Here's a list of the books I've read recently:
The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta--I really enjoyed Perrotta's writing, and the idea was really original. I liked that he doesn't present easy answers to the dilemma he poses, just lets his characters experience the aftermath of his crazy set-up: that there has been a "rapture", and some of us have been left behind...
The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman--I liked this better than I thought I would. It's the story of several women who experience the siege of Masada, in the first century CE. I was impressed with Hoffman's evocation of the historical period, and loved her depictions of the practices of women at this time.
Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck--I had read this years ago, and did not remember how good it was. Steinbeck was an amazing creator of characters, and portrays with humor and empathy the wonderfully flawed human beings who live on Cannery Row.
The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka--Haunting and poetic, this book was a surprise to me. Otsuka somehow makes the plural voice work, and though the reader doesn't get to know the characters individually, it somehow comes together as a sad, intimate portrait of the Japanese picture brides who came to California in the 1920s.
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons--I had seen and enjoyed this movie years ago, so I wanted to read the book. A comic nod to Victorian novels, the adventures of Flora Poste as she sets about to better the lives of her shockingly backward distant cousins are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.
The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides--A book group read the group was mixed on. Some beautifully written passages, some complaints about the plot. I liked the ending because it was a nod to Jane Austen, but no fairy tale.
The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson--Another arresting premise, about two kids who grew up in a family of performance artists, where they had to participate in their parents' sometimes disturbing stunts. I liked reading it as a giant metaphor for dysfunctional families, and I liked where the plot took me.
Blue Nights, by Joan Didion--Joan Didion's follow-up to her memoir of the year after her husband's sudden death, The Year of Magical Thinking, this raw memoir is about the death of her daughter, which she had to endure only two years later. I had to get over the idea that this would be a profoundly depressing read, but Didion's language overcomes the grimness of the subject matter, and her meditations on aging, motherhood, life and death are poetic.
The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach--Not really about baseball, thank goodness. More about college life, love and friendship. Another book group pick, which everyone liked.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky--(inspired by my 15-year-old son, who read it all in one day) A modern classic of troubled teendom and outsiderhood. This reminds me how much I hated being a teenager. That said, I'm glad my son read it and related to it.