Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I was at a wonderful Sea Cliff event last weekend at the Fire House – a fundraiser for the Lions run by Shane Dommin with great music by The Lazy Dogs and Reckless Abandon.  Conversation turned to an upcoming event -  the much anticipated release of  a  new book by renowned Sea Cliff author Michael Sears.  Do you know anything about this? A Serious Fan of Sears

Dear Serious Fan of Sears,  I received an advance copy of LONG WAY DOWN  and what a great treat! 
Sears's earlier BLACK FRIDAYS and MORTAL BONDS were both favorites of mine and the latest entry is the best of the three.   Jason Stafford- hero of this finance and family drama series- after having spent two years in federal prison on white collar crime charges, is now a financial investigator. His latest case involves Philip Hayley, a scientist who has been arrested for insider trading involving his own company.    Haley insists he has been set up and the usually cynical Stafford believes him… but there is something more to this case- much more- and so the mayhem begins.  One of Sears’s great strengths is his ability to create memorable characters and they abound in this book, with Stafford’s autistic son known as “The Kid”  continuing to play a pivotal role.  Be prepared for many surprises throughout- nothing is as it seems.  Highly recommended!      

Monday, January 19, 2015

 Dear Great Book Guru, With the icy rains, freezing days and nights, and yes, the coming of the sewers- I feel the need for a really good book to help me through the coming weeks. Any thoughts? Looking for a Good Book

Dear Looking for a Good Book,  I just finished a fabulous book that has been sitting on my bookshelf for years that I had just never gotten around to reading: BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE MUSEUM:A NOVEL by Kate Atkinson.  Written in 1996, this was Atkinson’s first novel and what a stellar achievement it is! First, let’s make it clear- the museum in the title is the families we are part of over many generations, in this case four generations from the late 1850’s up until the1990’s.  We first meet the narrator in 1951 as she is being conceived and we follow her through the years into young adulthood; in between we  meet her great-great grandparents, great grandparents, grandparents , parents and waves of cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, suitors, friends.... In a series of footnotes- actually chapters- that fill us in on the connections to the present, we learn many secrets that Ruby will never know.  Life in York, England is filled with humorous , poignant, and sometimes tragic adventures for Ruby and  her relatives, and as we move back and forth between past and present, we see how family traits resurface and mistakes are made anew by each generation.    A truly memorable book and highly recommended! 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru, With the Martin Luther King weekend coming up, I would like to have something good to read.  I am not usually a fan of short stories, but perhaps you have some unusually good ones to recommend.   Reluctant  Reader of Short Stories

Dear Reluctant Reader,  I have a perfect solution for you: THE INTERPRETER OF MALADIES by Jhumpa Lahiri.  This is Pulitzer Prize winner Lahiri’s first work- a collection of nine short stories, most set in either Boston or Bengal. Her characters have piercing moments of self-realization- epiphanies of sorts that eventually define their lives.  The reader comes to recognize that each story contains a tiny, seemingly insignificant moment when everything shifts and lives are changed forever.  A young couple cope with the death of an infant daughter, the Interpreter mentioned in the title learns a dark secret from a very unhappy woman, a couple enter an arranged marriage with great hesitation, a staid math professor marries the girl of his dreams named Twinkie only to soon regret his infatuation, a young boy is pampered by his Indian babysitter until a car accident ends their time together…  Most were published in the New Yorker over a number of years, so each story stands on its own very well, but read together, you can see the book’s overall theme: there is deep meaning in the briefest of relationships.  Highly recommended! 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru, Well, now the holidays are really over- everyone is back at work or school and the winter blues are beginning to set in.  Do you have something to help your readers get through this dreary time of year?  Looking to Beat the Winter Blues

Dear Looking to Beat the Winter Blues,   I received a very interesting book as a Christmas gift from Daniel DiPietro:  THE ANTIDOTE-Happiness for Those Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman, a writer for the British newspaper The Guardian. Burkeman debunks many self-help champions like Norman Vincent Peale, Wayne Dyer,  and Eckhart Tolle with their message of looking on the bright side and thinking  positive thoughts will guarantee a happy outcome. Instead he suggests looking to the ancient Greeks, especially the Stoics with their realistic approach to life’s adversities. By confronting  and studying the worst scenarios, he suggests we can embrace failure and loss and be free to enjoy what remains. It is certainly a counterintuitive idea, but the author gives much evidence of its success. He also uses the tenets of Buddhism to support his belief that a good life is one  lived in the present, accepting that the past is over, and that the future will never to be realized. THE ANTIDOTE offers a very readable, at times humorous survey of philosophical trends over the centuries and we are left with a much more nuanced definition of happiness.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Dear Great Book Guru,  I hope you can help me with my 2015 New Year’s resolution.  I want to read more worthwhile and enjoyable books throughout the year. Can you start me off with a really good one and, please, not too long….? Resolute Reader

Dear Resolute Reader,  I have a truly wonderful book for you to begin your admirable quest: Colum Toibin’s NORA WEBSTER.  Set in an Irish village  in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, the novel introduces us to the recently widowed Nora Webster. Her husband, a popular schoolteacher, has just died and Nora is dealing with the many ramifications of this loss. We meet her sisters, her in-laws, her neighbors, and , yes- her enemies, of which there are many because Nora is not an easy person to be around.   She has strong feelings of injustice, anger, and guilt.  Her family finds her difficult- she and her mother were not speaking when the older woman died, and her children while loving her deeply feel uncomfortable in her presence. Despite this, the reader comes to admire and like her very much as Nora reflects on her life-  whether it be the riots in Derry, her children’s schooling, the sale of her family’s vacation home, the buying of a new wardrobe, or her annoyance at the mourners who come to her home with sentimental tales of their own losses. Toibin has said this novel is autobiographical with his mother strongly resembling Nora and he, one of the children.  While there are no dramatic happenings , by NORA WEBSTER’S conclusion, we feel we better understand ourselves and those around us- quite an achievement!