I've got my summer reading all (ahem) plotted out. And the cool thing is that, what with a family of hungry readers and accumulated trade points in bookmooch, I feel proud of my uncharacteristic biblio-frugality and stocked up without reaching into my pockets.
It wasn't until I was writing these little snapshots that I realized I was about to embark on some summer armchair traveling. Kind of cool.
- A Mapmaker's Dream
1996 James Cowan, Australian
"In sixteenth-century Venice, in an island monastery, a cloistered monk experiences the adventure of a lifetime -- all within the confines of his cell. Part historical fiction, part philosophical mystery, A Mapmaker's Dream tells the story of Fra Mauro and his struggle to realize his life's work: to make a perfect map -- one that represents the full breadth of Creation. News of Mauro's project attracts explorers, pilgrims, travelers, and merchants, all eager to contribute their accounts of faraway people and places."
- Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
2001 Dai Sijie, Chinese
"In this enchanting tale about the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening, two hapless city boys are exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China's infamous Cultural Revolution. There they meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, they find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined."
- Mr. Mani
1989 A. B. Yehoshua, Israeli
"Mr. Mani is a deeply affecting six-generation family saga, extending from nineteenth-century Greece and Poland to British-occupied Palestine to German-occupied Crete and ultimately to modern Israel. The narrative moves back through time and is told in five conversations about the bizarrely fated Mani family. The climax takes place in Athens in 1848, with Avraham Mani's overpowering tale about the death of his young son, Yosef, in Jerusalem."
- The Jane Austen Book Club
2004 Karen Joy Fowler, American
"This book is about reading and interpretation, and the peculiar way that readers try to create ownership of the books they most love. In the end, Jane Austen cannot be claimed by any one member of the book club, any more than she might be claimed by us. We say that we read to escape into fictional lives, but before we know it, we're finding our own lives in the fiction we love. That's why we love it."
- Particularly Cats...and Rufus (nonfiction)
1967 Doris Lessing, British
"In a series of captivating, interconnected vignettes, we meet the cats that have slinked and bullied and charmed their way into Doris Lessing's life...She tells their stories -- their exploits, rivalries, terrors and affections, ancient gestures and learned behaviors -- with vivid simplicity. And she tells, as well, the story of herself in relation to cats: the way the animals affect her and she them, and the communication that grows possible between them, a language of gesture and mood and desire, as eloquent as the spoken word.
- One Thousand White Woman, The Journals of May Dodd
1998 Jim Fergus, American
"Begins with May Dodd's journey west into the unknown. A government program, in which women are brought west as brides for the Cheyenne, is her vehicle. What follows is the story of May's adventures: her marriage to Little Wolf, chief of the Cheyenne nation, and her conflict of being caught between two worlds, loving two men, living two lives. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time."
- A Thousand Splendid Suns
2007 Khaled Hosseini, Afghan
"Views the plight of Afghanistan during the last half-century through the eyes of two women. At the heart of the novel is the bond between Mariam and Laila, two very different women brought together by dire circumstances. Unimaginably tragic, Hosseini's magnificent second novel is a sad and beautiful testament to both Afghani suffering and strength."