“What better occupation, really, than to spend the evening at the fireside with a book,
with the wind beating on the windows and the lamp burning bright…
-Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
This is our December list but as I write this it is January and it is 1 degree on my outdoor thermometer. Fortunately there is not much of a wind today so wind chill is only -10 but that could change tomorrow. Last month we were spoiled up here in Wisconsin with very mild weather, 40’s, 50’s and Wisconsinites had on their shorts and sandals. But now its snowmobile suits, mufflers, gloves and thick socks. If I didn’t have appointments this week that would be me in that picture above. But alas, I am not allowed to be a book hermit all week. Rest assured I will try every chance I get. And when I’m not reading, I’ll be working on a good jigsaw puzzle. So is it cold where you are? Need a suggestion for a good book? Here’s what we shared in December.
1. Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alex Kershaw (2015) 304 pages. When American physician Sumner Jackson, and his family, lived at Number 11 on Avenue de Foch, he found himself drawn into the Liberation network of the French resistance. He knew the stakes were high. Down the road at Number 31 was the “mad sadist” Theodor Dannecker, an Eichmann protégé and at Number 84 was the Parisian headquarters of the Gestapo.
2. Old World Murder by Kathleen Ernst (2010) 325 pages. This debut novel is a good, steady paced mystery. The characters are realistic and you do start to care about them. I thought it would be a typical cozy but it has some gutsy parts. Best of all it is set in Wisconsin in a real living museum. The author also uses other place names, locations and Wisconsin traditions, i.e., the Friday night fish fry, to make you feel right at home.
3. The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian (2013) 309 pages. This book is a historical thriller. The story unfolds in war-torn Italy and the chapters alternate back and forth from 1943 to 1955. All is set in Italy. In between are short chapters related to the individual who is killing the remaining Rosati family who once played reluctant hosts to the Nazis.
4. Killing Lessons by Saul Black (2015) 400 pages. A frightening, tense and suspenseful serial killer novel. Not for the faint of heart.
5. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (2015) 384 pages. Author of The Paris Wife. This fictional biography, set in colonial Kenya of the 1920″s, is about the life and times of pioneering aviator and horse racer Beryl Markham.
6. A Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott (2015) 296 pages. With the background of the making of Gone with the Wind, this novel combines historical events with the fictional career of an aspiring screenwriter.
7. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962) 259 pages. What if Japan and Germany won WW2 and split up ownership of the US? That is the premise of this alternate history novel. Dick won the Hugo Award for best novel in 1963. This book is also the basis for Amazon’s drama series by the same name. Pretty scary stuff, similar to, “What if Donald Trump became president?”
8. Cross My Heart by James Patterson (2013) 544 pages. The 21st novel in the Detective Alex Cross series. This will be followed by “Hope to Die”.
9. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi (2003) 356 pages. A memoir by an Iranian woman who was a professor of English & Persian Literature at the University of Tehran before, during, and after the revolution and war with Iraq.
10. Freeman by Leonard Pitts, Jr. (2012) 432 pages.The Civil War is over and Sam Freeman, a runaway slave who once fought in the union army has decided to leave his safety in Philadelphia and head out on foot towards the war-torn South in search of his wife, Tilda. This is almost a suicidal mission for he discovers little has changed.
11. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014) 460 pages. This may look like a romance but it really is a mix of murder, mystery and humor. The author tells the story of three mothers of kindergartners whose apparently perfect lives unravel to the point of murder and it will keep you guessing till the end.
12. See Me by Nicholas Sparks (2015) 486 pages. If you are a Sparks fan you will know what to expect, a story about love, with a bit of mystery and suspense thrown into the mix. And if you are a Sparks fan, you will love it.
And finally, one of our snowbirds sent me a message that even though she is in South Carolina, fleeing the cold, she still is thinking of us and reading. Ellie wanted to give a shout out to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. I have read it and I agree, it is a good story.