Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know — Malcolm Gladwell
This was my fifth Malcolm Gladwell book. I’m pretty much convinced he’s the smartest person in the world, and everything he writes will interest me. Gladwell isn’t shy about broaching difficult topics. Throughout Talking with Strangers, he returns to the story of Sandra Bland and all that went wrong when she was pulled over on a Texas highway in 2015. The book touches upon everything from the Jerry Sandusky case to campus sexual assault to the suicide of Sylvia Plath. Be sure to listen to the audiobook version, which includes interviews and a haunting song about racial injustice.
The Seventh Book of Wonders — Juliana Baggott
I’m a long-time reader of the author-led blog, Writer Unboxed. Several times posts by Julianna Baggott have intrigued me enough that I’ve gone to her website to learn more.
This book — told in four voices over three generations — is strangely wonderful and wonderfully strange. It centers on the wildly successful, reclusive novelist, Harriet Wolf, who never finished her seven-book series, a love story that follows two characters over decades. Mysterious as Harriet is to her fans, her past is just as unknown to her family. Interspersed with present-day narratives, readers learn of Harriet’s childhood at the Maryland School for Feeble Minded Children and her one true love, Eppitt Clapp. Julianna Baggott worked on this rich, detailed, and layered book for eighteen years — a testament to the creative process and a commitment to the characters she loved. I adored this book.
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
I’ve been intrigued by the Pack Horse Librarian Project since reading The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek last year. Alice has left England with her new American husband to settle in the small town of Baileyville, Kentucky. She doesn’t fit in — not in her community or with her new family. It’s becoming a Book Woman that opens to her the beauty of Appalachia and its strong mountain people, a true circle of friends, and a second chance at love.
It’s a Pumpkin! by Wendy McClure, illustrated by Kate Kronreif
My editor Wendy is also an author. Her latest picture book, It’s a Pumpkin!, is a delight. When woodland creates (in jaunty cardigans and scarves) find a pumpkin, they’re not sure what it is or what do do with it. The pumpkin becomes a chair, a table, a lamp with a smiling face, and ultimately, a pie. When a new pumpkin grows from discarded seeds, they know exactly what it is — a time to celebrate. A sweet addition to any fall picture book collection.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
I started this audiobook months ago but set it aside when other long-awaited books became available. I’m so glad I returned to it! Coyote Sunrise and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in a converted bus for five years. They’ve left their past behind, even giving themselves new names for their fresh start. In time, readers learn of their painful past and Coyote’s time-sensitive need: to retrieve a box filled with memories — one that is 3,000 miles — away before it’s too late. The characterization is wonderful, and the story is tenderly beautiful. There’s a fun cast of characters and really thoughtful interiority. Coyote has received a lot of well-deserved praise (Katherine Applegate calls it a “joyful miracle of a book”). To prepare for your read (and a virtual ride on the bus) be ready for the three questions that get you on board: What’s your favorite book? What’s your favorite place? What’s your favorite sandwich?
True Grit by Charles Portis
I joined a book club a few months ago that only reads classics (defined by the group as a book written by a dead author!). This summer I’d read about someone who’d re-read every book Charles Portis had written. That had to make the books good, right? When I realized Portis had written True Grit, which I’d always meant to read, and when I learned he’d recently ridden off into the sunset (so to speak), I offered the book up as my book club consideration.
Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross of Yell County Arkansas is determined to avenge her father’s death. She hires the best US Marshall she can find, the one-eyed, shoot-first-ask-questions-later Rooster Cogburn, and convinces him to let her follow him as he tracks her man. Truly gritty and truly good.
What have you been reading of late?
This post contains affiliate links. More details here.
Joanne R Fritz says
I remember reading TRUE GRIT many years ago, probably when it was new (and before the John Wayne movie!). I still remember loving the voice.
Wanted to let you know, Caroline, that I recently finished reading YEAR OF WONDERS by Geraldine Brooks, which you recommended in one of these posts a few months ago. I was so impressed by her writing, the characters, and the details she gives us about that year in a plague village in England. Even though it’s intense and sad, the writing is so gorgeous I now want to read everything she’s written!
Oh, I’m so glad you read YEAR OF WONDERS! I think in 2020 we can understand it better than at any other time — since it published, at least. The only other Brooks book I’ve read was PEOPLE OF THE BOOK, one of those through the centuries stories (I love that sort of thing).
Betsy Farquhar says
Oh, True Grit was such an interesting read! I read that last winter (I think–time has blurred a bit this year, hasn’t it?).
I’ve been re-reading quite a bit lately in preparation for book clubs and such, but one new-to-me read which has captivated me is The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty. I’m only about a quarter of the way in, but I’m enjoying her writing. It feels like it might be an introspective/thoughtful type of book instead of action/adventure/romance; so far, so good.
I need to read more Eudora Welty. Adding to my list!
I remember reading One Writer’s Beginnings for my AP Language and Comp class WAY back in high school. I enjoyed it, but don’t remember the book much.
I’ve read a few Pulitzer Prize winners this year and needed one more to make it a nice 5 for the year. The Optimist’s Daughter won the Pulitzer, so it seemed like a good choice. It’s an interesting fit with the others I read this year: To Kill a Mockingbird (which was a re-read for the infinite time), The Yearling, The Angle of Repose. All are similarly introspective works in their way. I’m wondering if more Pulitzers are like this? (I’m also working through Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard as one of the 5, but it’s a bit different.)
So many good things here! I read your comment while walking my dog and rushed in to respond.
Mockingbird, of course, has always been a favorite, but your other three are dear to my heart, too. I read The Yearling in fifth grade and then again with an after-school book club. Such a beautiful book. I’ve read Angle of Repose twice. I adore Stegner. I remember talk that part of the storyline was heavily borrowed (plagiarized?) from a lesser-known book published by a woman, which makes me very sad, but I still have to say I love it. And Tinker Creek. So beautiful. I love a book about nature and writing, and this one is the tops.
Betsy Farquhar says
Sounds like we’re kindred spirits! That’s interesting about Stegner’s work–the book feels very much like a women’s book in so many places. (And in others, very much NOT a women’s book 😉 ).
I haven’t read even one of these! Thanks for sharing your finds!
I hope you find something to enjoy!