Lynn Green

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So you want to work on some aspect of yourself this year? BookPage is here to help! We've got reading selections from head to toe. Make a resolution to improve your life with small, consistent changes that can make a big difference in the way you think and feel.

HEAD
Feeling scattered and stressed? The Mindfulness Habit is a short, simple guide that offers a six-week program to help you live in the present moment and achieve a calmer and more focused state.  

MOUTH
If your strategy for winning an argument is to yell louder than the other guy, Dana Caspersen's Changing the Conversation is an innovative look at conflict resolution that will be an eye-opener. Take a deep breath and learn to listen carefully, resist the urge to attack and find ways to move forward.

BELLY
With Zero Belly Diet, the co-author of the popular Eat This, Not That! series delivers a diet-and-exercise plan that promises not only a flatter stomach, but also a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. The solution lies in our fat genes and nine super nutrients.

WALLET
In Slaying the Debt Dragon, the blogger behind QueenofFree.net credits hard work and faith as the tools that helped her family eliminate a mountain of debt ($127K) in just four years. Her detailed, sensible strategies can help other families get their financial houses in order.

HIPS
David Zulberg taps the wisdom of the ancients to craft a health plan in which you’ll adopt one new habit each week for five weeks. The new habits—like eating light at one of your three daily meals—are simple but have major transformative potential.

FEET
The author of the bicycling manifesto Just Ride challenges conventional wisdom on eating and exercise in this stripped-down guide to getting strong and lean. In Eat Bacon, Don't Jog, Grant Petersen encourages readers to trade long jogs for short bursts of intense activity and ditch that low-fat diet for a low-carb, high-fat eating plan.

So you want to work on some aspect of yourself this year? BookPage is here to help! We've got reading selections from head to toe. Make a resolution to improve your life with small, consistent changes that can make a big difference in the way you think and feel.

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Almost 25 years after President George H.W. Bush left office, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham examines the life and career of a figure who seems almost “quaint” by today’s politically polarized standards. 

Bush believed in compromise, worked to secure support on both sides of the aisle “and was willing to break with the base of his own party in order to do what he thought was right, whatever the price,” Meacham writes in Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush. “Quaint, yes: But it happened, in America, only a quarter century ago.”

Meacham’s penetrating biography goes beyond the events of Bush’s presidency, as monumental as they might be—the liberation of Kuwait, the end of the Cold War—to offer an absorbing look at what made the man, from his privileged childhood to his hyper-competitive spirit, which Meacham characterizes as a “hunger for power” that was evident from a young age. 

“[T]hat is what drove George H.W. Bush, relentlessly and perennially: a hunger to determine the destinies of others, to command respect, to shape great events,” the author writes. Bush was willing to veer off the well-trod path to achieve those ends, whether that meant bypassing a lucrative job in finance to move to the Texas oil fields or running for the U.S. Senate in Texas in 1964 as a political neophyte. (He lost but won a seat in the House two years later.)

Bush was born in Massachusetts in 1924, the second son of a marriage that combined two old-line wealthy families. His Walker forebears shine somewhat more brightly than his Bush relatives in Meacham’s telling, with his grandfather and namesake George Herbert (Bert) Walker standing out as a particularly bold character. (“Temperamental, imperious, and impatient, he thrived on conflict,” Meacham writes. One of Walker’s sons described him as “a real son of a bitch.”)

Meacham has a flair for setting a scene with cinematic effect, from the World War II air battle where Bush almost lost his life to the night of the 1992 election when the solitary and anguished president reflected on his loss to Bill Clinton.

The biography is enriched immeasurably by Meacham’s 10 years of interviews with the former president, from 2006 to 2015, as well as material from Bush’s personal diaries, which he dictated into a handheld recorder during his years as vice president and president. “He would speak into the machine quietly, often late at night or early in the morning. Taken all together, the diaries enable us, in effect, to sit with Bush as he muses about life at the highest levels,” Meacham writes.

A former editor of Newsweek, Meacham won the Pulitzer Prize for American Lion, his 2008 biography of Andrew Jackson. His masterful new portrait of Bush is both authoritative and highly readable, a treat for history buffs and general readers alike.

Almost 25 years after President George H.W. Bush left office, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham examines the life and career of a figure who seems almost “quaint” by today’s politically polarized standards.
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Japanese organizing expert Marie Kondo has become a bona fide international phenomenon, selling two million copies of her first book and releasing a highly anticipated follow-up just in time for those hoping to make a clean sweep in the new year. 

A celebrity in her native Japan, the soft-spoken but determined Kondo is obsessive about “tidying up,” which means keeping your home and personal possessions in order, from clothes and books to papers and personal mementos. The key to her organizational system is to save only those items that “spark joy,” and give away or discard the rest.


Author photo © Natsuno Ichigo

Kondo’s first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has caused something of a sensation not only in Japan, but in the United States and Europe as well. Converts to Kondo’s cleanliness regimen sing her praises on social media, and a video in which she demonstrates her method for folding underwear has garnered more than a million views on YouTube. Who knew that folding clothes could generate that kind of excitement?

Kondo wins over skeptics—and those who’ve tried and failed with other organizing systems—by presenting her plan in straightforward, logical steps that leave absolutely no wiggle room for clutter. Tidying is done by category: Take shoes, for example. Gather every pair of shoes you own; inspect each pair and keep only the shoes that bring you joy; and finally, organize the remaining pairs in your closet so that you can easily see and reach each one.

Whether you’ve already experienced the magic of Kondo’s methods or you’re a neophyte in the realm of neatly curated shoes and underwear, you’ll want to check out her latest offering, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. Here, Kondo provides more details, tips and diagrams to help you put her tidying plan into action.

Her precise folding techniques (“like origami”) will have the clothes in your once-messy dresser drawers lined up like orderly rows of soldiers, ready to march out and do their duty—which is to bring joy to their owners. This new volume also includes a “tidying encyclopedia,” with Kondo’s authoritative instructions on everything from packing a suitcase neatly to dealing with mementos from past lovers (hint: get rid of them). 

And here’s what could be the best news of all: “If you’re terrible at tidying, you’ll experience the most dramatic change,” Kondo says. That’s right, the messiest among us (and we’re not naming names) stand to gain the most from implementing her system for tidying up. And that’s a clean sweep we can all applaud.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Japanese organizing expert Marie Kondo has become a bona fide international phenomenon, selling two million copies of her first book and releasing a highly anticipated follow-up just in time for those hoping to make a clean sweep in the new year.
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Anyone entering the new year with a list of resolutions needs advice on how to kickstart their commitment to personal change. We’ve looked at stacks of new self-help books and chosen six of the clearest, most practical guides to help you meet your goals, whether it’s a fitter physique or a more adventurous life.


If your resolution is to be more active:

Consider the sensible and achievable plan outlined in Younger Next Year: The Exercise Program. Building on their popular series, Chris Crowley and physician Henry S. Lodge devote the bulk of the book to the “whys” of exercise: why it works (the science) and why we should do it (the benefits). By the time you get to the actual exercises in chapter nine, you’ll presumably be so fired up you’ll plunge right into the “25 sacred exercises” of strength training. Pair those with the “magic bullet” of aerobics and you’re on your way. If you need more motivation, ponder this: People who do some kind of aerobic activity regularly have a 40 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.


If your resolution is to lose weight:

Check out Thinner in 30:  Small Changes That Add Up to Big Weight Loss in Just 30 Days. “Today” fitness correspondent Jenna Wolfe breaks the big task of weight loss into 30 small chunks that seem doable, from drinking 20 sips of water as soon as you wake up to making at least three of your everyday activities more challenging (for example, when you’re watching TV, get up off the couch and do a quick exercise during each commercial break). Yes, some of the 30 changes are harder than others, but Wolfe’s helpful tips and tricks will give you added impetus to succeed. 


If your resolution is to manage your money: 

Use your cash on hand to buy a copy of The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated. Authors Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack argue that the best financial advice for most people would fit on a 3-by-5-inch index card. The tenets of their 10-point system are surprisingly simple but effective: Saving 10 to 20 percent of your income, paying your credit card balance in full each month and making the maximum contribution to your tax-advantaged retirement savings plans are at the top of the list. The index card system started with Pollack, a public health professor at the University of Chicago who faced financial problems as a result of overspending, under-saving and accumulating costly debts. He put his family on sound financial footing with the new regimen, and the step-by-step guidelines in this book can help you follow the same path to financial freedom. 


If your resolution is to be more giving:

Explore the philanthropic ideas in Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day. Jennifer Iacovelli, who has worked for nonprofits and writes the blog Simple Giving Lab, argues that we can all help to make the world a better place by incorporating giving into our daily lives. You don’t have to be Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg to make a difference—even small donations or simple gestures of support can have an impact. The author offers six “models” of giving: everyday acts of kindness; traditional philanthropy, such as donating your time or money to charity; shopping with a conscience; taking action on issues you’re passionate about; giving as a business model; and “giving it forward” by inspiring others to give when you do. Whether you’re holding a door open for a stranger or donating to the Red Cross, you’re demonstrating your concern for others. One satisfying note: Psychological studies have shown that giving not only helps others but ourselves, making givers both happier and healthier.


If your resolution is to live more mindfully:

You’ll be intrigued by the suggestions in 52 Small Changes for the Mind by wellness expert Brett Blumenthal. He offers one small change you can make each week to improve your mental well-being and explains how each step will help you feel less stressed and more content. During Week 1, for example, readers are advised to “Put pen to paper” and start a personal journal. The act of recording your feelings will leave you “calmer, happier and more capable of moving past negativity.” Other weekly recommendations include: sip green tea, silence your inner critic, say yes to new experiences and spend more time outside. Attractively designed and well-organized, this inspiring volume is a pleasure to browse and peppered with thought-provoking quotes. As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”


If your resolution is to live your dreams:

Pick up a copy of Gin Sander’s The Big Bucket List Book: 133 Experiences of a Lifetime. Sander’s goal is to help each of us pursue a “well-lived life,” full of rich ideas and adventures. “Participate in life, rather than observe or drown in the dreaded feeling that it’s just passing you by,” she advises. Since the well-lived life means different things to different people, she encourages readers to define their own terms for a bucket list and to think creatively about living their wildest dreams on a budget. (Travel with a group, crowdsource your project or do volunteer work at a desired destination.) The ideas listed are wide-ranging and fun to daydream about, from having dinner in a Napa Valley wine cave to ordering a pair of custom-made shoes. Before you write down your own list, the author recommends setting the mood with a glass of wine and a scented candle and letting your mind run freely. Whether it’s running a marathon or starting a humanitarian movement, adventure is right around the corner.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Anyone entering the new year with a list of resolutions needs advice on how to kickstart their commitment to personal change. We’ve looked at stacks of new self-help books and chosen six of the clearest, most practical guides to help you meet your goals, whether it’s a fitter physique or a more adventurous life.
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Whether you’re content with armchair travel or prefer a rugged real-life expedition of your own, these accounts of epic journeys by intrepid travelers will give you plenty of room to roam.

FLYING FREE
If you’re the type who takes a large, packed-to-the-brim suitcase on every trip, you’ll be amazed and enlightened by Clara Bensen’s account of traveling with, literally, No Baggage. Bensen considers herself a quiet introvert, so it’s a surprise when she clicks with her polar opposite, Jeff, a free spirit she meets through an online dating site. Soon after, Jeff invites her on a three-week trip to Europe, with one caveat: She must adopt his unorthodox travel style, which means no hotels, no itineraries and no luggage. Taking flight for Istanbul with only the clothes on her back (and a change of underwear in her purse), Bensen cautiously adjusts to the freedom of wandering unencumbered. “It’s a rare thing to be lost, isn’t it?” she asks Jeff, jolted by the transition from a world in which we always know exactly where we stand. Bensen’s honest and engaging narrative offers fresh insights about why we travel and what we gain when we step outside our comfort zones.

UP THE RIVER
A British veteran who served in Afghanistan, Levison Wood was inspired by 19th-century explorers who sought to locate the source of the fabled Nile River. In 2013, he set out to recreate their journey in reverse, a 4,000-mile trek chronicled in Walking the Nile. This gripping travelogue is no “walk in the woods,” however, and you won’t find amusing Bill Bryson-style asides about bad weather and annoying companions. Starting at a tiny spring in Rwanda and walking through six countries, Wood encounters armed gangs, civil war, secret police and even endures the death (from heat stroke) of a journalist who joined him. Informative and immediate, Walking the Nile is an unvarnished portrait of modern Africa.

GOING SOLO
Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (as Cheryl Strayed does in Wild), was only a warmup for Swiss explorer Sarah Marquis, who had bigger challenges in mind. Starting in 2010, she traveled 10,000 miles alone, on foot, through Mongolia, including the Gobi Desert (which took three tries), China, Siberia, Laos, Thailand and finally (after hitching a ride on a cargo ship) across the Australian continent—twice. In Wild by Nature, a National Geographic Explorer of the Year in 2014 recounts her journey with the clear-eyed resolve and keen observational skills that make her a successful solo trekker. An abscessed tooth in the wilds of Mongolia? Marquis follows a preset evacuation plan and heads to Tokyo for treatment, resuming her walk a few weeks later. Throughout her adventure, she relishes the freedom of being a woman alone in the wild.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Whether you’re content with armchair travel or prefer a rugged real-life expedition of your own, these accounts of epic journeys by intrepid travelers will give you plenty of room to roam.
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Spring has arrived, and along with it comes a flock of books about our feathered friends. Here are three new titles that bird watchers will find especially intriguing.

Jennifer Ackerman, longtime nature writer and contributor to Scientific American, thinks it’s time to ditch the term “bird brain.” In The Genius of Birds, she offers compelling evidence that birds are far smarter than we previously thought. In fact, she writes, new research has found “bird species capable of mental feats comparable to those [of] primates.” Birds can recognize human faces, use geometry to navigate, learn new skills from one another (like how to open milk bottles) and even work puzzles. The author travels from the South Pacific—home of the world’s smartest bird, the New -Caledonian crow—to rural China as she explores the surprising cognitive abilities of birds. Ackerman is a pro at parsing scientific concepts in an accessible style, and her lyrical writing underscores her appreciation for the beauty and adaptability of birds.

NATURE’S CREATION
While bird brains are the focus of many new studies, there’s nothing more beautiful or delicate than a brightly colored bird’s egg. In The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird’s Egg, ornithologist Tim Birkhead deconstructs every part of the egg to reveal how these small survival pods are “perfect in so many different ways.” From the shell (composed of upright crystals “packed against each other like a stack of fence posts”) to the albumen (the “absolutely remarkable, mysterious stuff” that most of us call the white part), the elements are described here in exquisite detail. Like a bird watcher who spots a rare specimen, the author shows palpable (and charming) excitement for his subject throughout, never losing his sense of wonder and admiration for nature’s “ingenious construction” of the egg.

IN THE NEST
A contributing editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, Julie Zickefoose has a particular fascination with baby birds and enjoys painting these scrawny, screeching creatures from the moment they hatch to the day they leave the nest as fledglings. Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest offers a rare and meticulously chronicled portrait of baby birds’ day-to-day development, with the author’s lovely watercolor paintings adding a vivid visual dimension. In her introduction, Zickefoose describes Baby Birds as “an odd sort of book, like a Victorian-era curiosity.” Fans of the rediscovered 1970s bestseller The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady will happily agree.

 

This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Spring has arrived, and along with it comes a flock of books about our feathered friends. Here are three new titles that bird watchers will find especially intriguing.
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Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! 

With summer fast approaching, it’s time to make plans for that great American tradition: the family road trip. Three new books will help you plan your itinerary for an unforgettable adventure.

PARK IT
What better place to spend a family vacation than one of our grand and glorious national parks? This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Park System, a centennial that’s being celebrated with several new books, including Lonely Planet’s National Parks of America. From Acadia to Zion, this beautifully illustrated volume includes a multipage section on each of the 59 national parks, with “toolbox” tips on the best time to go, where to stay and what to see and do. Stunning photographs—from molten lava in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Giant Sequoia trees in Kings Canyon—offer readers a before-you-go glimpse of the scenic wonders they’ll encounter. This is an excellent introduction to our priceless park system and might be best used as a first step in deciding which parks grab the imaginations of the young travelers in your family.

PLACES THAT MATTER
If your goal is planning a trip that’s educational as well as fun, consider the destinations in 50 Great American Places by Brent D. Glass, director emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. This well-written and carefully curated guide to our country’s “Essential Historic Sites” includes fascinating historical details about tried-and-true stops such as Boston’s Freedom Trail and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. But Glass also ventures further afield with unexpected choices like Willa Cather’s childhood home near Red Cloud, Nebraska, where the author soaked up impressions of the prairie that would color her acclaimed novels. In the book’s foreword, historian David McCullough recalls how early visits to historic sites influenced his career choice (“the experience opened my mind and imagination to history as nothing yet had”) and later provided lasting memories for his own children.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Music may soothe the savage beast, but nothing silences a car full of restless kids (and weary adults) like something good to eat. Great American Eating Experiences aims to acquaint readers with “delicious fare originating from across the 50 states, in small towns and city neighborhoods where tradition, creativity, and inspiration have created foods found nowhere else.” Organized by region and state, this colorful and mouthwatering guide catalogs the best local delicacies in each area and where to find them, with entries on such specialties as whoopie pie in Maine and the Juicy Lucy burger in Minnesota. You’ll also find pointers to food festivals, soda fountains, diners and more.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! With summer fast approaching, it’s time to make plans for that great American tradition: the family road trip. Three new books will help you plan your itinerary for an unforgettable adventure.
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Are you kicking off 2017 determined to make it your best year yet? Breaking old habits or starting new routines can seem like insurmountable tasks without help and advice. Follow the strategies in the books below, and you’ll have a head start on making meaningful changes in the year ahead.

TAKE LIFE PRO-TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS
Tim Ferriss has attracted a huge following with his website, bestselling books (The 4-Hour Workweek, etc.) and podcast (“The Tim Ferriss Show,” downloaded more than 100 million times) that offer advice on living the life of your dreams. In his whopping new collection, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, Ferriss distills the wisdom from nearly 200 podcast interviews with high achievers. The “titans” represented here range from “governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger to writer Maria Popova, founder of BrainPickings.org.

Ferriss describes himself as a “compulsive note-taker” who carefully tracks his activities to figure out what works and what doesn’t in his quest to be healthy, wealthy and wise. Similarly, in Tools of Titans, he zeroes in on the actions and behaviors that have helped his subjects rise to the tops of their fields. One favorite question, for example, is about the person’s morning routine (performance coach Tony Robbins starts his day with a cold water plunge; entrepreneur Peter Diamandis does stretches in the shower). The tips from interviewees are supplemented with summaries of Ferriss’ own strategies, from “5 Tools for Faster and Better Sleep” to “Mind Training 101.” A Poor Richard’s Almanack for the 21st century, Tools of Titans is a practical and inspiring guide to being your best.

GET OFF THE COUCH AND GET ORGANIZED
If you’re looking for gentle and encouraging advice on tidying up your living space, you should probably steer clear of Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess. Author Rachel Hoffman takes a drill-sergeant approach to housekeeping and organization, laying down the law in clear, direct and very funny fashion. One rule is non-negotiable: You will make your bed, every day. “I can hear you whining from here, seriously. I know you don’t want to make your bed. I know you don’t see the point. . . . But a messy bed makes a room look messier and a made bed brings a focal point of cleanliness and order.” Hoffman spells out the basics of cleaning (“Trash goes in the trash can. Do the dishes every day.”) and instructs the slovenly on how to build better habits. A chapter on “Emergency Unf*cking” offers helpful tips on handling an impending visit from your mom or landlord.

 
EAT LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT
A hit with readers when it was self-published, Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food is now available in an updated edition. Author Catherine Shanahan, a family physician, was motivated to study the connection between diet and wellness after she suffered problems with her own health. Through research on cultures around the world, she identified four “pillars” that healthy diets have in common: meat cooked on the bone, fermented and sprouted foods, organ meats and fresh foods. With a wealth of detail, Shanahan shows how changing what you eat can improve everything from bone strength to memory.

 
BE BOLD ENOUGH TO CONQUER YOUR FEARS
Does fear prevent you from achieving your goals? In Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge, and Build Confidence, behavioral expert Andy Molinsky reveals how hard we work to avoid tasks that make us uncomfortable—from public speaking to being assertive with a co-worker. Through procrastination, passing the buck or outright avoidance, we evade what we’re afraid of. So how can this cycle of fear be broken? Molinsky identifies three Cs—conviction, or a sense of purpose; customization, or finding what works for you; and clarity, being honest about the problem—to help you make the leap and confront your challenges.

SIMPLIFY AND LIVE WITH LESS
Though she’s French, author Dominique Loreau has lived in Japan since the 1970s, adopting a Japanese mindset and taking a Zen approach to clutter. Her guide to simplifying, L’art de la Simplicité: How to Live More with Less, is an international bestseller now available in English thanks to translator Louise Lalaurie. Her outlook shares key elements with Japanese declutterer Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up), but Loreau takes a more spiritual approach, going beyond tidy closets to advocate minimalism in all aspects of life, from eating to relationships. The reward for shedding what we don’t need, she asserts, is a purer spirit and a more satisfying life.

SAVOR YOUR DOWNTIME
Let’s face it: Being without our smartphones for even a few minutes can be a distressing experience. In an era of constant connection, how do we wind down and enjoy times of quiet contemplation? Eva Hoffman has some elegant thoughts on the subject in How to Be Bored, the latest in the School of Life series, which tackles some of life’s big questions in slender volumes. As Hoffman points out, we all have good reasons to be busy, but there are also many good reasons to unplug: cultivating a sense of curiosity about the world, observing what’s around us more closely and, perhaps most importantly, thinking about how we want to live. “This is in a way the major task of any conscious life,” Hoffman writes, “and it has never been easy.”

 

This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Are you kicking off 2017 determined to make it your best year yet? Breaking old habits or starting new routines can seem like insurmountable tasks without help and advice. Follow the strategies in the books below, and you’ll have a head start on making meaningful changes in the year ahead.
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Is your book club ready to try something different after another round of literary fiction? Tired of reading the same titles as every other book club in town? Branch out with one of these mystery and suspense picks for your next book club meeting. The books on our list were screened with these criteria in mind:

• Issues, characters and/or moral dilemmas worthy of group discussion
• Suspense paired with great writing
• Books that stand alone and don’t require knowledge of earlier entries in a series
• Recently (or soon-to-be) available in paperback

Here are our top 10 recommendations:


SiracusaSiracusa by Delia Ephron

Book clubs will find plenty of fodder for discussion in Ephron’s psychological thriller about two American couples whose Italian vacation dissolves into a swirl of acrimony and infidelity. Told in alternating viewpoints by the participants, Ephron’s finely paced tale exposes some raw truths about betrayal and jealousy. A reading group guide is available online.

 


Before the FallBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley

Creator of the FX television series “Fargo” and “Legion,“ Hawley won the 2017 Edgar Award for Best Novel for this riveting mystery about a plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard that claims the lives of nine well-to-do passengers. Only two aboard survive: struggling painter Scott Burroughs and the 4-year-old son of a wealthy media titan. A reading group guide is included in the paperback edition.

 


Underground AirlinesUnderground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

Not your typical thriller, Winters’ book tackles a deadly serious topic: America’s legacy of slavery and the ways in which it still affects our culture. Described by the author as “an alternate history that wasn’t alternate enough,” this fast-paced novel depicts a present-day U.S.A. where slavery is legal in four states in the South. Victor, a black bounty hunter who tracks down escaped slaves, is on the trail of an escapee known as Jackdaw, and his pursuit will take many dramatic twists and turns.

 


Not a SoundNot a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

Amelia Winn, the protagonist of this compelling novel, has two characteristics that distinguish her from run-of-the-mill mystery characters: She’s a nurse, and she’s deaf. Struck by a hit-and-run driver, Amelia loses her hearing—and her marriage—as a result of the crash. Two years later, as she attempts to rebuild her life, she finds the body of a fellow nurse in the river near her remote cabin. Gudenkauf, who is hearing-impaired, blends a straightforward and illuminating portrait of Amelia’s disability into this riveting tale.

 


All Is Not ForgottenAll Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

Optioned for film by Reese Witherspoon, Walker’s novel has an intriguing concept: Jenny Kramer, the teenage victim of a brutal rape, is given a controversial drug that erases all her memories of the assault. The reaction of Jenny’s parents to the crime, the treatment by her psychiatrist and the secrets that surface in her Connecticut hometown all offer rich areas for discussion by reading groups.

 


Blood Salt WaterBlood Salt Water by Denise Mina

Though this is the fifth book in the Detective Alex Morrow series, newcomers should have no problem diving into this watery mystery by the masterful Scottish crime writer. Already under police surveillance for possible money laundering, Roxanna Fuentecilla disappears from her Glasgow home and turns up dead in the waters of Loch Lomond. Morrow’s investigation will take her to the scenic seaside town of Helensburgh, which may harbor dark secrets beneath its quaint exterior. Mina’s sharp writing and finely drawn characters have won her numerous awards and an international following.

 


A Great ReckoningA Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

Though we don’t have the space to enumerate all the qualities that make Penny’s Armand Gamache mysteries worth reading, two stand at the top of our list: the powerful writing and rich setting in the charming Quèbec village of Three Pines. In this outing, which earned a spot on several 2016 best books of the year lists (including our own), Gamache investigates the murder of a sadistic professor at the police academy. Discussions questions are included in the paperback edition.

 


The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Ware follows her hit debut, In a Dark, Dark Wood, with the gripping story of travel journalist Lo Blackstock, who thinks she’s lucky to snag a press pass for a luxury cruise from London to Norway. The idyllic cruise takes a frightening turn on the first night when Lo hears a scream from the next cabin and then a loud splash. There’s no sign of a crime, however, and ship security assures Lo that the cabin wasn’t occupied. Book club topic number one: Are Lo’s concerns overlooked because she’s a woman with a history of anxiety and panic attacks? More questions are available in an online reading group guide.

 


Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

A handsome and successful English lawyer, Jack Angel shows admirable concern for domestic violence victims by representing battered women. But his personal life tells a different story: Jack’s treatment of his wife, Grace, is cruel and deeply disturbing. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Grace has become virtually a prisoner in their home, not allowed any unsupervised contact with the outside world. As Grace prepares for the arrival of her sister, Minnie, who has Down syndrome, she’s faced with a terrifying choice.

 


Redemption RoadRedemption Road by John Hart

Hart, a talented writer who won back-to-back Edgar Awards for Down River and The Lost Child, covers thought-provoking territory in his latest thriller, his first in five years. Two powerful stories are interwoven here, both involving police officers: Det. Elizabeth Bank is under investigation after fatally shooting two black teens who were raping a white girl. Meanwhile, former policeman Adrian Wall is released from prison after serving 13 years for a murder he didn’t commit. As you might expect from the book’s title, the nature of redemption is one of the topics that should generate group discussion.

Is your book club ready to try something different after another round of literary fiction? Branch out with one of these mystery and suspense picks for your next book club meeting.
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Best known as the creator of beloved picture book characters Yoko, McDuff and Max and Ruby, author-illustrator Rosemary Wells has targeted an older age group in much of her recent work, writing five middle-grade titles in the last four years. In each of these books (Following Grandfather, On the Blue Comet, My Havana and Lincoln and His Boys) Wells demonstrates a keen appreciation for her middle-grade audience and a deceptively simple approach to storytelling.

Both hold true once again in her latest book, Ivy Takes Care, the quietly touching story of a girl who has a sense of compassion beyond her years and a goal for the future that transcends her upbringing. It's 1949, and Ivy is the daughter of the stable manager at a Nevada dude ranch, where she has learned a thing or two about animals and the value of hard work.

When her well-to-do best friend departs for an East Coast camp, Ivy launches a summer business caring for animals while her neighbors are away on vacation. Whether she’s tending to a pony, an injured fox, a German shepherd or a retired racehorse, Ivy demonstrates a level of resourcefulness and moxie that’s impressive without being annoying. Ivy is no saint (she can’t stand the ranch owner’s pesky young son, for example) but she’s a model of industrious behavior who learns something valuable in each of her pet-sitting assignments. When the local veterinarian points out that she has a way with animals, Ivy begins saving her silver dollars for college and vet school.

Wells, who says the book’s setting was inspired by her own horseback riding adventures in the Nevada mountains in the 1950s, effortlessly unwinds Ivy’s story, building toward a suspenseful conclusion that involves a ball of rattlesnakes and a late-night horse rescue. Not surprisingly, Ivy proves herself cool in a crisis.

In this warm-hearted novel, Wells offers a sympathetic but realistic portrait of human nature and a convincing message about the value of compassion and a job well-done. Illustrations in pencil by noted artist Jim LaMarche capture Ivy’s can-do spirit and the book’s scenic Western backdrop.

Though Wells long ago proved herself as the author-illustrator of adorable picture books, her foray into middle grade fiction and nonfiction continues to delight, adding another chapter to her impressive career.

Best known as the creator of beloved picture book characters Yoko, McDuff and Max and Ruby, author-illustrator Rosemary Wells has targeted an older age group in much of her recent work, writing five middle-grade titles in the last four years. In each of these books (Following Grandfather, On the Blue Comet, My Havana and Lincoln […]
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Based on the real-life story of a special box that linked a mother and son, The Kiss Box is a sweet and simple picture book about a love so strong that distance can’t diminish it. This nostalgic charmer—reminiscent of mother-child classics like The Runaway Bunny—will pull at the heartstrings of any mother separated from a child and reassure any little one who is anxious about Mama’s departure.

In an author’s note, Bonnie Verburg explains that the inspiration for the story came from a “remarkable gift” her son received when he was very young. Verburg is a longtime children’s book editor and her son’s godparents were the noted author-illustrator duo Audrey and Don Wood. The Woods presented Verburg’s son with a small jar, to be filled with kisses and used as a reminder of love when mother and son were apart. Years later, after the kiss jar became dented and worn, Verburg made a “kiss box” for her son to take on a long trip.

In Verburg’s new picture book, delightfully illustrated by Henry Cole (Jack’s Garden, A Nest for Celeste), Mama Bear informs her Little Bear that she is going away on a short trip. The uneasy look on Little Bear’s face tells the story: This little guy isn’t happy about Mama’s departure and will need plenty of loving encouragement before they part.

Mama takes her son on a picnic and patiently explains that they can send love to each other even when they’re separated. “I can’t stay home,” Mama Bear tells him. “But I can leave you a hundred kisses to keep you company. And every time you miss me, you will have all those kisses.”

Little Bear makes his own special container for Mama’s kisses and goes to sleep clutching the box, safe in the knowledge that she is thinking of him wherever she is.

The soothing outdoor scenes where much of the book is set are lovingly depicted by Cole, who used childhood memories of a favorite spot (his uncle's farm) as inspiration. Butterflies, birds and turtles hover nearby as mother and son discuss the upcoming trip and their unbreakable bond.

The tender message of Verburg’s story has timeless appeal. And what could be a better activity for Valentine's Day than making a "kiss box" to share with a child, grandchild or other special little one in your life?

Based on the real-life story of a special box that linked a mother and son, The Kiss Box is a sweet and simple picture book about a love so strong that distance can’t diminish it. This nostalgic charmer—reminiscent of mother-child classics like The Runaway Bunny—will pull at the heartstrings of any mother separated from a […]

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