Sarah Bagby's Reading Past


Heartland by Sarah Smarsh

Improvement by Joan Silber

The Lost Family by Jenna Blum

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

Calypso by David Sedaris

Look Alive Our There by Sloane Crosley

The Ensemble by Aja Gobel

Saint of Wolves and Butchers by Alex Grecian

White Houses by Amy Bloom

My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

I am, I am, I am by Maggie O'Farrell

The Woman in the Water by Charles Finch

Sunburn by Laura Lippmann

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

The Escape Artist by Brad Melzer

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

There There by Tommy Orange

Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

The Man Who Came Uptown by George Pelacanos


We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

My Body and Other Parties

Celine by Peter Heller

The Shape of Ideas by Grant Snider

Underground Airlines by Ben Winter

New People Danzy Senna

A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

Gene Smith's Sink by Sam Stephenson

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

The Eleven Mile Straight by Eleanor Hendersen

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Niko Draws A Feeling by Robert Raczka 

Border Crossing by Richard Misrach

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Spoils by Brian Van Reet

Happiness: A Memoir by Heather Harpham

Sing, Unbured, Sing  by Jesmyn Ward

The Rules of Magic  by Alice Hoffman

The Answers  by Catherine Lacey

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

The Locals by Jonathan Dee

Anything is Posslible by Elizabeth Strout

The Burning Girl by Claire Messud

The Late Show by Michael Connelly

Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Five-Carat Soul by James McBride

The Ninth-Hour by Alice McDermott

Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott

To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs  by Janet Peery

The Tragedy of Brady Sims  by Ernest J. Gaines

Grist Mill Road by Christopher Yates

The King is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcon

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

In the Midst of Winter  by Isabel Allende

American Heart  by Laura Moriarty

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu

Paris in the Present Tense  by Mark Helprin

Bad Kansas by Becky Mandelbaum





'Round Midnight by Laura McBride

The Playbook by Kwame Alexander

Imagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke 

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Shelter Jung Yung

Lust & Diane Rehm

Beasts and Children by Amy Parker

I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

Tuesday NIghts in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

The Mothers by Britt Bennett

Everybody's Fool by Richard Russon

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

We Are Not Such Things by Justine VanDer Luen

Blood at the Root by Patrick Phillips

You Must Change Your Life by Rachel Corbett

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster

Once We Were Sisters by Sheila Kohler

Exit West by Moshin Hamid

Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

A History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Garden Time by W.S. Merwin

Collected Poems by Rita Dove

The Girls by Emma Cline

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Brief HIstory of Seven Killings




Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor

Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein

The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus

Buried Giant by Kuzua Ishiguru

The Descent by Tim Johnston

Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff

I Am Revolutionary by Andrew Milward

Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

City on Fire by 

The Turner House by Angela Flourney

Hold Still by Sally Mann

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

The Clasp by Sloane Crosley

Saving Mozart by Raphael Jerusalmy

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell you She's Sorry by Fredrich Bachman

The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepherd

Slouching Towards Bethleham by Joan Didion

M Train by Patti Smith

Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello

A Doubter's Almanac by Ethan Canin

The Muralist by B,A. Shapiro

Te Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

Bettyville by George Hobson

Refund by Karen Bender

A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball

Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

Honeydew by Edith Foreman

Mislaid by Kelly Link

Wolf in a White Van by John Darneille



TThe Whites by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt

Everbody Rise by Stephanie Clifford

Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr 

Neverhome by Laird Hunt--If you think you've read all the Civil War novels you need to, think again.  This is a fantastic rendering of a woman who passes herself off as a man and fights for the Union. A beguiling tale of war, love, and limits of human capacity.     

Internal Medicine Stories by Terrence Holt-- Inspired by his years in residency, Holt's nine precisely written stories are heartbreaking and lovely. What a talent.

Thirteen Days in September by Lawrence Wright-- Lawrence Wright does it again in this gripping day-by-day account of the 1978 Camp David conference in which the first modern Middle East peace treaty was signed by then President Jimmy Carter, Israeli prime minister Menachem Began, and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. 

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas--A powerful debut about how life doesn't always go as expected.  I loved this book-

History of Rock and Roll in 10 Songs by Griel Marcus--A must read for every popular music fan.  Marcus' brilliant, rhythmic writing and encyclopedic knowledge of the subject elucidates the history of the genre through 10 obscure emblematic songs!  You've never read a history as interesting as this one --

Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson

100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl

The Whites by Richard Price as Harry Brandt

Revival by Stephen King

Light of the World: A Memoir

Thank You for Your Service by Richard Fink

The Human Age by Diane Ackerman 

Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Jonathan Swift by Leo Damrosch

The Divide by Matt Taibi

Forcing the Spring by Jo Thompson

A Man Called Destruction:  The Life and Music of Alex Chilton

The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison

On Immunity:  An Inoculation by Eula Biss 

Take this Man by Brando Skyhorse

Collision Low Crossers:  A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football by Nicholas Dawodoff

The Tastemaker: Carl Van Vechten and the Birth of Modern American by Edward White

Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces by Miles J. Unger 

Sons of Wichita by Daniel Schulman 

The Guts by Roddy Doyle

Wonderkid by Wesley Stace

Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth

Typically, I don't fall in love with one character before being a fan of "the book."  But, I have an obsessive fictional character crush.  Mary Byrd Thornton is a badass (but not in the reckless sense) yet vulnerable woman, mother of three, wife of a Gallery owner, and she is in my head a lot.  Based on the true story of her brother's abduction, murder, and botched investigation, Lisa Howarth has written a beguiling (truly) and painful (expected) novel that has been 10 years in the making. Spun in the Southern tradition, Howarth infuses her love of music (the title is based on a Townes Van Zant song), family, and characters. To be released in June, this will be the hit of the summer.   


Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Saving Mozart by Helmut Jerusalmy

Deep Within the Brain:Living with Parkinson's Disease  by Helmut Dubiel

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

The Painter by Peter Heller

Neverhome by Laird Hunt

Last Night at the Blue Angel by Robecca Rotert

We are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas 

Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique 

Ogalalla Road by Julene Bair 

God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

I am so impressed with this accessable argument in answer to the biblical defense of non-acceptance of same sex relationships in the conservative Christian community. 

Matthew is a good writer, he is courageous, and this ambitious book is the first of its kind--and should be read by anyone who struggles with this situation--conservatives and liberals alike.  

Many of us in the Wichita community have know generations of the Vines family all our lives.  This is a very important to all of us and I applaud Kim, Monty, and Christina their generousity to share their experience  and the love of their family. 

Firefly by Janette Jenkins

This moving novel of Noel Coward's final days at his Jamaica estate is a study of an old mind, ambition, and class.  Very good for book clubs.  

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

The UnAmericans by Molly Antepole

The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit

When the wives of the Los Alamos scientists learn that their husbands have spent years building the Atomic Bomb, their world explodes. The development of this weapon of mass destruction was so secret that it was conducted “Out West.” The location was not disclosed to anyone, not even the scientists or their families who lived in the community surrounding the lab site. In her debut novel, The Wives of Los Alamos, Tarashea Nesbit brilliantly brings the reader into the community of women by using a collective voice. We experience their unique bonds, their Native American neighbors, and their husbands. The belief that their husbands are doing important work for National Security is both a source of hope for the wives and a highly charged backdrop for this extraordinary story of ordinary women

Stringer by Anjum Suntaram

The tumultuous history of the Congo is fraught with power at its most corrupt, capitalism in its greediest form, and human survival at its most desperate. Anjan Sundaram, who lives in Kigali, Rwanda, knew nothing of journalism or the Congo when he traveled there to write about the country and pursue a career in journalism. His debut, Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey is the result of a year and half occupation. Sundaram is robbed, contracts malaria, and sees firsthand the undignified crushing of the human soul. This is reportage in its most excellent form: immediate, informative, and riveting. Anjun's Journey is the result of a year and half occupation. Sundaram is robbed, contracts malaria, and sees firsthand the undignified crushing of the human soul. This is reportage in its most excellent form: immediate, informative, and riveting.



Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Another brilliant first novel.  Set in the frigid cold of 1990s Iceland, a convicted murderer who was sentenced to death  sent to the northern most part of the country to wait out her beheading.  Based on a true story, the woman spends her final days with a family who has been ordered to take her in.  With exquisite detail of the setting and domestic life in the cold climate, Kent shows how the family, the minister counseling the guilty woman, and the alleged murderer all live in a prison of their own making.  A compelling study of the limits of charity and acceptance


Scar Boys by Len Vlahos 

Gods of Guilt by Michael Connolly

Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Eleanor Catton has concocted an expansive universe whose characters are interwoven in a smartly plotted novel that is literature at its finest.  "The Luminaries" by the 28 year old wunderkind just won the Mann Booker Prize and I have no questions as to why.  Part mystery, part character study, and mostly engrossing, this novel of the 1866 world of New Zealand Goldfields with its broad cast of characters is a place any discerning reader will be happy to inhabit as she reads all 800 pages. 


The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis

The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood

Badluck Way by Bryce Andrews

The Son by Phillipp Meyer

I don't have to think twice about including this impeccable novel on my "Best of 2013 List". 


Quiet Dell by Jayne Ann Phillips

In "Quiet Dell" Phillips recreates a disturbing but riveting account of a murder committed by a serial killer who preyed on widows.  Based on fact, this is a crime that has haunted Mason for more than four decades.  In 1931 a woman from Chicago is seduced by the letters of Harry Powers.  She promises to marry him and weeks later she and her three children are dead. 

The first section of the novel is the story of the family and the murder. The second half of the novel, like "In Cold Blood" is a journalists live coverage of the trial in a small town in West Virginia, and their own investigation into how the murders could have happened in the first place.


The Illuminated Adventures of Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

This is the perfect book for children ages 8-99

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano

This is the perfect book for any precocious 6-10 year old boy.  

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis 

Bob Shacochis has written another brilliant novel of the wonderful, horrible world we live in.  His prose comes from the gods. 


Someone by Alice McDermott

Norwood by Charles Portis

True Grit by Charles Portis

The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman--a modern telling.

Hot House by Boris Kachka--such a fun book about the nyc publishing world.

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

The Professor's House by Willa Cather

The Telling Room by Micahel Paterniti

The Pig Behind the Bear by Maria Niento

The Lost Sailors by Jean-Claude Izzo 

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini--The impeccable storyteller does it again.  You will want to get a copy on May 21.  Pre-Order now.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki-high brow meets low brow

The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu

Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy--everybody needs a good scary well-written book now and then.

Memoir of the Sunday Brunch by Julie Pandl-a book for everyone

Navigating Early by my friend and beloved Wichitan Clare Vanderpool

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfield

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion--Very funny novel about an autistic man and his search for a wife.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson--profound

These Dreams of You by Steve Erickson-another Europa Classic

Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert--a NOVEL about a botanist.  A book for every Gardener.  The family of botanists Elizabeth Gilbert has created in her new novel "The Signature of All Things" enchanted me from page one. Alma, our vulnerable, yet tough-as-nails heroine, escorts us through a unique history 19th Century. 

We travel the world with the botanical hunters and gatherers of the day, smelling the earth on our dirty hands. We have our hearts broken by unrequited love and feel the stress and joy of a successful family business.  We feel the intensity of the charged bond between sisters. We toil and revel in the process of scientific discovery

Alma thrives in the cloistered world of her father's Philadelphia botanical empire until mid-life when she embarks on a remarkable journey of self discovery.  An arduous journey to faraway Tahiti is a time of reckoning and enlightenment. 

Gilbert is a master storyteller and readers of her non-fiction will NOT be disappointed.   


Pure by Alexander Miller

The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk

Home by Toni Morrison

Black Box by Michael Connolly

The Drop by Michael Connolly

Dear Life by Alice Munro

El Anatsui: Art and Life by Susan Millin Vogel

A Good American by Alex George

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

All the Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren

On a Wave by Thad Zolkowski

Wichita by Thad Zolkowski 

The Art of Men: I Prefer Mine Al Dente by Kirstie Alley

Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe

Telegraph Avenue by Jonathan Franzen

Autobiography of Us by Beth Sloss

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Laura Drain, Lisa Pulitzer

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen

In One Person by John Irving

Ghost Dances: Proving Up on the Great Plains by Josh Garrett-Davis

The Yard by Alex Grecian

Round House by Louise Erdrich

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Light Between Oceans by RL Steadman

Kenhinde Wiley by Thelma Golden, Robert Hobbs, Sarah E. Lewis, Brian Keith Jackson, Peter Halley

In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

Bay of Foxes by Sheila Kohler

Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Cutting Season by Attica Locke

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

The Odds by Stewart O'Nan--A realistic testament to marriage.

The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar--SOCAL novel that I wish had lived up to my expectations. Still worth the read.

The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau--A debut novel about a young Muslim war orphan who is rescued by Christian Americans, and the American soldier to whom his fate and survival are bound.  Dau is a writer to keep an eye on.


This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Topper

Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

West of Here by Jonathan Evison

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

My Ruby Red Slippers by Tracy Seeley 

The Reversal by Michael Connelly

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly

The Adjustment by Scott Phillips

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

When the Killing's Done by TC Boyle

Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard

The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

Guantanamo Boy by Anita Perera

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Untold Story by Monica Ali

Upright Piano Player by David Abbott

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

rode by Thomas Fox Averill

The Cut by George Pelecanos

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block

Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan

Radiating Like a Stone ed. by Myrne Roe

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

Both Going and Coming Back by Bruce Jacobs

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki

Maman's Homesick Pie by Donia Bujan

Rebels in Paradise by Hunter Dohojowska-Philip

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Jazz Loft Project by Sam Stephenson

Rules of Civility by Amor Towes

Tension City by Jim Lehrer

Mothers and Daughters by Rae Meadows

Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian

Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert

Running the Rift by Naomi Benoran

Bloods Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Okrent 

November/December 2010

Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

Savages by Don Winslow

Stylish thriller about the Drug War. 

Grant Wood by R. Tripp Evans

Good biography of the "regionalist" artist.

Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards.

This author of the bestselling The Memory Keeper's Daughter will be at Watermark on January 13, 2011 @ 7:00 p.m.


October 2010


Barnstormer & the Lady by Dennis Farney


By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham.


Moving from the tryptich format of writing the lives of important writers, Virginia Woolfe and Walt Whitman, Cunningham writes of a gallery owner whose brother-in-law moves into the house, causing him to rethink his entire life. Excellent writing: Read review


An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin.


A novel of manners, art, and love. Amusing and bittersweet, this new novel by the comic genius is perfect for giving this holiday season. Thoroughly enjoyable and smart: Read review


Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool: Read review

September 2010

West of Here by Jonathan Evison.

Western expansion in Washington. Reminds of the movie McCabe and Mrs. Miller

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier: Read review

The Great House by Nicole Krauss.

When the Killing is Done by T. C. Boyle.

So much fun: a brilliant writer; a fast-moving plot; natural disasters; and perils at sea. I can't wait to sell it next year!

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls: Read review

Composed by Rosanne Cash: Read review

August 2010

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Schteyngart.

One of my bookseller buddies recommended this to me likening it to "Woody Allen meets George Orwell!"  It's our September Lit feast book. Schtenygart was one of the "twenty writers under forty to watch" list compiled by the New Yorker Magazine. 

Ape House by Sara Gruen: Read review

July 2010

Elegies for the Brokenhearted by Christie Hodgen.

A very good novel.  Hodgen tells the story of Mary Murphy from early childhood through her thirtysomthing years through a series of elegies of the people who helped propel the trajectory of her own life.  Beautifully written, Hodgen has impeccable timing, a gift for voice and is forgiving of our human foibles. 

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

A long, dismal, and very smart book about families and marriage and love in our time.  Easy to pick up, more comfortable to put down than get all the way through, but in the end this is a poignant book that acknowledges how self preservation can get in the way of necessary intimate connections.  Reminded me of an article I read recently:  "I love my kids, I hate my life."  Worth the investment. 

June 2010

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Join our Summer Challenge! All Brontes, all the time!

The Lake Shore Limited by Sue Miller.

Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse.

A novel of interconnected stories about the inhabitants of a Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles.  An accomplished first novel by a writer showing much promise: Read or hear review

Backseat Saints by Joshilynn Jackson: Read or hear review

Between a Heart and a Rock Place by Pat Benetar: Read review

The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian.

Novel due in Fall '10.  A novel about the Armenian "massacre."  Mustian approaches this overlooked episode in Turkish history with open eyes and exposes the massacre for what it truly was: genocide.

Composed by Rosanne Cash.

Lyrical memoir about art, live and loss: Read review

April 2010


The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard.


Her best novel to date. A satisfying book for mystery readers in Kansas and beyond!


Healer by Carol Cassella.

Good novel about a family rebuilding its strength after a financial disaster. Due in September.

American Subversive by David Goodwillie.

Well-written literary suspense novel of home-grown anarchists.  Also a commentary on contemporary society and the changing medium of journalism, the futility of war and the sometimes devastating vulnerability that accompanies loneliness and loss: Read or hear review

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake.

An engaging novel of WW II of an American radio correspondent in London and all those who are moved by her insightful broadcasts. The descriptions of the civilian experiences of war on the Home Front are powerfully executed, and the interpersonal relationships of Americans and Brits gently tug the heartstrings. 

The Passage by Justin Cronin.

Lives up to all the hype from our friends at Random House. They were right when describing this 700 odd page-turner of a tome as Michael Crichton meets Stephen King. Psychological, political and scientific suspense. Don’t let the presence of vampires and apocalypse scare you off. By the end of the first chapter you will be hooked.

March 2010

You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup by Peter Doggett.

Originally published to great acclaim in England, this book is fascinating social history. Doggett exposes the complex financial condition of the Fab Four as he documents the dissolution of The Beatles as a group. A great book for die-hard or rainy-day fans.

Bound by Antonya Nelson.

Fall novel by the "Bard of Wichita." Very Good and jolting--as expected from this amazing and prolific writer.

The Quickening by Michelle Hoover.

Due in June. Set in Iowa, this novel tells the story of two farm women over the course of about 50 years. Powerful writing about interior lives. The Quickening is similar in mood and intensity to The Orchard by Larry Watson.

Ninth Ward by Jewel Parker Rhodes.

A middles-grade reader about Hurricane Katrina. Quick to read, slow to let you go: Read review

Innocent by Scott Turow: Read or hear review

It’s been 20 years since the publication of Presumed Innocent, Turow’s first novel, and this long-anticipated sequel is just as psychologically gripping. Turow raises the bar again on the courtroom drama genre. A guilty pleasure for sure. 

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognini.

A great book for anyone who has been charmed by Nick Hornby: Read or hear review

The Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine.

An updated Sense and Sensibility set primarily in affluent Westport, CT. Loved it. Read or hear review

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

Loved it. Clare's first middle-reader novel due out in October. Clever and cunning, Clare's humor and plotting are a reader's delight.

February 2010

Noah' Compass by Anne Tyler: Read or hear review

Backseat Saints by Joshilynn Jackson: Read or hear review

A powerful page-turner. Due in time for a great summer ride!

Just Kids by Patti Smith.

This is a very good book about the hungry years of two successful artists: Read or hear review

Pearl of China by Anchee Min.

An imagined life of the writer and Nobel Prize winning writer Pearl Buck: Read or hear review

Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse.

A novel of interconnected stories about the inhabitants of a Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles.  An accomplished first novel by a writer showing much promise: Read or hear review

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert: Read review

January 2010

Pops by Terry Teachout.

Biography of Louis Armstrong due out in a few months.


December 2009


Holiday Favorites: Read picks


The Third Rail by Michael Harvey.


Third book in Harvey's Chicago Detective series. A page-turner due in April 2010.


November 2009


Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett.


Accomplished first novel about the financial crisis and life in the first decade of the 21st Century: Read review


One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakurani.


Perfect for book clubs. A cross between Ann Patchett and Mitch Albom.


Have a Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom: Read review

Moonlight and Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson


Delightful comic play about the making of Gone With the Wind.


The Sunflower Sampler cookbook from the Junior League of Wichita.


Read or hear review


Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.


Pure pleasure. Smart, sensitive and grown up: Read review


Anthologist by Nicholson Baker.


Baker's erudition is on display in this new novel, a love story to the rhymed and unrhymed poem. In his signature quirky and inventive style, Baker serenades the reader as he melodically croons awe inspiring wisdom of the world of poetry--poems, lives of poets, and the creative process. Anyone who has ever read or written poetry will get a rhythmic kick out of this breezy, yet brilliant book.


October 2009


A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (on audio).


A wonderful book. Should be required for visitors to Paris, burgeoning writers and other artists, and anyone travelling across the plains of Kansas will appreciate listening to prose as spare as the landscape.


Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer.


A provocative book about the story we create as make about what we consume. This is Jonathan's first foray into the nonfiction narrative and it is very well done. The hero of the book--if there is a hero--is a turkey farmer right here in Kansas named Frank Reece: Read or hear review


Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel by Jeannette Walls.


The author of The Glass Castle paints a vivid and brilliant portrait of her Grandmother in this true-life novel:

Read or hear review


Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving: Read or hear review


The Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore: Read or hear review

The Constant Wife: A Play by Somerset Maugham.

The Hunger: A Story of Food, Ambition, and Desire by John Delucie.

A fun read by the chef at the Waverly Inn, Graydon Carter's A-list restaurant in a quiet NYC neighborhood.

September 2009


That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo.


Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

It's "Law and Order: SVU" on the page: sicko sexual predators, financial fraud and schemes, a complex and believable plot, unlikely yet believable character pairings, all resolved in a satisfying finale.

Exiles in the Garden: A Novel by Ward Just: Read or hear review


Running by Jean Echenoz translated from French by Linda Coverdale.

Short and well-crafted novel based on the legendary Czech runner Emil Zatopek. Due in December 2009.

August 2009

Hardball by Sara Paretsky.

Private investigator V.I. Warshawski is back and fighting the bad guys in the latest!

July 2009

A Good Fall by Ha Jin.

Short stories that stick for a long time.

Spooner by Pete Dexter.

This coming-of-age novel and homage to a stepfather who stepped in to save a troubled kid in a family of genius needs some editing; it’s more like being in the presence of a great writer as he spins his yarns, thoroughly entertaining in their own right, and amazingly written, yet missing something: Read or hear review

Homer and Langley by E. L. Doctorow.

A novel by a master of the form: Read or hear review

Stitches: A Memoir by David Small: Read or hear review

Graphic-novel memoir of the acclaimed children’s book illustrator.

Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

Love it. Well worth the accolades bestowed on this physician/writer.


Once a Runner by John L. Parker Jr.


The running stuff is great; the writing is so-so. It's fun for anyone who has ever been addicted to running.


I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon) by Richard Polsky.


Good book about the fluctuating art market. A must for anyone who likes to look at or buy art: Read or hear review


Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler.


June 2009


Younger Next Year for Women by Crowley and Lodge.


My husband says it'll never work. Ask me or him in a year. I'm inspired!


Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.


A ghost story that will appeal to all fans of The Time Traveler's Wife.


May 2009


When I'm Falling by Laura Moriarty.


Moriarty once again mines the difficult terrain of mothers and daughters; the reader will experience both empathy and exasperation for each character--just as we do in real life.


Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.


A lovely novel. In the 1950s, a young woman emigrates from Ireland to Brooklyn and navigates her new surroundings through four seasons. Toibin explores themes of home, morality, and memory all set against a tender love story: Read review


This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about
Living a Compassionate Life
by David Foster Wallace.


Only once did Wallace give a public talk about his views on life; it was during a 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College. The speech has been reprinted for the first time in book form, and it captures Wallace's electric intellect along with his grace and attentiveness to others.


Running from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti.


Adventure in the jungles of Columbia by a first-time novelist and ultramarathon runner.


In the Kitchen by Monica Ali: Read or hear review


This is one that needs to be talked about.


Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.


Finally finished!


April 2009

When the Astors Owned New York by Justin Kaplan.

Happy: A Memoir by Alex Lemon.

March 2009

Half Broke Horses: A True Life Novel by Jeannette Walls.

Due in October from the author of The Glass Castle; I'm lucky to have an early edition. Walls paints a vivid and brilliant portrait of her Grandmother in this true-life novel: Read review

Safer by Sean Doolittle.

In his third novel, Doolittle, proves that he has the chops to be one of the Lehanes of the world. Life in the new seemingly idyllic cul-de-sac in a small university town in Iowa is not as safe as it first appears.

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly: Read or hear review

Jack McEvoy investigates another serial killer. Thoroughly thrilling.

Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting by Michael Perry:

Read or hear review

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke: Read or hear review

A thriller set in 1981 Houston by a new author.

February 2009

Castration Celebration by Jake Wizner.

Clever, Clever. A group of high school theatre types go to summer art camp at Yale. Promises more than it delivers. The author's first novel Spanking Shakespeare was very well received and loved by all ages of readers.

The Girl Who Threw Buterflies by Mick Cochrane: Read review

Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta: Read review

Everything a baseball book needs: a curse; small town rivalry; father/son relationships; competition between brothers; rain; and mud. Written for a middle and high school audience, but proves pleasurable for adults.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

YA book set during 1978-79 in NYC. Due in July.

Nothing Right: Short Stories by Antonya Nelson: Read or hear review

January 2009

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Read review

1920s. Barcelona. Obsession. Love. Literature. Due in June. Can't wait.

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill.

Excellent prose. A Post 9/11 novel of cricket, the Chelsea Hotel, and the immigrant experience in NYC.

A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff.

Reminiscent of Mary McCarthy's "The Group" this impressive debut novel follows a group of Oberlin College Graduates as they navigate the next phase of their lives in New York City. A lifelong resident of NYC, Rakoff's first novel is full of the intricate details of NYC culture--the neighborhoods, class issues, and the unwritten social rules.

Family Man by Elinor Lipman.

Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton: Read or hear review

A romp. I love it. Due in March.


The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience by Kirstin Downey.


Great Biography of a Political Life. First woman to serve in a Presidential Cabinet. Read or hear review


Land of Marvels by Barry Unsworth.


From the publisher: "Booker Prize winner Barry Unsworth brings us to 1914 Mesopotamia where the seeds of the war in Iraq were planted." Early accolades by Geraldine Brooks, Peter Ackroyd and Andrea Barrett were enough to get my attention. But what sealed the deal was Ethan Canin's rave recommendation of an earlier Unsworth novel Sacred Hunger. Hear Sarah's review


December 2008


Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.


On Writing by Stephen King.


Lush Life by Richard Price.


Hit the Road, Manny! by Christian Burch: Hear review


Amarcord: Marcella Remembers by Marcella Hazan.


Delightful. Molto simpatico!


Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead: Read or hear review

I loved this coming-of-age-prep-school novel.  The fifth book by an amazing talent.

Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark.

A terrific winter read. Venice. 1498. The doge's kitchen. Alchemy. Secrets. Knowledge. Suspense. Don't miss it. Due early January. Elle will visit Watermark in January.

Read or hear review


November 2008

The Fifth Floor by Michael Harvey.

Great mystery novel. Second in his Chicago series featuring Michael Kelly, the Windy City's answer to Philip Marlowe. This is a new mystery author to watch.


Why Faith Matters by David Wolpe.


Wolpe's answer to atheism and religious extremism. He argues that a strong faith in and of itself inspires goodness: Read or hear review


Butchers Hill by Laura Lippman.


Tess Monaghan sets up office in the dicey Baltimore neighbor and her first client is the "butcher" of Butchers Hill. Is he a wicked vigilante or has he been falsely accused of killing a 10-year-old boy for breaking his windshield?


Artfully Done by the Wichita Art Museum, featuring the recipes of Carlene Banks & friends: Read or hear review


Economist Book of Obituaries by Ann Wroe & Keith Colghoun: Read or hear review


The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.


A historical novel from Voice. 


Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos.


In small town Nebraska a mother is whisked up in a tornado never to be seen again. Her three children gather years later for their father's funeral. Kallos's stellar technique reveals an immense vocabulary, lyrically applied: Read or hear review


Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction by Susan Cheever.


Provocative, to say the least. Cheever explores the nature of addiction in general while she comes to terms with her own sexual addiction. What a family, what a life...if the walls could talk.


October 2008


Irreplaceable by Steven Lovely.


Iowa workshop graduate debuts with a novel from the Voice imprint of Hyperion--the first male author to join ranks--due in February. Set in Iowa and Chicago, Irreplaceable, in four sections and over the course of three years, vividly realizes the casualties and rebirths that occur when an organ is donated after a tragic accident.


A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre.


Spy novel set in Hamburg turning on extraordinary rendition. Le Carre's exceptional writing skill makes for a satisfying read.


Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg: Read or hear review


Lulu in Marrakech by Diane Johnson: Read or hear review


Smart yet frothy book about American spy Lulu on assignment in Marrakech.


It's a Crime by Jacqueline Carey.


A genteel and original novel about corporate corruption. After her husband is jailed as the fall guy in a big corporate scandal, a landscape architect wants to make reparations to those who lost their livelihoods as the bigwigs made piles of money.

Carey, as witty as they come, also cleverly throws a crime novelist and his craft into the mix to charming effect. It's a polite tale of greed that mirrors our current economic state.


Famous Suicides of the Japanese Empire by David Mura.


A "sansei" (third generation Japanese-American) historian explores the disappearance of his younger brother and the suicide of his father. This is the first novel by poet, playwright, memoirist, and performance artist David Mura.


September 2008


Home by Marilynn Robinson.

Indignation by Philip Roth.

A look the paralyzing nature of fear and anger as they are manifest in the life of Marcus Messner, the son of a kosher butcher from New Jersey. This slim book, Roth's 29th, is a departure from his recent novels of old age. Fear and panic resulting in desperation and madness are explored against the domestic, sexual, public and political arenas in which we live.


August 2008


American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.

This imagined life of Laura Bush is an engrossing story of an American woman from the Midwest whose marriage into an upper-class  political family pulls her into a life of compromise. A page-turner, to be sure: Read or hear review

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

I love War and Peace. I love Tolstoy, and this translation just flows: Read review


Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.


I'm listening to it again.


White Mary by Kira Salak.

Wonder what it's like to travel through the jungles of Papua New Guinea? Award-winning travel writer Kira Salak allows her readers to vicariously experience the sights, the sounds, the isolation, and the tropical diseases of the remote island in her first novel. It's an impressive debut: Read review

What I Talk About When I Talk about Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami.

A contemplative book on running and being a distance runner and how that informs Murakami's life as a fiction writer: Read review

The Turnaround by George Pelecanos.

A teenage racial skirmish in 1970s Washington D.C. between three white and three black teens influences the lives of all involved. Thirtysome years later, each has a chance for redemption. What do the sins of the past look like in the modern day, and is it possible to get along? Not his best, but entertaining none the less.

July 2008


Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry: Read or hear review

19th Wife by David Ebershoff: Read or hear review


June 2008


Short Stories by Leo Tolstoy.

The Running Novelist by Haruki Murakami.

From The New Yorker, June 9 & 16, 2008.

The Wrecking Crew by Thomas Frank.

Frank will broaden his readership with this thoughtful analysis of the rise of conservative power in the United States.


Dawn, Dusk or Night: A Year with Nicholas Sarkozy by Yashima Reza, translated by Carol Janeway.


Our Story Begins: New & Selected Stories by Tobias Wolff: Read or hear review

May 2008


A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz.

Sarah Bagby's book reviews can be heard on alternate Mondays on KMUW 89.1. Here's a transcript of her most recent review. To listen: Go here.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Finished! Now I can take the War and Peace Challenge. (Thanks Beth and Mark!)

Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan.

New novel due in November by one of my favorite authors, known as the bard of the working class, that explores what happens when an 18-year-old woman disappears from a small Midwestern town. Fans of O’Nan’s attention to detail and nuance will be pleased with this latest book. 

Palace Thief by Ethan Canin.

Another good collection of four longer stories. The title story was made into the movie The Emperor’s Club

Emperor of the Air by Ethan Canin.

Love every single word—even through the second reading of this first short story collection by the talented writer.


Carry Me Across the Water by Ethan Canin.


The voice is my companion on solo runs, or as I walk Prince. I’ll miss August Kleinman when I finish. So well written by Ethan Canin and well read by Ron Rifkin.

April 2008


The Pizza Hut Story by Robert Spector.


Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel.

Award winning “memory play.” 

From the final scene: 

Dancing as if the very heart of life and all its hopes might be found in those assuaging notes and those hushed rhythms and in those silent and hypnotic movements. Dancing as if language no longer existed because words were no longer necessary (Slowly bring up the music. Slowly bring down the lights.)


At Blackwater Pond: Mary Oliver reads Mary Oliver.


The first ever recordings by the poet.


Our Only Hope by Keith Pickus: Read review


Made in the USA by Billie Letts.

I liked this... it is a good summer read. Made in the USA received a starred review in Publisher's Weekly. Billie is the mother of Tracy Letts, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his play, August: Osage County.

(And Billie will be at Watermark on July 10th!)

March 2008


Can I Keep My Jersey? 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond by Paul Shirley.


Great book that started as a blog!


Capote in Kansas: A Love Story by Kim Powers.


A ghost story and was, in the end, unimpressed. While Kim Powers opens the book with a provocative and promising twist on an old story, this "ghost story" focuses on why Harper Lee wrote nothing after To Kill a Mockingbird, and on why Capote suffered from Writer's Block at the end of his life (could it be all the drugs?). Powers surmises that Lee was crushed by a casual comment that Truman made at his famous black and white ball--one in which HE claimed to have written To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee, in Powers view, then begins to doubt her own authorship and does not come to terms with that doubt until the final pages of the novel when Capote is dead and has written a note admitting he did not write Mockingbird. The filler is episodic scenes in which Truman is visited by the ghosts of the Clutters and in which Lee visits cemeteries and receives gifts from Truman with hand carved coffins and other confusing yet symbolic trinkets and writes letters to her dead brother.


The Undiscovered Country by Lin Enger.


At a recent gathering of authors and bookstore owners, Lin Enger (and I am paraphrasing) stated that one of the reasons we are so drawn to stories with unique intimacy is that the author is able to get to the deepest chambers of the heart in a way the reader cannot get to their own heart.

Well stated. So, Lin's book moved up to the top of my stack. A re-telling of Hamlet that doesn't require a reading of said play to enjoy, The Undiscovered Country is set in Northern Minnesota, and after 50 pages I can say that this is a book our customers will enjoy and recommend.


Hold Tight by Harlan Coben. 


Wow. A great set up: Concerned parents of a moody seventeen year old arrange to spy on his computer use. With limited tech knowledge, they discover something disturbing and struggle with how to proceed--maintain the trust of their son or save him from seemingly dangerous liaisons.

Naturally tensions arise as the truth is unveiled as Coben also exposes the generational technology use disparity existing between boomer parents and their children. A page turner with a fantastic and unique set up.

My first venture into Coben's world. This book is his 15th.


Flower Net by Lisa See.


The first of three mysteries by the author of Peony in Love. Nominated for an Edgar for first novel, The Flower Net is set in LA and Beijing. A detective from each city partner to solve some murders that are tied to a human trafficking organization. See's examination of cultural differences adds to the psychological games detectives use to gather information and solve crimes.


Clay by David Almond.


An interesting and rather creepy book about the nature of the imagination and creativity as it is manifest in good and evil. A great selection for any book club: Read or hear review


The Day I Ate What Ever I Wanted (and Other Small Acts of Liberation) by Elizabeth Berg.


A wonderful collection of short stories, many dealing with the experiences dieting and weight loss. With Berg's acute vision and insightful prose, the character's humanity and humility will resonate with many readers: Read or hear review


February 2008


A Voyage Long and Strange by Tony Horwitz: Read or hear review


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.


My first reading of this book. Can't wait to get back to it every day--after 200 pages, the worlds of Levin and Kitty and Anna and Vronsky are embedded in my psyche. I love this book.


Charlatan by Pope Brock: Read or hear review


Peony in Love by Lisa See: Read or hear review


Sunflower Sinner by Cynthia Dennis.


Code Black by Philip Donley.


January 2008


America, America by Ethan Canin.


I LOVE this book.  An important epic novel set in the 1970s; this is the best political book to read this year.  Profound and poetic, this novel by the talented Canin satiates the soul. 

Don’t miss this book: Read review


The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz: Read review


The Gods of War by Maria Silver.


A young man on the verge of adulthood cares for his mentally handicapped brother as he struggles to find his way in a dismal town near the Salton Sea. Poetic.


The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller: Read Sarah's review.


Another solid book by an insightful novelist exploring the nature of love and marriage and family life--both public and private.


Life Class by Pat Barker.

So Young, Brave and Handsome by Lief Enger.

Sun Going Down by Jack Todd.

December 2007

Christmas Memory, One Christmas, Thanksgiving Visitor by Truman Capote.

Three moving holiday stories to read and re-read. Masterful writing, humor and the experience of home and loss.

Blue Heaven by C.J. Box.

After Tess Gerritsen recommended this book, I took it home to try. The Idaho setting and riveting plot are keeping me entertained. I understand why Tess was so enthusiastic. While Blue Heaven does not feature Box's usual protagonist, this book will appeal to his faithful readers and likely gain him more. Very Good Thriller. Recommended. Read or hear review

The Cure for Modern Life by Lisa Tucker.

A perfect book to come home to. Especially during the busy holiday season. I love Lisa Tucker.

November 2007

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

Two road trips have given me the chance to listen to audio books. John Slattery is an excellent actor and reads each voice of this novel without grating on ones nerves. This love story represented the new romanticism for Hemingway. Highly Recommended--unabridged; 9 hours.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

Skillfully read by Donald Sutherland, this novella, written in 1952, confirmed Hemingway's power and presence in the literary world and was instrumental in his winning the Nobel Prize. The story of an old Cuban Fisherman and the young boy he teaches is fine. This is a good audio, three hours.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron.

Excellent title fitting to any age or pain, excellent book about a young man overwhelmed by life after high school in twenty-first century New York City: Read review

Training Plans for Multisport Athletes by Gale Bernhardt.

Great book for the novice or experienced athlete trying to improve performance. A Godsend for me since the departure of my running partner.

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron.

Just re-released in a Modern Library edition, this memoir of Styrons's descent into severe depression is compelling in it's attempt to articulate the symptoms of the disease, as well as a reflection on why it is so misunderstood. Finally, he concludes that depression is rooted in loss (of a loved one, a cherished friend or other source of support followed by a loss of self, then purpose, then hope and on down) but that it can be cured with treatment that for him included hospitalization, allowing him time and a secure, though sterile, environment in which to heal.

Bleeding Kansas by Sara Paretsky.

Though not a VI Warshawski, Bleeding Kansas features a plucky 15-year-old heroine. As she manages school and parents with their own set of challenges, Lara also has to maneuver through the dynamics when a "stranger moves to town." Paretsky finesses this third person narrative with aplomb, creating memorable and believable characters including: a Wiccan; religious fanatics such as a Sect of Hasidic Jews and some angry evangelical Christians; a homeless ex-hippie alcoholic with demons to settle and secrets to reveal; and a teacher trying to do right by everybody: Read or listen to the review

The Reserve by Russell Banks.

Another good book by the author of so many great novels. Over the course of one summer month, lives unravel and secrets are revealed in unexpected ways by this esteemed storyteller.

Under Hope's Roof by Myrne Roe: Read review

October 2007

Hot L Baltimore by John Lanford.

Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice by Janet Malcolm.

Heidi Chronicles by Wendy Wasserstein.

This play stands the test of time. Now after the playwright's own life has been written, a re-reading is interesting in that it foretells real incidents in Wasserstein's life.

Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock.

A romp of a book about John Brinkley, a medical quack who did much harm in our fine state, ran for governor twice (and nearly won) and was a pioneer in the early days of radio. This is also the story of the man who took Brinkley down.

Born Standing Up by Steve Martin.

Wonderful Tonight by Pattie Boyd.

A guilty pleasure.

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson.

Jonathan Galassi, the esteemed editor, makes the bold claim that this novel is perhaps the best novel published by FSG.  He could be right.  I’m 70 pages in and concur that Johnson is the real thing.  At 700 pages, this will take me awhile, but so be it: Read review

September 2007

Dead Connection by Alafair Burke.

I enjoyed Alafair’s new book AND character, a New Yorker, and would have liked it even without the Wichita-hometown-girl connection.  The internet dating info is interesting and the plot twists are well thought out and unpredictable.

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.

Monsters of all sorts reside in this inventive novel set in a town modeled on Groff’s childhood hometown of Cooperstown, New York.  She pays homage to James Fenimore Cooper, Glimmerglass Lake and the value of Running Groups in a small community—some things you just need to be able to depend on.  A young woman is searching for her father and discovers the many complicated connections and family secrets of the Templeton. The book will be out in January of 2008 and has already gathered accolades from Stephen King and booksellers across the country.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This inventive story is a delight and will soon be a motion picture starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.

August 2007

Red Rover by Deirdre McNamer.

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan.

An Ode to managers everywhere. Read or Listen to the review

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard.

An examination of how we live through whatever love is, infused with clever wordplay, poetic language (some paragraphs are, quite simply, poems), humor and appreciation of the natural world: Read reviews

The Farther Shore by Matthew Eck.

A first person account of living with the "rules of
engagement" of the US Army in modern day Somalia. 

July 2007

Away by Amy Bloom.

Very good woman adventure novel. Love story a bonus! Read or Listen to the review

Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup.

It's Anne Lamott meets Survivor in this wonderful memoir of
Braestrup's journey to becoming a chaplain to the search and rescue teams at work in the Maine woods: Read a review

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin.

A must read for anyone who votes!  Kudos to Jeffrey Toobin
for giving context to the way the third branch of the government works.  A bonus is that Toobin's talent for "story" is so great that you won't be able to put this book down: Read or Listen to the review

The Comedy of Errors (Pelican Shakespeare edition) by William Shakespeare.

June 2007

After Dark by Haruki Murakami: Read or Listen to the review

Falling Man by Don DeLillo: Read or Listen to the review.

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon.

A delight.

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan.

A short novel to be savored: Read or Listen to the review.

Richard III by William Shakespeare.

May 2007

The Pirate's Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson.

The cultural melting pot of Jamaica against the celluloid backdrop of Errol Flynn and his Hollywood friends, young women and local workers on Navy Island provides the author with so much rich material. The Pirate's Daughter brings to life a cast of remarkable characters who maneuver their way through cultures, real and imagined, families and classes looking for security and love.  Margaret Cezair-Thompson's novel charms even the most
hard hearted with her simple prose, authentic dialects, and heartbreaking look at dreams, both broken and realized in an era of stardom and glamour. (Due in September from Unbridled Books.)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Alexie’s first novel for young adults features illustrations by Ellen Forney. This is a book is full of pathos and humor and one you won't want to miss: Read review

Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of the Serial Killer Next Door by Roy Wenzl.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare.

April 2007

Hick by Andrea Portes.

Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw.

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay.

Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen:

Read review or Listen to the review

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Only three chapters in and hooked; can we close the store because of the threat of rain so I can go home and read!

Read or Listen to the review.

The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? by Leslie Bennetts:

Read or Listen to the review

March 2007

The Science of Success by Charles Koch.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan.

Due in August, this fictional tale of the life of Mamah Cheney and her adulterous relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright is fascinating.  Meeting Wright as the architect of her Oak Park, Illinois home, Cheney pursues the life of the mind and an affair of the heart, leaving her husband and two children to live in Europe with the charismatic intellectual and artist.

Over the course of the following years, she subsequently receives a divorce and lives among Wright’s family in the woods of Wisconsin.  Wright is in and out of the picture, working on big projects in Chicago and other places while also building the legendary Taliesin.

Mamah Cheney tested the social mores of her time to become the most that she could be, and Horan tells her story with empathy and a distance that is unsentimental.  This is a fascinating look at two people who lived against convention to achieve a personal happiness that is as tragic as it is fulfilling. 

An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke.

A delayed coming-of-age novel set in New England, this curious novel is quirky and charming. From the publisher of Water for Elephants, it's book is likely to find a good audience. Algonquin Press’s editors sure do have a gift for finding typical stories told in atypical ways.

 Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell.

This book has cold and cruel prose, minimal dialog that is more telling than expansive details, and a feel for how desperate people act and see the world. Woodrell tells the store of Ree, age sixteen, the daughter of a meth addict/producer father and an addled brain-dead mother. She is trying to hold together a household for her two younger brothers. Winter’s Bone will more than satisfy any yen for voyeurism into a life at the edge of reason, driven by twisted logic and legacies of violence and trouble. Woodrell, with pathos and empathy, shows how the worst situation can be overwritten by hope, love and money, though not necessarily in that order. 

Writing in an Age of Silence by Sara Paretsky.

Examining the forces that kept her silent—and how she overcame them—is the subject of this writer’s coming-of-a-age essay collection.  I loved this book and am completely in awe of Paretsky’s intelligence. I eagerly await her forthcoming novel  Bleeding Kansas, which is scheduled for January 2008:

Read review or listen to an Audio review at KMUW

Devils in the Sugar Shop by Timothy Schaffert.

Shaffert infuses Midwestern detail into the lives of myriad characters searching for love and security during a few months of winter discontent: A romance writer finds her book on the dollar table at a neighborhood bookstore; a divorcee “falling back into love” with her ex finds a nude portrait he drew of her best friend; a single woman, straight laced and efficient, has built a lucrative business selling sex toys; a sixteen-year-old meets her skinnier, more popular friends at a D.A.V. to try on clothes the same day she receives an email meant for her father’s adulterous lover. Readers and book people will delight in the bookstore banter of Peaches, Plum, and their eclectic collection of customers, lovers and writers. Devils in the Sugar Shop delights and affirms the nature of the human heart.

The Blood of Flowers by Alice Amirrezvani.

Excellent historical novel of class and love and commerce in Iran. An unnamed young woman loses her dowry when her father dies and must live with her uncle who is the rug-maker to the Shah. A skilled and inspired rug-maker herself, our heroine pursues the craft of rug-making even as she has an arranged, but temporary marriage contract. Modern themes of financial independence resonate through this sensuous novel and Amirrezvani weaves traditional Iranian storytelling through each chapter to allow for deeper meaning. I read this book on an airplane trip and we landed before I even knew we took off. Due in June, this is one to keep a look out for. Listen to the review.

February  2007

Returning To Earth by Jim Harrison: Audio review at KMUW

The Girl with the Gallery: Edith Gregor Halpert And the Making of the Modern Art Market by Lindsay Pollock: Audio review at KMUW

The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty.

I am reading this for the second time and am so excited to be able to share this book with readers of the Center of Everything, Laura's previous novel. Infused with humor and pathos regarding our cultural values, Moriarty tells of a tragic event that provides a vehicle for all members of a typical family to find their power to help and love each other, despite the painful path to realization of that power. The second reading is providing me the time to truly appreciate the richness and complexity of the telling of a family in crisis. Read or Listen to the review.

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman.

Laura Lippman belongs right next to Sara Paretsky and George Pelacanos for her bravado in the mystery "genre": her characters are interesting and deep; the plot twists and turns, building layer upon layer until the final pages when it is revealed with perfect timing--a pace unhurried that makes the truth soak in and stay there. Two daughters go to a suburban Baltimore mall in the 70s and never return home. Some decades later the victim of a hit and run accident claims to be one of the sisters:

Audio review at KMUW

January 2007

The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-Ass Novel by Jill Conner Browne with Karin Gillespie: Read review

Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash by Liz Perle.

A perfect companion to You're Wearing That?! Perle's book will make you think about how money has influenced many of our experiences and choices, and she deconstructs our ideas about independence, which have often left us more dependent than we would have ever thought. Provocative and empowering, this is an interesting book for all women.

December 2006

Grace Eventually: Thoughts on Faith by Annie Lamott.

Anne Lamott gets me every time--as a mother, as a curious and humble woman, and as the mother of a teenage child. There are no pat answers here, only moments of grace after hours of struggle. Despite the overwhelming evidence toward hopelessness, she believes that with an open heart and by giving into faith, we can become. But what the heck is becoming anyway and where do we want to "be"? That's the darnedest thing, and we don't know until we get there. Not only that, in case you think that you've arrived and become, think again, because there is only somewhere else for you to be. Put this on your bedside table or keep it in a spot where you can enjoy a moment of reflection; you'll want to read these essays again and again: Read review or listen to an Audio review at KMUW

You're Wearing That? : Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversations by Deborah Tannen.

This book is easy to read and validates our roles as a mothers and daughters. By listening to real conversations from many demographics, Tannen shows how universal and typical we are in our quest for connection and control.

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.

This powerful memoir gets to the meat of what happens when a life is interrupted by war. Receiving his first AK-47 the same year he enters his teens, Beah tells of the traumatic plight of boy soldiers. His descriptions of the misguided emotional toil of war and incomprehensible violence are as powerful as they are heartbreaking: he was recruited into a civil war in Sierra Leone when he was thirteen and wandered for years with a band of boys, just killing and surviving. They smoked dope and snorted brown-brown, a concoction of cocaine and gun powder, and finally, amazingly, he fought his way through rehabilitation. Now he's twenty-six and lives in the U.S., where he has graduated from Oberlin College and become a speaker for human rights organizations. This memoir is immediate and gives a voice to an experience that many young boys do not survive:

Audio review at KMUW

November 2006

Echo Park by Michael Connelly: Read review

What the Thunder Said by Janet Peery.

This new novel by the author of The River Beyond the World is mesmerizing. Haunting, lyrical prose alternating between a sort of local, Okie old-fashioned vernacular and language steeped in biblical references, Perry’s novel transports the reader much like a powerful dream, where we have to think twice about what we just experienced. Family secrets and human frailties and failings are woven together to tell of two sisters, estranged leave the family home in search of a future away from their “roots.” There is so much in the early pages; I want to take my time with every word, sentence, paragraph, page and chapter. Due in March, What the Thunder Said is the third book by former Wichitan and graduate of the MFA Creative Writing program at Wichita State University. 

The Good Home Cookbook: More Than 1000 Classic Recipes by Richard J. Perry

I have been cooking in the café and have found much inspiration in this cookbook. Home tested recipes, collected by a Portland runner, collector of cool kitchen gadgets and tools, and good cook, this was sure to appeal to me. The cover is even evocative of my “tickled pink” retro dinnerware. I have the tiniest kitchen with one of the coolest vintage Red Chambers Ranges ever made. Modern conveniences such as a dishwasher or trash compactor come second to my need for something aesthetically pleasing. I have tried about a half dozen recipes (Lentil Soup, Spiced-Peach muffins, Amish Sugar Cookies and Chocolate Snacking Cake to name a few) and all have turned out very well.  All of these items are available at Watermark Café—check the web page for days.

October 2006

Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen 

Snappy dialog, genius comic timing, and crazy but lovable characters make for a pleasure read during a busy time of the year. Honey Santana is determined to turn a hapless telemarketer, into a decent human being. Fun book for sure, set in the insanely branded Florida typical of Hiaasen. 

The Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty

I was lucky enough to get a very early copy of a book due in the summer of 2007. The first chapter of this new novel by the author of the beloved Center of Everything lured me right in. A provocative novel examining the defining, though often confusing roles of mothers, daughters and sisters, The Rest of Her Life will appeal to all women.

Amadeus by Peter Schaeffer and Private Lives by Noel Coward.

I listened to my Shakespeare Club read two plays this fall. The first,  Amadeus by Peter Schaeffer, is a play about how we average types are ego driven when confronted with genius (Mozart) and how we grapple with our own bad behavior (Salieri), trying to reconcile with a God that allows us to behave in such despicable ways. And second, Private Lives by Noel Coward, a comedy of manners revealing the limits and frustrations of love, while showing how we find comfort in both.

September 2006

All Aunt Hager's Children by Edward P. Jones.

These stories-spanning 100 years in Washington, D.C.-are a pleasure to read. I've finished four and will read the rest before the next Literary Feast (this is the October selection). "Bad Neighbors" and "Blindsided" are my favorites so far.

Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley.

Jane Smiley takes on Hollywood in a breezy novel full of whip-smart dialog and rambling, yet entertaining, tales of life in the hills. A half-dozen friends have a house party for ten days beginning the day after the Oscars and shortly after our country invaded Iraq. Smiley is so smart, and reading this book makes me think she has entered the room and is telling me the best story. I'll listen to each word.

Sharp Images by Gillian Flynn.

This first novel by Entertainment Weekly's TV critic is creepy and full of horrible characters. The protagonist is a hack journalist for a Chicago paper and is sent back to a small Missouri town where there have been two gruesome child murders. Our heroine resumes the self-destructive behavior she thought she had let go and discovers that family and small town secrets create the deepest of wounds. A gothic writer to watch.

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda's Journey to America by Lawrence Wright.

Very good book. 

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky.

Excellent!  Sometimes the story behind the book is more interesting that the actual work. Not so here. BOTH stories are fascinating. We'll be discussing this book on Friday, September 1 at the KMUW/Watermark Books Literary Feast!  French Food, a great book, and good conversation. Can life get much better than that?

August 2006

The Late Bloomer's Revolution by Amy Cohen.

Scheduled to be released in the spring of 2007, this memoir of
living solo, though not by choice, is funny and thoughtful. After many dates, when all friends and family seem to have given up hope, Amy meets and falls in love with someone. The book is charming.

The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. 

After a glowing review in the New York Times Review of Books, I was intrigued.  Now, I'm engrossed in the history of Al-Qaeda and the events that led to the dreadful events on September 11, 2001. In lucid prose, Wright explains the history of modern terrorism and the psychology of the Islamist terrorists, the nature of U.S. intelligence, after the Cold War, and how politics and religion can be a deadly mix.   

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon.

The new novel by the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night explores a family in flux: George, the father, is losing
his mind after recently retiring; his wife is having an affair; their daughter is going to marry a man with "strangler hands;" and their gay son is trying to stay in touch but not impose his partner. The British slang and dialog are so good, as is the mental state of George. It's a great contrast to The Looming Tower.

The Extra Mile: One Woman's Personal Journey to Ultrarunning Greatness by Pam Reed: Read review

July 2006

The Touching that Lasts by Kent Nelson.

A collection of stories by the author of The Land that Moves, the
Land that Stands Still
. Fans of that novel should take note and read these stories as well. 

When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton.

As usual, a pure pleasure to read. Her humor and insight and plot
makes for a novel you want to get back to, setting all previous committments aside. Due in September.  Look for details of Jane Hamilton's visit to Watermark Books & Cafe soon.

Forgetfulness by Ward Just.

From the first word, Just has me in awe.

If you have not read Ward Just, please let me call you when this book is available. He is among the best novelists working today (despite his omission from The New York Times' recent list). Forgetfulness examines the often challenging dilemma of the personal vs. political when a man comes face to face with the terrorists who killed his wife. In lyrical prose a command of global political issues, Just has written a novel that should broaden his readership and have new fans scouring the shelves for his previous novels.

It's a good book that advances the power of art in getting at the truth, both in terms of drawing out secret histories and as a carthartic practice providing clarity in a chaotic society.  Due out in September.

June 2006

Driftless Area by Tom Drury.

Due this fall, this existential novel set in the northern Midwest is as spare as it is accomplished. Drury is a genius at knowing exactly what is needed to develop a story with depth and humor and insight into the human condition: Read review

Challenger Park by Stephen Harrington.

Mercy, you cannot judge a book by its cover. This is one fine novel. Lucy Kincheloe is an astronaut and a mother of two. She's finally going to space, and Harrington deftly portrays her difficult - and unbalancing - choice to let go of family and follow ambition.

May 2006

The New Yorker Book of Cartoon Puzzles and Games by Puzzability, with a forward by Will Shortz & Robert Mankoff: Read review

Girls in Peril by Karen Lee Boren: Read review

Gardenias by Faith Sullivan.

Set in San Diego during World War II, this coming-of-age novel  is quite good.  Lark, age 10, lives with her mother and aunt.  We enter their lives when they arrive in San Diego after abandoning Minnesota, Lark’s father, and a few broken dreams. The three women build new lives and community a little at a time, caring for servicemen off to war and others in less fortunate situations.  Lark learns to negotiate her own life as she shares her mother and aunt. Sullivan uses terms and language of the period in a way that gets the reader's attention.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Due in May, this love story within a circus is set during the Depression and vividly depicts the sights, smells, and sludge in the train and under the big top. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying one of the most anticipated novels of the year. Sara Gruen goes straight from the sideshows to the high wire in her remarkable debut.

The Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

A fun and feisty book for young readers, this first novel is the coming-of-age story of a young man and woman. It's set in Wisconsin on a dairy farm. The heroine is a true athlete in addition to farm hand whereas our more citified hero must learn to live up to her standards. These opposite numbers become friends and learn more from each other than they ever imagined: Read review

April 2006

Red Weather by Pauls Toutonghi.

A Wisconsin novel featuring Latvian immigrants.  Endearing and timely. An amusing and entertaining story, it came highly recommended by Beth, so I had to give it a try: Read Beth's review

Think Again: A Response to Fundamentalism's Claim on Christianity by Dr. Gary Cox of Wichita's University Congregational Church: Read review

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields.

This fascinating, first biography of the elusive Harper Lee is destined to be on everyone’s reading list. Shields evokes not only the small Alabama town, characters, and events that became the backdrop of To Kill a Mockingbird as well as Lee’s years in New York City putting words on the page and the success of the novel that delighted and overwhelmed her. Harper Lee’s oft-tested friendship with Truman Capote is a recurring theme, and Shield’s reading of the pages and pages of notes on In Cold Blood give us new details on the years Lee and Capote spent together in the small towns of western Kansas. Finally, Shields answers the questions often asked about Harper Lee: whatever happened to her, and why didn’t she ever write another novel? Read review

Intuition by Allegra Goodman

I like the egos, ambitions and suspense of life in a medical research lab: Read Todd's review

March 2006

Fire Sale by Sara Paretsky.

V.I. Warshawski is the best female P.I. Read review

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I love Elizabeth Gilbert. I read this in November, and now I'm listening to the audio book: Read review

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline.

Sure to become a family and classroom favorite, this lovely volume portrays the miracle of hoping and opening your heart to love in the face of tremendous loss. It's by the award-winning author of Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despeareaux.  For ages 7 and up.

Who Moved My Blackberry? by Lucy Kellaway with “Martin Lukes”

If you're not reading Lucy Kellaway’s columns in the Financial Times, you’re missing one of the most amusing business columnists writing today. On Mondays, she reviews business books or just opines on corporate life, and her expertise is sarcasm. Additionally, she has invented a character named Martin Lukes, whose column also appears with her help on a regular basis.  Who Moved My Blackberry? is Lucy’s first novel, a satire of corporate life that will make you cringe and laugh. Organized as a year in the life, we follow the ambitious and not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is-but-will-take-all-the-credit Martin through a rebranding, restructuring at AB Global. Also in this challenging year, his wife comes to work for the company, he gets a new young and beautiful personal assistant, his son goes off to boarding school and he hires a life coach. This clever tour-de-force - told through Martin’s e-mail sent message box - has a voyeuristic quality that allows reader access to way too much information. Getting so close to a fool was never so much fun. 

February 2006

The Sweet Potato Queens' Wedding Planner/Divorce Guide by Jill Connor Browne.

Funny and Wise. Out of all her advice, there are two things that I can't help repeating over and over: 1. Do NOT confuse a wedding with a marriage. 2. There's nothing wrong with being too choosy about choosing a groom. 

Unholy Messenger: The Life and Crimes of the BTK Serial Killer by Stephen Singular: Read review

On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

I love it. You want to go to sleep and wake up with this book! (February Literary Feast pick.) Read Bruce's review

Proof by David Auburn.

Noises Off by Michael Frayn.

January 2006

The Great Stink by Clare Clark.

This novel was our pick for our January Literary Feast, and it smelled sweet as a rose. This first novel is a historical page-turner in the tradition of The Dress Lodger or The Alienist.

Read review

Check our Events page for info on upcoming Literary Feasts: it's dinner-and-a-book club at Watermark!

Sex Wars by Marge Piercy.

Atmospheric, social history of the period leading up to passage of the 19th amendment, suffrage for American women. Weaving together real and fictional characters, Piercy brings to life a fascinating time in our country's history.

Once Upon a Day by Lisa Tucker.

I couldn't put this book down: in an unfair world of risk and violence, how can we reconcile protecting the ones we love with the risk of losing them? What is safety worth if insanity results?  This inventive novel of family secrets, wrenching hurt, and unnecessary loss has an intricate, deftly woven plot and keen observations. And whether the setting is the home of a power mogul in Hollywood, a cab in St. Louis, or a dusty hole in the
wall in New Mexico, Lisa Tucker is right there. And did I mentions that I love the title? Read review

December 2005

Flush by Carl Hiaasen.

This is a good book for middle readers with a fast pace and a “green” message; it's good companion to Hoot.

Fallen by David Maine.

Every day, I find something in my life that resonates with this great retelling of the story of Cain & Abel and Adam & Eve. It's that good and that universal. (December Literary Feast pick.) Read Bruce's review

Saving the World by Julia Alvarez.

Present meets past in this provocative novel: in the Dominican Republic of the present a humanitarian organization oversees testing of an anti-HIV drug, and in the past, Dr. Francisco Xavier Balmis' Royal Expedition in 1804 carries the smallpox virus from Europe to the New World using 22 orphan boys and their caregiver, the only woman on the ship. In the two narratives - and through two fascinating heroines - Alvarez explores the challenges of public health epidemics, the dynamics of free markets and emerging economies, and how the world is often at odds with itself. This one should be next on your stack!

This book is due in April. Call us, and we'll save you one.

November 2005

The All-American Dessert Book by Nancy Baggett (November Cookbook of the Month!): Read review

Cookies, cobblers, and pies. Oh my!

October 2005

The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr, a non-fiction delve into the high stakes art world by the author of A Civil Action: Read review

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly: Read review

September 2005

Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers & Up by Mollie Katzen: Read review

City of Falling Angels by John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: Read review

The Rustic Table: Simple Fare from the World's Kitchens by Constance Snow (Cookbook of the Month!): Read review

August 2005

King of Kings County by Whitney Terrell; it's a gripping story of growth and growing crime that's set in Kansas City. Read the opening pages about the Christmas lighting of the Plaza, and you'll be hooked: Read review

A Necessary Spectacle: Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, and the Tennis Match that Leveled the Game by Selena Roberts: Read review

July 2005

Interruption of Everything by Terry MacMillan: Read review

The Secret Man: The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat by Bob Woodward.

The Other Shulman by Alan Zweibel: Read review

I Remember Running: The Year I Got Everything I Ever Wanted - and ALS by Darcy Wakefield: Read review

June 2005

The Good Wife by Stewart O'Nan: Read review

Zorro by Isabel Allende.

Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes: Read review

The Trader Joe's Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business Into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon by Len Lewis.

Making It Up as I Go Along by Maria Lennon.

Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles by Francine Prose.

May 2005

Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell.

April 2005

The Missing Person by Alix Ohlin.

One Soldier's Story by Bob Dole: Read review

Blood of Angels by Reed Arvin.

Nightmare in Wichita: The Hunt for the BTK Strangler by Robert Beattie.

A must for anyone who has lived in Wichita for the past 30 years, this is a book about the people involved in the investigation and others affected by the unfathomable murders. Read full review

Someplace Like This by Renee Ashley.

Known for her poetry, Ashley is teaching at WSU in creative writing for one month. This novel about a woman wanting more (but not knowing what) is beautifully written and gets at the heart of the confusion that living our lives often causes.

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott.

Anne Lamott gives us a Traveling Mercies "part two," and the best part (besides the whole book!) is that her son Sam is the age as my daughter, many of Lamott’s most traumatic human exchanges feature the two of them, and she seems to be speaking directly to me. Read full review

How to Lose Your Ass and Regain Your Life by Kirstie Alley. 

A guilty pleasure. What this book is exactly is beyond me. (And maybe it's not sure itself.) Alley accompanies her year-long diary with stories of growing up and "out," many of which take place right here in Wichita. 

March 2005

Closers by Michael Connelly.

After a two-year retirement, Harry Bosch goes back to the LAPD  to work some cold cases. As good as ever, Connelly brings to life one of fictions most popular and likable characters. 

Saturday by Ian McEwan.

A great novel occurring over twenty-four hours and featuring a neurosurgeon in London. There's too much going on in this book to describe in a few sentences; suffice it to say, it is very, very good. Read Bruce's review

Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller.

Miller imagines divorce’s effects on the life of a middle child on the verge of becoming a woman. I like Sue Miller very much, and this book reminds me why. Read full review

Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi.

Beth reviewed this book, and I was intrigued. It's a sort of "Ya Ya’s" sisterhood set in the Middle East. It's short, so I got to read it (and laugh) while I guarded the gym door during a middle school dance. Good thing that gym door was locked! Read Beth's review

February 2005 

Plain Brown Wrapper: An Alex Powell Novel by Karen Grigsby Bates.

A new sleuth: African-American Journalist Alex Powell is drawn in when a high-powered editor is murdered in the hotel where a national conference is taking place. Read full review

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.

One of this year's favorites: A sad and bitterly funny book disguised as a mystery, it involves three sisters from a disconnected family, disconnected from much of the world and from each other. Read full review

Bloody Mary by J.A. Konrath.

The second in a breezy mystery series featuring Chicagoan Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels. Whereas Sara Paretsky captures the heart and soul of her Chicago, Konrath is all dialogue and action.  The two complement each other well. Read full review 

The Changed Man by Francine Prose.

An intriguing novel about what happens when human nature interferes with saving humanity. A young neo-Nazi wants to reform and to help other like him not be like him. After he links up with the World Brotherhood Watch led by a concentration camp survivor, Vincent Nolan's good intentions prove both a blessing and a curse: Read full review

January 2005

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd.

A mid-life crisis book for women, from the author of The Secret Life of Bees. Read full review

Cut and Run by Ridley Pearson. 

Now I know why everyone else likes Pearson’s book so much:  three excellent narratives collide and explode in this fast paced thriller. Read full review

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman.

A modern fairy tale jam-packed with wonderful characters, imaginative imagery, lightning strikes, and wishes that — for better or worse — come true. Read full review

The Jane Austen Bookclub by Karen Jay Fowler.

Beth's been talking it up, and it was a smash hit... and I didn’t want to miss out! Delightfully witty. A tribute to the staying power of a good story from the pen of a good writer. Read Beth's review

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Beth has been plugging this one, too, and Joyce Suellentrop would read something and say, “It was good, but not as good as Shadow of the Wind.” It's a gothic story set in Barcelona that will be as good on the beach as it was by the fire.