Give Yourself a Gift of Reading
With the holidays here, we hope that amidst the busyness of unwrapping presents and getting together with friends and family, perhaps you’ll find a moment or two to give yourself a gift… the gift of a good book. We asked some of our PAWLP Fellows for book suggestions, and below you’ll find a few of their responses. What could be better than a good book, some hot chocolate, and a warm fire? Wishing you and yours happy reading this holiday season!
Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis
Anthony Lewis skillfully guides the reader through a pivotal 1962 Supreme Court case which changed federal law to provide counsel to defendants. No legal background is needed to become completely enveloped in the story of a poor prisoner from Florida and his challenge to our system of criminal justice. – Recommended by Sarah Peters
The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s a page turner set during the 1927 Mississippi Flood with something for everyone—mystery, romance, explosions—though it is for mature audiences. – Recommended by Judy Jester
The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The story of a famous artist, Johannes Vermeer (1664), from the point-of-view of a poor young girl hired to prepare and supply him with his painting supplies (she is the girl). – Recommended by Maryellen Kenney
The Guernsey Literary and and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
Uplifting story of untold heroes of World War II. Renews your faith in the goodness of humanity. – Recommended by Teresa Moslak
Whether you’ve been teaching for two or twenty years, this book is a breath of fresh air. The stories and strategies for connecting with mentors is fantastic. – Recommended by Jen Ward
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Historical fiction about a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy who becomes a master at fixing radios and is recruited by the Nazi army. Their lives will intersect in a most interesting way. Five stars! – Recommended by Brenda Krupp
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
Return — as I did — to Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native, set in nineteenth century Southern England’s Egdon Heath. This reviewer travelled to her ancestral roots in 1985 in the same vicinity, to study Hardy; a return to him almost thirty years later brings bliss! His descriptive language flows like honey as readers view nature and human nature through the exploits of Eustacia Vye and Clym Yeobright, plus assorted minor characters. Hardy’s poetic flourishes play against human trials and exquisite passion. Try his beautifully contradictory “Eustacia sighed — it was no fragile maiden sigh, but a sigh which shook her like a shiver. Whenever a flash of reason darted like an electric light upon her lover — as it sometimes would —and showed his imperfections, she shivered thus. But it was over in a second, and she loved on….” – Recommended by Kathleen S. Hall Scanlon
Pete Hamill’s Snow in August brings two unlikely characters together: 11-year-old Irish Catholic Michael Devlin and Polish refugee Rabbi Judah Hirsch, from Prague. The setting is 1947, in a working-class Brooklyn neighborhood where post-war American anti-Semitism encounters community response and …magic! – Recommended by Kathleen S. Hall Scanlon
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen
Baby boomers and beyond will find many things in common with this book. As Quindlen reflects on the pillar points in her life from childhood to young woman to aging adult, she explores the topics of girlfriends, marriage, books, religion, aging and all the other stuff in between. Through her storytelling, everyday events take on deeper meaning. Her personal and political landscapes mirror many of the struggles and accomplishments of women during these last decades. Anna Quindlen is not “all things to all women.” Knowing that, she recounts what is was like for her in this place and time to make choices and take on the consequences. The book is an easy read, a gift with a reminder that “as we age we get better at being ourselves.” – Recommended by Rita Sorrentino
Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carla Rifka Brunt
Every once in a while, a book will not only surprise me, but just take my breath away. Fellow PAWLPer Brian Kelly recommended the book to me, and although I knew nothing about the novel, his recommendation was so glowing that I couldn’t resist. And I’m so glad that I didn’t. Beautifully written, the novel tells the story of 14-year-old June Elbus just after her favorite uncle—and best friend—passes away from AIDS. It’s 1987, so the AIDS scare can’t help be an important part of the context of this coming-of-age story. That said, the story is very much centered on June, her grief over the loss of her uncle, and her tumultuous relationships with her older sister Greta and their “absent” parents. But most of all, it’s the story of an unlikely friendship of two very broken people. Unforgettable voice, just stunning. – Recommended by Tricia Ebarvia
I also loved All the Light We Cannot See for all the reasons given by Brenda and Katherine. I might add that the narrative itself gives the reader much to think about. What is the nature of courage? What defines compassion? Does beauty have inherent value? Doerr is an author I look forward to reading again. I believe this is his first novel?
I agree with Brenda, 5 stars for All the Light We Cannot See! Aside from telling a beautiful story, Doerr renders lovely and lyrical prose throughout. I found myself rereading passages for the sheer beauty of the language.