Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein

Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein (2009)
Set amid the treasures of the New York Public Library, Linda Fairstein gives us a fascinating glimpse into the history of the NYPL including its start as a scholarly research facility that housed rare books, documents, and maps. What I enjoyed, besides the mystery itself, was learning about the curators, cartographers, conservators, special librarians and rare, priceless donations still housed in the building. It was very cool that librarians with their special knowledge, background and expertise were crucial in helping the police solve the mystery.

Go to the author's website and watch the video tour of the NYPL before you read the book! Read an excerpt from the book and check out Harlan Coben's review plus others at Amazon.com.

Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center

Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center (2009)
Lanie's life is not turning out how she expected. When she is uprooted from Texas to live in the Northeast, she finds her life more out of control than ever. Lanie takes the opportunity to get control and ends up finding herself in the process. A light, funny read.

Read reviews at Amazon.com, visit the author's web site, and watch a YouTube video.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (2008)
Twelve year old Ren has no memory of his life before he came to the Catholic orphanage in mid-19th century New England. Then, one day, the mysterious Benjamin Nap comes to the orphanage and claims Ren as his long lost brother. Soon Ren is off with Nab, who turns out to be a con man of great charm. This is a delightful old-fashioned story with an appealing young hero you can't help but root for. It includes grave robbing, breathtaking chase scenes, and even a long lost evil relative.

Visit the author's website, preview the book and read a New York Times review of the book.

Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins

Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins (1998)
Michael O’ Sullivan is a soldier who served in the U.S. Army during WWI. During Prohibition, O’Sullivan provides for his family by working as a ruthless but honorable enforcer for the Looney crime family. His nickname is “The Angel of Death.” When O' Sullivan's oldest boy, Michael, witnesses a murder committed by the crime boss and his son, the Looney family kills O’Sullivan’s wife and other son. But Sr. and Jr. O' Sullivan escape, hitting the road to Perdition, Kansas, where the boy's aunt and uncle live. Along the way, “The Angel of Death” exacts his revenge on the Looneys.

The graphic novel is stylishly drawn by the English artist Richard Piers Rayner in black and white Noir style, which suits the O’Sullivans’ travels through the Depression-era Midwest. The graphic novel was made into a movie by the same name. There is more going on than just the usual violence; it is a story about fathers and sons, a familiar story of family, loss and revenge.

Check out the reviews at Amazon.com and read a Time magazine article about the graphic novel.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (2006)
I read this for my young adult literature class. It was fast paced and has a very important (and different) narrator. The book talks about Nazi Germany but also about the growth of a young girl. And what book lover doesn’t want to know more about the book thief?

Watch the video to see the author discuss The Book Thief, read the reviews at BookBrowse.com and listen to NPR's interview with the author.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (1997)
There are many good books about this painful time in human history but there are some books that have a profound impact on us because they present the real toll of the Holocaust. This is one of those books. The Reader is a work of psychological complexity; an exploration of the painful and difficult process of guilt and atonement. It is also a love story. The story is told in three parts by the main character, Michael Berg. Each part takes place in a different time period in the past.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she disappears without explanation. When he sees her again, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a terrible crime. As he watches her refuse to defend herself, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder. The final part the book is about truth and reconciliation.

Read an excerpt from this Oprah's book club selection and view the reading group guide.

Livability by Jon Raymond

Livability by Jon Raymond (2009)
This short story collection is set in and around Portland, Oregon, and follows characters at transition points in life. Two of the nine stories have been adapted into independent feature films directed by Kelly Reichardt.

Listen to the author read from Livability and check out the Amazon.com reviews.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)
Many of us read about Francie Nolan and her life 100 years ago growing up poor in Brooklyn when we were young ourselves. Try it now as an adult. Although the writing is at times a little stilted and too often we are told things instead of shown them, the spirit of Francie and her practical and hardworking mother and her dreamer of a never-do-well father comes through. Some scenes are absolutely delightful: Papa taking Francie and her brother on a fishing trip or Aunt Sissy finally finding a way to get herself a baby. Other parts are poignant beyond words: Six-year-old Francie having to take her younger brother for their vaccinations before starting school or Francie finding that she must work instead of going to high school.

Preview this American classic and check out the reading group guide.

Guernica by David Boling

Guernica by David Boling (2008)
David Boling’s first novel is the tale of Justo Ansotegui, the strongest man in Guernica and a successful farmer; and Miguel Navarro, a fisherman's son too prone to seasickness to be of much use on a boat. In a broader sense, it's about Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and beginning of World War II, and the Basque who proudly held onto their traditions at a time when their language and customs were outlawed by the Spanish government.

Boling tells the story of Guernica and her people while telling the story of human suffering, heroism, and amazing fortitude. He draws a wonderful picture of the Basque culture and describes the countryside of Spain so well that you can see, hear, taste, and smell it. The bombing of Guernica on the eve of World War II was a devastating experiment in total warfare by the German Luftwaffe. Boling, along with many historians, sees the bombing of Guernica as an act of terrorism. Perhaps, as I did, you will make a connection between that long-ago atrocity and the modern world. And perhaps as I did, you will finish this novel with a sense of hope.

Learn more about the bombing of Guernica at PBS.org. Visit the author's website for reviews and his bio.

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart

The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart (2008)
When all of his regular customers are going bald or deserting him for a snazzy new barber in the next town, Guillaume Ladoucette gives up barbering for matchmaking. Trying to pair up his friends and neighbors, though, turns out to be harder than Guillaume imagined. Especially when he can't even manage his own love life. A charming story set in a magical town and chock full of good French food and eccentrics.

Read an interview with the author and explore the publisher's reading guide for this title.

The Waterworks by E. L. Doctorow

The Waterworks by E. L. Doctorow (1994)
Setting is Manhattan after Civil War. This suspenseful story takes place in 1871 and the descriptions of life in New York City with the corrupt Tweed government are a good reminder that all was not well for people in historical times. A good mystery thriller for those who like the true grit of Doctorow's writing. Easy, enjoyable reading with a good tied together ending.

Learn more about the author and his writings at BookBrowse and read reviews at Amazon.com.

A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock

A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock (2008)
This novel will jar your perspective of legalese, presenting new twists and turns. Peacock invents a plausible plot that takes place mostly in the seediest part of Brooklyn. The story unfolds through the eyes of a young male attorney. He is mentored by a young female attorney, who plunges him into her high profile murder case. Wow. Step by step, the reader follows the process of the preparation for trial, the trial, and the aftermath of the trial. The conclusion is the final twist of ironic justice.

Read an inteview with the author and view reviews at Amazon.com.

Final Theory by Mark Alpert

Final Theory by Mark Alpert (2008)
Albert Einstein’s colleagues are being killed by someone trying to discover his long-hidden theory. A science historian receives a key from one of the dying men. To unlock the key, he encounters one puzzle, which leads him to another puzzle. He’s trying to solve the mystery while running for his life. This suspenseful novel is a good read-alike for people who like The Da Vinci Code.

View the author's YouTube video about his book and read the New York Times review.

Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom

Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom (2008)
Set in 1940-41, this is a political novel in the very best sense. It offers a taste of the hardship and fear gripping Madrid under its new Fascist dictator, Francisco Franco. It is a novel that thoughtfully considers what can happen to an ordinarily decent man in wartime. Harry Brett, Sandy Forsyth and Bernie Piper who were together at school are the players. The underlying question of Spain’s neutrality has the British worried. While Spain considers its options Harry Brett is recruited by British intelligence to discover if Sandy Forsyth has found gold reserves that will strengthen Franco’s hand. Bernie Piper vanished on the bloody battlefields of the Jarama. An attempt to rescue him becomes a dangerous game which draws the strands of this saga together. A first rate thriller.

Check out the book discussion and read reviews at Amazon.com.

Murder Inside the Beltway by Margaret Truman

Murder Inside the Beltway by Margaret Truman (2008)
A typical Margaret Truman mystery. I love the way she weaves the local color of Washington, D.C. in the book. It had some interesting twists and turns. Two of the main characters are intriguing blends of current political figures.

Check out other titles in the Capitol Crimes mystery series, and read a review of this book on Amazon.com.