Not to rush the season, but can we talk about winter, and the pleasures of curling up with an afghan (hound or blanket, you choose), a cup of tea and a great book? And maybe, like me, you enjoy giving books as holiday gifts.
So, I’ve got some book recommendations you might enjoy yourself– or give as gifts for readers of either gender on your list. As you’ll see, each book is quite different from the others.
And in my mind were two conflicting thoughts. One was that I wished to continue my travels, continue the adventure the way, it seemed, I was meant to have it. And the other, of course, was that I, too, could put a halt to things. After all, any of us could stop things. Would it be so terrible, to be trapped there? Then he could stay there sleeping beside me forever. In the world where I had never lost him.
That’s an excerpt from The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer, the very best book I’ve read this year. And I read a lot.
It’s a story about a woman, love –and time travel that happens in the most interesting of ways.
When depression hits Greta Wells, she’s given electro-convulsive therapy, and each treatment sends her time traveling to a life she had in a different era. Besides her “current” life in 1985, she travels to 1918 and 1941, where some of the same people are in her life, but in slightly different roles and situations. Greta’s twin, Felix, is gay, and that’s woven in the story in an interesting and unusual way, because things were quite different for gay people in the 20th century–pretty much the entire 20th century. Looking back through the lens of this new century added to my experience of the book.
The characters are skillfully-wrought and I found myself loving some so much I wanted to scream out into the book, No! Don’t do that! Things will be different one day!
If you’ve ever wondered, what if? (and who hasn’t) this book will capture your imagination in magical ways. What if you could keep traveling back and forth–have all three lives? But what if you could pick one of the other lives and just stay there? What if, indeed.
Greer’s prose is beautiful and he’s got a deep understanding of the way women think. Or maybe, the way I think. It’s rare that I actually type out passages, excerpts from books, but I typed up three single-spaced pages of excerpts that I found so haunting, so evocative that I simply wanted to read and reread and ponder them over and over and over. It’s the first of his books I’ve read, so I’ll be avidly digging into other offerings he has, as well as any that might come next.
i met Mark Fine on Google+ and was instantly intrigued by his writing. His book, The Zebra AffaIre, is a fast-paced, suspenseful tale about the racial divide in the police state of South Africa. The story involves a mixed race relationship during apartheid, riots, tribes at war and the horrors of an unfair and unyielding society. It’s a love story, it’s a societal change story and it’s a war story all at once, the kind of page turner that some of us devour hungrily, anxious for the next thrilling bite.
What’s more, the author has provided side-notes of historical context and information that adds to the understanding of the situation.
I don’t know how many young people today remember the days when apartheid was a very big deal that was in the news all the time, so this novel could very well provide needed historical background to a situation about which many young adults know nothing. In an interesting way, which is the best way to feed history to youth, in my opinion. It’s a good book.
It’s not just a guy’s book, either, although Mark writes with the eye of a man. I loved its energy and, since it had been a long time since I’d considered apartheid (given how much else has gone on in the world), it was a good reminder of South Africa’s past and present. Mark provided me with a review copy but the opinion is my own. It’s available on Amazon and would make a great gift book, too.
The Voice at the Door by James Sulzer is a quiet little tome for a peaceful winter day. I loved its gentle pace, leaving me plenty of time to think about what I was reading. It’s about Emily Dickinson and is fiction, though it reads like it could be true. In fact, I went back a few times just to make sure it wasn’t true. In the book, Miss Dickinson has a love affair with a married man of the cloth–an unlikely scenario, or so it seems. The affair has significant intellectual and spiritual components, as many relationships did among that set, and it was carried out mostly by post, also common in the day.
I love when a man writes a graceful book that women would so clearly enjoy. When was the last time you read something that you could describe as tender and cultivated? It’s not a page turner, so save it for a gentle day when all you want is to relax and let your mind wander to a time so different from our own.
I’m always wowed when people who are incredibly busy find the time to crank out a book in their spare time. How do they do it? Such is the case with my friend and former student, Bonnie Phelps, who just published her first novel, Julia’s Star. It’s a romantic tale whose main character ain’t no spring chicken–so those of us of a certain age can relate to it.
The tale’s an old one, but with a bit of a twist. By this age just about all of us have had at least one relationship with someone who seemed such a bad match that friends and family wonder how on earth the relationship could work out. Such is the case with Julia and Jason. Now, I don’t know about you, but I like a good piece of escapist fiction from time to time, and Bonnie’s book fits the bill. It’s the kind of book you want to settle in with an hour before bed so that you go off to dreamland with a smile and look forward to picking up the book again the next day.
By the way, it’s not too early to consider if any of these books fit friends or family, and even to pick up copies for upcoming birthdays or holidays. I’ve got a tall stack of books to give in my closet and they’re practically tapping their pages waiting to be wrapped for Christmas!
Thank you for the great recommendations. I am always on the lookout for great books to read and these all look really interesting. Thanks!
Each one different, all good!
I spent a good part of yesterday looking on Amazon for my next good book to read – I didn’t find one that really called to me. Thank you for the book recommedation. I look forward to curling up with these good stories as Fall begins – which is my favorite time of year to spend with a good book
Love to get book recommendations…I spend all last weekend with my nose in one…review on my site tomorrow. So jealous of your upcoming trip to Sicily, Carol. I hope it will be super special!
I love them, too. Sicily will be exciting for sure!
I always love your reviews Carol!
I was just on your blog looking for recipes!
thanks for the heads up on fall reading. emily dickinson book sounds especially interesting–still waters run deep. remembering “WIld Nights, wild nights”. Glad to hear someone imagining the back story on that one.
OMG you MUST read that Dickinson book. Very unique.
I’ve always loved reading during the Autumn months. Thanks for shedding light on some books I might not otherwise have discovered.
Greta Wells. Yes. Do read.
I haven’t heard of any of those – they all sound great. Adding them to my reading list.
They’re all good!
You hit on the subjects I love: South Africa, time travel and Emily Dickinson! Thanks for adding to my reading list, Carol. I can’t wait to dig in, but I CAN wait till winter….
STart with Greta.
I’m always looking for good books – thanks for the recommendations.
Thanks. I’m always looking for something new to read.
I loved the differences between the 4.
Oh, I’m going to get my hands on a copy of A Voice at the Door about Dickinson. Thanks for letting me know about that. I love her poetry, and I find her fascinating. Now I can time travel, for as The Belle of Amherst herself proclaims, “there is no frigate like a book”!
Then this book has your name all over it!
I’m in on Emily Dickinson!
You’ll like its gentle tone.
Thanks for the recommendations, Carol. The book that drew me in is the Emily Dickinson one and I’m off to check it out.
Can I peek into your closet? 😉
Interesting how many women are saying this. It’s an interesting premise.
Wonderful book reviews! I can’t wait to get started on The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells but I pinned them all for future reference because they all sound like great reads! Thanks for sharing!
Greta. OMG Greta.
I love to give books, I love to receive books – and I love suggestions! Thank so much.
I hope you’ll give Zebra Affaire to someone, it’s a rockin’ read!
Wow. I love time travel. Will have to check out Greta and maybe Julia’s Star, too.
Do it! LOL really fun reads.
Greta Wells sounds like it is right up my alley! I love feeling connected enough with the characters to yell at them about their life choices :)! I am putting all three on my list! Thank you Carol!
Putting The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells on my list!
I can’t ignore such a strong recommendation. 😀
Great idea to plan ahead for Winter reading! You paint such a beautiful picture too. Thanks!
Thanks so much for the list… I’m always looking for more books to read, and these sound great!
Thanks for these lovely recommendations, I was needing some new books for October!