In every age, attempts have been made to create and destroy havens of religious and ethnic harmony. Geraldine Brooks’ exquisite novel, People of the Book, traces the mysterious and harrowing adventure of the Sarajevo Haggadah, as it weaves among such societies throughout history, bearing witness to brutal intolerance and laudable heroism.
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Holidays can be full of indulgence and delight, or can magnify life’s frustrations and dysfunctions. From the stepmother who’ll never get it right, to the couple who knew each other until a simple quiz proved otherwise, Maeve Binchy’s, This Year It Will Be Different reminds us how similar we are.
Donna C. of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography by Alexandra Popoff:
Leo Tolstoy was surrounded by a circle of followers who sought to vilify his wife Sophia and drive the couple apart. Until recently, biographers were mostly content to continue this bleak portrayal of Mrs. Tolstoy. But in Alexandra Popoff’s engaging biography, Sophia Tolstoy, we find a committed and adoring wife who bears 13 children, runs the household and even assists with editing Leo’s novels. Sophia is Leo’s muse, and their love is deep and passionate. Yet Sophia watches in dismay as her husband’s charming personality succumbs to feverish, moody radicalism. Leo disavows property, education and religion, and, eventually, even his loyal wife. The dramatic and tragic story is rendered beautifully in this exceptional biography.
When a former comedy writer for David Letterman “retires” at the age of 28, he moves to a Florida senior community and finds retired life more complicated than he had expected. Rodney Rothman’s experiment, Early Bird, is light and funny, yet unnerving, as it intimately exposes his new friends’ lifestyles.
If you’re looking for an eclectic blend of folk, rock, country and punk, check out the classic Palace Music disc Viva Last Blues. Will Oldham on vocals will captivate you with his uniquely stirring, haunting, warbling tunes. Track #7, ”New Partner,” is especially one of my favorites.
A female PhD in Mathematics from Yale, Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, and a pioneering computer programmer, Grace Hopper’s story is one of perseverance, foresight and success. The rich and engaging biography Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt Beyer is a fascinating must-read.
With his sharp wit, wry undertones and characteristic insight, Craig Ferguson weaves an engaging and uplifting tale of his path from Scotsman to Scottish-American. American on Purpose is Ferguson’s memoir of his ordinary origins, his extraordinary perseverance and his pursuit of that still inspirational national ethos – the American Dream.
Need a cozy mystery to curl up with on these grey, cloudy afternoons? I suggest the beltway capers of Margaret Truman. Murder at the Library of Congress brings you into one of our grandest institutions on the National Mall and plunges deep into the stacks of jealousy, rivalry and revenge.
Brenda Blethyn portrays Grace Trevethyn, a newly-widowed housewife who resorts to cultivating marijuana to make money. With the green thumb and street-savvy of her handyman, played by Craig Ferguson, Grace’s life becomes an exhilarating and madcap adventure in her picturesque British hometown. If you like Weeds, check out Saving Grace.
The callous yet impassioned executives and staff of New York’s Sterling Cooper Ad Agency in Mad Men remind us that the way things were might not be so different from the way things are. Well, except for the 1960s stylized fashion, smoke-filled, cubicle-less, dark wood offices and afternoon cocktails.