Sunday, December 12, 2010

Great Reads

It's getting to be that time of year when "Best of Lists" of all types are published and book lists are no exception. Book Pages Top 40 Books of 2010 and Amazon's Best Books of 2010 are two of many that are available for the perusal of book lovers. I have, of course, checked out those lists and was pleased to see that while I have read only a handful of the books on the two lists, I am familiar with the vast majority of them - some of which sit on my "to be read" list and some of which I have decided not to read. Looking over those lists made me realize that I have strong feelings about some of those books, which I have yet to share here. So thanks to Book Pages and Amazon for inspiring me to write this post of mini book reviews.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - This is a fascinating look at the true story of Henrietta Lacks who died of cervical cancer in the 1950s. Her cancer cells became the basis for numerous medical advances and treatments and they are still being used all over the world in research today. The story is complicated by the fact that Henrietta was a poor black woman from the south whose family didn't know for two decades about the amazing advances made to medical science from the study of their wife and mother's strangely prolific cancer cells. I chose this book for the December Book Club that I run at the library. It was the best attended meeting and most hotly discussed book in the nearly 4 years I have been leading that group. This book has so many layers and is open to so many different points of view that no one is able to come away from it without giving serious thought to medical research and the advancement of medical knowledge. And the best part, is that Skloot writes this like a work of fiction. It is accessible to all readers, not just those with an interest or background in the medical field. 3/5 stars.

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman - Great psychological suspense story about Eliza, a woman in her mid-thirties who was abducted and held hostage for 6 weeks by a serial a killer when she was 16 years old. The killer, now on death row and soon to be executed, contacts Eliza and asks to see her. Even though Eliza has managed to move on with her life in a healthy and positive way, she feels compelled to talk to him. Are the risks involved worth the benefit she hopes to gain? 4/5 stars.

The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell- I am almost finished reading this intriguing story and can not wait to see how it all plays out. In alternating chapters, O'Farrell tells the separate stories of two women living in London during two different time periods - right after WWII and current day. According to the book jacket, at some point the women's story will collide and the anticipation of that is very compelling. What I'm loving about this book is that each story is unique and fascinating in it's own right and as O'Farrell switches from one to the other I find myself reluctant to let go of one story, but then excited to read more of the other. I can not wait to find out how the two stories intersect. So far I have had only one hint and the anticipation is killing me. I anticipate giving this one 4/5 stars. Though it could go either way and end up being 3/5 or even 5/5. It all depends on how the stories are resolved and how the "collision" plays out. I'll let you know.

Edit: Now that I've finished this book my rating will stay at 4/5 stars. The "collision" was well done, but not mind-blowingly so. Still a great book.

How about you? Have you read or heard of any of these books? Are any already on your "to be read" list? Do you normally consult these types of lists to find new books to read?

Stay tuned for Pam's Picks Best Books of 2010...


  1. I just finished "The Hand that First Held Mine" by Maggie O'Farrell. I was a bit bored with the story at first... I had no idea where it was going, and so much time was spent on the the initial birth experience of Ted's girlfriend. But then as we got into the story of Lexi, it became more interesting. By the middle I was hooked, and the ending made me feel something. I finished it yesterday and am still thinking about the characters today.

    I thought that the ending would be different... just a bit. I had suspicions that were not realized. But, perhaps that makes it more realistic.

    O'Farrell is a terrific writer as well. I never felt, as I sometimes do when reading other authors, that "I could have written that!"

    I loved Esme Lennox better, but this was a worthwhile read... or actually, listen. As usual, I listened to the audio book version.

  2. Excellent post. My review is - Nice post by good author :
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