I love big books and I cannot lie…

Here is an article about some of my favorite books!  I wrote this for the March 2017 issue of OUR TOWN -Blue edition .(https://issuu.com/ourtownmag/docs/otm_mar2017_blue_web?reader3=1)

Top 5 novels to escape into on a chilly winter afternoon

By Heidi Campbell

Book enthusiasts love to curl up on the couch, layered in fuzzy blankets, and disappear into the lives of intriguing characters and fictional plots. Although the spindly fingers of social media threaten to ravage pleasure reading, there are still hoards of people who will never give up on the world of fiction and reading for pleasure. Book clubs still thrive in our communities and authors continue to sell millions of books.  As a true book nerd, book club member, and 23-year, veteran High School English teacher, I find inner peace and relaxation in the pages of a good book. A good book has great power, for a reader comes away from the pages a changed person. My grandmother used to say, “Oatmeal is good for you! It sticks to your ribs.” A good book, then, is like oatmeal.  Here is a list of my top five contemporary novels to enjoy as the winter months persist. Every one of these books will stick with me forever.

  1. A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry, is, hands down, my all-time favorite novel, and one that I’ve gifted and had two different book clubs read. Set in India in 1975, it is 603 pages of literary genius. The character development and realism found on these pages has been compared by most critics to that of Charles Dickens. The story of Om, Ishwar, Maneck and Dina is one that defines the caste system and its harsh permanence, while shining a fleeting light on a developing friendship, one which rises above the societal standard. The writing is real- and it is not for those seeking a happy ending. This is one that makes a reader truly grateful for freedom, safety,  and the pursuit of dreams; and heartbroken for injustice, hatred, and poverty the likes of which most Americans will never understand.
  2. The State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett, is the perfect title for this imagery-filled, brilliant novel in which readers are wholly struck by wonder until the last page. Scenes from this novel are unforgettable- including a terrifying battle with an anaconda and a fertility ritual involving the Lakashi women and a “special” tree. Set deep in the forests of the Amazon, the story blends the demands of the pharmaceutical world with the passion for science and discovery. With suspenseful twists and turns, deadly insects and snakes, and a culture of cannibalism and mystique, the story is at once shocking, thought-provoking, and heart breaking.
  3. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philip Sendker is a story that manages to make even the most skeptical reader believe in a bit of kismet. The storytelling in this novel, as well in its sequel, A Well Tempered Heart, are reminiscent of Hans Christian Anderson classics that have captured readers for centuries. The story begins with the disappearance of a top-notch New York lawyer. When his daughter, Julia, uncovers a hidden letter from his past, she sets out on a journey to find him in Southeast Asia. U Ba, an endearing elderly Burmese man, weaves a backstory of loss, love, survival, human connection, and passion that astounds both Julia and the reader.  This is a mesmerizing story that can be read over and over.
  4. The Lonely Polygamist, by Brady Udall, is an engaging novel which I mistakenly read as a memoir and only realized near the end that it was fiction. Readers should be warned that this is a wild, often unsavory ride. Udall’s style refuses to sugar coat anything, which is also clear from another of his novels: The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. The main character, Golden, is a tormented, worn-out polygamist who must juggle four wives, twenty-eight children, a girlfriend, religion, and his career. With a mix of both humor and heartbreak, Udall reveals human weakness and triumph in just over 600 remarkable pages.
  5. The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson, was the 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction, and there is no doubt that it was deserving of such an honor. The book is set in North Korea, a land that most Americans know very little about. The story, rich in realism and imagery, takes the reader on a journey with Jun Do, a man who will do unthinkable things to survive. The reader steps into a life governed by unfairness, where humans lack humanity and people live in perpetual fear; certainly not a sought-after existence. The insight into a country of such governance is both terrifying and insightful. This is a very tough, traumatic, yet important read.


Look for additional Top 5 Book Recommendations in future issues of Our Town, including “Top 5 Authors”, “Top 5 Memoirs”, “Top 5 Humor” and more.

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