Novels which have appeared on the New York Times’ Bestseller List.

The Red Tent

Jacob demands an outrageous dowry – that all of the men of Shechem shall bear the mark of the tribe of Jacob, and be circumcised. Seeing how in love with Dinah his son is, the King agrees and the bargain is struck. The night after the mass circumcision, Dinah’s brothers sneak into the city. They are furious about the kidnapping and rape of their sister, and slaughter every man they can find while he sleeps.

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The Glass Castle

After years of a nomadic life in the southwest, the family is finally desperate enough to move back in with Rex’s parents in Welch, West Virginia. It is here that the story takes a dark(er) turn, as the children meet their abusive grandparents for the first time and begin to understand why their father left. The story follows Jeanette and her brother and sisters through their tumultuous childhood, culminating in their escape to New York City at the end of their teen years. But are they finally free of their parents?

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A Visit From the Goon Squad

In 1979 San Francisco, the punk scene is burgeoning and Bennie, Scotty, Jocelyn, Rhea, and their friends are on the front lines. Bennie and Scotty are the leaders of the Flaming Dildos, a band hopeful of making it big amongst the likes of their local idols Flipper, The Nuns, and the Dead Kennedys.

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The Help

One thing that is pointed out is how susceptible children are to their parents’ attitudes – the white children in the novel grow up adoring their nannies, and yet, as soon as they are old enough to understand their parents’ ridiculous notions about race, start treating these women exactly the way their parents do.

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The Year of Living Biblically

One passage which stuck with me was when he questions why God would need to be praised all of the time – if he is the greatest being in the universe, surely he doesn’t have a self-esteem problem which would require constant reassurance.

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Water for Elephants

This story begins in the mind of ninety (or ninety-three, he can’t remember which) year-old Jacob Jankowski. Not-quite-forgotten in a nursing home, he contents himself with harassing his nurses and complaining about the food. That is, until the circus comes to town.

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Atlas Shrugged

The book is based on the not-too-farfetched premise that all of the producers of the world – producers in the sense that these are the hardworking, brilliant, movers and shakers and people of ideas in the world – get fed up with carrying the metaphorical burden of society. “What if Atlas shrugged?”

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Angelou’s writing lends a poetry to her life that makes the terrible things somehow okay, and the good things even better. Caged Bird is stunning portrait of a young black girl’s place in not only the south, but the greater world beyond it, and is a VERY worthwhile read.

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I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell

I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.

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The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

During a snowstorm in late 1964, Dr. David Henry and his wife rush to his small clinic in the middle of the night to give birth to their first child. The delivery unexpectedly produces boy / girl twins, and David immediately recognizes the signs of Down’s Syndrome in the little girl.

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Girl With a Pearl Earring

Van Ruijevn takes an instant interest in Griet and sexually harasses her. She narrowly escapes and vows to avoid him in the future, but Van Ruijevn demands that Johannes paint the girl for him, using the commissioned portrait as a ruse to further intimidate Griet. Vermeer can hardly refuse, as his livelihood depends on giving the patrons of the arts what they desire. To make matters yet more uncomfortable, Johannes has decided that Griet should wear his wife’s beautiful pearl earrings when she sits for him.

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The Book Thief

Death explains that there are certain humans that he takes special notice of, and that he first saw Liesel when he came for her brother’s soul and witnessed her stealing her first book. Dubbing her “The Book Thief”, Death keeps an eye on her throughout her life as he comes for other people that she is close to.

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The Reader

It has been argued that Hanna’s literal ignorance (illiteracy) is a metaphor for our generation’s ignorance of the enormity of the Holocaust. Once she remedied her ignorance, she was unable to live with herself when it was coupled with her real-life experience of the Holocaust. While I agree with the aphorism ‘those who remain ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it’, I disagree that Hanna would be unaware on a human level of the atrocities being committed.

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