Grabbed two books off our shelves here at Maison DaYouthGuy that I'd never read and enjoyed them both immensely.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This book gives you a look into life on one of the Channel Islands during and immediately after World War II. Guernsey was one of the only pieces of England proper that the Germans ever invaded and held (the island is actually a whole lot closer to France than England). Mary Ann Shaffer decided to tell the story as a series of letters and telegrams (think "Up the Down Staircase"). This kind of writing artifice either works (a la Bel Kaufman above) or it crashes and burns. In this case it works marvelously well. The characters themselves are in the same boat we are, we all get to know one another through the stories told in the letters. I was fascinated and ripped right through the book in just a couple days. I found myself deeply moved by the death of a character that I had known early on had to die. But it was a shock because I came to care about her. Shaffer grew quite ill during the final stages of writing the novel and asked her niece Annie Barrows to finish it. Shaffer didn't live to see the book hit #1 on the NY Times bestseller list which adds a certain poignancy to the whole thing.
The other book I've finished recently was "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd. Another book that my lady wife had brought into the house and that I hadn't read yet. (I recently did a survey of the several hundred books we own and discovered that I had read something like 95% of them. Most of them several times. Thank God for libraries!). This one is set in 1964 in the South Caroline. It confronts issues of race and women's roles and faith plus gives you a good dose about bees. I kept thinking about "To Kill A Mockingbird" as I read this book. That's largely because of the setting and the fact that the lead character is a young girl who lost her mother at an early age. "Secret Life of Bees" is good but certainly not "To Kill a Mockingbird" good, it just has a similar feel to it for me. The books sucked me in with fine storytelling, great characters and even made bees come alive for me in a whole new way. Once I got started I couldn't stop and read the book (not terribly long at only 320 pages) in about a day.
Now I find myself with only my old friends on the shelves but with a taste for some new adventures. Time to wander up the hill to check out the local branch library.