Sunday, May 29, 2022

Dear Great Book Guru, We have a favorite book store in Brooklyn called Books Are Magic. There is a great staff and a wonderful selection of new and old favorites. The owner of the store has written a new novel and I wondered if you know about it.    Brooklyn BookStore Browser

Dear Brooklyn Bookstore Browser, I spent the Memorial Day weekend reading THIS TIME TOMORROW by Emma Straub, owner of Books Are Magic, and it was a delight! The novel opens as Alice is celebrating her fortieth birthday. Her life is good - she enjoys her job as an admissions counselor at an elite private school in Manhattan that she had attended, her Brooklyn apartment is comfortable and cozy, her boyfriend is likeable, and she has a dear childhood friend she sees regularly. All seems fine but when she wakes the next morning it is 1996 and she is sixteen years old.  What things in her life would she change if she can?  An important piece of her life is her father, a famous author who has written one hugely successful back to the future novel that has attained cult status.  When she realizes she has stumbled into this world of time travel, she decides to do what she can to change his and her lives.  After many mistakes and wrong turns, she finds a solution and it is a surprise indeed.  “This time tomorrow, where will we be?” Alice asks and the answer resounds through this very satisfying novel. Highly recommended!

Sunday, May 22, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru, I had such a wonderful time at the Porchfest this weekend and I met many new and old friends. It got me thinking that there’s a whole wide world out there and perhaps I should  get out of my reading comfort zone – mysteries - and try a new genre.  Any suggestions?  Porchfest Reveler

Dear Porchfest Reveler, I loved Emily St. John’s latest novel: SEA OF TRANQUILITY.  This short novel spans four centuries and we visit each through time travel. The book opens in 1912 with a young aristocrat Edward St. Andrew banished from his English ancestral home to the Canadian wilderness for a minor infraction. While wandering in the woods, he hears a haunting melody and glimpses a visitor from another time: Gaspery Roberts. Gaspery will reappear in the 21st, the 23rd, and 25th centuries and while there is much different about these times, there is much the same.  Pandemics decimate countries, book tours take place, and hotels employ security guards.  It’s a strange mixture of future and present as characters appear, disappear, and then reappear century after century.  The Sea of Tranquility is home to moon colonists who escape the travails of earth living only to find themselves living the very lives they were trying to escape.  This a beautifully written albeit challenging read that takes us through time in search of clues as to what the future holds for humanity. Highly recommended!

Sunday, May 15, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru, I am a great fan of John Grisham and his legal thrillers, but apparently, last year,  he wrote an amazing book about a basketball player from Africa.  I love basketball so this seems like a perfect choice for me. Are you familiar with the book?  Lover of Hoops and Books

Dear Lover of Hoops and Books, I too was unaware of this outstanding book: SOOLEY by John Grisham, until recently.  The story line is as exciting as any of Grisham’s more typical legal mysteries, but, as always, his characters are vividly described, especially the lead, Sooley – a nickname given Samuel Sooleyman, a seventeen year-old boy from South Sudan. The story starts optimistically with Sooley leaving his small rural village to tryout for a traveling international basketball team.  His family and fellow villagers are ecstatic when he wins a coveted spot, but immediately joy turns to horror as the village is attacked by rebels and destroyed.  For the remainder of the novel, the chapters alternate between Sooley’s life in the United States and his family’s perilous existence in horrific refugee camps. The banal intricacies of the professional world of basketball contrast bizarrely with the horrors of daily life in war-torn Sudan. Throughout, Sooley tries to reconcile his good fortune with the tribulations of his family.  American immigration policies and a multitude of societal missteps make Sooley’s story much larger than that of one young man.  A long (489 pages) but worthwhile read and highly recommended!

Saturday, May 7, 2022

 Dear Great Book Guru, One of my favorite pastimes (after reading, of course!) is swimming. My friends and I meet regularly at a local pool, and one of them mentioned a book about swimming - a novel that she said reminded her of us.  Do you know the book she is talking about, and would you recommend it?   Pool and Book Fan

Dear Pool and Book Fan, THE SWIMMERS by Judith Otsuka is a beautifully written short novel (192 pages) that can be enjoyed on many levels.  The story opens with a group narrator – a Greek chorus of sorts - who briefly recounts the stories of a group of men and women who have been swimming together for many years. The pleasure each experiences, regardless of age or skill, is exquisitely described. The story shifts as a crack in the pool is discovered and then another and then another.  It becomes clear that the pool must be closed for repair but soon it is announced that it will be closed permanently.  The damage is irreparable … and the damage to the swimmers is also catastrophic. The story shifts once again, focusing on one of the swimmers whose decline is as rapid and irreversible as the fate of the pool.  The reader is left wondering whether the pool is a metaphor for our world - is the crack political or perhaps a symbol of the pandemic?  Does change inevitably bring an end to the things that give comfort and security?  The author leaves us with much to ponder. Highly recommended!