Customer Review by Joan O'Leary :
The Least Little Thing by Mark Mitchell (Larkspur Press, $28 or $20)
This is a book for all days, for all nights, for all seasons. Mark Mitchell's words are simple and profound. Recently, my niece quoted his words in her mother's eulogy, saying that these words brought comfort - "Each death becomes what we build our own from. Helping each other along." Later, at the family gathering, she again used his words - "Yet grief has a photographic memory, such a deep loyalty." This began a sharing of family memories bringing tears and laughter. Thank you, Mark, for the comfort and joy of your words. I treasure the final one - "Sound of forever when the moonlight made me open the door." Bringing memories of dark night descending on a small island. It is a book to read, ponder and reread. A treasure.

Book cover: The Least Little Thing
   

Three Junes by Julia Glass (Anchor Books, $14)
Winner of the National Book Award, this is a wonderful first novel in three parts that follows the lives of the McCloud family. Set between Scotland, New York, and Greece, it traces the loves and losses of its characters through three fateful Junes. We all loved it so much we invited Julia to visit Town House for one of our “Dinner with the Author” events, and we fell in love with her, too.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $13)
Over the years people have asked Marilou “what is your favorite book?” If she has to narrow her choice to only one book, that book is Housekeeping. Published in 1980 and still in print, the story is about the free spirit of a young girl and her unusual aunt. We are also looking forward to Marilynne’s new novel called Gilead which is being published in November this year.

Grace from the Garden by Debra Landwehr Engle (Rodale, $19.95)
This is a little gem sure to delight any gardener. 20 gardens and gardeners from all over the country are featured, including our own Elgin resident, Virginia Umberger!

   

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead Books, $14)
An outstanding new novel, set in Afghanistan and the United States, it tells the story of two boys who grow up as brothers but whose bond is tested by personal tragedy and political upheaval.

Otherwise by Jane Kenyon (Graywolf Press, $16)
Jane Kenyon’s poems are meditations to return to again and again. Her gift is her graceful power of observation – of all that is difficult and joyful alike. Jane passed away in 1995 at the age of 48, but she left us with this part of herself.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
(Little, Brown, $24.95)
Sedaris has done it again in this latest collection of essays. We love this unique, comic, insightful author who comments brilliantly on ordinary life. Older favorites include: Me Talk Pretty One Day, Naked, and our seasonal favorite Holidays on Ice. We love his work so much that we have featured Holidays on Ice for the last two years at our annual Christmas dinner performance.

   

How She Knows What She Knows about Yo -Yos by Mary Ann Taylor Hall (Sarabande Books, $13.95)
No author has meant more to us than Mary Ann Taylor Hall. She first visited us with her novel (now sadly out of print). She returned in the summer of 2000 with this wonderful collection of short stories. She read from title story to the delight of a full house, and the evening was topped off with a poem by her husband, Kentucky's Poet Laureate, James Baker Hall. Jim and Mary Ann's generosity, talent and dedication embody what makes us proud to be independent booksellers.

Mother on the Other Side of the World by James Baker Hall (Sarabande Books, $12.95)


Jim & Mary Ann with Town House manager, Heidi Schmidt.

   

The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton (Pantheon, $23)
Our customers love to travel... both on the road and from the armchair. This is a beautifully packaged little book that explores what the point of travel might be and suggests how we can be happy in our travels. (Available also in paperback for $13, but we can't resist keeping the handsome hardcover on hand).

These Rare Lands by Stan Jorstad (Simon & Schuster, $40)
The only individual ever to document all of our national parks is Stan Jorstad, and we are lucky enough to claim him as a St. Charles resident and customer of Town House. If you have never experienced his gorgeous panoramic photos, stop in – we always have signed copies of his book available, as well as photos on display.

A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris (Picador, $14)
There isn't anyone who can't enjoy this contemporary classic told in three voices – each from a different generation within the same family. From fifteen-year-old Rayona, her mother Christine, and finally, grandmother Ida, a story of family love, bitterness, tenderness and haunting secrets is revealed. This is a title we highly recommend for book discussion groups, and is also suitable for mature young adult readers.

   

The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner (Ballantine, $12.95)
There are some books that defy categorization or simple description because of their exquisite beauty and the depth of emotion that they evoke. Elizabeth Rosner’s first novel is such a book. It explores the ways in which we are haunted by our past yet can find wholeness through the power of sharing our stories. In this novel three people learn to love and ultimately to save each other through being open to such possibilities. Highest recommendation from all Town House staff.

 

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (Houghton Mifflin, $14)
The reader is drawn from the very first sentence into the story of an East Indian couple living in New York, the dramatic circumstances that led them away from India, and the subsequent joys and trials of raising a family caught between two cultures. Lahiri mesmerizes with a deceptively straightforward yet beautiful writing style that won her a Pulitzer Prize for her short story collection, The Interpreter of Maladies. This is a nicely crafted and deeply satisfying novel.

   
The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers (Picador, 16.00)
A sweeping epic and deeply personal new novel. A German Jewish emigrant meets soprano Delia Daley, a "young Philadelphia Negro" at the infamous Marian Anderson concert on Washington Mall in 1939. Their mutual love of music and deep connection brings them to marry and have three children, two of them musical prodigies, Jonah and Joseph. Theirs is a family story steeped in music, discovery and love, on the brink of the tumultuous early civil rights movement in America.

Book of Illusions by Paul Auster (Picador, $14)
Paul Auster's latest novel is a beautifully woven, engaging story of David Zimmer, a man attempting to reclaim his life after the tragic loss of his wife and two young sons, Zimmer is led through a maze of truth, illusion, and healing that only an author with the precision of Auster could create. Fans of Auster will recognize his layered storytelling technique and the slightly esoteric vein that often runs through his books and films. For those not acquainted with Auster's work, this provides a wonderful introduction.

Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich (St. Martin’s Press, $25.95)
Janet Evonovich has become one of our guilty pleasures around here. From One for the Money through this, her latest in the series, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum keeps you laughing at her antics, her wacky friends, family and love life.

   

Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton (Norton, $13)
May Sarton has her own shelf at Town House. Her body of work includes poetry, journals and novels. She has been like a friend to many readers with her honest insights into life lived as an artist and human being trying to find one's way in the world. She continued writing until her death in 1995 at the age of 83. While she never achieved the critical acclaim that she coveted, she was beloved to many of us.

Endangered Pleasures by Barbara Holland (Harper Collins, $12)
“In defense of naps, bacon, martinis, profanity, and other indulgences” this is a refreshing reminder that rest and relaxation are more rewarding than counting fat grams and sitting behind that desk every day. Life is short so have some fun while you're living it!

My Cat's Not Fat, He's Just Big-Boned by Nicole Hollander
(Hysteria Publications, $9.95)
Nicole Hollander's syndicated cartoon strip “Sylvia” appears nationwide, delighting readers with her hilarious depiction of life with the cats we love. Cats who think too much, cats who hypnotize their owners, cats who plot dastardly deeds, and of course cats obsessed with food! We keep this one on the front counter just for laughs.

Sixpence House Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
(Bloomsbury, $14.95)
Paul Collins and his family moved from San Francisco to the Welsh village of Hay-on-Wye, the “Town of Books” — a population of fifteen hundred with forty bookstores! This is a tribute to the place, the people, and most of all to the books that are at the center of our lives. For those lucky enough to have visited and for those who dream of one day venturing to this mecca for book lovers, this is a funny and insightful little book for bibliophiles.

   

Sand in My Bra and Other Misadventures. Edited by Jennifer L. Leo (Travelers' Tales, $14.95)
This is a hilarious collection of essays by funny women who write from the road. Anne Lamott, Ellen Degeneres, Sarah Vowell, and many more. For those who like to travel or laugh or both, this is great fun and a great gift.

Illinois Seasons of Light by Robert Shaw (Cache River Press, $39.95)
In the introduction to this beautiful collection of photographs, Illinois native Dan Fogelberg writes: “I invite you to celebrate this book. It is through the dedication of artists like Robert Shaw that our precious heritage of wildness can indeed be preserved.” We echo the invitation with a display of signed editions of Robert's book at Town House.

Book Lover's Cookbook Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature and the Passages that Feature Them by Shaunda Kennedy Wagner & Janet Kay Jensen (Ballantine Books, $21.95)
Don't miss this treasure trove of literary nuggets and great recipes. From Jo's Best Omlette (Little Women) to Veteran Split Pea Soup (The Red Badge of Courage). There's something here for every book and food lover.

The World According to Mister Rogers - Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers (Hyperion, $16.95)
When Fred Rogers passed away this year we felt the loss of a wise, warm, and gentle soul. His legacy continues in this wonderful collection of stories, anecdotes and insights. Also available on CD, read by Tyne Daly, John Lithgow, Lily Tomlin, and André Watts, and including actual Fred Rogers recordings and music from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

   

Never Change by Elizabeth Berg (Simon & Schuster, $13)
Best-selling author Elizabeth Berg provides a brave, bold-faced look into the very heart of our feelings about life and death in her brilliant book, Never Change. Protagonist Myra Lipinsky is a single, middle-aged nurse who finds herself faced with caring for a former highschool classmate as he begins the lonely journey of terminal illness. An ultimately uplifting and affirming story... one of her best. Elizabeth has delighted us with two appearances in our “Dinner with the Author” series. Her grace and humor have made her a very special part of our Town House family.

Elizabeth Berg at her Town House signing.

   

For other reviews see our other review pages:

 
   
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