Reading History                                                        S - T - U
listed by Elizabeth Brunner
Other Book List Pages:  ABC - DEF - GHI - JKL - MNO - PQRSTU - VWXYZ
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 of others. 
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 Ridge Parkway. 
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 problems. 
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 provocative. 
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, predictable. 
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. Brat 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 inspectors. 
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. Back 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. Celestial 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. 

Other Book List Pages:  ABC - DEF - GHI - JKL - MNO - PQRSTU - VWXYZ
Updated January 17, 2007
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