The list below represents MY personal favorites and least favorites - that's why it's called "my" reading list and not "your" reading list. It might be useful to you, though, if you find that your tastes are more or less the same as mine. If they are, I'd love to hear your suggestions. If you think I've given up too easily on a book that you loved and I didn't, I'd also appreciate some friendly persuasion. Maybe we can get a group dialogue or an internet reading club going ... any interest? My e-mail address appears at the end of this list if you'd like to contact me.
BOOKS AND AUTHORS
ALEXANDER, CAROLINE. ¥The Endurance (the story of Shackleton's Antarctic expedition. Beautifully written with great photographs)
ANDERSON-DARGATZ, GAIL ¥The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees. Both great books.
¥Master Georgie. (Myrtle; set in Liverpool and Crimea during the Crimean War. Wonderful prose. Exploration of the line between illusion and reality, morality and immorality, truth and lies. ¥An Awfully Big Adventure (short-listed for the Booker prize) (caution: not a romp through the roses) ¥The Birthday Boys (a fictionalized account of Captain Scott’s 1912 Antarctic expedition. Brings it to life - she is incredible.) ¥Every Man For Himself (the sinking of the Titanic) ¥Sweet William ( William trips through life towing illusion and reality and the women who believe in him ... or in the only thing they can find to believe in..... in his path.) ¥ PS I tried "Another Part of the Wood" but was bored and didn't finish it - maybe I'm just 'Bainbridged" out!
BALDACCI, DAVID. ¥The Winner. Great psychological thriller. He's no Shakespeare, but a great stortyteller. ¥PS I started "Total Control." Didn't like it - a confusing number of characters unless you read it in one sitting - involves computer crime - I found it boringly technical.
BANKS, RUSSELL. ¥The Sweet Hereafter. Dolores drives a schoolbus over a ravine . The story of how individuals in the town deal with it. Grips you from page one.
BERESFORD-HOWE, CONSTANCE. ¥The Book of Eve. Eve, at 66, leaves everything behind to find herself. She does, and in doing so, confronts a lot of feelings that all women can relate to. Set in Montreal. ¥The Marriage Bed. She's just great! ¥A Serious Widow. ¥Prospero's Daughter (from the bookjacket: "Prospero's Daughter is a thoughtful and touching story about life and art, about reality and illusion, and about the very great dangers inherent in confusing the two"..... and my favorite line: "Men," began Lally, and then stopped. She looked intently into her drink as if the rest of her sentence might have fallen into it." ¥Night Studies (the stories of many diverse characters at Simcoe College beautifully woven together)
Binchy, Maeve. Circle of Friends, Tara Road. Not very deep, but great reads - she a wonderful story-teller. Summertime reading.
Bodjhalian, Chris. Midwives. Very interesting fictionalized study of the pros and cons of midwivery.
Brown, Alan. Audrey Hepburn‘s Neck. A reviewer wrote, “Audrey Hepburn’s Neck is like origami; put together with grace and ingenuity.” I agree wholeheartedly.
Chong, Denise. The Concubine’s Children.
Findley, Timothy. The Piano Man’s Daughter. (absolutely lyrical) The Wars. (One of the best, most moving books I’ve ever read. A lyrical but hard condemnation of war.The Last of the Crazy People. Youngest scion finally kills the last of the family. Odd, but interesting, and SO well crafted!Pilgrim - couldn't put it down! Flagg, Fannie. Welcome to the World, Baby Girl. (Also wrote “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café) Beautifully crafted story! “The next morning when Earle Poole came down to breakfast, Sookie sat down and stared at him. He looked at her. “What’s wrong?” “Who are you?” “What?” “Who are you? Give me three answers.” Earle put the paper down. “Look, Sookie, if this is about those invitations, I told you I am sorry.” “No, it’s not about that, Earle. Just answer my question. Be serious, now.” Earle sighed. “I’m a dentist...I’m a husband...” “One more thing.” He looked at his watch. “And I’m late!” After Earle left, still caught up in the game, Sookie called her mother. Her mother immediately answered in a loud, booming voice,”I’m Lenore Simmons Krackenberry!” “I need three answers, Mother.” Her mother said, “Sookie, that is three answers.” (If you didn’t like this, you won’t like the book.)
Galbraith, John Kenneth. A Tenured Professor. (Ithink it was his only work of fiction. Gives a real insight into the politics of tenure at a prestige university. Really well-written.)
Gibbons, Kaye. Ellen Foster - her first and her best. My favorite book of the decade. Also, A Virtuous Woman, Charms for the Easy Life, Cure For Dreams. She's a wonderful writer!
Gilman, Dorothy. All the Mrs. Pollifax series: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax, The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax. Zany, delightful stories of a mild, grandmotherly little woman who falls into espionage work. Great fun!
Golden, Arthur. Memoirs of a Geisha (wonderful detailed and sensitive portrayal of the life and times of a geisha in pre-WW 11 Japan. The last thirty pages sort of came out of nowhere - a feel good ending that was too pat, but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.)
Guterson, David. Snow Falling on Cedars. (Japanese on the west coast around the time of W.W.11
Guterson, David. East of the Mountains...absolutely fabulous. Lyrical prose, like Isaak Dinesen’s “Out of Africa”...”He met her at the river bend, in the soft sand of the talus butte, to watch the setting of the August sun over the Colockum Hills.” Tells the story of a seventy-three year old doctor dying of colon cancer and his emotional struggle with that...”It was part of this final stage that he was going to miss by dying of colon cancer, as if the last movement of a symphony had been truncated, rendering all before it pointless, stripping it of fundamental meanings and preventing it from achieving its effect of harmony and completeness.”
Hamilton, Jane. The Book of Ruth. (wonderful) Hamilton, Jane. The Short History of a Prince. (good, but sad) Also read A Map of the World. Again, brilliant, captivating, but very tragic.
Hegi, Ursula. Stones from the River. (life in a small German town in WW 11) (Also wrote an earlier book which is good)
Hornby, Nick. About a Boy. Simply wonderful. Funny, tender, brilliant
Irving, John. A Widow for One Year. ( I read “The World According to Garp” and “The Hotel New Hampshire years ago. ) Try: “The Cider House Rules, ” “ A Prayer for Owen Meany” and “A Son of the Circus.” I tried the last- didn’t like it - he kept repeating himself.)
James, P.D. Devices and Desires (wonderful murder mystery - get all her others!) Also read A Taste for Death, Innocent Blood.
Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer. Poet and Dancer. (not a super-favorite, but good. Has written lots - worth reading. This novel cut just a little too close to home!)
Johnston, Wayne. The Story of Bobby O'Malley. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (the fictionalized story of Joey Smallwood. A beautifully-constructed work of art, and gives a great feel for Newfoundland)
Lamb, Wally. I Know This Much is True. A Magnificent 900-page epic
Lapierre, Dominique. A Thousand Suns. Autobiographical account of the stories behind his books. Wonderfully written and absolutely fascinating.
Mayle, Peter. A Dog's Life. (very funny - living in the south of France) Hotel Pastis. (Delightful light mystery in the style of “La Bonne Annee. A good read!) Chasing Cezanne (as above)
McCourt, Frank. Angela’s Ashes. Astounding story- unbelievable poverty in Ireland. His mother almost retarded. Harsh account of a horrible childhood. A must read if you can stomach it. Also, 'Tis: A Memoir.
McEwan, Ian. The Child in Time (wonderfully evocative - almost surreal without being the least pretentious) Amsterdam (a delicious black comedy!)
Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance, and all his writing!
Patchett, Anne. The Patron Saint of Liars. The story of Rose, as told through the eyes of herself, Sonny Abbott, her husband and Cecilia, her daughter. How does a young woman write something so profound. Rose reminds me in a lot of ways of my own mother. Wonderful!!
Price, Richard. Freedomland. (White woman makes up story that her child has been carjacked with a black man. Causes riots between white neighborhoods and Projects. Hard, probably based on real life - intense - page-turner. Also wrote“Clockers” (made into movie - same setting)
Quindlen, Anna. One True Thing. Powerful, satisfying from page one. Black and Blue - hard to put down
Reilly, Claudia. Nuts
Shields, Carol. The Stone Diaries. (I also read Small Ceremonies and began Larry's Party. Not nearly as good!)
Smiley, Jane. Barn Blind. A Thousand Acres A hard story, but beautifully told.
Smith, Martin Cruz. Havana Bay. Great murder story. Also wrote , among other things, Gorky Park. It’s a bit gory in places, but a good, quick summer read.
Spark, Muriel. A Far Cry from Kensington. Great fun! Then read The Hothouse by the East River - didn't like it at all! Loitering with Intent - cleverly written, but didn’t really engage me.
Swift, Graham. Last Orders (hated his other books!)
Taylor, Elizabeth. Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. (excellent portrayal of aging and old age. But started another of hers - At Mrs. Lippincote's, and was bored)
Taylor, Harry H. Missing Children.
Wells, Rebecca. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Delightful! And I liked even better Little Altars Everywhere. Both books are about the same family and group of friends.
B. LEAST FAVORITE:
Adams, Alice. Soap-opera - ish, if you don’t mind that sort of thing.
Andersen, Kurt. Turn of the Century (pages and pages and pages of cyber- babble)
Begley, Louis. Wartime Lies
Berg, Elizabeth. Joy School. Story of an adolescent’s first love
Bergen, David. See the Child (redeeming feature? - it was short. I don’t know - maybe it was more a man’s book...it sure didn’t do anything for me.)
Berger, John. Pig Earth (first of a trilogy)
Brookes, Anita. Good at first, but gets tiring after a while
Butler, Robert Olen. They Whisper
Chen, Ying. Ingratitude ...yuk!
Clewlow, Carol. A Woman's Guide to Adultery.
Fielding, Joy. Good Intentions Junk-y beach reading
Findley, Timothy. The Telling of Lies. (murder mystery - CIA mind control in Montreal’s Neuro Famous Last Words - Duke and Duchess of Windsor - abdication and Fascist connection -didn’t know what was happening half the time -all over the map!
Gartner, Zsuzsi. All the Anxious Girls on Earth. A collection of short stories, and I’m not much of a short story person, although I really enjoyed the first two, then began to find them tedious.
Gilmour, David. How Boys See Girls
Goldsmith, Olivia. First Wives Club and Marrying Mom. Even for summer beach books, these are drivel.
Lamb, Wally. She’s Come Undone. (Really VERY forgettable)
Lau, Evelyn. Other Women. Angst of the main character over the end of an affair with a married man.... 193 pages of angst!
MacDonald, Anne-Marie. Fall on your Knees. Horrible, dark, gothic tale.
Michaels, Anne. Fugitive Pieces. WW11 Jewish boy meets Greek, Athos, who adopts him. Then he comes to Toronto - meets Michaela
Quarrington, Paul. Whale Music. Is this written in English? Hard to tell.
Quindlen, Anna. Object Lessons
Redfield, J. The Celestine Prophecy ( really “seeing visions sent by God”-ish)
Reichs, Kathy. Déja Dead. A good story, but really gory, if you don’t mind that sort of thing. A LOT of detail about forensic pathology (the author is a forensic anthropologist.)
Ricci, Nino. Lives of the Saints.
Roy, Arundhati. The God of Small Things. (not a good story. Shows off her command of language and imagery. Very self-conscious)
Rule, Jane. The Desert of the Heart. I found it silly, overblown and angst-ridden. However, someone recommended another book by her, Memory Board.
Sacks, Oliver. Awakening. Far too technical - neurological descriptions, lengthy footnotes, etc.
Seth, Vikram. An Equal Music. A complete snore!!
Spalding, Linda. The Paper Wife. Pretty improbable story, and didn’t succeed in convincing me to suspend belief. I think that if you like this book, you’re doing the authour’s work for her.
Spring, Michelle. Nights in White Satin. Gory, extremely unpleasant, contrived. (Murder mystery)
Trollope, Joanna. A Spanish Lover. A little soap-opera-ish, I thought
Vanderhaeghe, Guy. The Englishman’s Boy. Read the first five pages, and wasn’t engaged. Should I have continued? Don’t know.
Walters, Minette, The Sculptress. (Psychological portrayal of fat woman in prison.)
C. YEAH, WELL, WHATEVER.........
Beauchemin, Yves. Juliette Pomerleau ( translated into English by wonderful Sheila Fischman as Juliette. ) Very engaging to begin with - the first 250 pages. Then, you begin to wonder where it’s going - the next 250 pages. Then, you realize that it’s just ‘Coronation Street” in print. I got to page 559 out of 714. Good luck!
Dorris, Michael & Louise Erdrich(his wife) (the novel is written from the point of view of two characters.) The Crown of Columbus. I feel I should have liked this book more than I did. It was VERY cerebral - a lot about history (Columbus) and poetry (Donne). Very well written, but it sort of bored me after a while.
Fielding, Helen. Bridget Jone’s Diary. Rather fun and funny, all about the angst of a woman in her early thirties, clock ticking, etc. I can remember what she’s feeling, but ...
Hellenga, Robert. The Fall of a Sparrow. Agonizingly intellectual, and, on the other hand, pornographic rather than erotic.
Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer. Shards of Memory. It was okay, I guess, but it didn’t do a thing for me. Also “Poet and Dancer” - not the best I’ve read, but worth reading
Maillard, Keith. The Knife in my Hands
Miller, Sue. For Love
Morrison, Toni, Paradise. (Yeah, I know she won the Nobel prize. Whatever.)
Ogden, Frank. The Last Book You’ll Ever Read (futurist - oversimplifies)
Patchett, Anne. Taft
Smiley, Jane. Moo. I got to page 219 and still couldn’t tell who the main characters were or what the thrust or plot or whatever of the story was, so read the last page, and still didn’t know, so I gave it up. But...I loved Barn Blind. D. BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN BOOKS THAT I JUST DIDN’T HAPPEN TO LIKE (maybe in another incarnation!)
Banks,Russell.Cloudsplitter. (beautifully written,like“TheSweetHereafter”,but just didn’t engage me. The story of John Brown, abolitionist. I just didn’t care about any of the characters.) “Continental Drift” - again, beautifully executed, intertwined stories of Bob and Elaine and the Haitian woman, very graphic, violent. But the story just failed to speak to me. Also wrote “Affliction,” but I’ve given up.
Clarke, Austin. Proud Empires. Clarke is a national treasure from the Barbados, but I got a little tired of the literal transcription of the dialect, and not much else seemed to be happening for the first 100 pages. But I may try it again.
George, Elizabeth. Playing for the Ashes. Started it - couldn’t get into it. May try her again - Lallie recommends her as a mystery writer.
Miller, Sue. While I Was Gone. Didn’t like it awfully, but don’t know quite why. It was very well-written. Same thing for The Good Mother. (Custody battle and sexual mores of the nineties examined)
Proulx, E. Annie. “The Shipping News. ( Hated it the first time. At the urging of my sister-in-law, whose literary tastes are much like my own, I tried a second time. Still hated it. Decided I’m 57 years old, and can read and/or reject what I bloody well like. And I’ve officially rejected this book, all the while recognizing that it undoubtedly has merit - just not for me!
Rule, Anne. Possession. (Extremely well-written, but a gruesome psychological thriller of the type I don't like. Also wrote Bitter Harvest.)
E. TO READ: (all recommended by friends, friends of friends, my sister-in-law, who shares my taste in books or on our library’s best-seller list)
Bainbridge, Beryl. , Young Adolf, Harriet Said, The Dressmaker, Sweet William, A Quiet Life,Another Part of the Wood, Winter Garden, A Weekend with Claude Baldacci, David. The Simple Truth (I’ll try another of his) Barker, Pat. Another World Beresford-Howe, Constance. A Population of One, Night Studies Berg, Elizabeth. What we Keep Bernard, Bonnie A Good House (see review) Brookner, Anita. Fraud, Falling Slowly Brown, Sandra. Unspeakable Bowen, Elizabeth. The Death of the Heart (didn’t finish it - will try again) Coady, Lynn. Strange Heaven Choy, Wayson. The Jade Peony (set in Vancouver’s Chinatown)(didn’t finish but will try again), Paper Shadow (his memoirs of growing up in Vancouver’s Chinatown) Cornell, Patricia Craze, Galaxy. By the Shore Delinsky, Barbara. Coast Road Deveraux, Jude. The Blessing Dorris, Michael. A Yellow Raft in Blue Water, Cloud Chamber, The Broken Cord Erskine, Barbara. On the Edge of Darkness Evans, Nicholas. The Loop Evans, Richard Paul. The Locket Farrow, John. City of Ice (murder mystery set in Montreal) Faulks, Sebastien. Charlotte Gary Frances, Dick George, Elizabeth. Great mystery writer, I’m told (didn’t finish - try again) Gilmour, David. Lost Between Houses Goldsmith, Olivia. Switcheroo. Guiness, Alec. Positively Final Appearance (autobiography) Huston, Nancy. Instruments of Darkness James, Erica. A Sense of Belonging (NIL - ordered) James, P.D. Everything I haven’t already read. Great mystery writer! Johnston, Wayne. The Colony of Unrequited Dreams Juster, Norton. The Phantom Tollbooth Lau, Evelyn. Runaway Diary of a Street Kid Lindsay, Johanna. The Present Lurie, Alison. The Last Resort McEwan, Ian. Amsterdam, Enduring Love McInerney, Jay. Model Behaviour McNaught, Judith. Night Whispers Maillard, Keith. Gloria Mayes, Frances. Under the Tuscan Sun & Bella Tuscany Miller, Andrew. Casanova Minot, Susan. Evening Mitchard, Jacqueline. The Deep End of the Ocean, The Most Wanted Morgan, Marlo. Message from Forever Morrison, Toni. Sula Mortimer, John. The Sound of Trumpets Norman, Hilary. Too Close Patterson, James. Kiss the Girls Plain, Belva. Legacy of Silence Richler, Mordecai. Barney's Version (I was told to perservere - it has a good ending! Robards, Karen. The Midnight Hour Roberts, Nora. The Reef Robinson, Roxana. This is my Daughter Sakamoto, Kerri. The Electrical Field Schine, Cathleen. The Evolution of Jane Schoemperlen, Diane. Forms of Devotion Selvadurai, Shyam. Cinammon Gardens Shreve, Anita. The Pilot’s Wife. Singh Baldwin, Shauna. What the Body Remembers (First novel - see review) Smiley, Jane. The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton Sparks, Nicholas. Message in a Bottle Stafford, Ellen. Always and After: A Memoir Stone, Robert. Damascus Gate Thomas, Rosie. Moon Island Tyler, Anne. A Patchwork Planet, The Clock Winder Updike, John. Bech at Bay Urquhart, Jane. Away (read “Changing Heaven” - pretentious) Walker, Alice. By the Light of my Father’s Smile Walsh, Michael. As Time Goes By Weaver, Frances. The Girls with Grandmother Faces Weldon, Fay. A Hard Time to be a Father West, Morris l. Eminence Wood, Barbara. Perfect Harmony Zukov, Gary. The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Seat of the Soul ? I’m the Way I Used to be ? Spotted Dick, s.v.p. (humorous, restaurant in Lyons - non-fiction) ? Reckoning (about Christopher Marlowe’s murder)