Moving on to February – here are some recommendations

The subject for February is love and romance – of course.  While this gives you absolute permission to read bodice rippers if you choose, love is a critical part of some of the greatest books ever written.  Here are a few suggestions

Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen  Many consider this rich social commentary to be Jane Austen’s finest novel. It is certainly among her more famous ones. Austen sets her entertaining study of manners and misconceptions against the backdrop of a class-conscious society in 18th-century England.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon – “After being separated by seven years of World War II, Claire and Frank Randall return to the Scottish Highlands for a second honeymoon. Left to her own devices while her husband immerses himself in historical pursuits, Claire inadvertently enters a circle of standing stones and is plunged back 200 years to a Scotland on the verge of the second Jacobite uprising. Her pluck and skill as a nurse win the Scots’ grudging respect, but only marriage to a Scot will save her from the clutches of Frank’s vicious forbear, Black Jack Randall.

Gone with the Wind – Margaret Meade – Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and went on to give rise to two authorized sequels and one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time

The Princess Bride – William Goldman  Once upon a time came a story so full of high adventure and true love that it became an instant classic and won the hearts of millions.

The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough -Colleen McCullough’s sweeping saga of dreams, struggles, dark passions, and forbidden love in the Australian Outback has enthralled readers the world over.

For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway  A romantic drama set against the turbulent tapestry of the Spanish Civil War.

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald  The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.

Love Story – Erich Segal  This is the wonderful, tumultuous, heartfelt story of Oliver Barrett IV and Jenny Cavilleri—the story of a rich Harvard jock and a wisecracking Radcliffe music major who have nothing in common but love . . . and everything else to share but time.

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes  They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose   Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez  Love in the Time of Cholera details a passionate love triangle that unfolds in turn-of-the-century South America.

Atonement – Ian McEwan  Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose

The Fault in our Stars – John Green  -  Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy – Leo Tolstoy’s classic story of doomed love is one of the most admired novels in world literature. Generations of readers have been enthralled by his magnificent heroine, the unhappily married Anna Karenina, and her tragic affair with dashing Count Vronsky.

The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje During the final moments of World War II, in a deserted Italian villa, four people come together: a young nurse, her will broken, all her energy focused on her last, dying patient, a man in whom she has seen something “she wanted to learn, to grow into and hide in”… the patient: an unknown Englishman, survivor of a plane crash, his mind awash with a life’s worth of secrets and passions … a thief whose “skills” have made him one of the war’s heroes, and one of its casualties … an Indian soldier in the British army, an expert at bomb disposal whose three years at war have taught him that “the only thing safe is himself.”

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson   In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly, opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village.

Napoleon and Josephine: An Improbable Marriage  – Evangeline Bruce – Napoleon and Josephine’s relationship is one of the most fascinating love stories history. Their unlikely union began in the heady atmosphere of post-Terror Paris. Josephine was a sensual and debt-ridden widow in search of a wealthy protector; Napoleon was a ruthlessly ambitious young army officer in need of a wife with a fortune. When Napoleon, blinded by passion and dazzled by Josephine’s apparent influence in powerful political salons, insisted upon marriage, she accepted only with the greatest reluctance.

The Mysterious Rider by Zane Grey  A Novel filled with a love triangle where the good is pitted against the wealthy ranch owner’s ne’er-do-well son. An unlikely hero rides to the rescue.

Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry – A love story and an epic of the frontier, Lonesome Dove is the grandest novel ever written about the last, defiant wilderness of America.

Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story – Daphne Sheldrick  In this heartwarming and poignant memoir, Daphne shares her amazing relationships with a host of orphans, including her first love, Bushy, a liquid-eyed antelope; Rickey-Tickey-Tavey, the little dwarf mongoose; Gregory Peck, the busy buffalo weaver bird; Huppety, the mischievous zebra; and the majestic elephant Eleanor, with whom Daphne has shared more than forty years of great friendship.   But this is also a magical and heartbreaking human love story between Daphne and David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo Park warden. It was their deep and passionate love, David’s extraordinary insight into all aspects of nature, and the tragedy of his early death that inspired Daphne’s vast array of achievements, most notably the founding of the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Orphans’ Nursery in Nairobi National Park, where Daphne continues to live and work to this day.

Our January reading

Great discussion today that began with the subject of classics and wandered far afield to include books on CD, books on E-readers, and lots of books that don’t exactly fall into the classic category.

 Here are some of the titles:

Quincunx by Charles Pallister – a modern book that feels like it was written in Victorian days.

War & Peace – Leo Tolstoy

Little Woman – Louisa May Alcott – (which led to a mention of MARCH by Geraldine Brooks which is a modern title that follows the father in Little Women as he goes to war)

Age of Innocence and Ethan Fromm by Edith Wharton – with a mention of how different these two books are

Call of the Wild - Jack London

 and books by:

Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Arthur Conan Doyle (which led to a mention of the Mary Russell series by Laurie King which features Sherlock Holmes and his young assistant – first title in the series is The BeeKeeper’s Apprentice) 

John Steinbeck, the two Brontes, Robert Benchley, Herman Hess, P. G. Wodehouse, Cervantes, Thomas Hardy, William Makepeace Thackeray, James Herriott, Jack Kerouac, Jules Verne, Edgar Allen Poe, D. H. Lawrence.

Other Titles:

 The Things they Carried by Tim O’Brien and The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers – both more recent titles but sure to be classics of the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – again sure to be a classic of the end of the settlement of the west as the two friends search for a place where civilization can’t quite find them.

Max Brand, Western Giant by William F. Nolan – the biography of the man known as the pulp king.  He wrote nearly 400 westerns, created Dr. Kildare and wrote under 21 pseudonyms in another dozen genres.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker and books by Toni Morrison

Cold Sassy Tree – by Olive Ann Burns – a delightful coming of age story

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene (and a mention that this was a favorite of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor)

Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather (and My Antonia)

Books by Barbara Kingsolver (The Bean Trees, Animal Vegetable, Miracle, Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, Flight Behavior) – maybe not classics yet but we liked them

 and the conversation moved on to more current titles:

short stories by Jill McCorkle – Crash Diet, Final Vinyl Days, Going Away Shoes

anything by Richard Russo

Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle – really nice to listen to on CD

The Art Forger – Barbara Shapiro (who will be at the Book Festival on April 13)

William Martin ( who will be at the book festival on April 13) – Harvard Yard, Cape Cod, Back Bay

Extraordinary – an end of life story without end – Michele Tamaren and Michael Wittner – Lynette said this one is hard to find but worth searching for – non-fiction

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan – Far more than simply a riveting read and a crackling medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity and to rediscover herself among the fragments left behind. 

Cascade by Maryanne O’Hara – (who will be at the book festival on April 13)

The End of Your Life Book Club  by Will Schwalb -This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close.

YA titles by John Green including The Fault in our Stars and Looking for Alaska 

and for mystery lovers

Books to Die For edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke – essays by current day mystery/thriller authors about their favorite titles – organized sequentially so you can start with some of the classic mysteries and read your way to the present day.

Reposting the list of topics for the remainder of the year

Since it is hard to work your way through lots of posts – this may be the downfall of a blog – I am reposting the list of subjects that we will be reading through June.

February – Valentine’s Day means we need to read a romance.  Do you like yours subtle or steamy?

March – It’s OSCAR time.  Choose a book that’s been made into a movie and then – perhaps – watch the movie and decide if they did it right.

April – April is poetry month.  Choose a favorite poet, a collection of poetry or whatever brings poetry to your mind.

May – Spring is here and we need to appreciate nature.  What kind of book does that for you?  A gardening book, a novel, a book about really cute animals?

June – Ends our first challenge.   Time to think about summer travel – actual or armchair.  Choose a book that takes you away and join us for a light lunch to celebrate your achievement.

Great First Lines

In beginning to read The Man of Property, I was struck by the first sentence “Those privileged to be present at a family festival of the Forsytes have seen that charming and instructive sight–an upper middle-class family in full plumage.” and it reminded me how much I enjoy interesting first sentences that kind of grab you.

One of my favorites is from Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen – “I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills”

Here are some others from “classics”.  do you have a favorite first line?

Call Me Ishmael – Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984

You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. —Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. —Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

For a long time, I went to bed early. —Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

 I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story. —Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish. —Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
—George Eliot, Middlemarch

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. —Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together. —Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. —Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage