1. The Art of Racing in the Rain:
What the book’s about: On the eve of his death, Enzo, a dog with a human-like soul, reflects on his life with his family: Denny, an up-and-coming racecar driver, his wife Eve, and their daughter Zoe. Enzo believes that dogs who are “prepared” will be reincarnated as humans in their next lives, and so he seeks to get ready by taking stock of his life.
What I thought: Of all the books I’ve read over the past few years, this was the one I had told Mike that he HAD to read. After you read this story, you’ll want to share it with people — especially other animal lovers. I started reading it thinking that with the dog narrating, the story would be cute, but predictable. And while, yes, you know something sad is going to happen from the first page, the story is original and the way Enzo tells it made me fall in love with him and his family. I sped through it in about a week or so, and was sad when I had finished it.
What other people said: “The Art of Racing in the Rain is the perfect book for anyone who knows that some of our best friends walk beside us on four legs; that compassion isn’t only for humans; and that the relationship between two souls who are really meant for each other never really comes to an end.” -Jodi Picoult
2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay:
What the book’s about: In 1939, Joe Kavalier escapes from Hitler’s Prague, and arriving in New York City, partners with his cousin, Sammy Clay, to create a comic, The Escapist, inspired by World War II. With his family left behind in Europe, Kavalier tries to comfort himself by fighting the Germans symbolically through their artwork. The cousins quickly find themselves at the center of the the golden age of comics.
What I thought: My favorite books are about underdogs and oppression, and in the past, I was constantly drawn to fiction stories about slavery and the Holocaust. But now, after almost 15 years of reading that genre, many of those stories seem too similar. I still enjoy them, but I’m not floored by the ideas and I don’t remember anything specific about the book months or years down the road. But Chabon’s book gave me an original look at the era, what it means to be a hero and what it would be like to leave your family behind. The plot isn’t the only high point — Chabon’s writing is the best I’ve read this year.
What other people said: “Novels conventionally draw a good deal of their power from surprising plot turns. ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ fulfills its quota of surprises, but most of its unexpectedness resides, comic-book-style, in its challenging situations, lushly written, in which you know beforehand that the heroes will prevail … the depth of Chabon’s thought, his sharp language, his inventiveness and his ambition make this a novel of towering achievement.” -The New York Times Book Review
3. This is Where I Leave You:
What the book’s about: Judd Foxman — who recently found his wife cheating on him with his boss — is forced to sit shiva with the rest of his dysfunctional family after his father’s death. With the siblings together for seven straight days, the week quickly spins out of control and old arguments resurface. The story gets more interesting when Judd’s wife, Jen, unexpectedly shows up at the house to tell Judd that she’s pregnant.
What I thought: This book had me laughing from the beginning and I didn’t want to put it own. The siblings’ rivalries, comebacks, and mockery reminded me of a more intense version of my family and I easily became attached to Judd and his plight. Although I became a little less interested in the story about 3/4 of the way through, the need to find out how the story ended kept me reading and I’m glad I did. The book’s being made into a movie with Jason Bateman and Tiny Fey, and the trailer — which does ruin some of the jokes in the book if you want to read it first — is hilarious.
What other people said: “Tropper is wickedly funny, a master of the cutting one-liner that makes you both cringe and crack up. But what elevates his novels and makes him a truly splendid writer is his ability to create fantastically flawed, real characters who stay with you long after the book is over. Simultaneously hilarious and hopeful, ‘This is Where I leave You’ is as much about a family’s reckoning as it is about one man’s attempt to get it together. -Daphne Durham, Amazon reviewer.
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