Category Archives: Adult Book Lists

Book lists for adults.

Book cover - Caroline by Sarah Miller

“Caroline” by Sarah Elizabeth Miller

In this novel authorized by the Little House Heritage Trust, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, “Ma” in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books.

In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril.

The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses.

For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.

*Recommended by Hannele

Book cover - The Hidden Life of Trees

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben also shares his deep love of woods and forests, explaining the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in his woodland.

*Recommended by Sharon

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

What should we have for dinner? Ten years ago, Michael Pollan confronted us with this seemingly simple question and, with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, his brilliant and eye-opening exploration of our food choices, demonstrated that how we answer it today may determine not only our health but our survival as a species. In the years since, Pollan’s revolutionary examination has changed the way Americans think about food. Bringing wide attention to the little-known but vitally important dimensions of food and agriculture in America, Pollan launched a national conversation about what we eat and the profound consequences that even the simplest everyday food choices have on both ourselves and the natural world. Ten years later, The Omnivore’s Dilemma continues to transform the way Americans think about the politics, perils, and pleasures of eating.

*Recommended by Al

Bookcover - Upstream by Mary Oliver

Upstream by Mary Oliver

So begins Upstream, a collection of essays in which revered poet Mary Oliver reflects on her willingness, as a young child and as an adult, to lose herself within the beauty and mysteries of both the natural world and the world of literature. Emphasizing the significance of her childhood “friend” Walt Whitman, through whose work she first understood that a poem is a temple, “a place to enter, and in which to feel,” and who encouraged her to vanish into the world of her writing, Oliver meditates on the forces that allowed her to create a life for herself out of work and love. As she writes, “I could not be a poet without the natural world. Someone else could. But not me. For me the door to the woods is the door to the temple.

*Recommended by Sharon

Cover of The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger

The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger

Cover of The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives by Jesse Eisinger
It’s a little frustrating. A decade after the financial crisis that nearly demolished the world economy, there has been little if any accountability. Citizens, many victims of essentially criminal acts by huge multinationals, wonder “Why isn’t anyone  going to jail? Isn’t that kind of thing illegal?”

Well, yes, fraud is still illegal, but the Department of Justice doesn’t seem to handle it that way anymore. The Chickenshit Club explores how the DOJ, and the regulators who rely on it for criminal enforcement, changed after successful prosecutions of Enron, WorldCom and other last century harbingers of impending financial doom.

It’s a sad tale of dedicated prosecutors and investigators hemmed in by front office politicians far closer to the center of corporate power than to the people they should serve, losing their edge, their institutional memory, and ultimately, their mission. If you want to know how deferred prosecution agreements and “chump change” fines replace criminal convictions and jail time,  this book has the answers.

Filled with horrifying examples of the revolving door between high powered corporate law firms and high ranking government positions, The Chickenshit Club is an informative read,  but not a very happy one. As Eisinger notes in conclusion, “Any hope for tougher corporate enforcement appears laughably misplaced.” Sigh.

The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama

The daughter of a Chinese mother and a Japanese father, Tsukiyama uses the Japanese invasion of China during the late 1930s as a somber backdrop for her unusual story about a 20-year-old Chinese painter named Stephen who is sent to his family’s summer home in a Japanese coastal village to recover from a bout with tuberculosis. Here he is cared for by Matsu, a reticent housekeeper and a master gardener. Over the course of a remarkable year, Stephen learns Matsu’s secret and gains not only physical strength, but also profound spiritual insight. Matsu is a samurai of the soul, a man devoted to doing good and finding beauty in a cruel and arbitrary world, and Stephen is a noble student, learning to appreciate Matsu’s generous and nurturing way of life and to love Matsu’s soulmate, gentle Sachi, a woman afflicted with leprosy.

*Recommended by Stephanie 

Bookcover - Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes

Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes

Spirit Lake is not far from Hotel Paradise; it’s a small lake, neglected, partly covered with water lilies and overhung by tall, blowing grass. To those who have lived in the town for a while, it’s also notorious because a small child drowned there over forty years ago – a death that no one has ever been able to explain. Puzzled by questions that don’t appear to have occurred to the adults around her, a local twelve-year-old girl has become increasingly obsessed with this death. Inquisitive and intelligent, she talks frequently to sheriff Sam De Gheyn and her friend Maud Chadwick about it. A second death at the lake raises suspicion, and with her innocent knack of encouraging adults to reminisce, she begins to put together the pieces of a past and present puzzle. And in doing so realises that there are some mysteries that can never be wholly solved.

*Recommended by Hannele

The Double Blind by Chris Bohjalian

The Double Blind by Chris Bohjalian

When Laurel Estabrook is attacked while out riding her bike one Sunday afternoon, her life is changed forever. She begins work at a shelter for the homeless and there meets Bobbie Crocker, a man with a history of mental illness and a box full of photos he won’t let anyone see. When Bobbie dies suddenly, Laurel discovers that he was once a successful photographer, and her fascination with his former life begins to merge into obsession, not least because some of the photos are of the very same forest trail where she was attacked and nearly killed. Laurel becomes convinced that his photos reveal a deeply hidden, dark family secret. Her search for the truth leads her further from her own life and into a cat-and-mouse game with pursuers who claim they want to save her.

*Recommended by Karen

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain.…

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown…to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in AnathemCryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.

*Recommended by Mike

Bookcover - They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell

They Came Like Swallows by William Keepers Maxwell Jr.

To eight-year old Bunny Morison, his mother is an angelic comforter in whose absence nothing is real or alive.  To his older brother, Robert, his mother is someone he must protect, especially since the deadly, influenza epidemic of 1918 is ravaging their small Midwestern town.  To James Morison, his wife, Elizabeth, is the center of a life that would disintegrate all too suddenly were she to disappear.
Through the eyes of these characters, William Maxwell creates a sensitive portrait of an American family and of the complex woman who is its emotional pillar.  Beautifully observed, deftly rendering the civilities and constraints of a vanished era, They Came Like Swallows measures the subterranean currents of love and need that run through all our lives.  The result confirms Maxwell’s reputation as one of the finest writers we have.

*Recommended by Sia