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Chapter 25 - Broken Record

Someone asked me recently what my broken record recommendations were. I'm sure that I looked at her with my head cocked to one side like a confused German Shepherd dog. She went on to ask about the books I suggest again and again, kind of like a broken record. I am actually pretty specific in recommending books. I like to find out what the requestor likes, the last good book they read, whether they want more or less of the same and what book they absolutely hated. So, I had to give this question some thought.

In reflection, my broken record books have changed over the years as I read more and have more books to add to my enjoyed list. Sometimes I find that prior books may no longer stand up to the test of time.

Here are my current broken record recommendations.

A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles - While I have read Rules of Civility and The Lincoln Highway by Towles, his book that never fails to capture my heart is A Gentleman in Moscow. Count Rostov comes before a court in 1920's Bolshevik Russia and will be hanged for no reason except that he is a nobleman. Because Rostov wrote some pro-revolutionary poetry as a university student he is condemned instead to a life in exile at the Hotel Metropol. What Count Rostov makes of his exile/life as the years pass is the meat and wonder of the story. This book touches a lot of my favorite topics - history, relationships, and a touch of mystery.

The Guncle by Steve Rowley - I read this a few years ago when it first came out and find myself still recommending it. Two young children are sent to live with their gay uncle (guncle) when their father goes into rehab. As the children have also just lost their mother to cancer, there is sadness along with some very funny moments. The book is never maudlin and is a valuable reminder of family being the people you love.

One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus - Another historical fiction book based on a real event. Jim Fergus found that in 1854 Cheyenne leaders who were interested in promoting peace with the US government, suggested that one thousand white women be given to the Cheyenne as brides for their warriors. The request was denied but Fergus placed the event in the 1870's and developed his story as a "what if it had actually happened." There have been a few followups to the original book as well.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman - I love Backman with a love usually reserved by teenage girls for rock stars. I believe everything he writes is wonderful but Ove is my favorite. It is the story of a grouchy older man whose world is turned upside down by his immigrant neighbors. The recent movie with Tom Hanks was good but, of course, the book is better.

Remarkable Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt - Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus, living at the Sowell Bay Aquarium helps to narrate this story about Tova Sullivan, a widow and a janitor at the aquarium. As we learn more about Tova, we learn that her son Erik vanished over 30 years ago, she is a recent widow, and she cleans to keep herself from dwelling on the past. Tova and Marcellus develop a friendship that is beneficial to both the octopus and the human.

Do you have any broken record books? Let me know.


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