Finn by Jon Clinch

Finn by Jon Clinch (2007)
Jon Clinch’s first novel has created a fascinating story based on a minor character from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Huck’s abusive, alcoholic father, Pap, who meets a mysterious, violent end. This is definitely not an easy, breezy novel of life on the Mississippi, but rather a story of damaged souls and complicated relationships. According to Clinch, Huck’s pa was not a nice guy!

I enjoyed the exploration of the backstory to an American classic and think I’ll try Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, which takes a look at the mad woman in Jane Eyre’s attic. I'll let you know how that goes!

Preview the book, read reviews and visit the author's website.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (2001)
A character study of the highest level, this unforgettable novel traces the developing relationships between an international group of hostages and their captors in an unnamed South American country. You’ll find it intriguing that the author based this on a true incident.

Go to BookBrowse for reviews and a reading group guide. Visit the author's website and listen to her being interviewed.

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter (2009)The Financial Lives of the Poets is a recent novel of one man's attempt to save his family from economic disaster, his marriage from ruin, deal with job loss and a father with Alzheimer’s.

It's gutsy to write fiction quite this up-to-the-minute, but Jess Walter has written a very enjoyable novel that is remarkably astute; a comic fable for the current hard times. Watch the author's YouTube video below, read the New York Times review and check out the author's website.

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929)
Originally published in 1929, the title was republished in 1991 with a corrected text. One cannot call this a fast read due to the lengthy prose and "Southern English" writing. If a person wants to know about Mississippi classes of society and the prejudices of people, this is the book for you!

The pre-civil war race relations of slavery, the anti-Yankee attitudes and the Southern lifestyle are detailed in the lives of the Compson family. Each family member serves the purpose of telling the story about a wealthy Mississippi family's fall into poverty after the Civil War due to poor choices and fate. This book has literary value over enjoyable reading. People who like Faulkner probably read this book over and over, but I think once is enough.

Discover more about this Nobel Prize author's works, read more about his life, and see what has to say.

Ironweed by William Kennedy

Ironweed by William Kennedy (1983)
In 1938, Francis Phelan returns to Albany to confront his past. He is a heavy drinking, but big hearted bum. He beguiles you with his wit, wisdom, and the sordid story of a runaway past. The author evokes empathy for all his characters.

Visit the author's website, check out the reading group guide, and read reviews at

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)
Middle aged and recently widowed Henry Lee remembers the time during WWII when his best friend, Keiko, a Japanese American girl, was taken away to the internment camps. Henry's father was stubbornly, nationalistically Chinese and disowned Henry--refusing to speak to his son for years. Alternating in time between the war years and the 1980s, the story is a simply told gem about friendship and love transcending both time and distance.

Join our discussion of the book at the library on Wednesday, February 10 at 7:30.

Visit the author's website, check out the reading group guide, and read reviews at

The Devil’s Company by David Liss

The Devil’s Company by David Liss (2009)
This is third in a series about Benjamin Weaver, a thief taker in 1720s London. Benjamin Weaver is blackmailed into working for a mysterious Mr. Cobb. The exact nature of what Benjamin is hired to do is kept a mystery even from Benjamin himself. As the plot becomes more and more complicated and more and more people seem to be embroiled in the scheme, Weaver must figure out who is working for whom and whom he can trust. A fun and rewarding adventure. You need not have read the first books in the series. I have not.

Read an excerpt from the book, check out the Washington Post review, and visit the author's website.

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo

Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo (2007)Breakfast with Buddha has a simple plot and exposition: a middle-aged man, Otto Ringling, is tricked into driving Volya Rinpoche, his sister’s guru, across the country; but Merullo’s ability to create the spiritual aspects of the journey is remarkable.

Witty and at times really funny Breakfast with Buddha drives the reader through the heart of America (the journey from Notre Dame to Chicago was especially fun) and in the process shows us a man about to discover his own true heart.

Read more about the author, read an excerpt and view reviews at

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)
I loved this novel about the Gonguli family – who left their home in India in the late 1960s to begin a new life in America. It’s a story not only about the immigrant experience, but also about the family ties that bind us all. Beautifully written.

Come join the Novel Idea book discussion of this title on Wednesday, October 14 at 7:30.

Read an interview with the author, preview the book, and explore a reading guide to the book.

The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone

The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone (2009)
Twenty-seven year old Annie Goode, a Navy pilot, returns to her North Carolina home for her birthday just in time for a twister to hit and her long lost father Jack to contact her and beg her to fly his old plane to St. Louis. Jack is always one step ahead of the law and an accomplished con man, so Annie is reluctant to follow his wishes, except that he holds out to Annie her own one greatest wish--the name of her father. This is a picaresque adventure complete with Cuban mobsters, the FBI, handsome Miami cops, and an elusive golden statue called The Queen of the Sea. Maybe a bit long, but if you enter into the story, well worth the time.

Preview an excerpt at NPR, check out the Washington Post's review, and read an interview with the author.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (2008)
The time is post-WWII in the 1940s. The place is a Mississippi cotton farm. The story is about two families: landowners and sharecroppers. It’s extremely informative about the poverty that existed for people in the South after WWII. This is an interesting story of choices people make which turn out good and bad.

Read an excerpt, view reviews and a reading guide at and visit the author's website.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (2009)
Eleven-year-old Flavia De Luce is old and wise beyond her years. When first a dead bird and then a dead man turns up on the doorstep of her family's English country estate, she sets out to solve the crime herself. Set in 1950, Flavia's household consists of two older self-involved sisters, a remote father, and a faithful gardener, shell shocked from the war. Flavia researches old newspapers and tracks down village eccentrics to quiz about current and past events to solve the crime and get her father off the hook for the murder.

You might also like Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes (1996) for another depiction of a young sleuth or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948) for a story about an eccentric English family told from the point of view of the youngest daughter.

Discover more about the author, read reviews and an interview with the author at, and visit the Flavia de Luce Fan Club.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (1925)The Painted Veil, published in 1925, has well-developed characters not captured in the 2006 movie. This is a great short book that uses the English language concisely and descriptively. The setting is early 1920s Hong Kong, yet the story concentrates on the personalities of the characters rather than on the story's geographical settings. It’s an interesting read about humanity. This novel has as much to say as books which are much longer. It's surprising how short the time period is in which this story takes place. Before Maugham wrote The Painted Veil, he published Of Human Bondage, which is a classic book and movie.

Watch the trailer for the movie, learn more about Somerset Maugham and visit Google Books to preview his works.

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard (2008)
Twenty years after the horrors of the French Revolution, sometimes medical student Hector Carpenter is minding his own, rather aimless, business, when the mysterious Vidocq involves him in the search for the missing (or dead) lost Dauphin. Vidocq, a real life police detective and founder of the Brigade de Sûreté, leads his young friend through dangerous escapades through the French countryside and Paris until they find the truth about the lost Dauphin. Or do they?

Visit the author's website, read reviews at and check out the reading guide for the book.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (1997)
There are many good books about this painful time in human history but there are some books that have a profound impact on us because they present the real toll of the Holocaust. This is one of those books. The Reader is a work of psychological complexity; an exploration of the painful and difficult process of guilt and atonement. It is also a love story. The story is told in three parts by the main character, Michael Berg. Each part takes place in a different time period in the past.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she disappears without explanation. When he sees her again, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a terrible crime. As he watches her refuse to defend herself, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder. The final part the book is about truth and reconciliation.

Read an excerpt from this Oprah's book club selection and view the reading group guide.