Also loved by editors of New York Times Book Review – I’ve picked a few from this list!

When I listed the 10 Best Books from The New York Times, I meant to include the extra list of other books the editors loved. These books didn’t make the editors’ top ten, but they highly recommended them. I’d actually heard of some of these! All links and descriptions are from Amazon, unless otherwise noted.

The Magician by Colm Toibin
From one of today’s most brilliant and beloved novelists, a dazzling, epic family saga set across a half-century spanning World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II, and the Cold War. Note from me: this one’s about Thomas Mann, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929 and is the author of The Magic Mountain, a book I read in college and would like to read again.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Once in a great while, a book comes along that changes our view of the world. This magnificent novel from the Nobel laureate and author of Never Let Me Go is “an intriguing take on how artificial intelligence might play a role in our futures … a poignant meditation on love and loneliness” (The Associated Press).

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
“A visceral full-body experience, a sharp jolt to the heart, and a treat for the senses…Cosby’s moody southern thriller marries the skillful action and plotting of Lee Child with the atmosphere and insight of Attica Locke.” —NPR

Wayward by Dana Spioda
A “furious and addictive new novel” (The New York Times) about mothers and daughters, and one woman’s midlife reckoning as she flees her suburban life.

Dirty Work by Eyal Press
A groundbreaking, urgent report from the front lines of “dirty work”―the work that society considers essential but morally compromised.

Beautiful World Where Are You by Sally Rooney
A new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends.

The Life of the Mind by Christine Smallwood
A witty, intelligent novel of an American woman on the edge, by a brilliant new voice in fiction—“the glorious love child of Ottessa Moshfegh and Sally Rooney” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).

Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
Jonathan Franzen’s gift for wedding depth and vividness of character with breadth of social vision has never been more dazzlingly evident than in Crossroads. Note from me: I remember reading The Corrections a long time ago for my book club, but I haven’t read anything else by Franzen.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.
A singular and stunning debut novel about the forbidden union between two enslaved young men on a Deep South plantation, the refuge they find in each other, and a betrayal that threatens their existence.

Our Country Friends by Gary Shteyngart
Eight friends, one country house, and six months in isolation—a novel about love, friendship, family, and betrayal hailed as a “virtuoso performance” (USA Today) and “an homage to Chekhov with four romances and a finale that will break your heart” (The Washington Post).

It’s interesting to me that there’s only one nonfiction on this list, Dirty Work. I might want to read that, but also on my list of potential reads would be The Magician, Razorblade Tears, and Crossroads. What would you like to read? Leave a comment!

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The 10 Best Books of 2021 from The New York Times

Yesterday I watched a live stream of The 10 Best Books of 2021 from The New York Times. It was so fun! Presented by the editors of The New York Times Book Review, each chose their favorites and talked about how these five fiction and five nonfiction books made the list. I enjoyed seeing the faces of the reviewers and hearing them talk. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of loaded book cases in the backgrounds! There was a Zoom afterparty and I checked in for a minute, but I didn’t have time to stay long. I wished I had because the editors were holding an open discussion of the books, plus they invited viewers to talk about their own favorites.

Although I haven’t read any of these, I’ve already reserved copies of many from the library, so look out for future reviews!

All links, blurbs and quotes are from Amazon.

FICTION

How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

A fearless young woman from a small African village starts a revolution against an American oil company in this sweeping, inspiring novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Behold the Dreamers.

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

A novel from the author of A Separation, an electrifying story about a woman caught between many truths.

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamin Labatut

A fictional examination of the lives of real-life scientists and thinkers whose discoveries resulted in moral consequences beyond their imagining.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeferrs

“A vibrant and tender coming-of-age novel. Ailey Pearl Garfield is a young girl reckoning with what it means to be a Black woman in America.” – Time

No One Is Talking about This by Patricia Lockwood

From “a formidably gifted writer” (The New York Times Book Review), a book that asks: Is there life after the internet?

NONFICTION

Red Comet by Heather Clark

The highly anticipated biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman behind the long-held myths about her life and art.

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith

Beginning in his hometown of New Orleans, Clint Smith leads the reader on an unforgettable tour of monuments and landmarks—those that are honest about the past and those that are not—that offer an intergenerational story of how slavery has been central in shaping our nation’s collective history, and ourselves.

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native.

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott

“Destined to become one of the classics of the genre” (Newsweek), the riveting, unforgettable story of a girl whose indomitable spirit is tested by homelessness, poverty, and racism in an unequal America—from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliott of The New York Times

The Copenhagen Trilogy: Childhood; Youth; Dependency by Tove Ditlevsen

Called “a masterpiece” by The New York Times, the acclaimed trilogy from Tove Ditlevsen, a pioneer in the field of genre-bending confessional writing.

Have you read any of these books? Which ones would you like to read? To start, I’d like to read How Beautiful We Were, Intimacies, No One Is Talking about This, Red Comet, Invisible Child and The Copenhagen Trilogy.

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Books on my radar – a growing TBR list!

Last week I wrote about Likewise, an app designed to recommend books, podcasts, TV shows and movies. Today I tried it out and came up with these titles to add to my TBR list. A general comment about the app: the more books you recommend, the more refined the results. Using it for the first time was a little tough because the book suggestions they gave me were based on the sixteen books I said I liked. I had to do a little work to find the titles below, but I’m happy with the list. I did plenty of recommending as I went along and that generated better suggestions.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2012)

Finalist for the 2012 National Book Award

On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In a New Jersey laundry room, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses.

In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, these stories lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”

Normal People by Sally Rooney (2019)

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town, but the similarities end there. At school, Connell is popular and well liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation—awkward but electrifying—something life changing begins.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Normal People is the story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find that they can’t.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (2021)

Where do you see yourself in five years? Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers. She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.

But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby (2020)

A husband, a father, a son, a business owner…And the best getaway driver east of the Mississippi.

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic, a loving husband, and a hard-working dad. Bug knows there’s no future in the man he used to be: known from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida as the best wheelman on the East Coast.

He thought he’d left all that behind him, but as his carefully built new life begins to crumble, he finds himself drawn inexorably back into a world of blood and bullets. When a smooth-talking former associate comes calling with a can’t-miss jewelry store heist, Bug feels he has no choice but to get back in the driver’s seat. And Bug is at his best where the scent of gasoline mixes with the smell of fear.

Haunted by the ghost of who he used to be and the father who disappeared when he needed him most, Bug must find a way to navigate this blacktop wasteland…or die trying.

Like Ocean’s Eleven meets Drive, with a Southern noir twist, S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is a searing, operatic story of a man pushed to his limits by poverty, race, and his own former life of crime.

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (2012)

Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce?

It’s the early 1980s. In American colleges, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes—the charismatic and intense Leonard Bankhead, and her old friend the mystically inclined Mitchell Grammaticus. As all three of them face life in the real world they will have to reevaluate everything they have learned. Jeffrey Eugenides creates a new kind of contemporary love story in “his most powerful novel yet” (Newsweek).

(Book blurbs from Amazon)

Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your list? Leave a comment!

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Likewise app – recommending books, movies, TV shows, podcasts and more!

Yesterday my work friend S. told me she uses the Likewise app to find new book recommendations. She’s always up on the best new books to read, so I thought I’d give it a try too. I downloaded it to my phone and tonight I discovered you can also log in online.

How does it work? Well I’m a newbie, but when I downloaded the app, I entered my favorite books, TV shows/movies to give the app a base for future recommendations. That was fun! Now they know what I like and the more I use it and rate what I’ve read or watched, the more precise their future recommendations will be. The app is ad-free, by the way. Let’s hope I don’t start seeing ads related to my preferences everywhere else, but I warn you, that’s already happened to me on Twitter after merely talking about a product with my phone in the room. I swear the ad people are listening to me talk!

I did a little research on the company and guess what? It was founded/funded in 2018 by Bill Gates. (Read more about that here.) You may already know Bill Gates is a big reader. He even has a book blog called GatesNotes. Yes, like many of us, he also writes book reviews! (Note: you may notice that the app says it’s been around 12+ years. Not sure what that means, but maybe there was a beta version out there first.)

Likewise has a lot going on. Besides recommendations, there’s a blog and also a social media element, so users can follow, be followed and interact. There’s also an “Ask” section, which posts recent questions. Users who subscribe to streaming services can download their saved Likewise watchlists directly to their TVs so their shows are all in one place. I’m not much of a streamer, so I don’t think I would use that feature.

A few years ago, I tried out another app, Litsy. It was fun for a while, but my interest in it petered out over time and I deleted the app. Likewise looks a lot better than Litsy and both the app and the online versions are clean and easy-to-navigate. I’m not sure if it’s available everywhere, however. The 2018 article said it’s only available in the US and Canada. That may have changed.

I will enjoy looking for book recommendations, but, like I am on Goodreads, I will probably just be a passive user. I don’t think I could handle another social media platform!

So check it out if you’re interested. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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You’ve seen the books in my bag, now see what everyone else is reading!

I received a lot of great comments and book suggestions on my recent post about summer reading. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read and comment. Now’s the time to see what everyone else is reading!

Baydreamer – check out Lauren’s musings and creative writing. A big fan of Elin Hilderbrand, she just finished Troubles in Paradise.

Cathy at 746 Books – follow Cathy as she works through the 746 books on her shelf and her 20 Books of Summer challenge, including Like Life by Lorrie Moore and Little by Edward Carey.

D. Wallace Peach – Myths of the Mirror – Take a look at Diana’s recent reviews, including Eternal Road by John Howell and Wings & Fire by Dan Alatorre.

Derrick J Knight – Derrick is working through his Charles Dickens collection this summer. Derek’s blog shares photos of excursions with his wife, Jackie and scenes from their garden. He’s currently reading Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.

Jill Weatherholt is one of the most supportive and enthusiastic bloggers I know. She’s also the author of inspirational romance and recently reviewed Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary by Pamela Wight.

Jacqui Murray’s World Dreams – Jacqui gave this courtroom drama 5 stars: A Matter of Life and Death by Philip Margolin.

Jan M. Flynn’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals and anthologies. She blogs about writing, teaching, current events and life. She’s currently listening to The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee and reading Chosen by a Horse by Susan Richards.

LA at Waking up on the Wrong Side of 50  – read LA’s posts on a wide variety of thought-provoking topics. Heading on vacation, she’s packed her bag with The Guncle by Steven Rowley, People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, and The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren.

The Light Behind the Story – Alethea Kehas is an author, poet, reader, yoga instructor and proponent of a better world. She writes about meditation, mindfulness and nature and is a frequent commenter on my book review posts.

Lynette d’Arty Cross is a super supportive blogger over at In the Net! – Pictures and Stories of Life and shares her bookish thoughts in her comments on my blog. She’s interested in reading The Fox and I, a book I want to read.

Marian Beaman – Plain and Fancy – Marian’s love of books began as a young girl. Like Jill Weatherholt, Marian recently reviewed Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary by Pamela Wight.

Parenting is Funny – the Blog of Author Betsy Kereks – Betsy has a great parenting blog. When she’s not herding her kids, she’s listening to Malcolm Gladwell on YouTube.

Priscilla Bettis is a reader and author. She’s looking forward to reading My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones, to be published August 31, 2021.

Roberta Writes is a creative writing blog for Robbie Cheadle, a South African writer specializing in historical, paranormal and horror novels and short stories. She recently reviewed Weathering Old Souls by James J. Cudney & Didi Oviatt.

Stephanie’s Book Reviews – I enjoy reading Stephanie’s thoughts on these and many other books. She just finished On the Way to the Wedding by Julia Quinn and The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish.

I hope you will pay these terrific bloggers a visit. Will you add any of their recent reads to your list?

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Book Club Mom’s Best Reads of 2020

Happy New Year Everyone! I’m all for saying goodbye to 2020, but it’s always good to remember the positives that occurred this past year too. In my case, I read a lot of great books! Today I’m sharing the best of the best.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles 

You by Caroline Kepnes

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

A Mother for His Twins by Jill Weatherholt

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Howard Hughes: The Untold Story by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

A Hero of France by Alan Furst

Yellow Door by C. Faherty Brown

Members Only by Sameer Pandya

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Near Prospect Park by Lawrence H. Levy

Sadie by Courtney Summers

It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way by Mary Rowen

The Raft by S. A. Bodeen

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

I already have some good books lined up for 2021 – how about you?

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Book Club Mom’s Top 15 All-Time Favorite Books

The problem with having a Top 10 book list is that over time it’s impossible to keep the number at 10. I’ve left it that way for a few years, but it’s time for an update. So to accommodate some of the great books I’ve recently read, here is my new list, in alphabetical order.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk

Do you have a Top 10 List (or a Top 15 or Top 20)? Leave a link in the comments and I’ll pop over and say hello!

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How to make a good book list – visit your library!

I’m surrounded by books at my library job and, as I travel through the stacks, I’m inspired by the many books on display. I also do a lot of book talking with my work friends and with people who come up to the desk. Yesterday, I walked over two miles and the sights were good!  Here’s a list of the books I’ve seen or heard about during my recent travels.

Take a look and be sure to check out the linked reviews by our fellow WordPress bloggers – it’s a great way to connect with readers!


Fiction

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – reviewed by HappymessHappiness
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – reviewed by Bookshelf Fantasies
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate – reviewed by Traveling with T
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata – reviewed by Cover to Cover
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reis – reviewed by Jenna Bookish

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – reviewed by Dressed to Read
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders – reviewed by Hannah and Her Books
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – reviewed by Ally Writes Things
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward – reviewed by By the Book Reviews
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson – reviewed by BooksPlease

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – reviewed by Simone and Her Books
The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn – reviewed by Angie Dokos
There There by Tommy Orange – reviewed by I’ve Read This
When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger – reviewed by Rainy Days and Mondays
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – reviewed by Fictionophile

Nonfiction

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery – reviewed by Shelf Love
Hunger by Roxane Gay – reviewed by Taking on a World of Words
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren – reviewed by Kavish and Books

I’ll be reading Lab Girl for my book club and I know I’ll get to the rest one day – just a matter of time! What are you reading right now? What do you recommend?

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Book Club Mom’s top reads of 2018

Image: Pixabay

Today is the perfect day to look back on the best books I read in 2018. Who can resist a list? Here are Book Club Mom’s 5-bookmark reads:


Days Without End by Sebastian Barry – 2/4/18

Thomas McNulty and John Cole are just boys in the 1840s when they meet under a hedge in a Missouri rainstorm. A strong friendship develops during their early days and later as soldiers in the Indian and Civil Wars. Questions of morality, faith, and fate run through this poetic narrative. It’s an impressive feat that a writer can take a piece of ugly American history and throw a moving balance between love, friendship, honor and duty and the brutal violence that comes with following orders.


Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt – 6/13/18

Sometimes you need a feel-good book, a story in which realistic characters face many challenges, but are able to overcome them through love and faith. That’s what you get in Second Chance Romance by Jill Weatherholt, a wonderful inspirational romance that promises just what the title suggests.


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – 7/25/18

Classic children’s books don’t get any better than this story about a spoiled, but frail and lonely ten-year-old orphan girl, sent to live on a vast English moorland manor, with a reclusive uncle she has never met. In a delightful transformation, fresh air, exercise, surprise friendships, returned health and the newfound wonders of a secret and neglected garden are the springtime magic that brings Mary Lennox and her new family together.


Andy Warhol Was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb – 8/18/18

Excellent collection of mini biographies of twelve famous personalities and a look at their known or likely battles with mental illness. In addition to a compassionate explanation of the problems these entertainers, artists, musicians, leaders, writers and groundbreakers suffered, Kalb wonders how many would have fared had they been accurately diagnosed and treated with modern methods.


The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov – 9/1/18

There’s a lot of great literature on the public domain and I found this terrific collection of nine short stories by Anton Chekhov for free at the Kindle store. Chekhov (1860-1904) was a Russian playwright and writer of short fiction and is considered one of the all-time greatest masters of the short story.


The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett – 10/15/18

I wasn’t sure how I felt about reading a hardboiled detective novel from the 1930s. But one page in and I understood why Dashiell Hammett is considered a master of this genre. It’s a tightly written story about detective Sam Spade, three murders, a valuable falcon statue and an assortment of shrewd characters on both sides of the law.


Commonwealth by Ann Patchett – 11/4/18

Here’s a great family saga that begins in the 1960s with six kids from two different families, thrown together because of an affair, a divorce and then a marriage. As the four parents establish their new lives, the kids are left to figure things out for themselves. Until one summer when tragedy changes everything.


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – 11/20/18

A great story about being different and making it anyway. In some ways, it is a classic success story about perseverance, but mostly, it’s a shout-out to anyone who’s not mainstream. Through a rambling, often irreverent and always hilarious “where is this story going?” narration, with plenty of colorful vocabulary, Lawson tells you about her childhood, depression, anxiety and illness, her family, early jobs, marriage, motherhood and how she became a blogger and writer.


Blue Monday by Nicci French – 12/9/18

First in a series of eight mystery thrillers featuring Frieda Klein, a highly regarded psychoanalyst who, in this story, becomes entangled in a kidnapping investigation. One of the things I enjoyed about Blue Monday is that it is a character-driven mystery. The authors’ characters are both interesting and complex, with their own sets of problems.


Audiobook: Have a Nice Day by Billy Crystal and Quinton Peeples – 12/14/18

Have a Nice Day is a play, but this version is a live script-reading. In addition to Billy Crystal, Kevin Kline and Annette Bening, the cast is full of stars, including Rachel Dratch and Darrell Hammond. Kline plays President David Murray, who has just received a visit from the Angel of Death, played by Billy Crystal. Murray learns that this is his day to die and he makes a deal with the Angel to give him until one second before midnight so he can finish strong.


What did you read this year? Coming next, more excellent reads from 2018. Meantime, check out all my 2018 reviews here.

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