Favorite Quotes

"It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass."

— Eudora Welty

Reader's Link

Browsing all staff pick reviews written by 'April'


Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Title: Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
By: Caroline Fraser

If you grew up like me, reading and re-reading the Little House books, you may find this book as fascinating as I did. Caroline Fraser has meticulously researched Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life, her writing, and that of her daughter Rose Wilder Lane (an important Libertarian). It turns out that the ... [Read more]



Educated: a memoir

Title: Educated: a memoir
By: Tara Westover

“I wanted to get away from the junkyard and there was only one way to do that, which was the way Audrey had done it; by getting a job so I wouldn’t be at the house when Dad rounded up his crew. The trouble was, I was eleven.” It’s hard ... [Read more]


New boxes


Title: Moonglow
By: Michael Chabon

I listened to this book on CD and was so impressed with Michael Chabon’s semi-fictional memoir about his grandfather that I also read the book. While presented as a novel, it is based to some degree on his conversations with his grandfather and other family members, and is a fascinating ... [Read more]

fiction, audiobook

Slippery slope

The Senility of Vladimir P.

Title: The Senility of Vladimir P.
By: Michael Honig

A fictional portrayal of Vladimir Putin in a future in which he develops dementia and is cared for at a private dacha by a principled yet naive nurse caregiver, Nicolai Sheremetev. We eavesdrop on Vladimir P.’s conversations with political cronies and enemies, which occur entirely in his mind. He is ... [Read more]


Angel of death

Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Title: Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
By: David Grann

Many of the Osage would rush to see a gusher when it erupted, scrambling for the best view, making sure not to cause a spark, their eyes following the oil as it shot fifty, sixty, sometimes a hundred feet in the air. With its great black wings of spray, arcing ... [Read more]

non-fiction, history

Fortuna is fickle

Golden Hill: a novel of old New York

Title: Golden Hill: a novel of old New York
By: Frances Spufford

He was the one unshackled, as yet unconfined; the one from whom diversion, or news, or any other of the new worlds a stranger may contain, were to be expected. And perhaps desired. For if your fortune at present is not such as pleases you, there is a prospect of ... [Read more]

1 Comment

Do you know why french fries are dangerous to werewolves?


Title: Mongrels
By: Stephen Graham Jones

This is a doozy of a werewolf tale. It’s not a fantasy; it could have been written about any other kid from a troubled background, treated like a second class citizen. At a critical juncture, someone says to the unnamed 8-year-old protagonist, "being a werewolf isn’t just teeth and claws, ... [Read more]

science fiction

Strange geometries

Version control

Title: Version control
By: Dexter Palmer

"Their minds were merely elsewhere, absconded to new and shining places with strange geometries." A wryly humorous, futuristic tale that is almost upon us. This chewy, richly detailed story follows a couple closely, eavesdropping on their work lives and marital issues. Philip works in a physics lab, inventing a “causality ... [Read more]

science fiction

Scintillating, ironic, multi-hued

Euphoria : a novel

Title: Euphoria : a novel
By: Lily King

Irascible Fen, hyper-intelligent Nell, and shy Bankson are fictionalized versions of anthropologists Reo Fortune, Margaret Mead, and Gregory Bateson. The story derives from a documented and dramatic period in their real life along the Sepik River in New Guinea in the early 1930s, with a fictional interpretation and ending. I ... [Read more]


Sustenance of the soul

Being Mortal

Title: Being Mortal
By: Atul Gawande

"The problem with medicine and the institutions it has spawned for the care of the sick and the old is not that they have had an incorrect view of what makes life significant. The problem is that they have had almost no view at all . . . Medical professionals ... [Read more]


Was the sacrifice worthwhile?

The Goddess of Small Victories

Title: The Goddess of Small Victories
By: Yannick Grannec

If you are interested in 20th century intellectual history, math and science, the ideas circulating during the period between the two World Wars, and the roles played by women in that era, this may be the book for you. It’s also the book for you if you ever wondered what ... [Read more]

1 Comment

Deceptively calm

San Miguel

Title: San Miguel
By: T. Coraghessan Boyle

San Miguel Island is the westernmost of eight Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. This book starts off with a deceptively calm historic setting. Then, true to form, T.C. Boyle’s characters begin to develop stronger personalities that hint at future conflicts. Perhaps because this book is based on ... [Read more]

fiction, audiobook

Crossing a line

Kinder than Solitude

Title: Kinder than Solitude
By: Yiyun Li

This is a complex, thought-provoking novel concerned with understanding four young people as they mature. At age 15, Ruyu, an orphan child from a provincial town, is handed off by her religious great aunts to distant relatives in Beijing, where she will attend high school. She is to share a ... [Read more]


Poor in Trinidad, Poor in America

'Til the Well Runs Dry

Title: 'Til the Well Runs Dry
By: Lauren Francis-Sharma

Marcia Garcia is a talented but poor seamstress living in a small town in Trinidad. She falls for policeman Farouk Karam, and thus begins a fascinating yet troubling family saga told in the voices of Marcia, Farouk, and their second daughter, Jacqueline. I was reminded of T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla ... [Read more]


Like stepping stones in a river

On Canaan's Side

Title: On Canaan's Side
By: Sebastian Barry

This tender story is told through the reminiscences of Lilly, now in her eighties, who was forced to flee her native Ireland in her early twenties. Her family was caught up on the wrong side of the Irish independence struggle. The lasting and tragic impact on her did not destroy ... [Read more]

fiction, audiobook


The Good Lord Bird

Title: The Good Lord Bird
By: James McBride

It’s both a comedy of errors and a serious piece of American history, this description of the desperate, violent struggles of the men fighting to abolish slavery or defend it. The story is told through the eyes of a fictional character nicknamed Onion, a young runaway slave disguised as a ... [Read more]



We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Title: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
By: Karen Joy Fowler

I love the explanation the narrator and main character Rosemary Cooke gives for starting her story in the middle. It’s one of the reasons I kept on reading; I knew from the outset that something interesting was being held back for later. What that was, I cannot reveal. You must ... [Read more]


Otherworld of the imagination

The Love-charm of Bombs: restless lives in the Second World War

Title: The Love-charm of Bombs: restless lives in the Second World War
By: Lara Feigel

Lara Feigel investigates the lives of five writers based in and out of London during WW II: Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen, Rose Macauley, Hilde Spiel, and Henry Yorke (writing as Henry Green). She begins with a bombing raid in London on September 1940 and continues through the war to postwar ... [Read more]


On the continuum

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking

Title: Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking
By: Susan Cain

It is intriguing to read about one’s own traits in a book, especially when the author finds positive value in those traits we find difficult to accept in ourselves. Yet I can’t help thinking that all of us have "introvert" sensitivities and tendencies at least some of the time during ... [Read more]


Criminally clever


Title: Babayaga
By: Toby Barlow

Nice but clueless young American ad-man Will meets extremely exotic Eastern European emigre Zoya in Paris, 1959, and the fun begins. You can’t pin this novel down to a single genre; it’s part detective novel, part witch fantasy, part historical fiction, and entirely entertaining. These witches are criminally clever with ... [Read more]


Walking on eggshells

The Hired Man

Title: The Hired Man
By: Aminatta Forna

"Everything you need to know about Gost is here in the cemetery." Unexplained tensions build very slowly and skillfully in this book set in the fictional town of Gost, Croatia, nearly two decades after the Yugoslav civil war of the early 1990s. Laura, an English woman oblivious to the undercurrents ... [Read more]


Collateral damage

The Memory of Love

Title: The Memory of Love
By: Aminatta Forna

This is a gripping novel concerned with the residual damage to society and individuals following the 1991-2002 civil war in Sierra Leone. Three love stories are interwoven throughout the book, and these narratives become the device through which we learn much else about what has happened. Aminatta Forna’s characters are ... [Read more]

fiction, audiobook

Lifting the burdens

What it is like to go to war

Title: What it is like to go to war
By: Karl Marlantes

A work of courage and intelligence that challenges us to consider issues most of us would rather avoid. Karl Marlantes has thought deeply about the psychological impacts and lifelong burdens of killing in war, based on his experiences in Viet Nam and subsequent self-examination. He bravely exposes his own feelings ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography


Claire of the sea light

Title: Claire of the sea light
By: Edwidge Danticat

I love the way Danticat starts this book by moving backwards in time, recounting each of Claire Limyè Lanmè’s* birthdays from age 7 to age 3 while simultaneously introducing the reader to some principal characters and ways of life in the town of Ville Rose. The book opens with Claire’s ... [Read more]


Heartbreaking yet hopeful

On Sal Mal Lane

Title: On Sal Mal Lane
By: Ru Freeman

From 1983 to 2009, the people of Sri Lanka suffered a lengthy and vicious struggle between the Tamil Hindu minority and the Sinhalese Buddhist majority. On Sal Mal Lane is a heartbreaking yet hopeful chronicle of the families living on a quiet, multiethnic cul-de-sac in Colombo, the largest city on ... [Read more]


Artist or scallywag?

The mad potter: George E. Ohr, eccentric genius

Title: The mad potter: George E. Ohr, eccentric genius
By: Jan Greenberg

"For most of his adult life, folks called George Ohr a scallywag, a rascal, a braggart, a clown. He called himself a genius, an artist, an outsider, a mud dauber, the mad potter." Lively quotes from George Ohr and lots of color photos of his ceramic works make this book ... [Read more]

biography, kids nonfiction
1 Comment

Echt grit

In Times of Fading Light: the story of a family

Title: In Times of Fading Light: the story of a family
By: Eugen Ruge

An East-German family saga told in different characters’ voices and from different points in time. The telling revolves around the 90th birthday party of Wilhelm, the oldest family member. A committed Communist Party member since 1919, Wilhelm worked in Mexico City for a period before he and his wife Charlotte ... [Read more]



Equilateral: a novel

Title: Equilateral: a novel
By: Ken Kalfus

This quiet, geometrical tale is so realistic, one starts to wonder if it really happened, but everyone is so embarrassed it is never mentioned. Victorian explorers, intense scientists, exploited native workers, men of business, and dedicated but undervalued women all contribute to a gargantuan undertaking led by one scientist with ... [Read more]


Harsh and hopeful

The Dark Road

Title: The Dark Road
By: Ma Jian

The Dark Road lives up to its name -- it explores the dark side of the one-child policy in China. Ma Jian, who now lives in London, returned to his native China to research this subject. He describes the efforts of ordinary families to avoid detection and bear extra children ... [Read more]


Armchair underground


Title: Rose
By: Martin Cruz Smith

Enjoy a romantic, suspenseful tale of the underground. Visit a coal mine one mile deep under Victorian England from your own comfortable armchair. Read about free-living pit girls and hardy miners in the company town of Wigan. Be amazed by the clever methods of the American mining engineer assigned to ... [Read more]


In the room with Louis

Oh Play That Thing

Title: Oh Play That Thing
By: Roddy Doyle

A beautiful performance by actor Christian Conn, who creates the gorgeous Irish voices, varied New York accents, and a believable rendition of Louis Armstrong. Conn gives every word its worth, adding meaningful richness to the often spare dialogue. Oh Play That Thing is the second title in The Last Roundup ... [Read more]

fiction, audiobook

Many voices

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Title: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
By: David Mitchell

This is a beautifully interpreted performance of a romantic, imaginative historical fiction by David Mitchell, an author with a deep interest in Japan. During the Edo period, when the entire country is closed to foreigners, only the small island outpost Dejima permits a few Dutch traders to live and trade ... [Read more]

fiction, audiobook

A story about how stories become stories

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

Title: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
By: Philip Pullman

Phillip Pullman’s retelling of the life of Jesus attracted hate mail along with both positive and negative reviews. I found the premise of the book surprising, but came to realize how neatly it provided an analogy of possible differences between the historical man Jesus and the Christ memorialized and mythologized ... [Read more]



Are You My Mother? a comic drama

Title: Are You My Mother? a comic drama
By: Alison Bechdel

Are You My Mother? What an amazing find! I picked up this graphic narrative because the title evokes the children’s book classic Are You My Mother? in which a baby bird wanders around questioning everyone it meets. Bechdel’s cover art -- a vanity, makeup, jewelry -- is our first cue ... [Read more]

biography, graphic novel
1 Comment

Slavery and survival

A Million Nightingales

Title: A Million Nightingales
By: Susan Straight

From within the unusually perceptive and original mind of Moinette, we live through her experience as a slave in Louisiana, which had only recently been purchased by the United States. Beautiful, evocative language; thoroughly researched way of life and social customs; a gripping story that poses strong questions. This is ... [Read more]


An audible treat

Prodigal Summer: a novel

Title: Prodigal Summer: a novel
By: Barbara Kingsolver

If you enjoy Barbara Kingsolver’s writing, you are in for an audible treat. I read Prodigal Summer a few years ago, but it didn’t make a big impression on me until I happened to listen to the audiobook, read by the author herself. Barbara Kingsolver deftly contributes all the appropriate ... [Read more]

fiction, audiobook
1 Comment

A private telescope

Wilderness: a novel

Title: Wilderness: a novel
By: Lance Weller

Some might say this book was about the Civil War, but I think that would give the wrong impression. The Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia is only part of this account that spans 1864 to 1965 through several characters’ stories. The author skillfully traces a few human connections between ... [Read more]


Ends well?

The Fall of Alice K.

Title: The Fall of Alice K.
By: Jim Heynen

This is an American novel, but one with such a different point of view from most I am exposed to that it kept startling me. At first I wasn’t sure that I could get into the story, but something about Alice suddenly grabbed me, and I had to finish the ... [Read more]


Marvelous invention

My Invented Country

Title: My Invented Country
By: Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende’s moving memoir about the country she loved and left is read so perfectly by Cristine McMurdo-Wallis that I almost want to say: Don’t read this book; you must listen to it! The many voices of Allende’s writing -- irony, tenderness, humor and harshly honest journalistic modes -- are ... [Read more]

non-fiction, biography, audiobook

Book Kits

To help your book discussion group, we've gathered a collection of popular paperback titles and sorted them into kits which can be sent to you upon request.

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