Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – Helen Simonson

One of my favorite books from this year.  The story of an unlikely friendship between retired Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper, in rural England.  They are brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses – first, with friendship, and then perhaps moving toward something more. Although the Major was actually born in Lahore, and Mrs. Ali was born in Cambridge, he is treated as the local, while she is seen as the foreigner.  A wonderful and heartwarming book. (submitted by SB)

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The Attack – Yasmina Khadra

This politically charged novel, set in Tel Aviv, was spellbinding. Despite being an extremely successful surgeon, the main character is subject to prejudice from the Jewish population for being an Arab and also from the Islamic population for not  being a devout Muslim. When his beautiful, happy wife is suspected of being a suicide bomber, all the prejudices come to the fore and we watch his life spiral out of control.  The writing is flawless and I highly recommend it. (submitted by EW)

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Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts

A current backpacker’s favorite, and one of mine too.  Set in the early 80’s, an Australian prisoner escapes to mega city Bombay, India for adventure, introspection, and self-discovery.  It echoes the true story of the author’s experiences and the first drafts were written from a prison cell.  A movie is development for 2011.  An excellent read! (submitted by RR)

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Sex with Kings

The title is quite provocative, and the cover features scintillating artwork boot! And yes, I’ve received quite a few looks and comments while reading this book, but if you can handle that you’ll be in for a treat. From Madame Pompadour to Camilla Parker-Bowles, this book covers the day to day life of a royal mistress. The author shifts between different time periods and different parts of Europe, which can bit a bit confusing at first, but the details and facts are wildly fascinating. This book made me thankful to be a woman of the 21st century! A must read for anyone interested in royal history.  (submitted by KS)

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On a Dollar a Day: one couple’s unlikely adventures in eating in America

I loved this book and found it fascinating.  The World Bank says that nearly a billion people around the world live on a dollar a day or even less, that is like 1 in 7 people in the world live on a $1/day or less. With these thoughts in mind, the authors – two high school teachers – decided to see how well they could actually feed themselves on a similar budget for one month and then they blogged about it.  I couldn’t put it down. (submitted by DS)

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Sun Going Down – Jack Todd

This is a great book of historical fiction set in 1800’s US – from Mississippi to Montana – a family saga about a Mississippi steam boat captain who leaves the river during the Civil War to become a rancher/ prospector in South Dakota/Montana/Nebraska, and his twin sons who grow up to live in the American “wild West”. Great quirky characters and evocative description of the Great Plains landscape and history. (submitted by GA)

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