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  • Writer's pictureMarilyn Gardner Woods

"I already have one!"

As I wrapped Laurie’s birthday present—a stack pack of books—I couldn’t help but smile recalling something funny my favorite uncle said (with a twinkle in his eye) each Christmas, “Don’t give me a book. I already have one.”

Laurie is hard to buy for; however, she’s passionate about reading. Hence, a small collection of books.

Nothing quite as enjoyable on these last lazy days of summer as reading a great book. A gift.

Here are some of the best I’ve gotten lost in lately…

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone) in Oprah’s own words, “It was unputdownable!” Eight-hundred pages spanning 1900 to 1977, the epic follows three generations of a family in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, that suffers a peculiar affliction.

At the turn of the century, a twelve-year-old girl grieving her father’s death, is sent by boat to her wedding, where she will meet her forty-year-old husband for the first time. From this unforgettable new beginning, the young girl—and future matriarch, known as Big Ammachi—will witness unthinkable changes over the span of her extraordinary life, full of joy and triumph as well as hardship and loss, her faith and love the only constants. One of the most memorable characters ever! To say nothing of the romance and medicine woven throughout.

It pained me to finish this book. A definite re-read! Like Garrison Keillor said, “A book is a gift you can open again and again.”

Trust, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Hernan Diaz offers as unique a plot line as I’ve ever encountered—a brilliant literary puzzle. If you can keep this straight, Trust has four parts inside it: a novel within the novel followed by an autobiography in progress followed by a memoir and finally a primary source.

Trust is a glorious story of empires and erasures, husbands and wives, staggering fortunes, and unspeakable misery. Mostly, though, the book is a literary page-turner full of puns and elegant prose.

Demon Copperhead, a co-winner for the Pulitzer Prize in fiction kept me asking how on earth did prize-winner author, Barbara Kingsolver, manage so effectively to get into the head, heart, and mind of the young protagonist spilling his dialect, vernacular, and compelling inner thoughts across the pages.

Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, Demon Copperhead is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. This book captured my heart as it skillfully and emotionally evoked a young hero’s unforgettable journey to maturity.

How to Love Your Daughter is a kind of mystery in which Yoella, the protagonist, is sleuth and prime suspect. Writer, Hila Blum, is a virtuoso at stoking angst without melodrama. The novel opens with an unforgettable scene of domestic harmony, as two young sisters and their parents sit down to dinner in a book-filled home in the Netherlands. What changes everything is that the reader is viewing it through the eyes of a woman who is standing in the darkness across the street thousands of miles from home, glimpsing her grandchildren for the first time. A spellbinding read! (pictured in Laurie's stack pack above)

The Lover's Dictionary – I’m on my third read of this tiny treasure by David Levithan, which constructs the story of a relationship as a dictionary. Monumental events and commonplace trifles of coupledom. As you can see, I’ve post-it-ed practically every page! It is an addictive and madly fun read. Rather than summarize, here’s some adorable quips:

Breach, n. – I didn’t want to know who he was, or what you did, or that it didn’t mean anything.

Finances, n. – You wanted to keep the list on the refrigerator. “No,” I said. “That’s too public.” What I meant was: Aren’t you embarrassed by how much you owe me?

Voluminous, adj. – I have already spent roughly five thousand hours asleep next to you. This has to mean something.

When Your Heart Says Go – My Year of Traveling Beyond Loss and Loneliness is a very special book to me because my writing mentor, Judy Reeves, is the author; it’s available for pre-order here or at your favorite local bookstore now!

What sort of mad longing besets a woman—nearing fifty and recently widowed—to sell everything she owns, buy an around-the-world airline ticket, pack a single suitcase, and set off alone on a year-long journey without a plan or agenda? When Your Heart Says Go answers that question. Sobriety, sorrow, and escapism coalesce in a sensuous manner for the reader in When Your Heart Says Go, a magnificent journey. And for those lucky souls in and near San Diego, you can register here for An Afternoon with Judy Reeves at the San Diego Central Library, Saturday, Oct. 21 4-6pm.

Looking forward, here’s the next books I intend to get lost in – The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada, Tom Lake, Ann Patchett’s newest, and The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride.

But I must carve out time too for the family Fantasy Football League. Texas Tech Red Raider, Patrick Mahomes, my QB again this season!

Oh yeah, he plays for the Chiefs now...


A room without books is like a body without a soul. – Cicero

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