Beloved, best-selling, award-winning, critically acclaimed writer Anna Quindlen is back with a new novel, Still Life with Bread Crumbs. Our reviewer describes the book as "a journey of self-exploration, of getting to know who you are rather than who others expect you to be. It’s a meditation on art, age and commercialism wrapped up in a delightful story—perhaps the best-selling author’s finest novel yet." (Read the full review and our interview with Quindlen about the book.)

We were curious about the books Quindlen has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked her to recommend three recent favorites. She graciously agreed, sharing five recommendations, in fact:

 

Charming Billy
By Alice McDermott

McDermott is a gifted miniaturist whose prose, with its precision and indelible imagery, is almost poetry. This story of the “unremarkable life” of a broken man opens at the bar where mourners gather with his widow after his funeral and then follows the winding path of memory through love, lies and disillusionment. Everything McDermott writes is pitch-perfect and goes straight to my heart, but this may be her best. 

 

The Cazalet Chronicles
By Elizabeth Jane Howard

I’m cheating here: This is really five novels, but I dare any reader to try to read just one of these interlocking books about a large upper-class family. (I just reread the series for the fourth time.) Start with The Light Years, and follow three generations of Cazalets as they try to hold or find their place in the fractured society of an England poised between one world war and another. The family home in Sussex, the London streets savaged by the blitz, the growing pains and love affairs: the characters become more friends than fiction.   

 

The Shortcut Man
By P.G. Sturges 

Michael Connelly’s public praise made me pick this up, but the sharp smart prose and the twisted world view kept me reading, through this first novel and the two that follow. Noir cut with wisecracks, thriller leavened with slapstick: these stories of an L.A. guy named Dick whose fist starts to tingle whenever he encounters bad attitude and who gets things done outside the strictures of the law made me laugh out loud.  Sturges might turn out to be the heir to the Elmore Leonard fortune. 

 

The House of Mirth
By Edith Wharton

There’s probably no female protagonist in literature as tragic as Lily Bart—and yes, I’m including Anna Karenina. Beautiful, intelligent, “horribly poor—and very expensive,” she knows what society demands of her: an advantageous marriage, a bargain in which she will provide the gilding and her husband the gold. But during the course of this novel Lily makes one misstep after another, sliding down the mahogany banister of position and respectability to certain disaster. 

 

Serena
By Ron Rash

Beautifully written, utterly unforgettable, this is a portrait of a lady as the amoral chatelaine of a logging camp in the American South during the Great Depression, as well as the story of the poor guy who is utterly dazzled by her. As far as I’m concerned, this novel, as powerful and inexorable as a thunderstorm, is as good a piece of fiction as I’ve read in the last decade. It’s a new classic in the category of love gone horribly wrong. 

 

 

What do you think, readers? Will Still Life with Bread Crumbs—or any of Quindlen's recommended books—be going on your TBR list?

(Author photo © Maria Krovatin)

 

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