Leslie's Bookcase

celebrating and recommending unforgettable books

Category: New! (page 2 of 4)

These are the newest books I’ve recommended.

Homegoing….an epic, beautiful, absorbing novel

Homegoing: A Novel is an epic story spanning two continents and several lifetimes.

In eighteenth-century Ghana, two half-sisters are unaware of each other’s existence. One sister lives upstairs, in luxury, at Cape Coast Castle while the other is being held captive in the castle’s dungeon to be sold into American slavery.

Yaa Gyasi’s novel follows the descendants of these two women; each chapter is about a new generation. Thankfully, she has provided a family tree at the front of the book, and I referred to this often because I wanted to completely understand who I was reading about in each chapter. Each of these chapters, which covers only a snippet of each life, could have warranted a novel in its own right. I was NEVER ready to move on from each person’s story, but I always soon found myself immersed in the next person’s story.

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Joining the circus in The Orphan’s Tale

Like one of the characters in The Orphan’s Tale: A Novel, I didn’t expect to find myself in a circus during a WWII read.

“…it is hard to believe that such a world still exists even during the war. I might have been less surprised to find myself on the moon,” says Noa after finding refuge in a circus troupe.

Not to be confused with the previously bestselling Orphan Train, especially since the cover of this newer book has a train and instead of a circus, The Orphan Tale by Pam Jenoff is set in WWII Europe.

Noa, cast away by her family for becoming pregnant, rescues another baby boy from a boxcar of Jewish infants headed towards a concentration camp. Then, taken in by a German circus, Noa gets training in the art of trapeze and also finds deep friendship from her mentor Astrid, who has her own secrets and heartaches.

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Born to Run – Part I

I’m reading the new Bruce Springsteen memoir Born to Run slowly, savoring it.

A third of the way through, I’m to the point where he has released his first album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.

A tidbit of what he says about his Asbury Park album:

…the lyrics and spirit of Greetings come from an unself-consicous place. Your early songs emerge from a moment when you’re writing with no sure prospect of ever being heard. Up until then, it’s been just you and your music. This only happens once.

I listened to the album again and heard it differently than before – an awesome experience with this new insight.

So far I’ve learned about his childhood, his relationship with his parents and grandparents, his inspirations,  and the source of some of his songs, for example “The River” is a tribute to his sister and brother-in-law.

I’ve learned how hard he truly worked for his first opportunities. Natural talent – yes he had that – but he worked his a$$ off to get better. He was so focused and he didn’t even have a drink of alcohol until after he recorded his first album (the funny story of his drinking Tequila for the first time is what I just read about!).

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Reflections on Hillbilly Elegy

An elegy by definition is “a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.”

J.D. Vance’s new memoir, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, currently a bestseller and a hot item with a long waiting list at any public library is certainly a serious reflection on his growing up a “hillbilly,” and it does express grief for his grandparents, both for whom I cried real tears while reading this book.

Early on he says the book is about how this culture (Kentucky Appalachia and Ohio Rust Belt) is known for “reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”

Vance can talk about these problems in a way others can’t get away with because he lived through it himself and somehow came out a Yale-educated lawyer.

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Beyond the Bookcase: The Hidden Life of Trees

One of my goals for the new year is to read at least six environmental books. My first was a beautiful book about how trees in a forest feel and communicate: The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World. Did you know research shows trees behave like human families and human communities? Tree parents live with their children, communicating and supporting them. The trees in a undisturbed forest also function socially, helping the sick and warning each other of dangers.

The author Peter Wohlleben is a forester in Germany; his book was recently translated into English due to high demand.

The book starts out like a love song to trees and forests (and this was my favorite part!) and then it continues on like a layman’s textbook teaching how trees grow, survive, and die. Most interesting (to me ) is that the trees in forests work together for the success of all.

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Moonglow, Moonlight, and the phases of the moon

Last week I finished the book “Moonglow” and saw the movie “Moonlight.”

My double moon experience was a coincidence, but it left me contemplating these vastly different life stories with references to the same moon.

Moonglow: A Novel

Moonglow was on my Fall-Winter reading list and it has since been named as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards. It is based on the death-bed confessions of the author’s grandpa, including many stories he heard for the first time in the last week or so of his grandfather’s life.

The title here references the grandfather’s passion for space travel. I will never look at the official photo of the Challenger space crew the same due to one of the stories told in this book! Also, the first time he saw his wife was by “moonglow.”

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The Last Days of Night: Electricity, law, and intrigue

The Last Days of Night: A Novel was certainly out of my comfort zone, revolving around electricity, patent law, and Wall Street.

A fictionalized yet well researched version of events related to the invention and production of electricity, specifically the rivalry and patent lawsuit for the light bulb, Edison vs. Westinghouse, the novel centers on the young and inexperienced attorney representing Westinghouse. A bit of New York society is thrown in, which I enjoyed, and also a dose of intrigue with questionable behaviors from most of the characters.

I learned for example exactly what creates electrical current, the difference between A/C and D/C, and that Tesla is not just the band that opened for Poison when I was in the 8th grade. (For the record I ended up loving Tesla for themselves…I still LOVE the song Love Song!)

And even with all this “information” it was still an entertaining read! Plus when I turn on my reading light at night,  I appreciate it a bit more now.

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My enclosure in E2 with “The Terranauts”

I just reentered my usual world after spending some time inside T.C. Boyle’s E2 world with The Terranauts: A Novel.

“The Terranauts” are eight scientists chosen to live in E2 (Earth 2) as opposed to E1 (the planet where we all currently live). E2 is a glass-enclosed terrarium that includes a rainforest, savanna, desert, ocean, and marsh, and theoretically everything they need to cultivate for surviving two years until they are allowed back out into E1. As part of a scientific project and publicity stunt, the E2 inhabitants are closely monitored by the experiments’ creator and the public, making it an “epic story of science, society, sex, and survival” as the book cover promises.

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A quick note on Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Commonwealth is the first Ann Patchett novel I’ve read…since I’ve spent the last several years  reading old books and studying Ulysses. Wow, how I’m loving NEW books. More on that later!

Commonwealth wasn’t one of my favorite reads of the years but I still consider it “post-worthy.” (If I don’t like a book much at all I won’t post about it however I still will likely update my goodreads account.)

Obviously the 36 people waiting for this book at my local library are hoping this is a post-worthy book! Wow!! I reserve a lot of books and this is the most people I’ve noticed waiting for a certain book. I certainly bought into the hype and temporarily abandoned my fall-winter reading list.

I’ll start with what I liked about the book.

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The Nix: You’ve got to represent!

I was pleasantly surprised by The Nix: A novel especially since I nearly abandoned it after 200 pages…this book is the longest work of fiction I can remember reading since Ulysses for my Master’s program!

The various story lines revolve around Samuel, a depressed English professor who was abandoned by his mom decades ago. He has no idea why she left or where she went until she’s on the news for attacking a presidential candidate. The (exaggerated) headline evolves to read “RADICAL HIPPIE PROSTITUTE TEACHER BLINDS GOV. PACKER IN VICIOUS ATTACK.” As his mom faces serious charges, Samuel embarks on an adventure of discovery about her past and his own.

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