Books from authors new and old
“The Brooklyn Follies” by Paul Auster. Nathan Glass, a retired life insurance salesman estranged from his family and facing an iffy cancer prognosis, is “looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn.” What he finds, though, in this lively novel by Auster, is a vital, big-hearted borough brimming with great characters. These include Nathan’s nephew, Tom, a grad student turned spiritually questing cab driver; Tom’s serenely silent 9-year-old niece, who shows up on Tom’s doorstep without her unstable mom; and a flamboyant book dealer hatching a scheme to sell a fraudulent manuscript of “The Scarlet Letter.” Auster’s graceful, offhand storytelling carries readers along, with enough shadow to keep the tale unsentimental. The result is an affectionate portrait of the city as the ultimate refuge of the human spirit. (New in trade paper.)
“What Came Before He Shot Her” by Elizabeth George. This compelling new mystery explores the unforgettable events leading up to a murder. Bestseller George departs from the usual investigative nuts and bolts of her Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers mystery thrillers with this searing examination of the lives of one horribly dysfunctional family and their immigrant London milieu. George deftly depicts the texture and predicaments of middle and working class Brits in this dark, chilling tale of desperation and revenge.
“The Whistling Season” by Ivan Doig. Like many of Doig’s earlier novels, “The Whistling Season” is set in the past in rural eastern Montana and addresses that time and place in distinct, uncluttered prose, full of enthusiasm. The novel is narrated by an aging Montana state superintendent of schools, Paul Milliron, who is charged with deciding the fate of the state’s last scattered rural schools, and who, in the hours preceding his meeting to determine those schools’ fate, recalls the autumn of 1909, when he was 13 and attending his own one-room school in Marias Coulee. This nostalgic, bittersweet story is an affectionate, heartwarming tale that celebrates a vanished way of life and laments its passing.
“Echo Park” by Michael Connelly. Bestseller Connelly’s compelling 12th Harry Bosch novel offers some new wrinkles on a familiar theme, the aging detective haunted by the one who got away. Detective Harry Bosch reopens one of his own unsolved cases and comes face to face with a psychotic killer he has been seeking for 11 years. When Bosch realizes he and his partner missed a clue that could have prevented nine additional murders, his whole being as a cop begins to crack. This is superior crime fiction, as suspenseful as it is psychologically acute.
“Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert. This richly imagined novel, set in Hawaii more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. Rachel Kalama, a spirited, 7-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end, but instead she discovers it is only just beginning. Published in trade paper in 2004, this warm, humorous, compassionate novel deserves a second look.
“The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir” by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century, 1951, in the middle of the United States, Des Moines, Iowa, in the middle of the largest generation in American history, the baby boomers. He recreates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normalcy, a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. It was, he reminds us, a happy time, when automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year. Warm and laugh-out-loud funny and full of his inimitable, pitch-perfect observations, “The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid” is as wondrous a book as Bill Bryson has ever written. It will enchant anyone who has ever been young.
“Blind Side: Evolution of a Game” by Michael Lewis. As he did so memorably for baseball in “Moneyball,” Lewis takes a statistical X-ray of the hidden substructure of football, outlining the invisible doings of unsung players that determine the outcome more than the showy exploits of point scorers. The young man at the center of this extraordinary and moving story will one day be among the most highly paid athletes in the National Football League. When we first meet him, he is one of 13 children by a mother addicted to crack; he does not know his real name, his father, his birthday, or any of the things a child might learn in school. Our protagonist turns out to be the priceless combination of size, speed and agility necessary to guard the quarterback’s greatest vulnerability: his blind side. Combining a tour de force of sports analysis with a personal glimpse of the South’s football mania, Lewis probes the fascinating question of whether football is a matter of brute force or subtle intellect.
“I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence” by Amy Sedaris. The actor, caterer, film star, comic and sister of David Sedaris charms, seduces, entertains, instructs, amuses and just plain invites readers into her somewhat eclectic life. Readers will revel in the more than 100 recipes with menus for dozens of occasions (or not), from a blind date at home to a table for one (an evening alone, that is, with steak and salad). Sedaris’ first solo effort is an outrageous and deadpan delight, greatly enhanced by her deliriously kitschy illustrations and photos.
“The End” by Lemony Snicket. All things must come to an end. This includes “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket. The 13th and final installment in the groundbreaking series will answer readers’ most burning questions: Will Count Olaf prevail? Will the Baudelaires survive? Will the series end happily? And if there’s nothing out there, what was that noise? In the tradition of great storytellers, from Dickens to Dahl, Lemony Snicket’s exquisitely dark comedy series is literary and irreverent, hilarious and deftly crafted. Never before has a tale of three likable and unfortunate children been quite so enchanting or quite so uproariously unhappy. (Ages 10-14)
“Probuditi!” by Chris Van Allsburg. The magic in Van Allsburg’s new book “Probuditi!” has been domesticated. Instead of supernatural powers sending rhinos charging through the living room, as in “Jumanji,” or spacemen falling through the ceiling, as in “Zathura,” Calvin, the protagonist of “Probuditi!” employs a simple magician’s trick to set the story in motion. Van Allsburg’s illustrations, as well as his story, give this homespun tale the quality of a remembered dream. (Ages 4-8)
Compiled by manager Susan Beck at The Book Seller, 107 Mill St., Grass Valley, 272-2131. Hours are Mon. through Fri. 9:30 a.m. Ð 7 p.m., Sat. 9:30 a.m. Ð 5:30 p.m., and 11 a.m. Ð 4 p.m. Sunday.
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