Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Books to warm your imagination on a cold winter's night

Time flies when your nose is constantly in a book. Between losing power for six days (twice), long plane rides, and being on bed rest for two weeks (due to unplanned surgery), I had a lot of time to read the past few months -- and wanted to share some of my favorite books with all of you.

As per usual, I have included links to Amazon.com (which totally owes me a cut), where you can learn more about each title (and purchase it, if you like). I have also separated the books into fiction and nonfiction, and listed books alphabetically by author.

Read a book this fall or winter you think others would enjoy? Please mention it in the Comments.

File under "fiction":

Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James. Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie (sort of) in this genteel murder mystery/sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I didn't love it, but I admired the effort. If you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and always wondered what happened after, definitely check out Death Comes to Pemberley.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The semi-fictional biography of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson, and their life and times in 1920s Paris. Another case of I didn't love it, but I found it interesting -- and seemed an appropriate book to read while in Paris. (Next trip will definitely have to check out the various Hemingway haunts mentioned in the book.) Thought The Paris Wife was well written, just tooo looong and depressing. And Hemingway was a total prick.

Stealing Mona Lisa by Carson Morton. A delightful mystery based on the actual theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. Filled with interesting characters and images of a bygone Paris. (Was named one of the best works of fiction and one of the best mysteries of 2011.) If you love Paris, art, and/or a well-told tale, Stealing Mona Lisa is a must read.

The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. As a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton, I devoured and appreciated this book, which is beautifully written in the style of those two acclaimed authors. Set in the late 1930s in the jazz joints and upper-class apartments of New York City, it tells the not quite/accidental "rags to riches" story of twentysomething Katey Kontent (pronounced con-TENT), a hard-working, intelligent young woman of limited means and undistinguished background who happens to fall in with "the right crowd."

File under "nonfiction":

Just My Type: A Book about Fonts by Simon Garfield. Having spent the majority of my career in publishing and marketing (and having always had a thing about fonts), I LOVED this book. While a book about fonts could be quite pedantic or boring, Just My Type is anything but (unlike the puffed up, overwritten, eye-glazing The Language Wars by Henry Hitchings, which I cannot believe the New York Times listed as one of the best books of the year -- and I stupidly bought).

Then Again by Diane Keaton. If you love Diane Keaton, chances are you will like her memoir. If you find Keaton a bit too ditzy and rambling, chances are you will find her memoir to be the same. While I did not dislike Then Again, I was frustrated and disappointed that Keaton focused mainly on her (rather ordinary) mother (and to a somewhat lesser extent her unexceptional family and her battle with bulimia) and barely discussed her fascinating film career. Indeed, as Keaton has admitted, if she wasn't a big movie star, this book would probably not have been green lighted by a major publisher. But, all that said, the sections about Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, and Al Pacino are enlightening and worth picking up the book from your local library.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. I love a good, explanatory subtitle, don't you? Amazing, inspiring account of women and survival under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Makes you glad to live in the ole U.S. of A.

And Nothing But the Truthiness: The Rise (and Further Rise) of Stephen Colbert
by Lisa Rogak. Interesting, well-written biography of Stephen Colbert, which made me appreciate and admire Colbert all the more.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals
by J. Maarten Troost. As the friend who recommended this explained to me, there is no sex or cannibals in this book, but it's still a good, fun read. Basically the life and times of a twentysomething slacker (and his non-slacker, NGO-employed girlfriend) on Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. Think Paul Theroux with a sense of humor.

File under "romance":

I have been trying to wean myself from romance novels, or at least cut down, but they're like potato chips (can't stop at just one). So if you, like me, could use a little escapist literature, I recommend the authors Lisa Kleypas, Johanna Lindsey, Elizabeth Boyle, and Eloisa James.

Happy Reading!

P.S. For additional/past book recommendations, click here.

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