- A Box Full of Matches by Nicholson Baker
One of the best books "about nothing" that we've ever come across.
A gentle family man describes his philosophy of life in a diary format. Features highly opinionated disquisitions on topics such as:
Will make you want a pet duck.
- The best way to scrub an encrusted pan in the morning in the dark and make sure it's clean.
- The progression of a fever.
- The best ways to pick up a pair of underwear with your bare toes.
Suitable for: Mature high school level readers (others are likely to be bored out of their minds rather than amused) and adults.
- The Industry of Souls
by Martin Booth
Well, it's not physically fat, but it is fat in ideas. The gentle words of the plot quietly convey
both the great good and the unspeakable, unthinking evil that humans do to each other. The story of an
innocent British citizen who is freed after laboring for 25 years in a Soviet gulag. By the time Alexander Bayliss leaves the gulag,
he does not forgive and does not forget, but accepts that good and bad can come to all people for no reason.
This is a great book to read in times of sorrow.
- Girl With a Pearl Earring by
Fictionalized biography of Vermeer told from the point of view of a servant girl in his household.
- The Awakening and Selected Stories
by Kate Chopin
Hard to believe that these stories were written more than a century ago. Although they are firmly rooted in the bayous of
Lousisiana just before the turn of the 20th century, the women in these stories face choices heartrendingly similar to those of women today.
My favorites this week are Regret, in which a childless woman, set in her ways, is obliged to care for a some of her
neighbors' children for a while. And, The Awakening itself, a novella about a woman who seems to have it all, but does not.
- The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse: A Novel
by Louise Erdrich
- Love Medicine
- The Language of Good-Bye
by Maribeth Fischer
A novel about unexpected consequences.
Lousia May Alcott
- The Cider House Rules
by John Irving
Complex, heavily plotted, LONG, John Irving disquisition on the dicotomy between official rules/laws and unwritten norms is unequally enforced based on gender, social status, and other factors. In other words, it's about the politics and the realities of Making Hard Choices.
Unlike Jane Eyre and David Copperfield, orphans in The Cider House Rules are routinely well cared for and frequently give in to temptation (for good causes, of course). Irving bravely compares himself to these two, and to Dickens, and bravely proclaims the utility and necessity of lying (aka creation of fiction) in the face of unfair rules.
Once you finish reading The Cider House Rules, you will feel compelled to (re)read David Copperfield and Jane Eyre.
- Widow for One Year
by John Irving
If you like John Irving, I think you'll find The Cider House Rules and Hotel New Hampshire much more interesting.
- The Princess Bride
Everyone in the family loves this book, and we might just love the
more. But that's because we know that Mandy Patinkin can do no
- Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Say you got stuck on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a hyena, a tiger named Richard Parker, a locker of
stores and a succinct but helpful survival manual. What would you do? This lovely, serious book about
fate, faith, and man's relationship with animals and nature describes exactly what a teenage boy does to survive.
- Empire Falls by Richard Russo
The best book about the relationship between a teenage girl and her father that I've ever read.
Great analyses of the teenage mindset and how bullying pervades society. Melodramatic scenes
of horrific violence that are strongly foreshadowed early on.
- Angle of Repose by Wallace Earle Stegner
Elderly historian recreates the story of his grandmother's life in the American West. I found the flashback format annoying;
the grandmother's life and plight is so much more interesting than the historian's pitiful contemporary problems. And
the ending of the present-day plot is positively gross. And yet, the story of the grandmother's eventually
unsuccessful marriage to an intelligent, dynamic but unlucky man who was way ahead of his time resonates.
- Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
Collection of short stories about a fictional Vermeer painting.
- City of Light
by Lauren Belfer
Kind of a Handmaid's Tale (without the explicit sex) that takes place in Buffalo, NY at the dawn of the 20th century.
- Till We Have Faces : A Myth Retold
by C. S. Lewis
The legend of Cupid and Psyche is revisited in this beautiful but extremely sad consideration of the necessarily stressful
interactions between humanity and its deities.
- Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
Makes the case for either marriage for love or marriage for convenience, but that it's necessary to decide upfront
which it's going to be. Still relevant after all these years.
- Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Actually, she has become a Dickens fan; but this is a good one to start with.
- Three Musketeers by Dumas
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
- Saint Maybe and
Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Comedy about why war is not funny.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- War and Peace by Tolstoy
- Gone With the Wind
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (very intense)
- The White Deer by James Thurber
- Exodus by Leon Uris
- Hawaii and
Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener
- The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
- Winter's Tale (A Harvest Book) by Mark Helprin
New York-state-based magical realism. One of our favorite books.
- Snow Crash
by Neal Stephenson
- A Clockwork Orange
by Anthony Burgess
Very violent sci fi. Challenging to read because
it's written in a mush of English and Russian. But there are
translations of the hard words in a glossary in the back.
by Toni Morrison
What being a slave does to a person's humanity
- Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison
- Crime and Punishment
by Feodor Dostoevsky
- Brothers Karamazov
by Feodor Dostoevsky
- Hotel World
by Ali Smith
Extremely weird tale, told in the first person by a dead person, about the meaning
of loss, love and life.
- The Catcher in the Rye
by JD Salinger
Not a fat book, but required reading for all teenagers who become frustrated with pretention.
My brother's favorite teenage angst novel.
- Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture
Apostolos K. Doxiadis
A mathematical fairy tale.
- Watership Down
by Richard Adams
A rabbit-civilization faces challenges.
- Horatio Hornblower
- The King Must Die by Mary Renault
- Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Bronte
A difficult book; much, much sadder than I had remembered from when I'd read it to myself a
very long time ago. It's about temptation and the definition of bigamy. My daughter was really shocked by the way
children (Jane Eyre and her classmates) were treated in the beginning of the book. She was horrified by the
sacrifices that Jane felt required to make in order to resist temptation and preserve her good name.
I'm pretty sure that, although the book is fiction, the conditions it describes are ones that affected many women at the
time depicted in the novel.
- Lord of the Rings Trilogy
by Catherine Marshall
- The Once and Future King by T. H. White
- Victor Hugo
- The Secret Life of Bees
by Sue Monk Kidd
Huckleberry Finn in the 1960s and with all girls and the Goddess. I would have liked to
have felt more Joy but my friends tell me that the 14 year old narrator is still in shock from
all that she's learned. Anyway, the bees and the Sisters June, May, & August make
this book well worth reading.
- The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies.
- Evelina : Or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World by Fanny Burney
- Anna Karenina
- Wuthering Heights
- Dr. Zhivago
- Colleen McCullough's series on Rome (The First Man in Rome, Caesar, Caesar's Women,
The Grass Crown).
- The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough
- The Hollow Hills by Mary Stewart
- The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
- The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks (the first of a trilogy)
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
- Turgenev's Fathers and Sons
- Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
It is amazing how a book that was written nearly two centuries ago can ring so true to this day.
It's an age-old story, obviously. A teenage girl is mortified by her family and feels that they adversely affect her romantic prospects.
And, the young man she favors agrees.
All of Jane Austen
- The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
- Cartoon Guide to Physics
by Larry Gonick, Art Huffman (Contributor)
- The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the
by Brian Greene
- The Dancing Wu Li Masters : An Overview of the New Physics
by Gary Zukav, David Finkelstein
by James Michener
I read this while traveling through Spain.
- Orchid Thief
by Susan Orleans
Story of a man obsessed with orchids. The language is rough, but the book is well worth reading because of its fascinating descriptions of the orchids and the man and life in this particular stratum of Floridian society, which spans Seminole tribe members to British nobility.
- The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
- House by Tracy Kidder (well, actually, anything by Tracy Kidder)
- Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman
Autobiography of physicist, Richard Feynman.
Or, actually, read ANYTHING autobiographical by Richard Feynman.
- The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary
by Simon Winchester
Fascinating but depressing story of the life of the murderer who worked on the OED (one of our favorite dictionaries.)
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Autobiographical novel about a girl growing up in abject poverty.
- William Manchester's The Glory and The Dream
- The Autobiography of Helen Keller
- Lash's books on the Roosevelts
- Nicholas and Alexandra
- Born Free Trilogy
- A Whole New Life
by Reynolds Price
- Stranger in the Forest
by Eric Hansen
Out of print. About dealing with people and environments that are not like what
you're used to.
Lists of books
Books listed below were NOT judged appropriate for this particular child, but were recommended by parents of other
sophisticated young readers.
- Books by Ursula LeGuin, Joan Slonczewski
Child rates these "preachy".
- Theo's Odyssey by Catherine Clement
Child deems this "didactic" based only on Amazon review... Shrug.
- Phillip Pullman -- Golden Compass
Some parents have concerns
about its themes and plot, which involve abuse and murder of children.
and other adult themes.
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Not that we adults don't love the book, but not for a 14 year old.
- Shogun by James Clavell
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Starts out very depressing...
- Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel
Cave-girl romance novels. This one is great, but we really don't want to encourage her to read the sequels...
- The Kristen Lavransdatter trilogy by Sigrid Undset, for which Undset won the
Nobel Prize in literature. Set in 14th Century Norway.
Involving for an adult reading it, but very difficult to read, perhaps because the translation is old. The theme
of the book: struggling to avoid pre-marital sex is difficult, even among church-loving
people. Fascinating, detailed depictions of life on the farms, and in villages, towns
and convents of medieval Norway.
Books not recommended