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    Lists | March 2, 2015

    Anna Lyndsey: IMG My Top 10 Talking Books



    I have always been a reader, but eight years ago, strange circumstances conspired to make me totally book-dependent. I was stuck within four walls,... Continue »

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Here are just some of the books we're talking about at Powell's.

  1. A Little Life

    In an alternate universe, A Little Life would be the love-child of Hanya Yanagihara and Donna Tartt, and this is a beautiful thing. The story setup is reminiscent of The Secret History, but the language and themes are all Yanagihara. Spanning five decades, this is a hefty novel at 700 pages, but one that you will wish would never end.

    Focusing on a quartet of friends who move to New York together after college, A Little Life explores themes of love, coming of age, rewarding work, passion, family, and, of course, friendship: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The tortured Jude is the main character, who has lived through hell and back, in the way that only Yanagihara can depict hell.

    This book conveys such deep sorrow, pain, and hopelessness, but Yanagihara somehow makes you love those things. I am begging everyone to read this book. It broke my heart into a million tiny jagged pieces, but I loved every excruciating minute of it.

    Recommended by Dianah March 24, 2015


  2. Women

    Caldwell is fearless in this tiny memoir; her second after Legs Get Led Astray. After spending her life in relationships with men, she suddenly finds herself, unbelievably, in love with a woman; a woman who already has a partner. Caldwell illustrates all the ugly pain, fear, anger, and aching loneliness of embarking on a relationship that is not your own. Terrific.

    Recommended by Dianah March 22, 2015


  3. All My Puny Sorrows

    Sisters: this relationship is so very complicated — so fraught with missteps. Elf and Yoli are opposites, and while their bond is strong, it's not quite strong enough to keep Elf from continuously contemplating suicide. Yoli has tried everything to maintain the thin grasp she has on her sister. Somewhere along the way, Yoli realizes there is much she would do for Elf, even some things she never thought she could. This is a story of family dynamics, family dysfunction, and family love. Toews, an exceptional writer, bases the story on her own experiences with her sister, and she manages to truly capture this complicated relationship.

    Recommended by Dianah March 21, 2015


  4. The American Plate

    I love when a title accurately pinpoints what a book is about. The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites is one such title. Written by the lead historian at the History Channel, author Libby H. O'Connell has given us a very readable excursion through time focusing on the American foodway, with some foods rather time-stamped (hardly anyone eats turtle anymore, but we still love the early pioneer food of pumpkin pudding mixed with cream).

    Appropriately, the foodway starts with Native American foods and then wends it way through oysters, chop suey, SPAM, and more, to the epilogue touching on foods of this very minute: fad diets, GMOs, and, kind of oddly, chili con carne.

    The American Plate is a quick read, and one that could give you some conversational ammunition at any awkward family holiday gathering that may come your way.

    Recommended by Tracey T. March 19, 2015


  5. Refinery29

    In a perfect world, I would leave my house every day in an elegant outfit with a gorgeous topknot and lipstick that doesn't immediately bleed onto my coffee mug. Back in the real world of work and motherhood, my hair gets messy, my lipstick is sacrificed to the coffee god, and I lack the time and money to collect the closetful of unique, expensively tailored items I covet. What I love about Refinery29 by Christine Barberich and Piera Gelardi is that each section shows you how to make use of the items you already own to create new outfits or shake things up; even better, the wardrobe items the book presents as indispensable (a white Oxford shirt, a moto jacket, and nude pointed heels, to name a few) can be used in many different ways and found — in their nondesigner guise — for reasonable prices. The book is divided into useful sections on common fashion dilemmas like wearing brights and layering, and the photographs feature both models and regular women of all sizes and ethnicities. The writing is cheerful and very encouraging. After reading this book, not only do I have a holiday wish list of closet staples, but I also feel like looking glamorous is completely within reach.

    Recommended by Rhianna Walton March 19, 2015


  6. Pilgrim's Wilderness

    Tom Kizzia's Pilgrim's Wilderness is a riveting blend of true crime and environmental studies set in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in remote Alaska. In 2002 a bearded stranger and his wife and fourteen children arrived in McCarthy, Alaska, to claim in a deserted mining camp deep in the wilderness, and proceeded to blaze roads and trails in defiance of the National Park Service. At first viewed sympathetically by their neighbors as antigovernment activists, relations soured as Papa Pilgrim's paranoia, religiosity, and violent temper intensified. Adding to the strangeness were signs of turmoil in the Pilgrim family, leading outsiders to question whether the loving band of God-fearing musicians and pioneers was actually a group of children held hostage by a predatory and psychotic father. A neighbor of the Pilgrims, Kizzia tells the story of the Pilgrim family with empathy, precision, and no small amount of horror at his proximity to madness.

    Recommended by Rhianna Walton March 19, 2015


  7. The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba

    Julia Cooke's fascinating The Other Side of Paradise is a sobering read, but it is also deeply sympathetic and remarkably apolitical. Cooke offers detailed portraits of everyday lives, as well as of her own experiences living in Havana, and allows the reader to develop his own opinions of the Castro brothers' regimes and American–Cuban relations.

    Recommended by Rhianna Walton March 19, 2015


  8. Paying Guests

    Part erotic thriller, part psychological study, part murder mystery, The Paying Guests is an intricate tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Frances and her mother live in a large estate in a small English village, but after having lost all the male members of their family in the war, they are faced with taking in lodgers in order to make ends meet. The young married couple who moves in seems fine at first, but Frances begins to see them in a different light. Soon an unspoken slow-boil attraction blossoms into a passionate love affair, and things in the house become difficult to manage. A commentary on post-war mores, unexpected passion, crime and punishment, and personal integrity, The Paying Guests is a blistering tale of suspense that does not ease up on the unnerving tension.

    Recommended by Dianah March 19, 2015


  9. Dept. of Speculation

    What started out as a really sweet family study turned into a pretty painful read. Offill has been there ("there" being the depths of marital disaster) — that's clear — and has captured this slice of domestic drama with something that I can only describe as an aching tenderness. Small and slight vignettes are layered again and again to make up this gorgeous little novel. Beautifully done.

    Recommended by Dianah March 19, 2015


  10. All the Birds Singing

    Carefully spooling out its story, both forwards and backwards, All the Birds, Singing tells the tale of Jake Whyte, a woman on the run who finds herself on an Australian sheep farm. Jake's past is slowly inching into the light of discovery, while her present is haunted by something that is systematically killing her sheep. The heat of the Australian outback — steamy, languid, and stifling — is a claustrophobic setting for this tense story. Moody and pensive, All the Birds, Singing will keep you up late racing toward the end.

    Recommended by Dianah March 19, 2015


  11. Forever Girl

    Alexander McCall-Smith delivers a sweet story here, but it is not without some angst. Clover has loved James all of her life, but she feels him drifting away from her as they both leave their home in the Cayman Islands for boarding school in England. At the same time, Clover's parents seem to be drifting apart as well. McCall-Smith's clean, straightforward prose and his subtle, sly wit give this story both happiness and heartbreak. If you love any of his many hilarious and charming series, try his stand-alone novels; they have a bit of heft and a lot of heart.

    Recommended by Dianah March 19, 2015


  12. Adam

    I really liked this book. The characters are complex and the gender/sexuality confusion is extremely interesting. Not for the squeamish, there is a lot of explicit sex here, but it is important to the story, and Schrag is quite matter-of-fact about it. Adam seems like a real teenage boy to me: willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants, and not at all aware of the consequences his actions set in motion. Many readers are distressed by some bad behavior, which goes unpunished, but this also seems like real life to me. Schrag's writing is great and her story is compelling; I read the book in one day. Nicely done.

    Recommended by Dianah March 19, 2015


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