Current Picks: Book Reviews

IPPL Staff

The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson

The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson (2007)
This nonfiction book is a snapshot of the summer of 1911. That summer, Kaiser Wilhelm comes to the coronation of his cousin George V, as King of England. The upper classes were indulging in balls and love affairs and the working classes were becoming increasingly disgruntled. A surprisingly quick and entertaining read.
Mary

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon (2006)
In this humorous look at a dysfunctional British family, Haddon takes a different tack from his bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Recently retired George Hall slowly and quietly begins to unravel, convinced that his eczema is cancer, troubled by his daughter Katie’s upcoming second marriage, his distant relationship with son Jamie, and his wife’s affair with his former business partner. As each of the Halls’ lives spiral out of control, the beleaguered family rediscovers the love and healing that holds them together.

Visit the author’s website for information about the author, his writings and his art.
Jennifer

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander (2003)
A man leaves his granddaughter a taped account of his time serving the Russian royal family during their imprisonment. How much of his recollection is the truth? Did any of the Romanovs survive? Find out in this riveting fictionalized account of the months leading to the execution of the Romanov family.
IPPL Staff

Considering Doris Day by Tom Santopietro

Considering Doris Day by Tom Santopietro (2007)
Author Santopietro might have called his book Re-Considering Doris Day since his premise is that the signer/actress has gotten a bum rap as a goody-goody. His book, besides giving some biographical information, gives an enjoyable evaluation of each of Day’s movies, albums, and TV series and specials. In his view, Day was an energetic, sexy actress who deserves another viewing. I went back and watched or re-watched several of her movies, and would especially recommend Pillow Talk and Teacher’s Pet.

Don’t forget to check out the other Doris Day movies we have at the library.
Mary

Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum

Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum (2003)
Translated into sixteen languages, Norwegian author Fossum’s Inspector Konrad Sejer series have finally hit the U.S. The murdered body of a teenage girl found at a mountain top lake tears apart the façade of this tranquil Norwegian village. Other translated novels include: He Who Fears the Wolf (2005), When the Devil Holds the Candle (2006), and The Indian Bride (2007).
Joe

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (1997)
Few endeavors conjure up an image of adventure more vividly than the thought of scaling Mount Everest, the highest summit on Earth. Jon Krakauer details the rigors of high altitude mountain climbing and the ill-fated expedition that would claim the lives of eight people.
IPPL Staff

The Legend of Fire Horse Woman by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

The Legend of Fire Horse Woman by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (2003)
Sayo, born under the disastrous sign of the Fire Horse, comes to California from Japan for an arranged marriage and years later during World War II is imprisoned with her family in a Japanese internment camp. A story which skillfully re-creates the limitations and loneliness of life in the Manzanar camp.
Jennifer

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson (2007)
As part of the Eminent Lives series, Bryson presents a brief (196 page) biography of William Shakespeare – brief, he explains, because so little is actually known about Shakespeare. In his quirky comedic style, Bryson elucidates on what few facts exist on Shakespeare’s life. General history is interwoven with specifics about the playwright (for example, up to 40% of brides were pregnant on their wedding day). With amusing anecdotes on farfetched theories (like the plays were actually written by Francis Bacon, a random aristocrat, or a combination thereof), Shakespeare is a quick, enjoyable read on a mysterious author’s life and times.

After you read the biography, if you're interested in reading Shakespeare's works, check out the library catalog or visit MIT's The Complete Works of William Shakespeare online. To find out more about Shakespeare -- his life, works, theater, FAQs -- visit the Folger Shakespeare Library website.
Denise

Run by Ann Patchett

Run by Ann PatchettThis is the story of two families who first come together during an accident in which a woman intentionally throws herself in front of a car to save the life of a “stranger.” It shows the power and commitment of parental love, whether by birth or adoption. Great character development.

There are several places to find more reviews on this novel: check out the New York Times, listen to NPR, or read the Washington Post. For more information on the novel or the author, listen to an interview with NPR or visit Ann Patchett's website.
IPPL Staff

The March by E. L. Doctorow

The March by E. L. Doctorow (2005)
Characters as diverse as freed slaves, Confederate and Union soldiers, a Southern lady, German-born Union surgeon and General Sherman himself populate this very unromantic view of Sherman’s march through the South.

Doctorow was awarded the 2007 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for lifetime achievement. The Tribune features an October 28 profile article of the author, a 2005 review of The March, and archived articles. Doctorow was presented with the award on November 4 at the Chicago Humanities Festival. You can also listen to an NPR interview about the book.
IPPL Staff

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed by Alan Alda

Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: and Other Things I’ve Learned by Alan Alda (2005)
Entertaining, revealing, but not about his career on MASH. This is a poignant story of an eccentric life with his Dad, a vaudeville performer, and his Mom who struggles with mental issues. Alda’s story is funny, conversational, and a great read. And, yes, they really did stuff his dog!

Also check out Alda’s 2007 biography: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.
Mary P.

The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day

The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day (2004)
From 1884 to 1939, the small town of Lima, Indiana, becomes the home in the winter to the Great Porter Circus. These interconnected short stories share the private lives of clowns, pinheads, acrobats and other circus folk during their off season.
Hugh

Einstein (2007) and Kissinger (1992) by Walter Isaacson

Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007) and Kissinger: a biography (1992) by Walter IsaacsonEinstein and his earlier book, Kissinger, should be read one after the other to see how Isaacson deals with two professionally different, but similar, persons who have had great effect on the US and the world. Both left Nazi Germany to escape persecution and rose to the top of their fields. As a bonus, the two biographies challenge the reader in physics and world politics, as well as generate new interest in these fields.

Listen to any or all of three interviews with Isaacson on NPR: there's a 2007 interview following the publication of Einstein; a 2003 interview following the publication of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life; and a 2002 interview discussing Kissinger's background.
IPPL Staff

Limitations by Scott Turow

Limitations by Scott Turow (2006)
For the uninitiated, once again Turow delves into the mystery of how the law works. George Mason is judge of the Court of Appeals in Kindle County. He is faced with three problems: his wife has cancer, he receives threatening e-mails, and finally, he must decide the outcome of a horrific case of sexual assault. Turow ingeniously resolves these issues, especially the case of sexual assault. A fascinating book.

Check out the author's website for biographical information, a reading group guide (pdf), and the author's backlist.
Denise

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (2007)
This follow-up to Hosseini’s bestseller, The Kite Runner, is beautifully written and extremely powerful. It depicts life in Afghanistan during the communist takeover from the perspective of two women. Their struggles and suffering are heart-wrenching and often disturbing to read about, but I couldn’t put it down.