The Corfu trilogy by Gerald Durrell


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Three classic tales of childhood on an island paradise – My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods by Gerald Durrell –  inspired the recent PBS Masterpiece series, The Durrells in Corfu.   The youngest of the four children, ten-year-old Gerald, discovered his passion for animals: toads and tortoises, bats and butterflies, scorpions and octopuses. Gerry pursued his obsession on the sun-soaked island of Corfu, befriended local peasants, tolerated visiting dignitaries, and caused hilarity and mayhem in his ever-tolerant family.  Fauna & Family is equally delightful and enchanting.

“A lot of frolic, fun, and charming ribaldry, as well as the warm feeling of having been transported to a lovely spot where worry is unknown and anything is believable.”-The New York Times 

“A delightful book full of simple, well-known things: cicadas in the olive groves, lamp fishing at night, the complexities of fish and animals, but, above all, childhood molded by these things and intimately recalled in middle age.”  –The New York Times Book Review

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Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult


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It took the author 20 years to educate herself to write about this topic.  With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game. Much to discuss for book clubs!

“[Picoult] offers a thought-provoking examination of racism in America today, both overt and subtle. Her many readers will find much to discuss in the pages of this topical, moving book.”—Booklist (starred review)

Small Great Things is the most important novel Jodi Picoult has ever written. . . . It will challenge her readers . . . [and] expand our cultural conversation about race and prejudice.”The Washington Post

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A Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt


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“Genevieve Summerford is a heroine with brains, compassion, and grit. A psychiatrist during a time women were supposed to be wives and mothers, she not only practices medicine, but also protects secrets, and solves murders. A riveting period puzzler, filled with history, mystery, and romance.” – Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series

“I had to put my life on hold until I’d finished it. What a satisfying finish…and what a smooth, complex, enlightening, riveting journey. A Deadly Affection is masterfully crafted, a delightful combination of suspense and romance. I cannot wait for Overholt’s next novel.” – Historical Novels Review

“This superb debut reflects the author’s impeccable research with its portrait of turn-of-the-century New York City. Discussion questions at the end focusing on women’s rights make this a solid book club choice.
” – Library Journal, Starred Review 

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Nutshell by Ian McEwan


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I call it (with tongue in cheek) Hamlet Redux….a funny, engaging tale of murder, intrigue, deceit, and political commentary told (in incredibly graceful prose) from the viewpoint of a nine month old fetus.  McEwan is truly a 21rst century Shakespeare.

“With Nutshell, Ian McEwan has performed an incongruous magic trick … A smart, funny and utterly captivating novel … A small tour de force that showcases all of Mr. McEwan’s narrative gifts of precision, authority and control, plus a new, Tom Stoppard-like delight in the sly gymnastics that words can perform.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“As an example of point of view, you can look no farther than these gorgeous pages, which not only prove that brevity is the soul of wit but also offer the reader a voice both distinctive and engaging … The reader [will be] speeding through every page, each one rife with wordplay, social commentary, hilarity, and suspense … Hats off to Ian McEwan.”—Mameve Medwed, Boston Globe

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The Children by Ann Leary


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With remarkable wit and insight, Ann Leary pulls back the curtain on one blended family, as they are forced to grapple with the assets and liabilities – both material and psychological – left behind by their wonderfully flawed patriarch.  Told from the perspective of the reclusive 29 year old daughter who has a secret life on the Internet.

“In this deeply satisfying novel about how unknowable people can be, intrigue builds with glass shards of dark humor toward an ending that is far from comic.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“Ann Leary’s latest novel, The Children, delivers the same page-turning story telling and complexity of characters as her last book, The Good House…As always, Leary makes dysfunction, pathology and even tragedy completely compelling.” The Huffington Post

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How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran


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A teenage girl living in England is desperate to become a music writer, even if it means she finds herself in some unusual and embarrassing situations. This is a really funny, sometimes profane, and surprisingly poignant novel.

“The earnestness with which Johanna goes about constructing a new persona gives the novel an almost irresistible verve, and the reader continues to root for her even during the most embarrassing episodes.” (The New Yorker)

“A smart, splendid, laugh-out-loud-funny novel.” (Boston Globe)

“Vivid and full of truths…. There’s a point in midlife, when you’re already built, as it were, when the average coming-of-age story starts to feel completely uninteresting. But Moran is so lively, dazzlingly insightful and fun that “How to Build a Girl” transcends any age restrictions.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

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The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George


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Jean Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary: a “reader of souls” with the knowledge to suggest books to his patrons that will heal what they don’t even know that ails them. His bookshop-on-a-barge (including cats and an Italian chef) travels the canals of Paris, Champagne, Burgundy, Lyons, and Marseilles. This is an uplifting, joyous read. By the book’s end, I was looking for barge travel options in France!

“If you’re looking to be charmed right out of your own life for a few hours, sit down with this wise and winsome novel…Everything happens just as you want it to… from poignant moments to crystalline insights in exactly the right measure.”—

“The settings are ideal for a summer-romance read…Who can resist floating on a barge through France surrounded by books, wine, love, and great conversation?”Christian Science Monitor

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Twelve Dogs of Christmas by David Rosenfelt


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This was the first mystery that I read that was written by David Rosenfelt, but it won’t be the last. The title drew me in and what kept me reading was his brisk pace and upbeat sense of humor. I think animal lovers and mystery lovers alike will enjoy his Andy Carpenter series and other titles.

“Rosenfelt’s 15th mystery featuring Paterson, NJ-based defense attorney Andy Carpenter (Outfoxed) takes on the case of Martha “Pups” Boyer, who earned her nickname after years of rescuing and placing stray puppies. However, a neighbor complained to the city about the dogs, and now Pups is due in court to fight the zoning law. Although she wins that battle, she’s soon hauled off to jail for allegedly killing the complainant. To make matters worse, that case calls into question the death of Pups’s husband. Now Andy will have to prove her innocence and avoid the killer. The wisecracking, dog-loving attorney still has plenty of appeal in this fast-paced Christmas mystery that avoids any holiday sentimentality.” – Library Journal

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Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild


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Hochschild is a sociologist and liberal professor from Berkeley, California, who was trying to understand conservatives in the South for the purposes of finding common ground. She searches for the “deep story” of what drives them. It’s a fascinating account of her interviews with residents in Louisiana and their feelings and views about what is happening in modern society and politics.


Strangers In Their Own Land is by far the best book by an outsider to the Tea Party I have ever encountered.Forbes

 “Satisfying…[Hochschild’s] analysis is overdue at a time when questions of policy and legislation and even fact have all but vanished from the public discourse.”—Nathaniel Rich, The New York Review of Books

“Arlie Hochschild journeys into a far different world than her liberal academic enclave of Berkeley, into the heartland of the nation’s political right, in order to understand how the conservative white working class sees America. With compassion and empathy, she discovers the narrative that gives meaning and expression to their lives–and which explains their political convictions, along with much else. Anyone who wants to understand modern America should read this captivating book.”—Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles


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Five book leaders at the Wellesley Book Store posted that this was the best book they had read this year.  I join the chorus. Utterly absorbing – I read this book only when I had carefully set aside chunks of time to read uninterrupted –  to be immersed in the world of Count Rostov and his sentence to captivity for life in the grand hotel, the Metropol.  It’s been a very long time since I hugged a book to my heart at its conclusion with utter gratitude to the author for this gift of story, characters, and an ending that does not disappoint  – only that it is the final page.

-novelist Amor Towles continues to explore the question of how a person can lead an authentic life in a time when mere survival is a feat in itself . . . Towles’s tale, as lavishly filigreed as a Fabergé egg….—O, The Oprah Magazine

“Who will save Rostov from the intrusions of state if not the seamstress, chefs, bartenders and doormen? In the end, Towles’s greatest narrative effect is not the moments of wonder and synchronicity but the generous transformation of these peripheral workers, over the course of decades, into confidants, equals and, finally, friends.  With them around, a life sentence in these gilded halls might make Rostov the luckiest man in Russia.” –The New York Times Book Review

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