In the hallway of my Aunt Jane's home hangs a pastel drawing of a book that looks like a slice of pie. Below the pie is a caption that I always remember :
You Are What You Read.
Here is a slice from my bedside table.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
First page, one sentence in, I knew I was holding something extraordinary. An elderly country preacher, with a young wife and son, comes to the end of his life and begins a series of letters addressed to his child - the only legacy he has to offer. Poignant. Exquisite. Magnificent.
Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel
16th century Tudor England. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Ann Boleyn. Thomas Cromwell rises from obscurity, and personal tragedy, to become the king's advisor and the ultimate political operative. "Pitting himself against parliament, the political establishment and the papacy, he is prepared to reshape England to his own and Henry's desires." Deft and nuanced and dense. I am two-thirds of the way through, and will be re-reading it immediately. Masterful.
Year Of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
When the Plague comes to a remote village in 17th century England, and its inhabitants take the brave step of quarantining themselves to contain the disease. Told through the eyes of Anna, a young widow and mother who struggles to maintain her humanity against a backdrop of violence, ignorance, and unimaginable loss. It is also a story of grace, friendship, and beauty. Brooks' research and power of imagination are marvelous. One of my favorites.
Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
This is not a political memoir. It is a classic, and surprisingly candid, coming-of-age story. Told by a gifted narrator, who could easily have made his living as a writer rather than as President, this book deserves a place in the pantheon of American literature.
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
Chilling. Original. A completely absorbing study of evil, beauty, desire, murder and scent in 18th century France. Simultaneously repellent and captivating. You won't be able to turn away, as much as you might like to. Brilliant.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
Published in 1937, this masterpiece tells the story of Janie Crawford, a beautiful, independent black woman and her journey to know, and live for, herself. Bitter-sweet, wise, specific and universal. This is essential reading for every woman. And man.
American Wife: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld
If you've ever wondered how Laura Bush could live with W. and live with herself, here is a satisfying, fictionalized answer. Highly entertaining, this novel paints endearing and plausible portraits of a marriage and its two parties, who wind up living their private life in the public eye. Perfect for the beach or a long flight.