“Sleighbells ring, are you listening….On the shelves, books are glistening.
Beaches or ski, Paper or “e”,
Reading in a Winter Wonderland……”
Road Ends – Mary Lawson
The third (unrelated) book by this author set in Ontario’s North, this one revolves around the supreme dysfunction of the Cartwright family. Set in the ’60’s, each chapter alternates between the eldest son, whose ambition and potentialÂ were thwarted after a local tragedy; the only daughter who “quits” being the caretaker of her ever-growing brood of siblings and heads to London; and their father, a victim of his own history who holes himself up in his office rather than dealing with his wife and children. Bleak and harsh like the landscape in which it’s set, it’s a perfect winter read.
The Rosie Project – Graeme Stinson
Socially awkward and statistically-inclined Professor Don Tillman has decided he is going to find a wife. And so, using a complicated list of criteria, he sets out to find the perfect woman. In the course of his project, he meets Rosie who is, of course, everything he is not looking for. This is a happy, feel-good and hilarious story. A movie in the making, if the rights haven’t been snapped up yet, it’s only a matter of time before they will be.
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
Devastating. Didion’s husband suffers a heart attack and dies as their daughter lies in a coma. It can’t get much worse than that, but Didion chronicles the days before and after in such a moving, tender and beautifully written way. Life changes in an instant. Reading this memoir and sharing someone else’s tragedy reinforces how lucky we are. We really are.
The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri
Two brothers. Best friends in childhood who grow apart as they grow up. One becomes a revolutionary, the other an academic. Eventually, ideology and geography separate them. Their futures could not be more different and yet, are ultimately intertwined forever. Sounds dramatic, because it is. No spoilers here. Just read it and weep….
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena – Anthony Marra
This overwhelming and beautiful page-turner is, quite frankly, one of the best books I’ve read in years. Set in a broken Chechnya town, unforgettable characters take the readers on a poignant journey through a dark and brutal moment in history. Once you figure out who’s who – and please, stick with it until you do – you will be awed by this epic, magnificent novel. You may even want to read it again. I know I do.
The Woman Upstairs – Claire Messud
At 42 and single, third-grade teacher and amateur artist Nora feels like an invisible woman. I’m not single (or 42) but I could relate. At first. But when Nora meets a sophisticated, completely out-of-her world family, she becomes entrenched in their lives to an unhealthy extent. Obsession, betrayal, love, art: it all swirls together in this infinitely readable novel about an angry young woman and the choices she makes. Or doesn’t.
The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin
This one is completely out of character for me. I had to read it as part of a work assignment, but found myself turning back to it, quoting it and generally being unable to get it out of my head. Author Gretchen Rubin seemingly has it all. So why isn’t she happy….enough? Is anyone? So much about this book resonated with me – and still does, long after I’ve put it away. Part self-help guide, part pop-culture philosophy, I found it intriguing and have already pre-ordered the next book, “Happiness at Home”. If happiness is a choice that we’ve got to work for, I’m willing to give it a whirl!
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon – Sheila Weller
The title says it all. (Almost all. Could be subtitled: Plus James Taylor). This one’s love-or-loath. I read bits of this as an excerpt in Vanity fair years ago and was intrigued. With a movie version looming, I figured I’d better get to it before Taylor Swift (as Joni Mitchell!!) wrecks it for me. These 3 ladies had a profound effect on me throughout my adolescence (and beyond… but don’t tell anyone). I’m still mid-way though the book and, while it may not be the best-written of the lot, it’s compelling for this used-to-be-guitar-strumming, has-been-piano-playing campfire singer.