Books & Learning



The Great Courses

I am putting this entire list on my iPhone for my weekly trips to the library. I will put together a list for you too but here are just a few "fun" recommendations:

The Coffee House Mysteries - Cleo Coyle
This is a fun series…especially if you like coffee and food! The books have fun characters and are loaded with wonderful recipes. It's best to read these in order as the characters develop throughout the series.

Stephanie Plum Series - Janet Evanovich
Everything by Janet Evanovich is hysterical. This is the only one of her 6 series I've read but hope to read the rest one day. Some outrageous characters who solve who-done-it's in their own wacky ways.

The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency Series…and others - Alexander McCall Smith
Love this author. I've read many of his series and love them all for a good read with no blood, guts, or broken bones. Again, these are best read in chronological order.

All the Light We Cannot See — Anthony Doerr
This is one of my top 3 favorite books of 2014. About a blind French girl and a German boy during WWII, in occupied France. Loved the writing style of this. A very touching story.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore — Robin Sloan
Another of my top 3 favorites. Clever and entertaining mystery about a laid-off Bay Area web designer who takes a job in an odd little San Francisco bookstore run by an equally odd, little, and very old man. The adventure takes the younger man to the world of Google in Silicon Valley, and to an underground library in New York City. I loved this book, the characters, the story…all of it. Much of it seems total fantasy, but who really cares? Fun fact: If you get a trade paperback, the book cover glows in the dark! It made me smile when I first noticed it one night after lights-out. Not sure if that's the case with the hardcover though. I met the author at a book reading last year and he's a funny and very clever young fellow. Hope he writes more.

Boys in the Boat — Daniel Brown
Another top 3 favorite. This is a non-fiction account of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and the rowing team from Univ. of Washington who beat all odds to get there. Loved this book!

2 books
The Star of Istanbul and The Empire of Night — Robert Olen Butler
Connie actually suggested the first one, so there's another recommendation!
This author has written several short story collections, a few other novels, and I think some poetry is in the mix somewhere. I plan to read more of his fiction work. These 2 books are #2 and #3 in a series of 3. I have not read the first one and will probably do so at some point. About a Chicago newspaper correspondent, WWI era , who becomes a spy for the US govt. I think these are considered historical crime novels, which I like. I also like the main character in this short series and hope there are more to come.

Frog Music — Emma Donoghue
This is a strange one, but I found it interesting as it is based on an actual unsolved murder in 1870s San Francisco. There's a lot of jumping around from one time period to another, but once you get the hang of it it's OK. The two main characters are women, which in itself is unusual. I found the notes at the back of the book fascinating after I'd read the entire novel.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette — Maria Semple
Funny, light-hearted, with some quirky (not always likable) characters. The story can be bit disconnected at times, but I enjoyed it anyway.

2 books
The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm— Robert Galbraith (AKA J.K. Rowlings)
I never read any of Rowling's Harry Potter books, so can't make any comparisons. These 2 books are products of her new life as a writer of adult mystery fiction and I liked both of the books. I assume these are the beginning of a series with a detective (Cormoran Strike) and his underpaid (her choice), very bright, but emotionally conflicted secretary (Robin). I will definitely keep my eyes open for next in the series.

2 books
One Plus One and Me Before You — Jojo Moyes
I like this author and enjoyed both books. Different characters in each so no need to read in chronological order. Good reads and I found them hard to put down.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs — Anna Quindlen
One-time famous woman photographer experiences time passing and self-discovery in later life. Nice and thoughtful read.

The Last Runaway — Tracy Chevalier (also wrote Girl with The Pearl Earring)
Historical novel (mid-1800s) of Quaker girl who does meticulous needlework. Story involves adventure, slavery, quilting, and survival. Good read.

The Magician's Assistant — Ann Patchett
I liked her book Bel Canto and thought I'd try this one. I liked it and it was interesting. This is one of those books that's good to read in between crime novels to get right with the world again after too much blood and guts, although he book does have a violent character or two.

Other writers/series I like to read:

John Grisham — anything and everything. Recently finished Gray Mountain and liked it.
Michael Connelly — The Lincoln Lawyer author. I love the series with Detective Hieronymus Bosch
Lee Child — writes the series with ex-military cop Jack Reacher
Robert Crais — Joe Pike and Elvis Cole series
I've read a few James Patterson books and find them somewhat boring and repetitive, so I'm taking a break from him.
A friend just suggested Daniel Silva, so I've picked up a couple of those.

Hope you find something in the above you might enjoy. I will be sure to join Goodreads so we can share our literary discoveries!

Detective Brunetti Series - Donna Leon
A great character (detective, family man, and friend) solving murders in Venice. There are entire tours in Venice built around this series so this has a huge following. If you've been to Venice, you can picture the atmosphere. Or you can join Connie on her next research trip and take a couple of these books along! Either way, this is a good series.

I will work on a "serious fiction" list for you when the NAS website is up and running! Gotta get back to work.

many thanks for a great list,

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