Good Books

Have you read a good book lately? Do you need a good book to read? 

Here is a selection of book titles and authors recommended by FODARA members. If you have a title to recommend, send it by email to our webmaster, Cindy Castillo, at for posting. Happy reading!


Word by Word, by Kory Stamper- This book delves into the life of a lexicographer, giving readers an insight into what an English dictionary does and does not do. Stamper tells us how our language is recorded (and some of the consequences) with wit and charm.

Laurie King's Beekeeper series (starting with the Beekeeper's Apprentice)- a young Mary Russell, born at the turn of the last century, meets an aging Sherlock Homes on the Sussex Downs in 1915. What follows is 17 (#18 comes out next June) novels celebrating mystery, intellect, intrigue, and adventure. Plus, Ms. King is a local, calling Santa Cruz her home and frequently supporting causes and writers from the Bay Area.


The Plague, by Albert Camus about a community under siege by a pandemic, much like our communities the novel is the idea that the plague is completely in control from the see differences in both how the community is responding to the plague and also how individuals are responding to it. The novel is really about human reaction to the plague and the illusions of control. 


Dear Committee Member by Julie Schumacher. If you enjoyed Lucky Jim or Straight Man you'll appreciate this comic novel about academe.


FODARA members, particularly genealogists, may find this history book interesting El Camino to Jarales: Purgatorial Conversations with Don Manuel.


I recently took a class at Santa Clara U with professor Rose Marie Beebe. We read a fascinating book, Testimonios: Early California through Eyes of Women, 1815 - 1848. It's a historical narration of women who were the frontier stalwarts who shaped Mexican California. I also facilitate a book club at the Mountain View Senior Center.


For those who like a good mystery series:

  1. The series by Jo Nesbo, a Norwegian writer whose detective is Harry Hole. The first book of the 10 currently in the series is The Bat, which is set in Australia.
  2. This delicious series is set in the Quebec province of Canada and is by Louise Penny. Her detective is Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. His adventures begin in Still Life, and are ongoing with book 10 scheduled soon.

Both series are available at local libraries or can be purchased in multiple formats.


  1. The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared - this is a great, fun read.
  2. The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin - a great review of the lives and presidencies of Teddy Roosevelt and Taft.
  3. The Goldfinch - wonderful writing, great story - the best read of the year so far! 


  1. Antony Marra's A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is his first novel. It's a critically acclaimed debut that follows the lives of a few people caught in the wars in Chechnya. It is a beautifully written study of how people live and cope when their world turns to brutality and chaos. Although the region is not the same as the Crimea I think you'll find the novel's content helps give perspective on that crisis. I also recommend a Russian movie about the same region called "Prisoner of the Mountain" that gives a nuanced view of individuals involved in an ethnic conflict.
  2. David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas defies easy descriptions because of its scope and multiple writing styles. It clearly shows Mitchell's brilliance with literary forms. The book weaves multiple stories and timelines into a wonderful collage of characters and time periods. My only regret is letting it sit on my bedside table for 2 years waiting for the "right time" to read it. 
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