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> Granite State Readers Recommend

Concord, NH

Alice Nye [Spring 2007]

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This book has it all: memorable characters, a gripping plot and writing that can stop you in your tracks. The backdrop is Nigeria during the Biafran secession and civil war, but the themes are sadly still with us: the ethnic, religious and class prejudices that foster man’s inhumanities. This is a special writer and special book.

Amber Cushing [Spring 2007]
Librarian, NH State Library

Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla ;Gibb. I couldn’t put this book down. It’s an excellent work truly displaying the hope, sadness and longing of Lilly, the main character. Lilly’s hippie ex-pat British parents wander around Europe with her in tow until they are killed in Morocco when she is 8. She is then raised in an Islamic shrine by a Quran scholar. At age 16 she ends up in the Ethiopian city of Harar, where most of the story takes place, but later she is in London as a refugee. The story moves back and forth between 1980’s London and 1970’s Ethiopia, but still flows nicely and is not jumpy like some novels written in this form. There is much attention to detail of place, perhaps due to Gibb’s PhD research in Ethiopia. Overall, it is the story of trying to find one’s place in the ;world.

Alice Nye [Fall 2005]
Coordinator, Family Resource Connection, NH State Library

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger was one of Time Magazine's top five novels for 2001 and I can see why. The language is beautiful, the voice distinctive, the plot riveting and the characters are fully fleshed, funny (at times) and moving (almost always). The novel takes place in the early 1960s in rural Minnesota, and is narrated by 11 year old Reuben who, together with his father and younger sister, head across the western plains in mid winter to find his brother on the run from the law.

Don Kimball [March 2005]
Poet / Retired family therapist

I strongly recommend Rhina P. Espaillat's first book of poems, Where Horizons Go - for it includes some of the finest sonnets I've ever read; several short narrative poems in rhyming couplets; three villanelles and a sestina - all written in a contemporary vernacular, about concerns of the heart and mind; all with breath-taking artistry!

If I may be permitted, I also highly recommend these following books:

1) Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier - an old favorite of mine. I highly recommend it for its poetic language as well as the gradual unravelling of an unreliable narrator. Reminds me of the exactness of Flaubert, with all the psychological intensity of Dostoevsky.

2) American Short Story Masterpieces, edited by Raymond Carver and Tom Jenks. The best anthology of contemporary short stories by some of the finest practitioners in this genre, from Bernard Malamud to Carol Bly.

3) Six Great Modern Short Novels - a handfull of old classics by William Faulkner, Nikolay Gogol, James Joyce, Herman Melville, Katherine Anne Porter, Glenway Wescott. Still the best collection of novellas I've read, not only for the archetypal nature of the conflicts, the psychological drama, but also for the technical understanding of how this particular genre works.

4) Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism, edited by Mark Jarman and David Mason. Still the best anthology of contemporary poets who use meter and rhyme.

5) David Mason's The Country I Remember - because it includes an extraordinary narrative poem, only 50 pages long, that reads like a short novel, about the experiences of a Civil War veteran and his daughter.

6) Andre Dubus III's House of Sand and Fog - it's the best contemporary novel I've read in the last 10 years! With rare sympathy and psychological realism, this author masterfully maintains all three points of view of the three central characters as they become hopelessly entangled in a struggle over a house on a California beach.

7) David Mason's The Poetry of Life and the Life of Poetry. The most delightful yet insightful book of essays on poetry I've ever read! I am awed by way this poet blends feeling and thoughtfulness in what he writes; the deep human insights found in his essays as well as his poetry.

8) Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams - after Walden Pond, the most delightful and spiritually moving book I've read on nature.

9) Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War - a model for all the machinations and misery of protracted wars! Steven Lattimore's translation is the best I've found.

10) Dante's Inferno - Michael Palma has done the best translation I've read, for it's accuracy as well as the rhythm of the rhyme scheme (Terza Rima).

11) Beowulf - Timothy Murphy and Alan Sullivan have done the best translation I've read (yes, better than the one Seamus Heaney did); the Accentual meter gives this Norwegian masterpiece the rhythm of a drum beat, befitting the heroic battle between a great warrior and his adversary.

12) The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson, the most enjoyable children's book I've read in years! I love reading it to myself, my granddaughter and the children of my friends. About a clever mouse who takes a stroll in a dark woods. I love it for the catchy, repeating pattern of rhyme as well as all the adventure and humor.

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