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Karen R.'s Picks

Book Cover for A Thousand Splendid Suns Hosseini, Khaled
A Thousand Splendid Suns

Fiction
A Thousand Splendid Suns is the incredibly powerful story of life in modern day Afghanistan, as told in the voice of two women whose lives are inter-connected in a most dramatic and unusual way. As in his first novel, The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini’s characters struggle with the tragedy of their lives, while showing incredible strength, dignity and resilience. They live with hope, love and courage even in the most dire and unimaginable circumstances. A compelling page-turner.
Recommended by Karen R., July 2007

 
Book Cover for The World Is Flat Friedman, Thomas L.
The World Is Flat : A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

Nonfiction
If you have ever questioned the impact of international outsourcing, global telecommunications, or the organization of information on the Internet, then this book may help you find the answers. Thomas Friedman analyzes the economic and social aspects of globalization by identifying and describing ten forces that have caused the “flattening” of the world. I found his analysis valuable, by providing thoughtful insights into understanding the fundamental changes we see in today’s world.
Recommended by Karen R., April 2007

 
Book Cover for The Glass Castle Walls, Jeannette
The Glass Castle

Nonfiction
Amazing and shocking, humorous and sad, this poignant story describes growing up in a family with two very eccentric parents. In memorable vignettes filled with vivid descriptions, Jeannette Walls tells the heartrending story of her childhood, including their nomadic life of living under the stars in the desert, frequently relocating in the middle of the night (the big skedaddle), and settling in a small mining town in West Virginia. Hers is the story of the strength of the human spirit to not only survive, but even excel, in the face of unbelievable adversity. An astonishing story.
Recommended by Karen R., March 2007

 
Book Cover for Here on Earth Hoffman, Alice
Here on Earth

Fiction
Alice Hoffman’s Here on Earth explores the many aspects of relationships, including lost love, abuse, death, single-minded ambition, separation and abandonment. Creating more than one love triangle, Hoffman brings characters to life in perplexing situations that confuse but never disappoint.
Recommended by Karen R., February 2007

 
Book Cover for Booking Passage Lynch, Thomas
Booking Passage: We Irish and Americans

Nonfiction
This book has something for every reader who would like to learn more about the Irish American experience. You'll find travelogue, memoir, history, politics, culture and customs, enhanced by lovely photographs and drawings at the beginning of every chapter.
Recommended by Karen R., September 2006

 
Book Cover for You Never Can Tell
Eagle, Kathleen
You Never Can Tell

Fiction

Kole Kills Crow is a fugitive running from the law. Heather Reardon is a reporter, looking for the truth behind Kole's disappearance. After they connect in a bar, under very strange circumstances, they decide to join together on a mission to defend the rights of Native Americans. Neither expects this mission to lead to romance, but this is only one of many surprises they uncover.
Recommended by Karen R., September 2006

 
Book Cover for Soul Surfer
Hamilton, Bethany
Soul Surfer

Nonfiction

She's back on her surfboard and competing in surfing championships, in spite of the devastating shark attack that took her left arm. In Soul Surfer, 14-year-old Bethany Hamilton tells her amazing story, beginning with her life as a surfer prior to the attack, her recovery, and how she has resumed the life she loves as a national champion surfer. This is a moving account of a young girl who faces disaster and turns it into opportunity, gaining strength from friends, family and most importantly, her faith in God.
Recommended by Karen R., September 2005

 
Book Cover for Safe Area Gorazde
Sacco, Joe
Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95

Graphic Novel

This dramatic story captures all the pathos of the war in Bosnia. Surrounded by Serbian forces, Muslims clung to their homes in the U.N.-designated safe area of Gorazde throughout the horrifying ethnic cleansing of the non-Serb population. Sacco's narrative, coupled with his incredibly detailed drawings, tells the tragic story of the siege of Gorazde and the people who struggled to live in their war-torn homeland. As the people of Gorazde endured unthinkable hardship during the siege, they convinced themselves that world powers would intervene to save them and end the war. A powerful story of the inhumanity and suffering of war.
Recommended by Karen R., August 2005

 

Eisner, Will
Invisible People

Graphic Novel

Who are the invisible people who live in our cities? They are the people we pass every day on the streets, who go unnoticed in crowded places. Meet Pincus Pleatnik who seeks a sanctum of invisibility where he could be safe from the unpredictable danger of contact with people. In the sanctum of his orderly private world, he enjoys safety and security; however, chaos ensues when Pincus is mistakenly declared dead. Another of Will Eisner’s invisible people is Morris. Morris has an amazing gift of healing and uses it to help others, but what really needs healing is his own pointless life. Eisner further explores invisible people as he develops the character of Hilda Gornish, who after 40 years as a single person, discovers a deep and lasting friendship with Herman. Herman, however, is extremely attached to his mother who will not let him go, creating a very strange love triangle. Will Eisner presents an engaging and thought-provoking reflection on life in the city and the invisible people who live there.
Recommended by Karen R., August 2005

 
Book Cover for The Emperor of Ocean Park Carter, Stephen
The Emperor of Ocean Park

Fiction

Caught in a circle of never-ending questions, Talcott is determined to understand the mysterious circumstances surrounding the sudden death of his father, Judge Oliver Garland. The Judge left a strange message for Talcott, trusting his son to take care of the "arrangements," leaving clues only Talcott can solve. As Talcott tries to figure out the convoluted secrets of his father's life, he becomes totally absorbed, risking not only his marriage and career, but even his own life. This intriguing novel is a real page-turner, with a finely crafted plot and well-developed characters. Highly recommended.
Recommended by Karen R., August 2005

 
Book Cover for The Year of Pleasures Berg, Elizabeth
The Year of Pleasures

Fiction
After her dear husband dies, Betta leaves the life they shared in Boston to begin a new life in a small Midwestern town. Struggling with deep grief, she wonders how she can ever go on without him. In her fifties, Betta is too young to give up, but not yet ready to start over. Into her lonely life walks a ten-year-old neighbor boy, her three best friends from college, a young handyman, and a charming older gentleman. Follow Betta's efforts to move forward and rebuild her life, as she learns to appreciate joy in everyday routines. By turns poignant and heartwarming, this lovely novel was a relaxing and pleasant summer read.
Recommended by Karen R., August 2005

 
Book Cover for Secret Man Woodward, Bob
The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate’s Deep Throat

Nonfiction
He signed official FBI documents with an authoritative, bold, capital letter F. He was the number two man in the FBI. He knew that the truth must come out. He was Deep Throat. Follow the 33-year history of Bob Woodward’s long relationship with Mark Felt, who recently revealed himself as Deep Throat. In this intense story of intrigue, deception, mystery and secrecy, you’ll follow Woodward’s clandestine midnight meetings with Deep Throat in underground garages of Washington, DC, view strategy sessions with the editors of the Washington Post, and experience Woodward’s soul-searching efforts to decide whether to reveal Deep Throat’s identity. The Secret Man is Woodward’s attempt to chronicle the whole story, with nothing held back. To read it is to relive the history of Watergate and the 1970s.
Recommended by Karen R., July 2005

 
Book Cover for Blink Gladwell, Malcolm
Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking

Nonfiction
Blink explores the idea that we think without thinking and make decisions in the blink of an eye. Learning to trust our instincts and make sophisticated decisions on the spur of the moment, we can avoid the perils of introspection. Gladwell examines the art of taking first impressions seriously and filtering out unnecessary variables, in order to make snap decisions skillfully. If you prefer to deliberate and carefully consider all the angles, you may find this to be a whole new approach to decision-making.
Recommended by Karen R., July 2005

 
Book Cover for March Brooks, Geraldine
March

Fiction
Inspired by Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Geraldine Brooks imagines and develops the character of Captain March, who leaves behind his family and idealistically acts on his convictions to become a chaplain in the Union army. Drawing from primary source documents, including letters written by Louisa May’s father, Brooks creates a character who is devastated by the horrors and injustices of war. Although his letters home to his family do not reflect the brutalities he has witnessed, March’s idealistic dreams are shattered as he realizes that even his beloved North is capable of inflicting terrible injustices. Surviving a nearly fatal illness, March returns home and must find a way to reconnect with his family. The reader shares in the heart-wrenching drama as March attempts to cope with the challenge of understanding reality even as he struggles to rebuild his dreams.
Recommended by Karen R., May 2005

 
Book Cover for Gilead Robinson, Marilynne
Gilead

Fiction
As his health continues to decline, a 77-year-old father begins a lengthy correspondence to his 7-year-old son. Through letters to his young son, the Reverend John Ames thoughtfully reflects on his life, philosophy, and faith, while sharing stories of his mysterious and startling family history dating as far back as the Civil War. Compelling and mesmerizing, the letters illuminate the life and philosophy of a country preacher in the small town of Gilead, Iowa, much as his sermons reflected on the truth as he saw it. By turns poignant and dramatic, this aging father passes on to his son the knowledge and wisdom gained through a lifetime of experiences.
Recommended by Karen R., May 2005

 
Book Cover for Night Fall DeMille, Nelson
Night Fall

Fiction
What really happened to TWA flight #800? Why did it crash off the coast of Long Island? Was it mechanical failure, as the government report concluded, or was it shot down by a surface to air missile? On the evening of July 17, 1996 a man and a woman engaged in an adulterous affair on a deserted Long Island beach, videotaped their antics. Their video inadvertently recorded the explosion and subsequent crash of Flight 800. Five years later, a career FBI agent convinces her husband, an agent of the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task Force, to reopen the crash investigation and locate the incriminating video. Their investigation leads to a compelling hunt, packed with suspense and intrigue. You won’t be able to put down this page-turner, until you read the very last page. Based on true events.
Recommended by Karen R., February 2005