Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Fall Faves, August - October 2019

It's been a great few months of reading.  Trust me that the books above are just the cream of a very rich crop of recent reads.  What's great about this collection of titles is that except in a few cases, these are books written by authors I love so if you can't get your hands on the title in the collage, there are other great books to be found.  If you want to know more about what I'm reading, follow me on Instagram and Goodreads, where I am @booksandcarbs and booksandcarbs. 

In order of the photo collage (which was random), I present:

The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore:  This book was a perfect (end of) summer read for me.  I really liked the Block Island setting, the fact that some of the main characters were writers, and the book's familial/romantic relationships.  Book clubs could find plenty to discuss.  Speaking of book clubs, The Admissions by Meg Mitchell More is a PERFECT book club selection.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett:  My heart was full to bursting by the time this book ended.  It exceeded my (very high) expectations.  I loved the brother-sister relationship in this book and loved that it was another forgiveness story (I've read a lot of strong ones this year).  Ann Patchett is one of the finest living American writers and she outdid herself here.  Highly, highly recommend the audio version as the narration of Tom Hanks is exquisite.  I wanted to live in this book.  Other favorite Ann Patchett titles?  All of them, but especially State of Wonder, This is The Story of a Happy Marriage, and Bel Canto

Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson:  Woodson's writing is beautiful.  The way she shifted between past and present and among family members really worked.  Aubrey's story (and his mother's) will stay with me most powerfully. 

Conviction by Denise Mina:  This mystery checked all the boxes for me ... quirky, interesting characters who were not caricatures and who had real issues and pasts, cool locales, just the right mix of humor and absurdity with this pair of unlikely buddies/amateur detectives.  I liked the timeliness of the true crime podcast angle of this story.  Bonus points for melodious Scottish narration.

A Better Man by Louise Penny:  I'm all caught up in the Chief Inspector Gamache series now and it feels both satisfying and sad as now I have to wait for what's next.  And wait I will.  This latest trip to Three Pines was all about how we read and perceive others and the courage required to admit when we're wrong.  To see Gamache's relationships with "his people" and the loyalty, respect, and love binding them is a beautiful thing.  It's interesting to see Gamache up against a new regime of doubters and insecure higher ups.  This series starts slow but it is SO WORTH THE INVESTMENT.

Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith:  I can't promise you'll love this one, but I did.  I've not read a book quite like it and couldn't stop reading to try and understand Cindy.  This one was sad and strange and sometimes funny and ultimately hopeful.  Different in a refreshing way.  Unique (to me) rural setting.

The Likeness by Tana French:  Tana French, like Louise Penny, is able to infuse her mysteries with true insight into human nature and writes so beautifully.  I like how her detectives, especially in this book, are flawed but compelling.  I love the Irish settings.  Allegedly you don't need to read her books in order, but I would.  Start with In the Woods.

Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe:  I "met" Nina Stibbe when I read her letter collection/memoir Love, Nina -- one of my favorite books of 2014.  I've since read all of her Lizzie Vogel novels as soon as I could get my American hands on them.  Reasons to be Cheerful is the latest of them and thoroughly delightful.  Who doesn't like reading about amateur dentistry?  These books are funny and smart, tons of wit and humor in the details.  Quirky but complex characters in an odd but loving family.  Stibbe's books are just my cup of tea.  The Lizzie Vogel series starts with Man at the Helm.

Just Kids by Patti Smith:  I went into this book with limited knowledge of the life and art of Patti Smith nor that of Robert Maplethorpe (aware of reputation and controversy but not familiar with the work itself).  Even lacking prior knowledge and passionate interest/curiosity, I was still blown away by Just Kids.  Smiths' writing is gorgeous (and I was completely charmed by her narration -- she adds an "l" to "drawing" and drops the "g" in all "ing" words, for example).  This is a story of friendship, love, and art that spans decades.  Struggles and shared joys.  Smith doesn't sensationalize or spin; she shares moments and memories thoughtfully.  The moment inspiring the book's title is mentioned early on and got to me.  Readers interested in music and art in the late 60s and 70s will appreciate Smith's interactions with other creatives.  Really glad I stepped out of my comfort zone to read this one.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee:  I waited so long to read this one.  I'm not sure why as I loved Lee's Free Food for Millionaires.  This family saga was wonderful.  I was very interested in all the relationships and in the way family was interpreted so expansively.  Plenty to discuss in terms of love, generosity, service, courage.  This is the second book I've read that has enlightened me about the the experiences of Koreans living in Japan.  Long book, but I would happily stick with this family for decades more.

What are your Fall Faves?  Please share in the comments!