The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon |

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When Kabul fell under Taliban control in September 1996, Kamela Sediqi's life changed immediately and completely: The teen could no longer attend school; she had to wear a full-length burqa in public and be accompanied by a male relative-or risk being beaten by gangs enforcing the Taliban code of "moral purity." How she and others coped and ultimately thrived is the subject of Lemmon's transporting, enlightening book. To earn a living for herself and her five sisters, Kamela began to make and sell clothing. What began as a small concern grew into a business employing more than 34 women. Now Kamela, who met author Lemmon when the journalist was in Afghanistan researching a story, has launched a new company teaching women how to start businesses. The Dressmaker is a fascinating window on Afghan life under the Taliban and a celebration of women the world over who support their loved ones with tenacity, inventiveness and sheer guts.

Behind the Palace Doors

by Michael Farquhar |

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Sex! Corruption! Murder! And for England's monarchy that was a slow day at the office. Imagine the history of the monarchy as told by the British tabloids, and you have this rollicking account of kings and queens gone wild. Royals fascinate because they exemplify what happens to humans with no checks on their power or egos. Who hasn't wanted to imprison a sanctimonious sister in a tower ("Bloody" Queen Mary to her sister Elizabeth) or marry their dead brother's wife (Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon)? More unnatural was the strangely frequent hatred of one's children; the very appearance of Queen Victoria's son Edward "made his mother shudder." But face it, it's nice to have that Divine Right thing going for you. Sure, maybe you end up with your head on a pike, but in the meantime, life's pretty swell.

Night Road

by Kristin Hannah |

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Inspired by the author's angst during her son's high school years, Hannah's latest follows well-off twins Mia and Zach and their friend Lexi, who grew up in foster homes. When a poor postparty decision lands all three in the hospital, the twins' overprotective mom falls apart. The plot is far-fetched at times, yet Hannah masterfully details the unraveling of a family. "Was this what love did to a person," wonders Lexi, "emptied them out until there was nothing left but need?" Night explores this question repeatedly, and the answer is often dark.


"The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It's a biography of cancer, all you ever wanted to know, and cancer touches everyone's life. An unbelievable book."


"Every year I reread The Autobiography of Malcolm X. As you get older and he gets older, you relate to different things. It's the power of change that's resonating with me now."


"I'm reading a really funny novel called After Claude by Iris Owens. It's from the 1970s. It's this acerbic, hilarious tale told by this hilarious, acerbic narrator."

It's never too early to start educating your kids about money, says financial guru Suze Orman, especially in today's tough times. Her thoughts on what to teach when:

FOR 6-YEAR-OLDS: They don't get an allowance just because they were born; they need to work for it.

FOR TWEENS: When you pay your bills, the kids should be at the table with you.

FOR TEENS: Have a conversation about what you can afford for college. Finances should be a family affair.

Cofounder of the conservation organization Oceana, the actor has written a book about how we can save our seas.


Overfishing: 30 percent of the world's fisheries have collapsed, and 90 percent of the big fish that existed in the '50s are gone. Acidification, which is destroying our reefs ...


We need to create no-take zones so the fish rebound. Attack the problem country by country.


Eat wild instead of farmed fish, for one thing. Fish farming results in overfishing as forage fish are used to feed the farmed fish.


Go to the beach, look at the sunset, and remember how much you love the ocean. You have to tackle these problems with a light heart.