Tag Archives: Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books on Science: My Summer Reading List

I’ve developed an interest in science ever since graduating college, but sometimes I feel like I’m missing crucial elements of my education, partly because I was homeschooled. This summer, I hope to do a lot of catching up by (re)educating myself on basic scientific principles. Here’s what I’ll be reading:

A Briefer History of Time1. A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking’s worldwide bestseller A Brief History of Time remains a landmark volume in scientific writing. But for years readers have asked for a more accessible formulation of its key concepts—the nature of space and time, the role of God in creation, and the history and future of the universe. This is Professor Hawking’s response. Although “briefer,” this book is much more than a mere explanation of Hawking’s earlier work. A Briefer History of Time both clarifies and expands on the great subjects of the original, and records the latest developments in the field—from string theory to the search for a unified theory of all the forces of physics.

The Demon-Haunted World2. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan
How can we make intelligent decisions about our increasingly technology-driven lives if we don’t understand the difference between the myths of pseudoscience and the testable hypotheses of science? Pulitzer Prize-winning author and distinguished astronomer Carl Sagan argues that scientific thinking is critical not only to the pursuit of truth but to the very well-being of our democratic institutions. As Sagan demonstrates with lucid eloquence, the siren song of unreason is not just a cultural wrong turn but a dangerous plunge into darkness that threatens our most basic freedoms.

Written in Stone3. Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature by Brian Switek
Spectacular fossil finds make today’s headlines; new technology unlocks secrets of skeletons unearthed a hundred years ago. Still, evolution is often poorly represented by the media and misunderstood by the public. A potent antidote to pseudoscience, Written in Stone is an engrossing history of evolutionary discovery for anyone who has marveled at the variety and richness of life.

Your Inner Fish4. Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin
Why do we look the way we do? Neil Shubin, the paleontologist and professor of anatomy who co-discovered Tiktaalik, the “fish with hands,” tells the story of our bodies as you’ve never heard it before. By examining fossils and DNA, he shows us that our hands actually resemble fish fins, our heads are organized like long-extinct jawless fish, and major parts of our genomes look and function like those of worms and bacteria. Your Inner Fish makes us look at ourselves and our world in an illuminating new light.

The First Three Minutes5. The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe by Steven Weinberg
This classic of contemporary science writing by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist explains to general readers what happened when the universe began, and how we know.

Atom6. Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth… and Beyond by Lawrence M. Krauss
The story of matter and the history of the cosmos–from the perspective of a single oxygen atom–is told with the insight and wit of one of the most dynamic physicists and writers working today. Sample reviews: “A reader of this book will travel with the atom, and learn a great deal of modern particle physics, astrophysics and molecular biology”; “Even the least scientifically inclined will be able to comprehend the events that shaped the universe and which conspired to create our own solar system.”

Big Bang7. Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe by Simon Singh
A half century ago, a shocking Washington Post headline claimed that the world began in five cataclysmic minutes rather than having existed for all time; a skeptical scientist dubbed the maverick theory the Big Bang. In this amazingly comprehensible history of the universe, Simon Singh decodes the mystery behind the Big Bang theory, lading us through the development of one of the most extraordinary, important, and awe-inspiring theories in science.

The Elegant Universe8. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene
Brian Greene, one of the world’s leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery surrounding string theory to reveal a universe that consists of eleven dimensions, where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter from the smallest quarks to the most gargantuan supernovas is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy. In this brilliantly articulated and refreshingly clear book, Greene relates the scientific story and the human struggle behind twentieth-century physics’ search for a theory of everything.

The Universe Within9. The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People by Neil Shubin
How are the events that formed our solar system billions of years ago embedded inside each of us? Starting once again with fossils, Shubin turns his gaze skyward, showing us how the entirety of the universe’s fourteen-billion-year history can be seen in our bodies. As he moves from our very molecular composition (a result of stellar events at the origin of our solar system) through the workings of our eyes, Shubin makes clear how the evolution of the cosmos has profoundly marked our own bodies.

On the Origin of Species10. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
This landmark work of scientific and philosophical thought sets forth Charles Darwin’s pioneering theory of evolution and the interdependence of species. On the Origin of Species had an immediate and profound impact on the literature and ideas of his contemporaries. Without setting out to be controversial, Darwin became quite possibly the most revolutionary writer of the Victorian age, overturning the widely held religious and scientific beliefs of his time.

Have you read any of these? Are there any good books on science–particularly evolution and cosmology–that I’m missing?

I receive a very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Top Ten Books About India

I recently returned from a two-week trip to India. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to write a few articles about my time there, but suffice to say it is a rich, complex, and utterly beautiful country.

I’m nearly done with Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, a truly incredible work of nonfiction, but I’m already jonesing for more. Here are the top ten books–fiction and nonfiction–that I’d like to read about India.

Midnight's Children10. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India’s independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. This novel is at once a fascinating family saga and an astonishing evocation of a vast land and its people–a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy. Twenty-five years after its publication, Midnight’s Children stands apart as both an epochal work of fiction and a brilliant performance by one of the great literary voices of our time.

The Inheritance of Loss9. The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
In a crumbling, isolated house at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas lives an embittered judge who wants only to retire in peace, when his orphaned granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep. The judge’s cook watches over her distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another. Kiran Desai’s brilliant novel, published to huge acclaim, is a story of joy and despair. Her characters face numerous choices that majestically illuminate the consequences of colonialism as it collides with the modern world.

The Illicit Happiness of Other People8. The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph
Ousep Chacko, journalist and failed novelist, prides himself on being “the last of the real men.” This includes waking neighbors upon returning late from the pub. His wife Mariamma stretches their money, raises their two boys, and, in her spare time, gleefully fantasizes about Ousep dying. One day, their seemingly happy seventeen-year-old son Unni—an obsessed comic-book artist—falls from the balcony, leaving them to wonder whether it was an accident. The Illicit Happiness of Other People—a smart, wry, and poignant novel—teases you with its mystery, philosophy, and unlikely love story.

Maximum City7. Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta
A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us an insider’s view of this stunning metropolis. He approaches the city from unexpected angles, taking us into the criminal underworld of rival Muslim and Hindu gangs; following the life of a bar dancer raised amid poverty and abuse; opening the door into the inner sanctums of Bollywood; and delving into the stories of the countless villagers who come in search of a better life and end up living on the sidewalks.

A Passage to India6. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
Britain’s three-hundred-year relationship with the Indian subcontinent produced much fiction of interest but only one indisputable masterpiece: E. M. Forster’s A Passage to India, published in 1924, at the height of the Indian independence movement. Centering on an ambiguous incident between a young Englishwoman of uncertain stability and an Indian doctor eager to know his conquerors better, Forster’s book explores, with unexampled profundity, both the historical chasm between races and the eternal one between individuals struggling to ease their isolation and make sense of their humanity.

The White Tiger5. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The white tiger of this novel is Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager whose great ambition leads him to the zenith of Indian business culture, the world of the Bangalore entrepreneur. On the occasion of the president of China’s impending trip to Bangalore, Balram writes a letter to him describing his transformation and his experience as driver and servant to a wealthy Indian family, which he thinks exemplifies the contradictions and complications of Indian society. Amoral, irreverent, deeply endearing, and utterly contemporary, this novel is an international publishing sensation—and a startling, provocative debut.

A Suitable Boy4. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: Lata and her mother, Mrs. Rupa Mehra, are both trying to find — through love or through exacting maternal appraisal — a suitable boy for Lata to marry. Set in the early 1950s, in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the richly imagined world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multiethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humor and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette and the most appalling violence.

The World We Found3. The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar
As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But over the past thirty years, the quartet has drifted apart. Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind. The World We Found is a dazzling masterwork from the remarkable Thrity Umrigar, offering an unforgettable portrait of modern India while it explores the enduring bonds of friendship and the power of love to change lives.

Unaccustomed Earth2. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
These eight stories by beloved and bestselling author Jhumpa Lahiri take us from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand, as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life. Here they enter the worlds of sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, friends and lovers. Rich with the signature gifts that have established Jhumpa Lahiri as one of our most essential writers, Unaccustomed Earth exquisitely renders the most intricate workings of the heart and mind.

The God of Small Things1. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Compared favorably to the works of Faulkner and Dickens, Arundhati Roy’s debut novel is a modern classic that has been read and loved worldwide. Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama, it is the story of an affluent Indian family forever changed by one fateful day in 1969. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevokably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest. Lush, lyrical, and unnerving, The God of Small Things is an award-winning landmark that started for its author an esteemed career of fiction and political commentary that continues unabated.

Other titles I’d like to read (if I magically find myself with more time):

Have you read any of these? Are there any good books about India I’m missing?

I receive a very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Top Ten NBCC Picks I Want to Read

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) recently announced its 2012 finalists for outstanding books. While there are a handful of titles I’ve been planning to read, there are also several books I’d never even heard of–which is surprisingly common with the NBCC annual picks.

Here are the titles I’m most looking forward to reading:

978145166177410. The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
When Reyna Grande’s father leaves his wife and three children behind in a village in Mexico to make the dangerous trek across the border to the United States, he promises he will soon return from “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) with enough money to build them a dream house where they can all live together. His promises become harder to believe as months turn into years, and their eventual reunion is rocky. In this extraordinary memoir, award-winning writer Reyna Grande vividly brings to life her tumultuous early years, capturing all the confusion and contradictions of childhood, especially one spent torn between two parents and two countries.

Magnificence9. Magnificence by Lydia Millet
This novel presents Susan Lindley, a woman adrift after her husband’s death and the dissolution of her family who embarks on a new phase in her life after inheriting her uncle’s sprawling mansion and its vast collection of taxidermy. In a setting both wondrous and absurd, Susan defends her legacy from freeloading relatives and explores the mansion’s unknown spaces. Funny and heartbreaking, Magnificence explores evolution and extinction, children and parenthood, loss and revelation.

Why Does the World Exist8. Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story by Jim Holt
In this astonishing and profound work, an irreverent sleuth traces the riddle of existence from the ancient world to modern times.

In the House of the Interpreter7. In the House of the Interpreter by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
In his second memoir, Kenyan novelist, poet, playwright, and literary critic Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o recounts his childhood and coming of age in British-ruled Kenya in the 1950s, against the backdrop of the tumultuous Mau Mau Uprising for independence and Kenyan sovereignty. In the House of the Interpreter hauntingly describes the formative experiences of a young man who would become a world-class writer and, as a political dissident, a moral compass.

House of Stone6. House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East by Anthony Shadid
A crowning achievement in the career of revered journalist Anthony Shadid—who died while on assignment in Syria in February 2012—House of Stone tells the story of rebuilding Shadid’s ancestral home in Lebanon amid political strife.

The Orphan Master's Son5. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother—a singer “stolen” to Pyongyang—and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his Korean overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jong Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon.

NW4. NW by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end. Depicting the modern urban zone – familiar to town-dwellers everywhere – Zadie Smith’s NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.

Far From the Tree3. Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon
Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent parents should accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Elegantly reported by a spectacularly original thinker, Far from the Tree explores themes of generosity, acceptance, and tolerance—all rooted in the insight that love can transcend every prejudice. This crucial and revelatory book expands our definition of what it is to be human.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers2. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths, the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

Billy Lynn's Long Hlaftime Walk1. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
After a ferocious firefight in Iraq is captured by news crews, the soldiers involved are sent on a media-intensive nationwide Victory Tour to reinvigorate public support for the war. Now, on Thanksgiving Day, they find themselves slated to be part of the halftime show alongside Destiny’s Child. Over the course of this day, Specialist William “Billy” Lynn, a nineteen-year-old Texas native, will begin to understand difficult truths about himself, his country, his struggling family, and his brothers-in-arms—soldiers both dead and alive. In the final few hours before returning to Iraq, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years.

Will you be reading any of these titles? Did any other NBCC picks stand out to you?

I receive a very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Eight Memoirs I’m Reading This Semester

This semester, I’m taking a class called Readings in Essay and Memoir, so I thought I’d dedicate a post to some of the texts we’ll cover. You’ve probably noticed that memoir is one of my favorite genres. In fact, I’d like to write a memoir, and the second-best way to become a better writer is to read. (The first-best is to actually write.)

None of these are new releases, but they represent different styles of memoir and essay writing and I know I will learn a lot from them. One day, perhaps my name will be on this list! (Or a list like it. Maybe not this list exactly; that would be a little weird.)

I intend to review all of the books on the list, as well as a few that I discover along the way. Here they are, in no particular order:

I Was Told There'd Be Cake8. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
Wry, hilarious, and profoundly genuine, this debut collection of literary essays is a celebration of fallibility and haplessness in all their glory. Together, these essays create a startlingly funny and revealing portrait of a complex and utterly recognizable character that’s aiming for the stars but hits the ceiling, and the inimitable city that has helped shape who she is. I Was Told There’d Be Cake introduces a strikingly original voice, chronicling the struggles and unexpected beauty of modern urban life.

An Exclusive Love7. An Exclusive Love by Johanna Adorján
Chain-smoking, peculiarly stylish, stubborn, and eccentric—Vera and István were anything but ordinary grandparents. Sixteen years after their death, Johanna Adorján fills the gaps in their story. An Exclusive Love is a brilliantly constructed memoir and a gorgeous romance, a tale of two people who died as they lived: inseparable.

This Boy's Life6. This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
This unforgettable memoir, by one of our most gifted writers, introduces us to the young Toby Wolff, by turns tough and vulnerable, crafty and bumbling, and ultimately winning. Separated by divorce from his father and brother, Toby and his mother are constantly on the move, yet they develop an extraordinarily close, almost telepathic relationship. As Toby fights for identity and self-respect against the unrelenting hostility of a new stepfather, his experiences are at once poignant and comical, and Wolff does a masterful job of re-creating the frustrations and cruelties of adolescence.

The Pharmacist's Mate5. The Pharmacist’s Mate by Amy Fusselman
Fusselman’s first book weaves surprising beauty out of diverse strands: death and sea shanties, guns and artificial insemination, World War II and AC/DC. Highly personal but always engaging, this book reveals the humor and beauty throughout Fusselman’s grief following her father’s death.

The Color of Water4. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared “light-skinned” woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician and son, explores his mother’s past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut. Interspersed throughout his mother’s compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self-realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.

If You Knew Suzy3. If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, a Daughter, a Reporter’s Notebook by Katherine Rosman
Faced with the loss of her mother, Suzy, to cancer at sixty, Wall Street Journal reporter Katherine Rosman longs to find answers to the questions that we all wrestle with after losing someone we love. So she does what she does best: she opens her notebook and starts investigating. With a reporter’s eye for detail and nuance, Rosman creates a vivid, unflinching, and unforgettable portrait of a privately remarkable mother and woman. In the process, Rosman tells a universal tale of loss and love, capturing the angst families confront when wading through the world of doctors and hospitals, the poignancy and pain that come as a life ends, and the humor that helps transform sadness into a new and powerful brand of happiness.

Angelhead2. Angelhead: My Brother’s Descent into Madness by Greg Bottoms
A taut, powerful memoir of madness, Angelhead documents the violent, drug-addled descent of the author’s brother, Michael, into schizophrenia. Beginning with Michael’s first psychotic break—seeing God in his suburban bedroom window while high on LSD—Greg Bottoms recounts, in gripping, dramatic prose, the bizarre disappearances, suicide attempts, and the shocking crime that land Michael in the psychiatric wing of a maximum security prison. A work of nonfiction with the form and imagery of a novel, Angelhead enables the reader to witness not only the fragmenting of a mind, but of a family as well.

Up for Renewal1. Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex, and Starting Over by Cathy Alter
By age thirty-seven, with a failed marriage under her belt, Alter was continuing down the path of poor decisions, one paved with a steady stream of junk food, unpaid bills, questionable friends, and highly inappropriate men. So she dedicated her life to the women’s magazines for the next year, resolving to follow their advice without question. By the end of her subscriptions, she would get rid of upper-arm jiggle, crawl out of debt, host the perfect dinner party, run a mile without puking, engage in better bathtub booty, ask for a raise, and overhaul her apartment. At least that was the premise of her social experiment. What actually happened was much less about cosmetic change and much more about internal transformation. Singular in its voice and yet completely universal, Up for Renewal appeals to all who have ever wondered if they could actually make their life over.

Leave a comment if you have already read one or more of these titles. I plan to read all of them by May, so please feel free to join me in a memoir/essay readathon!

I receive a very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!

Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in 2013

There were dozens of fantastic new releases in 2012, but I fell far behind in reading them. Now, it’s time to catch up–as always, my New Year’s resolution for 2013 is to read more. (Do you expect anything less from me?)

Here are the top ten books I vow to read before this year’s end.

The Forgetting Tree10. The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli
Haunting, tough, triumphant, and profound, The Forgetting Tree explores the intimate ties we have to one another, the deepest fears we keep to ourselves, and the calling of the land that ties every one of us together.

I loved Soli’s first novel, The Lotus Eaters, and can’t wait to see if she can repeat the magic.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette9. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight8. The Lion Sleeps Tonight by Rian Malan
The Lion Sleeps Tonight is Malan’s remarkable chronicle of South Africa’s halting, sometimes violent, steps and missteps, taken as blacks and whites try to build a new country. The collection comprises twenty-three pieces. . . . The stories, combined with Malan’s sardonic interstitial commentary, offer a brilliantly observed portrait of contemporary South Africa.

I’m planning on traveling to South Africa over the summer, and this will be one of several required readings.

The End of Your LIfe Book Club7. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying.

NW6. NW by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners – Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end. Depicting the modern urban zone – familiar to town-dwellers everywhere – Zadie Smith’s NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters, mercurial and vital, like the city itself.

Contents May Have Shifted5. Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston
Stuck in a dead-end relationship, this fearless narrator leaves her metaphorical baggage behind and finds a comfort zone in the air, feeling safest with one plane ticket in her hand and another in her underwear drawer. She flies around the world, finding reasons to love life in dozens of far-flung places from Alaska to Bhutan. Along the way she weathers unplanned losses of altitude, air pressure, and landing gear. With the help of a squad of loyal, funny, wise friends and massage therapists, she learns to sort truth from self-deception, self-involvement from self-possession.

Dear Life4. Dear Life by Alice Munro
Alice Munro’s peerless ability to give us the essence of a life in often brief but always spacious and timeless stories is once again everywhere apparent in this brilliant new collection. In story after story, she illumines the moment a life is forever altered by a chance encounter or an action not taken, or by a simple twist of fate that turns a person out of his or her accustomed path and into a new way of being or thinking.

The Yellow Birds3. The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
In Al Tafar, Iraq, twenty-one-year old Private Bartle and eighteen-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle for the city. Bound together since basic training when Bartle makes a promise to bring Murphy safely home, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for. With profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on mothers and families at home, The Yellow Birds is a groundbreaking novel that is destined to become a classic.

Arcadia2. Arcadia by Lauren Groff
In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what would become a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic, rollicking, and tragic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after. With Arcadia, her first novel since her lauded debut, The Monsters of Templeton, Lauren Groff establishes herself not only as one of the most gifted young fiction writers at work today but also as one of our most accomplished literary artists.

The Boy Kings of Texas1. The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez
A lyrical and authentic book that recounts the story of a border-town family in Brownsville, Texas in the 1980′s, as each member of the family desperately tries to assimilate and escape life on the border to become “real” Americans, even at the expense of their shared family history. This is really un-mined territory in the memoir genre that gives in-depth insight into a previously unexplored corner of America.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each Tuesday, bloggers create top ten lists about reading, writing, blogging, and more!

I receive a very small commission when you purchase the book through the above links. Thank you for helping to support my site–and my book addiction!