Margin Notes: Some suggestions

Tons of people have been asking me for some book suggestions recently... here's a little compilation for you:

I was on a bit of a sad book kick until recently, but two that I really loved were:
Tell the Wolves I’m Home: Fiction, told from a Jr high school student’s perspective in the 80s, her godfather/uncle is dying of aids and he was her best friend, it’s sad, but such an amazing story-it’s about her family (her relationship with her sister is really interesting), and the awesome relationship she had with her uncle and how she only knew part of him. It was one of the best book of the year on lots of lists (Oprah, the WSJ, and many publishing journals)
And The End of Your Life Book Club: Memoir, another heart breaker  this is very well written, about a guy and his mom and their shared love of reading. His mom has cancer and so he goes to her chemo appointments and they share their favorite books new and old. It’s really sweet because through sharing their favorite books, they get to know each other better and they spend really valuable time together. I think a lot of book clubs are reading this right now, but it is definitely sad…

On a more lighthearted note, I loved Where’d You Go Bernadette, fiction. The author used to write for TV so it’s pretty engaging. Basically, there’s a mom (Bernadette) who’s definitely quirky, her daughter Bee who’s in high school, and her husband who works at Microsoft (who's a bit unavailable). They live in Seattle, and Bernadette is kind of anti the whole ‘perfect mom’ thing and gets into spats with the moms at Bee’s school. Then, Bernadette disappears, and the book is her daughter trying to figure out where she went. It starts pretty believably, but then gets a little more and more absurd, so you have to be willing to go with that to enjoy the book, but I loved the characters and thought it was so much fun. And it's in paperback!

I rarely read thrillers, so it might just be that I haven’t read anything similar to this in awhile and was intrigued, but I couldn't put Say You’re Sorry down. 2 girls were kidnapped years ago in England and it was a huge story back then. A profiler (the main character) is visiting a town when one of them turns up dead. He then gets put on the case to figure out what happened. There were so many times where I was thinking DO NOT GO THERE, and WHAT COULD POSSIBLY HAPPEN NEXT?! I think it would be perfect for the pool, but it is a crime/thriller, so if it’s not your genre, you might not like it. (And it’s definitely not going to win any literary prizes.) 

And then, two more literary books that I absolutely loved (but are slightly older so you might have read them) were The Round House and The Art of Fielding. The Art of Fielding reminded me of a John Irving book. Great quirky characters, strong sense of setting (a college town in the Midwest), and everything hinges on one errant baseball throw. It’s about this kid, Henry Skrimshander (great name--all the names are awesome), who’s a baseball prodigy, and someone finds him the summer before college and recruits him to the college. The book weaves the stories of Henry, his roommate, the upperclassman who discovers him, the president of the college and his daughter.
The Round House was also a coming of age story. It takes place on an Native American Reservation (I know, but stay with me…), and it’s again a high school boy and takes place over a summer. His dad’s a judge, and his mom is assaulted in the first scene in the book. The boy and his buddies set out to figure out who hurt his mom. It’s a mystery/coming of age book which was a great combo for me.

And I just finished reading The Light Between Oceans, which I knew was well received  but thought I wouldn't like for some reason. It actually was SUCH a good story. I loved each character and the moral dilemmas are REALLY engaging. I couldn't figure out what I thought should happen. What does justice really look like? What should happen when a good person does a bad thing? The prose was beautiful and the story was much more subtle than I thought it would be. Recommended.

I picked up Red Hook Road in New Orleans on a whim (when my intense travel mishaps had me at the airport for like 15 hours and I finished a book). I really loved it. It takes place in Maine and tells the story of two families who have to come to grips when something bad happens. One family summers in the town, one family is the working class part of the town, so it has interesting socioeconomic tensions. Beyond that, it really evoked a small town in Maine for me, and the families were exceptionally interesting and how each character dealt with grief was so spot on, it was great.

(I’m just realizing how intense all of these books are… Apparently I like intense books?)

Books that I haven’t read but am looking forward to:
Z, a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (Fictional account of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life, kind of fun with all the Gatsby stuff out there right now)
Me Before You (Chick lit, beach book for sure)
Life After Life (really well reviewed, I’m interested in the premise and structure of this one)
Wise Men (This was well reviewed too, and I’m a sucker for cape cod books… could be interesting)
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (also well reviewed, I might wait on this to see what my publishing friends say, but it seems like one people are talking about)

And then my all time favorite books I recommend to people all the time, in no particular order:
  1. The Handmaid's Tale
  2. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
  3. Never Let Me Go
  4. Prayer for Owen Meany
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird
  6. The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing


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