“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger

This book gorgeously illustrates love, loneliness, and loss. Niffenegger’s approach to time travel is unique. She uses it to explore the miscommunication and sense of distance that can occur in any relationship, while also discussing the larger issue of what it would be like to live life completely out of order.

“How to Read the Air” by Dinaw Mengestu

How to Read the Air is about failed relationships and imperfect people, and about the lasting effect of relationships on identities—for better or worse. Unfortunately, between the slow plot and the flat characterization, there was very little to draw me into this story, and even less to keep me hanging on. As a big fan of Mengestu’s first book, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, I was disappointed in this, his sophomore offering.

“Coraline” by Neil Gaiman

Coraline envelops you in the mystery and magic of a resourceful and imaginative child’s world. It is an excellent modern-day fairy tale that incorporates countless elements of folklore and fantasy.

“No Plot? No Problem!” novel-writing kit by Chris Baty

The kit’s contents are snarky and fun if you need a pick-me-up, but you shouldn’t expect any life-changing advice. Baty attempts to prepare you for a month-long writing endeavor with equal parts humor and advice, but the whole thing feels corny. Stick to November, or get a crowd of friends to write with you some other month, and leave this kit on the shelf.

Still Reading, and Still Thankful

Saturday, November 27, 2010 3:00 p.m. I was planning on making some progress on my books this morning, but I ended up playing outside instead. I’m now on page 130 of The Lotus Eaters, and I’m hoping to get to the halfway point by tonight. Wish me luck!

“Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun is an eye-opening account of the devastating effects of two very different disasters in the United States: As Hurricane Katrina wreaks havoc on neighborhoods and lives in New Orleans, religious intolerance toward Muslims becomes more pointed this post-9/11 world. The Zeitouns’ fascinating story of survival in the face of loss and discrimination makes both catastrophes undeniably real to the reader.

“Room” by Emma Donoghue

This is by far the best book I’ve read all year. The book is original, thrilling, captivating, and heartwrenching. At the same time, it is unexpectedly fresh and optimistic, filled with life and hope and wonder.

“Washington’s U Street” by Blair A. Ruble

Washington’s U Street area is a “contact zone”—a place where cultures and peoples exist side by side. Whether black or white, southern or northern, professional or scholarly, residents in the neighborhood have interacted with each other with very few clashes decades. U Street has bred activists, politicians, scholars, educators, athletes, musicians, dancers, calling such famous figures as Duke Ellington and Ralph Bunche sons.