The Little Paris Bookshop (by Nina George) is a literary apothecary, a floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, where Monsieur Perdu prescribes novels for the problems of life--for everyone except himself. After 20 years of mourning a lost love, Perdu unties his barge and travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and books with a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef. “A charming international best seller that believes in the healing properties of fiction, romance, and a summer in the south of France."
Prague Summer by Jeffrey Condran is an insightful, beautifully written story of a happily-married State Department employee and her rare-books-dealer husband who enjoy a good life in Prague. Their routine is thrown into chaos by the arrival of an old friend whose own husband has been mysteriously imprisoned. She hides a sinister agenda that is gradually revealed in a tantalizing and ingeniously constructed study of relationships and human character. “"Like the city itself, Prague Summer is romantic and mysterious, with a refined literary bent.”
The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a National Book Award finalist and winner of several other prizes. A hauntingly beautiful book about a blind French girl and a brilliant German orphan whose paths intersect in occupied France as both try to find themselves and survive the devastation of World War II. You long for a happier ending than there’s any reason to expect, yet it is “Stupendous…A beautiful, daring, heartbreaking, oddly joyous novel.”
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion is a much anticipated sequel to The Rosie Project (my favorite book of 2013). Don Tillman (think a slightly more adaptable Sheldon Cooper of “Big Bang Theory) and Rose are now living in New York and unexpectedly expecting their first child. As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting his friends to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave save his business and marriage while staying on the right side of his social worker, he almost misses the biggest challenge until he realizes that his compulsive helpfulness might cause actually him to lose Rosie.
Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford is another in this year’s parade of “witty tales about high-society wannabes…” Reminiscent of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth and the more modern *Primates of Park Avenue and *Luckiest Girl Alive, NY Times reporter Clifford’s debut is a “relentlessly fascinating story of old money and callous ambition.” Yes, it is chick lit and beach reading, but still insight and good fun. *(also recommended)
Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years by Thomas Mallon captures the crusading ideologies, blunders, and glamour of the still-hotly-debated Reagan years. Moving from the political gridiron of Washington, the wealthiest enclaves of Southern California, and Iceland, where the U.S. president engages in two almost apocalyptic days of negotiation with Mikhail Gorbachev. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are spared Mallon’s acerbic, insightful fictional conversations that seem utterly in character with the key political players of the era.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande's is a “masterful exploration of aging, death, and the medical profession's mishandling of both.” With rapidly aging populations in the developed world, doctors and their patients should see the role of medicine as enabling well-being rather than extending life as long as possible. Gawande provides plenty of important facts, but never loses his warm, caring style. “In his compassionate, learned way, Gawande shows all of us…how mortality must be faced with both heart and mind.”
The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine is in Your Hands by Eric Topol tries to explain how new technology--from the smartphones to artificial intelligence will to democratize and improve the practice of medicine. Topol provides an obituary for the paternalistic medical regime in which "the doctor knows best” as mobile phones, apps, and attachments will literally put the lab, primary care and some of the ICU in our pockets. The vision is inspirational, and the research exhaustive (exhausting, too) but the writing lacks the engaging quality of his previous best-seller, The Creative Destructive of Medicine.
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lufthansa by Eric Larson, who is “one of the modern masters of popular narrative nonfiction.” A resourceful researcher and a subtle storyteller, he places the world’s fastest and most opulent passenger ship and the deadly German U-boat as protagonists in a thrilling suspense tale even if you already know the outcome. Larson draws on telegrams, war logs, love letters, and survivor depositions to provide intriguing details about things you didn't know you need to know... “Thrilling, dramatic and powerful."
Let’s Be Less Stupid: An Attempt to Maintain My Mental Faculties by Patricia Marx, former writer for SNL and the New Yorker is “equal parts sarcasm, silliness and smarts.” (NPR). Self-deprecating riffs on memory lapses-- looking for glasses while wearing them or asking, "Who's the guy who isn't Robert De Niro?" --are reminiscent of Nora Ephron's I Remember Nothing and lots of fun for anyone willing to admit that their brain doesn’t function as well as we think it once did.