Recent Favorite Reads

I won’t be reviewing the following titles but I had to share them with you. All three of them receive my heartiest recommendation.

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Categories: Nonfiction, Disasters
Source: Crown Publishing


Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink’s landmark investigation of patient deaths at a New Orleans hospital ravaged by Hurricane Katrina – and her suspenseful portrayal of the quest for truth and justice
In the tradition of the best writing on medicine, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amidst chaos.

Dr. Sheri Fink 
Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several health professionals faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths. 

Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.

In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are in America for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better.  A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Categories: Literary, Suspense

Photo by Nicholas Purcell/About Hannah Kent

A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Publisher: Viking 
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Categories: Literary, Historical, Botany
About Elizabeth


A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

Have you read any of these? Do you plan on it?

47 thoughts on “Recent Favorite Reads

  1. I've never read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert because I just couldn't wrap my head around reading Eat, Pray, Love so I'm interested to pick this one up and give her prose a try. A friend just started and is really like it as well.


  2. I've read Burial Rites and Signature and loved both. So far it's been a great fall for book lovers!p.s. just heard that Burial Rites has been optioned for a movie and Jennifer Lawrence has signed on to play Agnes. Could be really good!


  3. Jennifer Lawrence playing main character…she's going to be typecast! She's playing Serena in \”Serena\” and Cathy in \”East of Eden\” too. All edgy women characters.


  4. I haven't read any Elizabeth Gilbert, but I heard her speak (I think it was a TED talk maybe?) on NPR once and she was all kinds of awesome. Why can I not just absorb all the words I want to have read?


  5. I'm #3 on hold at my library for Burial Rites and I can't wait to get my hands on it. I've heard it's amazing and I've been needing an awesome book lately. I've never read anything by Gilbert but this one sounds lovely. Will definitely be checking that one out too! 🙂


  6. Wowwww, that first one sounds amazing. Definitely going to give that a go at some point. I've been moderately curious about Gilbert's new one…I've only read her nonfiction so far, and found it kind of \”eh\”, but I'd be willing to try this out since it's so different.


  7. The book trailer for The Signature of All Things is fantastic. I was shying away from the book just because I was not a fan of Eat, Pray, Love. Thank you for posting this. I will be putting Signature on my wishlist!


  8. I am REALLY looking forward to getting around to Burial Rites and Elizabeth Gilbert's new novel. I haven't read any of Gilbert's fiction before, but I really enjoyed Eat Pray Love (and will defend it SO HARD when people are mean about it). Great list Jenn!!!


  9. I've been wanting to read Five Days but wasn't as sure about the new Gilbert book. Sounds like I should give it a chance. As well as Burial Rites which I have some how not even heard of.


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