Halfway Heaven: Diary of a Harvard Murder by Melanie Thernstrom
This is the true story of a murder-suicide that happened at Harvard in the mid-90s. Both the victim and the murderer were female international students. The author explores the isolation that many international students experience when they come to the U.S., which is interesting to me as an ESL teacher, and exposes how ill-prepared Harvard was to handle serious mental illness. It was very sad, obviously, but a worthwhile read.
Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans
I recently started reading Rachel's blog and wondered how I had gone this long without reading her. Her thinking on faith-related issues is very similar to mine. Plus, she's a great writer and very funny. This memoir is about her journey from the fundamentalist certainty of her childhood through doubt to a new kind of faith. I could relate very well to her story (although my upbringing and college experience weren't as extreme), and I found this book very encouraging. I'll probably do a separate post about it in the future.
The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
I picked up this book on a whim and wasn't too impressed by it. It is the story of a lonely, twice-divorced middle-aged man, the relationships he forms, and how all of those people eventually become interconnected. The author is very skilled at writing in several different voices, but I just couldn't connect to the characters.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
I've loved all of Atwood's books that I've read, and this one did not disappoint. Like many of her other books, this one has an unreliable female narrator, and Atwood keeps you turning the pages with her gradual revelation of key details of the story. I can't say much about the plot without giving some of the surprises away, but it's set in a cult-like dystopian U.S. in the near future (technically now the past, as this was published in 1986). Very thought-provoking.
The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball
If I had to pick my favorite genre of book, it would be memoirs about food. So, of course, I loved this story of a city girl who falls in love with a farmer and rehabilitates a run-down farm with him. They had a dream to establish a "whole diet" CSA (a farm that provides its paying members with all of the food they need, including meat, grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, etc.), and it's amazing the amount of work they put in to realize that dream. Almost made me want to move to a farm (except for all the passages describing how they slaughtered pigs or castrated bulls). Even if you don't completely buy in to the local foods movement, this book will encourage you to be intentional about the way you spend your time and the products you buy.