25 house and home books

A friend with great taste specifically recommended the audio version of this to me and I could not listen to it fast enough—I folded so much laundry and got the kitchen sparkling clean so I could listen to just one more chapter, over and over again. Hildy Good has lived all her life in the small town of Wendover, Massachusetts. She's 60 years old, divorced, a successful realtor. And she drinks—a lot, and the situation is getting out of control. Only Hildy doesn't see it that way. A quiet drama with terrific, fleshed-out characters and an entertaining, thoroughly untrustworthy narrator.
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Author of four books of poetry, Alyan's debut novel follows three generations of a Palestinian family from the Six-Day War of 1967 to 1990 Kuwait to Beirut, Paris, and Boston. The story opens with Alia's wedding, when Alia's mother, Salma, reads her future in the coffee grounds left in the bottom of her cup and sees both turmoil and travel. While she keeps her premonitions secret, they nevertheless come true as the family is uprooted by war and loss. A lyrical tale of assimilation and the importance of family.
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I keep hearing this new debut novel mentioned in the same breath as "best of the year" and now I understand why. For the first hundred pages I didn't quite grasp what the author was up to, but when it hit me it was powerful. By exploring the stories of two sisters, who met different fates in Ghana more than 200 years ago, Gyasi traces subtle lines of cause and effect through the centuries, illuminating how the deeds of ages past still haunt all of us today. A brilliant concept, beautifully executed. Read it.
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Young widow Alva has two priorities: restoring a dilapidated Hyde Park mansion so she can write her interior design book and moving past the death of her abusive husband. Only one problem: the house is haunted and the workers refuse to come near the house. Enter scientist and ghost hunter Sam. Alva can’t afford any complications in her life, nor does she want to risk her heart. But Sam wants nothing more than to prove she deserves her very own happily ever after. As soon as he figures out how to get rid of the ghost, that is. An enjoyable, humorous historical romance set during the Gilded Age.
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This book is fascinating: short, pithy, insightful, and paradigm shifting. From the publisher: "Combining history, psychology, and anthropology, TRIBE explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and the eternal human quest for meaning. It explains the irony that war feels better than peace, adversity can turn out to be a blessing, and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations."
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In this whimsical fantasy, a 40-year-old career case worker has his life turned upside down by a special assignment. Linus Baker’s job is to ensure the children are safe—or at least he’s convinced himself that the field visits he makes to the orphanages sanctioned by The Department of Magical Youth are crucial to the well-being of these unusual children. But everything changes for Linus when Extremely Upper Management sends him to report on an island orphanage that’s a place of last resort for magical children viewed as misfits by the establishment, as well as their unconventional caretaker. Linus may have always been a company man, but this visit forces him to question everything he thought he knew about the world—and himself. Many readers are going to find this quirky book a delightful surprise.
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After her father died, Molly Wizenburg didn’t know what to do with herself. So she went to Paris, and later, she started a blog. No spoilers here, so let’s just say I especially loved hearing about how the internet introduced the author to new, life-changing relationships. This memoir made me laugh, cry, check airfare to Paris, and curse my low carb diet. Completely and utterly charming, accompanied by tasty recipes.
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From the publisher: "One of the most important novels of the twentieth century, The House of the Spirits is an enthralling epic that spans decades and lives, weaving the personal and the political into a universal story of love, magic, and fate."
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In her unique memoir, Broom writes about family, race, and class by noting the intersections of her family's history and the history of New Orleans. After reading about her process, this thoughtfully-structured book moved to the top of my To Be Read list. Broom says, “I knew when I started collecting evidence, so to speak, that I was trying to find the architecture of the book...I needed to know where the beams were and what was the supporting wall. I literally thought of it as a house because I knew that I was trying to put a lot in it.”
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In 1933, a young child disappeared without a trace. In 2003, a disgraced young detective stumbles upon the cold case and soon discovers its ties to one of England's oldest and most celebrated mystery writer (think Agatha Christie). I absolutely loved reading a mystery novel about a mystery novelist: the pages are filled with fascinating references to the fictional author's writing process and working life.
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As a homebody with a healthy dose of wanderlust, I've been fascinated by Tsh's around-the-world adventure since the moment I first heard about it. With her husband and three kids under ten, Tsh leaves the States behind to travel to China and Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, Croatia and Germany and England and everywhere in between, for nine solid months. I so enjoyed getting to tag along on her family's global adventures, which were nothing at all like I expected—both more strange and more familiar than I had imagined. Publication date: April 18.
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The fifth book in L.M. Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables series. Our dear Anne girl finally marries her sweetheart, Gilbert Blythe. They move to a sweet little house on Four Winds Harbor, and the story follows the ups and downs in their first few years of marriage. Charming new characters are introduced as the Blythes meet their neighbors, and, as always, Anne's signature imagination shines. Romantic, dreamy, and poignant. A must-read for Montgomery fans.
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It's Christmas vacation at the smuggler's inn Greenglass House, and Milo finds himself with a mystery to unravel. While I couldn't help but wonder if the author was tipping her hat to The Phantom Tollbooth, the story reminded me of The Mysterious Benedict Society. An engaging read for kids and adults alike, and a perfect choice for cozy winter evenings.
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From the publisher: "The Round House won the National Book Award for fiction. A brilliant chronicler of Native-American life—Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family. Riveting and suspenseful, Erdrich's The Round House is a page-turning masterpiece of literary fiction—at once a powerful coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a tender, moving novel of family, history, and culture."
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London fog, mystery, romance! This classic Victorian novel has it all (as it should, clocking in at over 900 pages). If you're up for tackling a tome, scholars say that this is Dickens' best work. Known for his social commentary on class, Dickens takes readers from high society to the London slums, with plenty of characters to meet. Break it up in 144 increments with the Serial Reader app for a more digestible reading experience.
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This is the first book in the bestselling Mitford series, and the one that made so many readers fall in love with Father Tim and the town of Mitford. I resisted Mitford for a long time because the premise sounded cheesy. And sure, it would be easy for this story to veer into sappy territory—if it wasn’t extremely well done. A story about ordinary lives, (mostly) lovable characters, and the small drama of the everyday. Charming, heartwarming, purely enjoyable. If you love the first book, there’s a whole series to look forward to: the series' 11th book is due out this September.
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From the publisher: "Take a trip back to Jane Austen's world and the many places she lived as historian. Lucy Worsley visits Austen's childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses--both grand and small--of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life. Worsley discovers a Jane Austen very different from the one who famously lived a 'life without incident'. Worsley examines the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the varying ways in which homes are used in her novels as both places of pleasure and as prisons. She shows readers a passionate Jane Austen who fought for her freedom, a woman who had at least five marriage prospects, but--in the end--a woman who refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy."
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From <em>The Daily Telegraph</em>: "The Cider House Rules is difficult to define and impossible not to admire." The coming of age story of Homer Wells, who is raised in a Maine orphanage by founder and obstetrician Dr. Wilbur Larch. Homer studies under Larch's tutelage, but the men disagree about performing abortions, bringing two different perspectives to their practice. Homer gets an opportunity to leave and experience the world outside of the orphanage, and we follow his journey throughout the novel.
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The New York Times says Home Fire "builds to one of the most memorable final scenes I've read in a novel this century." From the publisher: "The suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences. Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother's death, she's accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who's disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma's worst fears are confirmed. Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined."
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Poignant and lovely. I'm thinking it's time for a re-read (Robinson's novels are worth coming back to.) From the publisher: "Home is a moving and healing book about families, family secrets, and the passing of the generations, about love and death and faith."
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This modern classic is a coming-of-age almost-memoir of a young Latina girl, Esperanza Cordero, who is inventing the woman she will grow up to be. The story unfolds as a series of vignettes—some joyful, some heartbreaking—that draw the reader deep into the Hispanic Chicago neighborhood. Esperanza's observations feel at once highly specific and incredibly universal, as she reflects on growing up on Mango Street, and how she eventually wants to leave.
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When I found out there was a new novel that featured two urban planners falling in love, you can bet I was all over it: I'm fascinated by urban planning, yet this topic never comes up in fiction! In this short book—just over 100 pages—two professional planners get to know each other by touring homes all over NYC's Uptown. I so enjoy a book that makes me google locations, and this one had me searching for Strivers' Row and Forest Hills Gardens. This was fast and fun, but take note: this book was spicier (that is, more open-door) than I'm typically comfortable with.
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The first novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gilead. Despite the novel's title, the story is one of loneliness, transience, and loss. Set in the isolated (and imaginary) town of Fingerbone, Idaho, Robinson unfolds the story of two sisters and the stream of temporary caregivers that enter their lives, one after another, after the death of their mother and grandmother.
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This classic is set in the Gilded Age among New York City's high society, and depicts the rise and fall of Lily Bart, a young woman trapped by social conventions, a victim both of society and of her own choices. This feels like social commentary and reads like a tragedy, and while I feared it would be boring it was anything but.
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