• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I HAte To Wake You Up To Say Goodbye

It’s starting. THe quest for the perfect three or four books to bring on a little vacation next week. So far, I’m thinking about the Hunger Games (you might have heard of it), Salvage THe Bones by Jessamyn Ward (won the National Book Award) and one or two more. Please suggest just one book. If I take your suggestion, I will send you three books. Does that sound like a good deal?

139 Responses

  1. Malarky by Anakana Schofield (Bibliosis).

    this blurb sums the book up. “This is the story of Anakana Schofield’s teapot-wielding ‘Our Woman’: fretful mother, disgruntled farmwife, and—surprisingly late in life—sexual outlaw/anthropologist. Everything about this primly raunchy, uproarious novel is unexpected—each draught poured from the teapot marks another moment of pure literary audacity.” (Lynn Coady)

  2. Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles
    Have a great time!

  3. I was loathe to pick just one because I love these so:
    Mortality by Christopher Hitchens and Laura Lamont’s Life In Pictures by Emma Straub

  4. This Side of Brightness, Colum McCann

    Sent from my iPad

  5. Intrusions, by Ursula Hegi.

    About a writer trying to write her book and she writes in all of the intrusions that happen as she works…including her characters trying to hijack the storyline! Perfect for a good laugh.

  6. History of Love, Nicole Krauss

    • If you haven’t read it, this is one of my all-time favorites, so I’m gonna SECOND IT!

      • and I loved her more recent novel, Great House, even more. I guess that counts as my one book. If it doesn’t I was going to say Case Histories by Kate Atkinson…literary escapism if there is such a thing…perfect for a vacation.

      • Actually I meant to say Special Topics in Calamity Physics. For some reason I always get those mixed up.No idea why. Both great though.

  7. Cat’s Eye, by Margaret Atwood. One of my all time faves.

  8. My Bayou: New Orleans Through the Eyes of a Lover by Constance Adler

    Local NPR book reviewer Susan Larson recently stated that the author “…gives us one of the sexiest versions of the city. Constance moved here after she kept having a dream in New York in which a voice said “You know you could be a really interesting writer if you moved to New Orleans.” And so she did.”

    The book has recently been the inspiration for a short indie film.

  9. Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. It’s about overcoming shame. Have you seen her Ted Talk? (FWIW, it’s not a sappy or super self-helpy read. She’s an anthropologist and a researcher. Think Mary Roach or Barbara Ehrenreich, but with an extra scoop of memoirishness.) I want three books. What three books?

  10. If you haven’t already, Swamplandia! My goodreads review here.


  11. Wolf Hall if you haven’t already read it; Bring Up the Bodies if you have. Both by Hilary Mantel. Either one will keep you spellbound until you finish.

  12. WTF? How did I become ShannaShanna? Narcissism so profound I named it twice. Sigh.

  13. Hey Betsy, Jesmyn’s SALVAGE is my agent’s book – good choice. I recently read Garth Stein’s THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN and liked it a lot. Even my Jewish mother liked it. Loved that video of “you” the other day. What an honor, great fun.

    • The Art of Racing in the Rain is my agent’s book (what fun, to say that!), and it’s terrific. But I will try once more to push my old favorite into the world: Absent in the Spring, by Mary Westmacott, aka Agatha Christie. It’s a literary novel, not a mystery. Agatha once said it was the only book she’d ever written that satisfied her completely; I can say the same of it as a reader.

    • Even though I was told this book would make me cry, I had to have it – but this was before my summer of loss. Now, I pick it up, stare at the soulful brown eyes that resemble the ones I miss so much and I put it right back down…,would it make Betsy cry? I wouldn’t want to cry on vacation…

  14. The Library of Shadows (Danish translation)

  15. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

  16. SACRE BLEU! by Christopher Moore. Hilarious, smart, historical (French impressionists), slightly creepy (in the best way), and aesthetically beautiful, with full-color photos every few chapters. The best part? The actual font of the book is blue, since it’s a running theme.

  17. Emily, Alone by Stewart O’Nan
    or my favorite oldie, Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

  18. Would it be shitty of me to plug my workshop cohorts’ books? I swear I wouldn’t unless I thought them Betsy-worthy. Two for you: DORA: A HEADCASE, and KILL YOU TWICE.

    But currently, I’m reading flavor of the week (not a workshop-mate), THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE HER and absolutely cannot put it down.

    • JustAnotherEmpress,
      I second you on “This Is How You Lose Her.” (I don’t know how to do italics on this blog!) “Otravida, Otravez” and “The Pura Principle” are scary-good. “Invierno” too. Diaz moves effortlessly from the vernacular to the erudite to lyric prose, sometimes within one sentence. Killer-funny and he can break your heart. I can’t think of a better candidate for literary rock-stardom.
      I scored tickets to his Brookline Booksmith reading weeks ago, then had emergency dental surgery hours before the event. My husband said, “Maybe we should pass these tickets along to someone.” I said they could pry them from my cold dead hand. I took my prescription drugs, put on a dash of lipstick (my face swollen like a pumpkin on one side) and had my darling chauffeur me to Brookline. I made it to the reading, fifth row. Worth it.

      Betsy, Have a great vacation!

      Love, Roxie

  19. Towing Jehovah by James Morrow.

  20. Embers, by Sanford Marai. Brief and beautiful …

  21. Joseph Anton by Mr. Rushdie—I love that it’s told in close third.

  22. I see that everyone is picking “literary” books, but I have to make a pitch for Jenny Lawson’s book: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. When you read a book and then say, hey dear listen to this bit about raccoons wearing pjs, isn’t it funny? And then your husband straight commanders your book to read and laughs out loud night after night as you try to sleep, you know it counts as a good f*ing read.

  23. Voss, Patrick White. The best but probably not holiday reading

  24. If you can get your hands on an ARC, Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan is knocking my socks off.

  25. “We Sinners” by Hanna Pylvainen

  26. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

  27. Paris in Love: a memoir
    little bites
    poetic evocative
    Sweet Tooth was on Book at bedtime last week
    listen to the BBC instead?

  28. NW by Zadie Smith. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but if I were going on vacation it’s definitely what I would pack. I love her writing and she’s such a smarty pants. If you didn’t hear her speak at BEA this year, it’s online and she was brilliant; about being surly and sullen in interviews; about becoming a mother and trying to write another novel. Yes: take NW…

  29. Filthy Shakespeare by Pauline Kiernan

  30. Take CHIME by Franny Billingsley. It was nominated for a NBA and is all the reasons I love fiction. It is magical, bright, and complex all at once–you come away feeling like you went somewhere. Have fun on the mini-vacay.

  31. Horrible and delicious “Forever Amber”, recently re-edited, as far as I know. Or, to travel abroad in space and not in time, one of the mysterious Elena Ferrante’s books.

    • Somebody needs to serialized that novel for Showtime. It’s got everything they love plus bubonic plague.

      • I’m afraid I don’t know what Showtime is. Anyway, if you’re saying that Forever Amber is… “trash”, well, I must agree. But it is so shamelessly so to be a great read, perfect for holidays.
        By the way, Otto Preminger apparently somehow shared your point of view..

  32. In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard

  33. Got around to reading The Marriage Plot and really enjoying it.

  34. You already have two serious books about violence and survival… so how about Falling Sideways by Tom Holt, which is about surviving violent frogs in a non-serious manner?

  35. Take a faux Parisian vacation and read YOU DESERVE NOTHING by Alexander Maksik. (Europa Press. Love their stuff.)

    Short, smart, sexy. A bad boy/man in Paris. A great escape for the reader.

  36. Burning Down the Ground by Kambri Crews. The memoir of a Texas girl, her deaf parents and her relationship with her violent, alcoholic father. On the cover of the book is a childhood photo of the author signing, I love you. Says it all.

  37. “Girlchild” by Tupelo Hassman…crisp, short chapters filled with writing that is captivating, writing that sucks you into the MC’s story about being raised in a trailer park by a single mother…I loved it.

  38. I just finished reading “Brother of the More Famous Jack,” by Barbara Trapido. It’s not my usual kind of book (young woman coming of age), but it was so good that I’m looking for the rest of her books. This is the review quote that got my attention: “A sort of bohemian Brideshead Revisited” Times Literary Supplement. I’m a sucker for bohemian.

  39. “Welcome to Higby” by Mark Dunn (9780743249881)

  40. Dirt by David Vann — dark, disturbing, and dirty.

  41. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. Funny, satirical, and quirky,

  42. Maiden by Cynthia Buchanan. I know nothing about it, though Lily Tomlin said it was “An American classic.” I like that the dedication reads, “To My Mother.” It’s sort of kismet, too, because by the time of its 1972 publication, the author had already finished two screenplays, Aren’t you writing a screenplay? I picked it up in the discard section of the library for 30 cents. If you can’t find a copy, let me know. I’ll send you this one.

  43. Goodbye to the Buttermilk Sky by Julia Oliver. A young woman in the deep South, straying from her marriage, learns about love, loyalty, race, and fortitude.

  44. In the Blind, by Eugene Marten

  45. Broken Harbor by Tana French. Great, twisted mystery; perfect vacation read.

    • I’ve got her other one “In The Woods”…that I’ve got on my “still to read” bookshelf. Didn’t know she had this one – will have to get it. Like November above, I’m compiling quite a list here…

  46. Rules of Civility. My favorite this year.

  47. “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter. I haven’t read it (or anything by him except one essay). Let me know what you think.

  48. chronology of water

    after a year since reading, it’s still my #1.

  49. Editor: Scott, why aren’t you doing anything?

    Scott: Would you believe me if I said I was trying to score three free books while also appearing like an intelligent reader to the online writing community?

  50. Did you ever read ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute? I read it originally and then reread it in the last five years. It’s UNPUTDOWNABLE. I think someone is making it into a movie.

  51. Tony and Susan, by Austin Wright. It was first published in 1993 and then republished a year or so ago. It’s about a woman who receives a manuscript in the mail from her long-ex husband. The manuscript works as a novel within the novel — the outside novel is psychological and ruminative, while the inside one is a gripping thriller. LOVE IT.

  52. Shameless plug from Flint: “Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line” by Ben Hamper. Great book and I came across my (ahem, signed) copy while cleaning my office last night. I think you’d really dig his story-telling and humor.

    And an even more shameless plug, if anyone’s interested: http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/flint/index.ssf/2012/03/rivethead_author_ben_hamper_ta.html

  53. Middlemarch. It may sound retro, but trust me, it is well worth a revisit.

  54. Ditto, on Cats Eye. A hauntingly beautiful novel.

  55. “Monkey Mind,” a memoir of the author’s anxiety disorder. Daniel Smith has accomplished an amazing feat: a laugh-out-loud examination of a paralyzing disorder that affects so many but has never before had its very own poster child. And he does it with a writing style that is superb and exacting.

    How can something so agonizing be so much fun to read about?

  56. A Darkening Stain, Robert Wilson.

  57. This might not be to your taste, but a debut YA called Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie. It’s about a teenager struggling with grief over his older brother’s death in Iraq. She’s a friend, but PW and Kirkus loved it and it lingered with me for days. Has the flavor of Angela’s Ashes, though set in contemporary US.

  58. Anything by Tove Jansson, but especially The True Deceiver. It’s chilling, appropriate for the season.

  59. Didn’t you tell me you hadn’t read Carrie Fisher before? It’s time. Start with Wishful Drinking.

  60. The Wood Wife by Terri Windling

  61. The Appearance of a Hero: The Tom Mahoney Stories by Peter Levine

  62. Anything written more than 50 years ago. Mustn’t lose sight of the fact that books are not purely a contemporary phenomenon.

    If I got to take a vacation and were to follow my own advice, I’d toss a coin between Anna Karenina and Don Quixote.

  63. Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was by Barry Hughart.

  64. Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness. It’s like the love child of Out of Africa and The Glass Castle. An easy, funny, intense read–great for vacation.

  65. A Fine Balance by Robinton Mistry. It is always my first recommendation to anyone who asks, “what should I read next?”

  66. How about Paolo Giordano’s The Solitude of Prime Numbers? One of the best books ever (though certainly not light reading). Poetic, fierce, tender, and uncomfortably truthful.

  67. How about Paolo Giordano’s The Solitude of Prime Numbers? One of the best books ever (though certainly not light reading). Poetic, fierce, tender, and uncomfortably truthful.

  68. A vacation seems like a great time to escape to the Hotel Adequate View, of Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins. Reading it now and can’t put it down.

  69. Lullabies for Little Criminals, Heather O’Neill

  70. Chickadee by Louise Erdrich

  71. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
    Paperback: 294 pages
    Publisher: Vintage; 1st Paperback Ed., 1998 edition (May 26, 1998)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0679776591
    ISBN-13: 978-0679776598
    Loved her prose, and it has remained in my psyche for almost 15 years now. If you chose it, I hope you love the textures as much as I did.

  72. Savages, Don Winslow. Light beach reading. Interesting style.

  73. Maybe it’s because I’m a cop and I like these sorts of things, but I’d suggest: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.

  74. Do you have a Kindle? If so I highly recommend:Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) by Hugh Howley – this is an incredible series of books and I eagerly await the next installment. The first book of the series had a twist at the end that took me by surprise and each story adds to the tension. The survivors of some disaster live in silos buried underground – each person has jobs to do from farming to cooking – a whole economy has arisen. When someone commits a crime, they are sent outside – the people clean the camera that gives a view of the wasteland. They walk off from the silo and die – people cannot figure out why the criminals clean the lenses. The characters are well developed and the worldview is spectacular. It is not my normal genre, but well worth the read.

  75. Tinkers by Paul Harding. I know it’s about death, but mostly it’s about life, the experience that is life, deeply felt. Tinkers will make you cry but for all the right reasons.

  76. You must read THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN. After reading it I wrote Garth and not only told him how much I enjoyed the book but how it changed my perception of another species.
    Betsy, you will cry.

    To Donnaeve, don’t set it back down, read it. I am so sorry for your loss but read it. Enzo is Kiwi just like Enzo is my sweet boy Harley. Harley is still with us but he is old and one of these days…I cannot even go there.
    Read it.

  77. Oh man, I knew I shouldn’t have come back here …. I have my list and I’m off to the bookstore, in the next town over.

  78. The Orchardist. Amanda Coplin. I’m serious. Take a look. First paragraph should make it clear.

  79. I feel so ignorant reading all these suggestions. How do y’all discover these books? And so many of you have read the same ones!

    Anyway, my recommendation is Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (also a National Book Award winner, from long ago). I have narwhals and polar bears constantly on the brain after a few days with that one, and I’m not sorry about it at all.

    In other news, I went to The Bitter End last night, trying to get myself onstage for The Moth StorySlam. My name was not picked from the hat, and so I consumed my two-drink minimum of bottled water watched how it was done. It was a fun show, but nothing compared to the hijinks here. I only wish we could have such an event with Betsy emceeing and a bunch of her blog readers taking turns at the mic. It would be chocolate cake for the story-lover’s soul.

  80. Rushdie’s memoir, JOSEPH ANTON.

  81. What’s really interesting in all of these great suggestions is how cool the titles are. Got me rethinking mine

  82. Have you read The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson yet? It’s all about making art. Well-written and hilarious. Also, it will make you happy.

  83. After seeing so many votes for The Art of Racing in the Rain, I am surprised no one mentioned Following Atticus, by Tom Ryan. Have a very fine vacation, Betsy.

  84. I second Fugitive Pieces and I’ll add Februray buy Lisa Moore and Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. Two incredible works by Canadian authors. Of course The Stone Diaries and Unless, both by Carol Shields are two of my all time favourites.

  85. A Prayer for Owen Meany – timeless. After the Snow – impressive YA debut by S.D. Crockett. What a voice.

  86. have you read the orphan master’s son? johnson’s portrayal of north korea is grim, but if you stay with it, it turns a bit murakami 🙂

  87. Here is my total favorite unsung book: Shooting the Boh by Tracy Johnston. One woman’s misadventure on one of Borneo’s wildest rivers. I could not put it down.

  88. Late to the party, but have to add my two cents – The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. Everyone should stop what they’re reading, what they’re doing, and read this book. I read an ARC months ago and haven’t shut up about it since. In case you’re unfamiliar, it’s a novel about the Iraq War written by a veteran of that war who afterwards earned an MFA in Poetry. Beautiful, tough, dark, wrenching prose. His next book? A collection of poetry. So there you go.

  89. Im late….so what right, you’re not going to stop reading anytime soon, I presume. What is the What by Dave Eggers. Literary and heart tugging like a great rock song. Read it on a vacation and it was as good as the vacation.

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