Tag Archives: Recommended by Kathy

Kathy’s Best of 2013

Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonTitle:  Life After Life

Author:  Kate Atkinson

Call #:  ATKINSON

Ursula Todd is born in England during the winter of 1910.  She dies before she can take her first breath but in the very next scene we find Ursula being born again, taking her first breath and starting a life that is quite unusual.  As a matter of fact, we will witness Ursula dies multiple times only to come back each time.  The premise may sound strange and confusing and in the hands of a lesser writer there is a very good chance that could have happened.  But Kate Atkinson has the ability to keep it all straight, make it engaging and add her signature British humor.  Amazing!

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann PatchettTitle:  This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Author:  Ann Patchett

Call #:  BIOGRAPHY PATCHETT

This is a collection of essays which is how Patchett supported herself while she pursued her passion – fiction writing.  She wrote for Seventeen Magazine for years and also wrote for Bridal Magazine.  Non-fiction came more easily for her.  I like how the book is organized by subject as opposed to time.  There is a great essay about being invited to a college to speak about her book Truth and Beauty but there is a huge outcry against her and her book prior to her visit.  The next essay is the transcript of the speech she ultimately gave at the college.  You want to be her friend and have her tell you these stories over dinner. If you are a writer or a lover of books and bookstores, you will love it but really there is something here for everyone.

Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria SempleTitle:  Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

Author:  Maria Semple

Call #:  SEMPLE

A darling of 2012, I finally got around to reading this in 2013 and it was just about perfect.  Maria Semple was a writer for the television show Arrested Development and a similar satiric humor, at times ridiculous and at times dark, pervades the story.  Bernadette is a famous architect renowned for one building, who has basically gone into hiding.  She lives with her husband and daughter in an upper class Seattle neighborhood until she disappears.  Her daughter tells the story and compiles emails, letters and official documents (all of which make up the majority of the book) in attempt to find her.  Hilarious, engrossing and touching – what more could you ask for?

Recommended by:  Kathy

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Stitches by David Small

StitchesTitle:  Stitches

Author:  David Small

Call #:  G SMA

David Small’s coming-of-age memoir in graphic format accomplishes much with few words and stark yet affecting drawings.  When he is 14, he has a procedure that he believes is routine, only to wake from surgery almost mute, having a vocal cord removed.  Not until much later does he find out that he had cancer and was expected to die.  His cold, angry and bitter parents believe they did what was best.  This book is heartbreaking and amazing – there are pictures that will stay with me for a very long time.

Recommended by:  Kathy

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire by Susannah CahalanTitle:  Brain on Fire:  My Month of Madness

Author:  Susannah Cahalan

Call #:  616.8 CAH

Susannah is a young woman who has worked her way through the ranks at the New York Post.  She is fun-loving, smart and happy.  She starts experiencing symptoms – fatigue, numbness in her limbs – which her doctor attributes to mono.  Until the night that she experiences hallucinations and body convulsions.  She is admitted to the hospital and won’t come out for over a month.  The doctors cannot figure out what is wrong with her.  She is, at turns, delusional, catatonic, and violent.  Ultimately doctors discover that she has a virus that makes her body attack her brain.  It is now believed that this virus is the culprit of what people believe to be demonic possession.  Fascinating.

Recommended by:  Kathy

Favorites of 2012 – Kathy

Today’s post features Kathy’s favorite books read in 2012.

The Family Fang by Kevin WilsonTitle:  The Family Fang

Author:  Kevin Wilson

Call #:  WIL

Kevin Wilson has created a fabulously dysfunctional family in this novel from 2011.  Parents Camille and Caleb Fang are artists whose art involves creating chaos in public spaces and then filming it.  When their two children are born, they include them in their schemes and vie for the title of “Worst Parents”.  The book opens in the present day; children Buster and Annie are grown and dealing with their unhappy, stagnant lives which forces them both to move back home. The book alternates chapters between the present and the past where one of the family’s art installations is detailed.  I loved this coming-of-age tale full of dark humor.  For months after I read it I continued to speak of the characters as if they were real.

Eat the Document by Dana SpiottaTitle:  Eat the Document

Author:  Dana Spiotta

Call #:  SPI

This is my type of book but might not be everybody’s type of book.  It does not have a straightforward plot – it jumps in time, place, and perspective – and there isn’t a lot of forward momentum.  Simply put, it’s just a story but a story that is compellingly told.  It is about a woman in the 1970s that as part of the anti-war movement, participated in a violent act forcing her to go underground.  Both her past and present, where she has changed her identity, are detailed.  A third storyline revolves around a man who may or may not have been the main character’s lover in the 70s and now owns a counter-culture book store.  Questions of identity, how you can create a new one or unravel an existing one, and lives led on the outskirts of society lend the novel a philosophical tone.  If you like Jennifer Egan, Dana Spiotta might be a good choice.

This is How You Lose Her by Junot DiazTitle:  This Is How You Lose Her

Author:  Junot Diaz

Call #:  DIAZ

Generally short stories are not my favorite but two things helped with this collection – the stories are interconnected and the writing is fantastic.  They are connected by theme (love, lust, sex, cheating and more cheating) and by character.  Most of the stories feature brothers Yunior and Rafa – from Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  I really love Diaz’s writing style because it is unlike anything else I read. One reviewer summed it up perfectly – “GRE-prep words with literary allusions, pop-culture references, Dominican slang, and American profanity”.

Recommended by:  Kathy

This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

This is How You Lose Her by Junot DiazTitle:  This is How You Lose Her

Author:  Junot Diaz

Call #:  DIAZ

Generally short stories are not my favorite but two things helped with this collection – the stories are interconnected and the writing is fantastic.  They are connected by theme (love, lust, sex, cheating and more cheating) and by character.  Most of the stories feature brothers Yunior and Rafa – from Diaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.  I really love Diaz’s writing style because it is unlike anything else I read. One reviewer summed it up perfectly – “GRE-prep words with literary allusions, pop-culture references, Dominican slang, and American profanity”.

Recommended by:  Kathy

Stay Awake by Dan Chaon

Stay Awake by Dan ChaonTitle:  Stay Awake

Author:  Dan Chaon

Call #:  CHA

Dan Chaon is one of my favorite authors. He is just a great writer and although his style is always a bit dark and disturbing, these stories are especially so. Death, dying, dark secrets and desperation loom large. But I reiterate – WOW, what a writer.  It seems obvious that the death of his wife in 2008 from cancer has had a profound effect on his writing.

Recommended by:  Kathy

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom FranklinTitle:  Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Author:  Tom Franklin

Call #:  FRA

Main characters Silas and Larry were good friends when they were little but they had to hide their friendship because of racial tension in their small Mississippi town that is written wonderfully by Franklin.  In high school they drift apart; Larry is believed to be the killer in an unsolved case of a girl who disappeared while Silas becomes a star baseball player.  Flash to present day – Larry is still known as Scary Larry, and Silas is the town constable.  Another girl has gone missing and all eyes land on Larry.  Although there is a mystery, the story is more about relationships and how perceptions affect beliefs and actions.

Recommended by:  Kathy