Book Reviews—Themes by Month (page 2)

  bookstackEvery month we seek out books that work together thematically. You'll find a variety of themes—some fun, some serious, but all of them thoughtful.

The books are listed in the order of:
A Lighter Touch ... Wonderfully Written ...
and Great works.

 2011 BookReviews — Themes   . . . and the Books
Dec '11 — Kids Raising Cain
Kids on the loose, their compasses askew—"fierce savages" as one of our books puts it. All of which makes you wonder: how did they get like this? Did we do it?
Lord of the Flies
Nov '11 — Nuclear Family Explosions
Ordinary families explode under pressure from everyday life. Yet their struggles to put the pieces back together is a tacit acknowledgment of our primal need for family ties.
The Astral
Oct '11 — Love You To Death
Vampires don't die...and neither, it seems, does our fascination with them. So why not cozy up to our trio of scary vampire books this month?
The Radleys
Sept '11 — That New York Glitter
Three books with characters on the outside looking in at New York's glittering society. They discover life's sad maxim—all that glitters is not gold.
  Rules of Civility
The Emperor's Children
The Age of Innocence
Aug '11 — The Books of August
August, the last gasp of summer—when temper-
atures run high and emotions run hot. We've got three great reads, all with August in the title.
  August Heat
Dry Grass of August
Light in August
July '11 — Eastward Ho
Many authors have explored the cultural divide faced by Asians making their homes in the West. We're bucking the tide to find out what happens when Westerners head to the East.
  City of Tranquil Light
Thousand Autumns of
    Jacob de Zoet
A Passage to India
June '11 — Crash of the Titans
So many books have been published about the 2008 Wall Street crash that book clubs might want to take note. We've chosen three—all great reads, like the best of fiction.
  The Big Short
Too Big to Fail
All Devils Are Here
May '11 — Ghostworld
Authors use the paranormal to explore the normal— their earthbound human characters who turn out not to be so normal after all.
  Maybe This Time
The Third Angel
The Turn of the Screw
Feb '11 — Stranger than Fiction
When it comes to history—especially the history of human achievement—what constitutes real life is simply stranger than fiction.
  The Professor and the Madman
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Great Bridge: The Brooklyn Bridge
Jan '11 — Sisters in Exile
Sisters banished from lives of comfort and security find unknown reserves of strength and courage in adversity. They discover who they are—and learn what matters most.
  Three Weissmanns of Westport
Shanghai Girls
Sense and Sensibility

2010 Book Reviews — Themes

 . . . and the Books 

Dec '10 — Time's (Crooked) Arrow
Time appears to us as a steady forward movement. This month's books disrupt its normal flow—and two of the books do curioius things with aging.
  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
A Visit from the Goon Squad
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Nov '10 — Rock-Paper-Scissors
ROCK for the fossils at Lyme Regis, PAPER for an international newspaper, and SCISSORS for the medical profession satirized in Sinclair Lewis's Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel.
  Remarkable Creatures
The Imperfectionists
Oct '10 — Work, If You Can Get It
A tribute to everyday heroes who labor in the underbelly—the infernos of restaurant kitchens, coal mines, and assembly linesto make life habitable for the rest of us.
  Last Night at the Lobster
Coal Run
Studs Terkel's Working
Sept'10 — Tudor History - Herstory
The momentous events surrounding Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn: three books follow the same figures...yet a hero in one is a villain in another. Who says history is dull?
  Briref Gaudy Hour
Wolf Hall
A Man for All Seasons
May '10 — The Good, Bad & the Ugly
A nod to the iconic Clint Eastwood Western—with it's stark mix of heroes and villains. This month's books remind us it's not always so easy to tell who's good...and who's not.
  The Pursuit of Alice Thrift
Mr. Golightly's Holiday
April '10 — Urban Mysterioso
Cities lend themselves to the mysterious—their immensity, anonymity, and teeming diversity make them ideal settings for the fantastic.
  When You Reach Me
The City and the City
The Quincunx
Mar '10 — M is for Magic
Despite our knowledge of science—from the big bang to the human cell—we continue to strain to the possibilibies of magic.
  The Magician's Elephant
The Magicians
The Magus
Feb '10 — True Grit
Three real-life Americans who helped shaped their country—courageous, persevering, inventive, they found ways to do what needed to be done.
  Half Broke Horses
Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Jan '10 — Coming of Age
Young people, crossing over the threshold into the adult world, often find that passage bittersweet, even searing, as they leave their innocent childhoods behind.
  Sag Harbor
A Gate at the Stairs
A Separate Peace

2009 Book Reviews — Themes


 . . . and the Books

Dec '09 — Domestic Disturbances
Marital bliss—a bumpy road toward a dubious destination. A sustaining marriage depends not on the ignorance of bliss but on self-knowledge.
  The Motion of the Ocean
That Old Cape Magic
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Nov '09 — Criminally Addicted
Murder mysteries offer a strange sort of comfort by presupposing a world that can be known, answers found, and order restored. No wonder so many of us are addicted.
  The Stephanie Plum Series
When Will There Be Good News?
The Woman in White
Oct '09 — Those Who Teach...Must
Teaching is in the DNA for some. It's a passion—a need, really, to offer young minds a glimpse of a wider world and guide them through the first rumblings of self-knowledge.
  Ms. Hempel Chronicles
Mister Pip
The Prime of Miss Jean Brody
Sept '09 — Henry's Ladies
Henry James' most famous heroines are wealthy, young Americans—vibrant, intelligent yet untested innocents, who find themselves up against a rigid, even duplicitous society.
  Daisy Miller
The Master
The Portrait of a Lady
Aug '09 — Municipal Bonds
Communities bind us together, for better or worse. They offer comfort and aid—and something larger than ourselves—but they can stifle and exclude.
  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter & Sweet
Olive Kitteridge
The Hamlet
July '09 — The Kindess of Strangers
Those who stretch out a hand to strangers end up changing not just the lives of those they help, but their own lives as well.
  The Cure for Modern Life
The Soloist
Bartleby the Scrivener 
May '09 — Chick Lit on Steroids
Real Chick Lit: vibrant heroines living rich, complex lives. Their stories give us a lot more to chew on than Prada shoes and Gucci bags.
  Ex Libris-Confessions of a ... Reader
The Stone Diaries
Vanity Fair
Apr '09 — What Women Want. Really.
Earth to Freud.... Why was it so hard to for the great man to figure out what women want? Women want what men want—love, family, and freedom to pursue their dreams.
  Good Grief
The Ten-Year Nap
The Feminine Mystique
Mar '09 — Animal Planet
This month's books honor those creatures that domesticate their owners.
  Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Call of the Wild and White Fang
Feb '09 — Remembrance of Things Past
When we explore the past—the confluence of events, family and friends, choices made and made for us—we uncover our present selves.
  Tender at the Bone
Charming Billy
Absalom, Absalom!
Jan '09 — The Gatsby Effect
What does it mean to be an American? This month's main characters attempt to re-invent themselves in order to achieve their ideal of the American dream.
The Great Gatsby

2008 Book Reviews — Themes


 . . . and the Books

Dec '08 — African Trio
A newly elected US president—half African; a reader requesting a book guide for Cry, the Beloved Country; and a daughter taking a semester in Africa all served as inspiration for this month's LitPicks, beautiful books, all.
  The Syringa Tree
Half of a Yellow Sun
Cry, the Beloved Country
Nov '08 — A Boy's Life
Three boys come of age in the years soon after World War II—one from the American Midwest, one from Norway, and one from India during the tumultuous years of independence.
  The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
Out Stealing Horses
Midnight's Children
Oct '08 — Quiet Intimacy
Some books speak to us softly, peering into the corners of our lives and matters of the heart. Plot is secondary to characters and relationships. These works are quiet but remarkable.
To the Lighthouse
Sept '08 — Beyond the Pale
This month's authors tackle horrific subjects, the unthinkable. Yet as readers we end up sympa-thasizing with characters we would otherwise villify. This is life in its irreducible complexity.
  Skinny Dip
Nineteen Minutes
Aug '08 — Uses of Mythology
Literature draws on mythology, primitive stories that frame life's events. Populated with heroes & heroines, deities & monsters, myths reveal a universal pattern of human behavior.
  Edith Hamilton's Mythology
The Human Stain
The Iliad

July '08 — No theme this month, just a few good books.
The Lovely Bones
The Grapes of Wrath
June '08 — War Torn Lives
Lives and communities torn apart by World War II. This month's stories are tales of survival. Though grim at times, each offers a transcendent vision of humanity.
The Book Thief
Suite Francaise
May '08 — Wherefore Happiness?
What is happiness? How does one attain it, who deserves it, and how does one hold onto it? Three books consider happiness—using vastly different lenses and reaching very different conclusions.
  The Jane Austen Book Club
Saying Grace
A Doll's House
Apr '08 — Transgressions
Three women cross boundaries, defy codes, and flout tradition. They gain much—and lose much—as they search for a truer self. What are we to make of them?
  Their Eyes Were Watching God
Loving Frank
Anna Karenina 
Mar '08 — Healing: horses, books, people
Three books use parallel symbolism to explore human healing. A sick horse heals her owner; a damaged manuscript heals its conserver; and a returning spirit heals her mother.
  Chosen by a Horse
People of the Book
Feb '08 — Magical Realism
These books use a pretense of realism while weaving in fantasty and the supernatural. The magic blends seamlessly with the natural world to reveal life's wondrous possibilities.
  Garden Spells
The House of the Spirits
One Hundred Years of Solitude

Jan '08 — No theme this month, just a few good books.
  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Remains of the Day
Far from the Madding Crowd

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