May 292014

Somehow I’ve been extra lucky on the book-choosing front recently and discovered a string of really good books in both fiction and non-fiction. Thought I’d pass along a few recommendations in case you’re looking for a summer vacation read. (And if you’ve read something lately that you particularly enjoyed, be sure to leave a note in the comments. I’d love to check out something new!)

witness wore red

The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice. Saw this on our public library website, and reserved it based entirely on the wonderfully melodramatic name. The author, Rebecca Musser, was raised inside the polygamous Mormon offshoot now (in)famously headed by Warren Jeffs. After becoming the 19th wife of Jeffs’s elderly father, she left the community and later served as government witness for legal cases against the group. I’m not a big memoir fan so had low expectations, but I thought it would be interesting to skim for the peek at life inside a polygamous cult. Turns out, this book delivered so much more. It’s a surprisingly page-turning account of how one person’s religious and social views were shaped in childhood, what it took to make her challenge those views, and how she created a whole new worldview as an adult.

Fall of Giants and Winter of the World, by Ken Follett. If you enjoy historical fiction — or even just fiction — these epic tales of WWI and WWII are a must-read. Follett does a masterful job at creating vivid settings and characters who feel real. Devoured all 1,800 pages of these two, and I’m excited to finish the trilogy’s end in September. In fact, the third book is the only book I’ve ever pre-ordered off Amazon. Want it at my doorstep the moment it comes out!

taking the leap chodronTaking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears, by Pema Chodron. Buddhist-style mindfulness has been a life-saver during my long illness. In the most troubling times, these practices taught me how to make peace with difficult emotions and how to worry less about the past and future and focus more on the present moment. And among the handful of mindfulness authors that I’ve read, Pema Chodron stands out as the master. If our society truly rewarded wisdom and the ability to share it, Pema Chodron would be the most famous woman around.

I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t). I am late to the Brene Brown bandwagon. Had a few brief exposures to her work, but the advice that many people find so inspiring mostly just made me roll my eyes. To each her own and all that, just not for me…. But this was sitting unread on my bookshelf from a long-ago book club intro offer, and the title looked interesting. Turns out, it predates Brown’s career as a self-help guru. She started out as an academic sociologist researching shame — what makes people feel shame, and, more importantly, what helps them resist shameful feelings — and this book is a summary of her research. It’s a bit more academic than her other books but does an excellent job of providing examples and putting complex feelings into simple words. After reading it, I can see shame and its effects much more clearly in my own life and in the society all around.

first rule of survivalAnd finally, a few page-turners for the beach this summer: The Hidden, by Jo Chumas — an atmospheric thriller set alternately in Egypt in 1940 and in the aristocratic harems of a generation earlier. 2013 winner of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. The First Rule of Survival, by Paul Mendelson — a South African police procedural that entangles its central mystery within a web of police politics and conflicting motivations. And The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson — the Amazon page describes it perfectly: “A reluctant centenarian much like Forrest Gump (if Gump were an explosives expert with a fondness for vodka) decides it’s not too late to start over.” As long as you can suspend disbelief at the not-exactly-realistic storyline, it’s a delight.

Your turn! What books have you most enjoyed lately?

  4 Responses to “Recent Reads”

  1. Thanks for these. I’ll be checking them out for an upcoming road trip to Chicago. I am desperate for a good page turner!!

    • Book recommendations are always tricky because people’s tastes are so individual, but I really think it’s hard to go wrong with these. Hope they work out well for you. (And enjoy the road trip!)

  2. A good list! Murder in Mexico is my series of twelve mysteries set in and around the upscale expat colony of San Miguel de Allende. Artist Paul Zacher is drawn into crime investigation because ‘he might see things differently.’ Maybe it’s time for the rich humanity of Mexico to show through all the narco headlines! Ready for the real Mexico, beyond the phony news reports? Take a look at this suspenseful and often funny series, available in Print, Kindle, Nook, & Kobo. Start with ‘Twenty Centavos’ by trying a sample on my website.

  3. I mostly like to read biographies and memoirs, but a few recent novels I have enjoyed are “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple and “The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer. “Shotgun Lovesongs” by Nickolas Butler is a novel that has been getting buzz recently and is by a guy who went to our high school and is set in that area, so it is pretty interesting from that perspective.

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