A Book List for National Coffee Day

UnknownCoffee – I look forward to that first cup every morning, and today is National Coffee Day in the United States, where you can savor a free cup at a few coffee shops.  What could be better than a good cup of coffee and a good book?  

First, where can you get a free cup of coffee today?

  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Krispee Kreme
  • 7 Eleven
  • Cinnabon

 I wondered about coffee references in literature.  Can you think of any?  Here are a few from books I’ve read: 

  • from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women: “I’d rather take coffee than complements right now.”
  • from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises: “Good. Coffee is good for you. It’s the caffeine in it. Caffeine, we are here…”
  • from Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukura Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage: “The fresh smell of coffee soon wafted through the apartment, the smell that separates night from day.”
  • from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye: “That’s something that annoys the hell out of me – I mean if somebody says the coffee’s all ready and it isn’t. 
  • from T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: “I have measured my life out in coffee spoons.”

51U7v8YQdML._AC_US218_   Brazil is the largest producer of coffee (the United States is the largest consumer), so a new book set in Rio de Janeiro – The Caregiver by Samuel Park – seems appropriate for a coffee day. 

Quick Summary: “…examines the relationship between a mother and daughter after years of mutual misunderstanding. Ana, a voice-over actress, struggles to provide for her six-year-old daughter, Mara, in late 1970s Rio de Janeiro. Desperate for money, Ana takes on a dangerous job with revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the corrupt police chief. …Ana must separate from her daughter to save her from retaliation. Mara, with the help of her mother, escapes to California and years later finds work caring for a woman who’s dying of stomach cancer. During their time together, Mara begins to understand Ana in new ways as she considers her role as a caretaker.”

What are you reading as you sip your coffee today?

Related Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

 

 

 

Required Freshman Reading 2018

11971497511117136851nlyl_reading_man_with_glasses.svg.thumb         Some universities and colleges have a “Common Read” requirement for incoming freshmen.  The chosen book becomes the catalyst for writing and discussion during orientation or throughout the year in the First-Year Seminar classes.  

Here are my Top Ten from books freshmen are reading for the Fall, 2018 semester.  

Have you read any of them?

  1. Tufts University – Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
  2. Mt Holyoke College – The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
  3. University of Pennsylvania – The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder 
  4. University of Maryland – The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  5. Johns Hopkins University –  The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It  by Jo Ann Robinson
  6. University of Massachusetts Amherst – Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  7. University of Cincinnati – Radioactive by Lauren Redniss
  8. University of Arizona – On Trails by Robert Moor
  9. University of Oregon – The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
  10. Princeton University – Speak Freely by Keith Whittington

Click here to find your alma mater and the book freshman are reading for the Fall.

A Book List from Independent Booksellers

If you are looking for a good book, two local independent booksellers in Carmel, California have some suggestions.  Many titles were new to me (but then I tend to stick to fiction) so I checked out their reviews and summaries, and offered a quick assessment.

Here’s the list:

  • Reactions by Theodore Gray – the third and final installment in the trilogy of The Elements, Molecules, and Reactions – chemistry in pictures and stories. Gray offers molecule quilts too – I may find that more interesting.
  • Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman – based on the popular food blog, this cookbook promises to rival Ina, Nmartha, and Nigella with recipes and food ideas from a recovering vegetarian.  I love cookbooks and am always happy to find a new one.
  • The Undiscovered Islands by Malachy Talkack – National Geographic promises it is “Packed full of intelligent musings on everything from religion to astronomy, alchemy to the occult…an exploration of two dozen islands once believed to exist but no longer on the map.  This one might make it to my to-read list, if I can find it in the library (unlikely).
  • Van Life by Foster Huntington – photos of life on the road.  I’m not a fan.
  • Going Into Town by Roz Chast.  I read it, loved it, highly recommend it.
  • Grant by Ron Chernow – biography of Ulysses S. Grant.  I never made it through his Hamilton, so will probably skip this one.
  • The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey – Police detective Gemma Woodstock works to solve the murder of a former classmate in this debut mystery.  This one has possibilities for my audible wish list.
  • Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan – the author’s memoir.  I’m not big on memoirs, so will probably skip this one too.
  • The Child Finder by Rene Denfield – New York Times calls this “a powerful novel about a search for a missing girl that’s also a search for identity…”  and notes a comparable book would be Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.  A winner – going on my to-read list.
  • The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After Happiness by Heather Harpham – NPR says  “…Harpham relives the heartbreak, hope, and terror she experienced as she watched her infant daughter cross the abyss of a life-threatening disease. Into this tension-torqued story of sickness and health, she works in the fraught tale of her own evolving relationship with {her ex-husband}.” Might be good if you liked When Breath Becomes Air, but I think I will skip it.
  • The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas -mixed reviews about a fictional novelist who marries when she would rather write.  I might give it a try.
  • The Kinfolk Entrepreneur: Ideas for Productive Work by Nathan Williams -introduces readers to creative business owners around the globe. … a chocolatier among them.  Has pictures, so might be worth a look.

Have you read any of these?

It Happened in Monterey

I miss chatting with bookstore owners who are avid readers. With only one independent bookstore on the island (BookEnds in Kailua) and a perfunctory Barnes and Noble at the mall, the pickings are slim in Hawaii. On a recent trip to the Monterey Peninsula, I found four independent bookstores within a five mile radius, and with booksellers happy to share their favorites. Of course, I could not get out of a store without buying a book or two.  img_4298

At Bookworks in Pacific Grove, I found two books: an older (2012) Donna Leon mystery I had not read, with my favorite sleuth, Commissario Guido Brunetti – “Beastly Things,” and Joanna Trollope’s “Sense and Sensibility” (2013), her modernized version of the Jane Austen classic.

At Old Capitol Books in Monterey, I found myself scanning the stacks of old used books, some rare editions, checking off those I had read. Looking for favorite authors, I found an Amy Bloom book I had not read (at least I don’t remember reading it) – “Lucky Us.”

In Pilgrim’s Way, the charming bookstore connected to a garden in Carmel, I decided on “The Green Thoreau” and Scottish author Beatrice Colin’s “To Capture What We Cannot Keep.”

Chatting with the proprietor led me to another independent bookstore not far away – River House Books. There I found the first of Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache books – “Still Life” – recommended by a good friend, and Amy Bloom’s new book – “White Houses.” The bookseller commisserated about “Manhattan Beach” – like me, she had not been able to finish it – but I plan to try again. And her recommendation for the best page-turner she had read recently – “The Dry” – went to the top of my to-read list.

With this stack, Laura Lippman’s “Sunburn” on my iPhone and Navin’s “Only Child” on audible, I am ready for a long flight – unless, of course, the movie selection has an Oscar nominee to distract me.

Five Books To Anticipate Reading in 2018

Five Books to Pre-Order for the New Year

Unknown Winter by Ali Smith – available in the United States on January 9th.

If you enjoyed Smith’s first book in this series, Autumn, she follows up with the second in her seasonal quartet – Winter.  In her keynote lecture for this year’s Goldsmiths Prize for innovative fiction, Ali Smith promised –  “The novel (Winter) matters because of Donald Trump.”  Smith’s second novel in the series is set in the aftermath of Trump’s election; Winter has “four people, strangers and family, {who}converge on a fifteen-bedroom house in Cornwall for Christmas…It’s the season that teaches us survival.”

9780812995664 White Houses by Amy Bloom – available in the United States February 13th

Historical fiction about the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, the Associated Press journalist who fell in love with the First Lady and moved into the White House with her and the President.  Hickok was Eleanor Roosevelt’s increasingly confidante, cheerleader and intimate partner.

34888106  The Black Painting by Neil Olson – available January 9th

A wealthy East Coast family faces the suspicious death of its patriarch and the unsolved theft of a self-portrait by Goya rumored to cause madness and death. Art in a mystery thriller.

9780735221925  The Maze at Windermere by Gregory Blake – available  January 9th

  1. Five parallel stories, from Colonial times to the present, set in Newport, Rhode Island.  Smith weaves lives into “a narrative odyssey that braids together three centuries of aspiration and adversity. A witty and urbane bachelor of the Gilded Age embarks on a high-risk scheme to marry into a fortune; a young writer soon to make his mark turns himself to his craft with harrowing social consequences; an aristocratic British officer during the American Revolution carries on a courtship that leads to murder; and, in Newport’s earliest days, a tragically orphaned Quaker girl imagines a way forward for herself and the slave girl she has inherited…(Kirkus)”

51EOygu5XjL._AC_US218_The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani – available January 9th

Winner of France’s Goncourt literary prize.   Set in an apartment in the upscale tenth arrondissement of Paris, the story “is a compulsive, riveting…exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, and motherhood (Publisher’s Weekly).”   Louise is the perfect nanny to two young children; she cleans, stays late whenever asked, and hosts children’s parties, but as the parents’ dependence on her increases, she has embedded herself so deeply in their lives that it now seems impossible to remove her.