“Right about now, New Year’s vows to go to the gym and stop eating sugar are falling by the wayside. But here’s a resolution that’s pure pleasure without the sweat or calories: Reading more! Here to get you started for 2018 are some favorites our members read in 2017.”-Lorrie
Favorites of Lucinda Cummings
The History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (a Minnesota author and Mann Booker nominee).
Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither by Sara Baume. The first novel of an Irish writer, beautifully written, in the voice of a developmentally disabled male narrator; a dog story, a bit of a mystery, somewhat dark, so original.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Amazing story of multiple generations of an African family, from pre-slavery on.
March by John Lewis. A graphic memoir trilogy about the life of the civil rights pioneer.
Lit by Mary Karr. Memoir of her alcoholism. An older book, but her writing is just so lyrically lovely.
Sometimes Amazing Things Happen by Elizabeth Ford. The memoir of a young psychiatrist about her work in a NYC inpatient unit that treats men being held at Rikers Island. Dramatic, fascinating, poignant, infuriating.
Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. A memoir classic I’d never read. The author works in a Boston homeless shelter, where he encounters his estranged father as a client.
The Futilitarians by Anne Gisleson. A memoir of post-Katrina New Orleans, about the “existential crisis book club” formed by a group of friends experiencing loss, change, meaninglessness; well written, and readings they discuss each month are diverse and interesting. Humor, redemption, community…what could be better?
Favorites of Veronica Derrick
I really enjoyed Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad. It’s one of those books where every chapter is by a different character in a different time period, but they all loosely tie together to weave this intricate quilt.
I read Suzanne Collins’s series, Gregor the Overlander, with my girls, and we were hooked. Like Harry Potter, though, they get increasingly violent, and there were times when we were reading the last couple books that I wondered if they were appropriate for the girls. But we couldn’t get through them and check out the next one quickly enough!
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown was a gripping book and also made me think again about how children need to be trusted far more than we are comfortable today trusting.
Because I got lucky and was able to get tickets to see the musical, I read Chernow’s Hamilton. While not the hugest history fan, I will say that I felt as though I’d opened a Christmas present. I learned so much about our country’s history and politics. Parts were repetitious but I plan to read it a second time because there was too much to absorb.
Sapiens by Yuval Harari is fantastic. It’s so good and informative that I read it in small segments and then think on it. Warning: It is one of those books that’s deceivingly dense. When you pick it up your hand dips.
The Grid by Gretchen Bakke was fascinating. I worked in renewable energy for most of my career and I didn’t know half of what was in this book. It sounds boring, but the start of our electrical system has all the drama of a good crime series. I highly recommend it. Also, it will put in laymen terms what all the fuss is about renewable energy, what the grid is about, and what we need to be lobbying our senators to do so that we can continue to green the Earth.
Favorite of Maria Dudley
The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster. It isn’t a heavy book, but just well written and charming. It’s a page turner.
Favorites of Steven Friedman
Prayers for the Stolen by Nora Webster
Giant of the Senate by Al Franken (I read this book before the allegations against Franken surfaced. I enjoyed the book a lot, but I also understand it’s gotten a bit complicated.)
The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Favorites of Lorrie Goldin
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. This is a must-read account by the civil rights attorney who founded the Equal Justice Initiative.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. An absorbing novel following members of two families over the decades.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. You may have read the author’s moving essay, “How Long Have I Got Left?” in the New York Times. This is the young neurosurgeon’s beautifully written and heartbreaking memoir about suddenly finding himself in the role of patient after a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Favorites of Jilanne Hoffmann
Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran. Set in Berkeley and Mexico, it’s a timely story at the intersection of race, class, adoption, and deportation. Although it is a heavy and at times heartbreaking book, Sekaran successfully infuses humor and astute observation into each of the narrative voices. In the process, I learned about the U.S.’s inhumane deportation system, where immigrants enter a Kafkaesque world. To her credit, Sekaran researched a number of topics, including infertility, adoption, and U.S. immigration law to portray every element of her story accurately. She interviewed parents who had adopted children, immigration lawyers, fertility doctors, etc…all to inform her story. What triggered this passion within her? An NPR broadcast about a young Mexican mother who was separated from her baby (who was still nursing) and deported.
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs. A memoir written by a poet while dying from breast cancer. It is gloriously beautiful and difficult to put down. As with any great memoir, it is funny and insightful and will occasionally bring you to tears.
Birds Art Life: A Year of Observation by Kyo Maclear. A memoir written by a terrific children’s book author as well as novelist/essayist. Maclear uses bird watching as an entry point into examining her grief about her ailing father and how she and other artists approach creation. Sounds strange, but it works beautifully! I checked this one out of the library and had to buy it for re-reading.
Spinning by our own Janine Kovac! As I said in one of my reviews: It’s really hard to turn off the light at night. But when I do, I dream of ballet, of music, of the fragility and strength of human life, and of the lovely insights I’ve been given into the author’s journey. There is so much here to think about.
Favorites of Janine Kovac
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano by Andrea Avery. Written by an alum from Squaw. She’s also the winner of the Glamour Life essay contest. This memoir about a budding young pianist who is stricken with chronic arthritis as a child is raw, painful, funny in some places and angry in others but always heartfelt and honest. Avery weaves in motifs from music theory–none of which I know or understand–and yet, I didn’t need to in order to benefit from how the music aspect supported the narrative. Frankly, I only purchased the book to show my support for the author and I’m so glad I did! Lesson: support your local authors!
The Harry Potter series! I’d never read them before! But one of the twins dove in and read all seven this summer. I read them too just so I could know what he was reading.
Favorites of Marianne Lonsdale
I adored A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life by Pat Conroy. This nonfiction book was published in 2016, soon after Conroy’s death. He is the author of several well-known books; The Great Santini and Prince of Tides are two. The book is made up of many short essays, some on writing and many his reflections on relationships with friends, family, and places. I was moved to tears so many times by the beauty of the writing and the poignancy and truth of his words.
Favorite of Gloria Saltzman
A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall. If you like to grapple with romance and the spirit world, this is a book that dances over both of those topics with delicious ambiguity. The trials of various relationships occur with Kew Gardens as a backdrop to the stories.
The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner. Liz Rosner is the child of two holocaust survivors. All of her writing is related to the lives of holocaust victims and survivors. Like Ursula Hegi (Stones from the River, Floating in My Mother’s Palm) and Shira Nayman (Awake in the Dark), this is a particular genre of holocaust writing that transverses the inner worlds of all the characters on both sides of the traumatic history they share.
Blue Nude by Elizabeth Rosner. Another novel by Liz Rosner that addresses the attraction of people who come from “enemy groups” yet find each other in a liminal space attempting to understand their respective histories and the roles those who came before them left behind as their legacy.
The Odd Woman and the City: A memoir by Vivian Gornick. Not quite as readable as The Romance of American Communism or Fierce Attachments, still an interesting invitation to understanding the life of a strong woman who finds herself unable to commit to a permanent romantic relationship but does have a life-long friend she struggles with but can always count on. The street life of Manhattan is her constant companion and always faithful.
On Edge: a Journey Through Anxiety by Andrea Petersen. An excellent combination memoir and nonfiction book about mental health. It addresses not only the author’s family but other known families and celebrities and the history of treatment in relation to social decorum and the pharmaceutical industries.
The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz. A psychiatrist writes a light compilation of his clients lives and what he gleans about finding meaning from working with them.
Favorites of Evelyn Weiser
The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida
The Nix by Nathan Hill
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas