Holiday Giving – Part 11

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Book Club Members: This Is Your Turn!  Last night was the monthly meeting of the Inly Parent Book Club, and so I turned this post over to them.  I asked them to name the best book they read during the past year – not necessarily something that was published in 2010, but a book they loved.  It was a voice vote, and I jotted down the titles on paper plates because they were the nearest writing surface at hand. Here are the titles my friends recommend you check out in 2011:

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke by Sally Gunning (“Gunning had chosen a turbulent and fascinating period in American history…that suggests interesting philosophical arguments….Jane Clarke [is] a sensitive heroine, insightful enough to tussle with these difficulties.” Washington Post Book World)

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (“The gulf that separates expatriate Bengali parents from their American-raised children—and that separates the children from India—remains Lahiri’s subject for this follow-up to Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake. In this set of eight stories, the results are again stunning.” Starred Review, Publishers Weekly)

The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu (This first novel, by an Ethiopian-American, sings of the immigrant experience, an old American story that people renew every generation, but it sings in an existential key…His straightforward language and his low-key voice combine to make a compelling narrative, one that loops back in time yet seems to move forward with an even pace.” — Alan Cheuse, Dallas Morning News)

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai (“Maybe it’s in her genes: the daughter of Indian novelist Anita Desai, Kiran Desai skips past the sophomore doldrums with this assured second novel. The same characteristics that made her first book, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, notable are here in spades: an “utterly fresh” (Boston Globe) narrative voice, jaw-dropping descriptive passages, and a mélange of vibrant, sympathetic characters…” Bookmarks magazine)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (““Díaz finds a miraculous balance. He cuts his barnburning comic-book plots (escape, ruin, redemption) with honest, messy realism, and his narrator speaks in a dazzling hash of Spanish, English, slang, literary flourishes, and pure virginal dorkiness.” Sam Anderson, New York Magazine_

City of Thieves by David Benioff  (“City of Thieves is a coming-of-age story brilliantly amplified by its worn-torn backdrop. Benioff’s finest achievement in City of Thieves has been to banish all possible pretensions from his novel, which never wears its research on its sleeve, and to deliver a rough-and-tumble tale that clenches humor, savagery, and pathos squarely together on the same page.” Washington Post)

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (“Setterfield has crafted an homage to the romantic heroines of du Maurier, Collins and the Brontes … enchanting Goth for the 21st century.” Kirkus)

I’m going to add one more. I read The Irresistable Henry House by Lisa Grunwald this past summer, and remember thinking what a good choice it would be for book groups.  Before reading Grunwald’s novel, I had no idea that during the mid-part of the 20th century, college students could sometimes have the ultimate hands-on practice for being a parent by raising a child as a part of home economics class.  Harry, the child raised by young women at the fictional Wilton College, is at the center of this compelling and thought provoking novel about what it means to be a mother and how our ideas about raising children have changed so dramatically since 1950.


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