Category Archives: Award Winners

Book Review: Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

index (2)Narrated by Calliope/Cal Stephanides, this novel combines the story of one Greek-American family and one of its members. The first half of the story follows Desdemona and Lefty as they narrowly escape death in Smyrna, Turkey and immigrate to Detroit in the early 1920s. The rise and decline of 20th century Detroit is seen through the family’s eyes. The second part of the novel focuses on Cal’s growing up and how she discovers that she is really he. This section seemed too drawn out and in spite of the uniqueness of Cal’s anatomy, more ordinary with its focus on adolescent self-awakening. Middlesex won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2003 and was an Oprah Book Club choice in 2007.

RATING: * * * A good read

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Reviewed by: kh

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Filed under Award Winners, General Fiction, Staff Picks

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick

This is the story of the real life inspiration for “Moby Dick,” the sinking in 1820 of the “Essex” due to being rammed by an enormous sperm whale. Philbrick fills the reader in on the 19th century whaling industry, the economy on Nantucket and the lives of the individual Essex crew members. After the sinking the sailors faced a horrific journey of 4,500 miles in three tiny boats which over the next three months, not all of them survivied. I enjoyed the local history angle and learning more about whaling.

Winner of the National Book Award in 2000.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good
Reviewed by: kh

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You can also read reviews here of two of Nathaniel Philbrick’s other books:
Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery: The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842
Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

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Filed under Award Winners, Non Fiction, Staff Picks

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann

The characters in McCann’s National Book Award winning novel are brought together by an actual event, Philippe Petit’s illegal 1974 high wire walk between the World Trade Center twin towers. The plot twists around and doubles back on itself to form a web of relationships among people from the top and bottom of New York City society. Echoes of today’s problems are found a generation ago–wars, the justice system, the beginning of the computer age and how we can have hope to create a better society.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good
Reviewed by: kh

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The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck

Did you read this in high school? Try it again, this novel is worthy of its designation as a Pulitzer Prize winning modern classic. Buck paints a realistic picture of life and society in early 20th century rural China. As the story begins Wang Lung, a poor farmer, is about to marry O-Lan, a slave from the wealthy family in his village. The author lived over half her life in China. I listened to the book on CD and the narrator was excellent.

RATING:  **** Very, very good
Reviewed by: kh

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Filed under Audiobooks, Award Winners, General Fiction, Staff Picks, Young Adult

Tinkers, by Paul Harding

Phenomenally popular sleeper, whose popularity has spread by word of mouth. A father-son story, lyrical and tender.

Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

RATING:  **** Very, very good
Reviewed by: shgr

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When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

Twelve year old Miranda lives in 1970’s Manhattan, with typical concerns about friends, boys, school–and helping her mom win the game show The $20,000 Pyramid. Then she starts receiving mysterious unsigned notes that give her instructions, appear to predict the future, and contain vague mentions of danger.   What do they mean?  Miranda’s favorite book is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and fans of that book (or the Time Traveler’s Wife) will enjoy this one, too.

Rating:  **** Very, very good
Reviewed by:  stc

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Update, January 2010:  When You Reach Me was awarded the 2010 Newbery Medal.

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Filed under Award Winners, Children's, Science Fiction, Staff Picks, Young Adult

The Great Man: A Novel, by Kate Christensen

The “great man” of the title is fictional painter Oscar Feldman, who painted only female nudes and overshadowed the important women in his life.  After his death, however (which occurs several years before the novel begins), these women who loved him–his wife, long-time mistress, twin daughters, and sister–take center stage, telling their stories (and secrets) to two admiring biographers, and coming into their own as they do so.  An entertaining, quick read, with a lot of interesting things to say about art, love, and how we are never ultimately in charge of our own biography.  Winner of the 2008 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

RATING: * * * A good read
Reviewed by: stc

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