Two amazing books and a request for recommendations

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Lacuna   ThreeCupsofTea

Thanks to Harry, I've been able to get out for an hour or so of reading at the coffeeshop most days lately. Pure bliss!

First, I read Barbara Kingsolver's new book, The Lacuna. It's a long, wonderful, involved book. Very different from her previous books — historical fiction told from a male point of view. It's about the life of a half American, half Mexican writer who grows up in both countries but doesn't truly belong to either. When young, he works for artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo (worth reading just for the description of their lives!) who were providing asylum to Russian revolutionary Trotsky, and later moves to the US (Asheville, NC!). The book explores McCarthyism and the power of the media, among other themes. The Lacuna hasn't nudged Prodigal Summer off as my favorite Kingsolver book, but I still loved it.

After The Lacuna, I read Three Cups of Tea about Greg Mortenson and his work promoting peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan by building schools for children, especially girls. Peace through education. This is such an incredible story about the difference one person can make! Wow! I wish everyone would read this book!

Now I'm ready for another good book. Anything you've read — new or old — that you can recommend? It doesn't need to be as weighty as these two. In fact, maybe best if it's not. But any good book recommendations are welcome!

By the way, Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery is on my wish list (hoping to get it for Christmas!). If you want to see what else is on my wish list, take a look at Pretty Mommy's Artsy Moms' Gift Guide.

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  1. brenda says

    The Book Thief…I have told even total strangers about this book. My neighbor stole it away from her husband so I could quickly read it. Awesome- although you will not be able to get these characters out of your head.

  2. Kate says

    Greg Mortenson has a new one called Stones into Schools. Have you read Mountains Beyond Mountains? That’s one of my absolute favorites, similar perhaps to Three Cups of Tea, in spirit if not in specifics.
    I love everything by Jhumpa Lahiri… have you read Unaccustomed Earth? Amazing.

  3. Darla says

    grace from the garden, changing the world one garden at a time by debra landwehr engle. She travels the country and visits 20 gardens and gardeners and tells how they have impacted the lives of other people. I just read Three Cups of Tea and am looking forward to The Lacuna. I have read all of Barbara Kingsolver’s books and am especially fond of Prodigal Summer.

  4. says

    I have read all of Barbara Kingsolver’s novels. My favorite is The Bean Trees. I’m hoping to receive The Lacuna for Christmas also.
    Have you read anything by Silas House? Clay’s Quilt is his first novel, but A Parchment of Leaves is my favorite of the ones I’ve read. (Clay’s Quilt comes first in the series though.) He’s from eastern Kentucky and writes about the mountains.
    I also loved Paula by Isabel Allende, but her books tend to be very intense.

  5. says

    For laugh out loud reads: anything by Laurie Notaro or David Sedaris (“Holidays on Ice” is perfect for this time of year)
    For interesting reads: The Book Thief, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and French Milk (all in young adult category but all very good in their own ways)
    On Motherhood: The Good/Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman
    Recipes, life and so much more (one of my favorite books from last year: A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
    Happy Reading! I can’t wait to get my hands on the newest Kingsolver. My favorites of hers are The Poisonwood Bible and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

  6. says

    Also, wanted to second the recommendation for “Unaccustomed Earth”…a very good collection of stories. I also enjoyed “The Namesake” by the same author.

  7. deb says

    I “third” the Book Thief – in my top 5 books of all time.
    My favourite author is Paullina Simons – i tell everyone to read Tully and also the Bronze Horseman (my #1 book that i re-read every 1-2 years.
    One interesting book i read this year that I loved – “Still Alice” about a professor at Harvard (fiction) who gets early onset alzheimers. i read it straight through in 2-3 days and it was amazing!

  8. says

    Try _Runaway_ by Alice Munro. It’s a collection of short stories, but it’s completely unforgettable. Really, *anything* by Alice Munro is worth your time.
    Keep us posted on what you find!

  9. Julie says

    are you a member of the site goodreads? you can connect with your friends to see what they are reading and how they rate the book. of course, you keep track of what you’ve read (and rate it) and can even make a list of “to read” books. it’s my go to list when i get stumped on what to read next.
    as for my suggestions – i love anything by isabel allende. though fun mama is right, her books are intense.
    in the same vein, “the hummingbird’s daughter” by luis alberto urrea is awesome.
    i also love whitney otto’s books. they can be a little quirky, which i like. in addition to “how to make an american quilt,” she also wrote “the passion dream book,” and “now you see her” – both great.
    happy reading!
    oh! “the hunger games” – it’s young adult. the premise seems like it would be difficult to get through, especially as a mom with tender heartstrings. but it really is interesting and full of hope. and edge of your seat exciting.
    ok, for real, happy reading!

  10. says

    I just read Farm City by Novella Carpenter, non-fiction but really worth the few evenings of reading.
    I saw the Book Thief up a few, and yes. I love that book, it’s beautiful, meaningful and sad. I think of it often.
    The Hummingbird’s Daughter, deals with divine/mystical in a Mexican village. Wonderful book…

  11. Aly says

    _The Girls_, by Lori Lansens is great. It’s about sisters who are conjoined twins, who have different personalities and interests, and who can’t ever live truly separate lives. Lansens does a great job of exploring the challenges and joys of their lives without focusing on the oddity of it.

  12. says

    So many wonderful recommendations! And oh my, I had so many come to mind. But I’ll share the most unexpected…
    I rarely do this, but I ran across a book at Starbucks yesterday. It’s called “One” and is full of quotes and very short stories about the change one person can make (and indeed, the responsibility we have to do so). It’s not a “book” per se, more a compilation…but I read it last night and the ideas just started flowing. (Of course, late night + two kids early in the morning = rough day.) :)
    Random, I know – but I would recommend it!

  13. arb says

    I just finished Lorrie Moore’s latest and can’t say I’d recommend it to you right now. Way too upsetting. It gave me a light panic attack one night followed by insomnia. Not a relaxing read. The other book I am reading is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I highly recommend it, but it is not the kind of book you are looking for, either. But put it on your list for later! Next up for me: books by Alli Smith, recommended (and early xmas-0gifted) by a close friend.

  14. Mary Beth says

    I read The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvan over a year ago and it still haunts me.
    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli is a quick, sweet, easy read.

  15. says

    Judging by your books listed, you’d probably enjoy Six Months In Sudan by James Maskalyk if you haven’t already. And, if you have, you should read Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie or Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean.

  16. Stephanie says

    If you need a laugh A Girl Named Zippy is one of my all time favorites – be warned you’ll laugh out loud at the coffee shop! Also David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day will keep you laughing.

  17. says

    We’ve watched a movie about Frida, the artist. It’s really worth watching, very beautiful and very moving! Thank you for the review of Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Lacuna”.

  18. Alex says

    The website is like goodreads but you don’t need to join. You just type books you’ve liked into the “find a book” (or something like that) field and it’ll tell what books people who have that are most likely to also have in their personal library.

  19. Kandyce says

    One of the best books I have read this year is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows :)

  20. Anne Thrall-Nash says

    My two favorites are The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and A Trip to the Stars by Nicolas Christopher. And Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle.

  21. says

    If you like Silas House, you must read his new one, just out this year: Eli the Good. He captures beautifully what it feels like to the 10 years old (or thereabouts) in the summertime, and especially for those of us who would have been close to that age in the mid-70’s. His writing is lovely and the story is wonderful.

  22. Laura F says

    Here are a couple of my favorite recent reads..
    The Year of the Flood by Magaret Atwood
    Half Broke Horses- A True Life Novel ( also The Glass Castle is excellent) by Jeannette Walls
    Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout
    The Liar’s Club
    Cherry both by Mary Karr
    Holy Cow by Sarah Macdonald
    I also love The Book Thief. He also wrote I Am The Messenger…different but very good also. :)

  23. Ann Dilcher says

    Don’t know that I have any to add but thanks for asking as I now have a list to last me the winter or longer. I do love anything by Isabel Allende as mentioned earlier.

  24. Maria says

    Hey Jean! I’m glad I found you! I see you have Color Color Color on your blogroll – she’s a friend of mine, and the two of you really remind me of each other.
    I absolutely loved Three Cups of Tea, I remember not being able to put it down for hours. I’ve started Stones Into Schools just last week. So far it hasn’t grabbed me, wrestled me to the ground, and sat on my chest the way TCoT did, but he is still such an inspirational guy, and I’m not that far into it so it may cast a spell on me yet.
    I also loved Mountains Beyond Mountains – actually anything by Tracey Kidder, though that one was certainly the most inspiring. I haven’t read his latest yet; I think it may be darker in subject matter and I’m not sure I could handle it right now.

  25. Maleka says

    If you liked The Elegance of the Hedgehog, you might also really like The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. A different style of writing but the same kind of profound and poignant feelings. You also might enjoy many of the books on our past selections from our book club:
    Some of them were NOT good. But most of them were very good. Thanks for writing this blog!
    -Maleka, an independent bookstore manager/events coordinator