Catching Up on Some Reading

In the flurry of recent travels (from China and Japan, then back to the east coast to visit family), I have been delinquent about reviewing the books I’ve read recently. Now that I am in the middle of an absolute gem, I am compelled once again to offer up a few recommendations.  

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery (the afore-mentioned “gem”) beautifully written, this is a sassy and smart story whose narrative toggles between 52-year old Renee (concierge in a Parisien hotel particulier) and 12-yr old Paloma (wildly intelligent resident of the building). Already popular among independent booksellers, this is a novel that is going to quickly climb the bestseller lists, especially as book clubs discover its charm.

Serena, by Ron Rash – one of my bookseller friends at RJ Julia, Kathryn Fabiani, wrote a shelftalker recommendation that spurred me to buy this novel, which is still in hardcover. The setting: 1920’s Appalachia in the midst of a huge logging operation. The drama: marriage/ mistress/ child, environment/ politics/ business. This is a book that both men and women will enjoy: fast-moving plot, straightforward writing and dialogue, and one of the most memorable female characters (Serena of course) that’s come out of recent fiction.

Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami – thanks to Greg Trotter for the perfect recommendation on superb fiction to be read in Japan. Suspend reality for a bit to really appreciate this…

Also, for anyone going to Japan, or interested in Japanese culture, a nonfiction favorite is Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us about Living in the West, by T.R. Reid (NPR commentator and former Washington Post Tokyo bureau chief.)

Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff, by Rosemary Mahoney – Mahoney has nailed the art of travel writing. She tells her story as if sitting across from a dear friend, drinking a glass of wine (only second to curling up with a book!)  I can’t wait to backtrack and check out her previous travelogues, like The Singular Pilgrim: Travels on Sacred Ground.

Stay tuned for my review of Down the Nile in the Women’s Adventure Magazine’s November newsletter.

And now, back to Paris with Ms. Barbery as I try to distract myself from the alternating angst and excitement on election eve…