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A Today Show Summer Reads Pick

A Washington Post Book of the Year

"We think we know the ones we love." So Pearlie Cook begins her indirect, and devastating exploration of the mystery at the heart of every relationship--how we can ever truly know another person.

It is 1953 and Pearlie, a dutiful young housewife, finds herself living in the Sunset District in San Francisco, caring not only for her husband's fragile health, but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio. Then, one Saturday morning, a stranger appears on her doorstep, and everything changes. Lyrical, and surprising, The Story of a Marriage is, in the words of Khaled Housseini, "a book about love, and it is a marvel to watch Greer probe the mysteries of love to such devastating effect."

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Through Mandelbaum’s poetic artistry, this gloriously entertaining achievement of literature-classical myths filtered through the worldly and far from reverent sensibility of the Roman poet Ovid-is revealed anew. “[An] extraordinary translation. . .brilliant” (Booklist). With an Introduction by the Translator.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED. With a new Introduction by Cedric Watts, Research Professor of English, University of Sussex. James Joyces astonishing masterpiece, Ulysses, tells of the diverse events which befall Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus in Dublin on 16 June 1904, during which Blooms voluptuous wife, Molly, commits adultery. Initially deemed obscene in England and the USA, this richly-allusive novel, revolutionary in its Modernistic experimentalism, was hailed as a work of genius by W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway. Scandalously frank, wittily erudite, mercurially eloquent, resourcefully comic and generously humane, Ulysses offers the reader a life-changing experience.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

From a genuine hero of the American short story comes a luminous collection that reveals the seams of hurt, courage, and tenderness that run through the bedrock of contemporary American life. In these fourteen stories, Dubus depicts ordinary men and women confronting injury and loneliness, the lack of love and the terror of actually having it. Out of his characters' struggles and small failures--and their unexpected moments of redemption--Dubus creates fiction that bears comparison to the short story's greatest creators--Chekhov, Raymond Carver, Flannery O'Connor.

"A master of the short story...It's good to have Andre Dubus back. More than ever, he is an object of hope."--Philadelphia Inquirer

"Dubus's detailed creation of three-dimensional characters is propelled by his ability to turn a quiet but perfect phrase...[This] kind of writing raises gooseflesh of admiration."--San Francisco Chronicle

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

A modern classic, Housekeeping is the story of Ruth and her younger sister, Lucille, who grow up haphazardly, first under the care of their competent grandmother, then of two comically bumbling great-aunts, and finally of Sylvie, their eccentric and remote aunt. The family house is in the small Far West town of Fingerbone set on a glacial lake, the same lake where their grandfather died in a spectacular train wreck, and their mother drove off a cliff to her death. It is a town "chastened by an outsized landscape and extravagant weather, and chastened again by an awareness that the whole of human history had occurred elsewhere." Ruth and Lucille's struggle toward adulthood beautifully illuminates the price of loss and survival, and the dangerous and deep undertow of transience.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

From the National Book Award nominated, New York Times bestselling author of A Short History of Women and The Sunken Cathedral, Walbert’s beautiful and heartbreaking novel about a young woman coming of age in the long shadow of World War II—“An intricately plotted, thrillingly imagined ­narrative...A masterpiece” (The New York Times Book Review).

Forty years after enduring the Second World War as a young woman, Ellen relates the events of this turbulent period, beginning with the death of her favorite cousin, Randall, with whom she shared Easter Sundays, childhood secrets, and, perhaps, the first taste of love. When he dies on Iwo Jima, she turns to the legacy he left her: his diary and a book called The Gardens of Kyoto. Each one subtly influences her perception of her place in the world, the nature of her memories.

Moving back and forth through time and place, Kate Walbert recreates a world touched by the shadows of war and a society in which women fit their desires into prescribed roles. Unfolding in lyrical, seductive prose, The Gardens of Kyoto becomes a mesmerizing exploration of the interplay of love and loss.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

The fifty poems in "American Primitive" make up a body of luminous unity. Mary Oliver's visionary poems enunciate the renewals of nature and the renewals of humanity in love, in oneness with the natural, in union with the things of this world. Lyrical and elegiac, Mary Oliver celebrates the primitiave things of America - the wilderness that survives both within our bodies and outside - in ."..the cords/ of my body stretching/ and singing in the/ heaven of appetite."

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A modern verse play about the search for meaning, in which a psychiatrist is the catalyst for the action. “An authentic modern masterpiece” (New York Post). “Eliot really does portray real-seeming characters. He cuts down his poetic effects to the minimum, and then finally rewards us with most beautiful poetry” (Stephen Spender).

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was first published in three serialized excerpts in the New Yorker in June of 1962. The book appeared in September of that year and the outcry that followed its publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Direct and vivid in her account of Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party, Virginia Woolf explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life.

 

In Mrs. Dalloway, the novel on which the movie The Hours was based, Virginia Woolf details Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess, exploring the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life. The novel "contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English, and that alone would be reason enough to read it. It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century" (Michael Cunningham).

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Helen DeWitt's extraordinary debut, The Last Samurai, centers on the relationship between Sibylla, a single mother of precocious and rigorous intelligence, and her son, who, owing to his mother's singular attitude to education, develops into a prodigy of learning. Ludo reads Homer in the original Greek at 4 before moving on to Hebrew, Japanese, Old Norse, and Inuit; studying advanced mathematical techniques (Fourier analysis and Laplace transformations); and, as the title hints, endlessly watching and analyzing Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, The Seven Samurai. But the one question that eludes an answer is that of the name of his father: Sibylla believes the film obliquely provides the male role models that Ludo's genetic father cannot, and refuses to be drawn on the question of paternal identity. The child thinks differently, however, and eventually sets out on a search, one that leads him beyond the certainties of acquired knowledge into the complex and messy world of adults.The novel draws on themes topical and perennial--the hothousing of children, the familiar literary trope of the quest for the (absent) father--and as such, divides itself into two halves: the first describes Ludo's education, the second follows him in his search for his father and father figures. The first stresses a sacred, Apollonian pursuit of logic, precise (if wayward) erudition, and the erratic and endlessly fascinating architecture of languages, while the second moves this knowledge into the world of emotion, human ambitions, and their attendant frustrations and failures.The Last Samurai is about the pleasure of ideas, the rich varieties of human thought, the possibilities that life offers us, and, ultimately, the balance between the structures we make of the world and the chaos that it proffers in return. Stylistically, the novel mirrors this ambivalence: DeWitt's remarkable prose follows the shifts and breaks of human consciousness and memory, capturing the intrusions of unspoken thought that punctuate conversation while providing tantalizing disquisitions on, for example, Japanese grammar or the physics of aerodynamics. It is remarkable, profound, and often very funny. Arigato DeWitt-sensei. --Burhan Tufail

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is the story of a dramatic year in Virginia's Roanoke Valley. Annie Dillard sets out to see what she can see. What she sees are astonishing incidents of "beauty tangled in a rapture with violence."

Her personal narrative highlights one year's exploration on foot in the Virginia region through which Tinker Creek runs. In the summer, Dillard stalks muskrats in the creek and contemplates wave mechanics; in the fall, she watches a monarch butterfly migration and dreams of Arctic caribou. She tries to con a coot; she collects pond water and examines it under a microscope. She unties a snake skin, witnesses a flood, and plays King of the Meadow with a field of grasshoppers. The result is an exhilarating tale of nature and its seasons.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Introduction and Notes by Dr Sally Minogue, Canterbury Christ Church University College. Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage. She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester. However, there is great kindness and warmth in this epic love story, which is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Yorkshire moors.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

In the wise and beautiful second collection from the acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning #1 New York Times bestselling author of All the Light We Cannot See, "Doerr writes about the big questions, the imponderables, the major metaphysical dreads, and he does it fearlessly" (The New York Times Book Review).

Set on four continents, Anthony Doerr's new stories are about memory, the source of meaning and coherence in our lives, the fragile thread that connects us to ourselves and to others. Every hour, says Doerr, all over the globe, an infinite number of memories disappear. Yet at the same time children, surveying territory that is entirely new to them, push back the darkness, form fresh memories, and remake the world.

In the luminous and beautiful title story, a young boy in South Africa comes to possess an old woman's secret, a piece of the past with the power to redeem a life. In "The River Nemunas," a teenage orphan moves from Kansas to Lithuania to live with her grandfather, and discovers a world in which myth becomes real. "Village 113," winner of an O'Henry Prize, is about the building of the Three Gorges Dam and the seed keeper who guards the history of a village soon to be submerged. And in "Afterworld," the radiant, cathartic final story, a woman who escaped the Holocaust is haunted by visions of her childhood friends in Germany, yet finds solace in the tender ministrations of her grandson.

Every story in Memory Wall is a reminder of the grandeur of life--of the mysterious beauty of seeds, of fossils, of sturgeon, of clouds, of radios, of leaves, of the breathtaking fortune of living in this universe. Doerr's language, his witness, his imagination, and his humanity are unparalleled in fiction today.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

Awe and exhiliration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in Lolita, Nabokov's most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

Found via: Ideal Bookshelf

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