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Mark Kaufman

Having read Treasure Island and The Adventures of Robin Hood as a child might explain Mark’s passion for novels with a dose of escapism and suspense. He’s also a fan of irreverent writers like Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore, and Carl Hiassen. All told, Mark’s reading tastes are eclectic: historical fiction, engrossing non-fiction stories that read like novels, biographies about fascinating people, the occasional personal growth selection, and laugh-out-loud stories.

9780399563669

The two things I loved most about this book – though there were many more – was the way in which the author, a Buddhist monk, creates a character of a young boy who hears voices in the objects all around him, as if they are alive. And there’s a book within this book that plays an important part in the story. This book will cause you to question how we treat those who are different.

Even more than in "The Last Bookshop in London", Madeline Martin takes us deeper into the horrors of WWII in her latest. Though the two main characters live very different lives – an American librarian sent to neutral Lisbon to gather information from foreign newspapers and a French woman committed to the Resistance in Nazi-occupied Lyon – the way in which they find common purpose in saving a young Jewish mother and her child was touching. Would we have the courage and strength to endure?

When a book begins with “The first time Mama died …”, I was hooked from the get-go. The author is a Southerner whose fully-formed characters in this book ring true. Though there’s a bit of mystery to unravel, the story is really about what it means to be a family. One of my favorite books of the year!

Haven’t we all wondered how life might have turned out if we had chosen a different path along the way? Before attempting suicide, the main character finds herself in a library where every book she pulls from the shelf allows her to see what might have happened if she chose differently. As she pulls book after book, she must decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

After an unnamed calamity wipes out most humans, a diverse group of animals convenes to debate whether to aid the small band of survivors nearby, or to eat them. But first they need to set some rules to keep them from turning on one another. The pros and cons are compelling enough to make me wonder how I would vote under the circumstances.

A young woman undergoes cryogenic preservation at the time of her death and wakes up a century later in a world where her very life is a crime. After another civil war, the new government believes that those who are resurrected should be shot on sight. It's a look at prejudice, complicity, the fears that tear us apart, and the hope that can bring us together.

9780062868084

The 1909 Free Speech riots in Spokane may be the backbone of this unforgettable story, but the plot eerily echoes our own time - the disparity between rich and poor, exploitation of workers to maximize corporate wealth, police brutality, attempts to suppress free speech. An intimate story of brotherhood, love, sacrifice, and betrayal, featuring an unforgettable cast of cops and tramps, suffragists and socialists, madams and murderers. Among the best books I have read all year!

9780062667632

A family's vacation in remote Long Island is interrupted by a knock on the door of their rental home. An elderly Black couple, claiming to be the home's rightful owners, have fled New York City after a sudden blackout. With no TV, internet or phone service, it's impossible to know what (or who) to believe. This novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. In a world where anything could happen, a possible apocalyptic end of the world is unsettling.

9781250219367

When Duncan resurfaces in school librarian Samantha’s life as new headmaster, he’s nothing like the playful man she once knew. Duncan is now obsessed with school safety, and intends to turn Sam's joyful, offbeat school into a prison. Themes like how we deal with loss, the determination involved in personal transformation, what it takes to be an effective leader, and what makes for a safe school environment kept me engaged throughout the story. An entertaining as well as thought-provoking read!

9780385544689

Another riveting story based on the real-life heroism of Nancy Wake, an Australian expat living in Paris who becomes a spy when the Germans invade France. Her ability to evade capture as she smuggles people and documents to safety forces her to leave her husband and France behind and assume an alias. After training with Britain's Special Operations, she is parachuted to France, and organizes and commands French forces. Equal doses of wit, ferocity, bravery and passion make for a terrific read!

9780553447606

When young veteran Cam Harris, rendered paraplegic after serving in Afghanistan, suddenly rises from his wheelchair one hot afternoon in Biloxi, the miracle becomes national news. His doctors at the VA are convinced of a scientific explanation, while the Church embraces the miracle. The author does a remarkable job reporting the unfolding of events as a good journalist would, though writes scenes that are laugh-out-loud funny as American culture intersects the collision between faith and reason.

9780380813810

Always irreverent and deeply respectful, Moore ponders the early life of the Son of God – those missing teenage years – through the eyes of Biff, the Messiah's best friend. The story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior's pal may not be enough to divert Josh/Jesus from his tragic destiny. But there's no one who loves Josh more -- except maybe "Maggie," Mary of Magdala. The greatest story never told is hilarious!

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