Waving flags, fireworks, and cookouts have come to symbolize America’s Fourth of July celebration, but if you find yourself with downtime between flipping burgers and keeping the dog calm, why not chill out with a great book? We suggest these 9 illuminating and varied reads, whose titles pay homage to that most patriotic of color palettes: red, white, and blue.
From our Off the Shelf family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and peaceful Independence Day.
When Anita Diamant’s classic was published two decades ago she wrote, “I reimagined the culture of biblical women as close, sustaining, and strong, but I am not the least bit nostalgic for that world without antibiotics, or birth control, or the printed page. Women were restricted and vulnerable in body, mind, and spirit, a condition that persists wherever women are not permitted to read.” As relevant now as ever.
Balram Halwai, a poor Indian villager working as a chauffeur for a wealthy Indian family, brilliantly narrates this provocative and engaging exploration of India’s modern caste system, rampant corruption, and the quest for autonomy and financial independence.
A stunning literary debut critics have likened to Richard Wright’s Native Son, The White Tiger follows a darkly comic Bangalore driver through the poverty and corruption of modern India’s caste society.
Richly textured and intensely personal, Joan Didion’s wrenching account of yearning, marriage, motherhood, and mortality, written after the death of her only daughter, is a heartbreaking and engrossing read.
From one of our most powerful writers, a work of stunning frankness about losing a daughter. Richly textured with memories from her own childhood and married life with her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and daughter, Quintana Roo, this new book by Joan Didion is an intensely personal and moving account of her thoughts, fears, and doubts regarding having children, illness and growing old. As she reflects on her daughter’s life and on her role as a parent, Didion grapples with the candid questions that all parents face, and contemplates her age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept. Blue Nights—the long, light evening hours that signal the summer solstice, “the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but also its warning”—like The Year of Magical Thinking before it, is an iconic book of incisive and electric honesty, haunting and profound.
This charming and whimsical cozy mystery centers on a bookseller who finds a discarded handbag containing only a red notebook. With just enough romance and who-done-it to keep things interesting, and with Paris as the backdrop, this quick read is hard to resist, and a perfect escape.
WHITE NOISE tells the story of Jack Gladney (teacher of Hitler studies); his fourth wife, Babette (who may be taking a drug that makes her fearless); and their four children. Relevant when it was released more than 30 years ago, and still relevant today, especially with our national addiction to consumerism and technology, this disturbingly funny satirical-dystopian-American-family saga speaks volumes about the universal fear of mortality.
Danger, romance, and plot twists unfold in this story of Reena Hale, an arson investigator with the Baltimore Police Department, who is seeking her soul mate despite the peculiarities of her chosen career. She may have found him… until an obsessed sociopath threatens to set ablaze everything Reena loves.
In this psychological thriller merging the lives of two wronged women on very different paths of redemption, bestselling author Lisa Unger asks “What is the difference between justice and revenge?” With compelling characters, an intriguing plot, and intense and palpable writing, this page-turner will grip you from page one.
Zadie Smith’s debut and epically human novel of multicultural families in England touches on practically everything—religion, race, gender, science, colonialism, identity, eugenics—you name it. With a cast of colorful characters and a good dose of humor, it’s easy to understand why this book created such a buzz.
At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. Zadie Smith’s dazzling debut caught critics grasping for comparisons and deciding on everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie to John Irving and Martin Amis. But the truth is that Zadie Smith’s voice is remarkably, fluently, and altogether wonderfully her own.
Author Daniel Tammet can learn a new language, fluently, in a week; calculates labyrinthine mathematical calculations in his head; and has synesthesia, allowing him to see numbers as shapes, colors, and textures. His autobiography is a rare and mind-blowing journey into the psyche of an autistic savant that you won’t soon forget.