Must Reads

I am obsessed with books; the smell of  a fresh story, new characters and the beckoning of brilliant storytelling makes me want to escape into the pages of a good book any time of the day. I have been known to eat dinner with my nose buried in one, which makes for very rude behavior at a table, but when a book is so good, I forget everything around me. I usually begin with a gentle sniff. Sometimes it is a fresh, crisp page that I want, sometimes it is whiff of an old book store.  A book to me is filled with surprises; some I like, some I don’t  and yet I read all. I often think of Meg Ryan’s character in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and the really lovely book store she owned. That’s just my kind of place; locally owned, small, cosy and I could spend all day reading, arranging and reading some more.

Here are my top books. Everyone has a list. I have mine. I add as I go along.


My Top Must Reads:
1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
3. One Hundred Years Of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Schindler's List- Thomas Keneally
5. Farewell to Arms- Ernest Hemingway
6  Midnight's Children- Salman Rushdie
7. Harry Potter- 1-7 - J.K. Rowling
8. Pygmalion- George Bernard Shaw
9. David Copperfield- Charles Dickens
10. Seven years in Tibet - Heinrich Harrer
11. Under The Tuscan sun - Frances Mayes
12 .Beneath the Marble Sky - John Shors
13. Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
14. Little Women- Louisa M. Alcott
15. My Place - Sally Morgan
16. The God of small things - Arundhati Roy
17. Smiley's People - John Le Carre
18. Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte
19. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
20. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
21. Divine Comedy - Dante
22. Don Quixote- Miguel De Cervantes
23. Captain Correlli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
24. Death of a Chronicle Foretold - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
25. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
26. Persuasion - Jane Austen
27. Fall of the Giants - Ken Follet
28. New York - Edward Rutherford
29. Briget Jones - Helen Fielding
30. The Tao of Pooh - Benjamin - Hoff
31. The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro




Mini Reviews


I finally succumbed to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo reading craze a few Summers ago when my friend gave me the book…insisting I had to read it. I began this crazy, intense, ‘read’ which left me feeling muddled and excited at the same time. You see, I just could not get into this first Stieg Larsson book. The beginning was painfully slow, the language was slightly strange, I know it is translated but the flow of it was a little stilted and Lisbeth Salander( one of the main characters) was  not someone I took to at all.. I finally put it down after four chapters-  sorry, I did. Devoted Larsson-ites may not understand this of course. I took it up again after a week, and by the end of the 5th chapter, I was hooked. It started moving along, the characters developed beautifully and it was suspenseful, with excellent criminal activity and enough political intrigue to keep me going . I read it to the end without putting it down. BUT!!!! here’s my dilemma- I found it bizarre, I even carried the story and certain gruesome images with me for two whole days. I’m not sure I actually liked it, and yet, I wanted to know more. I wasn’t particularly attached to any of the  main characters but there was an addictive element to the story. Did any of you feel this? Am I the only one who morbidly took the story to heart? probably. Then again, I am strangely attached to characters that have no meaning to me at all. I carry their stories with me and I imagine the film; a visual of fast paced, explicit yet brilliant cinematography. Imagine then to my surprise when I found out – The Swedish (movie) version exists and I had access to it. I have not watched it, I want to and don’t want to simultaneously. I breezed through ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire.’  It was a fast paced, too detailed, second book and I was in a mighty hurry to finish it. It lacked impact. Hmmm.. my final thoughts- I did not like it. The Third book however,- ‘The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest’ is sooo good, it is very near excellent. It ties up everything, the conspiracy, the murderous intentions, and its disturbingly dysfunctional family drama. The deeply political undertones during the entire story made it completely worthwhile for me to get through that second book, for, it is really a lead-in to this final conclusion. Oh my, the turns it took, even the  incessant babble about the ‘security police’ was completely necessary to make the book work. Oh and such exciting news…. I heard from another friend that there might be a fourth manuscript somewhere, which no one has access to except Larsson’s partner of 10 yrs- his personal story sounds as good as the books he wrote. I just hope someone publishes it. I am now a huge fan.

I’ve read “the” most intriguing couple of books in the last two years that made me think non-stop about culture, tradition and mythology. One book in particular, ‘The Palace of Illusions’  is truly fascinating and devastatingly beautiful, at the same time, it is achingly poignant; I could not put the book down until I was done. I misunderstood several of the characters as they were based upon a familiar Indian epic. I learned to look at it traditionally – i.e what was expected of the culture rather than what was not – have I confused you further? sorry. If you are not familiar with the legendary ‘Mahabharat’ then it is a must! but if you are not in the mood for a long read, with names that seem a little complicated, that’s okay, you will without a doubt enjoy this book. It’s message, and the light it sheds on the tragedy of duty bound by tradition, instead of the strength of  love that could have, (perhaps)changed circumstances, is universal. The  author weaves her magic quite brilliantly when she juxtaposes the idea that one’s destiny cannot be changed no matter what.

I’ve been in literary heaven. I don’t have a lot of time to read, but I’ve been smart enough to catch up; whilst parked in the school pick- up line and at night just before bed time.  Here are some truly fantastic books; some are first time authors, some are  not- but I guarantee you that all are most excellent in their own way. ‘Beneath The Marble Sky” By John Shors: Incredible first novel about the creation of one of the natural wonders of our world – The Taj Mahal. It’s  Shah Jahn’s dedication to his one true love, his wife Arjumand( Mumtaz). I have to say I did not expect such an intense weaving of characters, but Shors’ introduction to life as a woman in such a conservative and restricted society was an eye opener. Women were meant to be seen and not heard, in Shah Jahn’s palace however, his wife and eldest daughter are his vessels of wisdom. There is violence and passionate love, there is a story woven of two lost souls that find each other – one royal, one commoner. There is arrogance, fear and rape in detail and yet the message is  “love.”  It is all about the freedom to love the one you’re meant to be with. It is about being a woman and using the power of being just that, it is definitely not about accepting limitations because you belong to the weaker sex. This story is about strength, and you cannot put it down.

‘Resurrection’ by Tucker Malarkey was so remarkable, I could not put it down. I didn’t expect it to be good but It was. It sort of grabs your attention not in the immediate sense of the word however, but as the book progresses, you sort of get the feeling that you’re well and truly involved. If you love Dan Brown, but want something milder, written for women with a womanly story behind it, you might enjoy it. There is none of that suspense or heart stopping tension, instead it is a story about finding love, about resurrecting that love and about a discovery that threatens the very core of your belief system.

     John Shors is fast becoming one a favorite authors. This next one is called ‘The Wishing Trees‘ – it is as heart wrenching and as poignant as ‘Beneath the Marble Sky’ but without much of the drama. If you’re a mom, this book will tear at you, make you smile and tear at you again. You will want to hug little ‘Mattie’ close and cheer her dad on as they embark on a journey of a life time. From the Himalayas to Mumbai, to a new Hong Kong and ancient customs, it is what we  hope our husbands might do if we were in such a situation. What a beautifully written story. It is written  after ‘Dragon House’ – the story Shors dedicates to the street children of Vietnam.      


Sarah Dunant’s In the company of the Courtesan brought upon such a visceral reaction that I had to put this book down for a day or two before I picked it up again. I react to words and have such a visual imagination( if I can even describe a book this way) that it is virtually impossible for me to not escape into the world of the characters, especially if the author succeeds in bringing them to life as well as Dunant does in this book

It is impossible to not be involved in this story which is repugnant at times and yet so stunningly captivating because of its setting and era; 15th century Rome, glorious and cruel. After perilously escaping the sacking of Rome, then receiving a painful scalping, Fiammetta, a botticelli-esque courtesan, and her dwarf slave Bucino reach Venice to begin life anew. Here Dunant weaves a tapestry of characters, as they enter and exit the lives of the two main protagonists. We begin to see how beautiful Venice is, we yearn for that first glimpse of its canal as the sun sets, casting its  orange glow on the opulently decorated gondolas gliding through the waters with the most beautiful courtesans and their bored, yet wealthy customers. The language is rough in as much as it is descriptive and lucid. You learn to love this faithful dwarf for his unwavering loyalty and his sheer bravado in a climate that is extremely dangerous to a man who is devastatingly challenged as he. I am  waiting to escape into the pages of ‘The Birth of Venus’ – Dunant’s next book. If it is nearly as good as this one, I can’t wait to review it.


  I had no idea I would be completely spellbound by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. His storytelling reminded me of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whom I absolutely love, Zafon is  brilliant at unfolding his plot creatively just so that you are embroiled in it before you are aware, I am so glad they translated two such well written books into English. I wish I could actually read the books in Spanish. I will be adding to this review , by writing about the brilliant ‘ The Shadow Of The Wind,’ however, I wanted to talk about ‘The Angels’ Game’ whilst it is still fresh in my mind. I found myself inexplicably drawn to Zafon’s  gothic portrayal of  this extraordinary (destitute)  character who deals with some very adult issues at a very young age. He pursues a dream as a writer, an unrecognized one, but a wonderful talent nevertheless, appreciated by real book lovers until he is made an offer he just cannot refuse. The story begins here. The plot builds gradually as it delves into the dark and dangerous quarters of Barcelona, and if you can bear with the pace, by the middle of the book, you are utterly hooked and will not want to put it down. This is Barcelona in all its glory; thrown into the mix is this character who is torn apart by a lost love,  and  makes a perfect deal with the devil. I don’t really know myself – maybe it is even god who is actually testing him. It questions faith, it makes you think vampires and no! I am not talking about sweet-smelling, sexy Twilight type non- human eating vampires. It is scary, tense and beautiful all at the same time. The author mentions  Gaudi and ‘La Sagrada Familia’  as he paints beautiful visuals of Barcelona’s most ancient buildings. When David, the protagonist, moves into his new home and makes discoveries that are somewhat grim, the writer weaves a certain madness into the story. This novel borders on the edge of a roller coaster ride, although it all makes sense, then again, perhaps not – depending on how you see it. One of the singularly best reads in a long while.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Gretchen says:

    I am never disappointed with your book picks. We love the same things!

    I know what you mean about keeping certain images in your mind. I could not get sarah’s key out of my mind, in the same way.


    1. I loved Sarah’s Key too, we really do love the same things don’t we?


  2. Lael says:

    Love, love, love this page!!! Please review everything you ever read – I mean everything!


    1. I have more coming.. so glad you like it.


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