Thursday, March 23, 2006

Books I want to Read - Version 1

This is a list of books on my books to read/listen to. As I read them I will highlight them on the list. All suggestions for good books are welcome

1. Saturday (Unabridged) -- Ian McEwan (CD Recording)
Saturday is a novel set within a single day in February 2003. Henry Perowne is a contented man — a successful neurosurgeon, happily married to a newspaper lawyer, and enjoying good relations with his children, who are young adults. Henry wakes to the relative comfort of his home on this, his day off. He is almost as comfortable here as he is in the operating room. Outside the hospital, the world is not so easy or predictable. There is an impending war against Iraq, and a general darkening and gathering pessimism since the New York and Washington attacks two years before and his children are now grown and making their way into this world as adults.

On this particular Saturday morning, Perowne's day moves through the ordinary to the extraordinary: from an unusual sighting in the early morning sky to his usual squash game, and from trying to avoid the hundreds of thousands of war protestors filling the streets of London, to a seemingly minor car accident.


2. My Sister's Keeper (Unabridged) -- Jodi Picoult (Cd Recording)

Conceived in vitro, 13-year-old Anna Fitzgerald has decided to sue her parents to stop them from using her as "spare parts" for her older sister, Kate, who suffers from leukemia. After years of having her bone marrow and blood used to keep Kate alive, Anna now refuses to donate a kidney and strives for her own personal freedom. She hires lawyer Campbell Alexander to represent her, even as her own mother, a former civil defense attorney, fights her in court.


3. Drowning Ruth (Unabridged)-- Christina Schwarz (CD Recording)
Winter, 1919. Amanda Starkey spends her days nursing soldiers wounded in the Great War. Finding herself suddenly overwhelmed, she flees Milwaukee and retreats to her family's farm on Nagawaukee Lake, seeking comfort with her younger sister, Mathilda, and three-year-old niece, Ruth. But very soon, Amanda comes to see that her old home is no refuge--she has carried her troubles with her. On one terrible night almost a year later, Amanda loses nearly everything that is dearest to her when her sister mysteriously disappears and is later found drowned beneath the ice that covers the lake. When Mathilda's husband comes home from the war, wounded and troubled himself, he finds that Amanda has taken charge of Ruth and the farm, assuming her responsibility with a frightening intensity. Wry and guarded, Amanda tells the story of her family in careful doses, as anxious to hide from herself as from us the secrets of her own past and of that night.

Ruth, haunted by her own memory of that fateful night, grows up under the watchful eye of her prickly and possessive aunt and gradually becomes aware of the odd events of her childhood. As she tells her own story with increasing clarity, she reveals the mounting toll that her aunt's secrets exact from her family and everyone around her, until the heartrending truth is uncovered.
Guiding us through the lives of the Starkey women, Christina Schwarz's first novel shows her compassion and a unique understanding of the American landscape and the people who live on it.


4. The Secret Life of Bees (Unabridged) -- Sue Monk Kidd (CD Recording)
Living on a peach farm in South Carolina with her harsh, unyielding father, Lily Owens has shaped her entire life around one devastating, blurred memory - the afternoon her mother was killed, when Lily was four. Since then, her only real companion has been the fierce-hearted, and sometimes just fierce, black woman Rosaleen, who acts as her "stand-in mother."

When Rosaleen insults three of the deepest racists in town, Lily knows it's time to spring them both free. They take off in the only direction Lily can think of, toward a town called Tiburon, South Carolina - a name she found on the back of a picture amid the few possessions left by her mother.

There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters named May, June, and August. Lily thinks of them as the calendar sisters and enters their mesmerizing secret world of bees and honey, and of the Black Madonna who presides over this household of strong, wise women. Maternal loss and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness entwine in a story that leads Lily to the single thing her heart longs for most.


5. The Greatest Speeches of All Time (Unabridged) (CD Recording)
Includes these famous speeches: John F. Kennedy: Inaugural, "Ich Bin Ein Berliner;" Rev, Martin Luther king, Jr.: "I Have a Dream;" Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Declaration of War; Robert F. Kennedy: Democratic Convention; Richard M. Nixon: Watergate Tapes, Resignation; Ronald Reagan; Evil Empire, Berlin Wall; Harry S. Truman: Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner; Gen. Douglas MacArthur: Farewell Address to Congress, Winston Churchill; First Radio Address as Prime Minister. Run time, 70:19 Also available as an Audio CD


6. The Millionaire Next Door (CD Recording)
In The Millionaire Next Door, read by Cotter Smith, Stanley (Marketing to the Affluent) and Danko (marketing, SUNY at Albany) summarize findings from their research into the key characteristics that explain how the elite club of millionaires have become "wealthy." Focusing on those with a net worth of at least $1 million, their surprising results reveal fundamental qualities of this group that are diametrically opposed to today's earn-and-consume culture, including living below their means, allocating funds efficiently in ways that build wealth, ignoring conspicuous consumption, being proficient in targeting marketing opportunities, and choosing the "right" occupation. It's evident that anyone can accumulate wealth, if they are disciplined enough, determined to persevere, and have the merest of luck. In The Millionaire Mind, an excellent follow-up to the highly successful first analysis of how ordinary folks can accumulate wealth, Stanley interviews many more participants in a much more comprehensive study of the characteristics of those in this economic situation. The author structures these deeper details into categories that include the key success factors that define this group, the relationship of education to their success, their approach to balancing risk, how they located themselves in their work, their choice of spouse, how they live their daily lives, and the significant differences in the truth about this group vs. the misplaced image of high spenders. Narrator Smith's solid, dead-on reading never fails to heighten the importance of these principles that most twentysomethings should be forced to listen to in toto.


7. Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Stone, Douglas) (CD Recording)
Nobody tells you how to discuss the hard things. You may learn from your parents how to "play fair." You're taught that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all, and a few other gems. But how are you supposed to know what to say to a boss who undermines you in a big meeting? What do you do when you keep having the same, but increasingly annoying, argument with your spouse? How about (my personal favorite) dealing with the noisy neighbors? Sometimes these conversations happen in a fit of anger, in which case not much usually improves. Sometimes we plan strategically with friends. Their advice, and our own ideas about how to broach difficult matters, come from experience, which is nothing to be scoffed at. But often we fret in nervous anticipation, stumble through a conversation, come away frustrated or fail to get the desired results. We are left to wonder: If we'd approached the issue differently, could we be better satisfied with the outcome?


8. The Curious incident of the dog -- Mark Haddon

Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. Although gifted with a superbly logical brain, Christopher is autistic. Everyday interactions and admonishments have little meaning for him. Routine, order and predictability shelter him from the messy, wider world. Then, at fifteen, Christopher’s carefully constructed world falls apart when he finds his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, impaled on a garden fork, and he is initially blamed for the killing.
Christopher decides that he will track down the real killer and turns to his favorite fictional character, the impeccably logical Sherlock Holmes, for inspiration. But the investigation leads him down some unexpected paths and ultimately brings him face to face with the dissolution of his parents’ marriage. As he tries to deal with the crisis within his own family, we are drawn into the workings of Christopher’s mind.


9. Until I Find You - John Irving
So begins John Irving's eleventh novel, Until I Find You — the story of the actor Jack Burns. His mother, Alice, is a Toronto tattoo artist. When Jack is four, he travels with Alice to several North Sea ports; they are trying to find Jack's missing father, William, a church organist who is addicted to being tattooed. But Alice is a mystery, and William can't be found. Even Jack's memories are subject to doubt.

Jack Burns goes to schools in Canada and New England, but what shapes him are his relationships with older women. John Irving renders Jack's life as an actor in Hollywood with the same richness of detail and range of emotions he uses to describe the tattoo parlors in those North Sea ports and the reverberating music Jack heard as a child in European churches.


10. The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell, Dustin Thomason
Princeton. Good Friday, 1999. On the eve of graduation, two students are a hairsbreadth from solving the mysteries of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Famous for its hypnotic power over those who study it, the five-hundred-year-old Hypnerotomachia may finally reveal its secrets -- to Tom Sullivan, whose father was obsessed with the book, and Paul Harris, whose future depends on it. As the deadline looms, research has stalled -- until an ancient diary surfaces. What Tom and Paul discover inside shocks even them: proof that the location of a hidden crypt has been ciphered within the pages of the obscure Renaissance text.

Armed with this final clue, the two friends delve into the bizarre world of the Hypnerotomachia -- a world of forgotten erudition, strange sexual appetites, and terrible violence. But just as they begin to realize the magnitude of their discovery, Princeton's snowy campus is rocked: a longtime student of the book is murdered, shot dead in the hushed halls of the history department.


11. A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive by Dave Pelzer
This book chronicles the unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history. It is the story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games--games that left him nearly dead. He had to learn how to play his mother's games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy, but an "it."

Dave's bed was an old army cot in the basement, and his clothes were torn and raunchy. When his mother allowed him the luxury of food, it was nothing more than spoiled scraps that even the dogs refused to eat. The outside world knew nothing of his living nightmare. He had nothing or no one to turn to, but his dreams kept him alive--dreams of someone taking care of him, loving him and calling him their son.


12. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman
When scholars write the history of the world twenty years from now, and they come to the chapter "Y2K to March 2004," what will they say was most important? The attack on the World Trade Center and the Iraq war? Or the convergence of PCs, telecom and workflow softwares into a tipping point that allowed India to become part of the global supply chain for services the way China had become for manufacturing--creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world's two biggest nations (India and China), giving both nations a huge new stake in the success of globalization, but also flattening the world in a way that requires us all to run faster in order to stay in place? Has the world gotten too small, too fast, and too flat for human beings and their political systems to adjust in a stable manner?


13. The Shop on Blosson Street.
A Seattle knitting store brings together four very different women in this earnest tale about friendship and love. Lydia Hoffman, a two-time cancer survivor, opens the shop A Good Yarn as a symbol of the new life she plans to lead. She starts a weekly knitting class, hoping to improve business and make friends in the area. The initial class project is a baby blanket, and Macomber (Changing Habits), a knitter herself who offers tips about the craft and pithy observations from knitting professionals throughout the novel, includes the knitting pattern at the start of the book. Well-heeled Jacqueline Donovan, who chooses to ignore her empty marriage, disguises her disdain for her pregnant daughter-in-law by knitting a baby blanket. Carol Girard joins the group as an affirmation of her hopes to finally have a successful in vitro pregnancy. Alix Townsend, a high school dropout with an absentee father and a mother incarcerated for forging checks, uses the class to satisfy a court-ordered community service sentence for a drug-possession conviction for which her roommate is really responsible. Unfortunately, Macomber doesn't get much below the surface of her characters, and, although they all have interesting back stories, the arc of each individual happy ending is too predictable. The only surprise involves Alix's hapless, overweight roommate, Laurel, and even this smacks of plot-driven manipulation. Macomber is an adept storyteller overall, however, and many will be entertained by this well-paced story about four women finding happiness and fulfillment through their growing friendships. Agent, Irene Goodman. (May) Forecast: The religious overtones of Macomber's novel may throw some readers, but the author should attract her usual sizeable readership and pick up some fans of Chiaverini's Elm Creek Quilts series. Author tour. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.


14. The Widow of the South
In 1894 Carrie McGavock is an old woman who has only her former slave to keep her company…and the almost 1,500 soldiers buried in her backyard. Years before, rather than let someone plow over the field where these young men had been buried, Carrie dug them up and reburied them in her own personal cemetery. Now, as she walks the rows of the dead, an old soldier appears. It is the man she met on the day of the battle that changed everything. The man who came to her house as a wounded soldier and left with her heart. He asks if the cemetery has room for one more.

In an extraordinary debut novel, based on a remarkable true story, Robert Hicks draws an unforgettable, panoramic portrait of a woman who, through love and loss, found a cause. Known throughout the country as "the Widow of the South," Carrie McGavock gave her heart first to a stranger, then to a tract of hallowed ground-and became a symbol of a nation's soul.

The novel flashes back thirty years to the afternoon of the Battle of Franklin, five of the bloodiest hours of the Civil War. There were 9,200 casualties that fateful day. Carrie's home -- the Carnton plantation -- was taken over by the Confederate army and turned into a hospital; four generals lay dead on her back porch; the pile of amputated limbs rose as tall as the smoke house. And when a wounded soldier named Zachariah Cashwell arrived and awakened feelings she had thought long dead, Carrie found herself inexplicably drawn to him despite the boundaries of class and decorum. The story that ensues between Carrie and Cashwell is just as unforgettable as the battle from which it is drawn.


15. The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries
Marilyn Johnson

The New York Times comes each morning and never fails to deliver news of the important dead. Every day is new; every day is fraught with significance. I arrange my cup of tea, prop up my slippers. Obituaries are history as it is happening. Whose time am I living in? Was he a success or a failure, lucky or doomed, older than I am or younger? Did she know how to live? I shake out the pages. Tell me the secret of a good life!

Where else can you celebrate the life of the pharmacist who moonlighted as a spy, the genius behind Sea Monkeys, the school lunch lady who spent her evenings as a ballroom hostess?

The Dead Beat is the story of how these stories get told

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