Of Mice and Men

mice_menJohn Steinbeck

Nobel Prize-winner John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men remains one of America’s most widely read and taught novels. An unlikely pair, George and Lennie, two migrant workers in California during the Great Depression, grasp for their American Dream.

Laborers in California’s dusty vegetable fields, they hustle work when they can, living a hand-to-mouth existence. For George and Lennie have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.

Death in Venice

deat_veniceThomas Mann

This is a remarquable novella about a middle-aged straight-laced and serious German writer who spends some time in Venice on a holiday. He sees a beautiful boy of 13 or 14 years of age and becomes completely obsessed with his loveliness, to the point of feverishly losing himself. Platonic love, art, the quest for beauty, are some of the themes explored in this work by the Nobel Prize Winner.

Olive Kitteridge

Olive KitteridgeElizabeth Strout

Pulitzer prize winning book. Series of short stories featuring Olive Kitteridge, a fomer school teacher. Through these stories we get to know her and her family, and the people who live in her small town. The stories are often poignant and deal with losses of all kinds, but mainly of relationships and the pains of growing older.

When you reach me

whenyoureachmeRebecca Stead

Twelve-year-old Miranda, a latchkey kid whose single mother is a law school dropout, narrates this complex novel, a work of science fiction grounded in the nitty-gritty of Manhattan life in the late 1970s. Miranda’s story is set in motion by the appearance of cryptic notes that suggest that someone is watching her and that they know things about her life that have not yet happened. She’s especially freaked out by one that reads: “I’m coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.” Over the course of her sixth-grade year, Miranda details three distinct plot threads: her mother’s upcoming appearance on The $20,000 Pyramid ; the sudden rupture of Miranda’s lifelong friendship with neighbor Sal; and the unsettling appearance of a deranged homeless person dubbed “the laughing man.” Eventually and improbably, these strands converge to form a thought-provoking whole. Stead (First Light ) accomplishes this by making every detail count, including Miranda’s name, her hobby of knot tying and her favorite book, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time . It’s easy to imagine readers studying Miranda’s story as many times as she’s read L’Engle’s, and spending hours pondering the provocative questions it raises. Ages 9–14. (Publishers Weekly)

The Sisters Brothers

The-Sisters-BrothersPatrick deWitt

This is the story of two brothers, Charlie and Eli Sisters, who are gunslingers and journey from Oregon City to San Francisco during the Gold Rush to capture Herman Kermit Warm. They have many funny and quixotic encounters,for example,with a weeping man, a bear, and a witch, and many violent ones also. It is a story of adventure, yes, but also of the shifting relationship between the brothers and their journey of self-discovery.
A very entertaining and satisfying book.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

crookedTom Franklin

Crooked letter is the letter S. It can also stand for a snake, symbol of evil. In Mississipi, a young girl has gone missing and everyone blames Larry Ott. Years ago he dated a girl who disappeared shortly afterwards and though the body was never found Ott is perceived as a killer and ostracised. Ott had a black friend named Silas Jones and though they no longer are friends their lives will intertwine and the truth will surface changing the way they perceive themselves and each other.

A very atmospheric and well-crafted novel, more of a psychological drama than a suspense.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

part-time-indianSherman Alexie

Bittersweet and humorous account of one year in the life of 14 year old Arnold Spirit, a Spokane Indian who lives on a reservation. At the urging of a teacher, he leaves his school on the « Rez » and goes to an all-white school 20 miles away. There he strives to fit in all the while being shunned by the people of the reservation, including his best friend.

Through clever narrative and illustrations, the author explores themes of acceptance, prejudice, family, and alcoholism in this excellent coming of age story.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

visit_goon_squadJennifer Egan

In this highly enjoyable, touching, and original book about the music industry, we follow the lives of Sasha and Benny and some of the people connected to them. Sasha works for Benny and is a troubled young woman who sees a therapist because she compulsively shoplifts. Benny, a former punk-rocker, is an executive in the music industry who has to cope with his failures, both personal and professional, after having it all. The reader discovers their early lives and will also glimpse their future, their frailties, and the lives they touch.

This Pulitzer-prize winning book offers subtle psychological portraits of the characters and a poignant look at the loss of innocence.

Mercy Among the Children

mercy_among_childrenDavid Adams Richards

Sydney lives his life nobly. He never defends himself or hurts others. He marries and has three children but is always the scapegoat. However, like Job, he always has faith even when confronted with injustice. One of his sons revolts against his upbringing, the poverty, the ostracism, and ends up dispersing and bringing tragedy to his family. Autumn, the albino daughter embraces her parent’s teaching and grows up to become a poet , a writer, a wife, and a mother. Percy, the youngest child, is a symbol of purity and, like Beth in Little Women, is too good to live a long life.

Beautiful, heartbreaking story.