Friday, January 24, 2014


Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice 

            Seems trite to even list this book. But certainly I have loved it. And Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion are right up there…

Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre 

            Unequivocally my favorite book. I re-read it every five years or so and I find something new to love every time. Jane shaped my own life and undoubtedly Ella’s as well. It’s a book with some of everything: a near-gothic plot, a roguish love story, an odd but endearing heroine, gorgeous writing. I can’t imagine how Charlotte Bronte accomplished this masterpiece of close, introspective writing so far ahead of her time. 

Dan Brown

The Boys in the Boat

        Other than the research for my books, I don't read a lot of non-fiction these days. However The Boys in the Boat sounded so intriguing when recommended by Linda Ramsdell of the wonderful Galaxy Bookstore that I bought a copy for my son at the holidays. And pretty soon after he was done I began it myself. And then I couldn't put it down. It's an absolutely fascinating read that sucks you into the world of rowing and then, before you know it, under Hitler's nose in the 1936 Olympics. The story itself is enough to drive the book, but Dan Brown also does a masterful job of weaving one of the "boys" into the forefront of the tale so as to create a vivid picture of his humility even in the face of astounding success. Mostly, though, it's a magnificent tale of people taking part in something bigger than themselves, something more than the sum of the individuals who make a team. I highly recommend it!

A.S. Byatt


            This is perhaps best suited to those with a strong literary bent, as it’s the story of two scholars discovering a treasure trove of undiscovered documents. It’s so perfectly well-done, though! Byatt’s creation of the treasure trove of poems and letters is in itself a remarkable accomplishment. Add to that a decent mystery and love story, and it’s a delicious read for those of us who like poetry and old documents.  

Tracy Chevalier

Remarkable Creatures

            Recommended to me by one of my editors, this is a really enjoyable read. Take the setting and time period on a beach packed with fossils, add a pair of interesting lead characters and an interesting time in science, and you’ve got all you need.

Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games series 

           I think these are brilliant, especially for the pacing and character depth.

Dorothy Dunnett

The Lymond Chronicles 

            Dorothy Dunnett has had the single most profound influence on the writer I’ve become. I went through a phase when I first moved to Vermont and my children were young that I read nearly no other writer. This is possible because her books are so long. I savored the six books of the Lymond Chronicles, then her one singleton retelling of the Macbeth legend called King Hereafter, and then made a valiant attempt to get through the eight books of the Niccolo series. In the aftermath, I can only say that she remains larger than life to me. Her facility with both language and storytelling have, to my mind, no equal. And her erudite wit is unmatched. In fact I can hardly read her these days because I grow too despairing of ever reaching a fraction of her skill. That said, it seems to be a pattern that only about 2% of readers can get through her books. The other 98% say, “this is too dang dense” and slam it down. I’ve had this experience in recommending her to others, and I’ve heard the same from others who love her books but can’t get anyone else to read them—they’re too dense. If you look her up, though, you’ll see she has a small but almost cultish following across the globe of people who worship her books. The Lymond Chronicles is widely-considered her best work. The Niccolo series gets bogged down in too much historical detail and an oddly-constructed plot and few people finish them. King Hereafter is quite good, though. If you happen to be in the 2% who can read her books and you haven’t read them yet, I envy you!

Geoffrey Eugenides


            Again, a book that seems effortless but is clearly the result of remarkable vision and powerful tenacity. Each piece fits neatly into the next slot, which has been built under your nose while you weren’t looking. This one does it all right.