My Mid-Year Five-Star Fiction Favorites

It hardly seems possible that 2017 is more than half over. I have read 27 books so far this year, which is pretty close to my average of one book per week. As mentioned in the “About Me” section, my reading preferences include southern fiction; books about family relationships and friendships; books with connections to Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas; memoir and history. I do read outside my “preferences” and have discovered many wonderful books and authors through recommendations, award nominees and winners, and reading reviews.

I keep track of my books on Goodreads and would encourage you to connect with me there. My ratings on Goodreads and Amazon are rarely lower than four or five stars, because there are so many wonderful books available that I usually won’t continue with a book that doesn’t captivate me in some way. I have also fine-tuned my selection process to the point that most of the books I read please me greatly. That doesn’t mean that they will please every reader; that’s why I’m happy that there are so many to choose from!

 

The Feathered Bone

The Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell

A young girl disappears on a New Orleans school outing just before Hurricane Katrina.  The tumult and tragedy of the entire city frame the fate of one child during the months, then years that follow.

 

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Flight Patterns by Karen White

Southern women’s fiction at its best.  Two sisters with such a bone to pick that they don’t see each other for ten years, a beautiful mother who isn’t as loony as she seems, and interesting tidbits about beekeeping fill out the plot nicely.

 

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I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

A region and a family in crisis. Beautifully-told story of the Dust Bowl with nuggets of truth and wisdom that I won’t forget.  Oklahoma Book Award finalist.

 

Mudbound

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

A superb book, recently released as a movie and already receiving Oscar buzz.  The story of two families — the owners of a Mississippi Delta farm at the end of World War II and the sharecroppers who live and work on it.  Winner of the Bellwether Prize for fiction (promoting social responsibility).

 

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Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Based on accounts of an adoption ring which operated in Memphis from the 1930’s until the 1950’s. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings are stolen from their parents and turned over to an orphanage without fair representation or recourse.

 

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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Two families, five decades, two married couples, six children who only agree on their hatred for their parents after the dissolution of two marriages.  Anyone who has been divorced and remarried, been a part of a blended or dysfunctional family, and created their own narrative about the situation will identify with this story and each characters’ interpretations of what happened and why.

 

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The Risen by Ron Rash

A “summer of love” for two teenaged North Carolina brothers comes back to haunt them decades later when the fate of the girl who bewitched them both comes to light.

 

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The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Two women of remarkable intellect are separated by centuries but united through history and seventeenth-century documents. The “weight of ink” takes on new meaning through this absorbing and thought-provoking book.

Are you a member of Goodreads? If so, please connect with me there.  In the meantime, consider commenting on your own book selection or ratings method. Please share with anyone who might enjoy any of these reading selections. 

 

 

 

Book Recommendation for June 2017

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This month’s recommended title, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, is one from a subcategory of books I collect about reading, writing, libraries, bookstores, book collecting, and related subjects.  Many of these books reside on my shelves at home while others are in the branches of our Pioneer Library System.  (Yes, I understand that I don’t personally own the library books, but I consider them mine just the same.  I just don’t have room for all of them to live with me.) The books about what other readers and writers enjoy are among my favorites because they give me insight on their choices and preferences and because I inevitably discover new titles to add to my “must read” list.

I understand that I don’t personally own the library books, but I consider them mine just the same.  I just don’t have room for all of them to live with me.

It took me some time to read By the Book, but that didn’t diminish my pleasure in it. It’s the kind of book that is best taken in small bites; to do otherwise would be, for me, like eating the entire Thanksgiving turkey in one sitting. (I do like turkey and look forward to leftovers. Any perceived implication that authors’ opinions should be compared to helpings of turkey is entirely coincidental).

The layout of the book lends itself to reading about three, four, or ten (the reader’s decision) author responses to many of the same questions. Some typical questions include “When and where do you like to read?”, “What were your favorite books as a child?”, “Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like and didn’t?”, “If you could require the president to read just one book, what would it be?”

I found that reading about three authors’ responses was what I could absorb without getting them confused. Of course, it helped when an author like David Sedaris followed someone like Colin Powell.

Special sections included compiled responses on subjects such as “My Library”, “On Poetry”, “On Not Having Read”, and “Laugh-Out-Loud Funny”. Sixty-five authors were interviewed for the book, including several of my favorites: Elizabeth Gilbert, Anne Lamott, Marilynne Robinson, Hilary Mantel, Khaled Hosseini, James McBride, Ann Patchett and others.

I will end with my favorite response to the question “If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be”? from Gary Shteyngart: “Definitely Don’t Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein. It’s about how a great many creatures you encounter will try to eat you, even if you start acting all bipartisan.”

Added Note: Pamela Paul, who edited By the Book, has recently released a new title: My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues. Bob is Paul’s journal, her “book of books” in which she has recorded every book she has read from high school forward. Those of us who record our books in journals or on Goodreads will be interested in the long list of titles, but even more so in the relationship between the Paul and the books she has read.  I have added this title to my own “must read” list.

Reading Resource of the Month: Shelf Awareness is a website and newsletter that helps readers discover the 25 best books of the week, as chosen by booksellers, librarians and other industry experts. They also feature news about books and authors, author interviews and more of interest to readers and book lovers.

My Bookstore Bucket List

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When I was preparing to retire as a librarian, I read several books about aging and retirement. I received some excellent advice that translated into action which is reflected in my blog. The first and broader task was to think in terms of legacy — what did I want to leave behind and how could I best accomplish what was important to me in the remaining years of my life? The second was more specific and had to do with what would make my remaining years fulfilling and enjoyable — my bucket list.

The photo above illustrates one item on my bucket list — to visit as many bookstores as I can and to promote them and those that are out of my reach.  You can see that I have collected bookmarks from many of those I have visited, an inexpensive and unencumbered way to remember them.

One item on my bucket list — to visit as many bookstores as I can and to promote them and those that are out of my reach.

I have expanded this bucket list item to a “make-a-wish” venture for booklovers whereby my friends and I would participate in a bookstore tour of some length. A good starting point would be those featured in my book recommendation for the month:

My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read and Shop 

I loved this book on several levels. Many of my favorite authors have written essays included in the book, which gave me insight into their reading and shopping habits. The essays almost inevitably introduced me to the owners and staff of the stores, and confirmed what I had already known: those who own and work in bookstores are extraordinary people, who see and understand the world as I do. Each author’s biographical information include titles from their work, so I have also gained many books for my “to read” list. What more could I ask for?

To answer my own question, let me state that I am not a person who would enjoy cruises, especially those that would put me on open water for several days. What I would enjoy would be a bookstore cruise. Put me on a train or a luxury bus in the company of other booklovers, give me a liberal shopping allowance, and send me from bookstore to bookstore, using those in this book as the itinerary. I would expect that the bookstore owner would be so excited to have shoppers by the busload, that they would make arrangements for a wonderful place for us to eat and spend the night. Oh, and a requirement would be that the author who wrote about the store in such glowing terms would return once more to meet all of their new friends (thanks to the book) and sign a few titles while they were there. Until that happens, I will use this book for my own itinerary and bookish bucket list.

I have already recruited some members of The Ravenous Readers group at the McLoud (Oklahoma) branch of the Pioneer Library System. I can’t imagine a more congenial group of bookstore cruisers, but would expect to also meet a lot of new bookish friends along the way.

Reading Resource of the Month

I will also introduce you to Parnassus Books in Nashville, because I enjoyed visiting there and because the co-owners are Karen Hayes and one of my favorite authors, Ann Patchett.  While on their website, be sure to subscribe to her blog, Musing, which showcases exclusive interviews and original contributions from great authors and their own staff of booklovers (both human and canine).