MY LIFE ON THE ROAD
Gloria Steinem, activist, journalist and masthead of the women’s movement, examines how a lifetime of traveling has led her to a place she can call home. Steinem, now in her 80s, is still inherently quotable, is no less feminist, but is perhaps less zealous. She encourages readers to live in an on-the-road state of mind every day, and shares the important lesson of talking circles. This autobiography, loosely organized into types of travel, provides a history of the last fifty years that puts people, and their unique stories, first—“people before paper.” This is a powerful book, both for readers whose work brought us right against the glass ceiling, and for younger readers for whom the feminist movement is part of recent history.
THE SWANS OF FIFTH AVENUE
Do you think it’s about Bill? Truman Capote’s swans gather to preen their ruffled feathers as the November 1975 issue of Esquire graces newspaper stands. Aged but still regal they purse painted mouths. He killed her they whisper, indignant, ready to close their doors (and guest lists) against Truman Capote for good. Who did Capote’s pen kill, how and why? Melanie Benjamin chronicles Capote’s rise and fall as a literary star with compassion, wit and an ear for scandal. She reconciles, for the fictional record, two friends who love each other deeply and wound each other mortally. In the end loving Truman Capote is like loving Holly Golightly or a wild thing: “If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.” The Swans of Fifth Avenue is as fun, salacious and fabulous as Capote himself.
THE HEART GOES LAST
The heart goes last in death, and marriage. So Stan and Charmaine discover when they join the Positron Project, an utopian society with a dark underbelly. Vintage Atwood with a racy twist! I thoroughly enjoyed this examination of marriage, utopia and the future of our planet (sex-bots and all).
FATES AND FURIES
In Lotto’s version of how they met she says yes. In Mathilde’s version she says no, which becomes sure, but nothing is ever sure. The decades that follow bring success and failure, luck both good and bad, fate and fury. “Most operas, it is true, are about marriage. Few marriages could be called operatic.” Except for Lotto and Mathilde. Their love is tremendous, consuming, obdurate, yet vulnerable to fate. Still, this novel is about more than the growing pains within a marriage. Lotto’s rise into literary stardom evokes the golden era of theater—Albee, Williams, and O’Neill. Yet, as a playwright in the 1990s, Lotto is part of a generation of activist playwrights and actors, while Mathilde relinquishes her creative spirit to her wifely duties. Separately they tell interesting stories: Woven together, their lives are lightning captured in a jar.
GO SET A WATCHMAN
The most important thing we can say about this book is that we are not reading a sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a first draft, which affords readers an unheard of glimpse into the origins of an American classic. Go Set a Watchman carries Lee’s hallmark wit and kernels of her wisdom and can be read as a novel separate from To Kill a Mockingbird; however, this book acts as a companion more than anything else.
ON IMMUNITY: AN INNOCULATION
“Immunity is a public space. And it can be occupied by those who choose not to carry immunity.” As a new mother skeptical of vaccinations and modern medicine, Biss set out to discover the truth about vaccinations. The result is a fascinating, well-researched and beautifully written examination of what immunity, and vaccination, means in our society. Biss draws from her experiences as a young mother, from historic and scientific record, from mythology, literature, philosophy and economics to discuss how people conceptualize vaccinations. This book is an inoculation against fear and misunderstanding, and an argument that vaccination is an act of love—for a child, for ourselves, and for our fellow man.
MY REAL CHILDREN
One woman, two possible lives hinging on one phone call placed in 1949: Now or never, Mark’s voice crackles across the distance. Now, she says and becomes Tricia—a wife, mother, and housemaid. Never, she says and becomes Pat—a lover, mum, and successful writer. One life, or two lives? In 2015, Tricia/Pat remembers both of her lives, even as she spirals into the dementia that took her mother. Walton creates a believable alternative world history for each life, exploring the natures of memory, fate, and the mechanisms that shaped the 20th century. Phenomenal!
The debut novel by renown food critic and best-selling author Ruth Reichl lives up to the name: Delicious!. I don’t know what part of me loves this book the most: the foodie; the library-lover; or story junkie. Reichl mixes the simplest ingredients to create a word feast that is both decadent and satisfying: an unminted journalist with an unusual flavor palette; a struggling food magazine; a small, family-owned cheese and delicacy shop; a locked library; and letters from a precocious aspiring cook to James Beard during WWII. Lulu’s letters and recipes paint a clear picture of wartime America; and baker-turned journalist Billie Breslin’s experiences at Delicious and the Fontanari’s shop are a fun foray into the flavors and textures in the modern food-world.
ON SUCH A FULL SEA
China controls most of the world, including North America. Temperatures increase because of global warming, and cancer runs rampant—a fate generally accepted as unavoidable. Books have all but vanished, along with domesticated animals and outdoor farming. All food is grown in sterile tanks, tended to by working-class citizens living in worker-settlements, while the bulk of the food carted off and sold in the upper-class, wealthy communities. When Fan, a young tank diver, leaves her working-settlement (known as B-Mor) to find her vanished lover, she sparks a thought-revolution among those left behind. Both a folk-tale and an alarming prediction, this remarkable novel reminds me of a Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro. Haunting, devastating and hopeful, this story lives far beyond the confines of the book. –review by Becky
Warning: Reading this book may cause elevated heart rate and/or dry-mouth—and cost you a day off and/or a night’s sleep. From the first shocking pages, Lexicon exerts a mind-control on the reader—making us helpless to resist Barry’s warped, alternative reality. Connecting ancient concepts of language and persuasion with modern issues of data mining and privacy, this is a wholly original and smart thriller. Barry rigged explosions in all of the right places and threw plot twists fast and hard over the plate, reminding me of a cross between Chris Cline and Neal Stephenson.
ARCADIA, by Lauren Groff
Set on a commune in New York State during the 1970s, Groff’s prose simultaneously romanticizes and illuminate the realities of rural community life, finding a balance between the hilarity and tragedy of living off the land in a mostly commercial and industrialized world. Wide in scope, full of heart and quirky humor, the rise and fall of the Arcadia House community is narrated by the ever lovable Bit, the first child of Arcadia, who stole my heart from the first page. If you like Brady Udall, Tom Perrotta or loved, The Monsters of Templeton, read this original coming-of-age tale next!
THE ROUND HOUSE, by Louise Erdrich
Returning to the Ojibwe reservation (rez) in North Dakota for the first time since The Plague of Doves, Erdrich’s newest book is a luminous tale of familial love with a terrible accident at the heart. Part mystery, part Native American history and part coming of age tale, Erdrich’s story captures the complexity of human relationships, our frailty and resilience and the place where the two meet. This book brings up morality and mortality without preaching, and beautifully evokes the traditions of Native American culture. I love this book and cannot recommend this highly enough.
THE ROSIE PROJECT
This book is a riotous piece of feel-good fiction that had me in stitches and cheering aloud. Don Tillman is a professor of genetics who lives by routines, timetables and a standardized meal system – until he creates a questionnaire to help him find the perfect wife, and meets Rosie. A romantic comedy and coming of age/midlife crisis tale, I can’t remember the last time I read a book that feels so good!