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2006 Great Books
For 2006, 34 titles earned the designation “Great Book”
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Every year readers in book groups sponsored by Minnesota Women's Press select the one book, of all the books they've read that year, that they consider "great."

This is the book that most intrigued, inspired and stretched them, or that provoked strongest response and discussion in the group; the book they want to be sure other readers know about.

For 2006, 34 titles earned the designation "Great Book" by the more than 350 women readers who participated in the varied book groups we offer through our BookWomen Center for Feminist Reading. All are books written by women.

These titles have joined 364 others designated by readers since 1986 as "Great Books." The complete list is available in our book, "Great Books-Because Women Say So!", which also offers tips and suggestions from successful book groups around the country.

2006 Great Books

The Archivist by Martha Cooley (1999). At the heart of this story are T. S. Eliot's letter to Emily Hale, and the moral and ethical dilemmas that confront the archivist who oversees them not only in his work but also in his private life.

Bitter Grounds by Sandra Benitez (1997). Set in El Salvador between 1932 and 1977, the story is framed by the connections of women: Mercedes and Elena, Jacinta and Magda, Maria Mercedes and Florencia.

The Book of Dead Birds by Gayle Brandeis (2003). This is a moving story of a mother-daughter relationship across cultures as each searches for her place. Winner of the second Bellwether Prize for Fiction.

The Book of Salt by Monique Truong (2003). In this debut novel, Vietnamese-American Truong uses the famous literary couple Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas as a backdrop for her tale of their Vietnamese chef and the reasons for his forced displacement.

Cactus Thorn: A Novella by Mary Austin (1927). Austin's love of the southwestern desert shapes this semi-autobiographical story. Believing there is "no difference between what is social and what is personal," she weaves a tale of an eastern male politician and his connection with a self-sufficient woman of the desert.

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko (1977). A young Native American returning from World War II finds he does not belong either on the Laguna Pueblo reservation or in the white community. To find himself he turns to the traditions of his Indian past.

The Color of My Words by Lynn Joseph (2000). 12-year-old Ana Rosa Hèrnandez growing up in the Dominican Republic is passionate about writing. With her words she writes of the challenges her community faces and the heroism of her brother.

Eccentric Neighborhoods by Rosario Ferré (1998). From Puerto Rico, Ferré weaves a novel based on her mother's life, of the wealthy and the poor, of the role of women in a patriarchal society and on the colonial status of the country.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (1995). Any reader who appreciates bookstores and booksellers will find this classic memoir-in-letters to be a fascinating and rewarding read.

Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins (2003). This poetic novel describes America at the brink of the Atomic Age and the impact on a loving family's life. A National Book Award finalist.

Face to Face: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening edited by Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson (2004). Essays and poems of how women envision spirit-stories with a feminine view, from multiple perspectives.

The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (1998). This novel of a 1937 massacre on the border of Dominica and Haiti is about love, fragility, barbarity, dignity and remembrance. And how individuals endure.

The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland (2004). Novel based on the life of fiercely independent Canadian artist Emily Carr, who painted the landscape and indigenous people of British Columbia.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (2004). Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community. Newbery Medal winner.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (2005). This gritty memoir about surviving a painful childhood with loving but neglectful (to the point of abusive) parents raises questions about parenting, resiliency, and the tenacity of love.

Heart of the Sound by Marybeth Holleman (2004). How does one recover from disaster? That question is at the heart of this lyrical, elegiac response to Alaska's Valdez oil spill. Twining together the destruction of an ecosystem and the disintegration of her marriage, Holleman explores the resiliency of nature-both wild and human-and the ways in which that resiliency is tested. 

Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick (2004). A novel of an intellectual, eccentric family escaping Hitler's Germany to an inconsequential life in the USA. Multiple characters ultimately pursuing the American Dream.

Highwire Moon by Susan Straight (2001). The journeys of a Mexican migrant mother deported from the U.S. and the daughter left behind, seeking each other.

The History of Love by Nicole Kraus (2005). Spanning a period of over 60 years this is a story of lost love and the need to fill the void that is left.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003). A tradition-bound Indian couple moves from Calcutta to Boston where they struggle with the complexities of the immigrant experience as well as the love they have for their American born son.

Natives and Exotics by Jane Allison (2005). Generations of an Australian family are linked across time and space by their relationships to a changing world and a common search for a true home, in this tender, lyrical novel that explores the consequences of so-called "progress."

The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich (2005). A rare drum found in New Hampshire taken from a North Dakota Native American Ojibwe creator connects those who hear it sound. A story of lost children and the memories they leave behind.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2003). Nigerian Adichie's first novel explores the coming-of-age of Kambili who struggles with questions of new and old religion, with love for her wealthy father who gives to the community while terrorizing his own family. A finalist for the Orange Prize.

The Real Minerva by Mary Sharratt (2004). In Minerva, Minn., 1923, three women are forced to make choices as each struggles to pursue her dreams in a society where restraints outweigh liberties.

Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert by Terry Tempest Williams (2001). Essays and poetry of the importance of protecting the wild. Williams dedication is "For The Coyote Clan and America's Redrock Wilderness."

Small Island by Andrea Levy (2004). Set in London in 1948, the book tells the stories of two families, one English and one recently arrived from Jamaica, whose lives intersect and are shaped by war.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, (2005). This novel describes footbinding in China while honoring ancient secret writing, nu shu, celebrating friendships between women.

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon, (2003). Autism is well-rewarded in the 21st-century American business world, until someone decides it is a liability requiring a new procedure to "cure" the condition.

The Telling by Ursula Le Guin (2000). Humanist science fiction from one of the best, this is a tale of spiritual quest and the cost of destroying traditional cultures.

Unraveling by Elizabeth Graver (1999). In 19th-century New England, a young headstrong woman goes off to work in the textile mills, leading to a decades-long rift between herself and her mother. A beautifully written tale of love and loss.

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2002). Story of a Japanese-American family sent to internment camps in the United States during WWII. Written in spare, haunting language, this slim novel is a powerful reminder of how those who are seen as "other" are treated when a country lives in fear.

Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today by Leslie Marmon Silko (1996). From her Laguna Pueblo Anglo heritage Silko writes of Native American lore, religion, culture and history

Two by Guys

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (1998). Letters disappear from the alphabet and are not to be used by the island residents. Young Ella continues to communicate without the banned letters.

Holes by Louis Sachar (1998). For the young reader in us all a story of Stanley, unjustly sent to a boys' detention center where everyday the boys dig holes looking for something the warden is seeking.

Related Stories:
• “Great” because we say so

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Article comment by: Meg

women should be happy to hear of other women doing anything. great, great, great! keep it up, we will be equal

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