Leslie's Bookcase

celebrating and recommending unforgettable books

Category: Recent Classics (page 1 of 2)

The Sympathizer – on page and in person

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer: A Novel won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. This book was already on my radar; I enjoyed two other recent winners of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction:

RELATED POST: All the Light We Cannot See (winner 2015)

RELATED POST: Underground Railroad (winner 2017)

So when I saw he was coming to my town to speak, I paused work on my summer reading list, which I am frantically trying to finish, to read this award-winning novel. And what a great decision this was!!! Reading this book plus seeing him speak and experiencing the audience’s reaction to his book ending up a highlight of my literary year.

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Celebrating “The Glass Castle” before the movie

Let’s celebrate the The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls as the movie is released.

For me, never before has a memoir read so much like fiction and never before have I both loved and hated the same “character” so much.

If you haven’t read this book yet (of course many of you have as it was on the bestsellers list for a few years) I highly recommend doing so either before or instead of the movie.

Even if you have already read the book I hope you will enjoy reminiscing a bit with me.

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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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2016 Roundup: Favorite books and most popular posts

As 2016 winds down, I wanted to reflect on my first year of running Leslie’s Bookcase.

I started my new website and blog on June 1, 2016. I planned to read and write about the books already sitting in my own bookcase.  Well, as it turns out, 1) many of those books had been sitting there so long for a reason – because I wasn’t too excited about reading them; and 2) thanks to my new status as a “book blogger” I received access to some pre-releases. Well, this access resulted in my being super excited about reading new books (instead of the ones sitting in my bookcase), so I continued through 2016 reading mostly new releases.

To wrap up 2016, I decided to rank my favorite books published in the past year. Disclaimers: I have not read even close to all of the books that should be considered for such a list; I have not even made it through my fall-winter reading list yet. If my full-time job was to read books I would probably have a much different list! But, I read what I read, making a good effort to keep up with the buzz and what books most interested me.

To narrow to my five favorites, I imagined all of the new books I’ve read on a shelf, and if I was allowing myself to only keep five, what would they be? Which books would I be most confident handing to someone else and saying, “Here, read this”? With that said, here are my favorites from 2016:

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The Book Thief: Unforgettable

As you may remember, I’ve been reading my way through WWII. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is my latest read in this genre. Due to some stylistic choices and a story line that is close to my heart and this blog (books!), I’m naming it as one of my favorites of this genre. Here’s why:

Narration:

One of the most intriguing narrators I can remember, “Death” tells this story. Death’s point of view is interesting, profound, and even humorous, dryly of course, as you would expect death’s humor to be. Death is also very tired, especially during this setting. As busy as Death is, it still takes the time to notice the color of the sky at each soul’s taking.

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The Nightingale – an emotional story of German occupation and French resistance

A story of two sisters living in German-occupied France during WWII, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale depicts women who moved beyond survival to actively aid the resistance movement.

The younger rebellious sister is not content to just survive the occupation and wants to do more to help the resistance, and she does. The older sister, who must also consider her daughter after her husband goes to war, focuses on survival, at first anyway.

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“All the Light We Cannot See” – the glorious sea and Claire de Lune

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they are closed forever.” – Anthony Doerr in All the Light We Cannot See

A Pulitzer-Prize-winning bestseller hardly needs my recommendation. And you likely don’t need another raving review telling you the story line of All the Light We Cannot See, which of course includes a blind French girl and a conflicted Nazi-youth, both coming of age in WWII Europe.

Thus, my reflections today focus on the glorious sea and the power of the radio, especially its music. (no spoliers!)

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Seven books I want to read again right now

“If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he re-reads.” – Francois Mauriac

Lately I have been reading books I feel like I SHOULD read. Granted I have enjoyed parts of them, am glad I am reading them, BUT are they books that draw me back towards them every hour of the day until I finish the last page? Are they books I will want to read again someday? Unfortunately, NO.

With this in mind, yesterday I wondered longingly over to my bookcases and pulled out these seven books that I not only enjoyed and could not put down, but that I would love to (or already have) re-read:

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Friday Night Lights after 25 Years

I finished Friday Night Lights, a book I have been meaning to read for more than two decades, as part of my goal to read 40 books from my own bookcase. Thanks to the recent 25 year anniversary, my experience was not as outdated as I initially feared.

I expected to read about high school football as the center of the community and how this was/is a great thing. However, what I read was both exciting and horrifying.

In Odessa, Texas, at 16-18 years old, these boys were treated as heroes, flying to games on chartered jets, and playing in venues like the Sun Bowl. What most of them were not doing was regular schoolwork or concerning themselves with life after football or high school. This was not their fault because this town condoned the “football above all” mentality  from early childhood.

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Father’s Day picks from my bookcase

Books are always a great gift for the fathers in your life…(except for my dad who has already read everything and my husband who rarely finishes a book anymore…) But for everyone else…here are five recommendations from my own bookcase for Father’s Day gifts:

For someone having Walking Dead withdrawals:World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. If he’s seen the movie, don’t worry because the book is totally different. I read this in a graduate literature class, and my husband (a big walking dead fan) picked it up during a previous off-season and loved how it allows the reader to experience an outbreak from multiple perspectives.


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