A Tale for the Time Being

Rating:  A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki. Penguin Books (2013), 432 pages. Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being was a finalist for the 2013 Booker prize. It has been praised in   over thirty reviews from major newspapers and magazines as “masterful,”...

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography

Rating:  Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill. South Dakota Historical Society Press (2014), 448 pages. Laura wrote this autobiography in 1930, and tried unsuccessfully for many years to get it...

The Almost Nearly Perfect People

Rating:  The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia, by Michael Booth. Picador (2015), 400 pages. As a geography-challenged American, the Scandinavian countries have always been bunched together in my mind into one...

Two Years Before the Mast

Rating:  Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative of Life at Sea, by Richard Henry Dana. Signet Classics (1840), 432 pages. This book is quite well-known and already has legions of devoted fans; my purpose here is to urge reluctant readers to give...

Stargazing Dog

Rating:  Stargazing Dog, by Takashi Murakami. NBM Publishing (2011), 128 pages. Stargazing Dog was first published in Japan in 2008, where it has sold over a half million copies. It’s a relatively short graphic novel that should take about a half hour to...

Gone Girl

Rating:  Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. Crown (2012), 419 pages. Flynn is a writer in the mystery and crime genres—two categories I almost never read. Her latest book, however, was described as a psychological portrait of a marriage—a plot I almost always want...

Dog Boy

Rating:   Dog Boy, by Eva Hornung. Viking (2010), 288 pages. I don’t know if there any other novels about abandoned Russian children raised by feral dogs. (If you know of any, please let The Book Shark know!) The fact that Dog Boy may be the only such book...

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Rating:   Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson. Random House (2011), 353 pages. I borrowed this from a friend with the understanding that it is a quiet story about two old widowed people falling in love, which admittedly doesn’t sound terribly...

Throw This Book Away

Rating:  Time to toss your copy of Zeitoun in your curbside recycling bin; it can land on top of Three Cups of Tea in the corner of the bin reserved for books that don’t even deserve donation to a library because they turned out to be dishonest accounts...

This Is How

Rating:  This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More for Young and Old Alike, by Augusten Burroughs. St. Martin’s Press (2012), 240 pages. Fans of Dry, Running With...

Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa

Rating:  Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa, by Peter Godwin. Grove Press (1996), 418 pages. “I think I first realized something was wrong when our next-door neighbor, oom Piet Oberholzer, was murdered. I must have been about six then.” Is this not a just-right...

Citrus County

Rating:  Citrus County, by John Brandon. McSweeney’s (2011), 216 pages. Reviewed by Donna I happened to read this book immediately following The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, although they were published two years apart. They are interestingly similar: both...

The Snow Child

Rating:  The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey. Little, Brown and Company (2012), 386 pages. Easily the best book I’ve read in the last fourteen months. It has everything: Russian fairy tales, pioneer homesteaders, a lost child, a red fox, Alaskan wilderness, an...

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

Rating:  The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, by Helen Grant. Penguin (2009), 304 pages. Back-cover reviews describe this as “atmospheric” and a “modern fairy tale,” words that fail to convey that the last quarter of the book is actually a bona fide horror...

The Invisible Mountain

Rating:   The Invisible Mountain, by Carolina De Robertis. Vintage Books (2009), 424 pages. This is a book that will make you want to fly to Uruguay and walk the streets of the first village you come to, knocking on doors and asking if you might come in to...

The Family Fang

Rating:  The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson. Ecco (2011), 309 pages. I normally go out of my way to avoid books described as “kooky” (second only to “wacky” in the category of descriptors that make me cringe) which is why, when I read...

Three Cups of Deceit

Rating:  Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way, by Jon Krakauer. Anchor (2011) 96 pages. Vindication!  I read Three Cups of Tea a couple of years ago, well before the scandal broke (via the April 17 episode of 60 Minutes),...

Broken Glass Park

Rating:  Broken Glass Park, by Alina Bronsky. Translated from German by Tim Mohr. Europa Editions (2010), 211 pages. Broken Glass Park is a coming of age novel originally published in Germany (so I suppose I should properly refer to it as a Bildungsroman). ...

A Widow’s Story

Rating:  A Widow’s Story: A Memoir, by Joyce Carol Oates. Ecco (2011), 415 pages. Joyce Carol Oates, in my experience, is a writer you either love or hate (love because of how effortlessly and incisively she maps out the terrain inside her...