My mother-in-law, the redoubtable Donna McEvoy asked about book recommendations which I am only so glad to give. I'm pretty picky when it comes to recommending. I feel like I really love about 1 in 5 books I read. These ones are recent favorites, ones I will definitely pick up and read again. I hope you'll share recent (and old) favorites as well.
The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
Set in Japan just before WWII, the main character (a Chinese man), goes to live on a island in Japan. The whole tone is calm and restrained but it's also very compelling. I learned a little about Chinese/Japanese history and loved the way the Japanese culture was portrayed. Inspiring characters.
Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
This one takes some commitment. At just under 700 pages, I felt, at first, like I was doing a college assignment. I don't know if I would have finished it had I not had a vicious cold and been in bed for 4 days. Having said that, the emotional and spiritual journey the main character takes is realistic, genius and inspiring. This is a book that is meaty. The writing is beautiful and unlike most books I've read lately, it really isn't about the plot. It's very character driven. I could talk about it for hours, I really loved it.
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
The author lives in Utah, I believe attended University of Utah and is now really making a name for herself in the young adult fiction world. This is another "retelling" of a fairy tale (based on the Grimm tale of the same name), but it is an excellent retelling. I loved how the story unfolded, it's sweet tone and positive messages. I couldn't put it down.
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The main character is a first generation Indian-American. Really compelling characters, culture and situation. Conflict reminiscent of My Name is Asher Lev.
Interpreter of Maladies
This is a compilation of short stories by the above author. She won the Pulitzer Prize for this collection. Although very engaging and interesting and touching, I did enjoy The Namesake more.
Peace Like A River by Leif Enger
I think I recommend this to everyone and everyone loves it as much as I do. Wonderful characters, interesting plot, beautiful message.