1) Joy School – Elizabeth Berg – Yes, she writes chick lit, but she captures the innermost thoughts of people that they’d never want anyone else to know about and she does it in incredible detail. This book in particular, about a 13 year old girl trying to find her way, is particularly beautiful and heartbreaking.
2) Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon – Very Gothic in style, which is not my thing – but this book kept me reading breathlessly all the way through. What a storyteller! I’ve recommended this to everyone who will listen, and they have all LOVED it.
3) Neither Here nor There – Bill Bryson – this guy is absolutely hilarious as he takes you on his travels through Europe. He is probably better known for his book about the Appalachian Trail (A Walk in the Woods), but this one is my favorite.
4) Stiff – Mary Roach – About all the different things that can happen to dead bodies. Sounds absolutely horrific, but she makes it fascinating – and hilarious! I would like to be friends with this person as she would at turns inform me and make me laugh.
5) Julie and Julia – Julie Powell – Yes, this is coming to a multiplex near you this summer, but this book had me laughing out loud the whole time I was reading. This woman who is unsatisfied with her work-life decides to spend a year cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Particularly great read for foodies, but I found Julie to be a very worthwhile companion when discussing what happened around the recipes too.
6) Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert – some found this to be self-satisfied rambling, but I loved it. Did not care so much for the India section, but Italy and Indonesia were wonderful. This is another woman that I’d like to have dinner with sometime -she writes about her personal struggles in a very endearing and at times hilarious way.
7) Wallflower at the Orgy – Nora Ephron – Wonderful essays from the 1970s. You get a little history and a lot of hilarity.
8) The Soloist – Mark Salzman – novel about a failed violin prodigy and a court case in which he serves on jury duty. Beautifully written.
9) The Music Teacher – Barbara Hall – an incredibly finely wrought main character. This book drew me right in from the first page. A somewhat quiet, personal novel about the human condition.
10) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – E. L. Konigsburg – One of my favorite novels from childhood. This adult woman writes about the lives of children SO evocatively. All her books contain characters you’re not likely to forget. The first book that made me realize I loved reading.
11) The Hours – Michael Cunningham – Depressing as all get out, but SO beautifully written. I just love how he connected 3 seemingly disparate stories – all equally gorgeous, evocative and sad… yet with a sense of grace when all is said and done.
All books reviewed by: MFB