Looking for a holiday read?

Holiday Reading Penguins

Check out one of these books for the holiday recess!

wild-cheryl strayedWild by Cheryl Strayed (Recommended by Amanda Makula)
Devastated by grief over her mother’s untimely death, memoirist Cheryl Strayed sets out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail through California and Oregon. Along the way she faces hunger, dehydration, everyone from peace lovin’ hippies to serious backpackers, and more than one rattlesnake. Full of both adventure and introspection, this book has something for everyone. (Leisure Collection)
sisterland-sittenfeldSisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld (Recommended by Amanda Makula)
Vi and Kate are twin sisters with psychic “senses” living in St. Louis. While Kate has tried to abandon her intuitive abilities, Vi has cultivated hers to the point of making a career from them. When she predicts a major earthquake, everyone in the story is thrown into a sort of anticipated panic until the fateful day — October 16 — finally arrives. Sittenfeld pits science against other-worldliness in this story, with characters so intricately rendered that they pulse with life. You may not like them, but you’ll definitely feel as if you know them. (Leisure Collection)
djinn nightingaleThe Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A.S. Byatt (Recommended by Sarah Horowitz)
I’ve always loved Byatt’s fairy tales, which often appear in her novels (see Possession and The Children’s Book), so I was excited to find a whole book of them. And these are not only about fairly tales, they are all about the reasons we tell stories and what it means to be inside one. (Of course, that’s what all Byatt’s books are about on some level, but that’s a theme too large for a small internet review.) I particularly enjoyed the title story (the novella), whose main character is a narratologist, someone who studies stories (which is perfect for a fairy tale). It has one very unusual feature: it takes place in what is basically the present. This is particularly striking for a fairy tale, since these usually take place in a mysteriously unnamed past and location. I think one of the things that makes Byatt’s fairy tales so interesting is how aware all of the main characters are, both of themselves and of their respective roles. And like all good fairy tales, they have meanings on multiple levels, and need to be read multiple times to absorb all these meanings.  (Library 1st Floor, PR6052 .Y2 D58 1998)
curse dark gold-bunceA Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Recommended by Sarah Horowitz)
This is a retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin story set in a British mill town in the 19th century. So it combines a few of my favorite things: strong heroine, a historical setting, an interest in cloth, and fairy tales. The setting is extremely realistic; the author obviously did a lot of research on how mills and the machinery worked. I also loved the portrayal of the heroine, trying to run a business and care for her family. (Available via I-Share)
woman upstairsThe Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud (Recommended by Carla Tracy)
The more I thought about this book –especially during a discussion with a colleague–the more layers of possible meaning I saw.  There’s been a lot of discussion about the “unlikable” first person narrator, Nora–especially since a reporter asked, in an interview with Messud, “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you?” To which Messud replied: “What kind of question is that? Would you want to be friends with Humbert Humbert? ….Hamlet?….Oedipus? Oscar Wao? Antigone? Raskolnikov?….If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t ‘is this a potential friend for me?’ but ‘is this character alive?'”  Bravo, I say. And anyway, I would suggest that the attractive family, to whom Nora becomes overly devoted, is ultimately less likable than Nora. Read this book and make your own assessment! (Leisure Collection)

let the great world spinLet the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (Recommended by Carla Tracy)
I came late to reading this book–it won the National Book Award in 2009. Philippe Petit’s real-life walk on a wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center (August 8, 1974) serves as a sort of hub of the story, around which turn the New York City lives of an Irish street priest, heroin-addicted hookers, mothers mourning sons lost in war, young artists, and a Park Avenue judge. Beautiful prose, fascinating stories. In addition, watch the 2008 documentary “Man on Wire” if you haven’t seen it! (Available via I-Share)
cuckoos callingThe Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (Pseudonym) (Recommended by Christine Aden)
I admit, I picked up this book because I knew the real name of the author was Rowling.  However, I stayed with the book because it is an excellent mystery.  The private investigator, Cormoran Strike, is dealing with the aftereffects of his time in Afghanistan as a soldier.  When a former friend’s brother walks into his office and asks him to investigate his sister’s apparent suicide, Strike has to step into a world completely unlike his own.  He investigates the life (and death) of a supermodel, faces the realities of being enveloped by the paparazzi, and a culture focused on celebrity. In most mystery novels, I’ve figured out “whodunnit” by the time I am 1/3 to 1/2 way through the book, and then I sit back to enjoy the hows and whys.  But in this book, I was kept guessing and I didn’t know the reality of whether it was murder or suicide until Strike revealed it at the end of the book.  I savored the ride, and then I went back to reread the sections where I missed the minute details that led Strike to the answers. (Leisure Collection)
thingaroundneckThe Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Recommended by Stefanie Bluemle)
I’m normally not a fan of short stories. But, when I read this 2009 collection by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for a book group recently, I fell in love. These twelve stories address the ordinary life experiences of Nigerians – some in their home country, others when they emigrate to the United States. Adichie’s writing is simply beautiful, and her characters are so real that it is easy to become enthralled. It’s no wonder Adichie won a “Genius Grant” from the MacArthur Foundation in 2008.
The Thing Around Your Neck
is available through I-Share. If you don’t want to wait, check out Adichie’s most recent novel, Americanah, from the Tredway Library’s leisure reading collection. I haven’t read it yet, but it promises to be good: the New York Times named it one of the 10 best books of 2013.  (The Thing Around Your Neck is available via I-Share; Americanah is part of the library’s Leisure Collection.)
just one evil actJust One Evil Act by Elizabeth George (Recommended by Ann Miller)
If you enjoy the Inspector Linley series this latest installment does not disappoint.  But it does fine as a stand-alone novel as well due to the nature of the storyline.  Twists and turns abound to keep the interest, but note that its heft is typical George.  Plan accordingly!  (Leisure Collection)
summer bookThe Summer Book by Tove Jansson (Recommended by Margi Rogal)
If you want to slip into the lulling world of summer, on a remote island in Finland, no less, with a charming, frisky, imaginative six-year-old and her rough-edged, loving, imaginative grandmother, this is the book for you. Famous for her Moomin books for children, Swedish-Finnish author Jansson weaves a lovely, lyrical story (based on her own childhood), just right for a soothing reading experience on a chilly winter night. Cup of cocoa required. (Available via I-Share)
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