We realized when we had our list compiled, that these books have a common theme – FREEDOM. We found books about the freedom to do what you want – for better or worse, to be what you want, to make mistakes, and the freedom to forgive yourself (and others) for past mistakes. Other books on the list are about fighting for freedom, sacrificing for freedom, and the freedoms that some people will go to the ends of the earth to acquire, and even the freedoms that some people try to prevent other people from enjoying. It was an unintended theme, but one that emerged nonetheless. We hope you find some of these books to be as wonderful as we did.
In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s intensely realized characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time. Read More
In her new novel, Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen once again examines the relationship – both emotional and biological – between man and animal. This time, focusing on highly intelligent bonobo apes, she infuses the story with an unexpected level of humor, mystery and a foray into popular culture. What the reader can be assured of is yet another thoroughly engaging story, brimming with deftly drawn characters and compelling storylines. Read More
Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, on Washington State ‘s rugged Pacific coast, “West of Here” is propelled by a story that both re-creates and celebrates the American experience it is storytelling on the grandest scale. With one segment of the narrative focused on the town ‘s founders circa 1890 and another showing the lives of their descendants in 2006, the novel develops as a kind of conversation between two epochs, one rushing blindly toward the future and the other struggling to undo the damage of the past. Read More
When Irma Vitale, a young girl growing up in a tiny mountain village in Italy, realizes that her life stretches out before her with no appealing possibilities, she sets out, on foot and alone, for America, and the promise of opportunity it holds. We follow her through the terrible ocean crossing to Cincinnati, where she hopes to find her brother who disappeared two years earlier. But life in America is not all she dreamed of, and making her way requires grit and determination Irma doesn’t know if she possesses. A wonderful book that sheds new light on the hardships suffered by our ancestors who dared to emigrate and face an unknown future. Read More
Unpublished until a century after the author’s death, per his explicit instructions, this is a literary event not to be missed! With all the acerbic wit we expect from Twain, and many of the ideas he was reluctant to express during his lifetime, this is the much anticipated, much discussed, carefully curated account of the life of an American icon — in his own words. Read More
An emotional and revealing exploration of the life of the Queen of Heartbreak. Based on dozens of interviews, McDonough’s book unveils a life of profound extremes, from Wynette’s impoverished youth in Mississippi, to her meteoric rise after meeting legendary producer Billy Sherrill, to her star-crossed marriage to music legend George Jones. What emerges is an unforgettable view of a Nashville that no longer exists-and a woman whose life mirrored the sadness captured in her music.
Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question. In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world. Read More
Set in the late 1970s in Mississippi this taught, psychological thriller was Dr. Bob’s pick as the best of the year. Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood pals. Their worlds were as different as night and day: Larry, the child of lower-middle-class white parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Yet for a few months the boys stepped outside of their circumstances and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: Larry took a girl on a date to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and Larry never confessed, but all eyes rested on him as the culprit. The incident shook the county—and perhaps Silas most of all. His friendship with Larry was broken, and then Silas left town. More than twenty years have passed. Larry, a mechanic, lives a solitary existence, never able to rise above the whispers of suspicion. Silas has returned as a constable. He and Larry have no reason to cross paths until another girl disappears and Larry is blamed again. And now the two men who once called each other friend are forced to confront the past they’ve buried and ignored for decades. Read More
Grennan takes a year off from his job with the EastWest Institute and volunteers for three months in a Nepalese orphanage. He is captivated by his lively and affectionate young charges, but the story grows darker as he learns more about the for-profit traffic in young children stolen from their families and villages. Grennan vows to return to help reunite the children with their families, and the story of his fulfillment of that quest is powerful and moving. Read More
At the end of her memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian living in Indonesia. The couple swore eternal love, but also swore (as skittish divorce survivors) never to marry. However, providence intervened in the form of a U.S. government ultimatum: get married, or Felipe could never enter America again. Told with Gilbert’s trademark humor and intelligence, this fascinating meditation on compatibility and fidelity chronicles Gilbert’s complex and sometimes frightening journey into second marriage, and will enthrall the millions of readers who made Eat, Pray, Love a number one bestseller. Read More
After three decades of studying, teaching and writing about our compulsions with food, bestselling author Geneen Roth adds a powerful new dimension to her work in Women Food and God. She begins with her most basic concept: The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. Your relationship with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation and, yes, even God. Read More
“Shmirshky” is a groundbreakingly brisk, hilarious, and also entirely serious girlfriend’s guide to perimenopause and menopause, inspired by the author’s own struggles with what she calls PM&M. Let’s face it, perimenopause and menopause are still too rarely talked about. Shmirshky turns this taboo topic into an all-inclusive page-turner. Read More
Emily and her husband Sandy Portman seemed to live a gracious if busy life in an old-world, Upper West Side apartment in the famous Dakota building. But one night on the way to meet Emily, Sandy dies in a tragic accident. The funeral isn’t even over before Emily learns she is on the verge of being evicted from their apartment. But worse than the possibility of losing her home, Emily is stunned when she discovers that her marriage was made up of lies.
Suddenly Emily is forced on a journey to find out who her husband really was . . . all the while feeling that somehow he isn’t really gone. Angry, hurt, and sometimes betrayed by loving memories of the man she lost, Emily finds comfort in a scruffy dog named Einstein. But is Einstein’s seemingly odd determination that she save herself enough to make Emily confront her own past? Can he help her find a future—even after she meets a new man? Read More
This delicious little book was a no-brainer choice for a bookstore lady who also loves anything hinting of magic! When recently divorced Bengali-American Jasmine Mistry is called home to Shelter Island to run her beloved aunt’s bookstore for a month, she decides a change of scenery will do her good. What she finds is a wonderful, dusty, magical bookshop where strange things happen as a matter of course. Surrounded by her loving, if somewhat quirky family, and a collection of savvy ghosts, Jasmine begins to face her heartbreak as she does her best to care for her aunt’s business. And then, of course, a mysterious handsome stranger appears … but is he more than he seems? Read More
The Congo beckons to young Amanda Brown in 1958, as she follows her missionary calling to the mysterious “dark continent” far from her South Carolina home. But her enthusiasm cannot cushion her from the shock of a very foreign culture—where competing missionaries are as plentiful as flies, and oppressive European overlords are busy stripping the land of its most valuable resource: diamonds. Little by little, Amanda is drawn into the lives of the villagers in tiny Belle Vue—and she is touched by the plight of the local witch doctor, a man known as Their Death, who has been forced to take a second job as a yardman to support his two wives. But when First Wife stumbles upon an impossibly enormous uncut gem, events are set in motion that threaten to devastate the lives of these people Amanda has come to admire and love—events that could lead to nothing less than murder. Read More
There is an army of women waiting for their men to return in Fort Hood, Texas. Through a series of loosely interconnected stories, Siobhan Fallon takes readers onto the base, inside the homes, into the marriages and families-intimate places not seen in newspaper articles or politicians’ speeches. When you leave Fort Hood, the sign above the gate warns, You’ve Survived the War, Now Survive the Homecoming. It is eerily prescient. Read More
Somewhere in Pakistan, Sonia Laghari and eight fellow members of a symposium on peace are being held captive by armed terrorists. Sonia, a deeply religious woman as well as a Jungian psychologist, has become the de facto leader of the kidnapped group. While her son Theo, an ex-Delta soldier, uses his military connections to find and free the victims, Sonia tries to keep them all alive by working her way into the kidnappers’ psyches and interpreting their dreams. With her knowledge of their language, her familiarity with their religion, and her Jungian training, Sonia confounds her captors with her insights and beliefs. Meanwhile, when the kidnappers decide to kill their captives, one by one, in retaliation for perceived crimes against their country, Theo races against the clock to try and save their lives. Read More
I lost a good deal of sleep turning the pages of this tale of adventure, suspense, and romance. Ride along with this witch-in-denial and her guardian vampire prince as she struggles to reclaim her legacy and avoid the terrible fate visited earlier upon her family. The author did her homework and the history rings as true as the passion. I can’t wait for the sequel! Read More
Published on an old fashioned printing press, this annual is a New Yorker Magazine for Iowans — filled with great articles, stories, reviews, and even advertisements, this is a must read for Iowan readers! Read More
And to wrap up the list, just because we all need a little help now and then with remembering how sweet the little things in life really are, we suggest this joyful little gem that celebrates the little pleasures, like the smell of rain on a sidewalk, or the feeling you get when you see the colors lined up in a fresh box of crayons !