Monday, December 19, 2011

The Love List #8: Meg Waite Clayton

Meg Waite Clayton is the author of The Wednesday Sisters and The Four Ms. Bradwells, both novels that are beloved by the readers who frequent the Kepler’s stacks. They are also novels that have been given the stamp of approval by Nancy Salmon, one of our most venerable Keplerites, whose uncanny ability to pluck new books from the crowd before they zoom off to bestsellerdom is quite awe-inducing.

Meg lives in Palo Alto and is one of our staunchest supporters. When she’s not busy writing her warm and insightful novels, she stops by frequently and sometimes attends our monthly Fiction Book Club. She was the first author who I contacted about contributing to our Love List, and her speedy and enthusiastic response tipped me over the edge from thinking about the idea to actually making it happen. So, thank you, Meg! You can keep up with even more of Meg's recommendations by visiting her blog.

This is Meg Waite Clayton.

In the spirit of thinking local and shopping at stores like Kepler’s, I’ve been reading quite a few local authors this year—and have found some terrific books. You might even find inscribed copies on Kepler’s shelves. If there is one thing better than a great book for a gift, it’s a great book that has been signed by the author.

My most fun read of the year was French Lessons by Ellen Sussman. This story of three Americans on a single day in Paris, each with a French tutor of his or her own, is a great gift for the cosmopolitan reader or the armchair traveler on your list, or for anyone who enjoys a good, sexy read.

My non-fiction fave this year was Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure by Julia Flynn Siler. Julia’s first book, House of Mondavi, was a bestseller and a finalist for the James Beard award, and this just-released new one is even better. It’s a fabulous tale of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s rise and fall, centered on Lili‘uokalani, the last queen—with plenty of sugar barons, missionaries and rogues to keep you turning pages all night.

One of the richest and most evocative novels I read this year was Amaryllis in Blueberry by Christina Meldrum. This one covers the kind of turf I love to read again and again: family secrets. Meldrum’s poetic writing makes it a great gift for the most discriminating readers.

And for the short story reader, Ann Packer’s Swim Back to Me is just lovely stuff, as Packer always is.

For cookbooks, my longtime favorite bread cookbook has just been re-released: The Italian Baker, Revised: The Classic Tastes of the Italian Countryside--Its Breads, Pizza, Focaccia, Cakes, Pastries, and Cookies by Carol Field. You don’t have to trust me on this one; it has found its way onto the New York Times best of the year list. But when you make the walnut bread, try stirring in a cup of dried cherries. My friends have taken to calling the result “Meg bread,” and it disappears amazingly fast.

Happy Holidays!

Meg Waite Clayton

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