What Nicole is reading
"Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?"
-Harriet Ward Beecher
Nicole says: "Hard-working prose, characters who resemble our real lives, and landscapes as wide open as the West. Lucia Berlin was a professor at the University of Colorado before her death in 2004, and her legacy lives on in this collection of diverse stories that read like the diary entries to her life."
Nicole says: "Thousands of years of Chinese history wrapped up in the intertwining lives to soul mates; a story for the ages and perfect for readers of historical fiction and contemporary literature. Barker was inspired by her own grandfather's story, but this is a novel that is bound to be a classic."
Nicole says: "This book is exquisite both from a character and setting perspective. The stories each are meaty enough to feel completely engrossed, while the writing fluid through the pieces. The narrators reach across experiences and the themes of otherness, fidelity, country and family satisfied me. Each story is connected to the Philippines through its characters experiences as expats and at home."
Nicole says: "An interesting book that I found writerly and compelling, Beatty strikes a chord in American race relations. Black identity as a central theme and satire as a vehicle is a combination bound to be complicated; an excellent discussion book for groups or students!"
Nicole says: "How is a book so wry and so sexy also so literary? How can such a removed, dramatic narrator also reveal so much about the secrets her characters withhold from one another? Jaw-droppingly good. I loved it."
Nicole says: "Absolutely loved this style and structure. So heady, experimental AND readable. The language usage is quotable, and for a book in translation, that seems rare. An unreliable narrator is hard to do well, but Luiselli nails it. The theme is timeless: power of story, none of us is predetermined."
Nicole says: "If you loved the Book Thief, then you must read this novel. Sparse, yet revealing prose is guided by a direct, observant and naive child narrator living in Poland during World War II. Revealing and even funny at times, the voice transcends a devastating ending. Breathtaking!"
Nicole says: "Can a person ever escape being a victim, even if he survives? This is the central theme for an epic, engrossing story of a friendship spanning the decades between college and death for four successful men. This novel is a beautifully written commentary that reflects on itself and its characters' interior lives, which demonstrates that in pain, there is also beauty, ease, safety and especially, truth. Destined to be a classic."
Nicole says: This is the book with which I chose to kick off my vacation to a remote island in British Columbia. Ironic that my spot wasn't so different from Delano Island, home for the main character! Station Eleven is an entertaining book for anyone who longs for a different world, a place that can no longer exist, as well as for lovers of art, music, technology and the buzz around a great novel!
Nicole says: Here is the story of relationships in crisis – a teenage girl goes missing and her siblings and parents are left to unwind the story of the favorite member of the family. Ng expertly weaves psychological tension into a web layered with gender and racial expectations, while still offering themes of hope and reconciliation. A great summer read!
Nicole says: If you liked "History of Love" or "The Book Thief" go get ye to the bookstore for this beautiful, engrossing, economical novel. It opens with a Thich Nhat Hahn quote which I now think of daily: "We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness." Linked chapters and characters intertwine against the backdrop of World War II, creating a quilt to shroud us in even the most difficult and lonely times. This book reminds us all that we are never alone. Wonderful!
Nicole says: The title says it all! Here is an entertaining and thoughtful, careful study of why parents of today are so conflicted about the supposed joy of having children. I related to Jen's voice, to her exasperation and to her wonder. This is a book in which mommies and daddies will find a lot of solace. Easy reading.
Nicole says: Nicholas Butler might have charmed his way onto my bookshelf, but his writing chops have earned a permanent place in my reading life. With the backdrop of a small Wisconsin town, this debut novel showcases regular people trying to connect and a group of guys who just can't seem to get it right. If you like Jonathan Franzen's scope but not all the cultural snark, try "Shotgun Lovesongs."
Nicole says: I'm a good Midwestern girl with all those notions of the American dream embedded firmly in place. Lorrie Moore always does a good, kind job of reminding me that those ideas are ridiculous! Her latest collection of short stories is no different. I was depressed, then laughing out loud in the first three stories. If you enjoyed her award-winning novel "Gate at the Stairs," try this!
Nicole says: "Our friend and former bookseller Stephen Bedford turned me on to this book. It was the first he was working on for his new job at Simon and Schuster. I received it with a note, and took it home to read right away. The book sucked me in right away. It's a calculated love story with echoes of all major human emotions, sweet and surprising, lovely to read. If you liked Hector and the Search for Happiness, you'll love The Rosie Project!"
Nicole says: "I had the chance to hear Marra speak publicly for the first time about this book in the fall of 2012 - before the National Book Award nomination, before Boston. He told of his studies in Russia, of the stories he had to write in order to understand the history of a place like Chechnya. He brought the room of booksellers to tears, even before any of us had read a word. This is one of the best books of the year, hands down. Compelling, chilling, scary real and beautifully written. Anthony Marra is one of my literary crushes!"
Nicole says: "Just stop what you’re doing and read this. It’s that good!"
Nicole says: A reader knows when they're in the presence of something special, brilliant. It's a voice familiar, kind. A plot careful, unraveling. A set of characters whose hearts pound between the boards. Taiye Selasi delivers a powerful debut about family, race and the nature of story in this contemporary novel, set against neighborhoods from Brookline, MA to Lagos, Nigeria. A literary descendant of Zadie Smith and Arundhati Roy, Selasi is a new force in the global community of readers.
Nicole says: A taut and haunting novel about the Iraq War compared to "The Things They Carried." The author's strong command of writing and imagery keep this book from getting too depressing, although it is a sad story about friendship and recovery in the face of unchecked violence experienced during war. This isn't the "ripped from the headlines" account. It is quiet and thoughtful, keeping literary readers satisfied. If you liked "You Know When the Men Are Gone" you should pick up "The Yellow Birds."
Nicole says: For fans of adventure, great writing and books like "Shantaram," this is a must-read tale. It's a novel of discovery, violence and hope, following Jun Do and his rag-tag, adopted family of grown-up orphans. Designated by the North Korean regime to do much of the dictator's dirty work, the men are challenged with constant inner battles of good versus evil. The book is filled with illuminating, despicable and sometimes hilarious circumstances of living in North Korea, all researched during the author's travel to this otherwise secretive locale. Provocative and eye-opening!
Nicole says: A super fun narration of the quirkiest book I've read lately. Here is a laugh-out-loud love story that will make you wonder how we figure out a way to fit into this world. Sunny and Maxon were made for each other, and yet even they struggle to come to terms with their uniqueness. Lydia Netzer does a great job developing her characters, and getting reader to develop a particular fondness for their flaws.