Books to Know – Top 10 List – September 2012


1. Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood

by Barbara Demick (See book review)

2. The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

by Michelle Markel, 2012  

Children’s author Michelle Markel and illustrator Amanda Hall produce an informative, exciting look into the life of a painter driven by his imagination and passion for art. The level of writing is understandable to a five-year-old, but has greater nuances for an adult. Everyone will be able to appreciate the message that what other people think isn’t as important as following your dream.

3. The Year of the Gadfly

by Jennifer Miller, 2012

Washington, D.C., native Jennifer Miller’s first novel enters the prep school mystery milieu. . In a deviation from the genre, Miller tells the story from three viewpoints in two different timelines. Iris Dupont, a teenage student at Mariana Academy in 2012 who convenes with the spirit of deceased journalist Edward R. Murrow, is the “gadfly,” of the title. Fans of Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics or Donna Tartt’s The Secret History will devour Gadfly’s secrets and similes alike.

4. Paris in Love: A Memoir

by Eloisa James, 2012

Moving to Paris for a year with two adolescents? It’s a recipe for romance and disaster, as Shakespeare professor and romance novelist Eloisa James tries to spend her sabbatical exploring the city of light and her children insist on getting into lovable scrapes. The book is a collection of essays based on Facebook and Twitter posts throughout the year, which makes for light but witty reading.

5. The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court

by Michelle Moran, 2012

Maria-Lucia, the Austrian princess who became Napoleon Bonaparte’s second wife, has been called “The Forgotten Empress.” In this new novel from historical fiction author Michelle Moran, Maria-Lucia is re-created as a plucky teen who knowingly weds a monster to save her country from destruction. Told from the viewpoints of Maria-Lucia, Napoleon’s sister Pauline, and Pauline’s Haitian chamberlain Paul, Moran infuses these sidelined historical characters with a rich vivacity equal to what she did in previous novels for Marie Antoinette’s wax sculptor Madame Tussaud and Cleopatra’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene.

6. Chickadee

by Louise Erdrich, 2012

Acclaimed Native American author Louise Erdrich continues the Birchbark House series, which follows an Ojibwe family through one hundred years of American history. It is helpful, but not strictly necessary to have read the previous books. Chickadee follows twin brothers Chickadee and Makoons. When Chickadee is maliciously kidnapped, Makoons and his family journey relentlessly to find him. For ages 8 and up, the novel is enjoyable for kids and adults both.

7. This Is How You Lose Her

by Junot Diaz, September 11, 2012

Narrator Yunior from Junot Diaz’s mind-blowing novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is back, with a linked series of short stories set over the course of his life. This Is How You Lose Her is a saga about the ways in which love is lost, particularly how men lose women through misguided masculine posturing. Although the book comes out September 11, some of the stories have already been published in The New Yorker, featuring Diaz’s signature style of Dominican slang, references to geek culture, and events tinged with magical realism.

8. The End of Men: And the Rise of Women

by Hanna Rosin, September 11, 2012

“The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin’s provocative Atlantic cover story, is expanded on in her new book, which posits that women are now the dominant sex. Citing the facts that 60% of bachelor’s degrees in the United States are awarded to women and a growing number of women are now the sole breadwinners in their households, she makes the case that women have outpaced men. While thought-provoking and worth reading, some of Rosin’s feminist peers will take issue with her conclusions.  A senior editor at The Atlantic, Rosin resides in Washington, D.C.

9. NW

by Zadie Smith, September 4, 2012

“NW” stands for Northwest London, not Washington, D.C., but the two primary characters, black women from poor economic backgrounds who went on to college and careers, could just as easily belong here. Best friends Leah and Natalie, despite their success, remain unsatisfied. Leah envies Natalie’s relative prosperity, while Natalie feels trapped in her marriage. This messy portrait of young urban life will resonate especially with Generation X-ers and Millenials, growing up between cultures and values and trying to make sense of life’s apparent randomness.

10. Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-five Years Among the Poorest Children in America

by Jonathan Kozol, 2012

Education activist Jonathan Kozol writes about the same group of families and young people growing up in the South Bronx as in his previous books. In this study of a lifetime, Kozol writes about people, not statistics. The purpose of the work is to decry the state of education in poor urban areas of the country, but Kozol focuses on daily life, rather than rhetoric, to achieve it.




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