S - T - U
listed by Elizabeth Brunner
Other Book List Pages: ABC
|Sachar, Louis. Holes,
1998. Clever and charming kid's book about a juvenile detention camp where
boys must endlessly dig holes, while they try to discover the secret of
the buried treasure sought by the evil warden. Fun adventure and holds
up for adults.
|Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the
Rye, 1945. I read an essay where the author described re-reading
this book and realizing that the troubled young protagonist was grieving
for his brother, a detail that had not sunk in on previous reads. Correct.
Sad alienation of a lost soul. Nine Stories,
1948. Dark but compelling. Franny & Zooey,
1955. Interaction between depressed brother and sister pair who were raised
to overintellectualize spiritual issues. Stylish but I never got engaged.
|Sams, Ferrol. Whisper of the River,
1984. Delightful saga of a country boy coming of age at a small Baptist
college in Georgia at the start of World War II. Hysterical scenes of sexual
awakening, fraternity pranks, and antics in the college cafeteria. But
also deeper lessons about personal integrity, individualism, and acceptance
|Sandbeck, Ellen. Eat More Dirt:
Diverting and Instructive Tips for Growing and Tending an Organic Garden.
2003. Lighthearted style, packed with innovative tips.
|Sanders, Dori. Clover,
1990. Beautiful story of a young black girl from South Carolina who is
raised by a white step-mother after her father's death. Sensitive and compassionate.
|Schlink, Bernard. The Reader,
1995. Translated from German by Carol Brown Janeway. Beautiful and meaningful
tale of a boy's affair with a simple older woman, who is later put on trial
for serving as a Nazi guard at a concentration camp. Explores the nature
of passivity, shame, guilt, and secrets.
|Schultz, Warren. The Organic Suburbanite:
Environmentally Friendly Way to Live the American Dream,
2001. Lifestyle and yard care tips with fun vintage illustrations.
|Schupack, Deborah. The Boy on the
Bus, 2003. Parents wonder if the boy returning on the school
bus is actually their fragile asthmatic son or a healthier imposter. Good
built-up but fades away toward the end.
|Schutze, Jim. By Two and Two: The
Scandalous Story of Twin Sisters Accused of a Shocking Crime of Passion.
1995. True tale of Alabama twins accused of murder and the resulting miscarriage
of justice. Weak writing by a journalist.
|Schwartz, John Burnham. Claire Marvel,
2002. Serious, beautifully-written novel about the challenging romance
of two intelligent people who struggle with emotional commitment and life
priorities. True and meaningful.
|Scottoline, Lisa. Mistaken Identity.
Legal suspense about a lawyer who must defend her own twin and face secrets
of her family history.
|Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones,
2002. Beautiful and original, even though the plot summary might sound
sappy. A teenager narrates the book from heaven, after her murder -- watching
her family and community cope with the crime and make slow progress towards
healing. Compassionate, imaginative, and with a memorable portrait of a
loving father who is overwhelmed by grief.
|Seierstad, Asne. The Bookseller
of Kabul. 2002. Norwegian journalist profiles a family in
Afghanistan, after the fall of the Taliban. From the passion of a bookseller
despite historic censorship to the emotional repercussions of adding a
second wife and the teenage son who takes a pilgrimage trip as an act of
rebellion. Eye-opening and fair-minded.
|Selby, John. Solitude: The Art of
Living with Yourself, 1998. New age reflections on loneliness
and solitude. Yuck. I picked up at the library, expecting more affirmations
of an independent, satisfying lifestyle choice.
|Shaber, Sarah R. The Fugitive King,
2002. Competent handling of a cozy-domestic mystery solved by a history
professor. The real interest for me is the North Carolina setting -- from
meals at the Irregardless Cafe in Raleigh to scenic portraits of the Blue
|Shields, Carol. Small Ceremonies,
1976. A year in the life of a biographer, her scholar husband, and their
two children. Critically praised for the focus on daily life, but too slow-paced
for my tastes.
|Shivers, Louise. How to Get My Baby
Out of Jail, 1983. In a small tobacco farming community
in the 1930s, a young wife is seduced by a stranger, leading to tragedy
for her family. Written by depth and beautiful characterization.
|Shreve, Anita. The Pilot's Wife,
1998. Quick read. One of the Ophra's Book Club selections. About
a woman coming to terms with her pilot husband's secret life after a tragic
plane crash. Conveys the emotional devastation caused by sudden accidental
deaths but left me feeling strangely unmoved by the end. Where
or When, 1993, carries more emotional punch. An adolescent
summer-camp romance is rekindled by a couple in their forties, despite
other spouses and children. Captures the longing and sentiment of first
love, but I was again disappointed by the conclusion.
|Shreve, Porter. The Obituary Writer,
2000. Funny, dark saga about an aspiring journalist assigned to the obituary
desk who becomes attractive to a recent widow, copes with his intrusive
mother, and learns the truth about his father's career.
|Silva, Daniel. The English Assassin,
2002. Espionage thriller about an art restorer who also works as an Israeli
spy. Investigates links between art stolen by the Nazis and the secretive
world of Switzerland's banks.
|Silva, Holly, editor. Guilty Pleasures:
Indulgences, Addictions, and Obsessions, 2003. Collection
of essays by women on favorite indulgences, from gossip to toenail polishing.
|Smith, Alexander McCall. Heavenly
Date and Other Flirtations, 1995. Short stories about courtship,
often dark and humorous. The No. 1 Ladies Detective
Agency: great fun with as an African woman solves local
|Smith, Dodie. I Capture The Castle,
1948. By the author of The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Charming
tale of an English family that lives in poverty within the ruins of a castle,
waiting for writer's block to lift so the father can return to productivity.
The tale of budding romance is told through a teenage daughter's journals.
|Smith, Lee. The Last Girls,
2002. A group of Southern women reunite for a trip down the Mississippi,
to sprinkle the ashes of one of their college friends. Along the way they
reflect on their relationships and life choices. Insightful and literary
by an acclaimed author from the Triangle region of North Carolina.
|Smith, Sarah. Chasing Shakespeares,
2003. While cataloging an archive of Elizabethan texts, a graduate students
finds a letter that may have been written by Shakespeare, launching an
academic detective hunt through rare book collections and historic sites
of England. The author, who as a Ph.D. in English from Harvard, raises
fascinating questions about Shakespeare's true identity and the authorship
question. Shows the excitement of primary source research.
|Smith, Zadie. White Teeth,
2000. Critically acclaimed novel of a Bangladeshi family with twin sons,
a Jamaican family of Jehovah Witnesses, and a Jewish intellegensia family
with lives intertwining in London. Dense, sophisticated, humorous, and
|Smolenyak, Megan. In
Search of Our Ancestors: 101 Inspiring Stories of Serendipity and Connection
in Rediscovering Our Family History, 2000. Companion book
to the PBS series. Many touching stories of family connections and kindness
during the research process, including serendipity and coincidence that
borders on magical.
|Sobel, Dava. Galileo's Daughter:
A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love. 1999. Nonfiction
about the scientist Galileo as seen through the surviving letters of his
daughter who was a cloistered nun. Academic details but dry. Also Sobel
as editor of The Best American Science Writing
2004. Excellent collections of essays ranging from the maintance of a deceased
body prior to organ harvesting to the bureaucratic errors that contributed
to the space shuttle Columbia disaster.
|Sparks, Nicholas. The Rescue,
2000. Predictable and wholesome romance written with competence. Portrays
a volunteer fireman who must overcome his emotional fears in order to fully
love a single mother and her disabled son.
|Spring, Michelle. In the Midnight
Hour, 2001. British mystery about whether a street musician
is the long-lost son of a famous family. The detective seems to only stumble
on clues accidentally or through the work of others.
|Staub, Wendy Corsi. Fade to Black,
1998. This less-than-mediocre novel of suspense has a transparent plot,
lifeless characters, and junior high school language. Only reason that
I kept skimming was to see if the plot was as predictable as guessed. Yes,
|Stendhal (Henri Beyle). The Red
and the Black (Le Rouge et le noir), 1830. Translated from
the French by Joan Charles in 1949. For a former English graduate students,
surprisingly how minimal my patience is for many literary classics. But
this 19th century psychological novel is a joy. During the restoration
period after the French Revolution, lower class Julian pursues his ambition
through the church, by tutoring privileged children, as an assistant to
the wealthy, and through the seduction of privileged women. The hypocrisy
of disagreeable characters is treated with strangely whimsical light-heartedness.
Julian's by-the-numbers approach to charming women with plagerized love
letters is great fun.
|Stewart, Mary. The Moonspinners,
1962. I remember Charlotte Armstrong, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart
as the romantic mysteries that my adoptive mother read and that I borrowed.
But wonderful Charlotte Armstrong is the only one that still holds appeal.
A young British woman on vacation in Crete stumbles upon hikers who were
inadvertent witnesses to murder. Superficial characters.
|Stone, Robert. Damascus Gate,
1998. National Book Award finalist. Challenging thriller about Jerusalem
as a battleground for religious fanatics. Build-up was too slow for me.
|Strout, Elizabeth. Amy and Isabelle,
1998. Explores the tension in a mother-daughter relationship after the
daughter has an affair with her high school math teacher. Some realistic
moments as the teenager discovers her sexuality, but I confess to skimming
many tedious chapters.
|Sultan, Faye & Teresa Kennedy. Help
Line,1999. Interesting plot idea about a journalist who
suspects that a murder is really part of a serial killing spree and then
tries to prove that a forensic psychologist's expertise is worthless in
solving the crime. But even with two writers, such limited talent and amateur
prose proves beyond redemption. I abandoned early and just skimmed to see
the plot outline.
|Swados, Elizabeth. Flamboyant,
1998. An Orthodox Jewish woman takes a job at Manhattan's Harvey Milk High
School, where relationships with the gay and transvestite students challenges
her ethical system and disrupts her personal life. Funny diary-style commentary,
with fully-fleshed characters.
|Tartt, Donna. The Little Friend,
2002. Her debut novel The Secret History won high acclaim, so this
follow-up was a disappointing. Excellent narrative voice for 12-year-old
Harriet who investigates her brother's death in a small Mississippi town,
but no attempt at a conclusion. Felt cheated after staying with the story
for 555 pages.
|Taylor, John. The Count and the
Confession, 2002. Detailed nonfiction about the court case
of a demure professional woman accused of murdering a flamboyant aristocratic-wanna-be.
Explores the nature of justice in the American court system and the perseverance
of a daughter who is determined to save her mother.
|Taylor, Sarah Stewart. O' Artful
Death, 2003. An art historian researches a gravestone sculpture
from 1890 in a Vermont art colony, which leads to a present-day murder.
|Tey, Josephine. The Franchise Affair,
1949. Charming British mystery and love story about a middle-aged woman
and her mother who are accused of kidnapping a schoolgirl. The
Daughter of Time, 1951, is perfect for any lover of history
and mystery. To pass the time while recuperating in the hospital, a police
detective uses historical research to investigate whether King Richard
III had his young nephews murdered, as portrayed in Shakespeare's play
and standard textbooks, or if a later king was responsible for the atrocity.
Farrar, 1949, begins with an impersonation scheme and then
reveals the truth about an aristocratic family's history. Witty and appealing,
with beautifully developed characters. In The
Singing Sands, 1953, a police detective on medical leave
because of claustrophobia, happens to see a dead body on a train. Learning
the identity the young male victim parallels the detectives own recovery
and involves a discovery in Arabia. The Man
in the Queue, her first book in 1929 under a male pseudonym,
begins with a stabbing amongst the crowd waiting for closing night tickets
to a beloved musical. Determining the victim's identity takes Inspector
Grant from the theater world of London to the coast of Scotland.
|Thomas, Elizabeth Marshall. The
Hidden Life of Dogs, 1993. Fascinating look at the life
of dogs, including their affections and their roaming. Written by an anthropologist
who is meticulous about observing the dogs in her life over thirty years.
|Toole, John Kennedy. A Confederacy
of Dunces, written in the sixties and published posthumously.
Pullitzer Prize-winning comedy about slovenly anti-hero Ignatius Reilly
and his fumbling antics in offbeat New Orleans. Second time that I've read
what might be the funniest novel of all time about an outcast.
|Trigiani, Adriana. Big Stone Gap,
2000. Wonderful! Maybe the best book that I've read this year although
I was not completely hooked until about page 70. A small town female pharmacist
searches for her father, copes with her mother's death, and allows herself
to become vulnerable enough to fall in love. Grab the kleenex as you hit
page 205, but plenty of humor as well. Type of book that makes you want
to live in a more generous, open-hearted way. Milk
Glass Moon, 2002, is much weaker. Explores the same characters
years later as the pharmacist raises a teenage daughter, but no emotional
pull this time. Lucia, Lucia,
2003: An Italian-American beauty in 1950s New York City tries to balance
the quest for love with a career in the fashion design industry. Gentle
look at family ties but less amusing than the other novels.
|Trollope, Anthony. The Eustace Diamonds,
1870. Long Victorian novel about an immoral "vixen" who inherits wealth
after her first husband's death, but also insists on retaining a precious
necklace that should be returned to other relatives. In the midst of criminal
accusations, high society scandal, and a series of thefts, Lady Lizzie
Greystock Fawn begins hunting for her next husband. Fun read, especially
with the author's commentary on his characters.
|Tully, James. The
Crimes of Charlotte Bronte: A Novel, 1999. Provocative but
probably completely untrue. The criminologist speculates that the Bronte
sisters were poisoned and weaves the evidence into this novel. The tale
is told through the housekeeper's fictionalized diary.
|Turnbull, Peter. Fear of Drowning,
1999. Always a pleasure to discovery another British mystery writer. The
disappearance of a middle-aged couples connects with the death of a wealthy
dwarf years before. Clever detection by two likable and surprisingly gentle-natured
|Turow, Scott. Personal Injuries,
1999. Follows a complex scheme between the IRS, FBI, and U.S. Attorney's
Office to catch a bribery ring of judges and attorneys. Fun to monitor
the language of a lead character, a legendary compulsive liar, to spot
the rare moments of truth.
|Tyler, Anne. Ladder of Years,
1995. A mid-life woman leaves her family to start life alone in a small
town. Saint Maybe, 1991, focuses
on a young man who appeases a single guilty act by raising three children
and performing good deeds through the Church of the Second Chance. This
author always portrays her characters with compassion and closes her stories
with realistic resolution. A Slipping Down
Life, 1969, is a novella about a young girl's brazen self-mutilation
to gain the attention of a local musician and the resulting relationship.
When We Were Grownups, 2001, focuses on a grandmother who
binds multi-married stepchildren together at family gatherings, while wondering
what happened to the potential of her own life. She attempts a reunion
with a college love and ponders the direction that life choices take us.
Navigation, 1974, about the reclusive life of a collage-artist
and the surprising family that forms around him. The
Amateur Marriage, 2004, left me cold. Much darker, less
redemption, and not much appeal to the characters.
|Udall, Brady. The Miracle Life of
Edgar Mint, 2001. Complicated tale of a half-Apache orphan
who survives a near-death accident and attracts a strange group of friends
based on his innate goodness. Funny and preposterous but with an emotional
core that rings true.