Five amateur bakers are competing in a pastry competition, each with a lot to gain with a win and even more on the line to lose. A sweet, character driven novel that tells universal human stories against the backdrop of competitive baking. Delightful!
For more deliciously decadent books that take place in the kitchen, check these out:
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
A City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
I have been drawn to the unbelievable story of Ernest Shackleton and his 27 member crew since middle school. If I was able to choose the person or topic I wanted to write about I inevitably picked the near-miraculous journey by Shackleton and a skeleton crew through over 850 miles of the South Atlantic’s heaviest seas to the closest outpost of civilization. I still return to Alfred Lansing’s account of the heroic expedition every 5 or so years. Not to be missed.
For more true life adventure stories, check these out:
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read
A story that “vividly captures how the bonds of womanhood are pitted against the divisions of class and culture.” Sera Dubash is an upper-middle-class housewife who devotes herself to caring for her pregnant daughter and son-in-law. Bhima has worked as a domestic servant for the Dubash family for over twenty years, pinning her hopes to escape the slums on her granddaughter Maya, a university student. But when Maya becomes pregnant and will not reveal who the father is, all of Bhima’s planning and hope for her family’s future may be lost forever.
For more books set in/about Bombay/Mumbai, check these out:
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (nonfiction)
Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
The Mosquito Coast is the story of a man, Allie Fox, who uproots his family from their Massachusetts farm in order to start a new life in the jungles of Central America. We are told Allie and his family’s story through the eyes and voice of his 14yo son Charlie–a boy who watches as his father becomes more obsessive and less tied to reality.
For more books frequently found on high school reading lists that won’t bore you to tears, check these out:
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Beach by Alex Garland
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Maude is 90 years old and looking back on a full life while waiting for her granddaughter to bring her home. The primary setting of Maude’s imaginings is the summer colony in Maine where the multi-generational home of her husband’s family is as well as the other two families that became entangled with their own.
For more novels where setting is as much a character as the protagonist, check these out (and, yes, they are all by Anne Rivers Siddons):
Islands by Anne Rivers Siddons
Outer Banks: A Novel by Anne Rivers Siddons
Sweetwater Creek by Anne Rivers Siddons
Even though I’ve been proven wrong time and time again, I am always wary about celebrity memoirs. In the case of Not My Father’s Son, I thought, could a person be gifted at acting, singing, dancing, AND writing? Well, let me tell you, the answer is a resounding YES. Alan Cumming’s writing is painful and honest and beautiful. He brings the reader into the most vulnerable parts of his life and he does so with plenty of honesty and humor. A must read.
For more surprisingly poignant memoirs by talented celebrities, check these out:
Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew
Just Kids by Patti Smith
The Bigtree alligator-wrestling dynasty is in decline, and Swamplandia!, their island home and gator-wrestling theme park, formerly #1 in the region, is swiftly being encroached upon by a fearsome and sophisticated competitor called the World of Darkness. Ava’s mother, the park’s indomitable headliner, has just died; her sister, Ossie, has fallen in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, who may or may not be an actual ghost; and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, who dreams of becoming a scholar, has just defected to the World of Darkness in a last-ditch effort to keep their family business from going under. Ava’s father, affectionately known as Chief Bigtree, is AWOL; and that leaves Ava, a resourceful but terrified thirteen, to manage ninety-eight gators and the vast, inscrutable landscape of her own grief. Against a backdrop of hauntingly fecund plant life animated by ancient lizards and lawless hungers, Karen Russell has written an utterly singular novel about a family’s struggle to stay afloat in a world that is inexorably sinking.*
*This incredibly complicated synopsis was taken from the publisher. I was unable to do as succinct a job.😉
For more quirky and endearing stories with young female protagonists, check these out:
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman
After Pat Peoples and his wife Nikki separate, he goes to live with his parents but everything seems changed. No one wants to talk to him about Nikki, his old friends are busy with their families, and his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as therapy. He meets Tiffany, a clinically depressed widow, who offers to act as a liaison between the couple if Pat will give up watching football, agrees to perform in the Dance Away Depression competition and not tell anyone about their contract.*
If you would like to read more books that were later made into amazing films, check these out:
The Descendents by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Contact by Carl Sagan
Big Fish by Daniel Wallace
“Are you there, Satan, it’s me, Madison.” 13 year old Madison dies over Christmas break at her Swiss boarding school and inexplicably finds herself in Hell. Her cellmates, in a perfect echo of John Hughes’ classic film The Breakfast Club, are a cheerleader, a jock, a nerd, and a punk rocker. Palahniuk’s version of Hell is all sorts of clever including the job Madison has, as a telemarketer in a sweltering call center. A fun, strange, quirky novel. Highly recommended.
For more books that explore themes of hell and death in a clever manner, check these out:
The Gates by John Connolly
The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
If you are an aspiring writer you must read The Paris Review, especially the interviews. Learn about the process of writing from luminaries like Dorothy Parker, Kurt Vonnegut, T.S. Eliot, and Ernest Hemingway. In the words of Salman Rushdie, “taken together, they form perhaps the finest available inquiry into the ‘how’ of literature, in many ways a more interesting question than the ‘why.'”
For more reading about writing, check these out:
On Writing by Stephen King
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr and E.B. White