My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Apr12

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry This is the story of an “almost eight-year-old” girl named Elsa and her best friend: her grandmother. Elsa and her grandmother share the bond of being different, and her grandmother creates a wonderful fantasy world for Elsa to escape to when needed. When Elsa’s grandmother dies, Elsa is left with her grandmother’s stories, both real and imaginary. Through a series of letters that Elsa’s...

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The Ancient Minstrel by Jim Harrison
Jan18

The Ancient Minstrel by Jim Harrison

The Ancient Minstrel by Jim Harrison My stepdad turned me onto Jim Harrison, who is best known for writing Legends of the Fall, which I’ve never read, incidentally. (I loved the movie, though.) Harrison, who died last year, reminds me of a cross between John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. In fact, he reminds me of a well-known Steinbeck character, Doc. He was an avid outdoorsman, a sensitive poet, a nature and animal lover, but also...

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Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett
Aug17

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett Summer is the perfect time to read a book that is light and easy. However, I usually don’t like too light and easy. So Rush Oh! fit the bill. It is a pleasant story with substance. The pleasant part tells the story of a young woman, Mary Davidson, coming of age as she manages the household of her younger siblings and her father, master whaler George “Fearless” Davidson. The substance, for me, is the rich...

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The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
Jun01

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota

The Year of the Runaways The Year of the Runaways by British writer Sunjeev Sahota is my favorite kind of book: it zeroes in on a world I hadn’t known I was interested in until the writer left me no choice. The book, set in 2003, tells the story of a group of young migrant workers from India, settling in England under various guises—marriage, education—but all for the same fundamental reason: to make money and build a better life for...

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Mar16

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

First, let me say that this book, a letter from father to son about growing up black in America, warrants a second reading, and I have only partly re-read it. I have more questions about Between the World and Me than answers. Let me also say that this is probably the best book club book I have ever read. Obviously, that’s subjective. But I challenge you to find another 152 pages so filled with interesting, provocative, relevant ideas....

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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Sep16

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

GO SET A WATCHMAN by Harper Lee This was a tough one for me—to read and, now, to write about. Like it is for countless others, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has always been THE BOOK for me. I fell in love with it immediately as a young girl; it taught me lessons about integrity and acceptance but also about writing. I was born a writer, and from the moment I read it, TKM stood on the alter under, “Your Goal. Emulate this.” I...

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Missoula by Jon Krakauer
Jun03

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

Who wants to read about rape? I certainly didn’t, even though rape education is near to my heart. I’ve written about rape before, about how time and again, the justice system fails victims. And we, as a society, fail to teach our children what rape looks like. However, even I did not want to read Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer. Because, really, does that sound entertaining? And what I wanted as...

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Hog Butcher by Ron Fair
Mar18

Hog Butcher by Ron Fair

Last summer, I strolled among the booths at the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago and stopped at Northwestern Press’s table. A book called Hog Butcher by Ron Fair caught my eye because I love Sandburg’s poem about Chicago from which the phrase originates. But the cover showed the shadow of a basketball player making a slam-dunk, and I’m not much of a sports-book reader. However, when the woman working the booth said, “That’s a classic....

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The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
Jan14

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan   I’ve thought long and hard about why I love this book. Recently, I gave up reading Twelve Tribes of Hattie because, while enamored with the writing, I became frustrated that nothing good happened. The book was too depressing to dedicate my free time to. So I gave up reading it a little more than halfway through. The Spinning Heart by Irishman Donal Ryan is a collection of 21 first-person...

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One Summer by Bill Bryson
Sep17

One Summer by Bill Bryson

  One Summer by Bill Bryson This summer at my family’s cabin, I browsed my stepdad’s bookshelf, as I’d forgotten to bring a book for the weekend (for shame!). I saw A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and remembered my husband mentioning the author to me several times. I grabbed it and almost immediately fell in love with Mr. Bryson. After A Walk in the Woods, I listened to At Home on audiotape. My third Bryson book is One Summer:...

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Redeployment by Phil Klay
Jun11

Redeployment by Phil Klay

  Redeployment by Phil Klay One of the characters in my next novel is a veteran, so when I happened upon a positive review of Redeployment, a series of war stories by Iraq veteran Phil Klay, I bought it in hopes of some good literature, but mostly with research in mind. The book turned out to be much more than that. Fans of Tim O’Brien’s classic The Things They Carried will love Redeployment. The writing is spare, to the point,...

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The Rooms Are Filled by Jessica Vealitzek, A Favorite Read, and a Giveaway
Apr23

The Rooms Are Filled by Jessica Vealitzek, A Favorite Read, and a Giveaway

It’s a very exciting day for us here at Great New Books because it’s the first time one of us on the team has her own book published! Today, Great New Books team member Jessica Null Vealitzek writes about her favorite recent read and has a special giveaway of her newly published debut novel, THE ROOMS ARE FILLED. Thanks to Jessica, we have two personalized and autographed copies of THE ROOMS ARE FILLED to give away to two...

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Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman
Feb05

Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman

  Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman While on a trip this winter, my husband forgot a book. We stopped by a local hole-in-the-wall bookstore to pick him something up. I didn’t need a book, but of course I browsed anyway, though I didn’t see anything I absolutely had to have. On the way out, however, my eye happened upon a bright-deep-turquoise-color-of-the-sea cover that made me stop. Who knows why these...

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Mary Coin by Marisa Silver
Nov20

Mary Coin by Marisa Silver

  Regardless of the saying, we all know a (literal) book cover is important. The cover of Mary Coin, by Marisa Silver, depicts the famous Depression-era photograph, “Migrant Mother.” Well-loved for good reason, when I saw the photographic cover on the shelf, I grabbed the book immediately. Even better than a great cover is when the story matches the hope a striking cover inspires. Though Silver researched her subjects, Mary Coin...

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A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Sep25

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

  This really should be Jennifer’s recommendation, since she told me this was a good book. Her certainty I would love A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash made me buy it off the shelf before even reading much about it. So I was a bit put off when I found out early on—no spoiler here—that a child dies. I think I even sent Jennifer a “why did you do this to me?” email. I put the book away for awhile and it was only a month...

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