Best Alison Anderson books

The Summer Guest

Alison Anderson

Best price for this book: $ 10.16

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What if Anton Chekhov, undisputed master of the short story, actually wrote a novel—and the manuscript  still existed? This tantalizing possibility drives The Summer Guest, a spellbinding narrative that draws together, across two centuries, the lives of three women through the discovery of a diary.

During the long, hot summer of 1888, an extraordinary friendship blossoms between Anton Chekhov and Zinaida Lintvaryova, a young doctor. Recently blinded by illness, Zinaida has retreated to her family’s estate in the lush countryside of Eastern Ukraine, where she is keeping a diary to record her memories of her earlier life. But when the Chekhov family arrives to spend the summer at a dacha on the estate, and she meets the middle son Anton Pavlovich, her quiet existence is transformed by the connection they share. What begins as a journal kept simply to pass the time becomes an intimate, introspective narrative of Zinaida’s singular relationship with this doctor and writer of growing fame.

More than a century later, in 2014, the unexpected discovery of this diary represents Katya Kendall’s last chance to save her struggling London publishing house. Zinaida’s description of a gifted young man still coming to terms with his talent offers profound insight into a literary legend, but it also raises a tantalizing question: Did Chekhov, known only as a short story writer and playwright, write a novel over the course of their friendship that has since disappeared? The answer could change history, and finding it proves an irresistible challenge for Ana Harding, the translator Katya hires. Increasingly drawn into Zinaida and Chekhov’s world, Ana is consumed by her desire to find the “lost” book. As she delves deeper into the moving account of two lives changed by a meeting on a warm May night, she discovers that the manuscript is not the only mystery contained within the diary’s pages.

Inspired by the real friendship between Chekhov and the Lintvaryov family, landowners in the Ukraine, The Summer Guest is a masterful and utterly compelling literary novel that breathes life into a vanished world, while exploring the transformative power of art and the complexity of love and friendship.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Muriel Barbery

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The international bestseller that has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a moving, funny, atmospheric novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us. 

We are in an elegant hôtel particulier in the center of Paris. Renée, the building's concierge, is short, ugly, and plump. She has bunions on her feet. She is cantankerous and addicted to television soaps. Her only genuine attachment is to her cat, Leo. In short, she is everything society expects from a concierge at a bourgeois building in a posh Parisian neighborhood. But Renée has a secret: she is a ferocious autodidact who furtively devours art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With biting humor she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants—her inferiors in every way except that of material wealth.  

Then there's Paloma, a super-smart twelve-year-old and the youngest daughter of the Josses, who live on the fifth floor. Talented, precocious, and startingly lucid, she has come to terms with life's seeming futility and has decided to end her own on the day of her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue hiding her extraordinary intelligence behind a mask of mediocrity, acting the part of an average pre-teen high on pop subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her.

Gourmet Rhapsody

Muriel Barbery

Best price for this book: $ 3.1

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From the author of the New York Times bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

In the heart of Paris, in the posh building made famous in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Pierre Athens, the greatest food critic in the world, is dying. Revered by some and reviled by many, Monsieur Arthens has been lording it over the world?s most esteemed chefs for years, passing judgment on their creations, deciding their fates with a stroke of his pen, destroying and building reputations on a whim. But now, during these his final hours, his mind has turned to simpler things. He is desperately searching for that singular flavor, that sublime something once sampled, never forgotten, the Flavor par excellence. Indeed, this flamboyant and self-absorbed man desires only one thing before he dies: one last taste.

Thus begins a charming voyage that traces the career of Monsieur Arthens from childhood to maturity across a celebration of all manner of culinary delights. Alternating with the voice of the supercilious Arthens is a chorus belonging to his acquaintances and familiars?relatives, lovers, a would-be protégé, even a cat. Each will have his or her say about M. Arthens, a man who has inspired only extreme emotions in people. Here, as in The Elegance of Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery?s story celebrates life?s simple pleasures and sublime moments while condemning the arrogance and vulgarity of power.

The Life of Elves

Muriel Barbery

Best price for this book: $ 3.88

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An inspiring literary fantasy about two gifted girls from the bestselling author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Life of Elves sings of the human spirit and conveys a message of hope and faith. 

Muriel Barbery's new novel is the first of two books about Maria and Clara, unforgettable heroines of a world facing annihilation. Animated by a large cast of endearing characters, it is a timeless story about the forces of good and evil and a moving meditation on the power of nature, music, art, storytelling, and love.

When the harmony between living beings turns to discord, the seasons will be loosed from their moorings and the natural world thrown into disarray; human beings—no longer capable of feeling either empathy or enchantment—will abandon themselves to hate, violence, and war.

An epic battle between forces that wish to reestablish harmony in the world and those that wish to shatter it definitively is being waged on earth and in the mysterious land of mist, where the elves dwell. A ragtag army of rural peasants gathers in readiness for the fight—their weapons, an age-old kinship with the land and an affinity for magic. But humankind cannot hope to win this battle alone. Victory depends on help from the inhabitants of a world that is hidden from human sight. Hope rests with Maria and Clara, two girls whose prodigious artistic talents and deep connections with nature make communion with the numinous realm possible.

2084: The End of the World

Boualem Sansal

Best price for this book: $ 10.92

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A tribute to George Orwell's 1984 and a cry of protest against totalitarianism of all kinds, Sansal's 2084 tells the story of a near future in which religious extremists have established an oppressive caliphate where autonomus thought is forbidden.

It is the year 2084. In the kingdom of Abistan—named after the prophet Abi, earthly messenger of the god Yolah—citizens submit to a single god, demonstrating their devotion by kneeling in prayer nine times a day. Autonomous thought has been banned, remembering is forbidden, and an omnipresent surveillance system instantly informs the authorities of every deviant act, thought, or idea. The kingdom is blessed and its citizens are happy, filled with a sense of purpose and piety. Those who are not—the heretics—are put to death by stoning or beheading in city squares. But Ati has met people who think differently; in ghettos and caves, hidden from the authorities, exist the last living heretics and free-thinkers of Abistan. Under their influence, Ati begins to doubt. He begins to think. Now, he will have to defend his thoughts with his life. 

"[In 2084] Sansal dared to go much further than I did," said Michel Houellebecq, the controversial novelist most recently of Submission. 2084 is a cry of freedom, a call to rebellion, a gripping satirical novel of ideas, and an indictment of the religious fundamentalism that, with its hypocrisy and closed-mindedness, threatens our modern democracies and the ideals on which they are founded.

WINNER OF THE FRENCH ACADEMY GRAND PRIX

In the Land of White Death: An Epic Story of Survival in the Siberian Arctic

Valerian Albanov

Best price for this book: $ 5.95

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In 1912, six months after Robert Falcon Scott and four of his men came to grief in Antarctica, a thirty-two-year-old Russian navigator named Valerian Albanov embarked on an expedition that would prove even more disastrous. In search of new Arctic hunting grounds, Albanov's ship, the Saint Anna, was frozen fast in the pack ice of the treacherous Kara Sea-a misfortune grievously compounded by an incompetent commander, the absence of crucial nautical charts, insufficient fuel, and inadequate provisions that left the crew weak and debilitated by scurvy.

For nearly a year and a half, the twenty-five men and one woman aboard the Saint Anna endured terrible hardships and danger as the icebound ship drifted helplessly north. Convinced that the Saint Anna would never free herself from the ice, Albanov and thirteen crewmen left the ship in January 1914, hauling makeshift sledges and kayaks behind them across the frozen sea, hoping to reach the distant coast of Franz Josef Land. With only a shockingly inaccurate map to guide him, Albanov led his men on a 235-mile journey of continuous peril, enduring blizzards, disintegrating ice floes, attacks by polar bears and walrus, starvation, sickness, snowblindness, and mutiny. That any of the team survived is a wonder. That Albanov kept a diary of his ninety-day ordeal-a story that Jon Krakauer calls an "astounding, utterly compelling book," and David Roberts calls "as lean and taut as a good thriller"-is nearly miraculous.

First published in Russia in 1917, Albanov's narrative is here translated into English for the first time. Haunting, suspenseful, and told with gripping detail, In the Land of White Death can now rightfully take its place among the classic writings of Nansen, Scott, Cherry-Garrard, and Shackleton.

The Most Beautiful Book in the World: 8 Novellas

Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

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A cast of extravagant and affecting characters lovingly portrayed by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt animates these eight contemporary fables about people in search of happiness.

One of Europe's most popular and bestselling authors, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt captivates the reader with his spirited style and enchanting stories that move effortlessly from the everyday to the fantastical. The eight stories in this collection, his first to be published in English, represent his best and most imaginative storylines: from the touching and surprising love story between Balthazar, a wealthy author, and Odette, a shop clerk, to the tale of a barefooted princess; from the moving title story about a group of female prisoners in a Soviet gulag to the entertaining portrait of a perennially disgruntled perfectionist. Behind each story lies a simple, if elusive, truth: though we may be frequently blind to it, happiness is often right in front of our eyes.

How to Make Maple Syrup: From Gathering Sap to Marketing Your Own Syrup. A Storey BASICS® Title

Alison Anderson

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Third-generation syrup makers Alison and Steven Anderson show you how to collect sap using a tree-friendly tubing system and then cook, package, and even market your own syrup. With expert advice for first-time bottlers, the Andersons share their passion with a contagious excitement that is as inspiring as a bowl of sugar on snow. 

Mondo and Other Stories

J.M.G. Le Clezio

Best price for this book: $ 13.32

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In awarding him the Nobel Prize in 2008, the Swedish Academy hailed J. M. G. Le Clézio as an “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of humanity beyond and below the reigning civilisation.” The outlying humanity that Le Clézio explores in this collection of stories finds its expression in the understanding of children. The world of Mondo and Other Stories is that of a natural world pushed to the margins by complacent, indifferent modernity. 

Haunting and beautiful, these stories speak to a universal longing for a life beyond the confines and trappings of modern existence. In each tale it is a child who can see and appreciate these places filled with wonder and knowledge. Mondo is a little boy whose connection to the beauty in everything unites a seaside town. Little Cross perturbs the order of things with her question: “What is blue? Daniel flees his stifling school and absent parents for the sea. All these children, like the wise billy goat in the collection’s final story, understand “so many things, not the things you find in books that men like to talk about but silent, strong things, things full of beauty and mystery.” And in the end, so do we.

The Madeleine Project

Clara Beaudoux

Best price for this book: $ 16.46

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"This extraordinary little book touched me deeply. Part graphic novel, part literary archeology, the author slowly unpacks a dusty cellar, and brings her subject to life. Even MadeIeine's recipes have risen. Who would have guessed Twitter could be so poetic."

Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes and Picnic in Provence

 A young woman moves into a Paris apartment and discovers a storage room filled with the belongings of the previous owner, a certain Madeleine who died in her late nineties, and whose treasured possessions nobody seems to want. In an audacious act of journalism driven by personal curiosity and humane tenderness, Clara Beaudoux embarks on The Madeleine Project, documenting what she finds on Twitter with text and photographs, introducing the world to an unsung twentieth-century figure. Along the way, she uncovers a Parisian life indelibly marked by European history. This is a graphic novel for the Twitter age, a true story that encapsulates one woman's attempt to live a life of love and meaning together with a contemporary quest to prevent that existence from slipping into oblivion. Through it all, The Madeleine Project movingly chronicles, and allows us to reconstruct, intimate memories of a bygone era.

Clara Beaudoux is a Paris-based journalist for the France Info news network. The Madeleine Project has been wildly popular in France. You can follow her on Twitter at @Clarabdx.

Reading group guide to The Madeleine Project is available from New Vessel Press.