Create your own A-list of great books to read
Okay, you’ve already read the A-list of books: “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, and “The Bourne Betrayal”. Now what? Don’t wait for the next big thing. Create your own A-list. To shorten mine, I made sure each title includes the name of an animal. Perhaps you might start with one of these.
“Water for Elephants” was on the New York Times and Nebraska bestsellers lists in 2006 and continues to be very popular. Perhaps it’s the premise of the book that is catching many a reader’s attention: Jacob Jankowski recounts how seventy-some years ago he joined the circus. Having recently lost both of his parents to a fatal car accident, he dropped out of veterinary school and offered his expertise to care for the circus animals. Along the way, he fell for the wife of the circus boss. The author, Sara Gruen, describes it all—from the squalor and filth that exists behind the tent to the magical allure a circus show creates—with a realistic and believable touch.
In “The Good Husband of Zebra Drive”, the ever-endearing Precious Ramotswe graciously leads the way to solve the latest mystery, this one concerning the deaths of three patients in the same hospital bed at the same time of day. Meanwhile, her best friend and employee quits on her, and her husband sets out to solve his first mystery. Author Alexander McCall Smith has done an excellent job of familiarizing the reader with ordinary life occurrences in modern Botswana. Give this or any other title in the “No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency” series a try and you’ll be hooked. Any selection in the series is also great on audio, with stellar performances by Lisette Lecat.
“The Camel Bookmobile” by Masha Hamilton isn’t merely good fiction for librarians. Fiona Sweeney, a 36-year-old librarian, throws caution to the wind, uproots herself from New York City, and with energetic naiveté plops herself down in Narissa, Kenya. As the title suggests, Fi takes the camel-borne library to small villages in the region, introducing and exposing the residents to Western culture and creating concerns with loss of tradition. Along the way she discovers a few things about herself. “The Camel Bookmobile” is sure to be a favorite with reading groups and book clubs. By the way, a camel bookmobile does exist in real life in Kenya.
Two other titles to consider are “Crow Lake” by Mary Lawson and “The Tenderness of Wolves” by Stef Penney. Both are debut novels, both are set in Canada. In “Crow Lake,” a young girl must grow beyond the constraints of family struggles after she and her three siblings are orphaned, and as an adult learn to sort out her past. The characters are drawn with great complexity and emotion. “The Tenderness of Wolves” weaves history, thriller, and romance together to present story where each of the main characters harbors a secret during the winter of 1869.
Find these and other candidates for your A-list at the Hastings Public Library.