My grandfather was a WWII veteran, plus I’ve always been fascinated by history. He spent time in Hawaii, New Guinea, and the Philippines, so my explorations of the war focused primarily on the home front and the Pacific theater.
My forays into WWII fiction covered Poland, England, and France, among others, but I had never before considered this slice of history. What happened to the irreplaceable artwork during wartime? Robert M. Edsel (with Brett Witter) explores that question in this fascinating study of a group of monuments men. In the real world, they were architects, museum directors, and conservationists. Now, they were racing across Europe in a war zone to preserve cultural treasures.
I love a personal take on history. It’s why I’m a fan of Unbroken, The Girls of Atomic City, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The Monuments Men is another exhilarating tale from the front lines. It’s a gripping combination of art, history, biography, war, and adventure.
Oh, and George Clooney turned it into a movie. Learn more about these heroes.
Caputo, his wife, and his two hunting dogs travel from the southernmost to the northernmost point of the U.S. trying to answer the question: what is the glue that holds Americans together? We are such a diverse people spread out over such a diverse landscape from sea to shining sea.
Historical trivia, local color, and a few laughs follow Philip Caputo on his long trip. It’s all in the journey, not the destination. Also, it is a very personal journey. Each one of us could write a very different memoir about the same trip. I anxiously await my opportunity.
The Longest Road is the 2014 Big Read selection. Find discussions, programs, and author visit information here, he’ll be at Ashton Place on May 1.
Ari has always been a bit of a loner. He’s an unofficial only child, with twin sisters in their late twenties, and a brother in prison no one talks about. He’s always been close to his mother, but his father, who served in Vietnam, barely speaks. During summer break before his junior year of high school, Ari meets Dante, an unusually open boy who offers to teach Ari how to swim. Over the summer, the two become good friends, until a car accident and an act of heroism change their lives and their relationship.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a very well-written and charming book that gives unique insight into the life of a teenager, especially one caught between two cultures (Mexican and American). Ari is one of the most well-rounded characters I’ve encountered in some time, and I enjoyed reading how he worked through his many issues with his family, with Dante, and even with Dante’s family. This works well as a piece of LGBTQ literature for those who don’t read much of the genre or don’t enjoy the usual coming out stories. Instead, this presents a story about friendship and accepting each other, as well as accepting one’s self.
Benjamin Alire Saenz’ book has won many big awards in the last year, including the Printz Honor, YALSA Best Fiction Top Ten, and the Stonewall Book Award—all of which are well-deserved!
Upon turning 65, Billy Crystal, a comedian, actor, and director, wrote this entertaining, humorous, and sometimes poignant book. It alternates between quips about aging and reflections on his family life and career. In the audio version of Still Foolin’ ‘Em, the chapters on aging seem right out of his stand-up act complete with laugh track. I especially enjoyed the sections on the making of the movies When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers and learning about his friendship with Muhammad Ali. Reading about his early marriage years with Janice through being a grandpa gave me a different perspective on this funny man.
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has written this romantic suspense novel as a young woman’s search for her parentage and consequently her identity. The heroine Korobi is both infuriating and endearing as her story unfolds with all of its complexity, crisis, and obstacle. Oleander Girl is rich with descriptions of the Indian culture. Divakaruni writes about India in a way that gives the reader an insight into traditional Indian culture.
Shades of Grey is science fiction, suspense, and comedy rolled into one. It is set in a dystopian future in which everyone is color blind and one’s class status is determined by the amount of color that he or she can see, with the greys toiling at the bottom, the purples at the top, and several other hues in constant conflict.
Jasper Fforde has a vivid imagination, an eye for detail, and a gift for writing. I especially enjoy the clever dialogue, and each comically absurd scene outdoes the last. John Lee is excellent as the narrator of the book on CD. I would highly recommend listening to this book.
In Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer recounts his experiences preparing for the U.S. Memory Championship. He includes extensive information on the brain as well as his personal anecdotes and personalities encountered along the way. With Kevin Trudeau behind bars, we may be looking to Foer for tips on how to develop a superior memory.
Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt is full of sharp insights about life in the modern South along with plenty of dysfunctional family drama, civil war rehashing, bourbon drinking, and the ongoing struggle to keep up appearances.
We follow a different member of the Johnston family each chapter as they interact with each other during doomed holiday dinners and on their own, usually unfortunate, tangents. Matriarch Jerene manages to hold the family together by wielding a formidable array of threats and lies, all while impeccable groomed, until events progress beyond even her extreme damage control skills.
The circus arrives without warning. Le Cirque des Reves, or “the Night Circus” moves from town to town with no prior notice or schedule. These black and white tents are open from dusk until dawn and feature wonders beyond your wildest imagination. The circus is more than your average carnival; it’s the setting for two magicians, who have been bonded since children to compete against each other until only one is left standing.
The Night Circus was enchanting, by every definition of the word, equal parts magical, fascinating, delightful, and charming. Erin Morgenstern deftly weaves together multiple storylines, perspectives, and timelines, and creates a strong sense of place in the circus, pulling both the setting and the reader in as important characters. This is a fantasy book, but the fantasy is secondary to the story and the characters and fans outside of the genre can easily enjoy this book. The audiobook is narrated by Jim Dale (the narrator from Pushing Daisies and the Harry Potter audiobooks), whose voice has its own magical qualities and suits the story nicely.
Brigid Pasulka’s sophomore effort delights as much as her debut (A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True). We leave Poland for a small village on the Italian coast where soccer is king. 22-year-old Etto is struggling after the deaths of his mother and twin brother. He and his father run their butcher shop with minimal communication. It isn’t until a disgraced Ukrainian soccer star and his family come to town that life begins to change.
In this lush and lyrical tale, the residents of San Benedetto come vividly to life. The Sun and Other Stars is an engaging story of loss, healing, community, passion, friendship, and love that will keep you turning the pages well into the night.
Meet the author! On Thursday, February 27 at 7pm, Brigid Pasulka will be at Indian Prairie to discuss her work, answer your questions, and sign books. Barbara’s Bookstore in Burr Ridge will be selling books. Register here: http://bit.ly/1iPM58h