My favorite genre is fiction for the classic reasons of journeys to far off lands that I have not visited and to times gone by.  But Memoirs and Biographies have taken a close second these past years through the realization that others lives can feel so far from my reality that they bridge to fiction in my eyes.  

 

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The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Peter Heller's The Dog Stars is a first novel set in Colorado after a superflu has culled most of humanity. A man named Hig lives in a former airport community--McMansions built along the edge of a runway--which he shares with his 1956 Cessna, his dog, and a slightly untrustworthy survivalist. Hig spends his days flying the perimeter, looking out for intruders and thinking about the things he's lost: his deceased wife, the nearly extinct trout he loved to fish. When a distant beacon sparks in him the realization that something better might be out there, it's only a matter of time before he goes searching. Poetic, thoughtful, and transformative, this novel is a rare combination of literary and highly readable. (Chris Schluep)

 

 

 

 

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When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams

“Much more than a brave and luminous memoir, When Women Were Birds is a set of blueprints for building one of America's most impassioned and audacious writers, as well as a transcript of the moment when she stepped determinedly into the full power of her own voice. In Terry's magical equation, rage + confusion + grief + accountability = love. At some point I realized I was reading every page twice trying to memorize each insight, each bit of hard-won wisdom. Then I realized I could keep it on my bedside table and read it every night.” ―Pam Houston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Educated by Tara Westover

Born to a survivalist family that prepped her for the end of the world instead of the world today, Tara Westover was seventeen when she stepped into a classroom for the very first time. In this memoir, Westover works hard at creating a new life for herself after a brother of hers returns from the "real world" outside the mountains of Idaho and has graduated from college. She self teaches herself mathematics, grammar, and various other subjects. She's admitted to Brigham Young University and soon finds herself at Cambridge and Harvard. This is more than just a coming of age memoir, it's a story of determination, self-invention, and the grief and struggle that come with deciding between being loyal to family and finding your own paths in the world. 

 

 

 

 

 

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Ten years in the making, this Pulitzer prize winning novel is set in Europe during WWII. Doerr carefully intertwines the lives of a young blind French and girl and a young German orphan boy. This novel explores the horrors of WWII, human nature, and the power of technology. Its chapters are elgant and short, a quick and fascinating read that will pull you into a world unlike your own. 

 

 

 


I strive to read a little bit of everything, but of course I have some favorites.  I love most things cooking related, both cookbooks and cooking related fiction and non-fiction.  My go-to reading choices are often in one of the following categories:  historical fiction, mysteries, immersive/creative non-fiction and memoirs.  It is impossible to pick my all-time favorite five books, but here are a few that have stuck with me and that I often recommend to others..

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I strive to read a little bit of everything, but of course I have some favorites.  I love most things cooking related, both cookbooks and cooking related fiction and non-fiction.  My go-to reading choices are often in one of the following categories:  historical fiction, mysteries, immersive/creative non-fiction and memoirs.  It is impossible to pick my all-time favorite five books, but here are a few that have stuck with me and that I often recommend to others..

 

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Jake, a Maine high school teacher, learns of a time travel wormhole in local diner that only goes to September 9, 1958 at 11:58 am.  No matter how long you stay there, only a few minutes pass in the present.  So, you can go as often as you like, but you do age real-time in the past.  The owner of the diner asks Jake to carry out the mission he is unable to complete:  preventing the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Jake reluctantly agrees to try, and our story takes off from there.

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

 I would call this a classic mystery in that you have a gruff and tenacious private investigator that is down on his luck teaming up with an unexpected temp worker, Robin Ellacott who quickly becomes his eager Girl Friday and secretly dreams of becoming a detective, too.  This book does an excellent job of weaving the histories, current lives, and voices of the two main characters together with the quest to solve the mystery of the model who fell from her balcony.

 

The Nature Fix:  Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams

This is my favorite type of creative non-fiction – immersive journalism.  Williams travels the world interviewing a wide range of people along with experiencing what she is researching.  Her goal is to explore the research and findings that a wide variety of scientists and psychologists are doing around the benefits of immersing one’s self in nature.  In addition to highlighting the scientific findings in an interesting and approachable way, she also applies what she finds to make some suggestions around how much time we should be spending in natural settings and what constitutes natural settings.

 

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

So, I was totally one of those little kids that was obsessed with mythology and fairytales.  Upon starting Circe, it all came rushing back!  This is an adult tale from the perspective of Circe.  If you have heard of her, you probably know her as the witch that turned men into pigs and minor role in The Odyssey.   Miller creates a likeable character who grew up as an unloved misfit.  As she begins to discover her powers, her father is pressured into banishing her to live alone on an island.  It becomes a story of a woman who learns how to love, discovers how to accept herself, be a parent, and live independently.  All things anyone of any time should be able to relate to!

 

 

 

Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office  by Jen Lancaster

Jen doesn’t know it yet, but she is going to become my best friend one of these days.  Jen has written a ton of books, and I have loved them all.  This is her first, so I decided to go with it.  Although it was painful at the time, getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to Jen.  Without happening, this book would have never been written, and she might have gone on be a bored, unhappy corporate drone.  She is funny, honest, and awkwardly modest.  All her books are filled with stories of the mundane and not so mundane adventures of her life in Chicago with her husband Fletch, animals, and her best friends (one day!). 

 

 

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I mostly bounce between Sci-fi/ Fantasy, History/Biography, and Historical Fiction.  It keeps my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds. Favorite authors include Kurt Vonnegut, R. Scott Bakker, & Tolkien.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dune by Frank Herbert

Herbert's novel takes place in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society where noble houses in control of individual planets, owe allegiance to the Padishah Emperor. We follow Paul Atreides, whose noble family accepts the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis. Arrakis is the only planet with oracular spice melange, singularly considered the most vital substance in the universe and is incredibly coveted. 

 The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the factions of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its spice

 

 

 

 

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Abbadon's Gate by James S. A. Corey

James Holden and his crew on the salvaged Martian warship Rocinante played a role in two major events in human history: saving the Earth from the first direct proof of alien technology discovered in our solar system, and saving as many people as they could when a new form of the technology appeared on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. As part of the first incident, the alien technology crashed on Venus, where it churned for months doing something unknown while the solar system watched. When complete, the semi-intelligent collection of chemicals flew away from Venus and built what could best be described as a Stargate, called the ring, beyond the orbit of Uranus.

 

 

 

 

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The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott. Bakker

The first book in R. Scott Bakker's Prince of Nothing series creates a remarkable world from whole cloth-its language and classes of people, its cities, religions, mysteries, taboos, and rituals. It's a world scarred by an apocalyptic past, evoking a time both two thousand years past and two thousand years into the future, as untold thousands gather for a crusade. Among them, two men and two women are ensnared by a mysterious traveler, Anasurimbor Kellhus—part warrior, part philosopher, part sorcerous, charismatic presence—from lands long thought dead. The Darkness That Comes Before is a history of this great holy war, and like all histories, the survivors write its conclusion. 

 

Carla Crujido

Books are the lifeblood that fuel my existence. 

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Fiction is my genre of choice, but always with eye to place. Most specifically, the Pacific Northwest. Hello, Jamie Ford and Sherman Alexie! 

Carla's Fab Five: 

 

 

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A Common Pornography by Kevin Sampsell

In 2008, Sampsell returns to Kennewick, Washington upon the death of his estranged father. Upon his return, Sampsell's mother reveals to him a family history of death, incest, madness, and betrayal. With these threads undone, Sampsell explores a family history hidden from him and writes on his memories growing up in the Pacific Northwest - first jobs, first loves, first bands. Originally coined as a "memory experiment" in his first book, this memoir continues to delve deeper into his tragic and resilient family. A sensational read. 

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Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

It begins in a fictitious Italian village in 1962. Walter introduces us to a cast of beautiful and unique characters working in the movie industry and unforgettable cities. These are places where characters find their broken dreams, heartache, and promise, of love and friendship. Flash forward to present day and these characters are still searching for one another. It begins like a movie and ends like a movie, both a social criticism of Hollywood today and cinematic satisfaction. 

Stray City

Stray City by Chelsey Johnson

From HarperCollins:

"A warm, funny, and whip-smart debut novel about rebellious youth, inconceivable motherhood, and the complications of belonging—to a city, a culture, and a family—when none of them can quite contain who you really are...A thoroughly modern and original anti-romantic comedy, Stray City is an unabashedly entertaining literary debut about the families we’re born into and the families we choose, about finding yourself by breaking the rules, and making bad decisions for all the right reasons."

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Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac's semi-autobiographical novel tracks his drug fueled adventures as he travels from the Cascade Mountains to Tangier, stopping through San Francisco, Mexico City, and New York along the way. Through his journey, the youthful Jack Duluoz searches for meaning to fill his inner void. 

 

 

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The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister 

From the Trade Paperback Edition:

"Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect... 
The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create."