Saturday, October 16, 2010

Books, Books, and More Books - Part I

Since I'm a librarian, I felt it was about time I mentioned some of my favorite books.  It's probably past time, actually.  I hope everyone who reads this can find a suggestion or two.  The synopses are from  I'm not doing book reviews in this post; these are all books I love.

I'll start with my most favorite book, which I was "forced" to read in high school.  I'll be eternally grateful for that.

  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck:
"It is a symbolic recreation of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, woven into a history of California's Salinas Valley.  Spanning the period between the American Civil War and the end of World War I, the novel highlights the conflicts between two generations of brothers."

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova:  
"The story opens in Amsterdam in 1972, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and a cache of yellowed letters in her diplomat father's library. The pages of the book are empty except for a woodcut of a dragon.  The letters are addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor".  When the girl confronts her father, he reluctantly confesses an unsettling story:  his involvement, twenty years earlier, for his graduate school mentor, who disappeared from his office only moments after confessing to Paul his certainty that Dracula--Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century--was still alive.  As Paul relates this story to his teenage daughter, she secretly begins her own research."

  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett:
"Set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams."

  • Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews:
"Reeling from a divorce, Eloise "Weezie" Foley misses her lovingly decorated historic home a bit more than she misses her cheating ex-husband. Her passion is finding and selling antiques, and she struggles to collect enough inventory to turn her hobby into a full-fledged business. When she discovers a dead body while attempting to sneak early into an estate sale, things get complicated especially because the murdered woman is her ex-husband's latest girlfriend. Andrews moves the plot along with a multitude of quirky and entertaining secondary characters Weezie's alcoholic mother, an uncle who is a gay ex-priest, and an old boyfriend who is the chef at her best friend's pricey bistro. Facts about period furniture, linens, china, vintage clothing, magazines, and paintings blend seamlessly and enrich what might have been just another ho-hum, screwball romantic story."

  • Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman:
"Momma always told CeeCee (short for Cecelia Rose) that “being in the North isn’t living—it’s absolute hell.” Of course, having to live with Momma—Camille Sugarbaker Honeycutt, that is, Vidalia Onion Queen, 1951—doesn’t make it any more heavenly, especially when Momma starts standing in the front yard blowing kisses to passersby. You know this is going to end badly, and so it does, when the erstwhile onion queen is run over by a speeding Happy Cow Ice Cream Truck. Before you can say “sweet magnolia blossoms,” 12-year-old CeeCee is sent off to Savannah to live with her elderly great aunt, Tallulah Caldwell, and her wise African American housekeeper and cook, Oletta. It being 1967, you know there will be one dark episode of racial hatred, but it’s quickly—and conveniently—resolved offstage, leaving all the characters free to continue being relentlessly eccentric, upbeat, sweet as molasses, and living, as CeeCee puts it with a straight face, “in a breezy, flower-scented fairy tale . . . a strange, perfumed world that . . . seemed to be run entirely by women."

  • Such A Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster:
"Such a Pretty Fat is Jen Lancaster's third memoir. In it, Lancaster takes on weight loss--through eating right and exercising. At first, it seems like your typical weight loss memoir, except for the fact that its Jen Lancaster writing it, with her trademark good humor and see-the-forest-through-the-trees approach to her subject matter. Jen's not an expert, but she definitely knows how to entertain."

I will call this Part I of my list of favorites, because there are so many and not enough time right now to list them all.  I'll get back to this list next week, hopefully.

Tip:  Most of these books can be previewed on Google Books.  This is a very useful service and a very generous portion of most books can be viewed for free, allowing you to determine whether it's worth your time to borrow or purchase books.

Tomorrow...Dotcetera Sunday returns!

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