Sole Survivor Finds His Way Back to Living in Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano; Author Q & A included.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano book cover

My Review:

Reconnecting with life after loss can be a struggle and Ann Napolitano’s Dear Edward, uplifting and hopeful, is a story of a young boy’s journey to overcome challenges, pick up the pieces and begins to dream again following a deadly plane crash.

An unthinkable tragedy leaves a young boy devoid of normalcy and purpose, yet over time, love, friendship and community breathe life back into him as he finds his way.  Edward, along with his older brother, Jordan, and their parents are on a flight from NJ to LA when the accident happens and there are no survivors…except for twelve year old Edward.

Dear Edward, is an emotional and beautiful story of a young boy’s coming of age as he learns new ways to love while coming to grips with the loss of his family.  We meet many of the airplane passengers like the injured army vet, the woman with memories of past lives, the stewardess, the Wall Street guy, and the pregnant girl who dreams of getting married.  We learn about Edward’s family; Bruce, Edward and Jordan’s father, homeschooled the boys and they have a very close relationship, while Jane, a working mom, is sitting in the front of the plane on her own getting some work done.  After the accident, Edward is alone, and he must leave his home to live with his mother’s sister, Lacey and her husband, John.  They were hoping to have a baby and were now given the unexpected responsibility to raise their nephew while suffering their own voids.  When trying to deal with the trauma and loss,  Edward is told:

“What happened is baked into your bones. it lives under your skin. It’s not going away. It’s part of you and will be part of you every moment until you die. What you’ve been working on …is learning to live with that. “

Author Ann Napolitano wrote a wonderful story; not focused on a plane crash, but on the rebuilding of human connection and heart with sensitive characters full of life and feelings.  The story was so satisfying, as information was revealed in bits and pieces, going back and forth from past to present time, leading up to the tragedy and then the aftermath.  I felt Edward’s pain and numbness he experienced in his life after the accident, and I rejoiced in his growth, little by little, as he engaged in his surroundings and made observations with his teenaged point of view.  Relationships are formed anew as we continually get glimpses of people from the past and Edward’s current support system as he forges on.

A wonderful coming of age story in the wake of a terrible tragedy, Napolitano has delivered a life-affirming novel with a perfect ending.  I highly recommend reading this.  Pre-order on Amazon today – book goes on sale 1/14/20.

 

Q & A with Ann Napolitano

Q:  I couldn’t put Dear Edward down and was compelled to read cover to cover.  The emotional story is mostly about the coming of age of a young boy after tragedy, but the actual tragedy is something I have mulled over quite a bit.  What inspired you to write about such a deadly accident?  And how did you manage to make this story uplifting and hopeful?

A:  Thank you for the kind words.  As far as the inspiration,  I became obsessed with a story in the news about a plane crash in 2010.  The flight originated in South Africa and crashed in Libya – most of the passengers were Dutch, and on their way home from vacation.  Only one passenger survived, a nine-year-old boy named Ruben Van Assouw.  The boy was found still strapped into his seat about a half mile from the wreckage – the speculation was that he’d been sitting near the fuselage and had been basically ejected from the plane.  He had a badly broken leg and a punctured lung but was otherwise fine.  Everyone else, including his parents and brother, had died immediately.  I couldn’t read enough about this story, and the obsession was such that I knew I was going to have to write about it.  I was going to have to write my way into understanding how this young boy could walk away from this wreckage, from the loss of his family, and not only survive, but find a way to live his life.  Also, I was always aware that as a reader I might find a book about a plane crash too upsetting to take on, so I wanted to write not about the crash, but the living and surviving that sprang from it.

Q:  Being a sole survivor is intriguing and complex, especially for a young boy.  Your choices for the story are unique and powerful…Edward must have had other school and family friends and teachers in his life prior to the accident, yet you pull him out of all that was before and place him alone with only one familial connection that feels distant.  Tell us why…

A:  Edward and his brother were homeschooled by his father, so he didn’t have other peers or teachers, per se.  And he has no living grandparents.  His family was a very tight unit, in part by their father’s design.  Jordan had a secret girlfriend at the deli, but Edward was still too young to have broken away into his own personal life and relationships.

Q:  Both Edward’s mother and his aunt Lacy were not the typical, doting motherly types – Edward seemed to connect more with his father and uncle.  Why did you make these choices?

A:  That’s interesting, because I wouldn’t have thought about it that way.  I guess the depiction of the men and women in the book simply reflects my opinion that people more often operate outside of their gender-stereotype, than within it.  All of the grown-ups Edward encounters after the crash offer him what they can, and Lacey is particularly hindered because she lost her sister in the plane crash.

Q:  Were any of your characters influenced by real people?

A:  As I said above, Edward’s situation was based on a Dutch boy named Ruben Van Assouw.  But because I learned very little about who Ruben was as a boy, or how he recovered, I had to make Edward himself up.  The love between Edward and Jordan was inspired by the love between my sons.  My boys have been devoted to each other since my youngest son was born, and their devotion found its way into the book.  When I thought about Edward’s losses in the light of my sons’ relationship, it became clear to me that the loss of his brother would be the most devastating.

Q:  I love your writing, it is visual and your characters say and do just what I craved every step of the way – a most satisfying experience when reading a novel. The limited lens in which you create for the reader encompasses the perfect amount of character development and cast – and the contents of the big locked bags are revealed when we are ready to digest more. Why was it important for the family members of the deceased to reach out to Eddie?

A:  Thank you – and the real answer is I’m not sure.  The letters were something that showed up in a very early draft, ad it felt right to me that these families who had so abruptly lost their loved ones, didn’t have closure and would reach out to the one person who survived the crash.  One theme I think I try to explore in the novel is interconnectedness – as the storyteller I was always looking for ways to connect the storyline in the sky with the storyline on the ground.  i felt like the two sections of the story would lean toward each other. 

Q:  Edward’s emotions after the accident seem very realistic and true to life.  Have you seen Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stephen Colbert about loss?  

A:  I did see that interview – it was wonderful!  I actually tweeted about it saying that the conversation those two men had about loss and grief felt like the heartbeat of Dear Edward. 

Q:  How long did it take you to write Dear Edward and was there anything drastic that changed in the editing process?

A:  It took eight years to write Dear Edward – I am very slow :).  The plane sections never changed much from the initial version, but Edwards’ present storyline changed mightily, many times over the years.  For instance, I had one version in which we see him live his entire life, and at the end of the book he’s in his seventies.

Q:  What kind of research did you do for this novel and what did you learn that was most surprising?

A:  I did a lot of research, which was very fun.  I spoke to a retired commercial pilot about planes and possible reasons for a crash, and then read many transcripts from National Transportation Safety Board hearings.  I also read different non-fiction books as research for the characters on the plane.  For instance, I read War by Sebastian Junger in preparation for writing about Benjamin Stillman, and Jack Welch’s autobiography to make sense of Crispin Cox.

Q:  What do you like to read and can you recommend a few current books we should add to our reading list? 

A:  I love to read, mostly literary fiction and then non-fiction that delves into whatever subject I’m currently interested in.  As far as current books, I recently read and loved The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, and City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.  This is not a new publication, but I just finished The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne and I loved it with every cell in my body.  I’m looking forward to a few upcoming books:  The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel.

Anderson Cooper talks with Stephen Colbert about grief and loss.

 

Goodreads Summary

Author Ann Napolitano

About the Author:

Ann Napolitano’s new novel, Dear Edward, will be published by Dial Press in January 2020. She is the author of the novels A Good Hard Look and Within Arm’s Reach. She is also the Associate Editor of One Story literary magazine. She received an MFA from New York University; she has taught fiction writing for Brooklyn College’s MFA program, New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and for Gotham Writers’ Workshop.

Ann lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

15 Books to Add to Your Reading List This Fall

Fall Reading List

It’s time to stock up on some of the latest and greatest novels out this fall!  From Africa to Argentina, England to Dominican Republic, Soviet Russia to New York, my fall reading list spans the globe and covers a variety of engrossing topics, including immigration, families, sex trafficking, abduction, slavery, spies and friendship.

Be sure not to miss the new books released from the authors of past favorites like Olive Kitteridge, The Girl With the Pearl Earring and Me Before You.   And it is never too late to pick up the latest by Alice Hoffman, author of more than 30 works of fiction, many in the genre of magic realism, or Hank Phillippi Ryan, award winning investigative reporter, 36 time EMMY winner and author of 11 suspense novels.

Set aside some time for reading – According to the New York Post, more than a quarter of US adults have not read a book in the past year.  Let’s bring up the average!

Here are 15 books on my reading list; what’s on yours?

 

Out of Darkness, Shining Light

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As stated in Goodreads: “This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.” So begins Petina Gappah’s powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africa—the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone’s body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor’s sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave, this is a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization—the hypocrisy at the core of the human heart—while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.

Red At The Bone

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As stated in Goodreads:  Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child….Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

The Water Dancer

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As stated in Goodreads: In his boldly imagined first novel, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the National Book Award–winning author of Between the World and Me, brings home the most intimate evil of enslavement: the cleaving and separation of families. This is the dramatic story of an atrocity inflicted on generations of women, men, and children—the violent and capricious separation of families—and the war they waged to simply make lives with the people they loved. Written by one of today’s most exciting thinkers and writers, The Water Dancer is a propulsive, transcendent work that restores the humanity of those from whom everything was stolen.

Olive, Again

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As stated in Goodreads: Prickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire moments of transcendent grace.

The Dutch House

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As stated in Goodreads: The Dutch House is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves and of who we really are. Filled with suspense, you may read it quickly to find out what happens, but what happens to Danny and Maeve will stay with you for a very long time.

The World That We Knew

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As stated in Goodreads: What does it mean to lose your mother? What makes a family? How is it possible to survive cruelty and continue to love? In a life that is as unreal as a fairytale, Alice Hoffman’s The World That We Knew takes us on a journey of loss and resistance, good and evil, the fantastical and the mortal, to a place where all roads lead past the angel of death and love is never-ending.

The Murder List

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As stated in Goodreads: Law student Rachel North will tell you, without hesitation, what she knows to be true. She’s smart, she’s a hard worker, she does the right thing, she’s successfully married to a faithful and devoted husband, a lion of Boston’s defense bar, and her internship with the Boston DA’s office is her ticket to a successful future.
Problem is–she’s wrong.  And in this cat and mouse game–the battle for justice becomes a battle for survival.

The Third Daughter

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As stated in Goodreads: From the author of Jerusalem Maiden comes a remarkable story, inspired by little-known true events, about the thousands of young Jewish women who were trafficked into prostitution at the turn of the 20th century, and whose subjugation helped build Buenos Aires.

Dominicana

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As stated in Goodreads: Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.

As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.

The Secrets We Kept

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As stated in Goodreads: A thrilling tale of secretaries turned spies, of love and duty, and of sacrifice—inspired by the true story of the CIA plot to infiltrate the hearts and minds of Soviet Russia, not with propaganda, but with the greatest love story of the twentieth century: Doctor Zhivago.

Ducks, Newburyport

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As stated in Goodreads: LATTICING one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the United States of America. She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of “happy couples”, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Is there some trick to surviving survivalists? School shootings? Medical debts? Franks ’n’ beans?

A scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster, Ducks, Newburyport is a heresy, a wonder—and a revolution in the novel.

A Single Thread

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As stated in Goodreads: 1932. After the Great War took both her beloved brother and her fiancé, Violet Speedwell has become a “surplus woman,” one of a generation doomed to a life of spinsterhood after the war killed so many young men. Yet Violet cannot reconcile herself to a life spent caring for her grieving, embittered mother. After countless meals of boiled eggs and dry toast, she saves enough to move out of her mother’s place and into the town of Winchester, home to one of England’s grandest cathedrals. There, Violet is drawn into a society of broderers–women who embroider kneelers for the Cathedral, carrying on a centuries-long tradition of bringing comfort to worshippers.

Violet finds support and community in the group, fulfillment in the work they create, and even a growing friendship with the vivacious Gilda. But when forces threaten her new independence and another war appears on the horizon, Violet must fight to put down roots in a place where women aren’t expected to grow. Told in Chevalier’s glorious prose, A Single Thread is a timeless story of friendship, love, and a woman crafting her own life.

Celestial Bodies

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As stated in Goodreads: Celestial Bodies is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present. Elegantly structured and taut, Celestial Bodies is a coiled spring of a novel, telling of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.

Girl

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As stated in Goodreads: Girl , Edna O’Brien’s hotly anticipated new novel, envisages the lives of the Boko Haram girls in a masterpiece of violence and tenderness.
I was a girl once, but not anymore.  So begins Girl, Edna O’Brien’s harrowing portrayal of the young women abducted by Boko Haram. Set in the deep countryside of northeast Nigeria, this is a brutal story of incarceration, horror, and hunger; a hair-raising escape into the manifold terrors of the forest; and a descent into the labyrinthine bureaucracy and hostility awaiting a victim who returns home with a child blighted by enemy blood. From one of the century’s greatest living authors, Girl is an unforgettable story of one victim’s astonishing survival, and her unflinching faith in the redemption of the human heart.

The Giver of Stars

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As stated in Goodreads: Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, the storytelling itself here is enthralling–the pages fly, and the book is unparalleled in its scope and its epic breadth. Funny, heartbreaking, and rewarding, it is a rich novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

Gossip and Passion are Alive; In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow takes us to 1940s North Carolina

In West Mills by De'Shawn Charles Winslow

My Review:

I loved the heartfelt debut, In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow. In this charming story about an African American family in North Carolina spanning from the 1940s – 1987, and the difficult struggles and complexities of love, we meet Knot.  She has an unconventional lifestyle, always reveling in her freedom, as she lives alone, reads books and drinks a lot and whenever she pleases.  When Knot gets herself into a bit of trouble, she reaches out to her neighbor and friend, Otis Lee for help. Otis Lee is loyal and trustworthy and steps up for his friend, but there are deeply hidden family secrets he is unaware of that have unknowingly altered his life and are making an impact on the ones he loves.

The troubled past and longtime friendships weave this small town community together through the generations and De’Shawn Charles Winslow captures our attention with his vivid voice and memorable characters.  From out of wedlock pregnancies to disowned family members, Winslow depicts this big-hearted, southern community as gossip-filled and passionate, with tension and hurt along with love and support.  I loved this story and highly recommend the heart warming and heart breaking In West Mills. 

Recommendation:

If you enjoyed this African American North Carolina community, check out No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts.

Goodreads Summary

Author De'Shawn Charles Winslow

About the Author:

De’Shawn Charles Winslow’s recent book is In West Mills. He was born and raised in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and in 2003 moved to Brooklyn, New York. He is a 2017 graduate of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and holds a BFA in creative writing and an MA in English literature from Brooklyn College. He has received scholarships from the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. De’Shawn lives in East Harlem.

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner is a smart, humorous look at marriage and relationships.

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

My Review:

Toby Fleishman is a short, Jewish liver doctor with a few hangups, but a seemingly sincere family man. Newly separated from his wife of 15 years, he unexpectedly finds solace in online dating apps. He is overwhelmed with the attention he is getting, basking in the never before received interest from the ladies.  Bombarded with sexy photos and texts, Toby tries to stay focused on his patients at work and being a good parent to his young daughter and son.

His ex-wife, Rachel, a successful talent agent, drops the kids off to him earlier than he expects one summer morning, based on their separation agreement, and after several days she is not returning messages.  After quite a while of not answering her phone, she now seems to have disappeared, and Toby is left with the question of where she is, and whether or not he truly understood his wife to begin with.  Fleishman Is In Trouble  is easy to follow and so enjoyable; a smart, humorous look at marriage and relationships.

Toby’s best friend Libby, a girl he met on a trip to Israel with his friend Seth when they were young and single, is back in touch after many years and is being a good friend to him, meeting him for lunch and trying to help solve his current problems without mentioning her own personal struggles.

Libby feels compassion and empathy for him, much like the reader is meant to, and we understand Toby’s marriage and divorce situation from his point of view.  Once we are completely absorbed in Toby and his troubles, Libby mentions to him that he is so busy with the dating apps, he hasn’t realized SHE could use a friend, and that she has some problems too.

This is when I realized I got so sucked in to feeling sorry for Toby, I may have been manipulated by the author to see only one side of the Fleishman marriage. And that is one of the many wonderful aspects of the author’s writing as she is able to bring her audience on the ride with her and ultimately sharing different perspectives.  With her story of Toby and Rachel, along with other sub-plots like the one with the patient that has Wilson’s Disease, Brodesser-Akner highlights the idea that we may be able to predict our future if we are observant and look hard enough.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner is an acute observer and talented journalist, known for her profile pieces on famous people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Bradley Cooper.  She has an incredible talent for pulling the reader in to all she writes about, and then tells you something that causes a seismic shift in your thinking!  Speaking to the human condition, she allows you to empathize with each of her characters even though we can clearly see their flaws, not to mention her witty commentary that keeps you laughing out loud. Her sense of humor brings additional charm just when comic relief is needed and I experienced many moments of joy and delight while reading, all the while thinking this would make a great tv show!

The author has no problem getting into the head of a man and providing the male perspective of his relationship.  Toby didn’t really consider where Rachel was coming from or how she might feel – she didn’t clearly communicate it to him, but he had little intuition.  She was having a breakdown, her upbringing contributed to her style of mothering and she was struggling, yet nobody was there to help her get through it.  Because of Toby’s point of view, I disliked Rachel until, through Libby, I learned more about her.  Taffy Brodesser-Akner took over the power of my emotions with her vivid observations, guiding me to feel the way she intended.

I really loved this heartbreaking and hilarious story of marriage, with valuable insights into how men and women think and communicate.  The NYC upper east side references were pure joy, as my husband and I lived in the Wellesley on 72nd St. and ate at EJ”s in the early 1990s, so it was a welcomed walk down memory lane (or 3rd Avenue) for me!  Fleishman Is In Trouble is a smart, humorous and accurate look at marriage, midlife, dating and relationships and reminds us that paying attention now can help us to navigate in the future.

It is worth your time to check out the three links below!

Taffy Brodesser-Akner interviewed by Jake Tapper at Politics and Prose Bookstore

Gwyneth Paltrow NYTimes Article by Taffy Brodesser-Akner-Akner

Bradley Cooper NYTimes Article by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Goodreads Summary

Taffy Brodesser-Akner

About the Author

Taffy Brodesser-Akner is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine. Prior to that, her work appeared in GQ, ESPN the Magazine, Matter, Details, Texas Monthly, Outside, Self, Cosmopolitan and many other publications. Fleishman Is In Trouble is her first novel.

Last year’s gems…buy them in paperback or reserve at your local library!

Book Covers of White Houses, The Girl Who Smiled Beads, His Favorites and Tin Man

Interesting, Powerful and Moving

You may want to grab a copy of a few favorites of mine from 2018; all of these great books left me thinking and wanting to discuss.

White Houses by Amy Bloom, about Eleanor Roosevelt and her lover, The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya, about a young girl who escaped the Rwandan Massacre, Tin Man by Sarah Winman, about two young men who journey toward their truth and His Favorites by Kate Walbert about teenage vulnerability.

CHECK OUT MY FULL LIST FROM 2018

Bill Gates

The top 5 recommendations of 2018 from Bill Gates, including Educated by Tara Westover, are listed HERE.

Don’t Miss Out on Great Books From Just a Few Years Ago!

 

My Absolute Darling and All Day

There are so many books to read, sometimes it can be overwhelming to decide what to choose.  For money conscious bookclubs and for those who prefer an actual book over a kindle, it is nice to choose titles that are available in paperback – less expensive and lighter to carry.

Prepare for the fall and pick up a few great reads to have on your nightstand.

A few of my favorites from several years ago are:  My Absolute Darling by Gabrielle Tallent, The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and All Day : A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island, New York’s Most Notorious Jail  by Liza Jessie Peterson.  

president_s_day_reading_list

Many leaders and business men and women do a lot of reading and Barack Obama provided his TOP 10 BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS OF 2017 which included great ones like Exit West, A Gentleman in Moscow, Evicted and Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Don’t miss out on great books from just a few years ago…it’s never too late!

Here is MY FULL BOOK LIST FROM 2017.  Enjoy!

My Literary, Artsy and Beachy Summer Adventures 2018

This has been a busy summer for me as I have enjoyed many books, from family sagas like A Place For Us, to stories of strong women like The Weight Of Ink, to page turners and beach reads like Something in the Water and Vox.

I attended book launching events celebrating Jenna Blum and The Lost Family, Nancy Balbirer and A Marriage in Dog Years, and Susie Orman Schnall and The Subway Girls, and participated in engaging book group discussions for Educated, An American Marriage and Song of a Captive Bird.

I was thrilled to go to the East Hampton Library fundraiser, Authors Night, where I had a brush wth fame, as I was face to face with Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria Baldwin, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Geraldo Rivera.

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I also visited with many wonderful authors there, including Jamie Brenner (The Forever Summer and The Husband Hour).  Visit my Book Nation by Jen Facebook Page to see all my photos from the star-studded event!

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I stole a few days away with a friend, and in July we visited the Pollack- Krasner House in East Hampton, where Jackson Pollack lived and painted.  We experienced the signature Pollack technique of drip painting and strolled the incredible sculpture garden at Longhouse Reserve where Chilluly and De Kooning pieces are amongst those on display.  It was an incredibly fun, action packed artsy get-away!

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Also, during the summer, the theater was calling my name and I saw two incredible Broadway musicals, Once On This Island and Come From Away. The rest of the days I spent relaxing, swimming, reading and catching up with friends at the beach in Amaganssett, NY and Westport, CT.

IMG_3826.jpgAmagansett, NY sunrise

IMG_3974.jpgWestport, CT sunset

In addition, I have started a fun, new job at Bedside Reading, a unique business that places complementary books at the bedside in 5 star luxury and beach hotels.  Publishers and authors can join the program (click here to apply) and once their book is accepted and in place we promote it in many ways, including in magazines and multiple social media networks.  I am thrilled that hotel guests across the country will be receiving fantastic books in their rooms like Jeanne Blasberg’s Eden, and Christine Pakkala’s Last-But-Not-Least Lola Going Green along with Leah DeCesare’s audiobook of Forks, Knives and Spoons!  Also guests will be treated to Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke and Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage!  So great to be part of a team that spreads the love of books and sweetens the lap of luxury!

It is bittersweet for me as we wind down the summer, with just a few days left before my 21 year old son returns to college for his senior year. My 15 year old son is already busy studying for ACTs, practicing his viola for his Youth Symphony audition, and finishing his summer assignments in preparation for junior year.  Time goes so fast, especially in the summer!

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This is my older son with photobomb by Chris Martin of Coldplay!

I will be going full force trying to tackle my “To Be Read” pile of books in between my work projects, and attempting to remain sane by attending my beloved dance class at Dance Express with Luisa for the 15th year!

Hope you enjoy the last dog days of summer! (This is Bogey!)

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Thanks so much for following Book Nation by Jen!  I would love to hear about your warm weather adventures!  Did you go on vacation?  What did you read? What keeps you sane?

xo

 

Indulge in Books the Way You Would in a Well Balanced Meal!

 

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Story originally published on Booktrib.com.

Recently someone asked me about my reading choices; do I stick to one topic or do I switch it up at all? I hadn’t thought about it much before but after reviewing my recent reads, I concluded that I am a true genre hopper. I go from fiction to memoir to historical fiction, thriller, essays and nonfiction. Like a well-balanced meal, I do indulge in a bit of everything.

Click on Booktrib.com to see what’s on my table!

 

My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues by Pamela Paul

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My Review:

I received multiple copies of My Life with Bob as a gift for my birthday; evidently several people believed I would enjoy it and of course, they were right!  As a reader, what’s not to like about a book about someone who loves books.

Author Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review kept a record of everything she read in her Book of Books (Bob) for almost 30 years.  Her memoir takes us along her life journey with the list of everything she read along the way from her teen years to adulthood.  This journal, Bob, is synonymous with her, representing a diary with hopes and dreams, the good, the bad and the ugly.  The books she read impacted her life and her life influenced the books she read.  She mentions so many, lots of titles I haven’t read and some I have never heard of, but no matter, the story of her life is intriguing and interesting and her story about Bob is inspirational and motivating.

Pamela is open and honest as she shares stories from her travels, relationship issues, family matters and personal disappointments along with joys and celebrations.  When she recounts the toast her husband, Michael, made at their wedding, mentioning books she gave him early in their relationship and quoting from Great Expectations, I admit, I shed a tear. She conveyed experiences that touched her in such a way that they touched me too;  beautifully written creating a wonderful connection between author and reader.

Pamela talks about her bookclub and everyone’s answers to the question Why Read?

“I read for sheer entertainment.”

“I read to learn.”

“I read to make sense of the world.”

“I read to find out something new.”

“I read to escape.”

“I read because it makes me happy.”

“I read for discovery.”

“For each of us, there seemed to be one core need that drove us to read on.  But it was more complicated than that, as the ensuing conversation soon revealed.  Everyone experiences most of these urges at different moments, or during certain periods of our lives, which is why most good readers read widely, even if they tend to go deep into one genre or another.”

I enjoyed thinking about the various styles of books I read, and much like how music of a certain time in your like evokes feelings and memories for so many, books can do the same and more.  Pamela travelled all over the country, got married, divorced, remarried, had children, changed jobs, yet her Book of Books remained with her to ground her, keep her accountable and motivate her to continue plowing ahead, all the while representing her journey.  Each title has significance during a time in her life and the draw to keep adding to the list is real.  I wish I kept a Bob from the beginning but more recently I began to record what I read on My Goodreads Account.

Although I haven’t read nearly as much as she has and I’m sure I retain only a small percentage of what I read compared to her, I feel a connection to Pamela and a kinship over the love of books and reading. My Life with Bob is a real treat and a lovely gift for the reader in your life!

As Seen in Goodreads:

Imagine keeping a record of every book you’ve ever read. What would this reading trajectory say about you? With passion, humor, and insight, the editor of The New York Times Book Review shares the stories that have shaped her life.

Pamela Paul has kept a single book by her side for twenty-eight years – carried throughout high school and college, hauled from Paris to London to Thailand, from job to job, safely packed away and then carefully removed from apartment to house to its current perch on a shelf over her desk – reliable if frayed, anonymous-looking yet deeply personal. This book has a name: Bob.

Bob is Paul’s Book of Books, a journal that records every book she’s ever read, from Sweet Valley High to Anna Karenina, from Catch-22 to Swimming to Cambodia, a journey in reading that reflects her inner life – her fantasies and hopes, her mistakes and missteps, her dreams and her ideas, both half-baked and wholehearted. Her life, in turn, influences the books she chooses, whether for solace or escape, information or sheer entertainment.

But My Life with Bob isn’t really about those books. It’s about the deep and powerful relationship between book and reader. It’s about the way books provide each of us the perspective, courage, companionship, and imperfect self-knowledge to forge our own path. It’s about why we read what we read and how those choices make us who we are. It’s about how we make our own stories.

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About the Author:

Pamela Paul is the editor of The New York Times Book Review and the author of Parenting, Inc., Pornified, and The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. Prior to joining the Times, Paul was a contributor to Time magazine and The Economist, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and Vogue. She and her family live in New York.