I asked some of my friends to pass along their favorite book lists. Send me your list!
by Paul Watkins
The Forger is the newest work by Peddie’s artist-in-residence, Paul Watkins, author of the amazing memoir, Stand Before Your God, about being an American boy at Eton and Oxford. The Forger is a novel set in France at the outset of World War II. The main character, David Halifax, is an American who has come to Paris to study painting. His larger-than-life teacher, the Russian Pankratov, teaches him more than Halifax bargains for as the two join a plot to swindle the Nazis out of precious works of art.
Girl in Hyacinth Blue
by Susan Vreeland
In this interesting fiction, Vreeland plays with the lineage of a fictitious painting by the 17th century Dutch painter, Jan Vermeer. Each chapter in her book is a short story, a vignette, telling about the place that the imaginary portrait of “a young girl wearing a short blue smock over a rust-colored skirt in profile at a table by an open window” plays in the life of its various owners. The stories trickle backward from the painting’s present-day owner to the moment of the painting’s creation and the story of the girl who posed for it.
Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden
This beautiful book tells the story of Chiyo, born to a poor fisherman and his dying wife, sold into the slavery of geishadom in pre-war Japan. It is a glimpse into the sorority of the geishas: a world of tea ceremonies, kimonos, fan dancing, and bitter rivalry. Chiyo’s metamorphosis into the beautiful, renowned geisha, Sayuri, is poignant and instructive in the way of a coming of age story. One can’t help but be inspired by the courage and cleverness that mark Sayuri’s survival and her search for happiness in a world that promises none.
The Princess Bride
by William Golding
You’ve seen the fabulous movie, now read the amazing book. Or, if you haven’t seen the movie, skip it, since this novel defines “make-believe.” Buttercup, the most beautiful girl in all the world, is betrothed to the evil Prince Humperdink, ruler of Guilder. Thank goodness, before the nuptials she is kidnapped by the Sicilian genius Vizzini, the giant Fezzik, and an ambidextrous Spanish swashbuckler. It’s a wild journey that takes the reader and the Dread Pirate Roberts up The Cliffs of Insanity, through the Fire Swamps and into the Zoo of Death to save Buttercup.
The Crystal Cave
by Mary Stewart
In this first volume of her Merlin Trilogy, Mary Stewart weaves a tale of the Legend of Merlin, imagining him as a child who struggles against great odds in the world of pre-Roman Britain before he becomes the great wizard of medieval romance.
The Last Days of Summer
by Steve Kluger
Joey Margolis is a 12 year-old Jewish kid growing up in an immigrant neighborhood of Brooklyn in the 1940’s, a place where life is tough without his dad and tougher when he tries to make it home from school in one piece. His story is told in letters and postcards, report cards, news articles, and box scores partly because Joey idolizes New York Giants’ third baseman, Charlie Banks, whom he cons into helping him survive the neighborhood beatings and serve at his Bar Mitzvah. You could hate baseball and still love this funny, heart-warming story.
Interpreter of Maladies
by Jhumpa Lahiri
This collection of modern short stories uses characters of East Indian origin to explore the immigrant experience and the complexities of individuals who face various kinds of adversity in American society. Each story is a jewel with facets and sparkle all its own; Lahiri's art is complex and insightful. Fans of short story or people who savor Indian food, culture, or religion will be fascinated by Lahiri's look at melding cultures and the varieties of experience of those in its crosshairs.
Gertrude and Claudius
by John Updike
Readers of Hamlet, here are the fictional answers to your questions. Though for Hamlet, Jr., the sun rose and set in Denmark's "Father of the Year " (was Hamlet "too much in the son?"), did Gertrude think so? Maybe Claudius wasn't as slimy as his nephew thought; maybe he was slimier. In the spirit of Tom Stoppard's Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Updike's speculation about events in Elsinor is a good deal of fun and adds fuel to the eternal fire about what in blazes was rotten in Denmark.
You've Got to Read This
edited by Ron Hansen and Jim Shepard
This is an amazing collection of short stories that was put together by some contemporary writers who had been discussing stories that they were passionate about. In fact, it's a very interesting collection on two counts. First, as it stands the stories that have been chosen are fascinating and classic. Second, it reveals something about what contemprorary artists value and are intrigued by. I'm guessing that some of these stories will blow you away.
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
b y Dai Sijie
t ranslated by Ina Rilke
The protagonist, and his friend Luo arrive at a Chinese mountain village because they have been forcibly separated from their parents in the wake of Chairman Mao's revolutionary cleansing of China. When they discover the forbidden novels of Balzac and other French writers in the possession of a friend, their lives and the lives of others are changed in significant ways. Dai Sijie has created a wonderful tale about the ability of literature to teach and inspire romantic awakenings in a reader that we can all identify with as we learn about a culture alien from ours, but inhabited by readers like ourselves.
A great link to literary Manhattan.
stolen from his illustrious site: Bryan O'Hare.com
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942 - 1943
by Antony Beevor
This book was so much more than I ever expected. I read it at the tail end of a WWII kick. The author does a very good job of detailing the hows and whys that led up to this pivotal battle. It is amazing what both sides of this battle has to endure during this months long battle. Whether it's the Soviets shooting their own surrendering soldiers or Hitler's maniacal, and strategically useless, desire to conquer the city with Stalin's name. this book is very inclusive. After reading this book I think the most incredible thing about the whole battle, is that there were any civilians left in the city when it was over.
One thing to keep in mind about this book is that it is a fairly east read for those that normally don't read military history. Quite a bit of the book is speny going over not only the material differences between the Germans and Soviets, but also the differences between the people. You get good impresiions of what grunts, officers, civilians, and even dogs had to go through. The author does not try to hide the horros of this battle, but he gives praise and blame where he feels it is due.
The White Tecumseh
by Stanley P. Hirshson
I will be the first to say that this book is not for everyone. This biography covers all of General Sherman's life. I really love this book because it destroyed all my preconceived notions about who Sherman was. Most people simply think of him as the man that burned the South during the Civil War, which in all fairness he did. Most people think he was just a cruel pyromaniac; a single-minded monster sought to punish and destroy the South. He was in many ways so much more and in other ways so much less. He was a husband and father. He was a leader of men and an unapologetic racist.
What's probably the most surprising thing I learned about Sherman was what an intersting and varied life he led. He spent a few years in the military in the mid-1800's, including a not insignificant role in the California Gold Rush. He then left for a almost comical string of business disasters. He helped found what eventually became Louisiana State University, and after the Civil War spent some time in Washington, and hated every second of it ("I HAVE NEVER BEEN AND NEVER WILL BE A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT; ... IF NOMINATED BY EITHER PARTY , I SHOULD PEREMPTORILY DECLINE; AND EVEN IF UNANIMOUSLY ELECTED, I SHOULD DECLINE TO SERVE").
Rebels & Redcoats: The American Revolution
Through the Eyes of Those Who Fought and Lived It
by George F. Scheer and Hugh F. Rankin
The sacrifice, the risk, the fierce determination. What an amazing book this is. Much of this book is amde up of excerpts from letters written by people involved in the Revolution. You are shown the experiences of everyone from Washington and Franklin to the volunteers on the frontlines. Every major campaign is covered: Long Island, Morristown, Valley Forge, Yorktown, Saratoga, and Quebec (yes that Quebec , we invaded Canada !). This book has a lot of information, in fact each chapter of this book could have volumes written on the material presented, but the authors do a very good job and giving all the necessary background without overloading the reader.
Easily, the best aspect of this book is the enormous number of excerpts from letters and diaries. In some cases the language is a bit tedious to get through. The authors left most, if not all, of the original language intact, so the passages from some of the less educated soldiers is not always straightforward. The exercpts that I found most interesting were those written by Washington. Betwwen Long Island and Valley Forge Washington is depressed, anxious, and feels completely unworthy and incapable of the task that is laid before him. By the end of the war though it becomes apparent that this humility is what made one of the most important world leaders ever, an 18th century Cincinnatus.
by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
This is the only book I've read that never stops being funny. Since I
went to Catholic school, it's even funnier. The Anti-Christ, the Four
Horsmen (kind of) of the Apocalypse, Demons that delegate, Hellhouds with
floppy ears, and bimbo nuns that can't shut up, what's not to love? The
only complaint about this book I have is that I have never gotten back
any of the copies that I have lent out.
Here's my top five list in no particular order:
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
Contact by Carl Sagan
84 Charring Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur S. Golden
The World According to Garp by John Irving
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire would
be next on the list and by strict standards, 84 Charring Cross Road
is actually an edited collection of letters and doesn't really qualify
as a book...
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Exodus by Leon Uris
Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire by J.K.Rowling
A House is a House for Me by Mary
Illustrated by Betty Fraser
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
Dispensation of Baha'u'llah Letters by Shoghi Effendi
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Hienlan
Any Ray Bradbury book
The Harry Potter series by J.K.Rowling
Any John Grisham book
The Dune series, especially Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
Any Baha'i book by the Central
Figures and Shoghi Effendi
Do They Hear You When You Cry
by Fauzia Kasindja and Layli Miller
The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
Goodnight Moon (I read this one a lot!)