The Shepherd’s Life

The Shepard's Life cover

Long before Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge made the Lake District a celebrated landscape, generation after generation of shepherds were farming this mountainous region of northwest England. These “nobodies,” as The Shepherd’s Life author James Rebanks likes to say, are “the great forgotten silent majority of people who live, work, love and die without leaving much of a trace that they were ever here.” Rebanks can no longer claim to be a nobody. On his popular Twitter account (@herdyshepherd1), he shares picturesque scenes from his Lake District sheep farm with his 68,000 followers, and now he’s written a best-selling book about the cycles of the shepherding year, his deep roots in Cumbria, and the farming culture of the region.
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H is for Hawk

H is for Hawk cover

Devastated by the sudden death of her beloved father, H is for Hawk author Helen Macdonald attempts to deal with her grief by acquiring and training a goshawk named Mabel, intending, like the famous British author and falconer T.H. White, to become “ferocious, feral and free.” H is for Hawk is a seamless blend of memoir, nature writing, and literary criticism: not only does it chronicle the development of Macdonald’s extraordinary relationship with Mabel , but it also follows the arc of the author’s grief and examines White’s process of training his own goshawk, drawing from his aptly named classic The Goshawk.
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The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I

Like fine wine, author Alison Weir is better with age. Or maybe it’s just taken this long to forgive her interpretation of Elizabeth I’s early years. The more Tudor historical fiction one reads the more one is apt to forgive the glossing over of certain persons and events, as well as the concept of artistic license. Still, it would be safe to say that this novel is Weir’s crowning achievement as she flawlessly manages to both realistically and sympathetically  portray Elizabeth’s endless sidesteps and intricate machinations in avoiding “the married state.”

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Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Edogawa Rampo has been called the Edgar Allan Poe of Japan, and with good reason. Each of the nine stories in this collection offers the reader a unique level of creepy discomfort with endings that still manage to surprise. “The Caterpillar” tells of a bitter wife trapped caring for her husband, a war veteran and quadruple amputee, while “The Human Chair” features a young author who is increasingly disturbed while reading the manuscript sent to her by a fan.
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The Splendid Things We Planned

If you have an interest in memoirs about addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, or anyone who is just generally self-destructive, this book has it all!  In Splendid Things, author Blake Bailey, known for his biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates, tells the story of his own family.  While Bailey is truly open and honest in his depiction of both his own chaotic life and that of his parents; his father Burck, a lawyer from Oklahoma and his narcissistic, German born mother Marlies,  the memoir primarily focuses around his brother Scott, an undiagnosed, mentally ill addict and alcoholic.
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I’m not going to pretend to be an aficionado of essays, but I know a well-curated collection when I see one, fiction or otherwise. This new essay collection by short story writer and essayist Charles D’Ambrosio is dark, disarming, occasionally funny and honestly not what I expected from a collection of essays.
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