Nancy's Picks

   last painting of sara de vos

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

A luminous landscape painted by one of the handful of women painters admitted to the Netherland’s Artist Guild is at the center of this intriguing novel alternating between 1630's Amsterdam, 1950's Manhattan and 2000 Sydney. A counterfeit copy has emerged and Smith examines both who is responsible and what were the motivations for both the original painting and the counterfeit.


The Overstory by Richard Powers

This 2019 Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a powerful call to action to save our forests. Intricately plotted, the first part introduces us to 8 characters and their connections to trees through a series of short stories. These characters then come together throughout the book as they variously become aware of the wondrous properties and functions of trees as facilitators in the ecosystem. The manner in which they act on this new awareness ranges from protests to scientific treatises to simple appreciation. You will come away forever changed in your perception of these beautiful and familiar companions. 

   great believers

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

A look back at the early days of the AIDS crisis in Chicago's Boystown. The book alternates between 2 connected stories. The story set in the 1980s, tells the story of Yale and his group of friends who are trying to live as normal a life as possible amidst the relentless progression of AIDs. This alternates with a story in the present, in which Fiona, a witness to this time who still bears the scars of all the loss, attempts to reconcile with her daughter and the past. Makkai brings to life the spirit of Boystown and those who lived there and in so doing has written a wonderful homage to those who were the first victims. Recommended by Nancy.

   electric hotel

The Electric Hotel by Dominic Smith

This atmospheric historical novel tells the story of Claude Ballard, who after watching a demonstration of the Lumiere Brothers’ first films becomes swept up in the romance and energy of the early years of film making. The novel makes its way from Europe to the United States and back again as we follow Claude's film making journey alongside his fractious relationship with the mesmerizing silent film actress Sabine. A wonderful read.

   bad blood

Bad Blood : Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

This non-fiction book that reads like suspense tells the shocking story of the Silicon Valley Start-Up Theranos, whose founder stopped at nothing to promote her medical device for blood tests. Elizabeth Holmes, a Steve Jobs wannabe, relentlessly sold her idea of a blood test that could be performed using a pinprick of blood using specially designed devices to numerous investors, including Rupert Murdoch, as well as to corporations like Walgreens. In reality these devices often were inoperative and if they did operate usually gave erroneously dangerous results. What is incredible is how long she was able to keep the company going. Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou tenaciously and courageously exposed the truth.


A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Moving portrait of a Muslim American family finding its way through the 21st Century. While over the decades Rafiq and his wife Layla have had to deal with repercussions from cataclysmic events such as 9/11 and deaths of parents, they face their greatest challenge as their rebellious youngest child comes of age and pushes against the strictures of the Muslim faith. How do they, as devout Muslims, balance their love of their son with their own beliefs?


The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

In an often exuberant, sometimes heartbreaking journey, Boyne takes the reader through Ireland's history from 1945 to the present all through the eyes of adoptee Cyril Avery. A simply wonderful read. 


Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson

A thoroughly researched and eminently readable account of the historic Apollo 8 mission. From the beginnings of the space race with Russia to the astronauts and NASA personnel who made the mission a success, Kurson brings the era and the people to life. The author was able to interview all 3 astronauts and their wives leading to a historical account rich with anecdotes. 

   how to be both

How to be Both: A Novel by Ali Smith

Smith’s marvelous book is in 2 parts. The sections are separated by 500 years but connected through the topic of art as well as the age of the protagonists, both teenagers dealing with the challenges of imminent adulthood. Not the easiest book, but her clever writing style and the discovery of the interconnections between the 2 parts makes this a joy to read. 

   music shop

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

It is 1980s London and the local music shop owner Frank is devoted to records and unwilling to even consider carrying cds. He possesses the uncanny ability to pair up his patrons with just the right music in his comfortable "old school" store. One day a mysterious woman in a green coat comes to his store and faints. After reviving her she slips away but not before they exchange a gaze which sets in motion the rest of this story of old wounds and new beginnings.

   last september

The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen

From an author you may have missed, this coming of age story set in 1920s County Cork depicts the uneasy summer just before the Irish uprisings which changed the old ways of life and the end of an era for the English landowners in Ireland. Also enjoyed Bowen’s The Death of the Heart.


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