that she'd become, in some sense, immortal, and how did that affect them? These are crucial questions, because science should never forget the people who gave it life. And so, what unfolds is not only a reporting tour de force but also a very entertaining account of Henrietta, her ancestors, her cells and the scientists who grew them.
The book ultimately channels its journey of discovery though Henrietta's youngest daughter, Deborah, who never knew her mother, and who dreamt of one day being a scientist.
A searing account of a father's struggle to save his remarkable son, a story of a young boy’s passion for life, and a tribute to his family’s love. It is also a story of the perils of modern medicine and the redemptive power of art in the face of the unthinkable.