Books I Have Read Which Are Not Included on the List “1,001 Books to Read Before You Die.”

Reasons to Live / The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel

When I go to sleep, I sleep on the side of the bed my mother used to sleep on. Sometimes, at dawn, I wake up and find myself in the pose my mother died in — lying on her side, her arm reaching from under her head as though she were doing the sidestroke in a pool, the pills she had swallowed weighing her down like so many pebbles in her pockets.

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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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High Fidelity

Using a device which has been employed countless times in such stories, Rob decides to revisit each of the women who made the list of his top five breakups and discuss the reasons that it ended with each of them. The results are fairly enlightening, and Rob begins to rediscover his own autonomy and the ambition he had when he was just himself. He begins to open up to the potential friendships in his life, and hate himself a little less. Using a breakup as a means to self-discovery is certainly not a ground-breaking setup for a story, but this one is witty, endearing, and well-done.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife

One thing I can say about the story is that Henry’s interaction as an adult with Claire as a little girl is very much part of the love story, rather than being creepy. It could easily have veered into a grotesque, Humbert Humbert-ish parody of a May-December relationship, but it doesn’t.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Dawsey reveals that he is a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – a group formed as a lark when he and several neighbors were caught breaking curfew by the Nazis, and in part to conceal a secret roast pig. As time went on, however, the society became important to all of them as a way to distract themselves from the Occupation, and strong friendships were forged.

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Gods Behaving Badly

Combining what we know of the Greek Gods and modern society, a hilariously entertaining world is created where the Gods of Olympus live together in London in a filthy, dilapidated old house, and work day jobs to pay their rent. Artemis (Goddess of the Hunt) is a dog walker, Apollo (God of the Sun) is a television psychic, Aphrodite (Goddess of Love & Beauty) is a phone sex operator, Dionysus (God of Wine and Merriment) owns a nightclub, and Eros (God of Love) has converted to Christianity, much to the chagrin of his family.

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Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

Biff and Jesus (known by his friends as Josh) lead the lives of normal Jewish little boys, save for the fact that Josh can raise the dead (mostly lizards, to freak out his friends.) At the age of twelve, however, when most boys are beginning to learn trades under their fathers and train for their adulthoods, Josh is told by an angel that he is the son of God, and that his destiny is to become the savior of all mankind.

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In the Woods

The tone is eerily set when on one such night, three children disappear into the woods to play and don’t return. The police are dispatched, and find no traces whatsoever of two of the children. The third, a terrified little boy with his fingernails embedded in the tree he is plastered against, is catatonic and his shoes are filled with blood.

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Outlander

Claire Randall is a WW2 nurse on vacation in Scotland with her historian husband, Frank. Separated during the war, they are enjoying a second honeymoon while Frank looks into his Scottish family history. Claire is increasingly disinterested in her husband’s obsession with the past, and ends up making friends with a local who knows all of the native plants of the region. Interested in botany, Claire ventures with the old man to a nearby stonehenge-esque site where rumored pagan rituals are conducted…

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The Thirteenth Tale

She has given hundreds of interviews over the course of her career “My genius is not so fragile that it must be shut away”, but when it comes to the inevitable questions about herself; she’s cooperative but her answers are always lies. Not lies, stories. After all, storytelling is her craft, and there is nothing more telling than a good story.

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