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Top 10 Reads

Daily Staff Writer

1. “Birth of Venus,” by Sarah Dunant: Alessandra Cecchi is not quite 15 when her father brings a young painter back from northern Europe. Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities. But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. 2. “Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini: This is the story of a friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan nonetheless grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, is a Hazara, member of a shunned ethnic minority. When the Soviets invade and Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him.3. “Five People You Meet in Heaven,” by Mitch Albom: From the author of the phenomenal No. 1 New York Times bestseller “Tuesdays with Morrie,” a novel that explores the unexpected connections of our lives, and the idea that heaven is more than a place; it’s an answer. 4. “Sight Hound,” by Pam Houston: This is the story of a woman Rae and her dog, Dante, a wolfhound who teaches “his human” that love is stronger than fear (the dog has always known this). Dante is the catalyst for change in other characters as well, and they step forward with their narratives: Rae’s house-tender, her therapist, two veterinarians and an anxiety-ridden actor, Howard, who turns out to be as stalwart as Dante himself. As the “seer” who hunts by sight rather than smell, Dante has some things to add, as does Rose, another dog who lives at Rae’s heels, and Stanley the cat. Among and above these myriad voices, Rae voices her own challenges. 5. “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World,” by Tracy Kidder: “Mountains Beyond Mountains” takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba and Russia as Paul Farmer, doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist and anthropologist, changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity,” a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners In Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N.’s World Health Organization and others in his quest to cure the world. At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains,” as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too. 6. “Virgin’s Lover,” by Philippa Gregory: In the autumn of 1558, church bells across England ring out the joyous news that Elizabeth I is the new queen. One woman hears the tidings with utter dread. She is Amy Dudley, wife of Sir Robert, and she knows that Elizabeth’s ambitious leap to the throne will pull her husband back to the very center of the glamorous Tudor court, where he was born to be. Can Amy’s steadfast faith in him, her constant love and the home she wants to make for them in the heart of the English countryside compete with the allure of the new queen?7. “Under the Banner of Heaven,” by Jon Krakauer: At the core of this book is an appalling double murder committed by two Mormon fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this “divinely inspired” crime, Krakauer constructs a multilayered narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy and unyielding faith. 8. “Dancing Naked on the Edge of Dawn,” by Kris Radish: Meg Fratano has just witnessed the unthinkable: Her husband of 27 years making love to another woman – in her bed. And all Meg wanted to do was watch. Quietly, secretly, watch. Then she realized her life would never be the same. Meg isn’t sure what she wants, but she knows it’s not what she had. After almost three decades of marriage and two children, she has finally awakened to how unhappy she is. Now, with the help of friends old and new, and even her teenage daughter – a former brat who has blossomed into a startlingly wise young woman – Meg just might break through the chains of everyone’s expectations for her and find the strength to take the first step on her own path. To strip away a lifetime of inhibitions. To dance naked at the edge of dawn… 9. “House of Blues Mangoes,” by David Davidar: Davidar’s ambitious novel set in India relates many stories in one, each ineluctably merging into the other. We are shown three generations of an old family in the oceanside village of Chevathar. The patriarch Solomon strives to maintain equilibrium as caste struggles begin to create harsh conflict in the village, while his sons endure triumph and disaster as India inaugurates its battle for independence and his grandson, who may be the last of the line, undertakes his own bid for independence. All of these characters are drawn with a mercurial vividness and Davidar has a Tolstoyan sense of the larger canvas – his epic covers the spectrum of heroes and rogues, clans and dynasties, the ugly and the beautiful.10. “Broken for You,” by Stephanie Kallos: When we meet septuagenarian Margaret Hughes, she is living alone in a mansion in Seattle with only a massive collection of valuable antiques for company. Enter Wanda Schultz, a young woman with a broken heart who has come west to search for her wayward boyfriend. Both women are guarding dark secrets and have spent many years building up protective armor against the outside world. But as the two begin their tentative dance of friendship, the armor begins to fall away and Margaret opens her house to Wanda. Along the way, a famous mosaic artist is born, a Holocaust survivor is reunited with her long-lost tea set and a sad-eyed drifter finds his long-lost daughter. Funny, heartbreaking and alive with a potpourri of eccentric and irresistible characters, “Broken for You” is a testament to the saving graces of surrogate families, and shows how far the tiniest repair jobs can go in righting the world’s wrongs. Verbatim Booksellers in Vail Village1. “Sexual Positions for the Knee Patient,” by Joanne Arczynski: Adults interested in therapeutic sexual positions involving a knee injury will find this very educational and humorous. Included are illustrations and a Glossary of Terms for everyone to understand the medical terminology. It depicts and explains several positions that are recommended, and some that should not be attempted. 2. “Adventures of Fraser the Yellow Dog,” by Jill Sheeley: Fraser follows Courtney, a young girl skiing Vail Mountain on a sunny powder day. When she’s caught in a snow slide, her faithful dog Fraser leads ski patrollers to her rescue in this uplifting story about courage, companionship and ski safety. 3. “On the Road to Vail and Beyond,” by Dick Hauserman: Interstate 70 through Colorado is one of the most scenic interstate highway trips in the nation. It’s hard to imagine how history and tales of the past can enhance what is already a spectacular drive, but after reading this book, travel along the I-70 corridor is sure to be filled with new wonderment. 4.”Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini: This is the story of a friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan nonetheless grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan, the son of Amir’s father’s servant, is a Hazara, member of a shunned ethnic minority. When the Soviets invade and Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him. 5. “Vail: Triumph of a Dream,” by Peter Seibert: This is the inside story of Vail by the man who created it. 6. “Inventors of Vail,” by Dick Hauserman: This book tells the entire story of the remarkable men and women who created a world-class community from acres of pasture. More than 60 interviews were conducted with early founders, pioneers, and entrepreneurs of Vail in order to piece together a fascinating history replete with detail, fact, intrigue, conflict, and romance. 7. “Mountain Ranges of Colorado,” by John Fielder: John Fielder’s latest coffee table book celebrates Colorado’s unique mountain ranges. Beautiful color photographs and narrative text help the reader get a better sense of the ecology and geology in the state. Even the cover is designed to simulate granite. 8. “Reflections,” by Barbara Bush: Former First Lady Barbara Bush’s diary provides the organizing element around her memoir “Reflections,” as it did for her 1994 autobiography, “Barbara Bush.” She writes about things that happen to everyone – well, not exactly everyone, every day – but many of the encounters and emotions will strike a chord with readers. She does indeed reflect, on family, friends and world leaders. Mrs. Bush is fascinated by the people she meets around the world, and she connects us to them with human details of friendships and first impressions. 9. “The Secret Life of Bees,” by Sue Monk Kidd: Set in South Carolina in 1964, “The Secret Life of Bees” tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three of the town’s fiercest racists, Lily decides they should both escape to Tiburon, South Carolina – a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. There they are taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters who introduce Lily to a mesmerizing world of bees, honey and the Black Madonna who presides over their household. This is a remarkable story about divine female power and the transforming power of love – a story that women will share and pass on to their daughters for years to come.10. “Body and Soul,” by Frank Conroy: In the dim light of a basement apartment, 6-year-old Claude Rawlings sits at an old white piano, picking out the sounds he has heard on the radio and shutting out the reality of his lonely world. The setting is 1940s New York, a city that is “long gone, replaced by another city of the same name.” Against a backdrop that pulses with sound and rhythm, “Body and Soul” brilliantly evokes the life of a child prodigy whose musical genius pulls him out of squalor and into the drawing rooms of the rich and a gilt-edged marriage. But the same talent that transforms him also hurtles Claude into a lonely world of obsession and relentless ambition. Vail, Colorado


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