Books Read in 2013
NW by Zadie Smith – Leah and Natalie grew up together in a low class neighborhood in Northwest London. Their stories, interjected with the stories of two of their classmates, make up a compelling yet disjointed, tale of life, friendship, and loneliness.
Ice Land by Betsy Tobin – Tobin weaves both real humans and pagan gods into an awesome story of life in Iceland in the year 1000.
Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami - Sumire, an aspiring writer, and the narrator, K, have been friends for years. Although they are very different, the friendship works, even when Sumire falls for a woman 17 years her senior and abandons writing to work with her crush.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh – Victoria is the stereotypical foster child who can’t love or trust others. She meets a stereotypical foster mother who teaches her about the language of flowers, but of course their relationship isn’t without complications.
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - The Night Circus is a magically awesome circus that begins at sundown and continues until the morning. And while the circus is amazing on it’s own, it’s actually the playing field for two magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood for this “challenge.”
American Gods by Neil Gaiman – Shadow has recently been released from prison when he meets Mr. Wednesday. He’s soon swept up in a world of strange happenings, interesting characters, and some pretty unusual gods.
Books Read in 2012
Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton - Mr. Toppit is the sinister character in a series of British children’s books written by Arthur Hayman. When Arthur dies in a fluke traffic accident, an American tourist named Laurie Clow becomes ingrained in the Hayman family’s life, for better or worse.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – After having his portrait painted, and realizing his extreme attractiveness, Dorian Gray wishes that the portrait would age while he himself stays forever young.
The Giver by Lois Lowry – Jonas’ community is a serene and ultra-organized one, but when he gets his occupation assignment at his 12-year ceremony, he begins to learn disturbing things about the world around him.
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks – Bethia tells the story of her friend Caleb and how he became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College in 1665.
She Looks Just Like You: A Memoir of (Nonbiological Lesbian) Motherhood by Amie Klempnauer Miller – Amie tells the story of how she and her partner come to decide to have a baby and how the addition of little Hannah changes their lives.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Nick and Amy have a pretty messed up marriage, as we realize once Amy goes missing.
Atonement by Ian McEwan – Briony’s actions change the course of the lives of everyone in her family, but McEwan most sappily focuses on the relationship between her sister Cecile and their housekeeper’s son Robbie.
Wake Up, Sir by Jonathan Ames – A struggling writer moves from his aunt and uncle’s home to an artist’s colony, with his trusty valet Jeeves in tow.
Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer – The story of Dan and Ron Lafferty, Mormon Fundamentalist brothers who kill their sister-in-law and her baby daughter, interwoven with the founding and history of the Mormon Church.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman - After a series of unusual events, Quentin Coldwater finds himself newly admitted to a magical college, Brakebills, where he spends four years mastering the art of magic.
Night of Many Dreams By Gail Tsukiyama – Joan, Emma, and Auntie Go take turns touring the reader through a period of more than twenty years, beginning before the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong during WWII.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – Tengo and Aomame become inadvertently involved with a religious cult and end up in a world with two moons.
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman – Lia Lee is a Hmong child living in Mercer, CA, who suffers from seizures.
Breaking up with God by Sarah Sentilles – A memoir about losing faith.
Great House by Nicole Krauss – Intertwined short stories that chronicle the lives touched by a large and foreboding desk.
Books Read in 2011
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling – Harry, Ron, and Hermoine do not return to Hogwarts, which has now been taken over been Death Eaters. Instead they continue to pursue Voldemort and, now, the Deathly Hallows.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by JK Rowling – Voldemort’s power is rising, the Ministry of Magic is cracking down, and Harry is deemed “The Chosen One.”
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling – The Order of the Phoenix is working to conquer Voldemort
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling – Harry participates in the Triwizard Tournament, which seems to be an attempt to kill him.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling – Sirius Black, an escaped murderer, is on the hunt for Harry.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling – Boy wizard fights the bad guys in a secret chamber.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling – Boy wizard fights the bad guys.
Holes by Louis Sachar – Bad luck runs in Stanley’s family and that is how he ends up at a camp for troubled boys. It soon becomes apparent that Stanley and the other boys are not just digging holes to “built character” but are looking for something that the Warden wants to find.
One Day by David Nicholls – An overly sentimental love story between Dexter and Emma. Their relationship progresses over 20 years and we see snapshots of it one day each year – July 15.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – A funny, zany science fiction novel in which earthling Arthur is introduced to the galaxy by researcher Ford Prefect and meets two-headed galaxy president, torturous poetry reading, murderous mice, and depressed robots.
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss – A funny take on grammar. An excellent read even if you’re not a grammar freak.
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald – Henry is a “practice baby” for a college home economics program in the 1950s. Having five rotating mothers leaves him, understandably, fairly effed up.
Zoology by Ben Dolnick – Henry is a recent college flunk out who moves to NYC to live with his brother and his girlfriend for the summer. He works at Central Park Zoo, falls for a girl he can’t have, deals with family drama, questions his future, and grows up a little.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – Chris McCandless hitchhikes and camps across the country, finally landing in Alaska, where he longs to be alone in “the wild.” An engrossing, haunting story.
The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure – Wendy gets inside “Laura World,” traveling to the sites of the Little House books.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen – Now an old man, Jacob Jankowski tells the story of his younger days working with the circus.
Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami – Two parallel worlds, unicorns, underground laboratories, INKlings, walled communities – typical Murakami wonderfulness.
A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami – A man and his girlfriend, who has “magical ears,” go on an adventure to locate one unique sheep.
Mockingjay Fire by Suzanne Collins – The third book in the Hunger Games Trilogy
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – The second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Set in a future United States, the Capitol keeps the 12 Districts in line by forcing them to participate in the Hunger Games, a series of televised games in which 24 teenage “tributes” from the districts fight to the death.
Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami – Second in a trilogy, the narrator grieves for both his dead girlfriend and a missing pinball machine.
Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris – Harris is writing a letter to the conservative Christians in America, arguing their religious beliefs are are the greatest impediment to humankind. He makes a fantastic case for atheism.
Room by Emma Donoghue – Told from the point of view of a five year old boy, this is the story of Jack and his mother who are being held captive by a man Jack calls “Old Nick.”
Books Read in 2010
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami – A collection of short stories that range from common themes to perplexing situations. A great introduction to Murakami.
Embracing Family by Nobuo Kojima – The story of the struggling Miwa family and the influence of western culture on Japan post World War II.
Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Rampo – Japanese mysteries that are more creepy, lonely and eerie than traditional American mysteries or horror stories.
Super Crunchers by Ian Ayres – Ayres illustrates how huge amounts of data can be used to make accurate predictions about everyday things.
Naomi by Junichiro Tanizaki – A pathetic and lovesick Joji makes a fool of himself while trying to hold onto his perfect woman, Naomi.
Rashōmon by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa – A collection of short stories, I only read the first two – Rashōmon and In the Grove , which focus on the moral dilemnas of theft, murder and lying.
Kokoro by Natsume Soseki – An inspection of two characters’ emotional lives, which includes family drama and moral dilemnas.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks – The story of the Sarajevo Haggadah, a historic Jewish book complete with extensively elaborate illustrations. The novel alternates between the story of how the book came to be created and transported over time and the current restoration of the ancient text.
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner – Levitt and Dubner attempt to explain every day questions and paradoxes using the principals of economics.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – In a departure from the classically unusual Murakami style, Toru and Naoko struggle to deal with their friend’s suicide.
Solar by Ian McEwan – Physics expert Michael Beard gets involved in an effort to improve solar energy, but his 5 ex wives, lies, cheating and shady past make it more difficult then he would like.
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell – Interesting read on how epidemics (best selling books, fashion trends, popular styles, etc) catch on and influence the masses.
Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama – While spending a year in Tarumi recovering from an illness, Stephen meets Matsu, Sachi and Keiko whose friendships give him a new way of looking at life, love, loss and happiness.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – An autobiographical graphic novel that tells the story of Marjane’s childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac – A classic of the beatnik generation, this novel tells the story of Sal and his multiple journeys across the US in the 1940s.
The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier – A fluffy novel about a Columbia professor who uncharacteristically moves to Amherst, MA and buys an old fixer upper. In the process she learns all sorts of cheesy things about herself and life.
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – A series of interlocking short stories that- however remotely – involve Crosby, ME resident Olive Kitteridge.
Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach – Set in 17th century Holland, Cornelis Sandvoort hires painter Jan van Loos to paint a portrait of him and his young wife Sophia. Cornelis is smitten with Sophia, but Sophia is smitten with the painter.
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan – Friendship between Clive Linley and Vernon Halliday changes forever after the death of their former lover Molly Lane.
Waiting by Ha Jin – Lin and Manna wait 18 long years in order for Lin to divorce his wife. Through the nearly two decades, the two change, learn and grow, but not necessarily together.
In the Land of Believers by Gina Welch – Gina goes undercover as an evangelical Christian at Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Church. She travels to Alaska on a missionary trip, makes close friends and ultimately learns to appreciate a life different from her own.
Home Land by Sam Lipsyte – Lewis Miner, AKA Teabag, narrates this story through a series of off-the-wall class notes he’s submitting to his high school newsletter.
Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys – Through letters to her old friend Robert, Henrietta humorously narrates life in England during World War II.
Desperate Characters by Paula Fox – Sophie and Otto are in fact “desperate characters.” From a broken partnership to a robbery, from failed friendships to unexpected health concerns, over the course of just a few days their lives are quickly falling apart.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters – Full of surprises, Gentleman and Sue plan to swindle Maud out of her fortune.
Books Read in 2009
The Help by Kathryn Stockett – The very touching story of the African American maids working in the homes of white women in the south in the 1960’s.
The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose – Kevin takes a semester off from Brown to attend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Kevin does his best to fit in, pretend to be saved, make friends, pass his classes and date. Great story with a lot of excellent insights.
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker – Paul Chowder is a struggling poet who has a serious case of writer’s block, a girlfriend who has just left him and a habit for unfortunate accidents.
Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs – Jacobs goes through the Bible and records every rule or law he finds and tries to live by them for a year.
White Tiger by Aravind Adiga – We see Balram’s transformation from an obedient servant to a murderer, but are surprisingly routing for him.
The Color of Water by James McBride – James tells his story of growing up with a white mother and black father in the racially charged 60’s. This touching story notes that race may not be as important as we all think, and maybe, as James’ mother said, we are all just the color of water.
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – Almost the entire book takes place on a young couple’s wedding night in Britain in the early 1960’s.
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead – Benji deals with typical teenage self consciousness, drama and awkwardness at Sag Harbor the summer he is 15.
Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick – Catherine answers Ralph’s ad for a wife and travels to rural Wisconsin to marry him, but no one turns out to be who they seem.
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – A collection of short stories about Indian Americans.
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri – A collection of short stories about Indian Americans.
A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal – Thomas’ memoir of how he survived Nazi concentration camps Birkenau and Auschwitz as a 10-year-old. Fascinating and frightening.
Vanished Smile by R.A. Scotti – Tells the tale of the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911.
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood – Ren and Toby are both struggling to survive in a world that has encountered a “waterless flood.”
I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed by Kyria Abrahams – Kyria tells the story of growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness in RI.
My Life in France by Julia Child – The autobiography of Julia Child.
Write These Laws on Your Children by Robert Kunzman – Robert examines the ins-and-outs of conservative evangelical families who home school their children.
Green Metropolis by David Owens – David Owen’s idea is that, contrary to popular belief, cities like Manhattan are actually more environmentally friendly than rural or suburban locations.