Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Love List #3: Sina Herkelrath

Sina Herkelrath has a knack for picking out books that are extremely readable, extremely enjoyable, and still hefty enough in terms of content and beauty to provide a satisfying companion for your hours of reading leisure. This is one of the reasons that she coordinates our book club program (the other reasons are both many and varied, and include her vigorous enthusiasm and impressive organization). If you wander over to the shelves devoted to both our in-store book clubs and our community book clubs, you can see some of the evidence of Sina's labors. And if you have your own book club (or want to start one), take a look at our book club page where you can find information about registering with Sina. Registered book clubs get a bunch of perks, including an invitation to the FANTASTIC book club presentations where you get to hear about amazing books from the authors themselves (this is where I discovered Going to See the Elephant by Rodes Fishburne, a book I am still quite taken by!).

This is Sina


On Canaan's Side
by: Sebastian Barry

Our old heroine, Lilly Bere, is Irish woman grieving over the loss of her grandson. Her grief is deep, real, and you instantly find yourself in an intimate relationship with a woman to whom you were just introduced. Each day after the death of her grandson she recounts her life’s story in hopes of understanding how she got where she is. As she sits at her kitchen table she asks herself, “What is the sound of an eighty-eight year old heart breaking?” As the reader, you will experience the highs and lows of Lilly Bere’s life, her loves, her hopes and her sorrows.

This novel immediately grabs you with its literary style and poignant subject matter. It is a classic, and not to be missed.

The Language of Flowers
by: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

How wonderfully redemptive that a 10-year-old orphaned girl was given the gift of flowers: the meanings given to them in the Victorian Age, their needs, their color…in essence, their language. Once emancipated and left to fend for herself on the streets of San Francisco, she begins her new life sleeping in a park where she creates a garden.  A local florist discovers her talent and Victoria slowly blossoms and grows into her life.   

Ms. Diffenbaugh has truly been able to get into the psyche of an abandoned child and express the loneliness, fear, and self loathing that these kids experience, yet at the same time celebrate those families that can bring something special into these kids lives. A great book on many levels. 

Clara and Mr. Tiffany
by: Susan Vreeland

In this novel, Susan Vreeland presents the Gilded Age New York, with its very wealthy, its impoverished immigrant population, and its unfair treatment of women in the work force. Out of this setting comes Clara Driscoll, a very talented artist who, as history will tell us, was the brains and talent behind Louis Comfort Tiffany’s lamps.

Thanks to the letters of the real Clara Driscoll, and the delicacy of her own writing style, Vreeland has created a novel that captures the intricacy and art of Tiffany lamps, the life of this elusive artist, and the realities and intimate details of the early twentieth century. It is a fascinating read and totally satisfying.

Remarkable Creatures
by: Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures is a novel, but our heroine is real. Mary Anning came from a working class family that was always one “curio” away from the poor house. Her father taught her how to scour the beach for odd bits of fossil, and bone so she could help supplement her family’s income. It is this gift that allows her to search the shores of Lyme, England and find the bones of ancient sea creatures. Her story and her findings take place when Darwin was still a small boy, and yet, have any of us heard about Mary, or her contribution to science? One of the goals of this book, revealed in an interview with Tracy Chevalier, was to awaken in her readers the sense of the earth’s history, and our place in it. She mentions that if she can excite us to take a closer look at our surroundings and have an eye for the extraordinary, she feels she will have accomplished her goal.

Started Early, Took My Dog
by: Kate Atkinson

This novel has several story plots that run in parallel and jump from 1975 to the present... something that might, at first, make it hard to follow. But give it a half hour and you will find this book hard to put down.

Tracy Waterhouse, a retired police officer working at a mall in England, is out running errands “until she makes a purchase she hadn’t bargained for." Actress Tilly witnesses the exchange, but she too is facing her own disaster. Jackson Brodie, a private investigator, is on the scene searching for someone else’s roots. As their stories intertwine, all three learn that "no good deed goes unpunished." This is another great book club read.

The Sandalwood Tree
by: Elle Newmark

This novel is set in India in 1947. The British are set to move out of India and the country is to be divided into India and Pakistan. Martin is a historian and his assignment is to document this “Partition."  He brings with him is wife Evie, and his very young son Billy. As Evie settles into her new home, she finds a packet of letters that tell the story of two brave young women in the 1850s. Our author, Elle Newmark, alternates between the two stories and in doing so creates a rich picture of strong women characters and India in both centuries. This is a great book club choice with lots to discuss.

by: Tracy Schiff

Notes From a Small Island
by: Bill Bryson

[I couldn't find Sina's reviews for these, but I can personally attest to the amazing awesomeness and immense, I-can't-put-this-down-because-it-is-gobsmackingly-fascinating, readability of both. Tracy Schiff and Bill Bryson are both smart, warm writers who pull from a huge vault of research and affection for their respective subjects. You might not think that you are particularly interested in either Cleopatra or the quirks of British oddity, but by the time you finish these books, you will be, to an unexpected and surprisingly contented degree.]

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