Read Outside the Box: Short & Sweet

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If you’re looking for some short & sweet titles that will also make a big dent in your Adult Summer Reading Challenge, look no further! Two authors whose books will fulfill at least two (and in some instances four!) categories and are also a joy to read are:

Sarah Addison Allen and Sarah Kate Lynch–both of these writers use magical realism (bye bye “fantasy” category) and often have food centered plots (so long “food novel” category). And Ms. Lynch is from New Zealand and often stages her novels overseas so any of her novels will ALSO fulfill your “foreign writer/foreign setting” category. Make it a “reader’s choice” and you’ve knocked off a third of your challenge card with a single short & sweet read.

Happy Reading!

 

 

Adult Summer Reading: Read Outside the Box

Will you be joining Audra and I at the July 12th meeting of the Cookbook Club? Of course you will! There’s delicious food and lovely conversation–a perfect summer evening. You can also use it to fulfill a few of the Read Outside the Box challenge categories! At our July meeting we will be bringing recipes from food memoirs or food novels. Here is my top pick for each:

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Food Memoir–The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber (fulfills Food Memoir/Food Novel AND Foreign Writer or Setting): A vibrant, humorous memoir of growing up with a gregarious Jordanian father who loved to cook. Diana Abu-Jaber weaves the story of her life in upstate New York and in Jordan around vividly remembered meals: everything from Lake Ontario shish kabob cookouts with her Arab-American cousins to goat stew feasts under a Bedouin tent in the desert. These sensuously evoked meals in turn illuminate the two cultures of Diana’s childhood – American and Jordanian – and the richness and difficulty of straddling both.

Food Novel–Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel (fulfills Food Memoir/Food Novel AND Foreign Writer of Setting): Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit. The classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother’s womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef.

Adult Summer Reading: Read Outside the Box

The Slimmest of the Slim

To prove just how much Audra and I want you to succeed this summer. I am providing a list of some super-short books to kick-start your reading challenge!

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  1. Woolgathering by Patti Smith Patti Smith tells real and imagined stories from her childhood. 80 pages.
  2. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments, with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico became a best-selling phenomenon with its winning blend of poignant romance and bittersweet wit. 245 pages.
  3. Cries for Help, Various: Stories by Padgett Powell Presents a collection of short stories that cover the topics of longing, fear, work, loneliness, and cultural nostalgia. 182 pages.
  4. Stuart Little by E.B. White Stuart Little is a mouse born to a family of humans and lives in New York City with his parents, his older brother George, and Snowbell the cat. 131 pages.
  5. Whale Rider by Witi Tame Ihimaera As her beloved grandfather, chief of the Maori tribe of Whangara, New Zealand, struggles to lead in difficult times and to find a male successor, young Kahu is developing a mysterious relationship with whales, particularly the ancient bull whale whose legendary rider was their ancestor. 152 pages.

Adult Summer Reading: Read Outside the Box

Every week this summer the OWL blog will focus on a different challenge category with reading suggestions to pique your interest. This week is all about fulfilling your “Protagonist of Opposite Gender” challenge. Here is a list of my 10 favorite dual/multi narrative novels–because each books has male and female protagonists any of these choices will work for any reader regardless of gender.

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1. Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos

In the sweltering heat of one summer in a small Midwestern town, Claire and Don Lowry discover that married life isn’t quite as they’d predicted.

2. Shotgun Lovesongs by Nikolas Butler

Welcome to Little Wing.

It’s a place like hundreds of others, but for four boyhood friends―all born and raised in this small Wisconsin town―it is home. One of them never left, still working the family farm, but the others felt the need to move on. One trades commodities, another took to the rodeo circuit. One of them hit it big as a rock star. And then there’s Beth, a woman who has meant something special in each of their lives.

3. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by Ryan J. Stradal*

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal’s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity.

4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. 

5. The Odds by Stewart O’Nan

Valentine’s weekend, Art and Marion Fowler flee their Cleveland suburb for Niagara Falls, desperate to recoup their losses. Jobless, with their home approaching foreclosure and their marriage on the brink of collapse, Art and Marion liquidate their savings account and book a bridal suite at the Falls’ ritziest casino for a second honeymoon. 

6. Life Drawing by Robin Black

Augusta Edelman—Gus to her friends—is a painter, a wife, and not always the best judge of her own choices—one of them bad enough that she and her husband, Owen, have fled their longtime city home and its reminders of troubling events.

7. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But it wasn’t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book…Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family.

8. How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings

When Mele Bart told her boyfriend Bobby she was pregnant with his child, he stunned her with an announcement of his own: he was engaged to someone else.

9. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger*

A most untraditional love story, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course.

10. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes*

Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.

*Two-for-one books–these will also fulfill your Science Fiction/Fantasy/Western category.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. She is content enough—until a boy with eyes the color of the Atlantic Ocean moves in next door. Their complicated romance begins over IM and grows through a wunderkammer of vignettes, illustrations, charts, and more.

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.*

This critically acclaimed YA favorite is now in theaters as a feature length film. A perfect book club pick!

*Synopsis taken from the author’s website: www.nicolayoon.com

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

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The true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space.

I won’t say much more than that simple one-sentence synopsis and a heart-felt plea to PLEASE READ this fascinating account of a group of dedicated African American female mathematicians known as “human computers” who used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. After you’ve read this phenomenal story I would implore you to also watch the film–a fantastic adaptation starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. Highly recommended.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Even before the highly anticipated miniseries premiered on HBO, this book has spread like wildfire–due mostly to word of mouth. However, if you somehow missed all the hoopla surrounding it, this is a friendly reminder to take a look at this well written and entertaining page turner–preferably, before you watch the adaptation.

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Someone is dead and it happened at a school trivia night. The reader finds this out immediately but it is over the course of the book that we find out why and how and ultimately whodunit. Told in alternating points of view, the book follows three mothers whose lives intersect through their school-aged children. Each woman is well-developed and interesting and, as the reader, we care for all of them while still desperately racing to the end of the novel to find out exactly what happened at Trivia Night.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

To kick off a month of blog posts about recent film adaptations of popular books, I’d like to start with a novel that’s in my Top 5 Favorite Books (ever!)–American Gods.

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Shadow Moon is released from prison the day after his beloved wife dies. Unsure of how to proceed with his life, Shadow is hired by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. What follows is a strange journey across America where Shadow encounters divinities who are losing their power because they are no longer believed in (old gods from overseas–like Odin and Anansi–who traveled to the new world with the immigrants who worshiped them) and the dangerous “new gods” of technology, freeways, and television who want the old guard vanquished so they can fully reign. Mythic, poignant, and not to be missed. Read the book before you watch the upcoming series.

 

Favorite New-ish Audiobooks: Nonfiction

Listening to nonfiction books as opposed to reading the print has always been more effective for me. The narrator keeps the pace moving and if the wording is dense I find it simpler to understand it as a listener. There have been many exceptional audio productions of recent nonfiction bestsellers. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him written by David Henry & Joe Henry, read by Dion Graham David and Joe Henry bring Richard Pryor to life both as a man and as an artist, providing an in-depth appreciation of his talent and his lasting influence, as well as an insightful examination of the world he lived in and the influences that shaped both his persona and his art.

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Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America written by Jill Levoy, read by Rebecca Lowman Jill Leovy, crime reporter for the LA Times, examines why the homicide rates for blacks in America are so much higher than any other ethnic group.

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The Gene: An Intimate History written by Siddhartha Mukherjee, read by Dennis Boutisikaris A magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: what becomes of being human when we learn to ‘read’ and ‘write’ our own genetic information?

 

Favorite Audiobooks: Series

Do you have a long commute to work everyday? Or do you find yourself cooking and cleaning at home for long stretches of time? Maybe you’re going on a trip across the country? An audiobook series could be the perfect thing for you.

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The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon In the first and title book of the series, it is 1945, a former combat nurse, back from the war and on her honeymoon, touches a boulder in an ancient Scottish ruin and is instantly transported to a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in 1743. A wonderful mix of genres–historical fiction, fantasy, time-travel–this series is a fan favorite.

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The Game of Thrones Series by George R.R. Martin These books are enormous and perfectly suited for audio. In the first and title book of the series, an enigmatic event forever changed the seasons in Winterfell. Thus the land was blessed with lush summers and simultaneously cursed with harsh winters. Now, Winterfell’s borders are being increasingly encroached, forcing the prominent Stark family to defend its kingdom from enemies both old and new, including the rival Lannister House and a legendary demon.

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The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling Whether you’ve already read about the world’s most famous boy wizard or you’ve always meant to, listening to the audiobooks is a real treat. Jim Dale’s narration is absolute perfection! Begin with Harry’s first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.