Book Talk

Every month Bea Mikulecky gathers a list of books recommended by our readers. We call it Book Talk because it's where we talk about books in our newsletter. There are no in-person events that go with these listings.

Here is the list from past newsletters.

Diet for a Small Planet, second edition, by Frances Moore Lappe. (2021)
This book's message is even more relevant today. Hunger still exists alongside over abundance, and factory agribusiness continues to pollute. To watch an interview with the author click here. 512 pages

Apollo's Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live, by Nicholas A. Christakis (2020) A physician and sociologist, the author traces the COVID pandemic from its outbreak in China, the inept early responses, and all the consequences. He places this pandemic in the context of past plagues and pandemics, and describes likely consequences to this modern one. 368 pages

Apples Never Fall, by Liane Moriarty. (2021) A 69-year-old woman, mother of four adult children, goes missing. The story unfolds through the eyes of the whole family. Well-developed characters and backstories make this an intriguing novel. 467 pages
Deacon King Kong, by James McBride. (2020)
September, 1969, South Brooklyn housing project. An old church deacon shoots the project drug dealer dead in front of everyone. This novel explores vividly and with humor the reasons for this desperate burst of violence that affected the victim, Latinx, Black, and White residents, the police, the church and the Mob. 371 pages

The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shields. (1995)
In her old age, Daisy Stone Goodwill seeks to make sense of her life. She attempts to write an autobiographical novel. Through sheer force of imagination she becomes a witness of her own life: her birth, her death, and the troubling missed connections she discovers in between. Shields won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for The Stone Diaries. 361 pages

The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois, by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers. (2021)
This epic novel chronicles the journey of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era. W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of Race in America, and what he called "Double Consciousness," a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois's words all too well. To learn to embrace her full heritage, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family's past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors - Indigenous, Black, and white - in the deep South. 816 pages Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR, by Lisa Napoli. 2021
A biography of four beloved women who fought sexism, covered decades of American news, and whose voices defined NPR. This is a captivating account of these women, their deep and enduring friendships, and the trail they blazed to becoming icons in journalism. 288 pages

The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China, by Jonathan Kaufman. 2020
The Sassoons and the Kadoories--two Jewish families from Baghdad--had long been successful in business, politics, and society in Shanghai. They kept up their intrigues and opium smuggling while helping to rescue 18,000 Jews from Hitler's Europe, and though they soon faced the tsunami that was communism, their legacy remains today. 384 pages

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race,
by Nicole Perlroth. 2021
From The New York Times cybersecurity reporter, the untold story of the cyberweapons market - -the most secretive, invisible, government-backed market on earth - -and a terrifying first look at a new kind of global warfare. 528 pages
A Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabelle Allende. 2020
As the Spanish Civil War ends, pregnant Roser and medical student Victor, the brother of her deceased husband, must flee to Chile. They face many trials over the years. This is rich historical fiction. 314 pages

Rachel to the Rescue, by Elinore Lipman. 2021
Fired from her job in the e-mail room of the Trump White House, Rachel is struck by a car as she leaves. Comforting parents, roommates, and a love interest at the wine store make for lively, seriously funny complications. 304 pages (Note: if you enjoy this book, Lipman has written 11 other equally delightful novels.)

A Woman of Intelligence, by Karen Tanabe. 2021
It's 1954. Victoria, a former translator at the UN, has a rich, handsome, successful pediatrician for a husband. But staying home with two toddlers is driving her mad. When the FBI asks her to do some undercover work, she says yes, but how to keep it from her very controlling husband? 384 pages
The Four Winds, by Kristin Hannah (2021)
An epic novel of love and heroism and hope, set against the backdrop of one of America's most defining eras - the Great Depression. In Texas, 1934, the extreme drought drives farmer Elsa Martinelli to take her two children and join the millions in the Dust Bowl seeking a better life as migrant farm workers in California. Her determination, courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation. 464 pages

Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. (2021)
In this best-selling novel, Klara, the narrator, is an Artificial Friend, a humanoid machine who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She is chosen to act as companion for 14-year-old Josie, who, Klara notices, seems to have some kind of illness. 303 pages

What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner. (2017) In this collection of original essays, Rather reminds us of the principles upon which the United States was founded. With a fundamental sense of hope, What Unites Us can inspire conversation and listening and remind us all how we are, finally, one. Published 4 years ago, this book is interesting and important to read in light of the turmoil of the past year. 274 pages Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell (2020)
This best-selling novel imagines life in 1596 England when the Black Plague claims the life of an 11-year-old boy who happens to be the only son of a budding playwright. About 4 years later, the father writes a play called Hamlet. (372 pages) Note: This title is now in paperback!

How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, by Heather Cox Richardson (2020)
This is an exploration of how and why Southern ideologies not only survived but flourished in the West following the Civil War. The author states that the inherent inequalities in a democracy make democracy vulnerable to oligarchs. (272 pages)

The Distant Echo, by Val McDermid (2004)
On a winter morning in 1978, the body of a young barmaid was discovered in the snowbanks of a Scottish cemetery. Twenty-five years later, the Cold Case file on Rosie Duff has been reopened. Detective Karen Pirie follows myriad clues to find the startling truth about the murder. This is the first of 6 books in a series, beautifully written. (496 pages)
Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington, by Ted Widmer. (2020)
President-elect Lincoln traveled by train to Washington for his inauguration. This is the story of a leader discovering his own strength, improvising brilliantly, and seeing his country up close during these pivotal thirteen days. 624 pages

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, by Elizabeth Kolbert (2021)
With specific examples, Kolbert makes it clear how far we already are from a world of undisturbed, perfectly balanced nature - and how every technological "fix" has had complicating consequences. 234 pages

Quichotte, by Salman Rushdie. (2018)
A Don Quixote story from an older Asian Indian man's perspective, but the Indian author who is behind it is also there, with wonderful influences by Ionesco, characterizations of the far right, a paragraph that's a perfect description of that current president, and magical realism. 416 pages
When Time Stopped-A Memoir of My Father's War and What Remains, by Ariana Neumann. (2020)
The daughter of a Czech Venezuelan Industrialist, the author knew nothing about her father's life until he died. She spent years learning about him and his family in Prague from the beginning of the 1930s to the end of the 40s. 336 pages.

Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, & Spirit, by Rachel Cowan, Linda Thal. (2015)
Practical suggestions for building resilience and navigating the challenges of aging while finding joy and meaning. No subject is off limits as Wise Aging provides the roadmap for the journey we are all on: achieving a fulfilling older age. 304 pages.

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. (2014)
Writing in free verse form, the author shares her childhood growing up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s. Touching and powerful, her story is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child's soul as she searches for her place in the world. 337 pages. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson. (2010)
The Major, a proper English gentleman, and Mrs.Ali, a widowed village shopkeeper, find much in common. Can their relationship survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of culture and tradition? 359 pages

A Swim in a Pond in the Rainby George Saunders. (2021)
A Booker Prize-wing author leads you through a delightful reading of seven great Russian short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol. (432 pages)

Butcher's Crossing, by John Williams. (2007)
In the 1870s, Will Andrews, ?red up by Emerson to seek "an original relation to nature," drops out of Harvard and heads west. In a small Kansas town, he joins a group to hunt Buffalo in Colorado. After an orgy of slaughter, cold and starvation force them back to Kansas. 274 pages

Note: If you enjoy hearing authors talk about their work, visit the website of any independent bookstore and check their events listing. These are on Zoom and are usually free. A list of all independent bookstores is on Wikipedia. You can also find out about events in individual authors’ websites. I recently enjoyed an event in South Carolina 

The Grammarians, by Cathleen Schine. 2019
From birth, twins Laurel and Daphne shared an obsession with words. As adults in 1980s Manhattan, they pursue literary careers which are upended by their battle to claim an heirloom dictionary. 258 pages (Fiction)

Say Nothing: a true story of murder and memory in Northern Ireland, by Patrick Radden Keefe. 2019
This narrative set In 1972, during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, is the story of a 38-year-old mother of ten who was dragged from her home by masked intruders, never to be seen again. Everyone knew that the I.R.A. was responsible, but kept silent out of fear of reprisal. In 2003, her remains were found on a beach. 441 pages (Nonfiction)

The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin. 2014
The first book in a trilogy, this is a masterpiece of scope and vision. Set during China's Cultural Revolution, signals are sent into space to establish contact with aliens. A failing alien civilization captures the signals and plans to invade Earth, where different camps start forming, planning to either welcome the invaders or to fight against the invasion. 399 pages (Fiction) Books set in Boston during three distinct eras.

The Rise of Silas Lapham, by William Dean Howells 1885
In the gilded age after the Civil War, Silas, a wealthy entrepreneur, moves his family from Vermont to Boston and tries to break into Brahmin society. Greedy for wealth as well as prestige, Silas brings his company to the brink of bankruptcy, and the family is forced to return to Vermont, financially ruined but morally renewed. (368 pages)

The Cocoanut Grove Fire, by Stephanie Schorow 2005
A gripping narrative of the worst nightclub fire in American history, which killed 492 people in World War II Boston. (96 pages)

Fire in Boston's Cocoanut Grove; holocaust!, by Paul Benzaquin
This bestselling account of the fire at The Cocoanut Grove provides much more detail and many photos. (290 pages)

Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane 2017
Rachel Childs, a former journalist, had an on-air mental breakdown and now lives as a virtual shut-in. She enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to disintegrate, and Rachel is sucked into an unimaginable conspiracy. (419 pages) Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson. (2020)
Wilkerson describes how beyond race, class, or other factors, America's fate is decided by a powerful unspoken caste system similar to those in India and Nazi Germany. She shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions. (476 pages)

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple. (2012)
Worn down by trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, Bernadette a fiercely intelligent shut-in, disappears. Her daughter, Bee, digs into her past and discovers a secret that Bernadette had been hiding for years. (330 pages)

The Bostonians, by Henry James (1886)
Perhaps it's time to read or re-read some classic novels! Although the novel is very old, the plot is remarkably contemporary. This brilliant satire of the women's rights movement in America is the story of the ravishing inspirational speaker Verena Tarrant and the bitter struggle between two distant cousins who seek to control her. (Recommended by Elenore P.) (460 Pages) These books are available at the library and also on Hoopla.

The Last Flight, by Julie Clark (2020)
This psychological thriller is the story of two women—both alone, both scared—and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives. (288 pages)

This Could Change Everything, by Jill Mansell (2018)
A young woman writes a scathing email message to her friend about how much she dislikes her boyfriend's mother, but the email is mistakenly sent to her entire contacts list! Enjoyable characters and complications galore. (342 pages)

The German Suitcase, by Greg Dinallo. (2012)
A vintage suitcase found in the trash on a New York sidewalk contains documents tracing it back to a devastating secret that has been locked away since the day Dachau was liberated. (214 pages) Women Talking, by Miriam Toews (2019)
Eight men in a remote Mennonite colony in Bolivia raped many of the girls and women in their community, first rendering them unconscious with cow anesthetic. Based on this actual event, this novel is the author's imagined response of the women involved. It is an indictment of authority and a defense of belief. (210 pages)

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michelle Richardson.(2019)
Inspired by the people of Appalachian Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, this is a story of how reading books can change lives. (320 pages)

On Fire: The Case for the Green New Deal, by Naomi Klein (2019)
The author captures the burning urgency of the climate crisis and the fiery energy of the Green New Deal. Topics range from the clash between ecological time and our culture of "perpetual now," to the history of humans changing and evolving rapidly in the face of grave threats. (288 pages) The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. (2010)
This bestseller gives an account of the migration of African Americans out of the south during the early and mid-twentieth century. The author focused on three people who left the south during different periods. (622 pages)

What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, by Mona Hanna-Attisha. (2019)
The author led the discovery of the dangerous lead content in the tap water in Flint, Michigan, and the battle to expose the truth to the world. (384 pages)

The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty (2013)
Cecelia finds a letter from her husband marked "to be opened after my death." But he is still alive, and its contents have repercussion that alter the lives of several families. A compelling, intimate tale. (395 pages)

Note: Good news for those who enjoy hearing authors talk about their books. Dozens of virtual live author events are available. The Boston Sunday Globe gives a list of virtual events offered by local bookstores, including the Brookline Booksmith. But you can venture to distant virtual events, as well! Try these bookstore websites to find more! Powell's (, Books Inc (, Hub City Books ( and Prairie Lights ( A Burning, by Megha Majumdar (2020)
A novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise - to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies - and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India. (320 pages)

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, by E.F. Schumacher. (1973).
Logical arguments for building our economies around communities, not corporations. Schumacher inspired the ideas of "Buy Locally" and "Fair Trade." (324 pages)

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life, by Louise Aronson (2019)
With people living longer, we can spend more years in elderhood than childhood! Aronson offers a vision of old age that's neither nightmare nor utopian fantasy--a vision full of joy, wonder, frustration, outrage, and hope about aging, medicine, and humanity itself. (464 pages) Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. (1937)
Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots. 219 pages. (As a leader in the Harlem Renaissance, Hurston was a revolutionary in helping to protect the rights of African Americans.)

The People of the Book, by Gwendolyn Brooks (2008)
In 1996, Hanna Heath, a rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Hanna's investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. 372 pages

The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett (2020)
After growing up in a small, southern black community, identical twin sisters, inseparable as children, choose to live in two very different worlds, one black and one white. Years later, their fates are intertwined. 352 pages The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson. (2020) Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports, Larson provides a new lens on London's darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill, his family, and other trusted advisors. 464 pages. (Digital Audiobook)

State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett. (2011) Dr. Marina Singh Is charged with finding her former mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who has disappeared in the insect-infested Amazon jungle while working on a valuable new drug. 353 pages (EBook)

Afterlife, by Julia Alvarez. (2020) Recently widowed, retired college English teacher Antonia Vega's struggle to cope with her loss is compounded by an unstable sister's disappearance and an undocumented pregnant teenager. 272 pages. (Available on hoopla, See below.) (EBook)

Using your library E-Resources
While the Brookline libraries are closed, more than 60 free E-Resources are available. They can be accessed on a computer, an iPad or other tablet, and your smart phone. To see the full list of E-Resources, go to the Brookline library website. For books, one of the best resources is hoopla, which offers books as well as music and videos. To access Hoopla, look at the heading "Entertainment" in the list of E-Resources on the library website. Then follow the directions. (A helpful on-line chat is available if you get stuck.)

The Stationery Shop, by Marjan Kamali. 2019.
This wonderful, engrossing novel set in 1953 Tehran against the backdrop of the Iranian Coup tells the story a young couple in love who are mysteriously separated on the eve of their marriage, and who are reunited sixty years later. 320 pages

Writers and Lovers, by Lily King 2020.
Set in the late 1990's in the Boston area, this novel follows Casey, a writer, as she confronts her mothers's death, a broken relationship, a lack of money, and writer's block. The reader easily identifies with and roots for her. 320 pages

1491: new revelations of the Americas before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann. 2006 Highly recommended by a BrooklineCAN member, this non-fiction account radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. 541pages

Note: All links provided in this issue are links to ebook editions. The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes. (2019) Set in 1930s Kentucky coal-mining country, this breathtaking novel centers on five women who set up a book-delivery library, traveling by horseback to remote cabins in the hills. It features strong characters and important social issues. 400 pages

Freaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard (2012)
If you have not listened to an audiobook, this is a great one to try. "Wonderfully wicked...a nonstop, pedal-to-the-metal romp." according to the Chicago Tribune. Leonard is the master of dialog so listening to his books is almost better than reading them. 8 hours and 40 minutes.

These Truths: A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore (2018)
This is a highly readable but disquieting account of U.S. history with major attention to inequality, especially associated with race and gender. Lepore who is both a Harvard Professor and a New Yorker writer, also delves deeply into to the fragility of our democratic institutions.

Note: All links provided in this issue are links to ebook or audiobook editions. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens. (2018)
This novel has been a best-seller since it was published. The interrelationship of human lives with nature is beautifully developed and the characters are unforgettable. 368 pages.

Exit West, by Moshin Hamid. (2017)
"In a middle eastern city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her." Thus begins a timely immigration story. 231 pages

Caleb's Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks. (2011)
In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. A really good cross cultural story. 306 pages

Note: All links provided in this issue are links to ebook editions. Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate (342 pages, 2017)
Based on actual events, this is the heart-breaking story of children living in poverty being spirited away to insufferable state orphanages in Tennessee in the 1930s and 40s.

Olive, Again, by Elizabeth Strout. (289 pages, 2019)
As she ages, the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but also the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. You may see a softer side of Olive here.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou. ( 352 pages, 2018)
Wall Street Journal reporter Carreyrou relates the tale of how Elizabeth Holmes came up with a fantastic idea that made her, for a while, the most successful woman entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Following a tip from a suspicious reader, the author investigated and exposed the fraudulent claims of the company .
The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai. (2019) Two intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of the 1980s AIDS epidemic and the chaos of the modern world. This prize-winning novel of friendship and redemption in the face of tragedy and loss is set in 1980s Chicago and contemporary Paris. (448 pages)

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. (2011) Every day our lives are affected by the work of Steve Jobs, the brilliant, complicated founder of Apple. He cooperated in interviews with the author for two years and held nothing back. (627 pages)

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham. (2019) This non-fiction book reads like sci-fi. It shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy. (538 pages) There There, by Tommy Orange. (2018) This best-selling novel captures the experience of modern "urban Indians" attending a powwow in Oakland. Through constantly shifting third person perspectives, it shows ultimately that Native Americans are not a monolith, not a stereotype, not united under a single identity. (294 pages)

Three Flames, by Alan Lightman. (2019) A novel that provides a deep dive into Cambodian family culture - a compelling story about the lives of a Cambodian family - set between 1973, just before the Cambodian Genocide by the Khmer Rouge - to 2015. (208 pages)

The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg, by Eleanor Randolph. (2019) The authoritative and highly readable biography of Michael Bloomberg: business genius, inventor, innovator, publisher, philanthropist, activist, and presidential candidate. With unprecedented access, a veteran New York Times reporter and editorial writer who covered New York City and state politics offers a revealing portrait of one of the richest and famously private/public figures in the country. (480 pages)
Intuition, by Allegra Goodman (2007))
This novel explores the intricate mixture of workplace intrigue, scientific ardor, and the moral consequences of a rush to judgment, at once an intricate mystery and a rich human drama set in the high-stakes atmosphere of a prestigious research institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (385 pages)

IQ, by Joe Ide (2016)
The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood's high crime rate. But someone from the neighborhood decides to help solve the cases the police can't or won't touch. They call him IQ, a loner and a high school dropout, whose unassuming nature disguises a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. (325 pages) (This is the first in the IQ series)

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong (2019)
Written as a letter to his mother who cannot read, this novel unearths a family's history that began before the writer was born - rooted in Vietnam. It reveals parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. (246 pages) The Dry Heart by Natalia Ginzburg (1947/2019) Just 94 pages long, the novel begins: "I shot him between the eyes." We feel compelled to read on to learn how her marriage drove her to do it. Translated from Italian.

Conviction by Denise Mina (2019) Anna, a middle-class Scottish housewife, listens to a podcast that mentions a former acquaintance. Then her husband announces that he is leaving her to live with her best friend. Thus begins a wild, entertaining tale with twists, turns, and surprises. (384 pages)

Mr President, How Long Must We Wait? By Tina Cassidy (2019) Alice Paul, a key player in the adoption of the 19th Amendment, employed methods that are still key to protestors today - marches, picketing at the White House, lobbying, silent protest, noncooperation with arresting officers, and hunger strikes. This lively account contrasts Paul to President Wilson, who is seen as a failure and an unworthy opponent. (304 pages) Judgment, by Joseph Finder (2019) Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Juliana Brody finds that a highly uncharacteristic one-night stand could lead to her and her family's undoing. A suspenseful mystery. 384 pages.

Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes (2019) Recently widowed Evvie Drake remains isolated in small-town Maine until she rents out the apartment at the back of her house to a failed Major League pitcher struggling to regain his pitching skill. 304 pages.

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History, by Keith O'Brien (2018) Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. Together, these women fought for the chance to race against men - and in 1936 one of them would triumph in the toughest race of all. 352 pages Three different genres to choose from for your autumn reading pleasure.

Sun Storm by Asa Larsson. (2003) A thriller by another Scandinavian writer, the first of a series. Rebecca takes a break from her city job in finance to visit her tiny hometown in remote northern Sweden. Scary and very well written. (322 pages)

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. (2017) Eleanor is 30 and has zero friends, less than zero family, a poorly paid job, doesn't speak to co-workers, doesn't even have a pet. Then her life begins to change...(327 pages)

Marmee & Louisa by Eve LaPlante (2012) A thoroughly researched non-fiction account of Louisa May Alcott's mother Abigail. Full of details about all the Alcotts and their connections in Boston and New England. (294 pages)

The Department of Sensitive Crimes, by Alexander McCall Smith. 2019. In this new series by the author of the Ladies Detective series, Smith introduces a Swedish police department. Like his other detective novels, there is no violence. 222 pages

Redemption, by David Balducci. 2019. A convicted murderer, dying of cancer, is released from prison. He asks the detective who helped jail him to help prove his innocence. A tangled web and great characters. 464 pages

An Irish Country Doctor, by Patrick Taylor, MD. 2007. A newly graduated doctor joins a medical practice in a tiny Irish village. He has lots to learn! (First of a series) 337 pages
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty. (2018) Set in Australia, this novel tells the story of nine people who are looking to change their lives at a 10-day retreat in an isolated area. With a charismatic leader, strict rules, and a limited diet, they are in for unforeseen challenges! (453 pages)

Everybody's Son: A Novel by Thrity Umrigar. (2017) Born to a black mother, Anton is adopted and raised by a white judge and his wife. He lives a life of privilege, but in adulthood feels the need to find out about his mother...a quest with disturbing results. (417 pages)

Want some live "book talk?" Every month the Brookline Booksmith presents talks by authors. For a complete listing of the June events see Or pick up a copy at the store

Note: all previous Book Talk suggestions may be found on our website: In the menu at the top of the page, click "Newsletter."

The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Alan Dulles, and Their Secret World War, by Stephen Kinzer.2013. A joint biography of the brothers who, beginning in the 1950s, led the United States into an unseen war that decisively shaped today's world. (465 pages)

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See. 2017. A heart-rending story about the love of mothers and daughters, this amazing novel also teaches the reader a lot about tea and the hard life of a little-known Chinese minority that grows it. (487 pages)

The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. 2013. Especially wonderful for book lovers, this is the delightful story of M. Perdu's bookstore situated on a barge anchored in the Seine. He "prescribed" books to fit every person's situation. (402 pages) Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen (2014) Rebecca's art work brought fame and fortune but she loses her inspiration and money, so she rents out her pricey Park Ave apartment and leases a small cabin in upstate New York, never expecting this move to change her life.(252 pages)

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (2017) Richard, a retired German academic who grew up in East Germany and whose curiosity defines his approach to life, finds his privileged, orderly days transformed by his growing involvement in the lives of a number of African refugees. (286 pages)

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (2018) A novel about two families who live in the same house but in different times: post civil war and the present. The interlacing stories suggest that our present political unrest is not unique but has been seen and overcome before. (464 pages)

March 2019

The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict (2019) A fictionalized account of the life story of Hedy Lamarr, the glamour icon and scientist whose groundbreaking invention revolutionized modern communication. Married to a powerful Austrian arms dealer, she evaded Nazi persecution despite her Jewish heritage. But in 1937 she learned of the Third Reich's plans and fled to Hollywood. (272 pages)

Chief Engineer, by Erica Wagner (2017) Washington Roebling built what has become one of America's most iconic structures--the Brooklyn Bridge--but its builder is too often forgotten. His life is of interest far beyond his chosen field. It is the story of immigrants, of the frontier, of the greatest crisis in American history, and of the making of the modern world. (364 pages)

February 2019

    The Blackwater Lightship, by Colm Toibin (1999)
    In 1990s Ireland, Dora Devereux, her daughter Lily and her granddaughter Helen come together with two friends at the bedside of Helen's dying brother Declan. They must listen and come to terms with one another.(288 pages)

    A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hossein (2008)
    Set against the volatile events in Afghanistan, this is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives - the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness - are inextricable from the history playing out around them.(432 pages)

    Transcription, by Kate Atkinson (2018)
    Eighteen-year-old Juliet is hired by MI-5 to transcribe recordings of meetings of Nazi sympathizers.That work and its consequences determine the course of her life. (343 pages)

    January 2019

    Three enthralling stories that center on facing the effects of injustice.

    Educated, by Tara Westover (2018) A riveting memoir. Tara was raised in an isolated Idaho family, unschooled. She achieves her goal of an advanced education but must reconcile that with her love for her family. 329 pages.

    An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones (2018) Roy and Celestial have been married only one year when Roy is sentenced to 12 years in jail for a crime he did not commit. This changes the course of their lives and feelings, and the story unfolds from here. 308 pages.

    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford (2009) A love story about a Chinese boy, Henry, and Keiko, a Japanese girl, set in San Francisco in 1942 (during the displacement of Japanese citizens) and in 1986. 309 pages.

    December 2018

    The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe, by David I. Kertzer, (2014)
    A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this meticulous study brims with memorable portraits of Pope Pius XI and others who played a crucial role in making Mussolini's dictatorship possible and keeping him in power. (550 pages)

    Happiness, by Aminatta Forna (2018)
    The lives of Attila, a Ghanian psychiatrist, and Jean, an American wildlife biologist, collide in London. They join forces to find Attila's niece and her son, enlisting a host of Jean's urban wildlife sighters. (368 pages)

    Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. (2017)
    A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this is the hilarious, lyrically-told tale of Arthur Less, a middle-aged writer who accepts literary invitations around the world in order to avoid attending the wedding of his ex-lover. A novel to add some laughter to your dark winter days. (272 pages)

    November 2018

    Runaway, by Alice Munro (2004). If you have not read her stories, this is a good collection to begin. Eight short stories, several of them about the same character. A winner of multiple literary prizes, Munro is often called the Canadian Chekov. (352 pages)

    Mission Hill, by Pamela Wechsler (2016). This is the first in a series of mysteries that are set in Boston. Abby Endicott, chief homicide detective in the District Attorney's office, investigates and prosecutes the most dangerous killers. (304 pages)

    Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art, by Mary Gabriel. (2018) This history of the midcentury New York art scene challenges the usual clichéd story of boozy macho artists to show a different perspective. These women changed American art and society, tearing up the prevailing social code and replacing it with a doctrine of liberation. (940 pages)

    October 2018

    Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income would end poverty, revolutionize work, and remake the world. By Anne Lowery. 2018. This is more than a primer on Universal Basic Income - it also analyzes the structural basis for inequality in the US and throughout the world. 274 pages

    The Devil in the White City. By Erik Larsen. 2003. This bestseller intertwines the true tale of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. 464 pages

    Bluebird, Bluebird. By Attica Locke. 2017. Lark, Texas, population 178: a black lawyer from Chicago passing through town in a BMW and dead bodies are found. This is an exhilarating, timely novel about the explosive intersection of love, race, and justice. 320 pages

    September 2018

    Three books that will definitely hold your interest.

    Warlight by Michael Ondaatje (2018) In wartime London, two teen-age children are left in the care of a mysterious family friend. Their understanding of their experiences during those years changes when they look back years later. President Obama had this book on his summer reading list. 272 pages.

    Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady by Susan Quinn (2016) A warm, intimate account of the love between Eleanor Roosevelt and reporter Lorena Hickok - a relationship that, over more than three decades, transformed both women's lives. 416 pages

    The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) (2013) This is the first in a series of mystery novels featuring Cormorant Strike, a charismatic war veteran turned private detective with some baggage. He solves brutal murders with the aid of his trusted assistant, Robin Ellacott. 464 pages

    Summer 2018

    Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson. (2016) Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything - until it wasn't. 192 pages.

    The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah. (2018) Ernt, a troubled Vietnam POW, moves with his wife and daughter to a remote cabin in Alaska, where the harsh conditions bring out the worst in him. His paranoia takes over their lives and exacerbates what daughter Leni, age 13, sees as the toxic relationship between her parents. 448 pages.

    The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, by Margareta Magnusson. (2018) Look around your home. After you are gone, how easy will it be for your children or others to sort through everything? This book is a guide to making an easier transition for those left behind. 128 pages.

    June 2018

    Each of these books highlights moral dilemmas and great personal challenges.

    The News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles (2016) After the Civil War, Captain Kidd travels northern Texas reading from newspapers to paying audiences. He is offered $50 in gold to deliver to her relatives a young orphan who had been abducted and raised by a Kiowa tribe.

    Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee (2017) In early 1900s Korea, Sunia's shameful unplanned pregnancy leads her to marry and move to Japan. This begins a sweeping saga of an exceptional family in exile, its members bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

    May 2018

    These books were enthusiastically recommended by BrooklineCAN members, with their comments.

    Personal History, by Katharine Graham. Published in 1997, "the chapters on Watergate are fascinating, particularly when compared to what is happening now."

    The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in the Age of Longevity, by Linda Gratton and Andrew Scott. (2016) "Not only are we living longer, but our kids are having such different professional experiences than many of us had...puts it all in perspective."

    A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. (2016) "Everyone I know who has read it has loved it."

    April 2018

    We hope you have been enjoying our monthly suggestions. Please send comments and recommendations to .

    Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah. (2016) These autobiographical tales by the wildly popular host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show are related with humor and pathos.

    Restless, by William Boyd. (2006) This espionage thriller and domestic drama features two strong female protagonists, set in 1939 and 1976.

    In the Midst of Winter, by Isabel Allende. (2017) Three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that journeys from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil.

    March 2018

    These books were recommended by BrooklineCAN members. Readers are invited to send suggestions or comments to .

    They May Not Mean To, But They Do, by Cathleen Schine. (2016) A hilarious novel about aging, family, loneliness, and love, this is the story of the Bergman family and their 86-year-old mother.

    Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds, by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto. (2016) This is the true story of a Japanese American family that found itself on opposite sides during World War II. An epic tale of family, separation, divided loyalties, love, reconciliation, loss, and redemption.

    Origin, by Dan Brown. (2017) This fast-paced and intriguing novel, set in Spain, keeps you guessing until the end.

    February 2018

    Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.
    In the 1920s, the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma became rich after oil was discovered beneath their land. Then mysteriously they began to be killed off. The new FBI exposed one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.

    Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.
    A best-selling epic novel of love and war, spanning from the 1940s to the present day, and the secret lives of those who live in a small French town.

    The Longevity Economy, by Joseph Coughlin.
    Businesses are failing to design things that older consumers want to buy because they're relying on outmoded ideas about what it means to be old.

    January 2018

    Begin the new year with an author who might be new to you, recommended by friends of BrooklineCAN.

    The Sleepwalker, by Chris Bohjalian.
    Sex, secrets and the mysteries of sleep: These are the ingredients of this provocative novel. Annalee Ahlberg, 47, is an architect, mother of two and a chronic sleepwalker. Has she walked herself to her death, drowning in a river near her Vermont home, or did something more nefarious happen?

    Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan.
    During the Great Depression, working class 12-year-old Annie and her father visit Styles, a rich man who seems to hold some kind of power over her family's survival. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She chances to meet Styles, and learns about the complexity of her father's life and why he might have been murdered. This is a thriller with a wealth of detail about organized crime, the merchant marine and the clash of classes in New York.

    The Return: Fathers, Sons, and the Land in Between, by Hisham Matar.
    This moving family memoir by novelist Matar relates his journey to his native Libya in search of answers to his father's disappearance. A former diplomat and military man turned dissident, he was kidnapped in Cairo in 1990 by the Libyan government and held in the regime's most notorious prison. Now, the prisons are empty and little hope remains that Jaballa Matar will be found alive. Yet, as the author writes, hope is "persistent and cunning".

    December 2017

    If you enjoy reading a series of books, you should try these authors.
    Donna Leon is from the United States, but she lived in Venice where her 26 mysteries detail the cases of Guido Brunetti, the Commissario of Police, his family, and a host of well-developed characters. The crime in each novel highlights a social or moral issue. Start with Death at La Fenice.

    Alan Furst has written 14 espionage novels that center on Europe's struggle against the Nazis. Real page turners, each book includes dashing heroes, seductive ladies, a host of colorful recurring characters, and breathless and courageous risk-taking. Begin with Night Soldiers.

    Dennis Lehane has written many excellent mysteries. But this three-book series goes way beyond who-dun-its: it follows the adventures of Joe Coughlin, who starts as a beat cop in Boston in the 1920s, continues as a bootlegger and crime boss in the '30s and '40s in Florida, and then works as a consigliere to a crime family, traveling between Tampa and Cuba. Start with The Given Day.

    Click the book titles for a direct link to the Brookline Library website

    November 2017

    These latest books by prize-winning authors demonstrate their many skills, particularly their ability to create fully-formed, knowable characters.

    A House Among the Trees, by Julia Glass. Mort Lear, a world-famous author/illustrator of children's books, has died. Thomasina, his long-time live-in assistant and heir, must deal with the star of a proposed movie about Mort, a disappointed museum curator, and her own feelings as secrets about Mort emerge.

    The Late Show, by Michael Connelly. Renée Ballard, a tireless detective who works the LAPD night shift, deals with harassment by her boss and solves three crimes. Connelly's first female protagonist makes Bosch look like a slouch.

    Mrs. Fletcher, by Tom Perotta. In this hilarious satiric take on American suburban life, son Brendan leaves for college and empty-nester Eva Fletcher, director of a senior center, decides to explore sexuality.

    October 2017

    These compelling accounts of historical events demonstrate their relevance to contemporary issues. All are recommendations from BrooklineCAN members.

    The Dark Tide, by Stephen Puleo. In the first comprehensive account of the 1919 Boston Molasses disaster, Puleo shows how the event was related to all of the major issues of the time.

    The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry that Built America's First Subway, by Doug Most. Long before the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, twin brothers led an earnest yet friendly race to build the first subway system in the United States.

    Blood of Brothers, by Stephen Kinzer. The dramatic story of the centuries-old power struggle that led to the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. A vibrant portrait of the Nicaraguan people and their volcanic land, a cultural history rich in poetry and bloodshed. (Quezalguaque, Nicaragua, is Brookline's Sister City.)

    September 2017

    by Scott Turow, is unlike his courtroom novels. Bill ten Boom, a successful American lawyer, is tapped to examine the disappearance of an entire Gypsy refugee camp--unsolved for ten years. In order to uncover what happened during the apocalyptic chaos after the Bosnian War, Boom must navigate a host of suspects.

    These two powerful books by Elizabeth Strout reflect themes of love, loss, and hope:
    My Name Is Lucy Barton, Barton, a successful writer, wife, and mother is recovering from so-called minor surgery when her estranged mother arrives. Their long, gossipy conversations connect them and reveal the tensions and trauma of Lucy's life with a troubled family.
    Anything Is Possible, Long after her parents have died, Lucy returns to her home town, learns what has happened to significant people from her past, and makes peace with her brother and sister.

    Summer 2017

    Here are three new mysteries that are great choices for summer reading.

    Camino Island, by John Grisham. Stolen priceless manuscripts have been traced to a bookseller on a Florida island. Insurance investigators hire a young writer to help find them by becoming friends with the bookseller and his circle. Can she trust anyone?

    Since We Fell, by Dennis Lehane. A TV reporter with a troubled childhood suffers an on-air mental breakdown. She meets and marries a charming, successful businessman who helps her to recover. Then her life gets really complicated as she must find the mental strength to face a conspiracy of heart-breaking deception and violence.

    Earthly Remains, by Donna Leone. Commissario Guido Brunetti takes two weeks away from the Venetian Questura for complete rest and solitude at a villa on a nearby island. There he goes rowing every day with the caretaker, who tells him that something is killing all the bees. After the caretaker drowns, Brunetti must find out why he died. 

    June 2017

    We're delighted to present three non-fiction books recommended by BrooklineCAN members.

    Double Cross: the True Story of the D-Day Spies, by Ben Macintyre
    An entertaining account of the plot to deceive Hitler as to the timing and location of the D-Day landings, focusing on a group of five colorful and exotic double agents. A scintillating report of a complex human drama. (From A.G.)

    Mary McGrory, The Trailblazing Columnist Who Stood Washington on Its Head, by John Norris.
    This wildly entertaining biography of the famous journalist tells how she covered significant political events from the '50s McCarthy hearings to the '70s Watergate era to 9/11, constantly breaking all the rules of textbook journalism. (From C.S.)

    In Other Words, by Jhumpa Lahiri.
    Because of her love affair and obsession with the Italian language, the author moved her family to Rome in order to immerse herself in the language. This beautifully written book, originally penned in Italian, is her love story. (From M. M.)
    Please send comments and suggestions to .

    May 2017

    Although they have different themes, these novels tell stories that make you care about the characters and want to know what happens next.

    The Nest, a novel by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney.
    Dad has left a $2 million nest egg to four siblings to inherit when the youngest turns 40. But mother has allowed the eldest brother to squander the money! Read what happens next!

    Lilac Girls, a novel based on actual events, by Martha Hall Kelly.
    Three women narrate this story based on actual people whose destinies converged in or around Ravensbrück, Hitler's concentration camp for women.

    Maisie Dobbs, a novel by Jacqueline Winspear. (First of 14 books)
    For those who love a series, this book introduces Maisie, a bright 13-year-old English girl working as a maid at a grand house in London in 1910. Her employer allows her to use the library and there she meets Maurice Blanche, a famous investigator, and an unimaginable destiny begins.

    Please send comments and suggestions to .

    April 2017

    These three books are sure to make you chuckle, smile, and even laugh out loud!
    A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole.
    This grand farce about over-educated white trash, corrupt law enforcement, exotic dancing and the nouveau riche in steamy New Orleans is on every list of comedic must-reads.

    I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, by Nora Ephron. In her dry, candid style, Ephron writes hilariously about women getting older.

    Bossy Pants, by Tina Fey. Tina Fey's comic sensibility comes through in her tales about how a nerdy but self-confident half-Greek girl entered theatrical life and what it's like to be a woman in comedy.

    Note - Should we continue the Book Talk column? Do you have a suggestion for a book to include in the future? Please let us know at .

    March 2017

    These books help us imagine life in Boston in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

    One Boy's Boston: 1887-1901, a memoir by famous historian Samuel Eliot Morison, details his boyhood growing up on a Beacon Hill that teemed with trolleys and horses.

    Boston Girl. by Anita Diamant is a novel about family ties and values, friendship and feminism told through the eyes of a young Jewish woman growing up in Boston in the early twentieth century.

    A City So Grand: The Rise of an American Metropolis 1850-1900 by Stephen Puleo tells in dramatic narrative the many breathtaking changes in Boston during that period: the abolitionist movement, the construction of the Back Bay, the development of the subway, the Irish immigration and so much more.

    Please email your comments and suggestions for future columns to .

    February 2017

    For Valentine's month, here are three love stories. Get out the tissues and enjoy! (All three were made into movies.)

    Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
    The heart-rending tale of Louisa, a young woman who finds herself in a predicament: how to convince Will, a young paralyzed man in her care, that he has something to live for.

    The Time-traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    A poignant and occasionally sensual story about a woman's love for a man who suffers from a rare genetic disorder that causes him to drift uncontrollably back and forth through time.

    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
    In a series of tales, 93-year-old Jacob Jankowski, who dislikes his controlling nursing home, tells his life story: how he joined a circus, fell in love, and had numerous adventures. This novel has a terrific ending!

    Please email your comments and suggestions for future columns to

    January 2017

    This is the season to settle in with a great book. These three non-fiction selections were suggested by BrooklineCAN members.
    **Elephant Company: the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives in World War II, by Vicki Constantine Croke. At the outset of World War II, Billy Williams formed Elephant Company and was instrumental in defeating the Japanese in Burma and saving refugees. Suggested by Mary McConnell.

    **The Big Short by Michael Lewis. In a compelling story that reads like a novel, Lewis chronicles how a handful of investment managers detected early on the growing bubble in the mortgage bond market and made a fortunes betting against it. Suggested by Carol Caro.

    **The Big Picture by Sean Carroll. In a clear and forceful style, Carroll marshals an impressive array of information to convince the reader that the universe and everything in it can be explained by science. Suggested by Matt Weiss.

    December 2016

    For lovers of a good mystery series, this month's recommendation will surely fill the bill. Canadian author Louise Penny has written 12 mystery novels set in the tiny village of Three Pines, just south of Montreal. Her main protagonist, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, is a seasoned, brilliant, and deeply intuitive homicide detective in the Surete du Quebec. The village cast of characters is appealingly developed, as is the village bistro and its delicious menu. Readers new to the series should begin with the first book, Still Life. We'd love to have your comments on the books we recommend and your suggestions for future columns. Send comments to

    November 2016

    Welcome to our new column! In every issue of the newsletter we'll publish suggestions for good reads, and we begin by introducing a website that helps you take a trip around the world in 80 books. See

    Three suggestions from the list:
    Egypt - Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz: The first in The Cairo Trilogy, Palace Walk introduces readers to a despotic patriarch, his oppressed wife, two daughters, and three sons.
    Haiti - Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat: A young girl disappears after her father makes the painful decision to send her away for a chance at a better life.
    South Africa - The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer: A rich man's wife, son, and mistress leave him, and his farm is devastated by drought and flood.
    We encourage our readers to share their favorite titles for future columns.
    Send to

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