Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More hidden gems at the library

Do you have a list of books you want to read "someday"?  A reading bucket list, if you will?  Have you ever come across a book that you meant to read, or always wanted to pick up, but didn't have the time or weren't in the mood, then forgot about?  If you're not keeping a reading wish list, now might be a good time to start one, and if you already keep one?  I've got some great ones you should add to it.  (As an added bonus, these are all great picks for book clubs to read and discuss!)

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett.  You remember me going on and on about Patchett's latest novel, State of Wonder, over the summer?  Well, I originally fell in love with her gifts of storytelling and memorable characters with Bel Canto a number of years ago.  Somewhere in South America, an opera singer performs at the birthday party of a powerful businessman, with a number of international guests in attendance.  The soiree quickly takes a turn when armed terrorists take the party hostage.  And yet, as time unfolds and negotiations drag, what started as a life-threatening struggle changes, as hostages and terrorists form unexpected bonds.  Beautifully written and sure to stay with you long past the last page.

Everyone remembers the huge sleeper hit that was The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  But you may not be so familiar with one of her more recent novels, Day After Night.  Based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred Jewish prisoners from the Atlit internment camp outside Haifa, this novel follows the experiences of four young women haunted by memories and loss as they find the strength to rebuild in the bonds of friendship.  Such a complicated story, told with perfect attention and grace.  This is not, by any means, a light read, but deeply satisfying.  And if you enjoyed The Red Tent, you absolutely owe it to yourself to pick this up.

Also on everyone's radar in the past was The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.  But you might have missed his follow-up novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns.  And while I enjoyed The Kite Runner, I adored A Thousand Splendid Suns.  This novel covers thirty years of civil war, Taliban regime and Anti-Soviet jihad through the lives of two women: Mariam, the scorned illegitimate daughter of a businessman, forced to marry a much older man, Rasheed, at the age of 15; and Laila, the 14-year-old girl Rasheed takes as a second wife after Mariam fails to provide him with children after many years.  Using these two women as a lens, Hosseini gives readers an unflinching view of a society dominated by its men, and the sharp contrast of the resilience of its women.  Very, very highly recommended.

I'm back on Thursday with recommended historical fiction titles!

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