What are you reading?

One of the series we used to have here at Docudharma was plf515’s What are you reading? To be real honest with you, I usually found his selections a bit intimidating. But that says way more about me than it does him.

I am a member of a book group that meets monthly. In September every year, we choose the books we are going to read for the coming year. I was not able to attend the meeting where this happened last month, but I found some of the selections very interesting and am looking forward to reading them this year. So I thought I’d share them here.

As a bit of background…the book group is all women who are mostly in their 50’s and 60’s. We are all professional women (one is recently retired) working mostly in the non-profit and health care sectors.

With that said, here are some of the selections for the coming year:

Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry.

Look into the lace . . . When the eyes begin to fill with tears and the patience is long exhausted, there will appear a glimpse of something not quite seen… In this moment, an image will begin to form . . . in the space between what is real and what is only imagined.

Can you read your future in a piece of lace? All of the Whitney women can. But the last time Towner read, it killed her sister and nearly robbed Towner of her own sanity. Vowing never to read lace again, her resolve is tested when faced with the mysterious, unsolvable disappearance of her beloved Great Aunt Eva, Salem’s original Lace Reader. Told from opposing and often unreliable perspectives, the story engages the reader’s own beliefs. Should we listen to Towner, who may be losing her mind for the second time? Or should we believe John Rafferty, a no nonsense New York detective, who ran away from the city to a simpler place only to find himself inextricably involved in a psychic tug of war with all three generations of Whitney women? Does either have the whole story? Or does the truth lie somewhere in the swirling pattern of the lace?

The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang.

In search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America, but their history remains largely unknown. Driven to share her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, Kao Kalia Yang’s memoir is a tribute to the remarkable woman whose spirit held them all together.

Born in Thailand’s Ban Vinai Refugee Camp, Yang immigrated to St. Paul, Minnesota when she was only six years old. With a journalist’s heart for truth and a storyteller’s gift for lyricism, Yang describes her family’s harrowing escape from Laos, their life in the refugee camps, the hardships and great joy of caring for a growing family in a new land, and her own experiences with American life and learning.

Through this moving, intimate portrait of a family, she also gives voice to the dreams, wisdom, and traditions passed down from her grandmother and shared by an entire community.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

If you have to send a group of people to a newly discovered planet to contact a totally unknown species, whom would you choose? How about four Jesuit priests, a young astronomer, a physician, her engineer husband, and a child prostitute-turned-computer-expert? That’s who Mary Doria Russell sends in her new novel, The Sparrow. This motley combination of agnostics, true believers, and misfits becomes the first to explore the Alpha Centuri world of Rakhat with both enlightening and disastrous results.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Great Man by Kate Christensen.

Oscar Feldman, the renowned figurative painter, has passed away. As his obituary notes, Oscar is survived by his wife, Abigail, their son, Ethan, and his sister, the well-known abstract painter Maxine Feldman. What the obituary does not note, however, is that Oscar is also survived by his longtime mistress, Teddy St. Cloud, and their daughters.

As two biographers interview the women in an attempt to set the record straight, the open secret of his affair reaches a boiling point and a devastating skeleton threatens to come to light. From the acclaimed author of The Epicure’s Lament, a scintillating novel of secrets, love, and legacy in the New York art world.

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson.

Out Stealing Horses has been embraced across the world as a classic, a novel of universal relevance and power. Panoramic and gripping, it tells the story of Trond Sander, a sixty-seven-year-old man who has moved from the city to a remote, riverside cabin, only to have all the turbulence, grief, and overwhelming beauty of his youth come back to him one night while he’s out on a walk. From the moment Trond sees a strange figure coming out of the dark behind his home, the reader is immersed in a decades-deep story of searching and loss, and in the precise, irresistible prose of a newly crowned master of fiction.

Composing a Life by Mary Catherine Bateson.

Mary Catherine Bateson has been called “one of the most original and important thinkers of our time” (Deborah Tannen). Grove Press is pleased to reissue Bateson’s deeply satisfying treatise on the improvisational lives of five extraordinary women. Using their personal stories as her framework, Dr. Bateson delves into the creative potential of the complex lives we live today, where ambitions are constantly refocused on new goals and possibilities. With balanced sympathy and a candid approach to what makes these women inspiring, examples of the newly fluid movement of adaptation–their relationships with spouses, children, and friends, their ever-evolving work, and their gender–Bateson shows us that life itself is a creative process.

Of course, this isn’t the whole list for the year. But it captures the ones I hadn’t heard of before and found intriguing. Interestingly enough – this year we’ll be reading way more fiction than we have in the past. Not sure what to make of it – but it is what it is.  


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  1. what are you reading?

  2. …just finished Gael Baudino’s “…Shadow” series.  Really quite good; I normally shun the various tetraologies and googologies of fantasy, but this was — especially the earlier ones — sharp and true.

    Re-reading “Autobiography of My Mother” since Jamaica Kincaid is going to be in Seattle to speak next week, and I will camp in line if I have to.  I searched for her on my “New Yorker” hard drive (the nifty one with every New Yorker from 1926 or something to the present) and found out she wrote a bunch of “talk of the town” items, too, which I didn’t know, and a gardening series…which I may or may not read :}

    • Edger on October 3, 2008 at 21:22

    I’ll be reading William Gibson’s “Pattern Recognition” and Octavia Butler’s “Seed To Harvest”. Both just arrived here via FedEx.

    If you’re around NPK, thank you very, very much! Each day here seems to take a week to go by and these will really help. Gibson’t book I’ve been meaning to read, and Butler’s I hadn’t heard of but it looks like a really good one too!

    Thanks NPK! Much appreciated! 🙂

  3. Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries by Naomi Wolf.

    Recommended. Read The End of America first, but it stands on it’s own in any case.

    • Robyn on October 4, 2008 at 01:39

    …by Tony Hillerman.

    I hope to find some time to purchase Terry Prachett’s Nation this weekend.

  4. the “The First Law” trilogy by new author Joe Abercrombie.

    The first book “The Blade Itself”, and the second “Before They Are Hanged” were real page turners, and the third is waiting for pickup at the library tomorrow. One of the best new authors that I’ve read in the Fantasy genre. Heartily recced.

    While waiting for the third book, I picked up “Cusp” by Robert Metzger, which is hard SF, and really good also. (But I think I’ll sideline it tomorrow when I get the third book by Abercrombie)

    • plf515 on October 4, 2008 at 04:11

    to docudharma for the first time in months, and here I see this!  🙂  Cool.

    I’ve been spending so much time over at Big Orange, I haven’t had time for other blogs … but I thought I’d peek in over here, and see what you all were up to.

    • plf515 on October 4, 2008 at 04:12

    Just the usual list this week:

    Year’s best science fiction edited by Gardner Dozois.  Nearly done with this one

    Digital Dice: Computational solutions to practical probability problems by Paul Nahin.  The subtitle tells it.  This one has been on hold

    Life on the color line by Gregory Williams.  Williams, now the president of City College of New York, was born in Virginia during WW II.  He looked White, and assumed he was White (and, having met him, he looks as White as anyone).  But when the family business fell apart, the family broke up, and he moved to Muncie, Indiana, and discovered that his father was half-Black, which meant that Gregory was Black.  Fascinating.

    Red state, blue state, rich state, poor state by Andrew Gelman.  (fair notice, I got a free copy from the author).  A fascinating book for us statistics-politics wonks, about the relationship between income and voting preference in different states, and how this evolved, and what it means.  I am almost finished with this one, and will have a full review

    Some danger involved  Victorian England mystery, with lots of information on the area and time, especially anti-Semitism.

    Very good.

    Naming of the dead by Ian Rankin.  The latest John Rebus novel, and one of the best in this very good series of police procedurals set in contemporary Scotland.

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