by John Dufresne
REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN
Looking back on a crazed childhood in a town where identities seemed to shift with the wind, the narrator of Dufresne's witty and affecting Requiem, Mass.
realizes that getting to the truth may be impossible. "Life," he observes, "gets terribly roiled and scrambled very quickly."
Raised on the wrong side of town, Johnny and his impertinent little sister Audrey (who wears cowboy boots with her Catholic-school uniform) are left with a psychopathic mother who believes they're imposters playing the role of her children and comes close to igniting herself in a tub full of gasoline. In the meantime, their truck-driver dad, Rainey, is on the road. As Johnny discovers, Rainey's "gratuitous and fruitless lies" to drinking buddies are telling: He's a charming sociopath with another family stashed in Florida and a Crown Royal sack full of fake driver's licenses in his rig. "I get to live a dozen lives," he tells his son. Multiple identities or no, few in Requiem find salvation, but Dufresne's incandescent novel makes it clear that just living to tell a tale can be enough.
by Janis Ian
REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD
"Sad girl music," as a man I know uncharitably calls female folk-rock, just may have reached its self-pitying apotheosis with "At Seventeen," Ian's '75 hit bemoaning her own bad skin and social unease. Turns out she had more reasons to complain than we knew: sexual abuse by her dentist (!), a breakdown after "Society's Child" made her a star at 16; later, a husband who nearly killed her. Yet there's no poor-me feel to this engaging memoir, just memories of a thrilling, perilous era (being propositioned by Dylan, trying cocaine with Hendrix) and gratitude that she survived.
by Jen Lin-Liu
When American Lin-Liu enrolls in a cooking school in Beijing, her goals are modest: Though Chinese classmates will scrabble for jobs in a country where a chef gets "as much respect as a car mechanic," she aims to explore her "cultural roots." But after she interns at a noodle stall and masters dumplings, the intrepid author gets hooked on a culinary scene where both foie gras and animal genitalia are on offer. Taken by her colleagues, too, she finds mentors, including a teacher who shares her story of toiling in a mine during the Cultural Revolution. Lin-Liu is a charming guide to modern China and its kaleidoscopic cuisine.
KIDS' CLASSICS FOR THE ROAD
BROWN BEAR & FRIENDS by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle
A soothing and amusing Gwyneth Paltrow
uses her best bedtime-story voice to bring this toddler-friendly compilation to life.
THE CRICKET IN TIMES SQUARE by George Selden
Read by Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Selden's story of a clueless insect in New York lights up with the sounds of the city.
ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll
Children of all ages will get lost in this long-loved tale, whimsically narrated by British actor Jim Dale.
"This may sound weird, but I love books that are deep, graphic and visual. I like Night
by Elie Wiesel. We were learning about the Holocaust in high school, and I was just like, 'Wow!' I could see everything he wrote."
The final book of her blockbuster Twilight
series is in stores Aug. 2. While you're waiting, some suggestions from the author:
ANANSI BOYS by Neil Gaiman.
People have been telling me for years to read him. I finally listened.
WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy.
For the first time in five years, I'm not under a deadline. Tolstoy is next up on my Kindle reader.
THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon.
Quirky, funny and fascinating.
THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Stewart.
This is what I'm reading to my kids at night, and we're all enjoying it (for the second time).